Success Story National Australia Bank

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National Australia Bank Adopts Active Operations Management to Transform Customer Service Performance


A boom in the Australian economy and low-interest rates triggered a 20% growth in the demand for home loans. Rather than reaping the benefits of the market expansion National Australia Bank (NAB) experienced unprecedented backlogs and rising turnaround times resulting in lost business and dissatisfied customers.

On wider investigation it was apparent to Mark Steyn, then General Manager of Customer Service and Operations (CS&O) that the problems in back-office operations were systemic and impacting not just Lending Services but other units as well: Inappropriate or misaligned measurement criteria and key performance indicators (KPIs) encouraging blinkered management – a focus on cost control through the reduction of staff levels meant each team was pared back to the minimum, reducing flexibility and creating wide variations in productivit levels.

National Australia Bank Logo
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Large quotationsComparison of performance management across CS&O was difficult. Planning tools were inconsistent and were at best based on spreadsheets. There was little sharing of best practices.

Key Benefits


Delivering competence from the bottom up and operational change from the top down.

The far-reaching AOM program introduced sound management principles, reflecting best practices for the business, and required a commitment to change at all levels of the organization. All staff needed to adopt new levels of accountability and forward planning. Senior management had to change from a headcount mindset to a unit cost and productivity mentality. Team leaders and members learned to break down team silos and embrace flexibility and empowerment, thus creating an agile, motivated workforce where resources could be redeployed in different teams to meet demand through internal transfers. With the top-down energy and commitment in place, ActiveOps set about helping NAB to professionalize its operations management practices from the bottom up. A team of facilitators was trained and supported during the first three months of implementation, they, in turn, worked with front line managers and supervisors to improve the basic day to day control of work.

The internal teams supported by ActiveOps set about gaining a greater understanding of the work being undertaken by bundling service tasks and assessing the resource and skill levels needed for delivery. The improved control and understanding of work created confidence and enabled managers to plan operations with greater accuracy.

In helping to balance resources and demand more effectively ActiveOps supported the adoption of a more active planning and forecasting approach. With input from all levels of management, the operational forecast was implemented on a 12-month rolling basis. The target variance between forecast and actual was set at plus or -20% for the 12-month window but progressively reduced to under 5% variance for the weekly plan as plans were systematically refined over time. The process was supported by the ActiveOps WorkwareTM software package to track performance daily vs forecast and to share metrics and planning information.

  • 17% improvement in productivity levels
  • 95% accuracy
  • 30% increase in resourcing for core and high-value activities
  • 9-month return on investments
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People discussing and pointing at documents on desk..

Large quotationsThe basic question has always been the same: how many people do I need to work in my center next Thursday?. That comes down to two things: how much work is coming in, and what we can do. We can now forecast very accurately how much work will come in, and we can now calculate what we can do. It’s a fundamental change in the philosophy of how the business runs – and it works.

Nigel Adams - Manager of Operations & Services

The active management of operations also encouraged the proactive use of planned or unplanned slack time for either non-urgent core activity or staff training. Using the time for training helped to support the development of a more flexible and multiskilled workforce.

A fitter business to face the future. Although the immediate issues faced by Lending Services were addressed tactically by significant overtime it was AOM that offered a sustainable strategy and for the long-term, a stronger, more agile operations function.

NAB management now have improved levels of confidence and operation control across the organization. By increasing visibility of workloads and capacity, enabling better forecasting, and developing a flexible, multi-skilled workforce the AOM program was able to address internal and customer-facing demands. Unit processing costs were reduced while at the same time new aligned metrics and KPIs showed increased customer service and quality. With productivity significantly increased and much more stable, NAB is now able to deliver a consistent customer experience with a more motivated, diverse, and empowered workforce.

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