Scotiabank staff to use wikis and blogs to collaborate, share best practices

The Bank of Nova Scotia, earlier this week, launched a new social networking initiative to enable its staff worldwide to interact and collaborate via Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis.

The system, based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, is the first of its kind in Canadian financial community, according to a Microsoft release.

It is being pilot tested with some 800 members of Scotiabank’s International Banking Division in Toronto.

An additional 2,000 employees will eventually be given access to the network before implementation across the company’s global offices, said Mark Richardson, director of business innovations at Scotiabank.

Bank employees involved inthe program are being encouraged to create Internet user profiles, set up online communities, write blogs, and build wikis using SharePoint’s collaborative tools.

“We are targeting a 72 per cent participation rate,” said Richardson.

Traditionally, Richardson said, Scotiabank employees communicated through journals, posted correspondences, phone and e-mail.

These channels had some certain shortcomings that hindered effective knowledge sharing and collaboration, he said.

For instance, he said, because communication was mainly on a one-to-one basis, it was very difficult for personnel to get a sense of which key experts are available in the enterprise in a certain area.

Also, as staff did not have a corporate view of the network, data duplication in the knowledge pool was not uncommon.

With the use of a social network, Richardson says Scotiabank employees looking for information can simply visit a specific forum or wiki to get the data they need to carry out their duties or improve current processes.

“Best practices used in an office in another country can more easily be noticed and probably adopted in another location. A worker in need of expert advice, can more easily identity and reach the ideal person even if that individual is thousands of miles away.”

Such access to information via Web 2.0 technologies also came in very handy when developers implemented Open Text’s Livelink enterprise content management system at the Bank of Montreal (BMO) last year.

Jeff Brown, an analyst who oversaw the rollout said he found plenty of useful material for the implementation through discussions groups, wikis and downloadable Webinars available at Open Text Online (OTO).

OTO is Open Text’s online customer community, where more than 9,000 members participate in online discussions, post blogs and Webinars to keep one another appraised of developments in their fields of interests.

Web 2.0-based social networks do not have a strong adoption rate among banks but are becoming more popular among smaller financial brokerages, according to Tim Hickernell, senior analyst for Info-Tech Research Group based in London, Ont.

“More and more small brokerages are finding out that social networks are effective in targeting clients and generating positive word-of-mouth referrals,” he said

For example, Absolute Value Inc. a Toronto-based financial planning firm created a Facebook account for the company to reach out to a younger clientele, Hickernell said.

“The campaign was very successful in the sense that it generated a lot of buzz for the company among customers that it intended to attract.”

Larger institutions such as banks, however, are less likely to create a corporate Facebook presence,” Hickernell said.

“Big banks might use social networking for recruiting talent, but they are more likely to deploy Web 2.0 tools for collaboration of personnel within the corporate firewall.”

Companies thinking of deploying online collaborative tools must clearly define their needs before setting out to purchase any product, said Dan Bloch, director of financial services for Microsoft Canada.

“Define your corporate goals. Determine what purpose Web 2.0 will serve in your organization.”

For instance, organizations must be clear on whether the tools will be used for in-house collaboration, exchange of information, improved business process, or to improve corporate image.

Only after these questions have been answered can developers begin to consider the appropriate tools and to design the network.

Once the network has been developed, users should be given ample time to get used to the technology because it can potentially disrupt traditional practices, said Bloch.

The Microsoft executive suggests setting up information sessions and training sessions, pilot tests and soft launches.

It seems that companies worldwide are becoming more conscious of the power of Web 2.0 tools – including online video.

The number of global firms using these technologies to expand their customer base and foster employee collaboration is fast growing, a recent survey suggests.

Commissioned by Cisco Canada Co the study polled more than 850 IT decision makers from large companies in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, India, Russia and Brazil.

More than half of those polled report their firms are using a range of video and Internet-based tools to win customers, build brand and gain competitive advantage.

The survey was carried out by Illumina Inc., a San Diego-based international market research company.

Another 25 per cent indicated they are exploring such tools.

The results seem to suggest that currently video is being used in a limited way.

Nearly everyone polled said their corporate networks currently lack adequate bandwidth to support video.

Web 2.0 is used to refer to a broad range of Internet-based applications and services – such as blogs, wikis and social networking sites – that foster information sharing, content creation and collaboration among users.

Enterprise adoption of video and Web 2.0 will depend on how clearly the case is made that these technologies drive competitive advantage, according Marie Hatter, senior director of network systems for Cisco.

In the Cisco commissioned study, key reasons cited for adoption of these tools were that they foster more effective collaboration (66 per cent) and reduce travel costs (56 per cent).

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