Vinoo Prakash is responsible for formulating the product and platform development strategies at SunTec Business Solutions. He plays a pivotal role in defining platform and product strategy and coordinating product life cycles. His responsibilities include evaluation of the platform architecture and technology used for SunTec’s products, development of road-maps and definition of feature requirements. A seasoned professional with more than 15 years of experience in SunTec, Vinoo previously held roles of Head – Pre Sales & Consulting in SunTec.
Over 3 billion people now have access to the internet, this is likely to increase dramatically over the next few years thanks to cheaper hardware, software and better internet access.
Clearly, organisations need to keep up and stay in touch with their customers or risk being lost in the noise. As a company moves towards digital it must take into account its legacy infrastructure because there is a plethora of software options available to drive digital transformation projects and one size does not fit all. Here are five tips for when reviewing options.
1. Channel-specific or Omnichannel?
For digital enablement software to succeed, it is key to establish early on the aims of the digitisation project. Is a simple platform linking the existing legacy systems and the customer all that is required? Or is the business looking to offer more customer-centric platform options via a cross channel system?
By focusing on only one channel at a time, businesses can supply the customer with specific digital offerings in a short space of time, focusing on digitising just one ecosystem. Thus, allowing businesses to concentrate on their customers’ needs and personalise their offer accordingly.
This works well for the Asset Management sector, as it normally deals with two-way transactions and requires very little cross-pollination between horizontal channels, conducted through a single interface. However, for a more complex banking customer, who holds retail, private and corporate bank accounts, creating a cross channel system is advisable.
For many industries, such as Digital and Communications Sector (DCS) or Financial Services (FS) their customers are increasingly multi-channel consumers, so companies in these sectors need to consider omnichannel options. With innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless network sectors, yet more access options are becoming available to customers, so they are now cross channel users from the start.
In the FS sector banks often manage a wide variety of products and services at one time. For example, digital applications such as pricing analytics, payment and billing platforms are offered across multiple different channels, such as websites, apps and even social media. If the applications are poorly managed this may end with customer churn and negative publicity.
A cross system channel, also known as a middle layer, acts as a layer which captures every interaction between the company’s IT systems. This channel provides seamless interfacing with down/up stream systems that makes the business flow smooth and at the same time can provide a single interface that can access multiple channels. Using a cross system channel allows companies more control over their data, and provides customers with a more connected and faster experience.
2. A common layer to communicate upstream and downstream
To talk to both upstream and downstream IT systems, an organisation’s infrastructure needs a unifying middle layer. This common layer connects the dynamic “Systems of Engagement” and the stable, yet crucial “Systems of Record”. This layer, sits inbetween the core banking technology, databases and backend ERP platforms, and the front-end customer interface (which may be Twitter or Facebook page, an online banking dashboard). This middle layer can be labeled the ‘Digital Core’, where this single platform filters customer queries and connects the bank’s multiple backend channels, sourcing the right data quickly and easily for the customer.
The need to provide customers with an easy to use digital enablement platform is perhaps the single largest technology challenge of businesses today. Most recently BNP Paribas invested €3 billion into digital enablement to allow customers to access services online. Digitisation speeds up entire back office processes, data access becomes simpler and data analysis can make compliance easier. This investment into digital could save banks up to $12 billion a year in back office costs.
3. Digital products need to work in concert with business objectives
When thinking about digital enablement software, it is key to match this platform and interface to the specific business needs. Is the business only trying to improve data access or improve its customer offerings? To make this happen a technology layer is needed.
For example, if the company is digitising in order to offer the customer a better service, it may want to improve its pricing options. In this instance the software implemented collects data, analyses and aggregates it to generate new product offerings and suggested new pricing concepts. Digital enablement must happen with a set goal.
4. Digital software needs to work with legacy systems and company culture
Any new software needs to be able to work with the existing systems to ensure a smooth digital transformation process. One of the main reasons DCS and FS companies are looking at digital enablement is to be able to compete with the Challenger threat in their sectors, these startups are transforming the space, from a product driven sector to an agile, customer-centric industry. The culture of the enterprise will be need to be considered when choosing a platform, looking at how well it will suit the behaviour of employees and how it can improve company processes, which may not have changed for decades.
5. Disrupters are working together in the FinTech, FS and DCS sectors
There is no specific rule as to which type of system is required, but it is important to consider how the company wants to progress digitally. As convergence between brands, products and services increases a provider may want to offer customers multiple deals in one sitting. An omnichannel experience is required. This convergence has already been seen in the insurance sector this year with Orange’s partnership with Viasat, where multiple providers combined their services via a single interface.
An increase in cross-industry partnerships is enhancing customer relationships, open APIs, open programming interfaces that enable different platforms to work each other on a developer level, are now making this ambition technically possible. Having APIs at every layer, from downstream to upstream, means third parties can work on the same platform and access data and insights from partners which they would otherwise have no other means of having. This type of software platform generates a whole new approach.
As more companies become digitally enabled, it is key to consider the above five points before deciding on the type of software that the company wants to use. If a company does not become digitally enabled in future, they will cease to be relevant to today’s customer, who is only looking at digital platforms to meet their real-time needs.