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Interview with Naama Halevi- Peer, Manager of the organizational portal in Hapoalim bank

1 April 2011

Keren Trostler

During the five years of its work, the bank’s organizational portal, under the strategic department, has become the center of organizational intelligence, the central arena for managing the bank’s business activity, the main environment where the bank’s knowledge was distributed and to an active and primary communication channel. The organizational portal unit won excellence awards and had earned the bank first place three times, as a leading organizational portal in the knowledge management category in the ITAWARDS competition.The organizational portal, founded on IBM’s Web sphere Portal digital platform, serves the bank’s thousands of employees, making about 3,500,000 entrances per month to approximately 1,000 different content pages.


How did it all begin?

The organizational portal was founded as an initiative of the bank’s CEO that envisioned the immediate and long-term business benefits the bank will enjoy from, in implementing such a portal. In the beginning, six goals were set for the portal:

  1.  Infrastructure for easy access anytime, any place

  2.  An entrance gate to multiple applications

  3.  Communication channels

  4.  A sharing and managing knowledge tool

  5. Various services for the employees

  6.  Desktops editing tools, compatible with various roles

In the initial planning stage, in contrast to other organizations, it was decided to create an Enterprise-wide solution, as the broadest common-ground and to build a central base for all bank employees, called today ‘the main portal.’ Besides, there was a plan to create the first professional community, within a short period. The chosen target audience, were investment consultants because knowledge consumption was an integral part of their job, an already existing sharing culture, and marketing lever this community could have brought for promoting the bank’s knowledge management. This knowledge community was introduced a month after the introduction of the central portal. The community included, and still contains, business information in investment channels and two forums, replacing almost wholly the need in contacting a support center and served as a knowledge hub for sharing opinions among colleagues.


Development of needs and solutions

The finalized work plan was meant to provide solutions for the bank’s workers in a matrix model, per roles and organizational structure, following business prioritization and closeness to the bank’s business core. This way, today it can be determined that every key role has a business solution, functioning as a practical work environment. Today, the portal includes three different platforms, providing the worker with end-to-end solutions.Personal zone, where the employee enjoys various self-services such as reporting expenses and work hours, accessing their private bank account online and more. The workers have the option customize the applications for their selections and choose which applications will be displayed in his zone.The organizational zone provides information concerning the bank’s business activity, general and financial news, real-time updates for various sources (Globes, CNN, etc.) and general information regarding the workers’ welfare: salary and additional benefits, career management and more. Also, in this zone take place many all-inclusive synchronized banking forums, for example, a discussion concerning giving credit to solar energy, following organizational targeting. In addition, the organizational portal unit operates a global portal, BHI that provides information and knowledge to a hundred bank workers in international branches.The professional- business zone includes over 20 knowledge sites and professional communities (mortgage consultants community, Java developers, compliance officers and more), desktop for project managers, allowing full integration to existing data and control tools such as SAP and demands management system alongside supportive methodological information and 500 team rooms, providing a sharing zone for document and task management. In this zone, there is increasing use in sharing tools, and more than ten very active 10 professional forums operate in it. In every one of these zones, there is an extended activity of knowledge and information management, together with exporting business data from operational systems and a direct invitation for workers to use them, for the benefit of informed decisions making.


An Exemplary Central Activity

The story told is too short to hold the multiple business solutions operating today in the portal, but I would love to extend more on a business solution introduced this year - The banking knowledge and service center. The center operates in a distributed knowledge management format that includes eight content worlds and 350 different process pages, written by 150 content experts from all bank departments. All content experts participated in content writing workshops and were guided by the organizational portal department. An elaborate queries system operates in the service center, with an advanced working format, allowing every bank worker to reach out from every content page in a way that makes his query reach the relevant content expert in charge of the field directly. The system allows direct contact between the branch workers to the headquarters, managing response time and form, mapping and reducing knowledge gaps. For this procedure to operate optimally, all professional sides participated in unique service workshops in the headquarters, and once in a while, the feedback is monitored to track gaps and improve complement.To make the knowledge management an everyday working tool, except breaking down the content to the most straightforward work stages, the pages were linked to operational reports, rate, and relevant blank forms. These tools assist the worker in performing most actions from the professional process pages, without needing external systems. The knowledge management received excellent responses and was acknowledged as a massive success in the bank, as proof, the bankers use this solution on a daily basis. So far, in its first year, over 8 million entrances were made, and over 37,000 queries were attended. The success percentage for SLA is high, standing at 95%. Bankers admit that the service and knowledge center serves as the first source of knowledge, saving them precious time, giving them professional security and improves customer service.


Main Success Factors

  1. The portal answers the bank workers’ real need by assembling the information and managing the knowledge in various professional fields.

  2. Aiming at innovation and adjusting original professional solutions, an answer to the dynamic needs of the organization and its workers.

  3.  Incorporating technological solutions in the portal’s platform, so that most of the business activity will be performed within the portal.

  4. Reflecting relevant content from the organizational core systems, such as ERP, CRM, MAINFRAME and BI for the benefit of making data accessible together with externalizing supportive information.

  5.  Formulating a unified language and systematic methodology, and implementing them with every inside client, so that every solution is managed in a unified and efficient manner.

  6. The management's support is a necessary condition for the perception of the portal as an inseparable part of the worker’s daily routine. Communicating all management's messages through the portal sanctioned it as being most central in the organization.

  7.  Wide associates circle, including 500 content experts from all bank departments and a dozen interested parties from various management ranks.

  8. Transforming the workers from passive to active, by using different tools, give-take board, queries and feedback, forums and surveys, so that each worker has the opportunity to be an active partner in creating the organization’s story.

  9.  Use of successful solutions as business marketing levers to create new projects for the bank and expanding the inner customers’ circle.

  10.  At the bottom line, the portal adds significant value to the bank’s workers, which leads to the management's support and the decision that the portal will automatically open with the starting of the computer in the morning. The portal’s existence in the bank enabled a transition from knowledge distribution to sharing information, reinforcing organizational identity, business focus, saving and streamlining, strengthening the interface between the headquarters and the field, and improving professionalism.

A Look into the Future

The portal unit has several strategic targets for the next few years:Expanding the business solutions basket, that among others will include a “direct to you” application- launching relevant information from the portal to the operational systems by clicking a button, RSS, and mobile content services, federative search and more.Creating communication networks across hierarchy and deepening the use in a sharing tool together with implementing WEB2.0 principles to promote a supporting sharing culture and developing new knowledge. Among the solutions aiding in achieving this target; an interactive response mechanism resembling FACEBOOK, launched as a pilot last March, sending information to a friend in the portal, a common terms dictionary, blogs, surveys and more.Continuing using the optimal integration for the organization’s core systems, so the worker can enjoy an active work environment (reflecting rates, reports, forms from the relevant systems to the relevant information pages.)

Tips for organizations starting KM

It is recommended to begin the knowledge management activity from the broadest common ground that will interest most workers. In our case, the central portal, allowed the workers to be exposed to the knowledge management and its benefits for them, in a gradual manner. So, when professional solutions adapted to the relevant communities, arrived, the workers were ready for it and adopted them more easily.When focusing on a solution for a specific community, it is essential to start with a community that will be the biggest marketing lever. When knowledge consumption is an integral part of the target audience’s role, and a sharing culture characterizes it, the offered solution can promote knowledge management in the entire organization.In Hapoalim Bank, creating the investment advisors community was a leading solution, which other units wanted to implement.



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