PALO ALTO, Calif.-Stanford Federal Credit Union will always have its place in history as the first financial institution in the world to conduct an online financial transaction.

Yet its telephonic offerings have long been anything but cutting edge, until a recent technology upgrade changed all that.

"When I came aboard there hadn't been a lot of changes," said Jim Phillips, SFCU's senior vice president and chief information officer. "We set out long-term goals in the IT technology area with regards to infrastructure and a core conversion, all of which was to take place during my first 12 months."

For many credit unions, there is a seemingly endless checklist of technology upgrades. Where to start is often the challenge, as each respective variable must interrelate to the core operating system. With four branches and 135 employees, Phillips and his team identified its Centrex phone system as lacking desired functionality.

"We started to look at what we were spending monthly for our telecom system; it was a lot," said Phillips. "With four branch locations and one headquarters, we were spending as much as a company twice our size."

Among problems was that the credit union was paying for phone lines for each individual employee phone. "We began to look at what it would take to merge voice and data and move our network and telecom environment forward," said Phillips. "Our system was old school and we knew it would take money and time."


Two Months of Discovery

Stanford Federal's two-month discovery process included hiring the Chicago-based CDW, a company that supplies technology products, software and hardware. "We worked very closely with Stanford analyzing and assessing their networking needs. It was a detailed process," said the company's Advanced Technologies Account Executive, Ahsan Ali. "Since we were going to do a core version, we needed to know the infrastructure upgrades would be completed first, so we had to move quickly," said Phillips, explaining that he started working with CDW in March 2011, two months after he accepted the position of CIO. "We looked at a lot of providers but settled on Cisco."

The Cisco Unified System was selected for a number of reasons, including scalability, intelligent call routing and single-number-reach as well as integration with email and existing banking solutions. Additional perks are chat and video-based member support features.

"Initially, I thought Cisco was too large for us and better suited for a mid-sized organization, but this a user/fee system so it is easy to expand," said Phillips.

The $1.4-billion Stanford Federal now uses Cisco Business Edition 6000, a platform unifying voice, video, data and mobile applications on fixed and mobile networks. Phillips noted that installation was completed in less than six weeks. Employees now benefit from unified messaging, integration with Microsoft Outlook and single-number-reach for mobile workers. As part of the package, SFCU added Cisco Unified IP Phones 6945 and 7965 as well as a number of 7937 conference stations for all of its employees.


60% In Savings

Since rollout, the credit union has saved approximately 60% compared to its old operating system. Ali explained that moving forward the platform is "very scalable."

To this end, Stanford Federal can add licenses, purchase hard wire boxes and phones as appropriate, a quick seamless process, he said.

With a data center in Sacramento that backs up all SFCU's information, the disaster recovery component is covered which ensures there will never be a dropped call.

"All-in all, the transition went smoothly and we met our objectives," said Phillips. "Our goal was to have our network and telecom upgrades be seamless to our end users. I feel like we got it right when most of the feedback from staff was around the fact that they got cool new phones."


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