Most organizations realize that establishing agile internal communication is a key strategic decision. An Intranet or portal is the best way to get all your employees on the same page whether its announcements, Marketing or HR updates, policies, or procedures. There are plenty of options to approach this opportunity and bad choices can be expensive.
In the beginning…
The portal as we know it today is actually the convergence of two distinct but related concepts. In the late 1990s and into 2000, the thinking was if an organization could add enough features and functionality to its website, it could make that website the starting point of choice for the people that the organization served.
What the early adopters soon found out is that their websites could not compete with the likes of Yahoo, MSN, and later, Google. Public portals – at least those launched by retail organizations – died a quick and unceremonious death.
Around the same time, various organizations began to explore the possibility of applying World Wide Web technology to an internal audience. Thus was born the intranet – essentially an internal website that housed useful employee information. Today’s portal combines the ideas of a highly functional and feature-rich starting point and a repository for useful employee information.
Intranet or Portal?
Both Intranets and Portals use a Web browser as their user interface, and they both attempt to organize (in our case) a financial institution’s “other” information. However, this is where the similarity ends. Unlike the static pages of an intranet, a corporate portal is truly a multi-user application. A portal does not merely present information; it allows employees to interact with that information. Along these same lines, the portal experience is customizable. At the management level, you can control what types of information different types of employees have at their disposal, and individual employees can further customize the interface to meet the particular needs and tastes.
Intranets generally require centralized administration. If information needs to be changed, that change is funneled to a person or persons on the IT staff, who, using software tools like Dreamweaver or FrontPage, make and deploy the change. This becomes a bottleneck often in the first three months itself. On the other hand, a well-designed portal provides those responsible for information with the tools they need to change that information themselves. This means that updates are applied more quickly and with virtually no impact on IT staff.
As Tricia Hepp, VP of Information Services for Verity Credit Union, commented about her credit union’s original intranet, “We had a Dreamweaver setup, but it needed too much technical support, and users couldn’t to post their own content.” A well-designed corporate portal, like Passageways, is also modular and scalable, providing a true framework on which you can build as your needs grow and change. Credit unions need to stay nimble to remain competitive. Thus the technologies upon which they rely must be flexible enough to keep this hectic pace.
According to Adam Gray, VP of e-Business for GTE Federal Credit Union, this aspect is key. He calls it “an absolute must; we are a very demanding credit union.” Commenting further on the distinction between intranets and portals, he adds, “A successful portal brings intuition and accessibility into the game of the ever-growing and unwieldy intranet.” Hepp expresses similar sentiments, stating, “The portal allows more freedom of connectivity. It doesn’t have to be fully contained.”
Build or Buy?
Sometimes the decision to build or buy a new technology is an obvious one. For example, very few financial institutions would attempt to build their own data processing systems. Other times, the decision is not so obvious. For example, consider portals. Microsoft customers can obtain and deploy a limited version of the SharePoint portal framework for free. But then what?
Microsoft provides only a very generic framework. The burden of adding to that framework to make it specifically suitable for your financial institution then falls on your IT staff. And we all know that IT staff, already overwhelmed with an abundance of other projects, would still need a great deal of time to accomplish what Passageways can do out of the box.
Asked if he considered a do-it-yourself portal strategy, GTE’s Gray says jokingly, “Yes, for about an hour. In our assessment, Passageways provided the most complete and in-tune solution to our approach in providing online information and resources to employees regardless of position or place.” To be sure, a portal is not nearly as complex as a data processing system, especially when you have a basic framework on which to build. On the other hand, literally thousands of man hours have been invested in bringing the Passageways portal suite to its current state. Passageways offers 9 modules and 25 other self-contained applications out of the box. And the best part is how each of these mini-applications have been built working with credit unions and continue to get regular enhancements from suggestions from a well connected community of Passageways users.
In the future…
Your credit union can realize tremendous savings and efficiencies right now by developing and deploying an appropriate portal strategy. Perhaps even more important, this is an investment that is sure to appreciate in its value to your organization.
In the same way that data processing system revolutionized accounting and imaging system changed the entire nature of document management, portals are poised to completely overhaul the manner in which financial institutions manage their “other” information. The savings – both hard and soft – are real, and mature portal products are available now. The question therefore is not if, but when.
Want to learn more about how Passageways’ Portal Solution can increase your credit union’s communication and productivity, CLICK HERE to sign up now for our Peer Webinar, or visit www.passageways.com.