The devil is in the detail – why process design is vital to successful digital transformation

By Danny Bluestone, founder & CEO, Cyber-Duck.

All banking institutions large and small, new or old understand the need to interact digitally with customers. The process of transformation has been easier for some than for others. These past few weeks, most digital directors will have been surveying the wreckage of the TSB brand wondering where it all went so wrong.

Banks are undeniably complex beasts. Some come with more than a century’s-worth of procedures, transaction histories and customer data. As they moved from abacuses through thumping great ledgers via calculators and into the digital age, they created ever more labyrinthine systems. For the most part, these systems are wholly incompatible with sleek modern apps or web interfaces.

But despite this complexity, it is still no reason to avoid the question of customer-focused digital transformation, nor is it an excuse for the unmitigated disaster of TSB’s IT meltdown.

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The simple fact is that cutting corners in transformation cuts no ice. All too often, digital is viewed as the sum of its outputs. A website, an app, an AI bot or a virtual credit card. At Cyber-Duck, we may be responsible for creating these things, but scratch away the surface and you’ll realise that digital transformation is all about what lies beneath.

It’s easy to point at TSB with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. What any institution migrating its systems or user experience (UX) should understand is that it’s the data – how it’s structured, how it’s catered for, how it’s stored and how it’s funnelled through the digital banking process – that will make or break a programme.

Danny Bluestone
Danny Bluestone

Whether seduced by all-singing, all-dancing software or tied to an impractical deadline, organisations can’t afford to be diverted from the serious business of what they are trying to achieve through digital and why. If you don’t think the process through from start to finish – from how you communicate with customers to data migration – you can’t move without breaking things. Then it will all fall like dominoes.

If I were to pick up on three things TSB should have done in its move to new systems, they would be: testing, testing and more testing.

Moving data from one system to another, especially when the original system has hundreds if not thousands of moving parts, is a herculean task. Even in large-scale organisations, a saner approach is to roll a small number of beta users over and then test, test and test again. If TSB had done this, it might have mitigated some of its problems much earlier.

Digital transformation is about completely changing how organisations work. It’s iterative. You can’t just transform in a day. It’s a process that must have users and a testing mentality at its heart.

The Bank of England has to be the archetypal traditional banking establishment. To say it’s old is an understatement. But it, too, needed to move forwards into the digital age. A fundamental part of this process was about engaging with real customers, especially when we were in the design stage.

A key requirement that we identified early on was the need to segment the audience into personas by using qualitative and quantitative research on what individual personas wanted and the type of content they consumed on the prior website. We created the digital experience around this. We did this for the whole customer journey.Visitors to the Bank’s website could be schoolteachers running a lesson on fiscal policy, students of economics, journalists, independent financial advisers or accountants; the design had to make no assumptions and the result had to have the right functionality.

Data is the lifeblood of the banking system. Whether it’s journalist queries, a small business’s petty cash, a first-time buyer mortgage or the turnover of an FTSE 500 – how banks acquire, manage and process that data is of vital importance.

In this context, it’s easy to see swapping a database or backend system as a trivial matter. But all it takes is a single address field that is incompatible with or contradicts another in an automated process and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. And now, with GDPR and privacy by design, the imperative for resilience, retrievable data and the integrity of data is stronger than ever before.

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