Bulldoze the silos

There’s evangelistic commentary everywhere about banking’s forward-thrusting adoption of digital technologies; so much so that it’s easy to gain the impression that here is a sector that has it all completely buttoned down.

It has enthusiastically responded to the capabilities presented by new technologies, it has gone digital and mobile, and embraced new ideas and approaches brought into the industry by agile start-ups and disruptors.

On closer inspection, it becomes obvious that there is still plenty more to fix because – in the context of digital transformation – there are deeply-embedded sub-strata of traditional practices running through the operations of many banks today; a deep vein of encrusted and traditional ways of doing things that need to be chipped away at, if not bulldozed out of the business.

Banks are not alone in having long identified 2020 as a (or even the) watershed year in attaining full digital maturity, yet now it’s only two years away and banks still have data management best practice on their agendas, if not in their current actions.

A key area is customer-centricity. It defines all business models in every customer-facing business. This is where the revenue comes from, so it follows that this is where the focus of most of a bank’s transformation efforts should be directed. This is also the area in which the breaking down of silos – or, to look at it in more constructive terms, the unification of all aspects of the business – can have the most re-invigorating effect across the business.

The value of knowing what you know

If there are silos, there is data in different repositories. This implies unnecessary costs, heightened risks, longer processing times, and possible inconsistency and perceived confusion in how a bank presents itself and its value to customers.

If a bank uses standalone portals for different services, and/or if this approach is compounded by the outsourcing of business processes, then it is less likely to know what it knows about its customers.

It will ask questions of customers that they believe they have already responded to in their application for other services; it will also fail to identify opportunities for cross-sell and up-sell of services simply because the services are not ‘joined up’. It will frustrate customers. To realise the business value of customer data, any organisation must know what it knows. That way, through integrated customer data, it gets optimum effectiveness through enhanced analytics; and in that manner in front of it lies customer-centricity.

It’s a high-level goal that can be easily attained if banks address the way in which they structure both their operations and their business models. Corporate culture and data both have a critical role to play in getting this right.

My colleague, Glynn Roberts, discussed in one of his blogs how the lack of a single view of the customer within banks ultimately sows the seeds of customer frustration and even dissatisfaction.

He observes that: “… most banks do not store information about customers as single entities within their data repositories. Normally, this information is fragmented across multiple systems, product records and business units. Think about how many times you’ve had to repeat basic information when dealing with different departments within your bank.”

 

Data collected stored in different departments (or even beyond the business, where BPO is practiced) is often also in different systems. Inconsistencies will fall under the regulator’s microscope in May when GDPR comes in effect, and this will add further impetus to the strategic imperative to adopt consistent management practices to data. Meanwhile, every organisation should ask itself this question:

What does customer-centricity look like to a customer?

Once you accept that customer-centricity is an essential strategy, then it must be swung into action quickly and with a balanced approach to budget and corporate expectations. I mentioned that this is a question of corporate culture and data. The one follows the other.

The company requires a universally subscribed-to vision as to how it can drive better commercial outcomes by merging information, goals, sites, and data. All departments and all systems need to work together i.e. be ‘joined up’.

The key drivers for this are how you wish the customer to perceive the entirety of the services you can offer, the benefits of working with one provider across all financial products/requirements, and the motivating factors, rewards, incentives, or service excellence, that will encourage and build loyalty.

What does the customer really want? I suggest that it can be summed up in one word: convenience. Customers want to land on the site and get what they need done without any complications, delay, or confusion. Understanding the customer journey and setting out your products and services in the most logical and convenient fashion are about adopting design thinking to the look, layout, and logic of your online presence, supported by one single view of the customer obtained through the data, integrated, regardless of the source through which it came to you.

Customers should always be just one click away from what they’re looking for. We’re all familiar with Monzo. Take another look. Notice how easy it is to understand, how the site flows from one basic service to the next, how the site is designed in a clean way with no clutter or side-bars, no diversions to block the convenience factor. “It might just be the future of banking,” says a Guardian article.

The best of all possible worlds

Banks’ core business has been threatened before and will no doubt be threatened again. The sector is resilient. Now it needs to up the stakes in its agility. No bank is prepared to concede that the future of banking will be dominated by disruptors. Banks need to open their arms to other organisations, while sharing insights and technologies through APIs. I summarise this approach to customers I would explain it ‘lighten up’: throwing a few sandbags out of the basket to lighten the load and attain new heights.

DXC offers direct help for banks at our digital transformation centres[bc1] where we share the practices of digital design, and the strategies of iterative development encapsulated in the development of minimum viable products and minimum viable concepts (MVP and MVC). By adopting technology development approaches that are iterative – agile development as opposed to waterfall, for example, and DevOps – we enable banks to quickly see what the future can look like and what true customer-centricity they can achieve.

2020 is just around the corner

Whilst that approaching date, despite its symmetry, should not alone be the trigger for faster go-to-market strategies, it does focus the mind. There is no need to invest vast budgets and thousands of hours in developing fully-fledged solutions when a bank can release innovations quickly and refine them later, in response to reactions from users and target groups.

It’s a challenging time for banks, but really it always has been. Accepting that banks have to move from traditional approaches, understanding that silos are a thing of the past and that the key to customer-centricity lies in how you manage data are all essential first steps. My overall recommendation is that you should take those steps now, before your customers find a more convenient banking provider elsewhere.