Customer, then infrastructure

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IBM own a genius global brand initiative called Smarter Planet. You have surely seen it. It’s genius in a Keyser Söze way:
Who doesn’t want to be (feel/act/become/be considered) smarter?

Under this Brand umbrella, the IBM Smarter Banking proposition is:

The way our planet manages its money needs to get a whole lot smarter – and now it can.

It’s impossible to argue with that (or at least it’s fruitless – I know there are many organisations that will still try).

Customer behaviours have evolved and are evolving incredibly quickly. The pace at which they adopt new technology appears beyond the reach of many incumbent financial institutions. This has triggered the gross (good) proliferation of FinTech startups who truly want to make the world a better place (and aren’t planning to wait around for the incumbents).

The IBM Banking team have a broadcast Twitter account.
They tirelessly tweet links about Banking – unsurprisingly from a technology perspective.
It’s hard to tell who they’re engaging with (they haven’t responded to a single Twitter user within >90 days).

Tonight this tweet arrested my attention:

It’s the sort of tweet I zero in on – in pursuit of signs we’re approaching the Tipping Point. The point where trusted enterprise sales whisperers not only ‘get’ that something needs to be done, but believe they have something tangible to sell.

So I click.

The linked article (1,100 words) promises great riches: banks that ‘crack the code’ of better customer experience…

…will position themselves to seize phenomenal opportunities to engage with customers

I’m hooked.

Here are some highlights:

Banks have made interaction with customers too complicated and frustrating.

Can’t argue with that.  It’s tricky to find a customer of an incumbent financial institution that is truly delighted by their experience.

Banks have focused too much on product, subjecting customers to multiple-step processes to complete transactions and to switch between multiple products.

Spot on. Processes designed from the product-out have too rarely considered the impact on a single customer needing to consume more than one at once.

Banks must leverage… mobility, big data, real-time analytics and omnichannel capabilities.

No article on future of banking would be complete without mentioning these.

Customers realize they have multiple banking options, often selecting different institutions for different services.

Indeed they do. More importantly, the customer of tomorrow doesn’t have to realise this – they’ll expect/know no other way.

Banks have done a poor job of keeping up with evolving customer needs and technology.

Past tense, present tense, worryingly close to being future tense.

Banks are now spending 35-40 percent of their expenditure on governance, risk and compliance. This coupled with high maintenance costs on legacy applications, makes it very difficult for banks to find the money to make these changes.

This estimate may be a huge lowball. Run The Bank (RTB) vs. Change The Bank (CTB) for large matrix organisations is often > 70/30. The current programme of regulatory compliance is paralysing many existing organisations.

Banks organized by product line are myopic to business opportunities and complicate transactions for customers

Exactly. Perverse though it is, this situation still persists at a huge number of companies. Even if it has been ‘solved’ on the org chart, the cultural impediments to a truly customer-centric business purpose may take a generation to overcome.

It will take several years for banks to implement the necessary changes to become customer-centric.

Wait. What? Why?

better experience; higher revenues

OK, I’ve teased this out to help a little.

Because that’s 1,100 words – without once mentioning customer value.

Now I may be being a little disingenuous. The blog is published on a site called “BANK SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY”. (That’s a multi-billion dollar URL right there.)

But ask yourself. In your organisation – however novel and agile (or however incumbent and threatened) where are you making your technology stack decisions?

What comes first – the technology architecture or the customer need?

Not quite sure?

Think it’s a close call?

No. It’s really not. It’s binary.

Customer-centric; Digitally Enabled.

You either live, breath and sleep customer centricity or you don’t get it at all.

Start (and finish) every meeting thinking about your customer.

Encourage your organisation – from its very edge to its very heart – to think like a customer – and then act.

If you’re not doing this by default – not out of desperation, but desire, well, I don’t even want to know you.

Don’t build your customer centric; enabled-by-digital organisation out from an infrastructural perspective.

Starting with the customer is sustainable.

Customer first. Then (and only then) infrastructure.

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