The move into a new headquarters in Brisbane’s Newstead precinct provided the perfect opportunity for Bank of Queensland CIO Julie Bale to sow the seeds of technological change in the way the bank - and its branches - approached working.
As its existing Brisbane CBD lease approached expiry, the bank started plotting how a new-look headquarters would evolve. It settled on the growing area of Newstead and decided to take an entirely new approach to workplace design - underpinned by technology.
Bale’s task since joining the bank two years ago has been to reverse almost ten years of underinvestment in IT by renegotiating supplier relationships and addressing pressing systems issues while preparing a longer-term strategy that uses technology to differentiate the bank from its competition.
She completed the first part earlier this year. Bale took BOQ’s two major IT deals - outsourced IT services and business processing - out to tender, which forced incumbent partner HP to compete to win back the business it had been previously been comfortably delivering under a 14-year, $620 million partnership - work it won again, but under new terms and conditions.
Bale’s focus then turned to end-user computing. The bank had been operating on the expired Windows XP operating system and was running out of time to move away from the end-of-life OS.
She seized the opportunity provided by the HQ move to convince the board to expand the business case for the XP upgrade beyond simply resolving issues and to providing forward-looking solutions for the bank’s staff.
To gain the support of the board and executive team for her vision, Bale convinced them to be the first test cases for the new approach. Earlier this year, the executive team were equipped with HP Revolve laptop-tablet hybrids running Windows 8.1 for around six months to test out her new approach to working.
The project was quickly rubber-stamped and Bale’s team began rolling out 1200 HP Revolves - which now serve as the primary device for employees - to staff in the head office. Around 1800 workers will receive the new devices by the end of the project.
The IT team was also engaged in the physical design process of the building, which, as a result, has been delivered with activity-based working front of mind.
The new headquarters is littered with meeting rooms of all sizes (from one person hidey-holes to the 20+ person boardroom) controlled by AMX room booking technology displayed on touchscreens at every door, which integrate with the bank’s Outlook email system.
Microsoft Lync is deployed in meeting rooms alongside directional mics, hearing aides and screens. Wi-fi is available throughout. Multiple formal and informal “breakout” areas seek to encourage collaboration.
And in the backend, BOQ’s four legacy application virtualisation platforms were consolidated down to one Citrix-based system.
But Bale was keen not to limit the new approach simply to the Brisbane head office.
Two of the bank’s 260 branches - in Brisbane’s Toowong and Sydney’s Macquarie Park - are currently serving as pilots for a significant overhaul of the traditional teller-based approach.
The centres echo the head office’s campus-like design, feeling more coffee-shop than bank branch. Smartphones and tablets are on offer for customers to do their banking or access product information, while branch owners have similarly been handed the Windows 8.1 Revolves in an effort to make customer service more personalised.
The plan is to roll out the HP Revolves to all the bank's 260 branch managers across the country, and implement the modern design where conditions suit.
Bale says the simplified access to the bank's internal applications mean branch staff can now approach a customer with all the information and systems needed to service the customer's requirements in their hand.
"The organisation is no longer highly desk-bound and traditional in how it approaches work. Our staff can now choose to work from anywhere and communicate with each other in whichever is best for their situation," she said.
Allie Coyne travelled to Brisbane as a guest of BOQ.