Paul Shetler rains on banks' digital parade

Digital is not about engagement, the former head of Australia’s Digital Transformation Office, Paul Shetler, has told the Australian Mortgage Innovation Summit.

Addressing a surprised audience in Sydney on Friday, Shetler (pictured above) outlined some common missteps in brownfield digital transformation, myth-busting several digital beliefs along the way.

“Digital is not about engagement. People don’t want to engage with you,” he claimed. “No one wants to engage with the bank, no one wants to engage with the government, no one wants to engage with Amazon. People just want to get stuff done. That’s all they want. People want to transact.

“When users talk about transformation they are really only expecting one big thing - simple, clear, fast services to meet their needs,” he added.

Starting at the beginning, Shetler said transformation in the brownfield across financial services, media, retail and government shares starts with an understanding that digital is not IT.

“Usually when an organisation uses the word digital they want to say something specific.”

Primary channel

Digital, Shetler believes, originated, “usually when people from marketing, sales or communications” decided to sidestep the “usual blockers” and to get things done they just went to the cloud, to “communicate directly” with customers.

“That’s is pretty much how digital has started up in any industry you choose to look at, whether government or financial services or any small start-ups that have realised they’re moving too slowly.”

What’s important is a recognition that internet and mobile is the primary channel, he said.

“It’s the main way people ask and receive services – it’s not the branch, or the post, it’s not telephony, it’s not coming in to talk to somebody – it’s getting things done quickly and easily over the internet.”

It means the people delivering those services must do so in a lean and agile way, using standard lean techniques and standard agile software development techniques. This is the digital difference.

According to Shetler this means not building via the waterfall and not drawing up big specifications.

“Not having lots and lots of meetings. They’re going out they’re experimenting and seeing what works,” he suggested. “They design their services around user needs - not the internal structures they’re working within - because users don’t care about internal structures.”

No intergalactic strategies

When Shetler deploys a team, he tells them to forget what they’re planning and just think about what the user is actually trying to get done.

“Instead of coming up with big intergalactic strategies on how we're going to completely dominate the market and have some incredible plan of 800 pages to show how much we thought of things, lets actually do something different - lets deliver something," he said.

“Shut down the tendency to endless debate,” he advised. “It only serves your internal bureaucracy. A prototype is worth a thousand meetings. Just show the thing.”

Critically, Shetler concluded, digital deploys things on the cloud.

“They don’t develop stuff and put it into a data server, they develop stuff and out it into the cloud platform because it’s so much cheaper," he said. “(Via the cloud) I can spend all my time developing services that users really love and that’s really, really important.”

According to the former Microsoft executive, the cloud is the rainmaker of the digital age.

“The changing economics of cloud have fundamentally changed the way people are doing product development and we’re seeing that across all industries.”

An example, he suggested, would be something like Uber.

“Dead simple. Every single additional tap, step, request for information is stripped out because they know it gets in the way between meeting that user need, that transaction, and what they want," he said.

“It’s not about asking tonnes and tonnes of information from your users, it’s not about collecting every little piece of information- it’s about offering the best, quickest fastest service. And the companies that do that are the ones that clean up because we’re in a competitive marketplace."

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