Rethinking Traditional Operations Management at the Core

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For core processors in the financial services industry, daily operations management consists of scheduling and executing tasks to receive raw data and transactions from a wide variety of sources including teller workstations, ATMs, point of sale, online or mobile devices, third-party EFT vendors, and indirect lending, to name a few. These transactions occur in real-time or in batch, both automated and manual, twenty-four hours a day, across multiple time zones.

This information is stored and processed on a network of integrated systems consisting of a mix ranging from the latest technology to legacy software and hardware, each designed for a specific purpose. The finished product, the processed information, is made available and presented to the end user over a multitude of delivery channels in several formats, upon request.

What can go wrong, will

Even on the best of days, when all the lights are green and stars are aligned, with so many moving parts and complex integrations, daily processing can produce its share of challenges. Fortunately, many tools are available or have been designed in-house to assist in the scheduling and automation of jobs (scripted processes) to increase efficiencies, reduce the number of human errors, and monitor timeliness of workflows to ensure that deadlines are met.

But on those days when unexpected events occur that threaten to disrupt the carefully orchestrated flow of daily processing, an equally orchestrated and designed response is required. Enter the business continuity professional whose job it is to identify and anticipate disruptive events and implement measures to mitigate the risk of impact and enable daily operations to continue. Tools to assist in risk mitigation include real-time data replication, redundant and load-balanced systems, dynamic network routing, geographically dispersed data centers, and alternate resources from utility power to computer room cooling.

The partnership between operations management and business continuity has enabled core data processors to maintain acceptable levels of uptime and respond to the occasional weather-related outage or a failure to deliver from a technology service provider. However, the long-term impact and implications of the pandemic in 2020 has introduced new challenges and a level of uncertainty that has “essential” financial services organizations such as core processors looking to do more.

Different disciplines join hands

In 2021, CU*Answers, a core processor for 290+ credit unions, will take this relationship between operations management and business continuity to a new level by marrying the two disciplines with the ultimate goal of integrating the concept and focus throughout the enterprise.

“Process improvement takes on a new meaning,” states Jim Lawrence, VP of Business Continuity and Operations, “when agility and resilience are given equal footing with efficiency and productivity. This requires teams to think and design in new ways throughout all stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC), not just at time of implementation. The benefits and value from these efforts are expected to influence all interactions within the production center, resulting in an increase in consistency and stability of operations while at the same time improving speed and flexibility; the desired foundation for launching new products and services.”

This will require establishing mutual goals and objectives with multiple departments across the organization, including software development, quality control, information technology, security and compliance, and data analytics, with business continuity principles applied at each touch point.

Eyes on the future

As this initiative unfolds, watch for future articles documenting the progress and sharing lessons learned, in the true spirit of a CUSO cooperative. If you have a similar experience you would like to share or have questions about the process, comment below!

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