With its technology smarts, vast global banking network and deep treasury staff, $62.5 billion Microsoft regularly helps define state-of-the-art treasury operations. So when treasury called eight of Microsoft's primary banks to its Redmond, Wash., campus for an intensive two-day workshop in March, participants got a glimpse of the future. It's called XML. At the workshop, "we went through our strategy for partnering with banks to migrate our electronic communication to XML," says George Zinn, treasurer and corporate vice president at Microsoft. "We worked out a technology road map in detail, including all the data fields. And we got agreement on how all of us would use those fields."

Microsoft hopes to free itself from dealing with diverse proprietary bank reporting formats. The goal is to get all communication in messages that are strictly standardized and consistent, regardless of the bank. The software giant also expects its reports to be enriched with useful data about payments that today's formats can't carry, explains Anita Prasad, general manager for treasury capital management.

Microsoft, with several hundred bank accounts at more than 80 banks, is deep into a project to switch bank statements to the new ISO 20022 XML bank reporting format by February, reports Christy Barwick, a senior manager in treasury who is overseeing the project.

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