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David F Carr
David F Carr
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State Street: Social Business Leader Of 2013

Learn lessons from the global financial company, which will be honored at the E2 Conference for social collaboration on a large scale.

10 Social Business Leaders for 2013
10 Social Business Leaders for 2013
(read about them all)
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
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.

That was in 2009. What followed in 2010 was a broader business and IT transformation initiative, and the team driving that also required a collaboration environment to work with. This prompted a more formal "bake-off" analysis of the major players in enterprise social networking, including IBM, Jive Software and others. "When it comes down to technology, they all had about the same thing," Waryas said.

However, State Street had become a "SharePoint shop" ever since adopting SharePoint 2007. Although there was a need to consolidate sites and institute better governance, SharePoint was so established as a standard for document sharing and other forms of collaboration that "we realized we weren't going to be able to fight the SharePoint beast," Waryas said. The recommendation to the executive team was "we're not going to fight this, and we're not going to stand up two separate platforms," she said.

Although SharePoint itself wasn't a complete social solution at that time, Microsoft made an introduction to NewsGator, which has made a business of filling in the gaps in SharePoint as a social platform. Even with the enhancements in SharePoint 2013, NewsGator continues to leapfrog SharePoint while aiming to steer its own course.

The collaboration team Waryas established also recognized that it had been a mistake to deliver SharePoint as an IT initiative divorced from a broader corporate strategy on information management. By establishing many pockets of collaboration activity, State Street had denied itself the possibilities of global collaboration across the organization. So part of the project became chasing down the many separate SharePoint sites that had been established and folding them into one social collaboration network. Since SharePoint can be used for things other than straight collaboration -- for example, as a platform for application development -- there are still SharePoint instances that will escape this dragnet. As a rule, however, the firm has ruled that teams should collaborate in groups within the enterprise social network, rather than on separate SharePoint sites.

To rationalize the SharePoint network, her team has been checking the activity logs for each site to see if it is being used and checking that there is a site administrator actively managing it. If not, they shut it down. They are applying the same sort of discipline to community management on the social platform, sunsetting communities that aren't being used. "I'm ... watching over what communities get stood up and facilitate weekly calls" with community managers, Waryas said.

To make social collaboration fit the security concerns of a regulated industry, State Street applied an existing information-classification policy to communities, with tightest restrictions on those who work with highly confidential or sensitive information.

As she did with the customer platform, Waryas established a champions program to promote the use of the social intranet, which has about 1,000 people signed up and 400 actively engaged. They also serve as an advisory body to discuss concerns about governance and community management.

The next phase of the project is to pull all intranet content into the social network. At the same time that the social collaboration project was moving forward, a marketing-led brand alignment initiative had been aggressively consolidating Web portals, including those used for internal communication. Unfortunately, they had been doing it on a different technical foundation, IBM WebSphere. Now that content needed to be migrated once more, to SharePoint.

"We decided we needed to rationalize what we had, in terms of content management, for the sake of making things readily accessible," Waryas said. To be effective at boosting productivity, the network needed to make content easier to find in a search.

Longer term, she "absolutely" sees potential for integrating business applications with the social network. For example, as part of its transformation program, State Street is creating operational dashboards to help fund accountants track trades, and there ought to be ways of integrating those dashboards into the social network or adding social functionality to the dashboards, she said. "If your fund has an alert on it, we'd like you to be able to click on it and see what's going on with that fund -- and then have a person picker, where you could have a subject matter expert pop up as a contact." However, such enhancements won't get past the strategic planning stage this year -- what's funded for now is getting the basics of social communication and collaboration right, she said.

The social intranet is also focused on boosting adoption. State Street Collaborate will be welcoming users who had been excluded in the past, such as investment advisers who initially couldn't be supported on the platform for lack of a way to archive their social communications, as required under financial industry regulations. Including those people should make a big difference because many of their coworkers were reluctant to invest time in an employee social network if it didn't include everyone.

The innovation rally was an important turning point, an initiative conducted on the social platform that was led by management and included participation from top executives, including State Street chairman, president and CEO Jay Hooley. To help maximize that executive participation, the social collaboration champions who had the most experience with the platform offered "reverse mentoring" to company leaders, Waryas said. "Having that framework and network in place helped us to be successful in the rally."

The volume of response the rally generated turned out to be a challenge all its own. "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," Waryas 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.

The rally was conducted using the basic discussion tools of the social platform, which meant when the rally was concluded her team had to manually sift through the 12,000 posts to find the best ideas. "We didn't realize all the work involved," she said. Since then, State Street has taken advantage of NewsGator's ideation module for similar projects, using peer voting on ideas to make it easier to summarize the results of these internal crowdsourcing projects.

Although all employees have a login that allows them to participate on the social platform, they have to go to the effort of creating a SharePoint MySite profile to become an active participant.

With the launch of the social intranet, the company will probably push harder to get employees to set up social profiles, or at "at a minimum provide corporate directory information," Waryas said. At "lunch and learn" training sessions, there is usually a photo table to make it easier for people to get a profile photo they can use.

Profiles are important because if people tag themselves correctly, according to area of expertise -- say, OTC derivatives -- they will automatically be notified when someone posts a question on that topic and will also be featured prominently in an expertise search. "It's just the power of crowdsourcing -- if you hashtag a particular topic in a post, you'll reach any person who has that topic in their expertise, so you can start to crowdsource to get the right answer," Waryas said.

Some of the greatest potential lies with the delivery of better service to clients, for example by global asset managers who may not know everyone on their team. By bringing them together in a single community, they can "find someone else around the company who had to answer the same question for another customer. The challenge now is to capture those things and put them into a knowledge repository of frequently asked questions," she said.

Follow David F. Carr at @davidfcarr or Google+.

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