The National Australia Bank has cut its travel expenses by 40 per cent by implementing collaborative technology across its 1,808 branches and service centres across Australia and overseas.
Chief technology officer, Thor Essman, told delegates at Tandberg’s Visual Communications Summit how the bank had changed its use of technology over the past two and a half years.
NAB used Lotus Notes and Microsoft applications in its offices around Australia and overseas. Essman described the system as simply “black text on a white page” — communication between various locations was difficult.
Rather than dictate a cultural change, however, Essman undertook a technological evolution until the systems and processes became common in the workplace and second nature to employees.
The first phase of the evolution was to change NAB’s existing system to an office communications server that incorporated desktop video conferencing, instant messaging and live meeting applications. Three months after the changes, the take-up of video conferencing had increased in line with a 15 per cent reduction in e-mail. A Microsoft Exchange system replaced Lotus Notes.
The changes have resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in travel expenses, Essman said, and a more environmentally friendly workplace. Not surprisingly, the amount of data moving across the bank’s network has also increased.
NAB put aside more than $800,000 for optional employee training. Although only a small percentage of staff took up the training option, employees continued to use the technology successfully; 6247 live meetings, 10,512 multi-party conference calls and 38,359 file transfers took place over the first 18 months.
Essman, originally from New York, has been in Australia for the past eight years and has also worked for Optus. He sees collaboration as an important element to working at the NAB and adheres to the ethos by working from home one day a week; a concept of flexibility he sees as integral to his workplace.
He admits that while collaboration has been one key for the NAB’s success, the company didn’t take the iPhone seriously at first and are now trying to make up for this mistake. It is not surprising, then that he sees hardware such as the iPad as the next step in his collaborative workplace.
* Employees: 38,953
* Customers: 10.93 million
* Branches and service centres: 1,808
* ATMs: 4654
Source: NAB Annual Shareholder Review 2009