If you are a musician or musically inclined, you may understand this comparison more than others: Core Processing is the Melody, while third party products provide the Harmony. The melody is the tune that is sung or played by the main instrument in a song; the harmony is the background tune created by other instruments.
Having hosted and run core systems most of my adult life, I don’t think of the core system as a commodity. To me, the core system is the melody, and just like every song is different, so are the different core data processing systems and the credit unions that use them. Credit Unions tailor their operations around their core systems, some of them for decades, and out comes a symphony of efficiency and understanding. Personally, I don’t think there is a bad core system and I don’t like when others tell me I need to leave the system I know and understand so well.
My core system is a familiar melody. I can change the tables and parameters, run my own queries, and setup my own products and services. Having a system that I know and understand is worth more to me than the next big thing everyone is telling me that I need. There is much to be said about knowing a system inside and out and getting the most out of every keystroke.
The third-party products are the harmonies that run in and behind the melodies creating a fuller, more appealing sound. I add new harmonies to the melody, such as home and mobile banking that transform the sound of my credit union. Mobile based loan and account origination systems, a refreshed website, a tweak here and a tweak there. The credit union has added harmonies to our song that didn’t work out so well and we acted quickly and made changes. We chose to replace them with new sounds that attracted members and satisfied existing listeners. I listen to the sounds my credit union makes and see how others react to the changes in chords. When our members are dancing to our beat, that feels good. When they are moving away or have stopped listening, it is time to add new harmonies that will get toes tapping and heads swaying once again.
Aretha Franklin said, “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing”. We are adding new harmonies to freshen up our credit union and create new sounds. Our core system is fine, and when the melody stops being easy to play, or the drums heads need replacing, we will find a system more suited to our new sound. Today, we just need to pay attention and listen to the sounds our products and services are making and adjust these harmonies to work in unison to service our members.