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Bank Pekao S.A. has almost 3 thousand internal innovators thanks to crowdsourcing

Bank Pekao S.A. Innovation Lab engages the bank’s community of employees to co-create new solutions through internal crowdsourcing. This is a process in which every employee can share their ideas in response to defined project or business challenges. To this end, the Laboratory team designed and implemented an internal crowdsourcing platform. Thanks to it, Bank Pekao S.A. not only obtains expert knowledge from across the organization, but also encourages employees to become internal innovators.

More than just brainstorming

Good ideas do not appear in a vacuum. They are the result of inspiration, experience, and the exchange of ideas. The more heads, the more perspectives. The Innovation Lab at Bank Pekao S.A. shows that when looking for innovative ideas and customized solutions, it is worth opening up to the entire organization. What if instead of brainstorming in a narrow circle of experts, we asked all employees a question? Then we can gain invaluable knowledge of people who work with customers on a daily basis, implement business processes or have ideas on how to solve the challenges faced by large organizations today.

If expert brainstorming is silver, then tapping into collective wisdom is gold. This is what crowdsourcing is all about – a process in which the largest possible community is involved in solving a problem or business challenge. In Bank Pekao S.A., this community is made up of employees – thousands of people from various business units, who can support the activities of project teams working on innovations with their experience and knowledge. This is the so-called internal (employee) crowdsourcing.

Employees are a capital of ideas

The bank develops the idea of internal crowdsourcing through its intranet platform IdeaCrowd. It is an IT tool designed from scratch in the Innovation Lab that enables a community of employees to generate ideas:

– IdeaCrowd is an internal platform that every employee has access to. We publish thematic and business challenges on it: in the form of creative tasks, competitions and design challenges. These challenges take (similarly to the startup world) the formula of an open calla – however, in this case it is aimed at the internal ecosystem of employees. This tool can be used at various stages of innovation projects, from research, through ideation, to testing prototypes. Additionally, we support the bank in building an internal culture of innovation. Crowdsourcing helps us to identify sources of knowledge, tap into collective wisdom, and go beyond the ordinary. In short: thanks to crowdsourcing, we transform human capital into ideas, and ideas into innovations”, says Marcin Wasilewski, leader of innovation culture building team in Innovation Lab at Bank Pekao S.A., co-creator of IdeaCrowd platform.

When a challenge on the platform is open, employees can easily submit their idea, present a solution or share their knowledge. They earn virtual points for their activity on the platform. They are awarded for submitting an idea, sharing knowledge (e.g. commenting other employees’ ideas). Thanks to gained points employees build their rank of internal innovator.

A product or business owner in the bank, responsible for a given business area, can approach the Innovation Lab team with a real problem or a project challenge. The Innovation Lab provides an internal service called “Crowdsourcing as a Service”. As part of it, it conducts a crowdsourcing campaign for the business owner of a given challenge, which is targeted at the employee community:

– From the very beginning, as part of our “Crowdsourcing as a Service” service, we work together with the product owner on the concept of the challenge: how to formulate it well and what questions to ask the employee community. In doing so, we develop a communication plan, which is also an important stage of the campaign. We want to reach as many employees as possible with the challenge. After launching the challenge on the platform, we analyze its progress on an ongoing basis, and after the campaign ends we prepare a report with a collection of all the submitted ideas. We pass them on to the product owner, with whom we can then cooperate at the creative stage,” says Marianna Różalska, Innovation Culture Specialist at Innovation Laboratory of Bank Pekao S.A., responsible for the implementation of crowdsourcing campaigns.

How the platform was created – a project like in a startup

The IdeaCrowd platform was created at the initiative of the Innovation Lab. Its design was preceded by an analysis of several dozen crowdsourcing solutions used by companies in Poland and around the world.

– We approached the design of the platform and the “Crowdsourcing as a Service” process like a startup whose goal is to develop a new solution along with a unique value proposition for the customer. We asked ourselves a key question: why do large companies decide to crowdsource employees and how do they do it? After verifying the design hypotheses within the organization – as our target market – we proceeded to build the MVP. It included both the platform technology and the service process for implementing internal crowdsourcing campaigns – says Marcin Wasilewski.

Taking into account different software models (On Premises, SaaS), Innovation Lab decided to build the platform in the On Premises variant for intranet environment. Marcin Wasilewski adds: “Thanks to that, the platform is scalable across the organization – every employee has access to it and does not need to create an account. When logging on to a company computer, they automatically log on to the platform.

The prototype was built in two project streams – parallel development of the graphic design and screen mock-ups as well as application programming. All this was done in an iterative manner. The platform was to be easy and intuitive to use, and the elements were to be arranged ergonomically. The assumptions regarding usability were verified by UX tests of the platform prototype, conducted among the employees:

– Employees (from the group of so-called early adopters) provided us with over 30 suggestions on how we could improve the platform. Thanks to UX tests we checked: how the user feels on the platform, how he uses it, what problems he encounters and what irritates him while using it. We also found out what we should improve in order to meet the expectations of future users,” says Marcin Paczuski, UX/UI designer in Innovation Lab at Bank Pekao S.A.

Today, users of the IdeaCrowd platform can:

  • submit ideas via the form,
  • add comments,
  • tag other originators in ideas or comments,
  • vote on others’ ideas or comments,
  • observe challenges and ideas,
  • Earn points for activity on the platform and get ranked as an innovator,
  • share challenges and ideas with other employees.

– After 11 months of analytical and development work, in which our IT Center was involved, the platform was ready for final testing and then for production launch. The platform project was an exemplary example of how jointly, using the competencies of the Innovation Lab and IT teams, it is possible to carry out an interesting project initiative in our bank, ending with its implementation,” says Łukasz Ptasiński, team leader in the Support Systems and Operations Office at Bank Pekao S.A.

Employees as Innovation Champions

Since the launch of the IdeaCrowd platform in May 2021, the Innovation Lab has already conducted 13 crowdsourcing campaigns for business owners, including 3 design challenges. In 10 months, more than 2,900 employees have participated in the challenges, submitting a total of as many as 3,818 ideas.

The Innovation Lab is planning more crowdsourcing campaigns for this year. There is also ongoing development work on post-implementation development of the platform.

Crowdsourcing has value for the organization

By engaging employees in innovative project activities, Bank Pekao S.A. takes a broader view of business challenges and tackles them more effectively. For example, the crowdsourcing platform has conducted an open call for business areas that can be accelerated under the Poland Prize program. Bank Pekao S.A. is a partner of the program. Product owners submitted more than a dozen project areas in which technological solutions improving or developing the project can be implemented.

Employee crowdsourcing was also used in the ideation process in project work on new solutions for senior customers. Through the platform, the project team, in a short time – during a crowdsourcing campaign lasting less than 1.5 weeks – collected dozens of valuable insights from bank branch employees who work with this customer segment on a daily basis. Based on the insights, the designers were able to conduct in-depth research verifying seniors’ outlook on banking services.

As the Innovation Lab team points out, internal crowdsourcing brings many benefits. Product owners quickly and cost-effectively receive the expertise and creativity of thousands of people without having to expand their team. For employees, on the other hand, participating in a community of innovators is a chance to co-create new solutions. Their ideas can be implemented or become an inspiration for change. In this way, Bank Pekao S.A. creates a community of equal partners in the process of increasing the innovativeness of the organization.

The article was written in cooperation with Bank Pekao S.A.

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