TD goes social ‘inside the firewall’

TD Canada Trust says its employees are hot for internal social media, with seven times the expected number giving thumbs-up to an IBM Connections-based system it recently began running.
Today at Lotusphere, IBM Corp. [NYSE: IBM] featured TD [TSX: TD; NYSE: TD] as a case study of smart social media practices. Using their software, of course.
Since November, TD has started to inch cautiously towards adopting social media. Trying to reconcile the open flow of information with strict banking laws, the bank decided Facebook and Twitter were out. Instead, it settled on a middle ground: IBM Connections.
“We’re a highly-regulated industry and we’re just not able to communicate with our employees and they with customers on those platforms,” says Wendy Arnott, vice-president of social media and digital communications at TD. “So, we said we needed something inside the organization that’s going to allow us to leverage the capability that social brings, which allows you to find experts, connect, collaborate much more efficiently than ever before. And we needed something that was going to allow us to do that within the firewall.”
Arnott says IBM’s platform makes business communication more efficient than simply using e-mail, as it can serve as a dynamic repository of knowledge.  It’s a  “new way” she says, that trumps the “old way.”
“We would have small business advisors right across the country and, as you can imagine, if you’re out in one city — call it Vancouver — and an expert in addressing a particular type of client problem is maybe sitting in Toronto, the old way would be e-mail circling around: ‘I need this information. How do I find it?’”
“In the new way, what they’ve done is they’ve set up a community that allows those people to come and ask in a forum —with forums, blogs and wikis they can ask their question. The experts are watching that, they’re following the community as you would on a Linkedin community or a Facebook community —  the functionality is very similar — and that question can be answered. Not only can that question be answered in the community but the person who has that question can go to that community, search for that same question and if it’s been answered before, it’s going to be there.”
Glenda Crisp, TD CIO and vice-president of corporate segment technology solutions, says integration with TD’s backend was quite challenging and is still continuing. But she says there weren’t any unpleasant surprises. The process was difficult, but no more difficult than expected.
“I think any institution that’s been around for 20 years or more is going to have legacy applications. So integration was a big piece of this project. We’ve integrated it with our WebSphere portal, we integrated it with Microsoft Office Communicator suite. We’re working with IBM now, looking at e-mail integration points. Integration isn’t something that’s ‘you nail it you’re done.’ You have to continually refine it.”
Crisp says one of the most interesting developments in IBM’s new Connections is its ability to embed applications in social media activity streams, in TD’s case, internal social media streams. “What I’m really excited about is some of the embedded app capability that’s been announced,” she says, “and how do we now leverage Connections with other apps that we have like Cognos, for example, which has a Connections piece. I think we’re going to continue to see the integration work happen at TD.”
Jim Murphy, research director in Gartner Inc.’s Web and cloud group, says while TD may have appeared overly cautious to conference attendees, the company actually represents one of the more daring financial institutions in the global arena. Among banks, he says, “there’s a lot of fear and trepidation about regulatory issue.” These fears will dissipate once the banks get fully on board with the technology, he says.
“I think that the ones that have embraced social computing and social media are aggressive. Once they get over the hump, they start to understand that `we’re going to embrace this. We’re saying going to say yes to it,’ like the people at TD said.”

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