Systems integration could certainly be on the list of the top 10 buzz words for the 2010's. The economic giants - Apple, Amazon, Google - have all proven the philosophy works: Greater efficiency is achieved when tasks can be completed in integrated systems rather than in silos. Employees don't have to learn multiple programs, and customers enjoy frictionless shopping or searching through the process. Members have come to expect the same flexible and smart experience from their banking partner, where the processes are similar in desktop and mobile applications, and financial tasks no longer require a trip to the branch. Similarly, they want their member services to be just as seamless, meaning when a question or issue arises, MSR's - either over the phone, in a chat window, or in the branch - are armed with all the information needed to quickly address the member's concerns.
Early on in 2010, systems integration was focused on improving internal workflows to cut costs. As we climbed out of the impact of The Great Recession, businesses and credit unions alike looked to technology integration as a way to eliminate manual processes and streamline operations. A leaner workforce that was more efficient would yield greater returns and allow for growth. That growth would bring more jobs, so ironically a process that was meant to cut the number of man hours would eventually bring the need to hire more, but on a much more efficient scale.
As a result, for credit unions, the 2010's saw an increased need for open architecture and API integration in their core technology. Relying on one vendor to provide all the services that members have come to expect and CU's have come to operationally require is near impossible. But thanks to systems integration, the CU core technology vendor can now leverage seemingly countless applications without CU staff and members having to learn disparate systems. The more efficient the member service representative can be, the better the experience for the member. Using APIs to bring multiple systems together into one platform means that the MSR can get information from multiple places such as checking balances, loan information, or credit card data with ease. The representative can also give better service as they have a broader look into the member’s full situation and can better meet their needs.
As a result, a greater focus was placed on finding not just vendors credit unions can trust, but technology partners to seamlessly work together to provide the seamless experience both they and their members need. Choosing a vendor is no small task for any organization, in just about any facet of operations. Some credit unions even consider enlisting the help of a third-party consultant to assist in reaching the best results. (Read: There's No Room for Impulse Buying When Signing a Vendor Contract). Credit unions that enjoy a true partnership with their technology provider can give valuable insight and participate in product design that benefits both groups. Partnerships are fluid, flexible relationships that rely on honesty and integrity to succeed.
As we close out the decade, these technology partnerships will continually strive to focus on the more human-centered aspect of systems integration. In a recent article on by PSCU, case studies were conducted to look at internal workflows and how they benefit the seamless experience that systems integration promises. The conclusion was that we can no longer build systems based on what we think will work; instead, systems must be human-centered. Talking to the people using these systems and understanding their needs is critical. It not only creates the opportunity for operational efficiency, but it also enables a better member experience.
Perhaps "systems integration" will be replaced with "human-centered integration" as the new buzzword of the 2020's.