Move from Blackberry to iPhone is strategic, says Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered bank says its decision to move employees from the Blackberry to the iPhone is not a reaction to market trends and the so-called "consumerisation of IT."

Standard Chartered bank says its decision to move employees from the Blackberry to the iPhone is not a reaction to market trends and the so-called "consumerisation of IT."

The bank says the move is a response to a change in technology with a long-term vision to back it up. It says the iPhone is a way to develop in-house mobile applications, cut costs and enhance employee satisfaction. The project will see the first major corporate standardise on the iPhone smartphone to support mobility to its employees.

The bank is moving up to 15,000 staff from the Blackberry to the iPhone by the end of this year. It is about to embark on a programme of iPhone application development. It has 75,000 staff in all, so the roll-out could go much further.

In May the company began migrating employees in its most heavily staffed locations in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Todd Schofield, global head of mobility at Standard Chartered is heading up the project. He says the strength of the iPhone is its App Store, as well as its dual capability for staff at home and at work.

Schofield says the iPhone was chosen as its preferred mobile device because of its blend of work and life uses and the ability for Standard Chartered to develop applications for the platform.

"The iPhone's unique strength is in its App Store. It created an environment for us to develop apps that not only deliver targeted information, but also allow staff to perform more complicated tasks on the go."

"We believe that the blended work-life capabilities of the iPhone, coupled with our own customised apps, will allow for greater employee satisfaction and productivity."

By the end of the year the company will have introduced internal iPhone applications related to CRM and business intelligence.

The decision was made as a result of a convergence between the IT head's vision and the iPhone's widespread use by employees. "The idea was born and nurtured from the top, thanks to our group CIO, Jan Verplancke. But of course, the fact that the iPhone was already popular among consumers meant we had a huge pool of ideas for real value-add apps to dip into."

But Schofield says bringing the iPhone into the corporate environment is not to be taken lightly. "It takes a lot of work and time to bring any device to a point where it has the embrace of the organisation, and managing a network of 15,000 by the end of the year is a huge, complex undertaking."

"It's not about following market trends or the so-called consumerisation of IT, as most reports have hypothesised."

Schofield says making a decision of this type is not as simple as deciding which device is best, but requires forward thinking with a vision of the future. "Our move to iPhone marks only the first step towards a whole new mobile capability altogether."

The project requires significant technical input as well as staff training and communication, according to Schofield. "To make it work we had to get a lot of things right."

Winning over and preparing the user 
 "As with any new technology, the transition required some adjustment for our staff. There were the usual gripes with the device - battery life, typing difficulties, etc. We addressed this with a solid change communications strategy, employing a more inclusive, collaborative approach by openly soliciting critiques, setting up a dedicated support desk and so on. We also had to speak to all levels of users - we put equal focus on easing first-time users on the iPhone's basic features as we do to graduating advanced users to more sophisticated functions," says Schofield.







The bank is paying for the devices and work-related costs itself.

As well as the productivity improvements and employee satisfaction, Schofield says the bank expects to save money.

Schofield says using the iPhone will mean no more per-server software licensing fee, which can be very costly if you have a large footprint.

He says there will savings on bandwidth use. "With the previous platform, mails are sent twice (double download). The iPhone's push mail service sends an e-mail only once."

There will also be savings on application support because complexity will be reduced, says Schofield.

Standard Chartered is moving into new territory by adopting the iPhone as its mobile device of choice. The bank says its decision is built on a vision of long-term business benefits. Dislodging a device like the Blackberry, which dominates corporate mobility, is no mean feat. Banks are said to be leaders in terms of technology, so businesses the world over will be watching this project closely.

Technical challenges 

  • Standard Chartered will develop its own internal applications because App Store does not have suitable alternatives for heavy-duty internal applications.
  • It is repackaging content and inventing new ways of getting the right information to the right people.
  • Standard Chartered will put in place additional authentication measures so that each device complies with stringent security policies.


Read more on Wireless networking