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Small Business Online Community

"Thank you so much for the incredible work you have provided to our team once again! Obviously, the SBOC would not be a reality today without your efforts."

— Joe Helweg, Small Business Banking eCommerce Executive

"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew for his leadership and excellent work on the Small Business Online Community launch. On the eve of national launch, I am so excited for the launch tomorrow and the following marketing and PR events. I could not be prouder of the website. And it would of course not be possible without Andrew's passion, dedication, vision, and attention to detail. Andrew - thanks for brining us to concept through implementation flawlessly."

— Ashley Ross, SVP, Small Business Banking eCommerce Solutions

"Andrew, it's been great working with you - literally day & night on the Community! I couldn't of asked for a better teammate. The site was developed in record time & meets all of our Gen 1 detailed requirements. The site looks awesome!"

— Sophia Tolsma, VP, Small Business Banking eCommerce Solutions

"First, thanks for all your hard work and drive for excellence through the entire project. The SBOC will be a big part of the Small Business strategy for future. This project's success can be directly attributed to your contribution."

— Thomas Bontempo, Bank of America eCommerce Innovation

A New Frontier for Bank of America eCommerce

The Small Business Online Community was the first major community site for Bank of America eCommerce or any major bank. The Bank's visionary leadership determined in the end of 2006 that a community site could greatly benefit small businesses and show Bank of America's commitment to helping small businesses grow. When Bank of America set about opening new horizons on the Web, it turned to AKGold Internet.

Bank of America eCommerce turned to a trusted and reliable resource. Andrew Gold successfully served as the Creative Director and Home Page Redesign Project Manager for Bank of America. He has extensive knowledge of the small business landscape and served as Creative Director of Bank of America knew that Andrew's leadership, experience, and talent could help take their idea for a community and tranform it into a success.

The Small Business Online Community went from concept to beta launchin a record seven months. On Wednesday, October 10, 2007, Bank of America's Small Business Online Community officially launched (see the official press release). Participation in the community has steadily grown. The Bank exceeded its first year membership and site metrics goals and the Small Business Online Community is a game changer for both Bank of America and the financial services industry.

AKGold Accomplishments (Description by Andrew Gold)

AKGold Internet completed the Bank of America Small Business Online Community project on time and in budget. From the beginning, we knew this was an awesome opportunity.

At the Core

The Small Business Online Community was a major project involving hundreds of people. At the core was a small and dedicated team. The executive sponsors, Mark Hogan and Joe Helweg, empowered the core team to clarify our vision and bring it to life in record time. The core team consisted of Ashley Ross, Sophia Tolsma, Brian Nichols and Andrew Gold. The extended teams consisted of workgroups in several Bank departments including eCommerce Technology, Design, Editorial, Small Business Compliance, Information Security, Marketing and Supply Chain.

The Mission and Vision

Bank of America is a world leader in eCommerce due to its vision and implementation. On February 5, 6 and 7, the real vision for the community came to life in Boston in a series of full day meetings. At the end, the Core Team walked away with a clear mission statement for the community and guiding principles. Our mission was, "Create a thriving online community that empowers people in buildig a successful business and shows that Bank of Ameria is a trusted partner."

Plan for Success

Managing a project of this scale was daunting. There were lots of teams, details, processes, documents, deliverables, and meetings. I have my mentor Andrew Lester to thank for helping me develop my project management skills and tailor them to the Bank's needs. The plan that I managed contained 22 different categories and 341 line items. When an item was complete, I colored the bankground a light yellow. It was amazing to see a spreadsheet turn from white to yellow, one line at a time, over the course of 11 months. I managed the TARs (Team Action Requests) and thanks to a capable, dedicated and hard working team, I was able to mark the TARs complete, one at a time.

Simplicity and Visualizing Success

We knew that due to the budget and time constraints for the Community we needed a clear vision that was simple. I developed mockups that captured each of the main screens and interaction capabilities for the community. We used a simple and clear presentation that clarified our vision. The mockups and crystal clear presentation of our vision and roadmap to success got us immediate buy-in from all key parties and enabled us to move fast.

Manage the Risks

There were a host of potential Bank liabilities and risks with launching the Community. Sophia Tolsma expertly managed each identified risk and mitigated the effects through solid strategies and implementations. The FMEA, Failure Mode Effects and Analysis was a critical facet of this complex project.

Find the Right Partners

In order to meet the tight timeline, the team determined that finding a 3rd party partner with skills in community systems would be the winning path for success. We clarified our requirements and had buy in from all key groups. In creating our RFP, we included the visual mockups with certain notes in order to show exactly what we wanted. This enabled us to convey key information to prospective vendors as well as cut to the chase.

On March 22 and 23 we held vendor demos in Charlotte, North Carolina. We selected Jive Software based upon their experience, quality of their Clearspace product and responsiveness of their team. Sara Denman and Jorge Dorantes did a great job of not only answering our questions but showing that they understood our vision and could translate it to life. Jive did.

Build the Community

Several stars were aligning. The eCommerce UCD&R teams were advancing each area of the community. Julian Rignall and Josh Fox were the editorial leads; Aynne Valencia was the lead interaction designer; Nicole Bloss, Tessa Merrie and Marie D'Abreo translated the wireframes and rough mockups into the beautiful designs of the community. I was happy to let progress continue while being careful to make sure that every aspect of the community met the needs of the users.

Jive Software's professional consulting team really helped give us a deep understanding of the best way to add value. The Jive Team worked incredibly fast in taking our requirements, then interaction designs, visual designs and editorial designs, and producing the Small Business Online Community. The entire Jive team was impressive. Deserving particular mention are member's of Jive's professional services team — Erskine Williams, Greg Weinger and Ken Brummer. Starting in July, I flew up to Portland each week for six weeks straight to ensure that each aspect of the community was to our specifications and to work with the Jive software engineers.

Launch the Community

The Small Business Online Community had three stages of launches - the UAT launch, the Beta Launch and then finally the Public Launch. On the Bank side, Jeoffrey Burbridge did a wonderful job of enlisting the Beta user group through several Small Business Specialists at the Banking centers. By the time of the public launch on October 10, 2007 we were confident that small business users all over the world would be delighted with a new community that would not only help them, but also listen to their needs and improve the community to meet the needs of the users.

Read the official Bank of America Small Business Online Commmunity press release.

Multi-Channel Community Adoption Plan

Our team had a multi-channel plan to promote the community and ensure wide-scale adoption. There were concurrent efforts to promote the community through a general marketing plan and advertising, through and on the home pages, banking center support and through Business 24/7 Magazine. Lamont Young joined the core team and his efforts really help to drive adoption. He was instrumental in connecting the Small Business Online Community to Business 24/7 Magazine which has nearly one million printings and is distributed nationally through banking centers.

The initial promotion efforts were successful. As we predicted, the community would grow from within through the strong user base while the additional efforts helped increase awareness of the community.

You Reap What You Sow

From the beginning of the project, I used the metaphor that we were planting a garden but we did not know exactly how it would grow. Our job was to prepare the soil and have the tools in place so that when we threw down the seeds, we were prepared. Our job was to be good gardeners and support the growth, not try to overly control it, while still providing protection against dangerous weeds.

Since its inception, the Small Business Online Community has empowered small business users to connect, ask questions, give advice, share stories and interact with one another in a positive and supportive environment. It was an exciting experience for the team, the Bank and also Jive Software who received major funding by Sequoia Capital during the project.

It was an honor to serve such an exciting role in helping Bank of America and its customers take eCommerce into a bright new future and work with so many talented people with a passion for quality and excellence. See my story on the community: "Building An Internet Bridge to the Future."

Keep going when you have a good thing. Bank of America Small Business turned to AKGold Internet again for the Small Business Online Community: Generation 2.

AKGold Project Summary:

Vision. Experience. Results.
Leading digital product strategy, design and development since 1995.
Design and dev by Andrew Gold. Copyright © 2013 AKGold Internet, Inc.