TD banks on online library to educate IT staffers

As much as IT staffers are expected to know everything about everything, the fact is, they just don’t. But sometimes it’s hard to explain to your boss with a BComm that network administrators don’t necessarily know Java, or that Java experts can’t architect a storage area network.

With IT products and processes continually improving, employers — to their chagrin — can’t expect their IT staff be omniscient, but realistically they can ask that their employees stay abreast of new developments. But it’s often difficult for these employees to dig through the glut of available information to ferret out those little nuggets of information gold.

Employees spend about 30 per cent of their workweek searching for information they require to do their jobs and a staggering 50 per cent of those searches for information are useless, said John Ambrose, general manager at Books 24×7 Inc., in Norwood, Mass., a division of SkillSoft Inc.

Ultimately, IT professionals obtain about 42 per cent of additional knowledge from colleagues, Ambrose added. And if two employees are spending time conferencing with each other, then they are taking time away from finishing other tasks, which results in squandering the productivity of two employees, he said.

That’s why one year ago, TD Bank Financial Group Inc. signed up for Books 24×7’s ITPro, BusinessPro and OfficeEssentials. With ITPro, employees can access thousands of books on over 100 different technology topics, Books 24×7 said. Books under the BusinessPro umbrella include topics such as leadership, writing business plans, interviewing skills and project management. The OfficeEssentials library includes resources on personal productivity applications such as Microsoft Corp.’s Office family of products.

Kristine Ferguson, manager, IT education centre for TD, said the bank chose Books 24×7 because it needed a resource that employees in disparate locations could access at any time.

“Keeping a hardcover library was expensive when books cost about $100 each and a trip to the library was often one way,” she explained, alluding to the fact that books were often stolen.

She said Books 24×7 offers information ranging from topics such as legacy systems to new technologies, which are relevant resources for TD’s IT staff members.

After conducting a pilot project, Ferguson said Books 24×7 received rave reviews from users. TD has about 3,000 IT employees who can sign up for Books 24×7 of their own accord. So far, the best internal marketing tool for the service has been word of mouth, she said. However, if a user doesn’t login to the system for three months, their account is deleted.

Since September 2003, TD has registered 374 users of Books 24×7, who altogether have conducted 7,695 sessions, and averaging 1.8 session per user per month. In total, users have accessed 1,952 different books, she said. Additionally, she said Books 24×7 has saved users two to six hours each week.

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