Banking today is one tough contact sport. Finding revenue growth, driving efficiencies, integrating mergers and improving the customer experience are all activities full of toil and thousands of execution details. Unfortunately, alongside the real gritty world of banking, our industry regularly creates buzzwords designed to bring a new sense of optimism and future promises of a land where managing a bank won’t be so damn stressful.
For the past two years, our industry’s favorite word has been omnichannel. Say that three times fast!
Omnichannel is everywhere in the trade press, blogosphere and vendor brochures. The snap, crackle and pop of this buzzword are evident in the rapid growth of web searches illustrated by Google Trends.
In a nutshell, omnichannel is defined by Search CIO as “a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.” For a rapidly aging banker like me, “omnichannel” is just an idea designed to opiate our minds into thinking the complex, hard work of bank technology is easy.
When a term like omnichannel emerges, the PowerPoints begin to crank up that illustrate breathtaking future visions of a seamlessly integrated technology environment. All of these slide decks show things like data warehouses, middleware and “enterprise buses” in the center of the page, promising that voilà! – a complete technology mess can be run through a blender to create the perfect customer experience. Bank executives have sat through thousands of presentations in the past 15 years hoping that their techies were serious about the promise of seamless integration. In many large banks, there are enterprise architects who spend most of their time going to meetings inside their organizations to share their wondrous future visions.
Here’s the rub, Gonzobankers. The blind hope in one technical solution is mostly a waste of time. Architecture and middleware are tools to help manage and improve the information technology environment, but their ability to create miracles is heavily oversold. One of the healthiest things bank executives can do is recognize that the promised land of seamless integration will likely never come in their careers. One of the greatest improvements in bank management would come if the sheer complexity of a bank IT environment was appreciated by those at the top. No matter what technology is employed, a totally seamless technology world will never be fully realized for the following reasons:
Today, chief information officers wake up every morning and do battle with dozens of critical applications that require updates, patches, error resolution and enhancements. With the resources tight, each day for the techie team is primarily a firefight, and there is little time to work on big picture integration tasks. In the name of career preservation, most technology groups resort to sharing an “omni” PowerPoint with their executives that will promise a future land of technology milk and honey. At least it buys them more time to fight more fires.
Embracing a Realistic Vision
My intent in blowing up the omni myth is not to depress bankers. Rather, I would encourage bank executives to change the way we think about and manage integration processes inside banks. Winners in the future will stop thinking of technology integration as a destination and more as a critical strategic process inside their organizations. Just as asset liability management is a daily process that never produces the perfect static balance sheet and investment portfolio, business integration must be an active and adequately resourced process inside the bank of the future.
Best practice banks will have the following key components to their business integration strategy:
Fight the Good Fight
The true Gonzobankers in our industry realize that buzzwords like omnichannel and promises of godlike tools such as middleware and enterprise service buses cannot address the complexity of our business alone. There is no technical panacea. The way forward to a more integrated customer experience is to get busy with pragmatic planning, frontal vendor management and the dedication of a talented SWAT team with a keen eye for design and detail. Those that stop thinking of omnichannel as an endpoint and instead focus on integration as a strategic skill set will find the real payoff in multimillion dollar technology and channel investments.
A bank’s technology solutions play a major role in its growth and success. If your institution has been drinking the Omnichannel Kool-Aid, now is a good time for a Technology Assessment from Cornerstone Advisors.
Cornerstone’s Technology Assessment can help you determine if your systems and processes are supporting the organization’s strategic goals. We can help you stay competitive – and leave Omnichannel Lala Land in the rear-view mirror.