Maps Wins Award for Innovation in Technology and Culture

Through the Idea Lab, Maps is using technology and innovation to gain a competitive advantage. An update to their core system allowed for automation of insufficient fund notices — saving the credit union $30,000 a year in postage alone.

Maps Credit Union won a prestigious financial services industry award from Celent, a global research and consulting firm, for their “Idea Lab” innovation system. Maps was honored alongside three other financial institutions in the category, including one of the world’s largest banks.

“The Idea Lab system is more than just a technological innovation,” said Loren Paulsen, Software Development Manager at Maps. “It’s part of a culture of innovation that the credit union has created. That’s what the folks at Celent were so impressed with, the intersection of cutting-edge technology and culture.”

Idea Lab is a like social network within Maps that allows every staff member to post innovative ideas, and to comment and vote on other ideas. It allows new ideas to bubble up from every corner of the credit union. The mantra that underpins the system is, “Every person, every idea counts.”

Paulsen said that Idea Lab was created about three years ago, but it really took off when Maps converted to a new core system in late 2012.

“I saw something that really surprised me as a developer,” said Paulsen. “Truly modern core systems were being sold right alongside those based on 30-year-old technology. We realized that credit unions who are using this advanced technology are not doing enough to turn it into a competitive advantage.”

Maps decided to go all in on a modern, highly extensible core system. The key to the system is its stock of application program interfaces, commonly known as APIs, which allow custom programs to share data with, and add capabilities to, the core system.

“This allowed us to ask some very important questions,” said Paulsen. “What is unique at Maps that we can use technology to turn into a competitive advantage?”

As the team began using the new core’s capabilities to automate little parts of the credit union’s work, a sort of alchemy happened between the new core and Idea Lab.

When Idea Lab first rolled out, said Paulsen, most entries were new marketing concepts or the like. But as Maps team members began to see the power of the new core, they started suggesting ways to use the technology to solve problems or add efficiencies to their work.

“One person might have a part of their work that could be easily automated and save them hours every week,” said Paulsen. “But it might never have reached our desk through more formal channels. Idea Lab has allowed everyone at Maps to let our IT team know about potential places to add efficiency.”

For example, Maps sends out about 5,000 insufficient funds notices per month. Before the new core, all of those were printed and mailed, even to people who had opted into emails. Once the new core was in place, a Maps team member suggested sending them out as emails when possible.

“We did some regulatory digging and found that we could send these notices as emails by default, unless a member opts out,” said Paulsen. “Now we send them by email to everyone we have an email for, about 80% of members, and if an email bounces, the system automatically prints and sends a paper notice and alerts us to the bounce.”

Switching 80% of these notices to email is savings Maps nearly $30,000 year in postage alone, and gets notices to members on the same day rather than two or three days by mail.

Shane Saunders, vice president of development at Maps, said that it’s not only the new core and the Idea Lab that make such innovations possible, but also that unique structure of the software development team that Paulsen leads. “They go out into the credit union and look for ways to improve business processes,” said Saunders. “And they bring a unique, systems thinking perspective to their work, so they are able to use technology to update our processes in view of the bigger picture of what Maps is capable of.”

Paulsen said that much of his team’s freedom to do this sort of work comes from moving on-premises servers into the cloud. “Rather than working on the plumbing of just keeping things together,” he said, “our role has changed to become trendsetters, stewards of new technology. We can focus on creating better processes that allow us to better serve our members.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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