Thursday, 13 November 2014

BAI Retail Delivery 2014: the inside track

BAI Retail Delivery, Chicago. Source: wikipedia
Technology is only as good as the people and processes around it. The BAI Retail Delivery session, entitled 'Technology as an enabler for operational excellence' and centred around panellists sharing their experience on when and where to apply IT to benefit the bank's operations, quickly became focused on the necessity of the people and the processes being ready.

The JPMorgan Chase team was talking about the benefits of a new data and process management platform, or 'the fulfilment engine'. 'Any process, across the board, for any business, can be broken into four components: open, data, decision, close,' stated John Murray, the bank's MD. But having built a state-of-the-art hub that can do just that (the core workflow engine is Pegasystems' Pega PRPC; a number of key features have been pulled out of it and built into a shared services layer), the bank realised that it was not working out as planned. The first thing to blame was the technology, recalled Murray. If something is not working, it is usually the technology that is perceived to be at fault, he observed, and in most cases this fault is assigned wrongly. People have to be ready to use the new technology, their mindset has to be right, their training has to be done, and they must understand and apply the new processes. In JPMorgan Chase's case, 'we were so focused on technology that we forgot about the staff', Murray admitted. Organisational change management is vital, he stated. 'We realised we had the Ferrari of technology but we were driving it like a Ford.' The impact of this was an extra $6 million and an extra eight months to get things right.

Prepare your business for new technology, he told his peers. Get the processes right. JPMorgan Chase has over time moved to the model of technology innovation/modernisation being business driven, not IT driven, Murray said. 'But it doesn't mean the requirements are “thrown over the wall” by the business to the developers. Collaboration is an overused word, but this is exactly what we do.'

On the processes side, Murray advocated building and understanding the process first and then finding the technology that fits it, not the other way around. In the latter case, it might turn out that technology might be ‘overkill or just unnecessary'.

The idea of understanding the processes and user functions, and getting them aligned with new technology, was echoed at a later presentation by Discover Financial Services. Rich McGhee, SVP, card, banking and lending technology at Discover, stated: 'You cannot lay old processes on the new platform, and then get people doing the same old thing, and generating the same old reports.' Discover has been going through a multiyear IT transformation with Infosys' Finacle as the new core, with first results – the migration of the deposits business – recently completed. More details on the project will follow.  

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