One Credit Union's Deliberate Approach to Installing Business Process Mngmt.

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Having withstood the initial riptide of Business Process Management (BPM) automation, School Employees Credit Union of Washington is ready for rollout across the organization.

"BPM has taken a little bit longer than we originally planned because we didn't have experience rolling out the system, and we didn't understand the nature of the process," said Greg Vermilion, document management project manager at $612-million School Employees (SECUWA).

BPM software continues to gain popularity nationwide, with adoption rates rising to 33% of firms surveyed early this year, up from 11% in 2002, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

In January, two-branch SECUWA began to streamline its VISA credit card application process with BizFlow, a BPM platform offered by HandySoft Global Corporation of Vienna, Va.

"We chose the VISA application process as proof of concept, not because it was going to lead to major time-savings," Vermilion explained.

The Visa application process represented complex interactions between multiple employees but at a modest volume-about 100 applications per month-that was just right for a beta-test, he said.

"The VISA process really mirrors a lot of our loan processing in general," said Vermilion.

With the lessons learned from streamlining the VISA application process, SECUWA is determined to apply BizFlow to "a laundry list of processes that we'd like to see automated. Highest on that list are those processes that involve front-line people who are directly serving members," he added.

The current BPM overhaul is focused on the 76,000-member CU's loan documentation process. Since last month, SECUWA loan representatives no longer reenter data on every document.

"The thousands and thousands of documents we request are now automatically launched with the data already filled in from the initial loan entry, creating an automatic loan document package." said Vermilion.

The documentation tracking process will also improve, he said. "We're going to see better tracking, so that we always know the status of a document instead of having to figure out the status and get back to the member later."

BizFlow should also improve communication between SECUWA credit committee members. "We used to do loan by e-mail communication," Vermilion said. "But BizFlow put in a voting system, and now credit committee responses and decisions are automatically sent back to the loan representative who submitted the initial request."

Vermilion advised other CUs considering BPM implementation to document processes before using the software. "The key to building the process into BizFlow is to have a business analyst involved early-on to first lay out the process."

In addition, credit unions should start BPM with projects that demonstrate obvious front-line benefits to build buy-in from other employees. "Find an initial project that's really going to give people an idea of what the benefit is to their field of work," Vermilion said.

Automating the VISA application process didn't float a lot of boats, explained Vermilion, whereas easing the loan documentation process was immediately appreciated.

Next in line for BPM automation at SECUWA could be more new accounts, including processing checking and IRAs, and new employee set-up and removal, he added.

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