Case Study: National Australia Bank

ActiveOps Case Study: National Australia Bank

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.

Benefits Gained


improvement in productivity levels


accuracy in forecasting levels


increase in resourcing for core and high value activities

9 Months

Return on investment

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 productivity levels.

Comparison of performance management across CS&O was difficult. Planning tools were inconsistent and were at best based on spread sheets. There was little sharing of best practice.

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

The far-reaching AOM programme introduced sound management principles, reflecting best practice for the business, and required a commitment to change at all levels of the organisation. 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 professionalise its operations management practices from the bottom up. A team of facilitators were 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 + or -20% for the 12 month window but progressively reduced to less than 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.

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.

Nigel Adams, now General Manager of Operations & Services, says “The basic question has always been the same: how many people do I need to work in my centre 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.”

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 a control across the organisation. By increasing visibility of workloads and capacity, enabling better forecasting and developing a flexible, multi-skilled workforce the AOM programme 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.

ActiveOps supported the original rollout of the programme to 1,500 CS&O staff. The programme then extended to over 2,500 NAB staff with the deployment of locally trained, internal facilitators. With the increased internal capability as a result of knowledge transfer and learning, the active approach to operations management has since been adopted in many other areas of the company. Lead facilitator Julianne Duncan summed this up: “One of the greatest strengths of the approach is the knowledge transfer. ActiveOps did not solve the problem for us; they guided us into a new way of thinking about the business with best practice, support and tools to enable us to continue to solve these and future problems. They helped us to help ourselves.”