RBS cuts employee travel with collaboration technology Credit: Peter SayerIDGIDG
Business Management

RBS cuts employee travel with collaboration technology

The Royal Bank of Scotland is reinvesting the money saved on employee travel in collaboration technology like Zoom and Skype for Business as part of a broader shift towards "commercial thinking" to make cost savings across the business.

Speaking during the TBM Executive Strategy Forum in London yesterday, Jenny Wood, head of performance and business management at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group spoke about shifting the bank to "a value mindset".

One practical way she has gone about this is by limiting employee travel and directly reinvesting that money into best of breed collaboration technology like Zoom and Skype for Business.

"We committed to invest in things that make it easier for us to work together," she said. As the bank continued to invest in collaboration tools employee travel actually dropped further.

She continued: "People started collaborating with people that they had never collaborated with before, we've now got people talking about the way they use the collaboration technology to not travel. That's a commercial mindset, that builds it into everything they do."

Wood has also overseen the creation of something called the 'piggy bank challenge' at the bank. This involves nominating five colleagues using Facebook Workplace to be more thoughtful about their spending.

"You get everything from people saying they aren't going to print today, that's saving money, or I'm not going to travel next week, or I gave up an old conference bridge I only use once in a blue moon, or I don't use my desk phone, take that away," she said. "To people going 'I've got servers that nobody uses' and they've decided they don't need them and start to decommission them. Commerciality isn't just the big things, it's about the mindset to question things around you."

While stressing that all technology is implemented after a formal procurement process, Wood spoke about how the business has adopted Zoom for video conferencing and various Microsoft tools to ease collaboration across its three major UK offices.

"It's not just having Zoom or Skype for Business on your device but also rooms where you can go collaborate," she added. "The rate of collaboration has gone up dramatically and the use of teleconferences has gone down too."

Commercial mindset

This drive is all part of a broader three year shift within the business towards having what Wood calls a "commercial mindset".

"When we think about commercial culture, the way we think about it goes beyond processes," she said. "The role that I do at RBS is about agile transformation, so to talk about that, we are putting in place the right tools, right practices and structures as well as a new mindset."

That new mindset isn't just one of cost cutting, however. "It's not just about doing things cheaper, it's actually also about providing value," she stressed. "You can't just suddenly tell people to be more commercial, because if you do that, they ask 'how'? The natural reaction is to put in place more processes and some governance to be more commercial, but that slows down decision making and in an organisation like ours you can't afford to do that."

The outcome may not be the cheapest option, but at thinking about the total cost of ownership in a data-centric way is an important shift for Wood. "We want you to do it knowing that there was a cheaper option and being conscious that there was a cheaper option," she said.

When it comes to technology decisions this isn't just a case of implementing more 'Technology Business Management' practices, but a case of thinking about how that technology is going to be used more holistically.

Read next: Lloyds looks to rationalise its IT estate with help from Apptio

"It's not just about what you buy," she said. "It's about the way you design it, and architect those systems, the way you put together solutions. Think about the ongoing cost of operating that system and being able to change those. It's about the business processes you support or choose not to support. So too often when we talk about commercial culture, people translate it into cost savings, but it's not, it's about how you make a sustainable investment for the long-term benefit or outcome."

It also means thinking about things like what infrastructure to run the software on, maintenance and support earlier in the buying cycle. "We don't review at the point where contracts are signed anymore," she said. "We review at the point three to six months before, so we can have a conversation about what the right strategy is around that negotiation."

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