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Business Techonomy Events

Citi’s Deborah Hopkins on Horizontal Business Models

In this session from Techonomy 2011, in Tuscon, Ariz., Techonomy’s Adam Ludwig asks Deborah Hopkins, Chairman of Venture Capital Initiatives and Chief Information Officer at Citi, about the shift from vertical business models to horizontal ones. While it’s clear that the top-down approach to business is dying, she says, it doesn’t mean it’s easy for businesses to adopt new ways. Also appearing in this video: Kendall Collins, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Salesforce Chatter.

Ludwig: Debbie, can you speak to what the attitude is within a corporation about this idea of making the inside of an enterprise look more like the outside world in terms of how people connect and how people are “real” with each other and whether that is sometimes perceived as a threat within a corporate culture?

Hopkins: Sure, I think we talked about this a bit this morning, it goes back to this concept of everything being so hardware wired and vertical and really there’s recognition that where our business growth lies is in a very horizontal view of the world and it’s about collaboration and it’s about partnership. So I think the opportunity that we’re very invested in and really empowering is not only letting groups form, but it’s letting people know that you should know each other and bringing them to each other. You should know this information, because it looks to me like you’re interested in social networking. So it’s making it relevant. So there are opportunities here in some of the capabilities that are being developed here to really bring you relevant information.

I mean, I think email will go away.  It’s a really outdated way—how many of us turn on our email and go, “Uuugh”? How much of it is relevant? And so really this is how we’re all thinking about our customers is bringing them relevant information. Well, that’s what we want for our employees, is bringing them relevant information for what it appears they work on. Frankly, we don’t even have org charts anymore. A lot of companies have given up on that. It’s that ability to securely allow group work on projects. Because, certainly, like in our work, we’re incubating with businesses all the time. So we’ll form a group and we want to be able to freely talk back and forth about a project or even let’s say an investment banking deal. So all of these things are extremely relevant. What the challenge becomes is actually companies still kind of do work that way and it is a change in the way things get done. So it is a letting go. But at the same time, and certainly our company, we’re regulated, but we’re really trying to embrace this and figure out our way through how to make it happen, obviously, without tripping any wires and so forth from a regulatory standpoint. But you know, it’s happening, it’s already happened. So we want to be part of that and we think it is critical to the growth of the company.

Ludwig: Do you find that it’s happening from the employee side?  From the bottom up, the top down? Or is it kind of happening from both sides and meeting in the middle?

Hopkins: It’s definitely bottom up. I think I mentioned this this morning, we’re doing the Citi Ideas concept, where it’s a collaboration platform and people can comment and vote and so forth. And when a leader goes through that for their own business and puts up a question or puts up a challenge and sees how powerful it is, that’s when they jump in. So again, they have to experience it to understand the power. I mean, maybe they’re on Facebook in their personal lives but when they understand the power to their organization, they get in. They get invested. But the employees, they just bring their personal lives and their professional lives just mesh together. There’s much more of a blurry line these days. So it’s been really interesting to watch when even most senior executives suddenly see the power of this collaboration and how people can suddenly come together and then for us, it’s being able to find—we have incredibly skilled people that have deep knowledge around the world and being able to find them on a particular topic is a huge value for us.

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