Corporate Portal: Is your Credit Union agile enough?

Not sure? Let's find out...


Why is it vital to be agile in the first place?

Regardless of your size, the need for instant access to relevant information and applications has always been a critical factor driving productivity. There is a growing need to bridge the gap between where your employees actually are versus where they need to be. Unsurprisingly, this gap often manifests itself in abysmal member service levels.

Gauging Agility

Estimate the average length of time it takes for the following simple tasks to get accomplished at your credit union:

  • A “fraud alert” or a “risk alert” reaches all your tellers
  • Your marketing department polls your entire frontline staff about the response to a new marketing campaign
  • Revised interest rates are recognized by all your frontline staff
  • A new teller finds and references your credit union's policy on sick days or vacation

If it takes more than a couple of minutes for any of the above tasks, then chances are your credit union doesn't have a corporate portal in place.

Fact: Your communication platform needs to be collaborative and agile for your business to be so.

An intranet does not represent an agile or collaborative communication platform; the time of the corporate portal has arrived.

A corporate portal allows communication between management and employees, helps employees collaborate more easily, by giving them role-based access to the information and applications they need to successfully perform their job. Aside from collaborative information sharing , your credit union can also benefit from, like many others, portal modules that automate internal business processes like Expense Reporting, Timesheets Routing, Member Contact Management and internal Help Desk(s) Management all without the help of your IT department!

Why is it important to communicate collaboratively

The nature of agility lies in collaborative communication, which allows people to build a knowledge base which is constantly edited, allowing for quicker access and increasing accuracy. Portals now allow the credit union industry, as well as many other verticals, to communicate collaboratively. Studies have shown that when people communicate collaboratively, they use each previous communication as a reference to help the communication to evolve and grow.

Imagine that two people have to communicate a number of times about an abstract figure that is difficult to name. Typically, the two people will start by using a long descriptive phrase, and with subsequent references, will shorten that phrase to one or two words (Clark & Wilkes-Gibbs, 1986; Krauss & Fussell, 1991; Krauss & Weinheimer, 1966). For example, two people shown the figure in Figure 1 described it over five trials with the phrases shown in Table 1 (Krauss & Fussell, 1991).

This process is evidence of the collaborative nature of communication in general, since subsequent phrases tend to make reference to previous phrases and since the phrase eventually agreed on to describe the object would not likely be able to describe the object without the benefit of the prior history of the evolution of the phrase. Only collaborative communication can facilitate this evolution of information.

Intranets and email are falling short

The emergence of portals is a direct result of the pervasive connectivity afforded by the Internet, combined with the speed of business and the ever-increasing volume of information. Using an Intranet managed by your IT department is a definite obstacle for your employees to work nimbly. The usual and customary method for creating annotations and observations is by e-mail. E-mail is a great way to send individualized messages to people that can't be discarded. However, the very fact that email is individualized by our own inboxes is one of its biggest weaknesses.

It is key to balance centralized control and local administration of portal content. Credit unions using this unique method are happy to note that all their employees stay tuned to their corporate portal and benefit from its powerful alerts system and search engine. Even the credit union directors now have access to board packets via the web. Unlike intranets and emails, this type of solution captures every click stream on the portal and makes knowledge management a reality. By employing a portal that has balanced centralized control and local administration of content in your credit union, you (or your members) will never hear “I didn't know” from your employees! Now, that's a sure sign of organizational competence and effectiveness, or shall we say agility .

Why Now?

A well-implemented corporate portal can pay for itself within the first year. Furthermore, the cost of implementation is at an all time low due to the competitive pricing of software. The tools have matured through the investment of early adopters.

The Future

The adoption curve for portal technology in the credit union industry will hit its peak this year and next. The interest in portal technology lies not only in the proven return on investment but also in the very nature of the tools themselves. Portals are an evolutionary step in Web-based information systems and according to META Group, "organizations without a portal framework by YE04 will be at a competitive disadvantage." You don't want to be left behind!

Passageways is the leading provider of corporate portals to the credit union industry. For more information on how Passageways can help your credit union, visit or contact us for a demo at (765) 497-8829.




Sept. 17, 2007


  • Not true. The design of the technology determines what it can do, not what it is called. Plenty of Intranets and other like technologies are rules based and are completely managed by relevant user groups outside of IT. Either you work for Passageways or you need to cut back on their marketing coolaid.
  • It is true, Intranets and portals do the same thing. However, that doesn''t mean they are the same thing. The difference (and advantage) that a portal has over an intranet is the technology behind it. Portals take the burden off the IT department and let the end-users manage the content. In most cases intranets need a dedicated IT team to keep the information current and useful. Portals also allow role-based access, so tellers see only the information that is pertinent to tellers and so on. If that same teller were to visit an intranet, they would have to navigate through all the information out there that does not affect them to get to what they need. This also applies to secure access of sensitive information. Obviously, any organization has levels of permissions set so that not everyone has access to all the information. This can be accounted for with a portal’s role-based access by allowing only those who have permission to access certain information. Portals “organize information and get people to it” better than intranets.
  • Intranets and Portals do the same thing – organize information and get people to it. Passageways is just trying to differentiate themselves by playing branding games. Lot’s of technology out there is focused on getting people to information and it makes no sense for anyone to be gullible enough to get hung up on what it’s called! Since this “portal” need is relevant to all industries, many more seasoned and demanding than credit unions with “portal” technology, it is also prudent to evaluate vendors that have proven to be effective inside and outside of credit unions. Who knows, an intranet you develop in-house might even provide you with your best option. Don’t play the name game.
  • What a technology is called does not entirely define what it does. Many intranets, extranets and different named but like technologies include role-based management and similar functionality to what is being branded as a "Portal.".
  • Many intranets and other like technology that is not not called "portals" include all the role-based functionality included in Passageways and more. People should not get hung up on the name, but rather should focus on evaluating the technology for what functionality it provides.