July 17, 2023

Organisation: The Role of People in Driving Digital Transformation

There are very few businesses in the financial services sector which would not profess to be in some way undergoing a digital transformation. The challenges are, how successful are they in their endeavours, and how far are they in their journey?

To provide context against which to measure their own progress, participants in the most recent Technology & Innovation Forum virtual workshop were treated to a series of insights from Conrad Ford, Chief Product Officer at Allica Bank, in an interview organised by the Finativ team.

Transformation is Change, and Change is about People

Of course, digital transformation is a journey, not an event, but given the continuous development of technology and the speed with which it evolves, it is a journey “without end”. Continuous change is a fundamental challenge to any business, and not just in the sense of keeping up with the latest tech, still more to the culture and organisation of the group of people who have to live with it.

Absolute Clarity Around the Business Mission

As with any change, genuine digital transformation necessitates a strategic approach, led from the top and with a limited number of key objectives to be achieved in a foreseeable timeframe, with transparency throughout the organisation of the role that each individual is expected to play in reaching those targets. Once everyone has their goals, a strong, confident and unified leadership team should leave people to get on with their jobs and decide how to deliver, with the minimum of interference.

This translates into cross-functional Product Squads encompassing all the essential technical skills and competencies, each led by a Product Owner who is a technologist at the core but who has a deep understanding of the financial services business.

Constant, Incremental Change Carries Less Risk

At first glance, that statement might seem counter-intuitive, given the reduced governance at play with small, agile teams deciding their own priorities. However, when you think about the risk associated with, and the failure rate of, major, “big-bang” project launches and go-lives, it starts to make more sense.

Part of the answer is that good technologists and engineers are intuitively good architects; these teams are unlikely to design and build something that fails to work, and they will instinctively know how and where their product fits in the wider digital ecosystem. Furthermore, in the case of a major, unexpected situational change – something which seems to be an increasingly regular occurrence in recent times – these small, agile teams help the business respond more nimbly.

Communication and Progress are Key

Whilst the Product Squad itself is composed of technical specialists, clear and constant communication with the BAU operation is essential. Similarly, for the product users, whether internal or client-facing, it is important that they recognise regular, tangible progress and outcomes to avoid any risk of “change fatigue”.

External Providers Must Offer a Cultural Fit

Outsourcing of technology can work just as effectively, subject to the solution provider being fully competent in agile tech development and being able to behave and interact with the business in the same way as an internal Product Squad. Equally, there is no reason why a company should not supplement its Product Squad with external capacity, especially to meet a short-term spike in demand or another of those “unexpected situational changes”, provided that the contracted resource is a good fit with the existing team and culture.

Looking to the Future

Allica Bank has deliberately and strategically decided to tackle a niche where the lender-client relationship is key. And for Allica, technology is a critical enabler in making the economics of relationship banking work. The business is structured to be open to the possibilities that technology offers and to embrace the myriad and continuous, incremental changes and improvements it brings.

Even now, Generative AI is being actively investigated and considered; that is not seen as a threat but rather as an opportunity, recognising its potential to act as an “assistant” to the human relationship manager.

Become Part of an Exclusive Community Driving the Transformation Agenda

If you are motivated to connect with industry leaders, share best practices, and actively participate in pushing forward with digital transformation in the motor and asset finance industry, we invite you to join us.

Our community is uniquely focused on technology in our sector, offering unparalleled opportunities to engage in thought-provoking discussions and innovative thinking.

The next Technology and Innovation Forum is scheduled for Wednesday 20th September, and will start to explore some of the almost limitless use-cases for data interrogation. Join your peers at this event to delve deeper into the future of financial technology. To sign up and participate, visit Technology & Innovation Forum.

For more information contact:

Simon Harris, Consulting Director, Finativ

e-mail: simon.harris@finativ.co.uk

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