Over the past few years, more and more banks have recognized the intrinsic value of internal collaboration. Faster customer service and complaint resolution, lower operating and resource costs, greater product and service innovation, and more effective risk management are just some of the massive benefits banks are enjoying by using internal collaboration platforms.
But encouraging people to collaborate isn’t always easy, particularly for those operating in highly-siloed and risk-averse industries like financial services. Indeed, we have seen a number of banks sprint out of the ‘internal social network’ gate, only to find that nobody was on the horse. Essentially, they seem to have forgotten that internal collaboration can only occur with a change of culture, not just technology.
In fact, in our experience – both with clients and with our own internal collaboration platform pilots– the question of technology seems to be overblown. Sure, significant work will be required to ensure legacy systems integrate effectively with the selected technology. But, ultimately, it’s not the technology that enables internal collaboration, it’s the people and the processes.
Like many of today’s more innovative banks, KPMG’s internal collaboration team was keen to remove some of the siloes in the business to help drive cross-functional and cross-divisional cooperation. And while – at one level – this could be approached as a technology problem (rolling out a globally-consistent platform across multiple legacy systems, IT environments and devices) the greater challenge often comes from breaking down internal power politics to allow information to flow freely between and within business units.
The benefits we saw in our pilot were massive. Ideas from one part of the organization flew across the world in real-time and – with the support and input of peers and experts across our network – quickly become opportunities for competitive advantage. Efficiencies and best practices that, traditionally, had remained within business units were shared and emulated. And, across the board, employees are reporting higher levels of engagement and a stronger sense of purpose as immediate benefits of connecting and collaborating within the network.
Moving from idea through to reality, however, is rarely easy and every initiative will have its naysayers. In many cases, banks will find that by identifying potential internal advocates – people at every level of the organization that display a passion for technology-enablement – and engaging them in the development and roll-out of the platform, they can achieve higher levels of adoption, utilization and, ultimately, value from their internal collaboration strategy. Securing their continued feedback will also allow banks to fine-tune their approach as the project progresses and will often prove to be a powerful source of advice and consent going forward.
Risk is also a key concern for many organizations embarking on an internal collaboration strategy. And rightfully so: regardless of whether you are a bank dealing with customer data or a KPMG team working on a client’s financial report, caution must always be the default position when it comes to risk. It is critical, therefore, to enlist the legal and risk teams in the planning and development of any internal system from day one. Moreover, once they are fully on-board and comfortable with the concept, risk and legal partners can often became active partners in the initiative, identifying potential risks and developing a set of rules and behaviors that must be followed in order to minimize risks.
Of course, given the high cost of capital these days, securing the necessary investment from the board can often be a challenge for initiatives that do not have a clear ROI. And since internal social networks are still relatively new, there’s a dearth of empirical data to prove that it’s a solid investment. However, we found that by focusing on anecdotal evidence – identifying real situations where we’ve been able to serve a client better or execute a process more efficiently – we were able to demonstrate qualified benefits to leadership and secure the buy-in and budget that was needed to ensure success.
While these platforms may be internally focused, we firmly believe that any internal collaboration initiative should, ultimately, help deliver better value to our clients in a way that’s more efficient for us. This customer-centric approach has also led to the development of a strong framework that helps prioritize initiatives and highlight any needed course corrections.
Our experience with our clients’ (and our own) internal collaboration initiatives has clearly demonstrated that, for banks looking to gain competitive advantage, internal collaboration not only delivers great returns, but also provides a roadmap for transforming the business into a more client-centric and innovative organization. And that’s something all banks should be aiming for.
By Alex Chapel, KPMG’s Internal Collaboration Lead, KPMG in the UK
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