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UBS harness social to stem email overload

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Peter Barnes, Global Head of On-Line Media IT, UBS AG

Peter Barnes, Global Head of On-Line Media IT, UBS AG

Peter Barnes, Global Head of On-Line Media IT at UBS, shared his experiences of implementing social software at a roundtable hosted by Jive Software this week.

Peter is the head of IT responsible for developing and managing all public websites, Social Media networks, Intranet, Video, Communication and Branding technologies for the 150 year old Swiss Bank.

In a nutshell, Peter’s project has enabled two thirds of the UBS workforce across 50 countries to join a social platform for connecting, communicating and sharing ideas online.

The enterprise social market is riddled with cute references to Facebook for business. To me this is Knowledge Management. If Knowledge Management is ensuring people have the right information and the right time to support their work – then an internal social network is a great way to ensure good ideas don’t fall through the cracks.

Smart people in different departments or territories don’t repeat the research and mistakes of their colleagues and the team can tap into collective intellect. I’m reminded of the quote from Lew Platt, former chief executive of Hewlett Packard; “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive”.

“If you have a question, people who may be in another silo within the same organisation, or even in another country, might be able to answer it – and anything that enables that to happen is a good thing, especially when you’re in a huge organisation.” Peter Barnes, UBS

Peter claimed that by harnessing social software, in this instance Jive, UBS are able to leverage and retain the intellectual capital of the company. “There is nothing worse than productive and knowledgeable people walking out of the door because they don’t feel valued and connected” – For UBS social collaboration software is a step towards providing that connectivity.

Fun is not the first word that springs to mind when considering UBS and IT system implementations, but it is certainly a motivator for Peter, who has the dreaded corporate ‘reply-all’ email trails and dreary SharePoint portals in his sights. The fun is in connecting, collaborating and helping others in a pleasant environment. Peter stressed that UI and intuitiveness was critical in engaging the workforce and making a break from the pallid interface of most banking systems.

Mirroring many other strategic IT projects, building a robust a scalable system for 40,000 staff was only a small part of the project – the majority of the project is taken up with employee education, organizational change and persuading people to do things differently with their normal work routines.

Peter has faced local data protection and classification barriers. The system has 4TB of employee data recorded and not every country has been keen to adopt professional profiling based on their use and behaviour in the system (The internal corporate equivalent of a Klout score). UBS teams collaborate in 1,200 online groups, of which 25% create content, 50% will comment on content and the remaining 25% just read, consume and lurk.

Peter was quite loose about the specific business benefits. But as I see it, if organizations are to compete with nimble start-ups and attract new blood (many of which will be digitally native) into their firms – social collaboration will be ubiquitous.




2 Responses to " UBS harness social to stem email overload "

  1. MasteringEmail says:

    Thank you Martin. You can help further by defining distinction between use of email and social networks. Email and networks complement each other. My thrust is learning to do email right. Bob