Social NetworkingBy Eileen Feretic Print
For New York Life, “good enough” is never good enough. The company strives to serve its customers and expand its business by encouraging and funding creative business and technology initiatives.
Another emerging technology trend that is getting a lot of attention from New York Life is social networking. “Social networking technology is very new, so we don’t have anything for our customers just yet,” Slevin says, “but we’re working on it. We have several pilots going on in social networking within our IT organization. I’ve asked an IT group to study this technology and put a proposal forward for the whole IT group—something that we could later adopt for the rest of the company.
“I know our internal customers are going to ask us about social networking very soon, and we want to be ready. But we need to use it ourselves before we give it to our customers. When we’re confident the technology is ready, we’ll roll out standards, document how it can be used, help customers figure out ways to use it productively and put some governance around it.”
Slevin is enthusiastic about social networking, saying it’s going to be the next big thing. “Social networking is already huge with the kids, but it’s also going to be huge as a business tool,” she predicts.
“We’re using it on a small scale with project teams, and we’re not seeing it as a productivity hit. We’re finding that it’s a productivity enhancer, because people don’t have to take time to make a phone call or write an e-mail. Real-time collaborative work is getting done, and that’s what we’re seeing right now in the project teams.”
The next steps, according to Slevin, are putting together compelling use cases and getting ready to work with the business units. “I think this technology is going to be groundbreaking,” she says. “I presented it to our CID management team and challenged them to come back with business-use cases, and they’re working on that right now.”
Slevin acknowledges that business use of social networking is in its infancy. “So far, no one has done a lot with social networking on an enterprise level,” she says, “but everyone sees what the kids are doing with this, and they know it’s just a matter of time before these young people join the workforce and want to use this technology at work.”
The changing workforce is raising another critical issue at New York Life. Like many other established enterprises, the company is still using 40-year-old technologies that aren’t going away anytime soon. The problem is that the people who run these systems are beginning to retire. To deal with this issue, New York Life created a program about five years ago to train employees on the older technologies.
Here again, Slevin is looking for a creative solution to this challenge. “I see social networking as a way to get information about our older technologies documented in this platform, so it will be there for all employees to use,” she explains. “This is one of the challenging business examples of social networking that I presented to the executive group.
“I’m sure there’s a way to take the knowledge our workers have gleaned over 40 years and document it, so we can pass it along to our trainees. A lot of industries are facing the same problem of impending retirements and older technologies that are not going away, but we want to stay on top of this issue.”
Another technology that’s getting a foothold at New York Life is Wi-Fi. The agents are asking for Wi-Fi, and the company is working with them to implement this technology in the common areas of agency offices.
“We also will look to use Wi-Fi when we do any major construction or renovation,” Slevin says. “Initially, we had security concerns about this technology, but they are becoming controllable, so we are now open to using Wi-Fi. It’s going to be a big thing for us down the road.”
The lagging economy that is slowing down technology investments at many enterprises is not affecting New York Life. “As a mutual company, our performance isn’t measured by the reporting requirements of quarterly results, so we can invest in the future,” Slevin says. “In fact, we’re investing in our infrastructure right now.
“We are going to be servicing our policyholders and doing the right things for our policyholders decades into the future. That’s at the core of who we are and what we believe in.”
“Doing the right things” for its policyholders requires innovative ideas, processes and technologies. “At New York Life, we are focused on using innovation to stay at the top of our industry,” says Slevin.
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