Don’t Let New Technology Determine Your Strategy


Recently, I was addressing nearly 300 credit union leaders at a conference, and I caught myself saying something that I thought bears repeating.

The topic was Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) and I was giving the group an update on our progress in integrating them with our core processing software. I noticed that several of the credit unions for which we completed an integration project had varied business strategies for the technology. Some were using them as kiosks, others as video tellering platforms alongside the kiosk functionality. Still others completely replaced their teller lines with ITMs.

I went on to commend them on not just taking the technology at face value, letting a vendor sell them a shiny object, but rather they thought through just how they would utilize the technology within their individually diverse memberships and to accommodate their strategic initiatives to benefit their members and the credit union. In other words, they did not let the technology determine the strategy.

New technology should have a purpose

All too often I get contacted about building something to accommodate the latest trend or new technology. Everyone wants to be a “cool kid” at all costs, and they go tactical. Meaning, they do things for the sake of doing things because it’s trendy, or they feel out of touch if they don’t, or they let a vendor convince them they need the technology.

However, they don’t pause and ask, why do I want to do this? What business need is this addressing? How will this make my member’s experience better? What’s the ROI? And so on. Technology should never determine what your credit union’s strategy is. Before you invest in expensive tactics, you need to align them with strategic initiatives. Here’s an example.

I talked to one credit union that said, “I want to use this technology to staff the branch 50 miles away versus putting a full-time body there when really I only need half of a body there.” Their challenge was that they had a teller there just waiting for members to show up, and they could not remove the teller because some members did indeed show up.

Furthermore, if that employee called in sick, it was a scramble to get someone on site. Now they can leverage a body to staff the machine through the video presence at the same time they are staffing other machines at the main branch. They knew why they wanted the technology, what it would do for them, and how it would fit their strategic needs.

Another example, I had a credit union CEO tell me they were leveraging the technology to be competitive with the local bank. They used ITM technology to allow two call center employees to work late and service members until 7 PM. The bank closed at 5 PM. This way they could essentially be available two hours later without the overhead of keeping their entire branch open. Again, they knew the need, and they clearly understood how this technology was a strategic component, not a tactical one.

Let the technology fit your needs, not the other way around

Remember, technology is meant to fit the needs of the credit union and the members, you should not create needs to justify the technology. As you evaluate new technology for suitability in your credit union, stop and ask the hard questions.

How does this new technology satisfy a need at your credit union? Are you being just tactical or strategically tactical? Are you just looking to be a cool kid for the sake of being a cool kid? Or are you a cool kid with a purpose?


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