Enterprise 2.0 on the Intranet of the Raiffeisen
Stimmt AG | Lukas Karrer | 2009
RSS, Ajax, “mashups” and social software have all proven to be extremely successful
on the Internet. But how can companies apply the principles of “Web 2.0” to the
Intranet with the same effect? This has been a central theme at Raiffeisen Switzerland
for quite some time. The launch of a personal homepage à la “iGoogle”, a telephone
directory similar to the ones on Facebook and Xing, and decentralised “wiki-esque”
content management, represent important innovations that not only have a
trendsetting character internally.
The nearly 9,000 employees of Raiffeisen scattered across all of Switzerland always want to
be up-to-date on company news, products, regulations, contacts etc. In addition,
Switzerland’s third-largest banking group has quite a decentralised organisational
structure. Since each of the 367 Raiffeisen banks operates independently, internal
communications faces huge challenges. A central tool is RAIweb, the Raiffeisen Group
Intranet, which is positioned as an integrative portal to all company-related contents.
RAIweb gives employees central access to all the contents and applications they need for
their work. Half of its users also use the Intranet’s web technology to access their e-mails
and calendars. The goal is to continually improve this central information platform. In
doing so, our developers relied on the principles and accomplishments of Web 2.0.
RSS enables a homepage adapted to personal tastes
The new homepage is designed to give employees quick access to relevant content and
functions. The focus is not only on linking internal content, but also on aggregating and
formatting external content via RSS feeds. The homepage is also the gateway to the input
screens of frequently used applications.
Realising all of this on a standardised homepage – the same for all employees – would be
an absolute impossibility since users’ profiles and needs are so varied that a “one-size-fits-
all” strategy is doomed to fail. With this in mind, a customisable “My Page” Intranet
homepage was developed similar to those used on iGoogle and netvibes, which allows
users to tailor contents according to their tastes and needs. Employees can put together
contents and functions from a broad range of portlets and organise them into several
freely definable tabs. The result is an information forum suited to the tastes of each
So as not to overburden users with a completely new homepage, “My Page” is being
realised in two steps. The first step presents the new functions alongside the existing
homepage to give less experienced users enough time to get used to the new features.
Power users can explore the new options from the start and give their feedback for
immediate inclusion in ongoing development. In the second step, users have the option of
replacing the standard homepage with “My Page”, although they will never actually see a
blank page. The Intranet team made a good preliminary selection so that less experienced
users could also benefit from “My Page”.
Even in the first step, the use “My Page” looks very promising, and just two months after its
launch 20% of employees were already using its functions several times a day, although it
was not yet possible to define it as the homepage. More than half of all users have now
also added or removed portlets.
In addition to the high acceptance among employees, internal application owners have also
warmly welcomed the offer. The portlets are based on an open interface that lets anyone
who wants to offer their own extensions for integration into the homepage. The constant
requests for “space on the homepage” are now being satisfied. The big winners are the
users who can access more work-related functions on their homepage as the month’s
Bank wikis as decentralised Intranets
Every one of the independent Raiffeisen banks and many business units of Raiffeisen
Switzerland would of course like to have their own Intranet. Judging by experience,
however, information-seekers tend to suffer from the existence of several internal networks
and searching for the contents they need can be a bit like looking for the proverbial needle
in a haystack. The “My Bank” concept was developed to meet the needs of Raiffeisen banks
in spite of these problems. Using a predefined standard structure, the banks and units can
create their own sub-Intranets, which can then by edited by any employee depending on
Stimmt AG | Enterprise 2.0 on the Intranet of the Raiffeisen Group 2
the settings just like a wiki. The interface was purposely designed to be very user–friendly
and easy to use – with resounding success. In the meantime, over 240 banks have been
given the opportunity to have their “own Intranet” without ever receiving training. The
functions are so easy to install that even less experienced employees can create and
maintain their bank’s Intranet with just a few mouse clicks. The banks use the new sites to
publish internal news and dates for employees. They are also available to all employees to
quickly publish contents online, from internal protocols to photo albums of recent client
It all revolves around the phone book
The phone book has been the most important function of the Intranet since its inception.
However, since more and more employees are using platforms like XING and Facebook to
network, it seemed obvious to provide this function in a reduced form internally as well.
The phone book in RAIweb was enhanced with various features from the “social web” and is
positioned as the central data hub. Wherever possible, the phone book brings together
information about employees that would otherwise lie dormant in external systems. For
example, it displays each employee’s environment: superiors and employees from the HR
system, and office neighbours taken directly from Facility Management’s data.
Employees can also add a profile to their personal page in the phone book. After that,
information about stand-ins, procedures in case of absence, projects and tasks, which
cannot be obtained from external systems, can be also be entered and kept up-to-date by
employees themselves. Extremely useful functions like “Please return my call”, which
automatically generates an e-mail and a calendar display for the respective person,
complete the “Phone Book 2.0”. Incentives for using and maintaining personal data have
been borrowed from the field of motivational psychology. For example, employees can only
see pictures of other colleagues if they upload their own photo. Just a few weeks after its
launch and over 2,000 employees have already put the finishing touches on their profiles
by adding a photo.
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PHP, Ajax and Web 2.0 – all with the existing CMS
Users expect the modern functions on the Intranet, such as configurable homepages,
profiles and wikis, to have a similar look and feel to their Internet counterparts.
Nevertheless, Raiffeisen was unwilling to bid adieu to the existing Lotus Notes based CMS
you@web without further ado. For this reason, the new functions are based on a newly
created PHP environment that ties in seamlessly with the existing CMS. So much so, that
users do not even notice which system they are using. Using Ajax libraries like the Yahoo!
User Interface Library, the development effort is not only minimal, but the user experience
is also based on state-of-the-art interactions.
The interface between the existing CMS and PHP framework is made up of open standards.
Using ATOM, content subscriptions and internal news feeds from the CMS, are migrated to
the customisable homepage. A web-based single sign-on interface to IBM Lotus Domino
ensures transparent authentication and authorisation. In this way, existing components are
reused and investments in the CMS still pay off – without limitations or becoming overly
dependent on the product.
Agile development of expansions with UCD and
Not only the functions on the Raiffeisen Group’s Intranet make it innovative, but also the
way it is developed to do even more. An interdisciplinary project team made up of
knowledgeable employees, expert Web 2.0 developers at Liip and the user experience
specialists at Stimmt AG have implemented the expansions in record time with the agile
Scrum procedure model, despite the many interfaces involved. In combination with the
agile implementation provided by the Scrum approach, the “user-centred design” has
proven to be highly successful. In fact, it all went so quickly that it took Raiffeisen less than
six months from the original idea based on user interviews to the phone book’s successful
launch. Thanks mainly to the Scrum approach, focus is constantly placed on those
functions that are easy to realise. User inclusion, design, implementation and user testing
all go hand in hand.
Focusing on the user experience proves to be a great
The annual measurement of results using the freely available ISQ Intranet benchmark (2)
confirms the project’s success. In addition to the agile and user-centred designs, the focus
on the user experience was the main driver of success. User-friendly functions are not
much help if the culture or implementation means that they are either seldom used or not
Users of RAIweb experience a high level of responsibility and are not told what to do. On
“My Page”, for example, there are no restrictions or obligatory contents. By enabling
decentralised content management for the bank and unit wikis, every user can share in the
responsibility. The topicality and correctness of contents are no longer solely a matter for a
central publishing team – all employees can help to improve the tool.
In designing the functions, the needs and attitudes of employees are always in the
foreground. In the end, consistently focusing on the users avoids political decisions or
“featuritis”, and only what the users really need is realised and not things that only sound
Stimmt AG | Enterprise 2.0 on the Intranet of the Raiffeisen Group 4
Even though the scope and options in RAIweb have already reached a very high level, the
Intranet team is constantly striving to further develop the business benefits of the Intranet.
In addition to the continuing development of portlets for the homepage as well as the
expansion and enhancement of current functions, another big step is in the works. At
Raiffeisen, business is not only handled at fixed workstations. Mobile end devices like
BlackBerrys are increasingly being used as well. Support for mobile employees who want to
access the Intranet and its applications while on the go is the next big project being
RAIweb homepage also available to other companies
as open source
What is probably the most unusual thing about this Swiss bank’s Intranet is that it has
published its source code. The code for the RAIweb iGoogle homepage has been made
available to other interested companies under a LGPL (Lesser Gnu Public Licence). Why
should a development of this kind stay within a single company when a community could
further develop a project like this for the benefit of everyone?
Raiffeisen and developer company Liip hope that as many companies as possible will
implement the product in the spirit of the participative philosophy behind Web 2.0. In this
way, everyone can benefit from an independent, state-of-the-art product that is used by a
broad base and is continually adapted to changing needs.
Further information about this project can currently be found at http://www.picok.org
Lukas Karrer, founding partner of Stimmt, has been consulting
clients in intranet matters for over 11 years. Next to his client
engagements, he has been publishing intranet research und
facilitating a Zurich-based Community of Practice for Intranet
managers for several years.
He deeply believes that a user centred approach for Intranet
projects is key to success. Both users and businesses can be
delighted with Intranets that make sense economically and are
fun and easy to use.
Raiffeisen, the third-largest banking group in Switzerland, is one of Switzerland's leading
retail banks. The 367 cooperatively structured Raiffeisen banks with 1,155 branches have
three million customers, 1.5 million of whom are cooperative members and therefore co-
owners of their Raiffeisen bank. The legally autonomous Raiffeisen banks are amalgamated
into the Raiffeisen Switzerland cooperative, which has its head office in St. Gallen.
Raiffeisen Switzerland is responsible for strategic management and risk controlling for the
entire Raiffeisen Group, coordinates the Group's activities, creates the framework
conditions for the business activities of the local Raiffeisen banks and provides them with
advice and support where necessary.
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