Compared to 10 years ago, we have come a long way in terms of technology and software, but the question is, has the customer experience improved as much as our technology has? and if the answer is no, why?
Digital transformation for many organisations, especially for banks and financial institutions, means better customer experience through innovation and rapid development of new services, with a lower cost of creating that experience, every year.
The current situation that many companies found themselves in, that they needed to modernise their systems immediately to stay relevant in their competition, is the result of building applications on top of the legacy patterns and leaving their apps to die in production environments without strategic maintenance. Surely new tech was available, but companies decided to leave them as they are, cause they weren't broken.
Transformation programs to modernise those assets became so expensive and risky to run. With a huge scope of change after 10 years, those programs involved so many people and teams, and there was so much resistance in the system to even get started. Sometime the programs failed eventually as we made so many promises, with little delivery because so many teams were involved.
The best transformations might be the ones that they start small, simple and iterative, and gain momentum after they prove the viability, value and the methodology behind them.
The other alternative, besides transforming the assets, of-course was to throw those systems away and buy them off-the-shelf. From a few schools of thoughts, one says outsource everything, you don't have to spend time building it if someone else has already built it, and the other says, build them all yourself, but it would be hard to justify what value we are bringing to our customers by building "everything" ourselves.
But I believe we need to have a mix. When it comes down to our competitive advantage and core capability, it needs to be in-house. No one knows your business better than you do, and if you want to be ahead of your game, you can't use the same tools and assets as the rest of your competition. But that means we need to transform our assets and keep them current cause it won't be 'competitive advantage' if it is outdated either!
So it looks like that large transformation program to get the asset up to speed, we can't avoid that, and the cost to undertake that exercise should be a lesson learnt for our transformation journey in future.
Here is the critical part though, "we need to have a plan on what happens after we finished THE big-bang transformation"? Are we repeating the same mistake again, to exhaust our eco-system for another 10 years until it won’t be usable anymore? or we have a different plan?
In my view transformation is an everyday job now and needs to have two streams, One as we talked about, to bring the platform up to speed, and the second stream would be to implement a culture and an eco-system to support the transform as we go model, to uplift our systems often by creating the new apps on new tech and architecture, upgrading the existing apps as we touch them or based on a regular plan, and avoid those large expensive and risky transformations in future. That is what I'd call, sustainable transformation, which businesses perhaps need to allocate an ongoing budget for.
From someone who has done it multiple times using both approaches, I need to say the cost of gradual uplift is much much lower compared to the big bang transformations.
Between the two streams, there are countless opportunities to invest and improve the system, and it’s amazing how every initiative not only pays for itself, and help the business leverage the offerings of the latest tech for innovation but also bring a huge amount of cost savings along the way. After a while, all these in-parallel initiatives bring so much innovation to the team and make it a talent magnet.