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Flexing to keep-up: starting with Self-awareness

Organisations are increasingly aspiring to an ideal future state with a settled brand, a critical size,  a robust customer network, strong assets, and a geographically replicable business model. But with increased scale comes increased complexity - and in turn, the risk of inefficient processes. 

The quest for a more flexible and adaptable organisation has replaced the previous pursuit  of scale…Companies, and as an example Banks are seeking innovative ways of spotting upcoming industry trends while ensuring that design and solution implementations are increasingly cost efficient. 

Design: the bridge between scale and agility

Today’s environment gives us a good perspective on why being Agile has become a necessity, particularly in light of the ever-increasing regulatory pressure, impacting infrastructure, process and organisational decisions. Add to this digital disruption, the threat of competitors gaining ground, and increased customer awareness and you get enough reasons to re-design your operating model ahead of the market. When it comes to addressing those challenges, organisations tend to focus on production, while others take a more thorough approach and foresee opportunities in innovating new products and services.

Digital Banking is a good illustration of the latter approach. Facing the paradigm shift in the Client Banking experience and the decrease in branch use, banks decided to challenge the products and services offered. This meant transforming their entire branch network by  introducing “light” branches in town centres with automated services and  fewer employees or in some cases creating specialised branches to serve specific customer segments. At the same time, they boosted their digital offering with an integrated and seamless customer experience across different channels. To further improve the client experience, end to end operating processes are digitalised, through a series of Transformation levers to create more value and further reduce costs. The client-onboarding process is a very good illustration of agility brought to life. 

Differentiate Hype from practicality

Getting your C-suite stakeholders to catch-up on new technologies is great. Thinking that technology is the one and only accelerator of agility for your organisation sounds a very risky approach. I can see and hear what the discussion would look like from my seat: CEO (talking to Chief Technology or Transformation Officer): “what are we doing on AI, blockchain and so on”, CTO: (being actually busy and overwhelmed with Business as usual, and by the way spending 90% of his or her time on tracking budgets): “let me come back to you”. Most of the time, the answer will be reactive and mimicking what other organisations are doing, namely grabbing a seat to some industry events, getting a (light…) budget and gather a few folks in a form of an “innovative lab” which outcome will be experimental. Not saying it is a bad thing, just pointing out the obvious lack of real purpose and imbrication of this kind of initiative in the context of the firm’s wider vision, purpose, business and client strategy.

Again, getting your organisation to develop awareness is great but answering what appears as one of the most critical question sounds a better approach...

How agile your organisation is? To properly answer this question, we first need to understand what we mean by agility and how it is possible to measure this.

Business agility is the state of digital business that allows an enterprise to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine. This can be further broken down into the following two parts: “Awareness” and “Execution”. A company starts to be agile once it foresees upcoming changes  and translates them into action plans which are implemented cost efficiently.

Agility is not only restricted to IT as is sometimes assumed. In reality, Agility can be measured using a very comprehensive framework composed of 5 lenses: Market, Process, Technology, People and Culture. For each area, more granular criteria will be used to assess how agile your firm is, and to determine where it stands on the Agility spectrum. (Forrester framework).

Simplify, Optimise, Streamline

To move towards what’s considered the ultimate stage (“formidable”), a radical, continuous and consistent shift is to be executed, focusing on Enterprise-wide driven Transformation, rather than siloed initiatives which typically lack coordination and do not bring long lasting benefits.

In many organisations, several projects which are addressing the same scope and aiming to achieve the same outcomes are unknowingly being conducted simultaneously in separate teams or business units, largely driven by the short-term approach (focused on cost cutting and regulatory requirements, often deriving tactical solutions, requiring later on remediation programmes…endless story).

Moving from conceptual approach, and ambition to bring agility to your organisation requires a significant drive, and a secret ingredient: using Design as a bridge between scale (hence complexity) of your current state and the agility are seeking.

So big and fast, complex and focused, large scale and agile…contradictions or the future?

Thoughts?

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.


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