How Simplicity Credit Union Weathered
The SharePoint Storm and
The best things often start small. When Wisconsin’s Simplicity Credit Union was chartered in 1949 no one could have predicted that one day their member focused credit union would span 7 branches and include 85 employees. It would have been similarly impossible to imagine just how different their credit union would operate more than a half-century later. Printed documents and endless filing cabinets would be replaced with the glow of a computer's screen. But the arrival of these digital substitutes came with such force and haste that Simplicity turned to a solution ill equipped for their long-term needs.
It all seemed so reasonable at first. With the hard copies ditched, each file, policy, and procedure would be stored digitally. Like so many others in the nascent era of connected computers, Simplicity leveraged Microsoft’s SharePoint to manage their file repository. They hoped that SharePoint would provide each employee fast and immediate access to the information they needed. Somewhere along the line it all went wrong.
Jessie Laszewski, Simplicity’s IT Support Specialist described the moment it became glaringly obvious something needed to change, “We took an all staff survey of the credit union and asked what frustrates you, what takes up too much of your time, what makes your job more difficult? The overwhelming response was SharePoint. We realized our SharePoint intranet system was a major pain point for staff, it’s complicating their job, it’s making things difficult, it’s slowing them down while serving our members, it’s frustrating them. That’s when we decided we had to look at this problem. We had to find a better way.”
There were signs predating the survey. As the volume of redundant files ballooned, so did the frequency of missing and outdated documents. For some, the fear of an impending audit began to impact behavior. This inevitably led to Simplicity’s more diligent employees to begin printing the latest copies. Sue Campbell, Simplicity’s Marketing Communicator of Awesomeness put it flatly, “It was discouraging, what they were doing in response. Just printing everything out instead of using their intranet as the resource it was supposed to be.”
Regrouping in the aftermath of the survey, Sue and Jessie began charting a path forward. “There was no one here with the expertise to help us make SharePoint do what it was supposed to do,” said Campbell, “and we couldn’t afford an expensive full time SharePoint developer. So we knew we needed something we could manage ourselves. That’s the whole reason that things got so bad on SharePoint. It became the Wild West after IT opened up the permissions so that anyone could save anything anywhere.”
They set their sights on finding a SharePoint alternative. They had a defined list of what they knew they wanted – and didn’t want. They needed to be able to manage the intranet themselves, without expensive consultants. They needed a solution that didn’t require coding to look great – one they could design, make beautiful, and call their own. An uncomplicated, easy to use platform from a company that would partner with Simplicity.
In retrospect it may seem obvious, but Simplicity quickly realized a true intranet is more than file management. As Simplicity began their due diligence process, Passageways’ OnSemble employee intranet reshaped their thinking of what was possible. Campbell remarked, “If all we had wanted was document storage, if that’s all it could do for us – once we knew that there were portals like OnSemble out there that had all of these other capabilities like blogs, announcements, helpdesks – it was hard to justify getting what amounted to a brown paper bag solution.”
In short order, OnSemble was successfully rolled out to staff that April.
“I would tell anyone who finds themselves in a similar predicament that we spent a lot of time trying to fix a problem that was fundamentally unfixable and the sooner they can identify that’s the problem the better,” said Campbell, “Don’t just wrap duct tape around it. It’s easy work. Fun work. But it seems daunting when you are coming from SharePoint. When you have SharePoint for that long, you end up thinking how can we possibly recreate this, but ultimately the only way we could get that back under control was to scrap it. It was a huge relief the day we finally turned SharePoint off.”
The day they turned SharePoint off was a remarkable milestone on their mission to overhaul how their credit union accessed and interacted with information. Laszewski knew firsthand how important it was for this project to be a success, that Simplicity’s employees not only used their intranet but that they actually loved it.
“Overall the biggest impact of OnSemble is just how easy it is to manage,” Laszewski said, “That we no longer have to depend on the IT department or programming knowledge. Setting up a page and making it look beautiful is a matter of just drag and drop, resizing an image. The simplicity of learning it and navigating it.”
"One of the biggest reasons I would recommend OnSemble is for when we need help, we deal with a lot of vendors and when we need help some vendors really kinda fail you," concluded Campbell, "You guys have never failed us. I think it’s easy to be polite and businesslike, but it’s hard to actually demonstrate how much you care. And I honestly feel that Passageways genuinely cares that we have a great experience."
Simplicity's mission is to serve their members by making the complex simple. Having an intranet that doesn't require coding, where files and documents are never lost, a platform they can design and control, is essential – simply, OnSemble is crucial to Simplicity Credit Union's ongoing success.
Simplicity Credit Union receiving the award for best portal implementation at Passageways annual customer conference.