Most banks have plans for the Internet. Even though few derive a quantifiable
profit from investing in an Internet program, inertia in this electronic
era may equal eventual extinction. The Internet is one of the most ballyhooed
innovations of the past couple of decades, and has spawned hundreds of
new technologies for the banking industry. One of these is a practical
tool that few banks have seized onto: an intranet.
documents lie at the root of the problem. From them, stems inefficient,
duplicitous work processes. These documents can multiply like weeds and
impede the growth of productivity in a bank. Even if a bank wants to clear
its garden, reengineering work processes can perplex the most methodical
individuals. The challenge is to think differently, and avoid simply turning
an inefficient process into an inefficient electronic process. For some
institutions, an intranet will help untangle the jungle of document management
activities carried out by their staffs.
Parry, Director of Web Development at Brintech, a bank technology firm,
provides an example. "Say a bank wants to redefine the way that loan documents
are transferred between the branch and main office, and right now they're
delivered by courier or mail. The bank could decide to electronically
scan the loan application and e-mail it back and forth between offices,
but that really just mirrors the same old process. Or, they could store
the information in one place and have the necessary parties view and signoff
on it." An intranet provides a mechanism to streamline this process.
popularity of intranets in U.S. industry is growing steadily. An intranet
is roughly a microcosm of the Internet. It functions on a browser-based
platform that manages many of internal functions and work processes of
an organization. The difference is access-the owner holds the key. Generally,
access is limited to employees within an organization, but can be extended
to vendors, clients, or anyone else authorized by the intranet's administrator.
Controlling access and ensuring security become important issues, particularly
for a financial institution.
intranet precisely built can thoroughly simplify work processes and provide
a repository of all internal, electronic data. It empowers employees and
reduces the waste that paper-based documents create. The decision to implement
an intranet requires that people in each bank department progressively
rethink the way that they do business. Everyone should thoroughly review
workflow processes and the trail that each document travels in the bank.
Decision-makers first need to determine whether to invest in an intranet.
To evaluate whether an intranet program would fit into a bank, a bank
should address the following questions:
the organization significantly produce, distribute, and update paper-based
- Do employees
often need to consolidate information from different places or sources?
the organization require communication between people who are geographically
- Are employees
often required to research information to complete a task?
- Is the
organization committed to a comprehensive reengineering project?
the organization have the resources to implement and manage a significant
and resources are key components of a successful project. The intranet
needs sufficient resources to complete the project judiciously and maintain
its integrity. The bank must answer affirmatively to the above questions
related to these factors for a successful intranet project. Decision makers
should consider that some results are intangible and difficult to quantify.
There are obvious costs, such as buying a server, if necessary, and hiring
an intranet development firm to establish the system. Other costs include
training, initial input of forms and data, work process reengineering,
and work time reallocated to the project during its initial phase. Gauging
the returns on an intranet investment can also be complex, particularly
as they multiply based on how well utilized the system becomes within
the bank. If used effectively, work productivity increases into the foreseeable
future. Many paper-based processes will be eliminated or condensed, which
eventually allows the bank to reallocate resources into sales and customer-related
activities. And, the bank will have enhanced internal communications and
interest spread for banks is continually shrinking with increased competition,
thus the banks' profits are being squeezed meaning that they all will
have to look hard at their internal efficiency to remain viable," states
David Koto, Executive Vice President at Brintech. "The intranet is a vehicle
that will allow them to operate more efficiently with less personnel."
What can an intranet do for a bank? An intranet adapts to handle
future applications and work processes. The intranet can change as the
bank grows. Some examples of practical functions are to:
the loan review process
sales and marketing materials
an online platform for product demonstrations, training, and sales presentations
a central repository for product information
sales goals and performance data
a sales contact management system
news groups and online conferences for geographically dispersed sales
people and branch managers
a variety of schedules and calendars
generate customer profitability information
all human resources documents, including personnel policies, benefits
information with online enrollment and change forms, and 401(k) material
with a calculator and link to the Social Security Administration
a storehouse of online forms
employee contact information
internal job notices
and manage employee performance reviews
current project plans and timelines
Help desk scripts
frequently asked customer service questions
a problem-tracking system
financial reports and the updated budget
online expense reports
of an intranet relies heavily on the bank's ability to identify work processes
for an electronic format. A good developer will help the bank with this
process, and suggest functions that may have gone unnoticed. The real
boon for the bank is easily distributed, centralized information. An intranet
streamlines multifaceted work processes.
Work Process Redefined
With an intranet, a bank can improve on scores of standard procedures.
One example: a current hiring process may be for a prospective employee
to enter the bank, complete an application, and have an interview with
one or more supervisors. She is hired, and then fills out several more
forms. She may provide her name, address, and birth date repeatedly. Perhaps
the bank takes a photograph of her. She must then read the employee guidelines
and undergo training. Administrative employees funnel various forms between
the branch and Human Resources department, leaving room for oversight
and lost documents. Someone tracks that the new employee accomplishes
an intranet, a prospective employee can enter the bank and complete an
application online. She has her interview, and is hired. An HR clerk accesses
an electronic task list that delineates each task the new employee must
accomplish with due dates. The data from her application transfers to
HR's benefits forms, branch forms, a calendar, and an employee directory.
Her photo is scanned in or digitally taken, and it is temporarily posted
to the main page in a new employee section, and stored for later use.
She accesses the employee handbook and online training program, and certifies
when both have been reviewed. HR and authorized branch management can
readily access all documentation. When the employee undergoes a name change
or moves to a new address, she can complete an online form that will replace
the information everywhere necessary, eliminating redundant processes.
What technology is required to operate an intranet? The technology
is relatively modest compared to other endeavors if the bank is already
connected by a local or wide area network. Since an intranet is basically
an internal web site, it requires a web server, browser software, and
enough bandwidth to sustain the system. Each user needs a workstation
- a bank's current workstations may be sufficient.
entire system will probably run on one of the two most popular web browsers,
Netscape or Microsoft Explorer. If the bank currently accesses the Internet,
installed browser software is probably adequate. The browser concurrently
provides access to the intranet and Internet.
thorny aspect of the technical side to the project is customizing the
intranet for the bank. Accomplishing this is not so difficult, but its
engineers must do it in a way that invites use by bank employees. The
intranet needs to be user-friendly, and accomplish its goals without intimidating
technically challenged staff. A qualified intranet developer spends a
great deal of time accounting for usability when crafting the blueprints
for the system.
What does an intranet look like? An intranet site looks like an
Internet site. The owner completely controls the appearance of the site,
within the capabilities of web sites as they exist at that moment. (Web
site capabilities seem to change at the rate of warp speed.) Since the
intranet serves so many functions for people at different levels of technological
savvy, consistency in appearance is crucial.
of the specific page layout, Internet users will find some comfort in
the intranet's appearance, easing transition to the new system. Management
should carefully evaluate how they want users to interface with the system.
Many decisions will need assessment, such as the appearance of the page
that users see immediately upon logging onto the system. The home page
can be customizable by user or fixed so that the same screen appears before
all users, secured areas notwithstanding.
What kind of staff training is required? The ease with which an
entire staff is trained on a new system relies heavily upon their previous
exposure to technology and attitudes toward it. Training is critical,
whether or not a bank's staff readily accepts the new system. The bank
can heed counsel by Aristotle, "The roots of education are bitter, but
the fruit is sweet." Sufficient training will make an intranet program
successful, and conversely, deficient training will cause discontent and
dissatisfaction. The training strategy for the intranet involves several
the Internet. The bank should provide its employees access to the
Internet. Using the browser is perfect training for the intranet. Many
people have at least some online experience, and sanctioned access may
motivate some to learn more. The bank should establish guidelines about
when and how long employees may engage in web surfing, and consequences
for abuse of the privilege. Providing employees with instruction on
using web sites for job-related purposes (they do exist) would be a
plus for the bank.
loan programs for PC purchases. This would be a good time to establish
an interest-free loan program for employees to make PC purchases. It
encourages computer use and means that employees train themselves on
their own time.
implementation. A bank should implement an intranet in steps. The
intranet team can establish a timeline (and post it on the intranet).
Each department can gain initial access to the intranet at different
points, so that the Help Desk fields questions from a segment of the
population at one time. In support of these efforts, the intranet can
support a Frequently Asked Questions component that will reduce the
call traffic for common questions.
user training. The bank should have formal training sessions for
each department, specifically on the functions of the intranet. The
intranet developer can provide details and a logistical plan for executing
the sessions. The number and length of the sessions depends on the level
of technological expertise of the staff.
education. Technology changes interminably. The structure of a bank's
intranet will remain fairly constant until a sanctioned change by the
bank and developer, but people will continue to find new uses for it.
An intranet grows with the organization, and gradually transforms as
new uses for it arise. The bank should keep its training program continually
active. Fortunately, users can accomplish much of their continuing education
on the intranet itself. It can run training programs online for employees,
and confirm the appropriate employees are accessing the programs when
Finally . . .
Charles Kettering, inventor of the electric cash register motor, said,
"The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."
Implementing an intranet certainly brings change, and progress is indeed
the goal. It provides banks with a formidable tool to combat inefficiency.
Even a financial institution with admirable work systems can reduce paper-based
documents and associated waste many times over. If the bank has the wherewithal
to endure changing the way it functions, an intranet can improve its work
environment. As a consequence, more resources can go to customer service
and sales, and increasing the value of the institution.
Koller is a writer for Brintech, a technology management firm based in
New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Brintech serves clients across the country,
helping them find ways to profit from their technology investments. Lynn
reports on general technology issues like Internet trends, e-commerce,
and network design for business publications. Before joining Brintech,
she worked in the legal field, and designed and taught computer classes
at the college level. Through Stetson University and a community college,
she instructed DOT and other government employees about the use of the
Internet and various office applications.
Lynn has a B.A. degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando,
Florida. She is just inches away from her Master of Arts degree in writing.
For more information on Brintech go to their website:
www.brintech.com or call 904-427-6772.