One of the best things about my job is meeting with credit union executives to hear what’s on their minds. One of the most telling things I’ve heard lately is how some are creating technology teams without IT staff.
These digital teams are laser-focused on developing the member experience and they don’t want to hear about technical limitations. Their intent is to return the horse to the front of the cart. I see their point, but there also are some potential drawbacks in that approach.
After all, technical limitations can be quite real. The stuff does have to work. Bringing technology and strategy together to best serve the member is a balancing act on a high wire between risk and reward. It takes making the most of your in-house talent — across all areas of the enterprise — while recognizing and delivering what members want today and what they’ll expect tomorrow.
To succeed, credit unions need to not only shed the silos and tame the turf wars among different technology factions of their organization but also align these individuals in support of a common goal: the member experience. This idea itself isn’t new. But the tools used to create and weigh your progress here are, and the dangers of disintermediation and member abandonment have never been higher.
Loosen The IT Ties That Bind You
In a February 2014 Callahan Report article titled “Tech at the Table,” I discussed the importance of including business-savvy technologists in your critical planning discussions. The fact that some very accomplished senior credit union executives are now moving forward without IT participation is telling.
What it tells me is that these credit union executives recognize the difference between IT specialists and “technologists,” those in your credit union who have knowledge of and an affinity for technology as a member service strategy. These individuals can hail from marketing, operations, lending, IT, or anywhere else in your organization.
Just as you need skilled technicians to make sure things work, you also need business people who understand how digital strategy translates into bottom-line opportunities. And that means technology cannot be the sole province of your IT department. If it is you’re going to fail.
Managing a help desk and keeping a network secure and running is not the same as responding to the demands of a digital public. These are two different mindsets. Now is the time to look at your credit union and consider whether your IT leaders may actually be holding you back.
Are you one of those credit unions that still hasn’t gotten past having IT own all things digital? Are you slow to adopt must-have digital products and services because IT views maintaining infrastructure as the highest priority and sees progress as an integration problem or an unnecessary luxury?
If so, you may consider whether it’s time for the entire organization to radically re-set the way it thinks about technology and the strategies behind it.
This doesn’t mean automatically adopting the latest mobile app and online banking feature or dishing out top dollar for high-tech, digitally managed lobbies and remote tellers.
Rather, the true essence of this shift in thinking can be found in a recent piece on the BAI website titled “Organizational Change for Digital Banking,” written by digital banking consultant Steve DeLaCastro of Cognizant.
Most banking business models weren’t built to align with today’s digital goals, DeLaCastro says. As a result, “Banking channels largely remain segregated. Products and geographies often vie against each other so that customers often perceive a jumble of processes.”
Swap “banks” and “customers” for “credit unions” and “members” and the song remains the same. Silos are formed, turf is protected, and service — along with the organization itself — suffers as more agile competitors provide a more seamless cross-channel banking experience.
So how do you reorganize so that each new product or enhancement works well and works well with others, and that every decision revolves around enabling members to easily conduct or even improve their financial lives? A good place to start would be to understand what your member sees from the other side of the teller line or login screen.
Experiments In Journey Mapping
According to the Harvard Business Review, “A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.”
Think of journey mapping as kind of a secret shopper on steroids. Do everything a typical — and atypical — member does with your credit union, from account opening on, and look for disconnects. That could be too many logins for mobile banking, clunky bill pay setups that ultimately don’t work, lobby and contact center staff who can’t solve simple problems, you name it.
Documenting the member experience will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about developing a roadmap for digital initiatives that works for your credit union, makes sense for your culture, or even allows you to adjust that culture if that is where the stumbling block lies.
Improving the member experience is a shared responsibility for everyone employed at the credit union. Journey mapping is likely to help identify those areas where hard decisions need to be made.
Incorporating The Tech Evangelists And Digital Natives
An effective exercise in journey mapping will help provide clarity of purpose about what digital means to your credit union but it will also provide a closer look at your people and processes, and you very well may find the former digging in their heels about the latter.
Resistance to change is not just about egos, it’s also about being afraid of losing one’s place in and relevance to the organization. Each shop is full of different personalities who will require different strategies in order to soften their opposition to new ideas yet still commit their valuable experience, institutional knowledge, and skillsets to your cause.
As traditional responsibilities shift, you’ll also need to rely heavily on “digital natives,” the younger employees and members who have grown up in an online and now mobile world. Their perspective on the member experience at your credit union is vital and needs to be heard. Remember a few years ago, when the job title “technology evangelist” was first bandied about? Well, now everybody needs to be one.
Who’s In Charge Here?
The development of plug-and-play ancillary solutions has somewhat obviated the need for IT to rule on whether a product or service can be offered, but that doesn’t change the fact that new solutions do need to be implemented into existing infrastructures.
That’s just one example of why IT shouldn’t be left out of the digital discussion without some serious thought first. An involved IT leader can become an innovation thought leader in an environment that encourages discussion and experimentation.
But defined governance for decision-making roles, criteria, and processes still needs to be present in your operational model, DeLaCastro says, and your reporting processes will also probably need to be revamped, at least for the purposes of the digital journey mapping.
This might involve eliminating metrics such as average call handling time, he says, and replacing them with benchmarks such as net promoter scores. There also are a number of additional approaches to incentive and reporting systems now in place at credit unions, many of which we’ve profiled at CreditUnions.com.
Flexibility is the final component of success here. Everyone knows formal reporting processes are often bypassed in order to meet workplace realities, and successfully navigating a new technology roadmap can either exacerbate or enhance that reality, depending on your point of view.
A Harvard Business School online forum offers these observations: “Innovation is directly proportional to the attitude of senior management” and “Nearly all current performance management models are stacked against innovation.”
The same piece also includes this advice for creating a path forward: “Set the context; guide the process; clearly communicate reasons; shield creative teams; appreciate distinctiveness in people and their thinking; and welcome change.”
Credit unions would do well to heed this advice. By including both senior stakeholders and new voices in your quest to develop and leverage the best possible technology, these individuals can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.