In my digital transformation work with Cornerstone Advisors clients, I often ask executives a simple question: “Who owns digital?” The most common responses are: 1) blank stare, 2) scrunched face of contemplation, and 3) “a lot of different people.” The lack of clear ownership in driving digital transformation represents a huge roadblock for financial institutions fighting to stay relevant.
Bank executives are coming to understand that in today’s world, the customer experience (CX) is the product, although not all have made a serious commitment to address newfound competition. Among 300 U.S. financial institution executives surveyed for What’s Going On In Banking 2022, 19% of community banks and 10% of credit unions had not launched a digital transformation strategy prior to this year, and another 15% had no plans to do so. The bottom line is this: most banks lack the true management leadership and operating disciplines necessary to execute successfully on digital.
One of the fatal mistakes many institutions make is viewing digital as falling entirely within the domain of I.T. When a bank operates this way, the focus tends to be around operational uptime, security, and incident management while insufficient attention is given to the end-user customer experience. Experience design is a specific skillset that is needed to steer the execution of a bank’s digital strategy. Without this leader in the driver’s seat, banks become either too dependent on slower-moving, outsourced vendors or too fragmented as digital is deployed in silos across different business units.
A successful digital product manager knows how to bring order to the chaos of digital transformation. While these individuals often report to a chief experience officer or digital channel executive, the product manager is the linchpin who operationalizes the bank’s digital strategy.
A successful digital product manager leads with these key proficiencies:
While digital product managers need to focus on the strategy and prioritize business outcomes, they also must have the grit to dive into the details of operations. There is simply no “plug and play” implementation for digital – it’s complex and hard work. In fact, having deep knowledge of the configuration and interfaces of digital platforms is one of the most critical success factors for this leader. Many embarrassing customer incidents or precarious security holes can be traced back to incorrect configuration or fragile interfaces. The digital product manager must live by the mantra, “God is in the details.”
In seeking out professionals to lead digital product management, there is not one exact formula. Instead, it’s a mixture of skills, qualities, and strengths:
While it certainly can fire up the leadership and employees to say, “We all own digital,” such platitudes risk having the bank find itself with no one owning digital. While there are certainly distinct roles around digital that managers in the I.T, marketing, and risk lines of business play, execution will be slow and less crisp without leaders who possess a true product management discipline in the middle. Depending on the banks’ size, the need can arise for multiple digital product managers and “product owners” to address the sheer volume of work, and this formality will help the team scale effectively and keep the customer experience and back office “glued” together as the digital transformation is executed.
Leading banks are providing Agile training and product management career paths for team members, as well as recruiting some CX expertise from outside of banking. Other industries such as software, consumer products, and automotive have led with a product management discipline for decades. It’s time for bankers to realize that this same discipline is what will give flight to every banks’ dream of a fast and effective digital transformation. Own it, GonzoBankers!
Whether you’re just replacing your internet banking platform or developing an entire digital strategy, Cornerstone Advisors has the expertise to help you be successful at any stage of your digital journey.
We can partner with you to develop a Digital Strategy Roadmap that will boost your digital UX performance to the next level.