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As banks look to improve productivity and efficiency, the digital workplace is empowering workers with new ways to collaborate, connect and do business.

Improving productivity and efficiency is at the top of the agenda for banks as they negotiate an environment of intense economic, regulatory and competitive pressure. Connecting the talent and resources that exist across the organization has become front of mind for banks as they look to enable new ways of collaborative working that can transform the way they do business.

“Efficiency and organizational leverage are key concerns for banks right now,” says Peter Hazou, director of business development for financial services at Microsoft. “Banks need to reduce costs on one hand and support workers in their high-value activities on the other. An efficient, connected organization is essential to meeting those goals, and that entails a shift from the siloed model that has traditionally characterized the way many banks work. Now, we’re seeing banks moving towards a more fluid, networked environment that empowers each worker to connect with the people and resources they need so they can deliver new value and connected experiences.”

As banks look to new, distributed organizational structures in a bid to control costs, the question of how to optimize the digital workplace has become a hot topic. “Some banks are moving whole groups of employees into home-based or ‘hot-desk’ working environments as a way to achieve significant real estate savings,” says Hazou. “That brings a number of challenges, not least in ensuring that every employee is integrated into the same collaborative experience as their office-based colleagues. Employee engagement is a key performance indicator for bank management, and this becomes challenging as more people move their cultural centre of gravity from the office to a home-based environment. Those people need to feel integrated, and tools like Skype for Business with video really do create that sense of belonging and communication, wherever your workplace has moved to.”

While many banks are just embarking on this journey, some are already strides ahead. Metro Bank in the UK is focused on using flexible technology to offer customers the best banking experience how, when and where they want it. The bank uses Microsoft Office 365, Yammer and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to support personalized interactions with customers so it can focus on innovative banking services, with the technical agility and operational flexibility to implement best practices across all locations.

In this new digital workplace silos are not so much a physical constraint as a state of mind. As well as connecting with each other, workers can access relevant information from across the organization through solutions like Microsoft Delve, which uses machine learning to surface information that is relevant to what the individual is working on. “Delve is about being able to tap information in a controlled way from across the organization that you may not otherwise have known about,” explains Hazou. “For example, somebody in Paris working on a solution for a client might benefit from seeing a similar document another colleague is working on in Prague. Delve will surface that information because it uses machine learning to understand the individual and what is relevant to them. It’s built on the Office Graph architecture, which sits across the organization and represents content, activity and the relationships between them across the entire Office 365 suite. That really enables banks to leverage data and organizational insights in a networked and collaborative environment across existing silos.”

Above all, each person needs to have the right tools to do their job the best they can. In order to truly empower every employee, banks are looking beyond simply providing discrete tools such as email, instant messaging and mobility. Instead, they’re working to deliver solutions specific to each employee’s needs, and this is where insight into the experience of each persona – from the relationship manager to the managing director – pays dividends.

“As banks look at how to maximize efficiency and productivity, understanding the workplace journey of their staff is the best way to identify key function high-value activities,” explains Hazou. “By looking at daily activities through the eyes of different ‘personas’, banks can understand what their high-value activities are, and how best to apply technology to making them more productive and collaborative.

“Some banks are already doing their own persona studies, and they are also able to engage Microsoft’s banking domain expertise to study their employees’ journeys through the User Experience process delivered by Microsoft Consulting Services. Whichever path they choose, a persona study is an important step in delivering a digital workplace that transforms the way their people do business. And by using familiar technologies such as the Office 365 suite to deliver solutions for each persona, they can achieve that transformation without upheaval.”