Celero finds strength in numbers

Combining the prairie spirit of working together with the acumen of new-millennium business giants, five credit unions are jointly launching a new company designed to coordinate their collective IT efforts.

Born out of an almost three-year-old initiative called Project Sunrise, Celero Solutions’ objective is to find ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of IT services to the five organizations, as well as to help position them as strong competitors in the financial services marketplace.

According to Mark Borgares, Celero’s vice-president of policy and planning, one of the main focuses of the initiative is to find ways to do more with what they have rather than lower costs through staff reductions.

“There are 350 people involved in four cities – Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Winnipeg – and there’s been virtually no movement in staff. In fact, everyone’s staying in the physical location that they’re in today,” Borgares said from his office at Credit Union Central Saskatchewan in Regina.

The four other organizations involved in the project are Credit Union Central Alberta in Calgary, Credit Union Central Manitoba in Winnipeg, Credit Union Electronic Transaction Services (CUETS) in Regina and Co-operative Trust Co. of Canada in Saskatoon.

Tom Kindred, CIO of CUETS, said the success of Celero is going to rest in its strength in numbers.

“As five organizations, our belief is that if we’re all doing Web development, why not do it together? It’s the aggregation of volume that’s key here. I think that having access to the expertise and knowledge that each independent organization has will certainly add value as well,” he said.

Because the company is virtual, in that it is not housed in one location but rather within the five parent organizations, Celero consists entirely of IT professionals.

“All other services required for a company, like HR, accounting, support staff and administration, are actually sourced from the parent organizations, so we can be a tech company staying focused on tech,” Borgares said.

Kindred predicts that immediate benefits will include the standardization of desktops, platforms, development languages and overall strategy.

“Getting together for group buying will see significant savings. We needed in the neighbourhood of $400,000 worth of Microsoft licences across the five organizations, and with aggregate purchasing you get a better deal,” he said.

The idea for the company grew out of an exercise that involved looking back over the past five years.

“Since we couldn’t look ahead five years to see if we would save money or be more efficient, we looked back and asked ourselves, ‘If we had done things differently five years ago, how would our organizations look today?’ In our comparison, we found that there were savings to be had,” Kindred said.

For CUETS, one of Saskatchewan’s fastest-growing companies – it has doubled in size over the last five years – as well as one of the province’s top 50 in terms of revenue, keeping up with infrastructure needs has been a challenge.

“I think that having access to a bigger IT department through Celero will help ease that stress a bit,” Kindred said.

Officially launched on Jan. 1 of this year, Borgares said that one of the main goals of Celero is to move forward with no interruption of service.

“Over the long term we want to see the standardization of products and deliver new products at a reduced cost as well, but our initial focus is to not rock the boat as we get things organized through the initial stages of the launch.”