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SAN DIMAS, Calif. – The IT team at WesCorp wasn’t really sure how its portal idea was going to go over with employees. “We implemented an employee portal to enhance our ability to communicate within the company. A portal allowed us to have a single access point,” said Chris Barber, chief information officer for WesCorp. In the beginning, WesCorp had to use gimmicks to drive usage. “When we started out Bob Siravo (WesCorp’s CEO) was nice enough to sponsor some contests where we showcased winners who accessed the portal,” said Barber. Fast forward a year and the portal, dubbed WesPort, has blossomed into a popular tool for employees. “It has been engrained in the culture. Whenever there is something to communicate, employees always think of the portal first. It has become a visual representation of what’s important to WesCorp. It’s quite an amazing transformation of culture,” said Barber. It has all the fun stuff such as employee announcements like engagements, etc. and even blogs. “Some executives have blogs so they can write to the employees. I have one, our IS team has one,” said Barber. Some blogs are more off the cuff, while others are geared at informing employees about issues pertinent to their jobs. “I think the blogs give the opportunity to present a nonsanitized version, what’s going on at the water cooler. The blog allows for that personal flare, the personality of the writer comes across,” said Barber. The portal also includes classifieds, a suggestion box, general discussions, and other more personalized features. But the portal certainly has a business side. All of the company’s internal training materials as well as its Webinars can be found on WesPort. Most of the corporate’s internal software applications are also available. “Every major application within WesCorp can be accessed through the portal. You used to have to go out and hunt and search through shared file servers. Under the portal’s library function, we’ve taken all those disparate fields and really cataloged them in a very intelligent way.” said Barber. He said the portal eliminates the complicated legacy approach of drop down menus. “When they log on we can just show them the application without that menu structure. We serve it up as a portlet,” said Barber. WesCorp does not require employees to utilize the portal and it does not use it as a time card of sorts where it monitors when an employee logged in or out. So far approximately 300 WesCorp employees, roughly one-third of its workforce, log into the portal each day. The portal is all about personalization. Users can decide which portlets they want and where they want them. This is similar to a MyYahoo page where users can choose the colors, topics, etc. they want on their personal page. WestPort is broken into three main columns. WesCorp is using portal software applications from Vignette. “Vignette’s Application Builder is a highly productive product that allows you to build portlets without programming; we’ve built close to 100 portlets. We are one of Vignette’s heaviest users of Application Builder,” said John May, WesCorp’s senior director of systems integration. In fact, WesCorp has presented at Vignette users’ conferences and the IT team from UCLA, also users of Vignette, may visit WesCorp to see how they have produced such an expansive portal. May also noted that since users are going through Windows’ authentication when they log onto the portal, the IT team can set access levels that ensure employees get access to applications based on their position. In other words, clearance levels can be set. “We’re able to show and hide applications based on who the user is,” said May. “Basically, we’re taking data for years that we’ve kept on Excel spread sheets and transforming it to a live database. This is really revolutionary for us.” The portal also helps keep employees in different locations informed. WesCorp has set up kiosks in places like its item processing shops where not all employees have desktop computers. The kiosks are attached to the network so the remote employees have the same functionality as employees at WesCorp’s headquarters. Other portal features include a built-in Google search button, RSS feeds for credit union news, traffic and weather features, and others. Barber noted that one of the most profound effects of the portal is now applications going forward may be rolled out to employees via the portal. “That’s a very big change, the portal will drive applications,” said Barber. -

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