Radio Shack Canada is preparing to open up an internal employee portal to its national network of independent dealers.

The retailer is already piloting the portal, which allows users to perform self-serve tasks and access

information resources, with a few dealers now, an executive said. It will proceed to roll it out to the other approximately 400 other dealers early next year.

Radio Shack, which in Canada operates as a division of InterTAN Inc. in Barrie, Ont., joins firms like Oracle Corp. and CIBC in creating Web sites that encourage employees to manage tasks online rather than fill out printed forms. This can include an array of human resource functions like vacation requests and changes of address, as well as expense reporting and travel planning. Sometimes called business-to-employee (B2E) portals, companies like Radio Shack Canada are also offering e-learning courses and discussion groups through the sites.

“”It’s allowed us to eliminate a lot of our paper processes,”” said Margo Weeks, the company’s vice-president of information systems, adding that encouraging use of the portal was the hardest part of the project. “”We tried to came up with some compelling incentives when we started, but we had to get a little more compelling than we thought.””

In the beginning, for example, Radio Shack Canada pushed its employees towards self-service by mandating e-learning courses be completed before they could earn promotions, Weeks said. Now that they have become accustomed to it, they are using the portal in ways she hadn’t expected. Buyers, store employees and advertising personnel, for example, have begun collaborating online to come up with Radio Shack flyers. “”We thought we were going to have to go out and get a new system (to do that),”” she said.

Radio Shack Canada built the portal using Computer Associates’ CleverPath product, deploying the site in approximately two months and achieving a return on its investment in about nine months. It offers each employee a customized interface with several common elements, including a video news service that Weeks called “”The CNN of Radio Shack,”” which will debut in January.

Weeks said Radio Shack Canada divides its operations into four regions with 37 districts and five repair centres. Each district has a manager who must visit stores for inspection on a regular basis and submit reports. As performed through the portal, she said, information is shared much more quickly and efficiently. “”We need to know what they know,”” she said, “”and what they recommend.””

Joanne Moretti, Computer Associates Canada’s general manager, said CA has taken a similar approach in its own operation over the last year, consolidating its product line under six brands with a global leader for each. This has allowed the company to be much more effective from a customer service perspective, she said, which may help repair the enterprise’s faith in projects like employee portals. “”IT has a pretty big black eye right now,”” she said.

Radio Shack Canada is also planning to offer bilingual support for the portal next year, Weeks added, and is considering the addition of a component that will allow the vendors it works with to exchange information.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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