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Digital Transformation Doesn’t Have to be This Hard! Go Pragmatic!

By James Wooster (COO, Glue42)

The phrase “digital transformation” conjures up an image of a multi-million-dollar IT-led program, in which systems and processes are aligned to a new corporate strategy. Drill-down a little further and “legacy stack replacement”, “process automation” and “business process re-engineering” will all be part of the plan. These are heavy-weight tasks, any one of which would require board-level funding. Furthermore, IT initiatives on this scale are high-risk, costly and time consuming. It doesn’t have to be this way!

The fact is, digital transformation is simply a means to an end. The ‘end’ being the satisfaction of your clients and/or partners, and the consequential growth of revenue and profit. It is not surprising therefore, that the most successful transformation programs begin with the needs of the employees. In a wealth management business, this tends to be those financial advisors (FAs) who drive customer acquisition and pipeline growth.

The Forrester Report on Employee Experience Management makes it clear that an employee-centric view of transformation is where the smart-money goes.

By understanding the needs of FAs, and giving them the right tools for the job, their performance will improve, costs will reduce and customer satisfaction will increase. Consequently, this will have a positive impact on business outcomes and company revenues.  As such, organisations need to take a closer look at their internal processes and the desktop environments on which they are performed.

In tier-1 wealth management firms it is not unusual to find FAs searching through 50+ applications to find the right one for their needs. Worse still, because they were written at different times, by different teams, they all try and grab as much of the screen real-estate as they can. In addition, because there is likely to be a mix of old and new applications, sharing data between applications (e.g. client, instrument, etc) becomes very difficult. This, as the IT department will explain, is because the applications were all written using different technology stacks that were never designed to interoperate.

If this sounds like a criticism of IT then it’s not. It is very rare for developers to get to see a real-world FA desktop. If they did, they would soon realise that their application is just one small part of the entire user-journey.

Thankfully there are a set of standards being developed, specifically for financial services, that seek to put an end to the ‘unruly’ desktop. For example, finos.org, is proposing common mechanisms by which applications can be found and then integrated with other applications. By adopting these standards and the right kind of desktop management software it becomes possible to:

  • Share data between old legacy applications and new SaaS based applications e.g. the old CRM system and the new;
  • Migrate from legacy applications one screen at a time;
  • Integrate MS-Office applications directly into other desktop applications;
  • Monitor application usage in real-time enabling e.g. which applications are used and for how long etc.

In practical terms, a desktop environment that looks like this:

digital

…can be transformed into something that looks like this:

digital

The goal is that the end-user is no longer aware of using different applications and instead, everything appears as a single interface designed for their role. No copy/paste and no searching the for the next application. A user-experience that matches the user-process.

Remember, this is achieved through re-use of the existing applications and forcing them to behave nicely on the same desktop. No longer does the FA need to shuffle applications across one or many physical screens. Re-use also has another benefit. The existing security models, permissions and entitlement systems simply carry on working. Whatever constraints/privileges that existed in the original application will remain.

For IT, this means quicker time to value and the avoidance of delivery risk. Operational staff get to monitor user behaviour and use that insight to refine future processes. End-users get the tools to do the job and can once again focus on the important things – customer satisfaction. The business gets the benefits of digital transformation without the heart-ache that would normally accompany it.

Examples of this are live today across thousands of desktops in mission critical environments.

This then, is pragmatic Digital Transformation.

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