In June 2012, the global financial firm State Street Corp. introduced an "innovation rally" on its enterprise social network, and the response proved explosive.
"That was really the catalyst -- the thing that got people to say, ah, I understand what this is, I understand it," said Kristin Z. Waryas, VP of enterprise social collaboration at the firm. The open brainstorming session was held over 72 hours with employees from around the world participating in eight online forums on ways for State Street to improve its business. The rally attracted 12,000 postings, which the coordinators filtered down to about 400 worthy of further investigation. "That's where the collaboration really came into play -- we took the best ideas and built communities around them so the people who had participated in the discussion could build a business case for executive management," she said. Of those, right now it looks like there are 16 ideas with a reasonable expectation of return on investment that will get a closer look. "A lot of those ideas were for things that already existed, but people didn't know about them," she added.
Making an organization smarter about new ideas, as well as the assets it already has, is what social collaboration is all about. For what she and others at State Street have already accomplished, as well as her ambitions for what comes next, Waryas is our Social Business Leader of the Year for 2013 and will join me onstage at the E2 Conference in Boston to talk about her work and answer questions. Update: See the rest of our 10 Social Business Leaders For 2013 list.
Social collaboration is important to support State Street's global operating model. Previously, Global Operations and Client Service teams used mass email distributions for what were essentially crowdsourcing activities -- trying to find the right person to answer a question. But email tends to drive either one-way responses, not shared with the group, or messy reply-to-all email threads. That translated into workplace inefficiencies, limited knowledge sharing, duplicate efforts, unfiltered information and untapped expertise, Waryas said.
The State Street Collaborate internal social network launched in April 2012, following a year-long pilot. The pilot involved more than 1,500 employees who helped define business-driven use cases for the technology. The enterprise social network is now available to a global workforce of 30,000 employees in 29 different countries, with more than 10,000 active users and more than 600 communities. Although the current collaboration network, based on SharePoint 2010 and NewsGator Social Sites, is relatively new, that's not where the story begins, and the network that exists today is only the first chunk of the complete social intranet State Street is preparing to introduce later this year.
Disclaimer: State Street does not endorse technology products. However, NewsGator made sense as an integrated SharePoint application because SharePoint was already so widely used at the firm, Waryas said.
Founded in 1792, State Street is a global financial services firm based in Boston. It serves institutional investors through State Street Bank and Trust Company and provides registered adviser services through State Street Global Advisors. State Street is known for staking ambitious IT goals, such as a plan to save $600 million with a private cloud implementation. CIO Christopher Perretta briefly mentioned employee social networking in a 2010 InformationWeek interview on new initiatives.
Kristin Waryas' profile on State Street Collaborate
Employed by State Street for 22 years, Waryas started in a "very entry level job" in fund accounting before moving up the ladder to supporting clients of the fund group and eventually transitioning to an IT liaison role developing business requirements for technology programs.
When State Street first began offering online services to clients in the late 1990s, Waryas became a product manager for those tools. State Street was an innovator in introducing online banking services, Waryas said, but eventually the proliferation of those services became a problem of its own. "What customers were looking for was one State Street," she said.
Yet even after the bank's Web developers consolidated the platform, she thought it wasn't getting enough love. To turn that around, she developed a network of champions -- employees with in-depth knowledge of the tools who would take the lead on promoting them, both internally and externally. "For our customers to use the tools, our employees had to use the tools," she said. That is, they needed to take advantage of the Web-based tools where possible, rather than falling back on internal, proprietary tools. They needed to know the ins and outs of the customer Web portal so they could introduce it in all its glory to State Street clients.
The 200 employees selected for that global team of champions needed a way to collaborate, and an IT architecture group suggested an enterprise social collaboration product called Lotus Connections (now IBM Connections). "That proved very valuable for what we were trying to achieve and gave us a use case to take to executive management" about the value of social collaboration, Waryas said.