One of the challenges common to smaller credit unions is building our limitations into our strategy. It’s suprisingly hard to do when you look at all the cool things on the internet; it’s doubly-difficult if you work for a conservative organization (like an FI).
For instance, because of our size I’m a specialist in terms of the banking organization (I’m the “web guy”!), but I’m a generalist in the web space – and that’s a big space. I manage (with one other able employee) our content (which is a full-time job), our design, our Online Banking service, our business online banking service, our web strategy, our corporate Intranet (which is its own little universe) and a myriad of other systems and projects. I’m not complaining at all; I like the variety and experience. But it does force us to be very organized and to priortize ruthlessly.
The key for us is focus: do your homework, create a strategy, and stick to it. Build into the strategy the ability to incorporate unexpected developments and events, but don’t take your eye off the end goal. Always maintain momentum somewhere (stasis is our enemy, because it’s self-perpetuating). And recognize -and don’t spend a lot of time lamenting – the sacrifices we have to make.
For us, our strategy has meant sacrificing innovation. The pressure to innovate is almost overwhelming but we’re maintaining our focus on doing the best we have with what we have right now. Innovation will come from necessity: we’ll be forced to innovate when we’ve maxed out our existing tools (which has already begun). So, strange as it may sound, we’re concentrating – strategically – on maxing out our existing tools.
That’s because built into our strategy (it’s a three year strategy) is the knowledge that we have to build our skill sets internally. So the idea is not only to create a solid foundation of features and processes for our members, but also to spend the time it takes doing that learning. By the end of the three years (which theoretically will be at the end of 2008, and we are on target) we’ll be in a good place systems-wise, we’ll be at the front of the train in terms of the features we offer our members, and, most importantly, we’ll be frustrated by our current limitations. Literally frustrated. And when that happens, we’ll start pushing for change. My goal – strange as it may seem – is to wake up one morning and say “we can’t do what we want with what we have; we have to change.”
In the meantime we still have to address innovation on some level, and so, strategically, we “outsource” our innovation to Credit Union Central of BC and our peer group. That’s the beauty of a co-operative model. We watch carefully to make sure that they’re doing innovative things, and then we make sure we get near the front of the line to implement them.
It’s not rocket-science, but it seems to be working. (And I’m not a rocket-scientist, anyway.)
Filed under: Banking or Business, cucbc, innovation