Access to current, accurate information is vital to sound decision-making
and long-term success. But with many end users in different departments
requiring data on a daily basis, how do you make information available
quickly, efficiently, and affordably? For Citadel Federal Credit
Union (Thorndale, PA, $531 million, 80,000 members) the answer was
easy: decentralization. By using an SQL-based tool to place data
access directly on end users' desktops, the credit union is speeding
the process, eliminating bottlenecks, and avoiding the need for
costly hardware upgrades.
Rethinking the Approach
Like many of its peers, Citadel relied on standard reports or an
internal report writer to obtain information crucial to decision
making - not an ideal situation. Tim Greim, Director of Information
Systems, explains: ''The report writer required an extensive
learning curve to create reports or extract data for other purposes,
so the process was centralized by default within IS.'' Centralizing
this labor-intensive effort created a host of problems: delays in
getting data to end users due to the IS bottleneck, miscommunication
about end users' needs (creating more work and delays), and a strain
on the host system. ''We generated a lot of reports that were
time-consuming to run and create,'' Greim adds, ''which
meant a possible system upgrade for performance and a possible head
count increase to turn around the large number of requests.''
In search of a better approach, Citadel worked with its core system
processor, USERS, to identify a solution: the supplier's DataSafe/SQL
product. DataSafe/SQL uses the widely accepted SQL standard to make
information contained in a database easily accessible and usable
by non-technical staff.
''We implemented DataSafe/SQL in the spring of 2001, making
it available to 20 end users in areas like lending, marketing, finance,
and audit,'' Greim says. ''The biggest immediate benefit
is that the process is decentralized and more efficient. People
have direct access to the information they need, when they need
it, and the IS staff has more time to focus on other business objectives.''
Empowering the Staff
Citadel employees now access data for their own purposes and use
it within the desktop applications they're already familiar with,
like Microsoft Access or Excel. A PC driver gives the end users
the connectivity they need to access the data; then the wizards
in those applications walk them through the rest, with no need for
specialized training. ''Since it works with many off-the-shelf
packages like Access, Excel and Crystal Reports, DataSafe/SQL puts
the information at your fingertips,'' Greim says. ''It gives
our staff the flexibility to retrieve, review, analyze, sort or
use the data however they see fit within their day-to-day jobs.''
A prime example is the marketing department. For the most fruitful
direct marketing, Citadel uses an MCIF system to evaluate household
profitability based on product and service enrollment and use. But
the credit union was restricted to extracts from the vendor that
focused on loans, deposits and some demographics. ''With DataSafe/SQL,
our marketing staff can extract any data from our host - transaction
counters, ATM/debit card use, electronic services use, deposit and
loan balances, average monthly balances - and feed that into our
MCIF system,'' Greim says. ''They can supplement the MCIF
system with more data to obtain a more complete picture of the household.''
The lending department generates pre-approval loan certificates,
using a query of all new members who join through Citadel's indirect
lending program and meet certain credit criteria. ''We want
to take advantage of all possible touch points, especially when
the account originates outside normal business interaction,''
Greim says - and the ability to quickly pull data from the host
to target specific populations makes that simple and effective.
''Our audit staff finds it easy to pull critical data for OFAC
compliance,'' Greim adds. And while IS is no longer burdened
with generating numerous reports, the staff does use the tool to
help other business units with periodic reporting to identify unnecessary
expenses and increase efficiencies.
Thanks to DataSafe/SQL's ease-of-use, Citadel has empowered employees
by giving them more access to the data needed to succeed - without
delays and without system capacity issues. ''Reports that would
take hours, if not days, to create, refine and run now take minutes,
because our staff can collect and analyze the data themselves,''
Greim says. ''And because we've moved the reporting load off
the host and onto the workstation, we can generate more queries
and still avoid the hardware upgrade we thought we'd need.''
For more details on USERS' technology solutions for credit unions,
call 1-800-523-7282. You can visit the USERS' website by clicking
Click here to read about
another credit union's success with DataSafe/SQL.