Maps Credit Union: A Crowdsourcing Approach to Innovation

Maps Credit Union is passionate about using technology to make meaningful change.Maps Credit Union is reaping big operational benefits and high-profile accolades for its crowdsourcing approach to innovation. The Salem, Oregon, credit union's Idea Lab, launched in 2010, enables any staff member to submit project proposals for internal process improvements, which are often technology-focused. The submissions are collected and shared among staff members, who review them and vote for the ideas they think should be pursued.

As a result of one idea, Maps Credit Union development staff saved $30,000 in postage costs by creating an automated process to convert NSF (nonsufficient funds) notices into emails. In another case, hundreds of hours of manual data entry were saved by automating loss prevention procedures, including flags and warnings. The credit union's team of Microsoft-certified developers rolls out similar projects nearly every month.

Results like these have earned Maps industry-wide recognition, including the 2015 Celent Model Bank Innovation Award. As the smallest institution by far in its category – and the only credit union – Maps was especially honored to share the stage with large, international financial institutions. This year, the credit union also earned a CU Journal Best Practice Award and was a finalist for Gartner's Financial Services "Cool Business" Awards.

The Point talked to Loren Paulsen, software development manager for Maps Credit Union, about how the credit union is using its Idea Lab and DNAcreator™ from Fiserv to drive new ideas and processes.

How did you build a culture of innovation at Maps Credit Union?
We work from a basic tenet: Every person, every idea counts. Our emphasis in the Idea Lab is the frontline staff and their ideas – how we can use technology to improve their departments and processes from a bottom-up approach. We believe it's part of everyone's job to suggest improvements and be an active participant in building a culture of innovation.Loren Paulsen

We started by spending time in various departments and watching how they work. Then we asked, 'Have you thought about using technology to do this differently?' As projects were completed through the Idea Lab, they inspired other projects. 

How does your commitment to innovation impact your team and your day-to-day operations?
Before we implemented the Idea Lab, departmental staff didn't have exposure to the technology that could make their lives easier and, just as importantly, our developers didn't always know what those projects might be. Like most financial institutions, we had manual processes that no one had thought to automate. Why? Staff members didn't know it was possible to use our system that way – or they didn't know they could ask. Today, worthwhile projects no longer simply fall through the cracks.

We select projects that help each department, but we keep key initiatives in mind. For example, this year Maps is focused on optimizing the teller line, so most ideas align with that initiative – even if they don't get the most votes. Whatever projects are chosen, the process prompts good conversations and increases our organizational transparency.

What can other financial institutions learn from Maps Credit Union?
Any innovation initiative must be focused in some way. In our case, we sought ways to use technology to automate and streamline processes. To build enthusiasm and momentum for other projects, start with a smaller number of projects for departments that are passionate about doing things differently. Empower people to think critically about their work, speak up and make suggestions.

Maps Credit Union is passionate about using technology to make meaningful change. Key to our success is the open architecture of DNA® from Fiserv and getting DNAcreator in the hands of our software development team. No matter what system you're using, however, technology has the power to change how you do business. We push for excellence in everything we do, which drives innovation and solutions to real-world challenges. The Idea Lab has helped us take a holistic view of our enterprises and our processes, and continue to build a culture of innovation. 

Interested in learning more? A recent Fiserv case study details how DNA helps Maps Credit Union transform ideas into reality.

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