Evaluating your Credit Union’s Technology Infrastructure: Three Areas of Focus
The benefits of technology evaluations go well beyond meeting audit requirements.
With so many competing priorities, it’s easy to forget the importance of having technology that’s in line with banking industry standards. Some credit unions put off evaluating their infrastructure until required by regulatory or audit requirements.
Proactively evaluating your credit union’s systems brings many benefits, including:
- Having a stable, supported and future-ready environment in place to deliver technology without disruption to multiple stakeholders.
- Driving new digital transformation initiatives that deliver contemporary banking experiences to your members.
- Using technology as a differentiator to attract top talent across your organization.
- Helping with audit or regulatory concerns.
This post focuses on how you can evaluate the technologies that you have in-house – essentially the technology assets that allow your business to operate. This includes everything from physical infrastructure (like desktops, servers and other pieces of hardware) to the systems and applications that are necessary to your operations (like operating systems, databases and software).
When evaluating your technology infrastructure, focus on these three key areas:
Assessing the current state of your physical infrastructure is an essential piece of your evaluation. We recommend building an annual inventory of the physical equipment that powers your organization. This may include servers, workstations, network devices and other pieces of equipment. Clearly identify whether your credit union is responsible for the equipment (e.g.: workstation) or if it is supported by another organization (e.g.: Telco router).
Your inventory should include details like:
- The physical age of the equipment
- Remaining warranty
- Vendor support options
- The primary role or services that it delivers
The risk profile of the equipment should play a factor in its shelf life at your credit union. If a device can no longer receive support from the vendor – whether you choose to purchase that support or not – it should be decommissioned.
Just because those ten-year-old desktops still power on, it doesn’t mean you should use them!
Your equipment needs to be supportable to effectively run the current operating systems, software and other tools required by your credit union. Relying on old, unsupported infrastructure adds risk for outages that can affect operations, thereby affecting members. An equipment failure may cause the loss of important member or operational data that can be difficult or impossible to recover.
With an annual inventory, you can prepare and budget for regular upgrades of old equipment to continually minimize your risk. A scheduled approach can often save you money in the long term by helping you to avoid unexpected spending on big-ticket pieces of equipment that fail or making upgrades unwillingly because the existing services can no longer be supported. It may be helpful to build an evergreen strategy to identify and budget for upcoming hardware initiatives.
Operating system and patching
While building your inventory, take note of the operating systems your credit union is running. The operating system acts as the middleman between your physical infrastructure and the software and applications you need to run, making it another crucial component for your credit union’s operations.
The operating system will have a vendor-defined support end date. You may be able to extend the useful life of this key component by ensuring regular updates and service packs have been applied. You should also note when this component is no longer supported, and schedule upgrades or new equipment to mitigate this risk. Much like physical hardware, if the operating system is no longer vendor supported, it should be decommissioned or upgraded.
In addition to assessing how old the operating system is, verify how often your team has been keeping the operating system updated and patched. Staying up-to-date on patches is imperative to fix bugs and reduce risk, ensure security by addressing vulnerabilities in the system and generally improve the way
the system operates overall. Having a current operating system ensures stability in your day-to-day operations.
Software and applications
As part of your evaluation, review your core software applications, databases and other frameworks that are running on your technology infrastructure. Much like the operating system, software currency is an important piece of the technology puzzle for your credit union.
Software and applications require regular updates and patches from the vendor; falling behind on these can negatively influence vendor support, limit capabilities or introduce unnecessary risk. In addition to regular updates, vendors may require major upgrades to their software to ensure ongoing support.
By including key software and applications in your annual inventory and assessment, you can determine which services are no longer supported, will need updates soon or if additional effort is required to update the software.
Why you should proactively evaluate your technology
We’ve written extensively about what you should be evaluating in your technology infrastructure, now let’s think about why a proactive evaluation can impact your credit union in other significant ways beyond helping you to fulfil regulatory requirements.
Ultimately any technology changes or improvements you make because of your evaluation are member impacting. Access to current digital service delivery channels are now table stakes for all credit unions. The next generation of members expects their credit union to offer the same suite of digital banking services as big banks. Being able to deliver these core services without unnecessary disruption will ensure member satisfaction.
Investing in your technology allows you to retain and acquire membership by expanding how your credit union can meet demand and enhance interactions with members. Oftentimes we think of technology only as having an online presence – which is a huge part of new technology enhancements– but maintaining software currency can affect interactions even in your brick-and-mortar branches with tellers and employees.
Maintaining and modernizing your technology empowers your employees to deliver better experiences to members. Whether it’s streamlining your technology and applications to be faster and more efficient, ensuring optimal uptime, better understanding your member, getting more members in and out of branches for in-person banking more quickly or allowing employees to more easily find member information and process requests, your technology is at the heart of all these operations.
Because technology plays such an important role in our day-to-day lives now, the bar is much higher for what we expect from our technologies – and this includes what employers provide for employees. To recruit top talent to your credit union, you’ll need to prioritize using systems that allow them to be their most productive and that make their jobs easier because they are intuitive.
Finally, you’ll be able to proactively identify potential weaknesses and security concerns in your systems and infrastructure. Doing this will allow your credit union to address these issues and avoid security breaches that can lead to loss of member information and trust, and reputational or financial harm for your credit union. You will also be able to meet or exceed regulatory or audit risk-based concerns.
You may appreciate some assistance with this activity.
We’re here to help you build a technology assessment and interpret the necessary actions to stay current. Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about how to complete a full evaluation of your technology!
As Director in Celero’s Managed Services division, Cary helps credit union executives understand their current technology from a business perspective. This viewpoint helps credit unions focus on mitigating risk, improving services, and identifying technology goals to align with business needs.
Other posts by Cary Peppard, Director of Managed Services