When a plan comes together: the power of cross-company collaboration

Evidence increasingly suggests that collaboration between organisations and people with different experiences, skills and viewpoints is a powerful way to deliver real business innovation. With this in mind, 24 Graduates from RBS, PwC and Fujitsu came together last November to develop their ideas to transform the future of banking.

The project was the brainchild of RBS Chief Information Officer Patrick Eltridge, who explained:

“This talent programme was borne from the common goal of RBS, PWC and Fujitsu to develop our technology future leader community. We felt the innovative approach to tackling a broad industry issue by using an open cross company mixed team approach would bring greater insights and engagement than a traditional internal challenge.”

Patrick set the participating teams the challenge:

Mobile is core to the future vision of digital banking, but can it really replace the branch experience?

The group of future leaders split into three groups to explore the challenge and prepare their thoughts before presenting back to a panel of industry experts from RBS, Fujitsu and PwC.

This programme was a fantastic opportunity for all 24 graduates to experience some of the daily challenges many of us face in business, and in turn, provided them with key learnings and experiences to take forward with them in their careers.

Cross-company teams

With the cohort spread from Edinburgh to London, the teams had to find their feet quickly, and begin working together remotely as soon as possible to be successful.

Bringing together a group of six individuals who have never met to produce a high quality report and presentation in ten weeks was always going to be a big ask, but it was fantastic to see all of the groups rise to the challenge.

One challenge was simply managing technical differences between the three companies involved. The teams were geographically dispersed, and with each company using different IT systems, the teams had to find a way to share documents securely, and use video and voice conferences to collaborate effectively.

Finding tools to suit all of the organisations needs was challenging. After testing a number of platforms, with many of them proving unsuitable, the teams opted for WhatsApp to keep connected, emails with password protection for securely sharing documents, and Skype for Business for in-depth conversations.

It was also important for the teams to acknowledge and manage the differing workloads and pressures their members were facing in their day to day work. This meant the graduates had to think innovatively about how to communicate and work together effectively.

The teams implemented an agile working agenda, meaning they flexed the team roles according to what stage of the project they were at, and the skills that were required. By doing this, team members were working to their strengths, and could pull back from the project and be covered by other members when their day jobs required.

But these challenges of cross-company collaboration were met with enthusiasm from our graduates, who showed us that there shouldn’t be any barriers when it comes to working with your peers.

The power of difference

Indeed, pulling together different perspectives was key to working together in teams.

Developing an understanding of each individual’s strengths (and leveraging these) meant the teams could work with an iterative approach, adapting group dynamics and structure to suit the stage of the project they were facing.

Gayle Watt (RBS Programme Manager for Technology Graduates) commented on this collaboration saying “This project really highlighted the power of working together and the innovative ideas that can be produced in a short space of time by working collaboratively.”

Similarly, Fiona McManus (RBS Global Relationship Manager, PwC) commented “I know strong bonds were formed between the RBS, Fujitsu, and PwC participants and my hope is that these relationships and collaboration continue.”

Getting to grips with the future of banking

For team C++ comprised of Jake Parsons and Emily Williams from Fujitsu, Gillian Kelly and Kayleigh Gibson from RBS and Kim To and Tom Oliver from PwC, the summit event held on the 2nd February was particularly special.

They were named the winners of the challenge, having identified 3 core themes to drive digital transformation in the banking industry: Collaboration, Customer and Culture.

Banks have an opportunity to mimic the airline industry, and collaborate for the good of the customer. They have the potential to address customer needs more than ever by using the data they collect to provide outstanding customer service.

But in order to achieve this, the culture must be right – one of agility and flexibility to quickly respond to changing customer needs.

Ian Baron (Technology Strategy, RBS) commented on the winning group’s “well researched report, professional pitch and excellent back up material full of actionable ideas”.

Congratulations are due though to all of the teams who took part in this programme. As Fiona McManus put it: “I had high expectations from the 3 teams but was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the pitches at the Summit event.”

The future, it seems, is in safe hands.

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