What began as a low-key initiative to get Citigroup's far-flung employees to collaborate has evolved into a robust, cost-saving communications channel for them, the company said.

The Citiweb site began four years ago "as a grass-roots effort" on the banking company's corporate intranet, said Michael Cammon, director of intranet services. Now it gets about 3.5 million hits a day from employees who are executing transactions and exchanging information.

"We're creating new ways to communicate globally, and we're using technology to do that," Mr. Cammon said. Citiweb "is a channel for employees to find information and act on it."

Citiweb sprang from the technology development organization now known as e-Citi, which is populated by many employees with a personal interest in the Internet.

The group's intent with Citiweb was to connect the company's 150,000 employees in 100 countries through Internet billboards, chat rooms, and tools. Now the site, funded by e-Citi, employs 12 people full-time to manage it and develop applications.

Through the years it has evolved from a billboard with static listings to one that is more "user-oriented and transaction-oriented," Mr. Cammon said.

It offers a search engine, employee forms and job postings, newsletters from business units, information on savings plans and benefits, an events calendar, and internal and external news feeds.

The bank saves money by not having to maintain distribution lists, print newsletters, or send information in the mail. Business units post their information using guidelines and templates established by e-Citi.

"There are incredible productivity and cost gains by having such a service," Mr. Cammon said.

Employees can also shop on-line for flowers, computer equipment, health and beauty aids, and books and music.

The electronic store is designed to give "Citigroup employees convenient access to the best brand names at discounted prices," Mr. Cammon said.

Employees use their own credit cards for personal purchases and corporate cards for travel and entertainment. Corporate purchases are processed through the company's purchasing system.

The site has become particularly useful for e-Citi. The group uses it to test products and services before rolling them out to the public. It also invites discussion of its technology initiatives.

"Citiweb is a wonderful way to expose new technology to friendly, analytic users before taking it public," Mr. Cammon said.

An Internet-based training program that is now in the pilot stage would combine external content with Citi's collaborative tools.

Currently, only about half of Citigroup employees can reach the Web site through an Internet connection. The rest go through the company's proprietary network.

A disclaimer on the site states that Citiweb is for business use only and that all communications are the property of Citigroup and can be inspected at any time.

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