“Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline;
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”
How many of you have participated in a blog; collaborated via a wiki or subscribed to an RSS feed? Now, I am not referring to something you did at last year’s Christmas party; even Gonzo has its limitations—besides we are under layers of non-disclosures. Sorry to disappoint, GonzoBankers, but I am talking about Web 2.0 where wikis, blogs and RSS feeds are leading the technology charge.
Some believe Web 2.0 is merely the latest buzz word or a passing fad. Others, like Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, took the time to outline some tangible characteristics of Web 2.0 functionality:
Whether it is the latest buzz word, industry fad or the next evolution of Internet technology; Web 2.0 is something we must embrace. I know there are some bankers out there who are a little squeamish about implementing new, unproven technology, but fear not – it doesn’t have to be done all at once. Before Web 2.0-ing your Internet banking Web site, why not try leveraging some of these new technologies internally?
Wiki While You Work
Wiki comes from the Hawaiian phrase “wiki-wiki,” which means quick or fast. I know, quick and fast are two words not usually associated with banks. Nevertheless, the concept of a wiki in the Web 2.0 world is a Web site that is simple and editable by every visitor to the site. In the world of wikis, creator and consumer are one and the same. Still don’t get it? A good example is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute.
Although Wikipedia is a public Web site, imagine using an internal bank Web site (intranet) where employees across the organization could collaborate on a project without sending a single email or establishing a committee with half a dozen sub-committees. Talk about saving time and reducing blackberry addiction!
In a recent Banktech article, Wells Fargo states that its “Internet services group has an internal wiki where engineers, marketing, product managers and operations teams all submit ideas… creating an open, inclusive environment where points of view are shared.” Yahdah, yahdah. Sounds good, but I bet the bank still has umpteen committees. Nevertheless, it’s a start.
I like to think that in the not-too-distant future, best practice GonzoBankers will use a wiki to collaborate projects from start to finish, post project requirements, files and questions, set up meetings, track meeting discussions, attach documents and answer questions. Anyone on the project or, for that matter, throughout the entire organization will have access to the wiki and know the project’s status without ever having to receive a single email or attend a weekly committee meeting.
No More News Clipping or FYI Emails
Many financial institutions pay thousands of dollars a year to article clipping services. This is a service that scans the Internet looking for news releases or business articles that include certain industry topics or the bank’s name, etc. When an article is found, the service sends an email with a link to the particular article. Admittedly, this is a nice service but don’t we already receive enough email? With so much spam out there our corporate spam filters have a tendency to block most emails that come from outside the organization. Consequently, if you don’t pay attention, notifications from this expensive news service might end up in your junk mail folder.
Within the Web 2.0 world, an institution could combine a blog (a journaling Web site) with Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and replace that expensive clipping service. Readers subscribe to feeds, and their information or results are viewed and categorized with a simple newsreader or aggregated on a common blog, which is viewed via a Web browser. (Most of us already have a newsreader built inside our Internet Explorer browser. Try going to the “view” tab, highlight “explorer bar” then click on “feeds”.)
Taking this concept a step further, imagine creating an internal blog where employees across the company or even within a business group could publish personal comments, industry information, competitive data, or even juicy gossip overheard at the latest BAI conference. Instead of cc’ing half the bank on an email that 90% of recipients never read, the internal blog could have an RSS subscribe feature so whenever a new kernel of knowledge is published, subscribers instantly know about it (note: GonzoBanker has an RSS feed). Talk about leveraging the collective intellect of the organization.
Some of you may be thinking, isn’t this like our intranet? Not really. Your intranet is probably controlled by select groups within the bank, and to get something published takes 1) a business case, 2) a project plan and 3) a month to complete.
For those naysayers who think the only pertinent banking news comes from the ABA or the Wall Street Journal; I offer up a couple of industry blogs:
If you venture to any of these blogs, don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed.
Reasons to Try Web 2.0 Internally
It was Monday morning and Sarah (SVP, Consumer Lending at Grateful National Bank) had just returned from the annual BAI Conference in Las Vegas. She settled into her office chair and pulled up the bank’s enterprise-wide blog and wiki Web site. Nine months prior the bank adopted a new policy that anyone who attends an industry conference must write a brief summary of the PowerPoint promises and new banking widgets they saw and post it on the bank’s internal blog. Sarah had attended BAI many times but she usually just sent out an email to the executives across the bank (she knew only a handful even bothered to read the summary). Nonetheless, she was a lifelong banker and company policy was, well, company policy. It took her about 20 minutes to write the recap; she hit submit and it was off to a glorious day of committee meetings.
Meanwhile, in the basement of the Operations center, Cecil, a junior mainframe programmer, was pulling up his Gator RSS feed reader and instantly saw Sarah’s posting about her venture to BAI. Prior to the company-wide blogging mandate Cecil didn’t even know what BAI stood for. Not to mention someone at his level would have never been privy to an SVP’s thoughts. Cecil scanned the blog and read where a competitor had recently added a new field to its loan origination process. The new field was for capturing an instant message address. The IM address would then be used by the bank’s loan originators to communicate in real-time with the applying customer. Cecil thought this was a pretty cool idea, and he thought, “We could do that.”
He quickly posted some simple code that he thought might do the trick on the company-wide internal wiki mainframe programming board. Within 10 minutes Ricardo and Lester from the loan application programming group had added to Cecil’s mainframe code. Another hour passed and Cecil realized Sawyer from the database development group had added a database hook to the original code that would tell the program where to store the customer’s IM address.
Four hours had passed since Cecil first saw Sarah’s blog, and now posted on the internal developer’s wiki was the actual code that would enable loan officers to input customers’ instant messaging addresses. No business case was planned, no ROI projected, a project team never formed and not a single email or committee meeting was needed. Actually, the only email that was sent was from a junior programmer to the SVP of Lending that contained a link to an internal Web site that displayed the loan application form with the new IM field highlighted. A red arrow was blinking next to the new field and below was a simple question: “Would this work?”
There is plenty of justification to dip your toes in the Web 2.0 waters at your bank. Among them:
Why Bankers Won’t Adopt Web 2.0
The other night I dreamed that in an effort to determine what’s keeping banks from exploring and exploiting this new technology, I posted a question on a blog called “You Can’t Handle the Truth” asking if anyone knew why bankers were not leveraging Web 2.0 technologies internally. The blog was being operated by ex-bankers who made billions via mergers, acquisitions and overdraft fees but were now hiding out somewhere in Montana. In my dream, the FDIC shut down the blog 15 minutes later, but not before I could print a list of the responses:
GonzoBankers, with competitive pressure coming from new and inventive players, who by the way base their entire business model on Web 2.0 technologies, why not step up to the plate and try something new. I am all for improving the customer’s banking experience with Web 2.0 technologies; however, I strongly believe we must first enhance our employee’s work life experience. The more collaborative, engaged and empowered our employees are, the more satisfied our customers will be.
See ya in the blogs….
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