A tech project that saves each employee 20 minutes of productivity time per day may not sound extraordinary, but for Circle Bank it was like discovering gold underneath the parking lot.

The savings come from "BLINK" (or Bank Link), an HR portal led by Circle Bank and supported by an implementation team from Passageways. BLINK is a centralized location for information on the bank's performance, programs, new initiatives, recruitment ads and procedures. "It's a one stop shop for everything, information about the bank is out there for everyone to see every single day," says Betty House, vp of information systems for Circle Bank.

BLINK operates across all business lines, with employees logging onto the portal each morning to access their time sheets; as well as reach out to help desks for IT, training, and new business support; locate rate sheets, deposit and loan documents; view updated dashboards of performance numbers; and read messages from the bank's senior management. Security is provided by SSL encryption that protects the portal from outside intruders.

The bank's CEO, Kim Kaselionis, also has an area on the portal to post information, as well as take public questions from employees. A new section will soon be introduced that will have profiles of more than 30 products.

By estimating the incremental efficiency gains of automation and centralization, the bank estimates each employee saves 20 minutes of work per day (the bank projects the new section on products will up that to 30 minutes daily). Based on an average yearly cost of $55,000 per employee for 2,080 hours worked-or $0.44 per minute-20 minutes of productivity savings comes out to $9.61 per employee, or $440 across the bank each day. That means the $9,000 yearly cost of the project-about 7 percent of the overall IT budget-is paid for within a month. "The efficiencies were substantial," House says. "We will be able to eliminate shared drives within the network because we have one place where everyone can view the information needed. Network file storage will decrease tremendously."

The savings would not be possible without staff enthusiasm, and for Circle that meant departmental participation and the quick implementation provided by a hosted software-as-a-service model. "SaaS made it possible to roll out in 60 days, which is key to getting buy-in," House says. "If you talk about doing something and it takes a long time to deploy, it can be harder to get participation." And House says that each department "took ownership" of its section of the portal, submitting proposals to the project team for inclusion.

"From an IT perspective, it's a very smart deployment," says Ellen Carney, a senior analyst for Forrester Research, who says the hosted nature of the project removes some burden off the IT department's shoulders-House is the bank's only IT staffer. "At community banks, [IT execs] wear a zillion different hats. It has to support HR make sure it has sufficient access management and identity systems, and, by the way, you have to also keep a lookout for fraud."

Paroon Chadha, founder of Passageways, says the bank's migration from an HR intranet to a portal also allows it to customize information for specific users, with features such as alerts for customer facing workers and dashboards for senior management.

"The complexity of the job at hand, whether it be a branch manager, lending officer, etc. has gone up dramatically in terms of risks and compliance needs. The burden is higher with each passing year," says Chadha, who says the percentage of Passegeway's financial client base that's migrating from HR intranets to portals has increased form 50 percent five years ago to about 90 percent currently.

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