The popularity of shared resource pools in banking over the last decade has been astonishing. Some banks have resource pools for every major job function. Creating groups of the same skillset was supposed to improve efficiency and increase individual
output. If workers are doing more, you need less of them, so it was a simple method for reducing head count. Money saved, problem solved. Shared service pools might save the banks some money, but what is the real cost of this approach?
On the surface, the benefits of shared resource pools can be compelling. A ‘centre of excellence’ can ensure processes and methodologies are consistent across the organisation. Key learning’s and skills can be easily shared. Internal customers can rely
on resources being available. Most importantly it can fill the time gaps that can occur in some job functions. Instead of a resource working at 70% capacity on one project, the remaining 30% can now be allocated to another initiative.
Whilst resource pools can be an excellent approach to increasing output, it has one serious flaw. It focuses on the output of a group, rather than the output of the entire organisation. Shared services pools are based on multi-tasking and prioritisation
which create process overheads, communication challenges and internal bickering. With shared functions like Risk and Security critical to project timelines, having resources stretched across various initiatives can become difficult to manage.
For workers spread across concurrent initiatives, the issues are twofold. The pure process of multi-tasking adds additional time to a task. If an employee is constantly required to change between two tasks, it will take longer than completing one task
at a time. Pooled resources are also required to manage multiple sets of stakeholders and priorities. This becomes increasingly challenging when they are required to support stakeholders from different channels.
Another negative is that most shared services pools have been created with little regard for the employees involved. Pools often assume that everyone is equal and combine resources that have experience dealing with one particular channel. Managers then
expect these workers to provide advice to internal stakeholders across multiple channels. Skills are not aligned and instances can occur where a legal expert with a branch background is required to provide advice on a new Social Media strategy.
To add to these issues, most shared services pools manage deliverables that are on the project critical path. Projects are frequently delayed by important staff working on competing tasks. Employees in the pool become a bottleneck, even when they are working
at peak capacity. The organisation ends up competing against itself. Staff can end up ‘twisting by the pool’ - spending more time working around the process, than working within it.
With so many workers now multi-tasking it was almost refreshing to read Adam Lashinsky’s new book, ‘Inside Apple’.
Adam explains that below the most senior level, Apple employees do not multi-task. He explains, ‘You have a project, you work on that project. You know what your function is… Apple operates on a need to know basis. So, if you're not involved in a project,
you're not involved’. Apple has realised that the key to delivering better performance is to give room for staff to focus.
With this in mind, there are significant benefits to banks that are willing to change. The answer lies in an organisations ability to manoeuvre and focus its resources on priority projects. With most banks investing more in Mobile and Digital projects
there is an opportunity to ring fence resources to support these areas. Instead of worrying about whether resources are 100 per cent committed. Worry about whether the project is being delivered on time.
Ring fencing resources will give employees the freedom and focus to do their job. Whilst the resources can in theory still be part of a pool, they should be dedicated to supporting a specific project. As an example, in a team of twenty risk specialists,
have ten workers supporting the main channels. Have the remaining ten assigned to support one major initiative each. Projects can receive dedicated support and skills can be better aligned to the needs of the project.
An organisations ability to deliver major projects is often the key difference between success and failure. For banks to ensure they have the best chance of delivering, they need to provide the right environment for employee focus to flourish. Banks need
to unlock themselves from the burden of shared resource pools and multi-tasking. When your pool is leaking, you need to dive in and do something about it. Otherwise, if left too late, your company might just hit rock bottom.