Why are banks so interested in collaboration platforms?

This Tuesday, 7 banks attended an event to learn more about Jive, a social business platform. Insurance, publishing, consulting, and technology firms were there, too. But there were more in banking than any other industry.

Why?

Money

The main reason for all the interest is that banks have the most to gain from better collaboration and communication.

Many banks are huge companies. The top 4 US banks alone spend almost $300 billion and employ over 1.1 million people all over the planet.

More importantly, they tend to be wasteful. Over the past few decades, they made enough money that they could afford to be wasteful. They were focused on growth over efficiency - particularly on the investment banking side,

Now, with fundamental shifts in their business models, all the big banks need to seek other paths to profits. Eliminating waste, always an obvious thing, is more of an imperative than ever.

Staff recruiting & engagement

Just as it used to be easier to make money, it used to be easier to attract and retain people. Bank employees always worked hard under difficult, stressful conditions but they were paid a premium in exchange. And there was always a decided cachet to the phrase “investment bank.”

Now, as bonus pools and social recognition have been diluted, banks need to pay more attention to how work gets done. That includes, among many things, giving people the tools and convenience they're used to at home. It includes making it easier for people to do their jobs and to have a voice.

More than ever, if young, bright people feel like they’re going back in time when they enter a bank, they’ll look for other options.

Compliance

When it comes to sharing information, banks are conflicted. They aim to enforce “need to know” policies and “only use bank devices for work” policies. Yet they also want to break down the silos and discover more cross-selling opportunities.

Which is it? Well, it’s all of the above. Yet, the combination of old tools combined with restrictive policies leads to a set of incoherent, inconsistent, and ineffective controls.

Studies by regulators (e.g., looking for business use of public social media by employees) have shown that people, while conscious of the rules, tend to do what’s easiest and most effective to get their jobs done. Regulators caution that “willful ignorance is not an option.” If there's evidence that policies aren't practical, then banks need to do more.

Modern collaboration platforms are part of the solution, allowing firms to consolidate the current disparate array of tools. That makes it easier for employees to communicate while also making it easier for banks to retain and supervise communications where they need to.

What are you waiting for?

Every single bank I know recognizes that their collaboration solutions are inadequate. A few have made significant progress. Some started well but stumbled on compliance or organizational churn. But the remainder, the majority, are spending protracted time running pilots and wondering what to do next.

If you’re one of those firms, please stop. Given the extraordinary potential for commercial and personal benefits, the time for dithering is over.

Now is the time to make a decision, lead a movement, and change the way your firm works.

The best social business friends you could have

If you’re a large enterprise, one of the best ways to bootstrap your social business efforts is to understand what other firms are doing. But where would you start? How would you even find other practitioners and get them to share?

It turns out the Social Business Council has already solved those problems. And, if you’re trying to change how your firm works, it’s one of the best resources you could have.

The people & their firms

I joined the Council a little over a year ago (it was free) and I was immediately surprised by 3 things:

  1. the number and variety of companies represented
  2. the generosity of the people
  3. the effectiveness of the community leader and lynchpin, Susan Scrupski

Members stay connected using a few different tools. Combined, those tools allow you to get short, casual updates as well as in-depth write-ups of best practices. And Susan is always there, connecting the dots and the people, and generally keeping things moving.

That range of interactions let me get to know people. I learned more from their online contributions over a few months than I ever could in a single phone call or meeting. And those relationships became richer when I recently met several of them in Boston. There, I took part in my first Council workshop (it attracted well over 100 people) and several Council members spoke at the Enterprise 2.0 conference.

The knowledge

While the Council members are indeed social (they’re an extremely friendly and open group), they’re also businesspeople.

I’ve come to rely on them for their expertise on a wide range of social business topics:

  • implementation strategies
  • handling barriers to adoption
  • technology
  • best practices in community building

Sometimes I’d just pose a question from my mobile phone. Other times, I’d research content others have contributed or curated. Each time, I would find something useful.

Now, when a problem comes up, the first place I go is the Council.

A detailed example of the value

So, recently, when I came up against a legal issue, I looked to the Council for help.

In seeking formal approval for an enterprise collaboration platform, I wanted both employees and contractors to have access. But several people in legal and HR were concerned about co-employment risks. Some went so far as to say contractors in certain countries could not have access at all.

My first question was “How could we contract people to do work and yet not share information with them?”

My second question was “What do other firms do?”

So I posed the question to the Council. Within minutes, I got several responses. Over 2 days, responses kept rolling in and I heard from 18 different firms. They explained their policies (yes, they all allow access) and their processes (most differentiate contractors in their profile and restrict access to a few sites like employee benefits).

And that information is making the conversations with legal and HR much, much easier.

In the past, I’d have paid tens of thousands per year for the privilege of being in a certain network. Maybe they’d meet a few times a year. Maybe they’d conduct some surveys and compile the results.

Now, for free, I can tap into the best practitioners globally and get responses within minutes. And while I’m sharing knowledge and interacting with other council members to help my firm, I’m extending my own network and shaping my own reputation.

A (very) positive side effect

There’s one more thing I got from the Council that I never expected: an even greater sense of urgency.

Interacting with all the other practitioners has made me aware of just how much others are doing. How they’re changing their firms in so many ways.

And that’s pushing me. Pushing me to be more ambitious about the changes I’m trying to effect. To do more in the field and less in Powerpoint. To contribute more, both to the Council and to the general body of social business knowledge.

Thanks to the generosity, peer support, and experience of the Council members, I’m ready.