Today’s perspective of tomorrow’s banking – The dawn of an exciting future

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Image Source Credit: Banknxt.com

The growth of technology has brought about revolutionary changes in Banking as it has in every other industry. From the days when physical registers where manual entries were needed to register customer transactions to transferring money across continents in seconds the whole transformation has been a remarkable journey. Let us look at some key areas where banking has revolutionized it-self.

Card payments, internet payments and e-transfers

Imagine a world without Visa, Mastercard, payment gateways, etc. We cannot right? Let us look what these have meant to banking and general financial system. E-Commerce in general (encompassing all of the above and availability of goods and services through internet based market sites) has made redundant international boundaries and has mocked the geographical distances as a deterrent to doing business. But is that all it has done?  No it has done a lot more locally. It has digitalized economies, reduced the circulation of currency notes to a large extent, given an additional source of income to banks, channelized the financial flows within the primary banking networks instead of parallel cash based networks, reduced cost of finance and made more funds available to buyers and sellers as banks extend credit facilities more easily.

What about tomorrow?

While all this has already materialized and will continue to encompass greater sections of the society in the coming days, what future trends can we envision in this area? Think about the below suggestions:

  1. Integrated e-commerce sites within your banking login – Order your grocery with your internet banking login.
  2. Common bank sites – Integrate all your bank logins into one service provider site, like how emails are managed on Outlook.
  3. Cardless payments through mobiles and wearables like credit card in mobile (Samsung pay, Apple pay), MasterCard watch, VISA Ring, etc.
  4. Integrated banking with sovereign identity like Aadhar, EIDA, etc. smart cards.
  5. Auto pay billing, buy online or offline and payments will be managed by your bank or financial service provider (Bio-metric authentications, IRIS, etc)
  6. Personal bots to handle your financials.

Well I don’t want to restrict your imagination to the above, come up with more innovative ideas and put them as comments.

Customer relationship management and automated channels

Imagine life a couple of decades ago. Going to the bank was as dull a task as any. You needed to wait in long queues and go through huge manual forms and processes. The advent of customer relationship management, segmentation and automated channels for mass banking changed the scene. People found going to bank an easier task and more financial transactions started getting routed through the banking network thanks to key differentiators like credit cards, multi-currency travel cards, cash deposit machines, ATMs, Internet banking, etc. have made ground breaking changes to the way banking was conducted. Now virtual assistants answer your queries and provide information about products and services. There are banking lounges that offer personalized services to visitors. Banks provide investment advice and wealth management options. This has transformed the way we think of banks.

What about tomorrow?

And what about the future? What can we imagine in this space, some of my thoughts:

  1. Banking integrated with your google assistant, SIRI, BIXBY, etc. for voice enabled banking transactions on your personal devices (Almost here)
  2. Bank away – Tell your bank where you will be and they will take care of your financial needs in your travel locations.
  3. Comprehensive personal financial predictions based on your 3 months earn and spend pattern
  4. Financial life planner – Goal tracking, re-planning, financial deviations, etc.

What else can you think of? Don’t be shy, be bold in your thought who knows you may create the next TESLA of Banking.

Well this is a today’s perspective of how banking will shape in the near future. A lot of research is already gaining momentum in technology circles about the use of Robots (Chat bots, Virtual assistant, Interactive Teller machines), Voice recognition (Alexa (Amazon) and Google assistant) and AI (Symantics, Compliance technology, etc.). There are many more concepts like global real time payments, IOT, etc. which are also catching up and with new age banking dawn visible over the horizon, it will be an interesting and exciting journey and banking may no longer be dull and boring. What do you think?

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Innovation – Culture or KPI or Extra mile

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Source: http://www.shutterstock.com

Innovation is the modern mantra for success. Although largely associated with technology firms or related to technological developments there is no doubt that this term is today the most commonly discussed in boardrooms across the world regardless of the field.

Innovation has been defined by many people differently. In this site http://www.freshconsulting.com/what-is-innovation/ you will find quite a few interesting and original definitions of innovation. A few terms such as original, adding value and products and services are found repeated in several of these definitions. However I am here setting out to try and define innovation in a different perspective.
Innovation to me is a mindset that challenges the existing realms of reality and is constantly engaged in expanding the borders of the professional, personal or virtual environment around us.

Innovation has been known to be of three main types:
1. Radical or disruptive innovation which often completely changes things the way they have been. An example is Uber which completely took the transportation business by storm.
2. Incremental innovation which is constantly innovating on an existing product line or service to enhance its value and market share. Apple is a great example with its constantly evolving product range of iPhone and ipad.
3. Consistent innovation where innovation is consistently attempted whatever the product or service. Google or 3M are constantly looking for new innovative products, concepts and services.

So now the question arises if I am a CEO or Head of Operations or Technology of an existing organization and want my employees to start innovating:
should I make innovation as a KPI so that people are forced to innovate?
Or should I start a culture of innovation by conducting workshops, seminars and investing in a culture change to bring about innovation?
Or should I treat innovation as an extra mile and put only the best minds on it and give them the best of resources to innovate and come up with results?

Obviously it would depend on the kind of organization, it’s product or service line and it’s existing culture to come up with an answer for this question. However one thing must be borne in mind is that innovation is a challenging mindset and cannot be forced upon employees who do not have this mindset. Hence the question of making it as a KPI or bringing in a innovation culture is to be well considered as it would have widespread impact on the company’s workforce. Often changing an organization’s culture is a very major task and in large organizations is fraught with huge risks like attrition and productivity loss. If your organization is just starting the innovation journey and especially if your main line or business is not technology and tech products then it is wise to go for the third approach of identifying the correct minds who are innovative and already have the mindset to challenge existing practices and providing them the necessary resources to innovate and come up with that great idea which can make your business successful.

This is a least intrusive manner and the existing operational procedures won’t be disrupted and such innovations are usually more bound to succeed. This also lends speed to the process as innovation happens faster and have a shorter development time before it can be brought to the market in comparison to the first two options. Also considerable cost savings can be made through this approach. A lesser number of people consuming a slightly higher resources will still be cheaper than all or many heads consuming more resources simultaneously.

Well someone could argue that this is a conservative approach and lacks dynamism which is key to innovation. However I would only say that innovation  is dynamic but setting up innovation is not. It needs a deep and practical approach considering all aspects of the organization.

Thanks for reading this blog. I would love to have your valuable feedback.

Key elements to succeed in an Agile Project

Agile project methodology can be compared to a wild orchid. It looks beautiful, can attract a lot of accolades but may not be suitable for all places and definitely needs ideal conditions to succeed. In this blog I have tried to look and think back on a wonderful agile journey where I was the defacto product owner and try to list the key elements which can lead to a successful agile implementation through the eyes of a failed project resource.

  1. Core business ownership: Agile projects are typically business driven projects where core ownership lies with the ultimate beneficiaries of the project outcomes. During my project till the final stages I was given a defacto leadership role by the business which I represented. This helped a great deal in achieving high level of efficiency during the phases. Core business decisions were made swiftly with collaborated analysis and this helped the delivery speed. It also helped ease awkward situations for a lot of people including management teams unlike a conventional project where many seemingly insignificant decisions also had to be referred to a senior management committee formed to oversee the project.
  2. Gathering the precise user stories: In agile methodology one of the key principles which make it faster is the lack of a detailed requirement gathering phase. Instead the user stories are gathered with help of proper tools like blueworkslive which help in on the spot analysis and accurate user information which form the guidelines for development teams. The emphasis is not so much on proper documentation rather as on gathering the precise user story. Documentation is of course important but doesn’t have to be in greatest of detail as agile depends more on collaborative feedback and validation by the business owner. In our case since this was our first agile project we faced huge resistance and a waterfall process was forced on top of an agile project leading to disastrous results. Also our user stories desired a lot of improvements as users were unable to properly visualize the end result.
  3. Highly self motivated teams (More collaboration less supervision): An agile project depends much upon its individual constituents. Even individuals who have never worked in agile environments can be successful as agile places more room for creativity, efficiency and freedom of thought. An absence of a full time project manager or lead breathing down your necks is a big relief for coders who love to create good programmes. However they need to be able to communicate and seek guidance through both inter personal communications and self learning. They need to be open to suggestions from fellow team mates, peers and more experienced mentors elsewhere external to the team as well. Although a maverick developer can sometime Mar more than he makes but with constant validation, feedback from product owner can quickly bring him on track. This was the precise experience I had in the project. There were seemingly novice developers who bloomed into project assets by the end of the project.
  4. Perennial validation, feedback and update: The co-location of the business owner is crucial to project success. In some agile projects which have a very short time spans of few days to a some weeks it will determine the success or failure of the project. Although agile framework relies on frequent playbacks and demonstrations to product owner and core business groups it is still better a daily validation of code and update is done as a team. The frequency maybe relaxed for longer agile projects however it should still not be less frequent than a weekly review atleast. Otherwise it may lead to wasted effort and delays. If some crucial milestones are passed between validations this may even lead to bugs and crippled functionality. In our project we missed this point till well into the final phases and we had a disastrous life cycle and project lasted much longer than it was expected to and people started suspecting the efficacy of agile methodology. However as a product owner and now an experienced agile project resource I can look back and pin point the reasons for failure.
  5. IT culture in the organization: Finally doing agile projects can be a defining moment for an organization and it’s IT culture. I found this to be the tipping point for our project. We were faced with stiff resistance at every stage starting from the so called requirement gathering phase till the implementation. The less dynamic and departmental culture was the major obstacle. Teams found it difficult coming together and staying together. Lack of trust, collaboration and self-motivation starred us in the face. Supervisors constantly interrupted development and developers lacked the motivation and were constantly needing supervision. Business teams lacked trust in IT teams and the unit was fragmented. These were decisive factors leading to project failure.

Ultimately there maybe a few other factors which will also have a significant say but the above factors are mostly likely to influence the outcome of a first agile project especially in larger organization.