Interview: BBVA Takes Flight into the Cloud
Major bank BBVA has been spreading its wings into the cloud by slowly replacing its Microsoft Exchange solutions with Google’s corporate on-line tools such as Gmail, Google Talk and Google Docs. Opinno spoke to Carmen Lopez, director of BBVA’s Innovation Observatory, about the reasons and process behind the gradual 100,000+ employee switch to Google’s offerings.
Lopez explained that BBVA wanted to be innovative in the way its employees interacted with each other and they felt Google presented the best mix of efficiency and engagement.
“It’s changing the way we are working,” she said. “ We now have the collective talent of the whole organization and we are eliminating duplicate work.”
BBVA’s Spain IT department began experimenting with the service last summer with all other global IT offices adopting the platform in the fall. In December, BBVA began replacing its Spanish employees’ Exchange system with Google’s. As with any change, a bit of apprehension was experienced at first, but going forward the results have been positive.
“We are happy,” said Lopez. “[The employees] are slowly realizing that this is useful. Other departments are asking when they are going to be able to have access.”
She added the global rollover should be complete by the end of the year.
Lopez said it normally requires three weeks for a particular department to fully realize the benefits of the system. “We are starting to chat, share docs and generally make use of it,” she said. “This is going to become a daily practice.”
BBVA, which is the seventh largest bank in the world, decided that Google’s cloud offerings made the most sense for its needs. That is, BBVA wanted a large company that could deliver and it found Google to be “mature” and “tightly implemented.”
In addition to increased employee collaborations, Lopez said BBVA’s IT department is planning to benefit as well because of the ease of cloud-based administration. “We are more agile,” she said and the development cycle is expected to be shorter.
That said, cost and ease were not the most pressing issue for BBVA’s move. Lopez declined to comment on the cost of the change, though Google’s basic per-user charge is €5 per month for business users with additional features costing more. Rather, Lopez said the bank was more focused on innovation.
The overall security of cloud-based systems is an ongoing concern, especially with sensitive data that is held and generated by financial and medical organizations. Several solutions are being put forward to address this (see Opinno’s article on secure clouds), but Lopez assured that BBVA is being cautious.
“As a bank, we are extremely concerned with security,” she said. “ We always have this in mind. Google is with us closely and we are meeting European Union regulations.”
All of Google’s products can be used via SSL (secure sockets layer) and, in addition, Google Talk is encrypted.
There has been some speculation in the press as to whether or not BBVA has plans to adopt other cloud-based, non-Microsoft solutions. When asked about the possibility of leaving Office for Google Docs, Lopez said that “the employees will have Office on their desktops” and that “they know the advantages of using both.” She further added that “it’s not a replacement, it’s a compliment.”
To conclude, Lopez said that she tries to avoid catching buzz-word fever in regards to the cloud or any other emerging technology. Rather, she says that “the technology is there to help you and you have to understand [it]. Ultimately, she said, businesses simply need to go with what works best for them.