How micro-transformations can yield big results

  • By Mark Bernhardi - nCino

Looking for a small but mighty customer experience uplift? nCino General Manager APAC, Mark Bernhardi, says a micro-transformation strategy can help banks achieve immediate value and also trigger a domino effect of even larger transformational outcomes.

As the global pandemic continues to linger, financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand are looking for opportunities to cut costs while continuously enhancing digital capabilities to meet the changing needs of their clients and employees. But complexity is rife. IT systems remain entangled and ageing, making change costly and time consuming and the transition from old to new ways of working can be complex and risky.

As a result, according to nCino research, 78% of senior banking and financial services executives feel their organisation is unprepared to react and adapt to unforeseen challenges.

In the US and Europe, many of nCino’s banking clients are getting around these issues by pursuing micro-transformation projects. These smaller, bite-sized technology upgrades allow banks to accelerate time to value, by tackling the highest return, least disruptive changes first, then layering on additional features later – in manageable, cost-effective chunks.

The result is quick wins that add immediate and measurable value – while also paving the way for more complex digital transformation projects down the road.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for micro-transformation is the way it accelerates change management critical to achieving the overall objective. These small, incremental projects don’t overwhelm end users. They give staff both the time and incentive to learn new processes and systems, building digital ‘muscle’ that people use with increasing confidence – allowing culture to catch up with change.

Importantly, the earlier that staff experience a micro-transformation, the more engaged and enthusiastic they become about the next one – and the more critical mass develops behind your transformation agenda. As multiple micro-transformations fuel this virtuous spiral, enterprise-wide appetite grows for more digital skills, automated workflows and useful data – supporting rapid evolution and transformation.

This is the battle banks need to win for digital transformation to deliver on its promise. It’s not just about implementing new technology. It’s about boosting people’s digital skills, digital confidence and digital appetite. Because scaling changed behaviours has a much higher and more valuable impact than scaling the scope and complexity of the technology.


Think small to gain big

To reduce dependencies and collaboration overload, leaders need to exert strong discipline to ensure energy and attention is resolutely focused on the few vital changes that make the most impact.

Look to identify an opportunity that addresses a clear customer and business need and will have a definitive, much needed and measurable impact. Focus on simplification and removing steps, over automating or enhancing current capabilities. Finding the right opportunity requires a certain ruthless quality. As Steve Jobs famously put it: “Focus is about saying no.”

Take inspiration from the fact that, on his return to Apple, Jobs brought back clarity to the company by eliminating more than 70% of its products – setting it on the path to a USD$1 trillion valuation.

Avoid trying to solve for everything today and falling into the trap of lengthy three to five year technology planning exercises. Your technology partners are investing millions in continuous innovation. Once you get onto the train of partnership, collaboration and incremental delivery, innovation will automatically be conferred to your systems. Trust in your partners’ roadmaps and settle in to watch as new developments boost performance in ways you hadn’t even imagined.

Lead with change

Most transformation efforts fail because organisations over-emphasise the tangible side of change and under-emphasise the emotional one.

By definition, transformation is about doing something different. To get the most out of transformation, projects need to be led by a team with a diverse set of experience and connections – but a common set of values and attitudes. Too often, efforts to “fix architecture” remain rooted in a company’s legacy practices, culture, and leadership. The most successful transformation leaders recognise how to steer culture consciously and continuously in the direction of aspiration, alignment, empowerment and accountability. Teams are more likely to invest in change when leaders are able to paint a pathway to an exciting future.

This is why external partners are so important. They can come in without organisational baggage and bias, and instead challenge internal teams to look beyond their current horizons – finding new ways of working and bold possibilities that banks are unlikely to get to on their own. Choose partners at the forefront of technology innovation and make them an integral part of the decision making process.


Scale adoption – not complexity

Adoption is one of those issues that’s so obvious, people forget about it. The simple truth is that, if employees don’t actually use the new platform, it will almost certainly fail to deliver the expected outcomes and return on investment.

The big takeaway is it’s far more important to get simple tools into more people’s hands than to give fewer people with fancier tools.

No one appreciates digital tools until they start using them. And most users take a while to get to grips with all the functionality they’re given – even if, to IT, that functionality is very simple. As a client noted recently: “We didn’t realise what we could do with the platform until we had it in our hands.”

The key word here is “we” – “what we could do with the platform”. That sense of ownership and discovery is what turbo charges digital success. Don’t get bogged down in scoping complex automation with all the bells and whistles. Instead, focus on rapidly establishing a platform foundation with new decision making, change and delivery velocity capabilities – and drive adoption hard.

Don’t rely on adoption happening automatically. As Jonathan Holman, Head of Digital at a top British bank puts it: “Sometimes transformation is that radical – people can’t even imagine it.” Get that technology into their hands, teach them to use it, empower your teams and prepare to be amazed with how these small changes can lead to radical results.