PSECU Finds Intranet Good, But Portal Much Better

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Build an Intranet at the credit union, and you get easier and more consistent access to information.

Build an employee portal, and you get something better, according to Gail Koehler, vice president of technology and retail delivery at Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union (PEFCU).

"Portals are the next generation of the Intranet," Koehler said. "Whereas an Intranet is an information tool, a portal is a collaboration tool."

The portal movement will hit big among companies in the U.S. this year, according to Stamford, Conn.-based analyst Gartner, Inc. More than one-third of 54 $1 billion-plus firms surveyed by Gartner have plans to create a portal.

PEFCU launched its portal in March, replacing an out-of-the-box Intranet solution installed three years earlier, Koehler said. "Basically, that Intranet software gave us a place to put things and then look at them. It wasn't extendable or customizable.

"But what's happened with this portal is incredible," she continued. "The portal has allowed us to communicate more effectively with our staff and make our business processes more efficient."

The $385-million CU is an equity-holding partner with the firm that built the portal, West Lafayette-based Passageways. Passageways is built on the Microsoft .NET platform and acts as each employee's browser-based interface to the credit unions systems, including file servers and enterprise software.

"Because the portal is built on .NET, we can extend it to almost every application we have and easily add to it," Koehler said.

A Hot Feature

Instant messaging (IM) is one of the hot features of the portal, Koehler said. Employees can "ping" one another without interrupting ongoing interactions with members.

"The internal IM mechanism allows tellers to message back and forth between branches to back office support staff without leaving their stations," she explained. "Previously, the teller would have had to leave the member at window and make a phone call at the one telephone they all share."

PEFCU employees are making good use of the portal, according to Paroon Chadha, Passageways vice president. Adoption at the CU is at 100%, with all 149 employees logging into the headquarters page for a total of 1,863 times in one week, he said.

When PEFCU surveyed staff in January about Intranet usage, however, only 11 employees said that they used the tool, Chadha said.

Upon each log-in to Passageways, users see the PEFCU headquarters' page, with customized information according to the user's title, location, and department. "On the headquarters page, users see what we want them to see that day," Koehler explained.

From there, users can access their various workgroups' calendars or build their own home pages. "On my home page, I put my inbox and calendar all in one view," Koehler said. "When I had Microsoft Outlook, I had to toggle back and forth between my Calendar and my Inbox."

Employees can "subscribe" to selected documents, and the system will send an alert to the user anytime the documents change. "So if there's an NCUA fraud alert, the system forces a pop-up box to alert the appropriate people."

The 57,000-member CU is saving paper and time with the portal, Koehler said. Expense reporting is now channeled electronically through the portal, as is the corporate VISA process.

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