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Union Bank navigates employee self service

As a financial institution, it was imperative for Union Bank of Vermont to document all internal IT processes. With the Alloy Navigator product, the bank's IT director found an uncomplicated Web portal that improves tracking of IT issues and a knowledge-management system that allows help desk agents to easily answer employees' questions and solve problems.

For Don Goodhue, information technology officer at the Union Bank of Vermont, deploying an employee self-service system for IT support was not a question of if, but when.

"We were a small shop using just email and the phone [to document IT issues]," Goodhue said. "We had no way to distinguish between support emails and calls and regular email and calls. It got to the point where we had two people constantly handling [emails and calls], so we decided we needed some sort of system."

Part of the reason the bank couldn't wait was pressure from its auditors to more accurately document everything that goes on in the bank, including IT issues.

Union Bank, a community bank with headquarters in Morrisville, Vt., has 14 branches in Vermont and New Hampshire. It has close to 190 employees and holds more than $390 million in assets. It is especially important that the bank, as a financial institution, keep up with compliance regulations, Goodhue said. In spring 2004, Union Bank implemented Alloy Navigator from Nutley, N.J.-based Alloy Software Inc. in order to get control over its internal IT processes.

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"We have to have everything documented, which can be overwhelming," Goodhue said. "[Alloy Navigator] is an excellent repository and we keep track of everything IT-related."

"The first thing I liked about Navigator was the Web portal," he said, adding that he wanted employees to be accountable for logging their own tickets instead of losing time having people delegated for that task.

The quick deployment was also part of the incentive to go with the Navigator product, Goodhue said.

"I didn't want to use something that I had to load onto every PC," he said. "Since it was a Web portal, we could just load it onto a few PCs in IT and we were up and running." The other employees simply added the link to the list of favorites in the Web browser.

Today, Union Bank uses the system to help employees who are having trouble with their computers or internal applications. Using the Web portal, employees can log tickets to be handled by help desk agents. The bank paid around $4,500 for the application, which includes access for up to five administrative users. There are now 140 end users running the application through the Web.

As with any change to internal systems, there was reluctance from end users at first, Goodhue said.

"That faded fast because the Web portal is just as easy as sending an email, and they started to see the value of that," he said. Employees also like to be able to log in and see the status of the tickets they have submitted.

The bank is also building a knowledge base so help desk agents can access information about frequently recurring problems. Using a knowledge-management system makes it easy for agents to search within all tickets to find the issue and the answers they are looking for, Goodhue said.

Customizing the system was pretty simple, he said, but it wasn't extensive. He said that he changed the "look and feel." Upgrades have also been a breeze, he reported -- Union Bank is now running the latest version of Navigator, 5.2.

"I log on to the Alloy Web site and download the patch on the server," Goodhue said, "and the next time the agents are scheduled to work, the [updated] system is up and running."

Another key feature in Navigator is the asset-tracking capability, Goodhue said. He uses this feature to scan all 198 PCs on the system and easily pull reports to keep track of all applications in use at the organization.

There have also been benefits Goodhue didn't expect. For instance, bank personnel realized that they could use the Navigator system for facilities management across all properties. Now, when one branch has an issue with plumbing, it can submit a ticket to notify all employees of the problem.

Goodhue also sees potential for expanding the use of the Navigator product to allow online customer service options for bank customers. While Union Bank has some online banking capabilities, he'd like to enable functionality for customers to log help desk tickets if they have problems with any of the bank's products.

"The good news is that it's something we can grow into," Goodhue said. "I don't see us growing out of it any time soon."

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