Don’t neglect the back office – Digital strategies need to be about more than just websites18 January 2017
With digitalisation increasingly taking centre stage in everyday life, many financial services firms are looking to improve their digital offering in a bid to appeal to current and prospective clients. However, all too often, companies focus their attention exclusively on developing all-singing, all-dancing websites, based on consistent user experiences, without any corresponding update to their back office capabilities. In a previous article, I wrote about the dangers of treating digital and technology in a piecemeal fashion, by either appointing a ‘Digital Director’ or only implementing technology solutions in isolated areas of the business.
Unfortunately, by only focusing on your website/front-end and forgetting to pay attention to operations and technology across the whole business structure, they risk, at best, undermining any efforts to improve the service delivered and, at worst, alienating the very clients they want to attract. Implementation of a digital strategy must be underpinned by a similar upgrade to a firm’s technological and operational components.
The advent of digitalisation has changed the way clients interact with financial services firms. The speed of response made possible in the digital age means clients now demand both a faster and more personalised service. The firms who are able to successfully navigate this minefield are those who effectively adopt ‘a three pillared approach’ with the overall focus on their clients: these comprise a firm’s online presence, and its operational and technological functionalities.
But digitalisation has also changed the way the firms themselves operate. While in the recent past, departments and technology tended to be based around different products or distribution channels (for example, advised, direct to consumer or workplace), firms performing well in the digital world have evolved so that all roads lead to the client. Any successful digital strategy must have the needs of the end user at the very heart of the proposition. This is the case regardless of the product or channel the user has selected. The back office has to reflect the aims of the digital experience.
Thus, a true digital strategy isn’t just about the web or a company’s online presence, but rather transformation of the organisation. Each pillar depends on the others to survive and as a result, any updates need to be done in tandem. In this way, without considering the back office, the website acts as little more than a smokescreen. A slick, user-friendly website demands a slick, user-friendly back office.
The concern here is that without an integrated, holistic approach, the system breaks down as soon as the user has any communication beyond that of the website. For instance, if they need to make contact with the back office or those in the back office need to contact them, this part of the process can become clunky. In many cases, this is further compounded by antiquated systems used for storing data – sometimes dating back to the 1980s.
Therefore, the message is clear. It is imperative that firms upgrading their digital offering do not neglect the back office. Any successful digital strategy needs to be underpinned by integrated, holistic technological and operational propositions.