Credit Union Mergers – Mitigate Technical Risk

March 18, 2009

From my point of view a credit union merger is a ‘non-trivial’ event, however I am excited about the opportunity that this provides both entities from a technology perspective. A small credit union can come out of a merger stronger, leaner, and more efficient than before. This is an opportunity to streamline, achieve economies of scale, and combine the best of each entity while discarding the unworkable elements. The following are a list of good questions to ponder with your teams. Here is a short list of what I would consider to be the ‘tough stuff’ from a voting and discussion perspective between teams.

Technical Systems Integration Planning Steps

  • What is the plan for the coexistence of two (separate) LAN and WAN networks and what is the end state goal?
    •  IP Scheme – bridged/ routed network
    • Are the Credit Unions using disparate core systems? Different Versions? Do they have conflicting IP Scheme requirement?
  • What are the deadlines that need to be hit so that they details can be coordinated?
    •   IP Scheme
    •  Printing (Sharing, Services, Drivers)
    • Bandwidth
    •  Routers
  • What is the plan for the convergence of credit union peripheral hardware convergence?
    • Signature pads
    • Receipt Printers
    • Scanners
    • Check printers 
  • How will imaging be merged, including the old that may need to be kept for 7 years? What is the plan for current and historical images? What is the final imaging goal?
  • How will old core system records be kept (Core historicals, etc.)?

Internal Questions

  • What is the end network design?
    • WAN Architecture
    • Integration
    • POP Diversity
    • Redundancy
    • Encryption
    • QoS – quality of services to protect VoIP integrity
  • Can the credit unions use each other for DR?
  • What services will be shared?
    • Active Directory
    • Email
    • Files
    • SQL Databases
    • Domain Controller Authority
    • Imaging
    • Domain Trust
      • Is Microsoft SBS involved? If yes, there are important trust planning considerations.
  • Will Microsoft licensing be audited to take advantage of consolidation? Use a merger to negotiate and consolidate licensing.
  • What is the plan for enterprise back-ups long term?
  • How will the phone system be consolidated and converged?

So here is the summary of my merger material. I have collaborated with a couple of team mates to put this 2 part series together for everyone. I hope you like it and that it was useful to you.  



CASE STUDY: How to Recession Proof Your Credit Union with Strategic IT Spending

April 21, 2008

Here are a few “what-if” scenarios for your IT vision:

*What if your IT infrastructure were “plug-n-play”?

*What if your IT infrastructure were “portable”?

*What if your countless data bases were “portable” and “consolidated”?

*How would your DR and infrastructure spending change if you knew that $1.00 in spending could gain you critical compliance momentum regarding DR, infrastructure, and security?

*What if these databases were replicated to your DR facility on the same platform as your Exchange/email and file systems?

*What if you were able to buy less hardware?

*What if you had a two-year roadmap of technical and reality-based spending to support this vision?

In today’s lean business climate, credit union executives must ensure that every dollar of day-to-day operational and compliance IT spending is doing triple duty within DR, infrastructure, and security. So what is your vision?

How would you get started? A story about a client of mine comes to mind that you might think of as a real-world case study direct from the trenches. I had worked closely with this client in late 2007 and early 2008 to formalize their strategy with Infrastructure, DR, WAN, Security, Citrix, VoIP and databases.

It is important to note that this credit union created the technical roadmap, design, and architecture that they wanted to pursue. They submitted their objectives to the SAN vendor community based on what they wanted to accomplish rather than doing the rounds and gathering opinions.

Seeking a Desired Solution

After deciding on a lowest common denominator for what their needs were, the credit union determined that they had a two-part goal. The first phase was to implement an iSCSI Storage Area Network – SAN at their Headquarters and DR facility according to the criteria listed below. The second phase was to create a “portable” and ‘plug-n-play’ infrastructure using VMware virtualization.

Overview of Current Environment Problem

The credit union was experiencing storage growth issues in the following areas:

1. Email;
2. Knowledge Base;
3. VoIP System recording data;
4. Imaging system data base;
5. IT Software (media storage);
6. Instant messaging;
7. Voice mail;
8. Fax;
9. File Servers;
10. Security (IDS logs, FW logs, internet logs);
11. Databases (Member Account Statements, Visa Statements, check copies, financial reports, statements);
12. Scalability regarding how to deal with the growing storage;
13. Unconsolidated storage (SQL data base proliferation);
14. Compliance with future regulations (future GLBA), retention, and archiving;
15. Cost to maintain multiple backup solutions;
16. Tape encryption;

The Requirements

The credit union wanted to purchase an iSCSI SAN in order to accomplish the following:

Primary Goal 1

Eliminate Iron Mountain tape costs
Eliminate isolated tape back-up solutions for:

i. Microsoft systems;
ii. The Synergy system;
iii. Core system;

Eliminate recurring maintenance costs for backup software
Ease staff storage management
Accommodate growth
Enable data encryption
Data storage consolidation for:

i. Imaging data base;
ii. Microsoft databases;

Consolidate file storage
Operations replication of live data between Headquarters and the DR facility
Backup replication between headquarters and the DR facility
Comply with current and future IS&T NCUA regulations
The system should be able to support future email archiving functionality

Primary Goal 2

Create a “portable” infrastructure accomplished using virtualization with VMware technology.

In a future entry, I will examine the questions that this very visionary credit union CIO asked himself — with a little help from yours truly — as he went through the budgeting and planning process for technology platform changes. I will review the overall roadmap and execution plan that was developed as we worked together to present an overall IT strategy for his credit union. Questions like the following were asked:

What do I do with my Citrix environment when using VMware?
When do I move to Exchange 2007? How does this impact my SAN and virtualization?
What impact does this SAN have on my switching infrastructure?
What good is my new plan without an MPLS network?
How will an MPLS network react to replication traffic?
How will my VoIP traffic be impacted?

In this entry I have reviewed strategy as it relates to the SAN and virtualization. The critical concern is to maximize the value of your investments. A planned approach results in an optimized situation for IT as well as for the entire business.