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Working with startups: IT execs tell their stories

Byron Connolly | May 24, 2016
Companies try to benefit from a startup culture in an increasingly competitive market

Culture a key pillar of transformation

CBA-owned Bankwest has been on a transformational journey for several years in order to set the organisation up to compete in the digital economy. CIO Andy Weir, said the bank is coming into its ‘second wave’ of transformation but back in 2011 and 2012, technology infrastructure across the organisation was bloated, disjointed and not connected to business outcomes.

Core to Bankwest’s transformation, more than process and technology, was a change in culture.

“Back then, it was all about driving agility, breaking mindsets and silos and getting closer to the rest of the organisation. And that was pretty successful, we lost some good people but we lost a lot of people that we needed to lose,” Weir said.

Bankwest has also worked with startup studio, Atomic Sky, to help embed a new culture across the organisation where people are not easily distracted and focused on the problem at hand.

“Recently, we discovered that like most organisations, we weren’t really good at decision making so we actually engaged in startup thinking and how could we improve decision making across the organisation; how can we use technology,” he said.

“Interestingly, we actually built an app to do that but what we found was that most of the value came from the behaviours that fell off the back of that innovation, which was quite interesting because it reinforces the point around culture,” said Weir.

He said leveraging startups or fintech innovators helps Bankwest shift the organisational culture and gets people thinking differently about how the business needs to work in the future.

“In the past it was ok for us to take six months to one year to build new features … but now that we are dealing with a different competitive environment and customers are getting more demanding.

Read more:Why playing tennis with the CEO may secure your future

“Agility, velocity, speed and quality become very important and that’s where startup thinking really comes to the fore and becomes even more important to the organisation,” he said.

Bankwest has held nine ‘hack days’ – its first smartphone app was created following one – and 42 ideas have gone into production from these events. During hack days, business partners pitch problems and the bank’s developers decide which opportunity they want to work on over 24 hours.

“The business guys have got to be really compelling to excite people enough to want to come and solve their problem for them.

“You lay down the challenge and say to people, ‘can you do this in this amount of time?’ That really gets people’s creative juices going. If you say to people, ‘I’ve written a set of business requirements, go off and build this’, that’s exactly what you expect but that’s not what motivates that kind of capability,” Weir said.


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