Now Hiring: Banks & Credit Unions Need Digital Transformation Architects

With financial institutions wrestling with how to use data to become more competitive, creating a hybrid marketing/IT position makes increasing sense. The right person in the role can help to link multiple business units and data silos, speeding progress toward true personalization and increased engagement.

Amazon, Google, and other technology-driven companies have created a consumer marketplace where personalization isn’t an option, but a requirement. This demand for an interaction that isn’t generic stretches far beyond tastes in home decor and music. More than ever, consumers expect the people who hold their money to help them get the most out of it.

Few financial institutions, so far, have met that expectation. When it comes to digital transformation, one of the toughest challenges is merely getting things in motion. According to 2020 research by the Digital Banking Report, 53% of the financial institutions surveyed struggle with the deployment of technology, while 52% cite each of the following challenges: culture/structure of the organization, lack of skills/expertise and evaluating/prioritizing new ideas.

Almost as many bank and credit union executives cite a “lack of data” as hindering digital transformation. Considering all the information needed to establish a relationship with a bank, it may not be a lack of data that is the problem so much as how the information is siloed between departments and inaccessible to those that can use it the most: marketers and the frontline.

To take advantage of the mass of information and opportunity available, financial institutions should consider creating a hybrid marketing/technology role. One example is a “customer journey architect.” This position has influence in both marketing and IT and, importantly, is a cross-functional leader who knows how to have conversations to make change happen. While a customer journey architect may sound novel now, but just a few years ago, so did the term “digital transformation.”

Other characteristics of this new position include the ability to initiate and lead crucial conversations, develop data-driven objectives and observations, create plans of action and execute through tactful communication and ongoing benchmarking — all aimed at driving digital transformation.

That may sound like a tall order — and it is. Breaking through the data roadblocks and the internal noise around what digitization looks like is difficult. Below are five specific suggestions for how a hybrid marketing/tech leader can succeed and not end up as just another trendy title.

1. Get Input from Key Business Unit Leaders

Successful influencers in the customer journey architect role seek to engage human capital at all levels. The C-suite definitely needs to be on board, but the most vital buy-in is from key business unit leaders. By working tightly with the experts in each functional area of the financial institution the architect begins to understand their needs and also what they think they know about their customers.

The goal in these beginning conversations is to get the best understanding possible about the business unit’s functioning and the team’s perceptions about their customers’ journey. Here are some of the key questions to ask:

  • At what stage is each business unit in meeting its growth goals?
  • What are pain points in the process of onboarding (for both employees and customers)?
  • How do business units reach customers?
  • What is the average turnaround time in comparison to competitors?
  • What do we do better than competitors and visa versa?

After all these basic questions, the biggest one will be: What do you want to achieve going forward? This is the time to talk about goals — but not objectives. More information is needed before setting those.

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2. Listen to the Data, Not Preconceived Ideas

The next step is root cause analysis, often connected with the concept of Lean Strategy. The customer journey architect understands what each team’s goals and problems are and what they think they know. Now, it’s time to validate that information. As you do, push aside all preconceived notions from the interactions you had with the business units. Otherwise, you’ll only end up with confirmation bias. You know the problems, but use the data to learn what the causes are.

As you look through the data, begin to think about its use in two parts: 1. directly by end-users and 2. as a source to automate the digital journey paths. Keep in mind that for most banks and credit unions digital transformation isn’t about the death of branch banking, but how to make it better. While branches are declining slowly in numbers (approximately 2% annually), various consumer studies have found that consumers still go to a branch across generations, even during the pandemic.

By looking at the entirety of the customer journey, you can create a holistic picture of how data can be used at the branch and outside of it and make plans accordingly.

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3. Meet with Business Unit Leaders and Data Overseers

One of the biggest challenges for a customer journey architect will be deciding what data to share and when. With a firm understanding of what business units believe and what the data confirms or denies, it’s time to begin crucial conversations about what to do.

Business unit leaders need to be brought in to set objectives from this information. There will be a lot of data, and the concentration should be on creating a mutual understanding of what it means, and less on all the data details. A good cross-functional leader will know what few data points need to be presented from the mass of information to help set objectives and discuss a potential solution to get the right information to the end-users.

This can involve using Salesforce solutions or Microsoft’s PowerBI. Either way, this is where the technology portion of the architect position kicks in. The person also needs to have conversations with IT, DevOps, or whoever is the “holder of the information” to figure out the right solution.

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4. Lead the Charge to Create the Roadmap

Here is where the merger of technology, marketing and end goals comes to life. The customer journey architect role leads the charge in getting it done by knowing what is needed, how the technology will be used and understanding the limitations of specific systems.

The architect is like a chameleon, blending in when needed, sitting back and listening, yet ready to make a quick decision to move the process forward. Once the roadmap is complete, more communication is in store.

5. Communicate – Especially with the Training Unit

Creating a backend system for the digital journey is often the easier part of the job. It’s the front-end processes that can be more difficult. Ultimately, data — and the systems that mine and present it — are only as good as the end-users. To that point, thorough communication with yet another business unit — Training — will need to begin.

Training needs to involve benchmarking and setting objectives for users that support the broader goals of business unit leaders. One example: “Grow deposits by 7% annually” needs to be whittled down to specific objectives for each branch and then to individual levels.

The amount of information will undoubtedly be overwhelming to some people, while others will see its benefits and act as opinion leaders within the institution. Even so, the customer journey architect’s ability to be an influencer will be needed most in creating the experience for the end-users. The architect will tell meaningful stories about building a connection with customers through a digitally transformed delivery system and making usage a game with friendly competitions. They may find helpful suggestions in the book “Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change.”

There’s no doubt customers are demanding personalization and a digital journey that fits their needs. Whatever title you use, roles must be created that center around the customer journey and leading cross-functional teams to hurdle the many roadblocks to digitization.

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