By Gary Richardson, Managing Director, Data and Emerging Technology, 6point6
With another year under our belts, and an even heftier investment figure, companies who’ve poured millions into digital transformation projects will once again feel saddled with disappointment that the hype of shiny new technologies falls short of their grandeur promises.
With many executives having expressed concern over ‘game-changing’ technologies, many of the failures have become a crucial lesson in sustainable implementation. With this fresh in the minds of companies heading into 2020, we will begin to see a widespread return to getting the fundamental basics right to ensure the digitalisation of business can operate at scale without compromising stability, and quality.
Enter DataOps – a set of agile tactics designed to support and streamline AI, data analytics and machine learning initiatives. To make more intelligent and strategic use of data, actionable insights across the entire business pipeline must be consistently realized to paint an accurate picture of execution, and adapted accordingly. In 2020, DataOps will bring much needed respite to businesses where disillusionment runs rife. Here, we breakdown why and how DataOps will pave the way for success.
Dirty data is no longer an option
Data’s status in financial services has grown more prominent as emerging technology initiatives move from proof of concept to live in real-time. The hygiene and care of data up and downstream is becoming a normal course of business. To do it right, data quality and governance must be front and centre to ensure they are consistently aligned with business objectives. The alternative – poor and insufficient data – can leave digital transformation projects dead in the water.
Not only can dirty data hamper the progress of digital projects, it can even wreak havoc on regulatory requirements and create sub-optimal business strategies. That is why data hygiene is of paramount importance. While there are various platforms available to carry out large scale data cleaning, the fatal mistake companies are learning to avoid is the failure to implement a data culture. As with any advanced tool, its users’ understanding of how to apply it to business objectives will determine its success or downfall.
Introducing a DataOps function not only helps firms to mature their data-cleansing processes, meaning all data produced can be analysed and applied elsewhere in the business pipeline. It allows people across large enterprises to truly access the potential of data.
A data culture is the key to the kingdom
DataOps is designed to greaten the understanding of the data journey across enterprise. The aim is to ensure everyone, from data scientists to business operations, can extract and master the information for the business’ advantage.
As more processes go digital, a dynamic cross-team approach to analytics will allow firms to generate a better picture of data assets. A DataOps function will act like a steward, providing the guidelines for cross-functional teams to focus on short and long term strategy and data literacy; ultimately enabling data to flow seamlessly across a business. This creates a culture whereby everyone is working towards a common goal closely aligned to the objectives of each pipeline.
The true value of any digital transformation project can only be unlocked when the data is refined throughout the organisation. If the data is mishandled or misunderstood by any team member at any touchpoint, then the most meaningful insights can be lost.
Without strategic deployment of a DataOps culture, silos and isolated pockets of disconnected information will continue to disrupt productivity and growth. Businesses looking to establish themselves as data-driven who ignore the crucial ingredients of DataOps will fail to access the benefits of a more complete, holistic and accurate view of data.
Once a company embraces the principles of DataOps, the road to more robust operational resilience is clearer. Maintaining the security of data systems has never been more important and it deserves its place as a priority.
DataOps: a proactive approach to operational resilience
Companies have learnt that the pursuit of short-term financial goals combined with rushed ‘lift and ship’ data platforms ultimately mean projects become obsolete before completion. DataOps provides a framework where resilience is met through a combination of strategic planning and proactive measures put in place to tackle challenges before they’ve occurred. As we’ve learned the hard way, it is much more cost-effective to solve an issue at the design stage of the life cycle rather than later down the line.
DataOps encourages firms to bring each team together to leverage data to assess the full lifecycle. From design, build to system maintenance, DataOps embeds the connective tissue throughout to ensure that the deployed capability is and continues to be resilient while avoiding any critical platform failures. This can and should be applied to any digital transformation project. Ongoing monitoring and optimisation leads to projects that will stand the test of time in an ever-changing data landscape.
Long may DataOps reign
The time for false promises and fairytales is over. It is clearer than ever that a DataOps strategy is required to enhance operational resilience and give businesses the edge to compete in today’s data-driven environment. What will really demonstrate DataOps’ ability to stand the test of time is the way in which it can be successfully applied to culture. Investment in technology is no longer enough, companies must make a valuable commitment to address the human side of data to really seize its benefits.
FINTECH IN AFRICA: WHY THIS MUSTN’T BE A DECADE OF WASTED POTENTIAL
Albert Maasland, Chief Executive Officer at Crown Agents Bank
The current COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis of our times. As with many global disasters, emerging and frontier markets are likely to feel a devastating impact. The Institute of International Finance has already reported the largest capital outflow from emerging markets ever recorded. The extent of the effect is being debated, but efforts to reduce the impact must become an absolute priority.
One of the most important things we can do in the long term is remember how far these regions have come in the last few years and remind international players of their enormous potential. In 2019, technology startups that operate on the continent received a total of $1.3 billion in funding. Investors and financial services players alike have observed the considerable growth and adoption of fintech in Africa. Fintech is one sector that could show resilience during this crisis, as online services become essential and the use of cash is discouraged worldwide. Africa has seen its fintech industry develop and thrive of late and this must not be overlooked as we look to the future.
The fintech ‘hub’bub
According to the GSMA, Sub-Saharan Africa is still the “enduring epicenter of mobile money”. The region accounted for over 60% of the $690 billion that was transacted via mobile money in 2019 and has more than 150 million more registered accounts than the next highest region, South Asia.
The market conditions that make Sub-Saharan Africa so ripe for the adoption of mobile money range from the population being predominantly young and tech-savvy to an established history of not having sufficient financial infrastructure. Mobile wallets have brought better security and the ability to make international payments to the unbanked. Investors noticed.
Fintech became Africa’s best funded startup sector in 2019 as venture capital aimed to support and capitalise on the huge potential for growth. Visa, Worldpay and Mastercard are among those global financial players who have entered into collaborations with African fintech ventures, such as B2B payments company Flutterwave.
While Kenya saw the birth of M-Pesa, more countries are embracing fintech and becoming hubs on the continent. Nigeria saw the highest number of startup deals last year and startup investment grew nearly five fold compared to 2018.
E-commerce, financial products for SMEs and payments technology are among the areas receiving funding. As entrepreneurialism receives more support and international attention in Africa, the gaps in financial systems are being plugged.
Changing the definition
With all these developments and emerging services, traditional measurements of financial inclusion have needed to adapt. Financial inclusion metrics have previously been based on the number of adults with a bank account at a financial institution. According to the Global Findex from the World Bank, the share of adults with an account at a financial institution rose by 4 percentage points from 2014-2017, while those with a mobile money account nearly doubled—to 21%.
Mobile money accounts or mobile wallets are now a fundamental part of financial services in Africa. For investors and entrepreneurs, that translates to more information about the market, behavioural data about consumers and e-commerce possibilities. In essence, it amounts to opportunity.
These benefits also become apparent in international aid and charity work. It’s easier than ever for international development organisations to get funds directly to their aid workers and to individuals who need them safely. Remittances last year, which reached $550 billion, were three times that of official global aid volumes. 80% of these transactions were made to emerging markets, and the minutes and pennies saved in each transaction through the efficiency of mobile payments are invaluable to those most in need of these funds.
As financial inclusion makes great strides and financial technology has transformed the African startup landscape, we must not lose this progress. We must continue to value the benefits in bringing those excluded into the financial ecosystem and the unique opportunities presented in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa.
We’ve seen what real innovation looks like in the tangible changes fintech has had in Africa: doing things differently and creatively to improve the status quo. Investors should continue to watch and support these markets, and the financial services industry more widely should take heed of the lessons learned in the markets we too often believe to be behind us.
In the coming months, the importance of digital services and fintech in particular will become more palpable. Nigeria’s tech scene is already beginning to contribute to efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Africa was poised for an impressive decade and we must do what we can to remember and realise the potential of the world’s youngest population.
THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN DIGITAL BANKING
By Richard Billington, Chief Technology Officer, Netcall
Over the past five years, the digital banking revolution has had a seismic impact on the relationship between customers and the institutions that handle their money. Since digital banking established itself as the new norm for consumers, there is now a growing expectation for enhanced levels of convenience and security. Recent proof of the evolution has come from Lloyds Banking Group, which recently announced the closure of 56 branches, as an increasing number of customers ditched branch-based banking in favour of online platforms.
Banks are trying to adapt to rapidly changing behaviours by integrating their services seamlessly into their customers’ daily lives. However, whilst offering new opportunities for banks to reach and respond to customer needs, the digital realm also presents an increasingly competitive playing field, with challenger banks constantly entering the market. We are continually hearing of new banking brands offering cash incentives to encourage customers to switch banks. This tug of war is putting increased pressure on banks to outdo one another, in order to retain customers and foster long-term loyalty.
Short-term cash incentives, however, will be spent in vain if a company’s long-term digital experience is not up to scratch. Lost customers mean lost revenue, a negative impact on brand reputation, and market share attrition. In order to gain and maintain a competitive edge, banks must understand what consumers expect online, and then meet those expectations.
Getting ready to compete with the Amazon Effect
Whilst it is clear that ‘digital’ is the direction in which the industry is heading, traditional bank brands have a long way to go to satisfy consumers who want to manage their money on their phones and tablets. Today, the so-called ‘Amazon Effect’ is impacting more and more areas of our lives, and digital banking is no exception. Modern customers require instant gratification. They want to see where their package is at any stage of their delivery and, in the same vein, become frustrated if they can’t see how things are progressing with their finances in real-time.
Customers want to stay up to date with changes on their bank accounts. They want to apply for an ISA, mortgage or credit card without hassle. They want to be able to understand where they are in the process. And, most importantly, they want an experience that is unique, personalised, and available at a time convenient to them. Today the onus is on banks to deliver these experiences – ensuring interactions and processes are quick, convenient and streamlined. Those who don’t live up to these expectations risk failure in a highly competitive marketplace.
Failing to connect the dots
Despite the changing customer needs and demands when banking online, all too often customers are faced with a series of disjointed communications, leaving them dissatisfied, confused and frustrated. To solve this, many banks invest in customer-facing departments – marketing, sales and service – but the reality is their customer experience doesn’t just depend on the people dealing with customers every day. It is heavily influenced by processes and technology, the people behind the scenes – the IT team.
For many banks, there’s a huge gap between customer facing departments and IT – what we refer to as the ‘customer experience disconnect’. This means that when someone in the contact centre flags a broken process that only technology can fix, their request often gets ignored. That’s not because IT doesn’t care; it’s because they have a thousand and one other things to do. Realistically, they can’t drop everything to solve one small problem.
But when it comes to customer experience, small problems add up. If a customer can’t apply for a mortgage because an app is broken, that’s annoying. When they can’t get through to customer services because the lines are busy, that’s infuriating. And when they don’t receive a response via email, that’s… well, that may very well be the end of the relationship.
Enhancing customer engagement online
Digital transformation in financial services goes beyond just providing an online or mobile account-opening solution. Banks should build a process that connects with the customer before an account is even opened and continues throughout the entire online journey. This includes enabling tailored communication at optimal times on preferred device(s). Every customer touch point should collect insights that the bank can leverage for future communications, to foster brand loyalty and make it harder for businesses to be undermined by competitors.
Done well, digital engagement should not just represent a great communications process, but also reflect changes in the back office that simplify all stages of engagement. Most importantly, these stages should connect seamlessly across communication channels, eliminating the need to visit a branch and enabling consumers to switch between channels, such as telephone, email, social media and in-branch banking, when desired.
As the UK continues to move further towards a cashless society, which is now expected by 2030, getting digital banking right is only going to become more important in order for banks to remain competitive. And to ease the transition to digital banking while maintaining customer loyalty in the digital realm, banks must overcome customer experience disconnects and enhance digital engagement.
Creating an effective digital banking experience
At the moment, departments within banks are operating in silos. This needs to stop if businesses want to create a successful digital banking experience. In order to build trust, long-term relationships and help solve any digital experience problems, it’s important that banks start by bringing customer-facing and IT teams together.
Low-code software solutions can prove invaluable in this instance, helping to accelerate digital customer experiences whilst also enhancing efficiencies within the business. Due to their simplistic nature, these offerings can be integrated across departments and be used by non-experts and developers alike. Well-established banks with bigger IT teams can also benefit, as low-code software solutions work alongside existing systems, significantly helping to improve customer experience quickly and without the need to replace existing infrastructure at a high cost.
In our rapidly expanding digital world, businesses face more pressure than ever to pivot in response to market changes and customer expectations. Therefore, having access to tools that are easy to use whilst enabling innovation will be key to building a better digital customer experience. In addition, analytics tools can also help track performance and offer insights for process improvements and adaptations. Implementing these tools will help empower businesses to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing banking industry.
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