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Digital solutions need present and future focus

Technology acquisitions by banks and credit unions must be versatile enough to meet today’s strategic goals and the challenges coming tomorrow.

As financial services companies address pent-up demand for new digital and automation solutions, they must do so while ensuring that their company’s digital and automation investments help achieve strategic goals and meet future challenges.

Technology investments must enable your operating model—or, better yet, your target operating model (TOM), if you have one.

As you explore digital investments, it’s critical to step back, ask fundamental questions about your strategic goals, and make sure your new investments enable a forward-looking and adaptive operating model. Ask strategic questions: What business outcomes are you trying to drive? What capabilities are you trying to build? How far could today’s technology be leveraged to actualize its potential?

Implementing a new loan origination system or installing a new employee desktop are examples of opportunities to transform your organization by rethinking its business architecture, routine and culture. Even a relatively minor maintenance issue or routine upgrade to a new version of an enterprise system is a potential moment to consider how you might use it to advance your organization’s vision.

Yet companies seldom take the time to fully contextualize these large initiatives, which is why many fail to meet expectations. Companies that take the time to align their IT spend with a target operating model are positioned to leapfrog the competition, grow market share and increase competitive advantage.

When companies invest in new technology, they risk digitizing or automating the way business is done today without identifying new ways to organize and deliver value. Why apply sophisticated new technology to an old path when it could give you a more effective light rail system instead?

Instead, consider three simple, but illuminating, questions any time you invest in new technology:

  • What is the “job” that a given process is accomplishing today? What’s the value add and, most important, should you keep doing it? And if you eliminate it, what is your process for doing so?
  • How should this process be done? If it’s a manual process now, is it truly a good candidate for automation, or is there a deeper benefit to human intervention? If it’s the latter, how should the process be re-engineered?
  • Who should do this process? What is its impact on your operating model? What skill sets are required to do it?

Make sure you are intentional about defining the business processes and outcomes and organizational goals before you design and implement the technology.

As you build out your digital capabilities, you don’t have to change everything about your organization. The world is filled with opportunities to outsource or partner in areas that go beyond the boundaries of what you actually need to own. Establishing those boundaries may require shaking off old assumptions and looking at your company through a fresh lens. What business do you want to be in? How should you best allocate capital? What makes sense to outsource? What synergies can be gained by partnering?

Adapt, advance and repeat

Jumping directly to end-to-end automation delays the delivery of value and vastly increases risk. Instead, consider a flexible, iterative approach to accelerate speed-to-value and deliver tangible improvements in phases while also reducing risk.

A more agile approach will change the dynamics of your operating model and how it interacts. Rather than go from today’s static model to tomorrow’s static model, your operating model needs the flexibility to adapt and adjust to change. It needs to be in sync with the continuous agile deployment of technology tools and features. It should support bi-directional feedback, in which strategic goals inform technology spend and, conversely, new technology informs business strategy. Continuously probe, test and refine your strategy throughout the year and marry it with agile tools and technology.

Digital platforms are central to a company’s identity and success, and recent disruptions have created an imperative to move quickly and implement new technologies. Accordingly, it’s essential to think through digital and automation efforts as deliberate enablers of your target operating model. Dedicating a modest amount of your overall technology budget to align and inform your strategic goals, organizational design and business processes will pay off in a swifter journey to the future state you have in mind.

Mike Lee and Edward Dellheim are financial services consultants with Point B.