Are you doing everything possible to transform your business digitally? Are you striving to innovate in order to achieve maximum agility? To achieve these ends, are you invested in every kind of next-generation, open-source technology platform, and divested
of all elements with a whiff of legacy? If you are a banking institution battling to make headway in the modern financial services sector, there is a good chance you are starting to tire of questions like this. Dare one say it, but you might even be suffering
from a degree of transformation fatigue, innovation burnout, a sense that there is a digital horizon just ahead that seems forever beyond your grasp. Or it could just be that your cloud transformation strategy is working to a budgetary cycle that is more driven
by internal politics than the reality on the ground.
It could be that the problem doesn’t lie with you, and that other banks are similarly struggling to reconcile a sincere desire to modernise with the unappealing prospect of ripping up the core banking systems rulebook and starting again from a digital Year
Zero. Maybe it’s time to approach the challenge of transformation with a different mindset, one that mixes new approaches with the more successful of your existing tech investments, the ones that have delivered so well over the past couple of decades. This
is surely preferable to operating two parallel streams of technology, people and, most importantly, culture – the classic Run the Bank Vs (or funding) Change the Bank workstreams and deliverables.
If you feel that there is an unbridgeable gulf between what you need to do next to achieve agility and what you have already managed with existing platforms, then consider that this may in part be a generational or cultural gap. It exists in every vertical
sector where trustworthy platforms already in service are ranged against the kind of alternatives favoured by a younger crowd, with their talk of Github, Kubernetes and DevOps, their Macbooks plastered with stickers displaying various open source allegiances.
The existence of this gap might, let’s be honest, be partly the responsibility of the technology vendor community and the way they are trying to communicate with language that doesn’t always strike a chord in the banking world. Maybe it’s a cultural thing,
or a matter of language. It might come down to a simple shift in delivery preference among data engineers. Whatever the case, you may well be getting subjected to too much messaging that comes from an IT perspective and not enough that’s rooted in the kind
of use cases that might resonate with an institution battling in an increasingly complex marketplace.
The precedent of cloud is possibly not helping matters. A typical move of essential functions onto cloud platforms might already have involved banks in a lot of new ways of doing things that were already being done elsewhere. Could cloud migration have been
accelerated with less duplication of work that had already been done? Certainly we’re now seeing the emergence of standards aimed at making cloud platforms more interoperable, as evidenced by the EDM Council and its Cloud Data Management Capabilities (CDMC)
workgroup. More established vendors have a good message here in areas like scalability and security.
Perhaps in the headlong rush towards a world where everything is virtualised, composable, spun up in the cloud, we’ve allowed ourselves to become isolated from lessons that have already been learned in areas such as scalability, reliability and performance,
not to mention proven security. In the drive to innovate, are we sometimes forgetting the benefits of the relationships we already have? And why build a whole new stack, when you could potentially couple the new to the current ecosystem – whether that be technology
So many challenges have already been addressed with existing technology; at the very least, we should seek to leverage that experience. Perhaps it could actually help with the delivery of the new. By all means prove a concept in the insulated world of open
source, then lean on established, or upgraded, technology when it comes to rolling out that innovation at scale. After all, putting innovation into play at scale isn’t straightforward, as many banks will know from experience. So, instead of trying to decouple,
why not try to make more of the investments you’ve already made. Consider the example of
KBTG Bank in Thailand which deployed data virtualisation technology to unite the business side of its operations with its IT with the result of better customer service. Customer journeys may well end up straddling new and legacy applications, and it is
essential that service levels don’t fall between the cracks. Ideally, they should be enhanced.
Don’t feel corralled into coming up with a one-size-fits-all plan for transformation. Play the field accordingly. Drive innovation with open source and DevOps, but once you’ve agreed on a strategy and before you get into executions, understand what building
blocks you’ve already got that can be part of the solution.
Just think of the challenge in renovating a current property. You might well choose to add on all sorts of new electrical features that run off the 20-year-old consumer unit you had installed when you moved in. You might be putting in a new kitchen, but
you’re not necessarily ripping up all the existing plumbing. Sure, you might find some of the elements aren’t fit for purpose and need to be replaced, but you don’t need to start from scratch before testing everything out. You might find current and new can
coexist quite happily. A bit of reconfiguration can give you something different and unique. In truth, some organisations are unaware of what they have already achieved in areas where they are trying to innovate. Hidden under the bonnet might be something
that works well.
Any approach to transformation ought to start not with technology but with a re-examination of priorities. Are you focussed primarily on people and culture, or on simply creating some operational efficiencies? Most banks will probably come to the conclusion
that their first priority is the customer. If their satisfaction with you is high, then everything else will follow on from that. Those dynamics haven’t changed. Above all, just remember that not wanting to rip up and reinvent your core banking functionality
doesn’t mean the end of your ambitions to innovate and transform.