Farm Credit Midsouth
Farm Credit Midsouth is a financial services cooperative serving farmers and other borrowers in Arkansas and Missouri. To increase efficiencies and provide greater security for business-critical files, Farm Credit deployed a KnowledgeLake solution on top of Microsoft SharePoint. Now employees can search for and access loan files instantly regardless of which branch originated the documents. There is also greater protection for information from natural disasters or security breaches.
Farm Credit Midsouth has been in business for nearly a century, providing financial services such as loans and insurance to farmers and other eligible borrowers. Part of the national Farm Credit System, Farm Credit Midsouth, is a farmer-owned cooperative with more than 2,000 members in eastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. It has eight locations and manages loans totaling about $800 million.
Like many other financial institutions, Farm Credit Midsouth built its business on paper documentation-but wanted to move away from paper-based loan processes. The paper files were vulnerable to theft and susceptible to loss from fire, floods, and other disasters. Paper-based processes were also inefficient, with single copies of loan documents available only to branch employees unless the files were physically transported to other locations.
The deployment of a Microsoft SharePoint intranet launched a search in the IT department for a solution that could leverage SharePoint as the foundation for an enterprise content management (ECM) system.
"SharePoint's capabilities aligned with our goal of using the intranet as a central repository for information," says Marc Miles, Information Systems Manager for Farm Credit Midsouth. "We needed a cost-effective way to manage our loan files while delivering better security, redundancy, and accessibility than we had with our paper-based system."
Several important factors went into evaluating possible ECM systems. "The solution had to leverage our investment in SharePoint while minimizing administration by the IT department," says Miles. "It also had to provide strong search and retrieval functions while helping us enhance security and redundancy. Plus it needed to integrate tightly with and enhance SharePoint instead of being a standalone product."
Farm Credit decided to deploy a KnowledgeLake ECM solution that integrated with the organization's SharePoint system. The evaluation process included competitive products, such as LaserFiche, Filebound, Kofax, and Hyland OnBase, but none provided the same level of rich ECM features and seamless SharePoint integration as KnowledgeLake.
"KnowledgeLake sold itself with its SharePoint integration, its ECM features, and its intuitive user interface."
Part of the deployment involved integrating the KnowledgeLake software with Insight, an in-house loan origination application. Insight is used for printing barcoded cover sheets that accompany loan documents during the scanning process. Information printed on the cover sheets ensures that loan documents are properly indexed and organized in the SharePoint repository, and also facilitates fast searches. Farm Credit also created custom buttons for the Insight user interface that provide KnowledgeLake Connect functionality. This gives employees access to document retrieval without having to leave the Insight application.
The KnowledgeLake ECM solution has helped Farm Credit Midsouth improve its core business tasks. Loan documents are now much easier for employees to find and retrieve. The security of loan documents has been enhanced because they are centrally stored as digital files in the SharePoint repository instead of being paper documents that can be lost or left exposed to unauthorized viewing. The elimination of paper files is also helping Farm Credit with its disaster preparedness, with KnowledgeLake and SharePoint providing superior alternatives for protecting sensitive data.
Fast Search and Retrieval of Documents
The ECM solution has delivered dramatic improvements to essential business processes. "With the KnowledgeLake ECM products and SharePoint, employees don't have to go from office to office trying to figure out which loan officer has the file and which stack it's in. Files are always at our fingertips," says Miles. "A branch loan officer told me of a customer who wanted to discuss something in his file. Instead of spending five or 10 minutes or longer looking for the documents in a filing cabinet in another room, the loan officer pulled up the complete loan documentation on his screen in less than 30 seconds. She said it was awesome."
Enhanced Security for Information
Moving its loan documentation to the intranet has helped Farm Credit increase security. "Eliminating the paper files means there is no need for loan officers to take a file out of the office to work from home during the busy season, and it eliminates the risk that files can be accidentally left out of the filing cabinet or on a desk," says Miles. "Files are secured by our network, giving us much greater control over the confidentiality of information."
Greater Disaster Preparedness
The KnowledgeLake solution and SharePoint intranet are helping Farm Credit advance its disaster preparedness. "Our region experiences several tornados each year, and we're also in an earthquake zone with a high probability of soil liquefaction in the event of a severe quake, and of course, fire always poses a threat to business files," says Miles. "Instead of paper documents sitting in filing cabinets that could be destroyed, we have files in databases that are replicated to servers in another state outside of the tornado and earthquake zone. Concerns about business continuity are now much lower with redundant files."
Farm Credit Midsouth, based in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is a cooperative that provides loans in 10 Arkansas counties and three counties in Missouri. It is part of the national Farm Credit System, established by Congress in 1916 as a reliable source of credit for farmers and ranchers.