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Q&A: How Citi Staff Use Social Media to Collaborate

Bank Systems & Technology speaks to Paul Butcher, director of communications central for Citi to confirm a tip that bank's employees are uncommonly active at using social media tools for internal collaboration.

BS&T: How does Citi leverage social media tools internally to improve collaboration?

Paul Butcher: We're obviously a large, global organization and we've been using collaboration tools internally for quite some time. The first Microsoft SharePoint implementation within Citi was in 2005, and we've been actively using collaboration tools since then. About two years ago, we launched Citi 2.0, which is a SharePoint-based platform that uses NewsGator [Denver], a set of social networking tools that sit on top of the SharePoint platform.

We're rolling that out as our global collaboration platform across the company. That's a really exciting project, and Citi businesses are embracing it throughout the world because it allows them to change the way they communicate and work together. Most of our days -- and we're not unique -- are spent talking with people in different offices and collaborating with people who are not immediately in front of us. For us as a global company, it's an essential tool.

SharePoint traditionally has been used to share documents. How do you use the software?

Butcher: SharePoint does a lot more than that now. Sharing documents so people can see and work on them is still important, but there are a lot more social components that sit within the Citi 2.0 platform. It's all organized around communities. The communities are organized around businesses, functions such as finance, specific projects or corporate initiatives. When community owners set up a community, they can pick and choose among social media tools, including blogging, Q&A, message boards and microblogging.

Have you had to push people to use these tools?

Butcher: There's a certain group of people -- the early adopters -- who can't wait to get their hands on social tools. Then there's a broad set of people ready to embrace social media, but they'll take some time. And then there's a more resistant group. We've been very encouraged by the fact that adoption has been strong.

We have around 260,000 people, and more than a third have used the platform now, in just two years. We're finding the main driver initially is around the social aspects, but people are realizing that it's a genuinely valuable business tool -- they can find the experts they're looking for faster, they can find the information they're looking for more effectively, and they can put together a project or collaborate around an idea quickly and effectively using this set of tools.

How do Citi businesses use the platform?

Butcher: There's functionality in Citi 2.0 called Citi Ideas that's a set of ideation [idea-generation] tools. You can set up an ideas campaign, and people within a defined audience can submit their ideas around the campaign and everybody can see the submitted ideas, vote on them, comment on them, discuss them and refine them. We've operated a number of those and they've been extremely successful. We had one that was very successful within the credit card division. Ideas were refined and voted on, and the leading ideas were implemented in the card.

Another one of our businesses, Global Transaction Services, which has more than 20,000 employees in 96 countries around the world, decided to adopt the Citi 2.0 platform not just on an ad hoc community-type basis but as an overall ecosystem for the way employees communicate within the organization. They're using the platform for client ideation, for example, and they set up an all-points urgent request hub where anyone from across the business can assist with answers and suggestions in response to questions raised through the course of the day.

Is the value in that the tools connect people in various countries, for instance, who don't know each other?

Butcher: It's not so much about people not knowing their colleagues in the other countries, but the platform enabling people working on similar projects or facing similar challenges to connect and share insights and connections. It's the fact that we're global; it's the fact that often in order to do your job, you need to be accessing people and information outside of your immediate world. The traditional ways of finding things don't always work, whereas if you can use these social tools, you generally can get to what you're looking for more efficiently.

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