The National Australia Bank (NAB) has served Australian companies and citizens for 150 years. It created The Academy to herald a new corporate culture that supports self-directed employee learning and development. NAB chose a collaboration solution from Microsoft to create a portal called The Academy online that delivers an interactive virtual learning and development experience to support this culture. Employees use social networking capabilities, My Profile site personalization, and Internet search to find content and job openings, connect with colleagues, and access learning opportunities. NAB expects an increase in informal and formal training opportunities and more opportunities for professional development and career planning, resulting in a highly motivated staff capable of driving business strategies. In the long term, NAB expects to achieve an improvement in overall performance.
The National Australia Bank (NAB) is one of the largest financial institutions in Australia in terms of market capitalization and customer base. The institution’s business bank is Australia's largest business lending and deposit gatherer. The bank provides corporate services to more than 700,000 customers ranging from small and midsize enterprises to corporate clients.
NAB’s retail bank has a distinctive vision to deliver the greatest shopping experience in banking. The bank invests in a variety of banking options, including almost 800 stores, Internet and telephone banking, ATMs, and mobile bankers. New banking channels use next-generation technologies to help customers manage their finances from the comfort of their home or office. These banking channels include SMS Banking, “Click to Chat”, and NAB Life.
A New Approach to Learning
To commemorate 150 years in business, NAB launched The Academy, an initiative that aligns with the bank’s new approach to employee professional development. The Academy is unique for several reasons: it is not a human resources initiative, rather it is owned by the business for the business. Its governance model includes four business leaders, known as “deans”, who commit to The Academy for a 12-month tenure and ensure that its course content is directly related to the bank’s strategic business and human capital agenda.
||Equity in access to formal and informal learning and development opportunities for our employees is important to us.
Dean of Customer Experience, National Australia Bank
“The Academy is about creating a legacy for the future,” says Simon Terry, Dean of Customer Experience at the National Australia Bank. “We wanted to help people take responsibility for their own growth and aspirations. Until recently, our learning philosophy had not addressed how learning really occurs in real life situations: 70 percent of what you learn is learned on the job; 20 percent is from mentors, coaching, and exposures to leaders; and 10 percent is from formal learning. We wanted to switch the emphasis from formal classroom learning to personal learning by encouraging individuals to take control of their personal development: connecting with the right colleagues and mentors and joining communities. In short, by leveraging this mix of experiences, employees will be able to achieve their personal goals.”
A New Platform for Personal Growth
NAB needed to find the right technology to support its new Academy learning ethos and approach.
Across the organization, it was recognized that the level of training and personal development among employees varied significantly. Administrative online tools existed for employees to register for courses, search for job postings, and peruse a course catalog.
“These tools were cumbersome, and the search was unrefined and not very intuitive,” says Terry. “Equity in access to formal and informal learning and development opportunities for our employees is important to us. We wanted to create a more compelling, virtual learning experience because we have more than 25,000 employees spread over Australia, and it’s not always practical in every circumstance for them to come into our centers for training. Nor does it align with The Academy’s philosophy of encouraging employees to take responsibility for their personal development on the job. We envisioned an online solution that would deliver the right communication and collaboration tools for all our employees.”
About this time, the National Australia Bank completed an overall collaboration platform assessment. It chose an integrated collaboration solution from Microsoft. “It was important from a technology platform perspective that we aligned the investment in The Academy with NAB’s collaboration platform road map,” says Carmel Speers, Head of Virtual Learning at the National Australia Bank.
NAB decided that The Academy would become the first business application built on the Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, which manages real-time synchronous communications, including instant messaging, voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and audio and video conferencing.
Running on the Windows Server® 2008 operating system and using Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 data management software, the new solution is called The Academy online. (See Figure 1.) It addresses the core business requirements of The Academy, providing seamless access for users to learning content, groups, people, and data that enhances career growth and delivers benefits to all stakeholders.
“There were so many useful features and capabilities within Office SharePoint Server 2007, such as social networking capabilities, collaboration sites, which we call Work Spaces, portal technologies, and integrated search. We saw an immediate fit for The Academy online,” continues Speers. “We wanted ease of use, personalization, and the potential for rich interactivity—SharePoint delivered it all. This was a collaboration
|Figure 1 - The Academy online provides |
self-directed personal development tools
for employees. It showcases a new corporate
learning philosophy at the National Australia Bank.
platform and set of tools perfectly designed to help our people explore, discover, and innovate; to connect with colleagues, mentors, and experts; and to become members of online communities that will help them collaborate and contribute.”
The management team at NAB was impressed to learn that Microsoft Academy used Office SharePoint Server 2007 to create a social computing environment. The Microsoft Academy develops and delivers online training for Microsoft sales specialists. “Each sales representative has an online profile and can connect with colleagues and search for people based on their expertise,” says Speers. “Also, we looked at the virtual learning application solution that The Microsoft Academy, using SharePoint technologies, called Academy Mobile. Sales representatives can create and share podcasts to exchange sales tips and tricks while on the job, which really impressed us.”
NAB chose Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Avanade to help with the design and implementation of The Academy online. The bank chose Avanade because its skills and experience optimizing Microsoft products and technologies gave NAB confidence that its collaborative online application, complete with search and social networking technologies, would be a success. “Avanade has a demonstrated track record and commitment to NAB,” says Speers. “We felt confident they would help us maximize the value of our investment in Microsoft technologies.”
Work on The Academy online began in May 2008 and proceeded using an iterative process. Avanade completed the architecture and design and outsourced most of the development and testing to a group in India. The teams took advantage of a SharePoint collaboration site to facilitate the project; the teams also used Office Communications Server for Web-based conferencing.
Office SharePoint Server 2007 provided the infrastructure for The Academy online portal, which went live in November 2008.
The solution also features personalization with My Sites in Office SharePoint Server 2007, which NAB and Avanade customized and renamed as My Profile. Employees have a profile where they can post pictures and information about themselves to share with their colleagues. Importantly, employees can also choose whether they want to make the information private or open to public view. The My Profile feature enables users to locate subject matter experts across the organization, learn more about their peers and colleagues, and search for users with similar personal or professional interests. The solution fosters connectivity and collaboration, helping employees access information and people as efficiently and effectively as possible.
NAB and Avanade also built functionality into The Academy online portal to facilitate personal development, called My Aspirations. Soon to be launched in 2009, the tool has a career navigator function that allows people to build their own development plan, set targets, and evaluate skills required to attain different job roles.
Initially, NAB wanted to enable search for general content on The Academy online, the public pages on everyone’s My Profile sites, the course catalogue, and current job postings. NAB achieved these goals using the integrated search capabilities in Office SharePoint Server 2007. (See Figure 2.) The solution takes advantage of Business Data Catalog to import data from NAB’s learning management system to refine the catalogue search experience. Business Data Catalog is a new feature introduced in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. It provides an easy way to integrate business data from server applications within Office SharePoint Server 2007 without writing any code.
|Figure 2 - NAB took advantage of search|
functionality within Microsoft Office
SharePoint Server 2007 to facilitate access
to content throughout The Academy online
and across all employee My Profile sites.
“We wanted to showcase and market our course offerings, and the new search helps people find courses designed for certain experience levels, work roles, or physical location,” explains Speers. “And today, people are finding one another by searching by job roles, social distance, or location. This is the key first step in the kind of social networking we want to encourage.”
The Academy online portal also contains several SharePoint team sites called Online Learning Spaces for collaborative learning and development. These are currently being piloted with NAB’s Leadership and talent programs and alumni.
Participants visit the site for reading lists and course content, to connect with one another in discussion forums, and to pose questions to fellow participants or the facilitator. Another Learning Space for course alumni allows graduates to interact, post interesting articles, and engage in ongoing development and discussion.
Recently, NAB began a pilot project with Office Communications Server 2007 to complement the virtual learning environment it developed through The Academy online. “We are planning to use Microsoft Office Live Meeting for virtual learning delivery to remote areas so that employees can participate in more courses without having to leave their branches,” says Speers.
Collaboration technologies from Microsoft are helping the National Australia Bank change its corporate culture and achieve its vision for the future. Any corporation can be measured as the sum of its peoples’ collective talents. NAB wanted to help drive employee motivation for personal development to optimize their talents and better execute on business strategies. Using collaboration technologies, NAB employees can maximize their contributions to the bank, ensuring an enduring return on investment for The Academy initiative.
“Our Microsoft collaboration solution helped NAB demonstrate its commitment to employees’ wellbeing through a leading-edge, online learning community for rewarding, on-the-job personal development,” says Maria Tassone, General Manager, Academy Operations at the National Australia Bank. “We anticipate a higher rate of personal development, and employee capabilities that are better aligned with the business. Now we have a collaboration platform that we can build on for the long term.”
Enabling Professional Development
NAB expects the ease of use and intuitive nature of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to contribute to a rapid endorsement of both The Academy and the philosophy that it represents. With new, more effective search capabilities, people can find the courses they need when they need them, or more easily look for jobs with responsibilities they want to develop further. With personalization and search capabilities for people and expertise, NAB employees can find mentors or share best practices with colleagues. And with one-click enrollment to online courses, staff can take virtual courses from anywhere in the country.
“The SharePoint environment is so intuitive that it encourages involvement and empowers our users to take control of their personal development,” says Tassone. “This technology provides the perfect IT foundation to enable our new corporate culture.”
Aligning Employee Capabilities with the Business
The Academy Online is committed to building employee capabilities to better support the business. Because of the unique relationship between The Academy and NAB business leaders, the course content, curricula, and theory have a direct link to current strategic initiatives. The more involved employees are with The Academy, the better they’ll be able to successfully execute on these strategies. “We chose an easy-to-use Microsoft collaboration platform to ensure maximum employee engagement with all The Academy has to offer,” says Tassone. “Our goal was to build employees’ capabilities to support our business strategies, and our expectation is that people will use The Academy online to improve their skills while on the job.”
Building a Platform for the Future
In just six months, NAB designed and deployed The Academy online, its first business application built using collaboration technologies from Microsoft. Now that the solution is launched, Tassone and her team plan to expand the new infrastructure.
“The Academy online was a vital proof point for our collaboration strategy using Microsoft technologies, and it’s been a resounding success,” concludes Tassone. “We are going to leverage Work Spaces to deliver the knowledge and content management capabilities of Office SharePoint Server 2007 more broadly across our intranet. We already have in mind more case scenarios for Office Communications Server to reduce the geographical distances between employees. With a Microsoft collaboration environment, we will be a more cohesive, connected company.”
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