How much time is spent in your company by employees looking for data? And what does that time spent searching cost you? Bombardier Aerospace estimates that, based on average search time and employee salary, it freed up 30,000 employee hours of work time for an estimated $5 million savings in less than 10 months after launching a portal. It took two tries to get it right, however.
The Aerospace Group within Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. employs 26,600 people in its four main places of business — Montreal, Toronto, Wichita, Kan. and Belfast, Ireland — and some 20 other sites around the world.
In 2002, Bombardier Aerospace created the Bnet employee portal, but this was one company project that failed to get off the ground. “The portal was not user-friendly, not timely, not up-to-date, had very little content and there was no investment made to build it,” recalls Lise St-Arnaud, the company’s director of internal communications. “It was basically an empty shell.”
This was a problem, as staff needed a window on information about the industry, she adds. “The aerospace industry is in very challenging times beyond the employees’ understanding. They need to be supplied with credible, timely information to understand the business, the key issues in the markets and the industry challenges.”
The company decided on a complete portal redesign within certain constraints: a budget of only $125,000 and deployable on the existing platform — Windows 2000 Server, Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.0 Web server running a SQL database.
Guidelines were defined based on the needs expressed by the Bombardier organization and its employees. Particular attention was paid to the portal’s ergonomics and usability to ensure employee satisfaction and usage.
Objectives for the portal were established, including enhancing employee productivity by cutting search times in half and reducing maintenance costs by consolidating 110 intranets.
Even though Bnet 2.0 was developed in-house to meet the tight budget, the project team was resolved that the offering would be comparable to commercially available employee portal and content management tools.
The home page and portlets, small windows on the portal page, created by the business units and departments are all fed by content management tools based on HTML and Microsoft Active Server Page (ASP), technology that draws data directly from SQL databases and supplies it automatically to the appropriate location. Thus, the updating requires no technical expertise.
St-Arnaud reports that two people regularly update the portal home page and 350 content managers from the various business units and functions maintain 270 portlets.
The portal has a centralized phone directory that covers the aerospace division, organizational charts, applications for travel information, expense reports and even an acronym tool for French and English definitions.
Password-protected access to various aircraft programs, aircraft design, marketing information and the like is available to authorized users. The portal is also used for procurement and quality assurance functions.
“Engineers have access to drawings online,” St-Arnaud says. “All PC users can fill out their time sheets online. Quality assurance employees find all aircraft documentation manuals online. Also available are electronic forms for travel requests, expense reports and Request Management, an online tool for computer requests for software and hardware or services, as well as telephone services.”
The effort on version two has paid off. A survey of Bnet users conducted during the weeks after the launch revealed that 75.8 per cent of users believed that Bnet simplified accessing information on the company, the industry and its competitors, and 80 per cent of users found the information available via Bnet useful and relevant.
St-Arnaud adds that the hits on the portal are increasing monthly. The most recent count, for the month of January, came in at more than 320,000 from the 15,000 employees with authorized access. The success of this project earned Bombardier Aerospace the glory of a 2004 Canadian Information Productivity Award of Excellence in the efficiency and operational improvements category.
This time, Bombardier Aerospace is making sure this central source for fast, easy access to the right information at the right time stays airborne.
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