Blending work and life on smartphones

Todd Schofield of Standard Chartered makes enterprise application platforms from consumer smartphones.

Interview conducted by Alan Morrison, Bud Mathaisel, and Terry Retter
Photo: Tom Conophy

Todd Schofield is the global head of enterprise mobility at Standard Chartered, a bank headquartered in London with 1,700 branches in 70 countries. In this interview, Schofield outlines the bank’s innovative approach to standardizing on an applicationcentric smartphone platform, and he describes how smart handhelds have opened new vistas for enterprise applications.

PwC: What’s your role currently at Standard Chartered, and what were you doing before you came to the company?

TS: I’ve been with Standard Chartered for a couple of years now. I moved into a new role about a year ago to do a transition to the iPhone. I also recently relocated from Singapore to the San Francisco Bay Area to set up a small innovation technology office for Standard Chartered. Our plan is to tap the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area resources that can really help ensure that we deliver very rich content.

Before taking on this role, I was in charge of the client systems at Standard Chartered—all of the various platforms that have to do with end users. This included our 80,000 desktops and laptop PCs, BlackBerry devices, Active Directory, e-mail, and SharePoint.

What’s the scope of your conversion plan to the iPhone platform?

We are geared up to continue to produce iPhone apps and iPad apps, and we also will look at other platforms for both internal and external use. This includes our customers for the retail bank, which we call our consumer bank, as well as our wholesale bank and what kind of value we can help add there.

What’s the strategy behind the plan?

We want to be more application driven than e-mail driven, which is why we chose to convert to 8,000 iPhones. We want to move from an e-mail-centric device to an application-centric device that also does e-mail.

What we are really after is how we can do business more effectively with an application-centric platform. In our case, the bank is buying each iPhone, and so it’s considered a corporate device—not something the individual owns. The bank owns the iPhone and the data plan for it. And we are building the infrastructure to be able to support that. We have already written our own internal suite of applications for the iPhone, and those are being rolled out now to our iPhone users.

We encourage people to load apps that they like or find useful, as well as the Standard Chartered applets that we can push and pull to their screens.

What have you been doing to implement the plan?

This is uncharted territory in terms of device controls; we’ve made some decisions to see that essential controls are put in place. For example, we are not allowing users to install iTunes on their work computers, although we are encouraging people to install it on their home computers.

That means when they want to upgrade the OS [operating system] or add a patch, they will need to do it from their home PC. We don’t allow them to install it on their work PC because we don’t want to give admin rights to everyone or open ourselves up to bandwidth utilization issues. Even though only 8,000 people will have iPhones, we expect that number to grow to between 13,000 and 15,000 by the end of 2010. We don’t want these users’ media libraries to live on corporate PCs.

That being said, we have been positioning the iPhone as a blended work/life device. We encourage people to load apps that they like or find useful, as well as the Standard Chartered applets that we can push and pull to their screens.

This model moves away somewhat from the traditional controls approach that we have for our PCs. For the iPhone, we don’t have the same kind of visibility because it’s not connecting to the corporate network in the way a Windows PC is. The user is responsible for upgrading the OS on their own home computer’s iTunes. That’s a bit of a mind shift.

So we are moving away from traditional extremely tight control. But from another viewpoint, we also need to maintain control. We need to make sure that development standards are adhered to, that hardware standards are adhered to, that there’s compatibility with our Exchange systems, VPN [virtual private network] systems, or the interface back into our enterprise systems. All that stuff can be very delicate. If people were trying to use all sorts of different devices, we’d spend so much time and effort just trying to make it work — that’s one reason for standardizing on the iPhone.

How did you come to a decision to offer the iPhone and support it this way?

This was the brainchild of Jan Verplancke, who is our CIO. Jan was very interested in moving to a more dynamic platform. He wants to see how can we move to this next phase? How can we move to a new stage?

How can we do things better? How can we do things differently? We have some very good support from Peter Sands, who is the CEO of the bank that Jan directly reports to. Peter really buys into this vision also, as far as wanting us to be a technologydriven organization as opposed to just a technology-supported organization.

He sees the iPhone as having the potential and the capability as well as the critical mass in the consumer world to be able to make that transition to overlap into that enterprise base. He doesn’t expect this to ever become a fully corporate device. He understands that this is a consumer device, but it is something that is strong enough now to be used in the enterprise world.

The traditional laptop with a VPN and message-centric mobile devices become very limiting. When salespeople, for example, need to update sales files, they wind up doing that long after the fact through their laptops. If we can offer instant access through an iPhone, then updating sales files is something that we can make easy. We can do a whole variety of things both with stuff that we write internally as well as third-party apps.

The other piece of this—which some organizations see as a negative, but we see as a positive—is the Apple SDK [software development kit]. To many people, that means Apple has the control and you can’t deviate from what they do. We see that as a positive thing rather than something that’s limiting.

We want applications that are going to be written in a very standard way using the SDK and that are going to be there for more consistency and more reliability. If we do something that’s a bit more open source, then it winds up in the different flavors of open source and can wind up being nonstandard. But because Apple is so focused and tightly controlled on the way that development works for this platform, we think it will allow us to provide better applications to our users and will allow us ultimately to provide better service to our customers.

You’re responding to a mix of different demands, both internal and external, yes?

Definitely. We expect to start to get more ideas from the staff, and that’s where we think a lot of the great ideas will come from. The staff is on the front lines, looking at what the possibilities are as people become more familiar with the iPhone platform and what it can do.

For instance, we could use location-based services to tell what’s going on in an office or in a city, or use the bar-code-reading feature to do asset management tracking of our PCs or paperwork that’s bar coded as it flows through our systems.

And as we are doing that, we are looking to see where we can add value. We don’t want to create an app just because it’s neat. We want it to be something that will add value to the bank and make people’s lives easier.

In this issue of the Technology Forecast, we’re contrasting content creation and content consumption. There is an emerging category in the middle we call engagement— interacting with the content to some extent, say on an iPad, but not doing something as involved as building spreadsheets. Can we talk a bit about that third category?

An example of “engagement” might be the acronym directory app we’ve created that’s available through the iPhone. So if I see “CB” [for commercial bank] all over the place, when I go to that commercial bank, and I look it up, I discover that CB actually means consumer bank, and so I can add that definition for CB. We’ve done that for a little iPhone applet now. Also, if I try to look up wholesale bank for “WB” and it’s not there, I can add in “WB,” and that abbreviation in turn will show up on everyone’s iPhone. It becomes a collaborative effort and something that is a bit more like a wiki, so that we can collaborate and share information. We definitely wanted apps for folks to be able to consume content, but we also want the ability for our people to add value and add content, because that’s where we think that the space needs to go.

What best practices or innovations have you developed to roll out the iPhone environment?

A lot of it links to back to the security. For example, we use unique digital certificates for access to the VPN, as well as to the wireless itself. If I’m an iPhone user, a certificate is generated for me in a configuration profile, and I then put it on my iPhone. It will install only on my iPhone. If something happens to my phone, we can revoke access to that certificate immediately. We can remote-wipe the phone.

Another new thing we’re doing is that we are not blocking any content from the iPhone that we do block from the PCs, and this is because the folks who have iPhones are, generally speaking, the folks who are working like crazy. We don’t want to disrupt what they are doing. We want them to be able to take full advantage of the device in both their personal lives as well as their work life. We are using this as a benefit for employees, so they can take care of some of their personal things as well as take care of their work things, all through one device.

We expect and require users to be professional and follow the rules. But we also need to change the control mind-set in which we are accustomed to being in full control, with PCs and the networks locked down. We have to break ourselves of that mentality. Instead, we trust our users and assume that they will behave responsibly.

A lot of the return in the long run is going to be about employee efficiency and effectiveness— how they can be more proactive, have better and faster access to information, and can hold these unlimited possibilities in the palm of their hands wherever they happen to be in the world.

One of the principles that Jan is really after is that we don’t want to punish the 99.9 percent of people who behave for the 0.1 percent of people who misbehave. We would rather deal with that 0.1 percent appropriately, and we have the normal policies you would expect about being a responsible corporate user and representing the bank in a professional manner—all this is part of an employment contract. But as offenders come along, we will certainly deal with them in the appropriate way. We really try to make sure that we are empowering users to do more in both their personal life as well as their professional life.

You are investing a good deal of money in this. What do you think the payoffs are going to be? How did you convince management to make these extensive investments? There must have been some expectation of a return. What do you think that return is going to be?

A lot of the return in the long run is going to be about employee efficiency and effectiveness—how they can be more proactive, have better and faster access to information, and can hold these unlimited possibilities in the palm of their hands wherever they happen to be in the world.

We don’t know what limits we will hit with the iPhone or iPad. We see it as kind of limitless. We could push it in so many different ways.