The onset of COVID-19 left many questions in credit unions' minds. FLEX had nine credit unions scheduled for conversion between March - August 2020. Of these nine credit unions, six required remote/virtual implementations based on State mandates for travel and corresponding quarantine. Virtual implementations were successfully performed by FLEX training teams in New Mexico, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia. When some core processors were working with credit unions to postpone or reschedule their core conversion, FLEX was working with staff and credit unions to modify implementation and training procedures. Necessity is the mother of invention. Understanding that physical proximity is becoming increasingly unnecessary (although it may still be preferred), FLEX began implementing remote conversion plans. Here is a summary of the takeaways of our experiences.
Data is ambivalent to geographic locations. Data conversion has historically happened at FLEX corporate headquarters in Sandy, Utah. All the “heavy lifting” is completed by FLEX programmers at our offices. Only during the live cut-over is data managed on-site. Transitioning the programming conversion teams to virtual conversions only required changes to the final data cut process. Given that VPN connectivity can be established between the credit union and FLEX employees, and that most credit unions in 2020 are implementing a hosted solution, the modifications to the data conversion process were minimal.
Training has long been performed on-site at the credit unions prior to conversion, but fortunately training is aptly suited to the remote learning environment. COVID-19 required that new training strategies be formulated. Given the speed at which individuals transitioned to the virtual workplace, little resistance was encountered when re-establishing our training policies. In fact, credit unions were able to train more in-depth and staff experienced more one-on-one training opportunities. This also allowed for more flexibility in training schedules and credit union staff could schedule training sessions around their normal workdays. Silver linings are often found when change is forced into situations, this is the case with conversion training. Additionally, conversion costs were greatly reduced as travel was no longer part of the implementation equation.
FLEX Support was already based in the virtual environment. This was fortuitous from the standpoint that very little change was required to continue to provide support to our credit unions. The biggest challenges with regard to support are outlined below in the FLEX Employee Support section. Quickly ensuring that all FLEX support staff had access to remote capabilities were the first priorities following the required changed the health crisis required.
FLEX Academy was implemented in 2016. The purpose of FLEX Academy was to move away from traditional program documentation and push the FLEX knowledge base into the virtual, on-demand environment. FLEX Academy provides online documentation, video tutorials and courses to assist FLEX users in their learning and support initiatives of the system. As we quickly added new developments to the system, our knowledge base was able to keep pace and assist customers with their learning needs and understanding of each new feature.
The FLEX client portal (customer website) allows customers to schedule their FLEX upgrades and deployments. This has allowed customers looking to add features or update software to schedule those services around their schedules. The FLEX client portal also provides access to open tickets for credit union review and modification and vendor due diligence documentation to ensure that paperless practices are followed in every area where possible.
FLEX Employee Support
Each employee connecting remotely was/is required to have computer hardware and software which is up to date and meets supported industry standards. Computers used for remote connections also require industry standard and verified anti-virus programs running. FLEX provided headsets for each remote employee that functions in a call center role. A FortiClient (VPN) application was installed and configured on the computer or laptop for each remote employee. Documentation was also provided to each remote employee for reference, after the VPN was installed by FLEX security engineers.
Success Through Forward-Thinking
While this pandemic ground many businesses to a standstill, there were opportunities created for institutions that were able to quickly pivot and adapt FLEX is dedicated to being future-focused and proudly stands by its strategic decisions of dedication to its mission of service. The secret to the enduring success of the FLEX system has been the ability to leverage technology in ways that benefit credit unions while making their impact as transparent as possible.