In a recent Banking Technology article, the president of Oracle, Mark Hurd, relayed an anecdote about a large banking customer that required 9,000 applications to keep its business running. I imagine uncomfortable chuckles of recognition followed among the bankers and the software companies in the crowd. The truth is, financials do have extensive legacy systems in place and for plenty of good, sensible, reasons. Many of these systems are sturdy, they can process massive amounts of data, and they are dependable.
What aren’t they? Customer friendly. Yes, and customer friendly banks must be in a Bank 2.0 world. Customers are expecting ease-of-use, attractive interfaces and well-integrated functions that work seamlessly. Apple is ordinarily referenced as the exemplar of this type of computing. Today, banks are moving to all-digital, self-service customer interaction that requires ease of use and simplicity that are just not possible with complex legacy systems. So how can you leverage your legacy systems and at the same time offer easy to use apps? Below some basic suggestions:
1) Search for a solution in the front-end: create a flexible, user experience layer (multi-device presentation) and a well-defined, integration layer (convenient integration points). The buzzword today is APIs, but the SOA movement fulfilled this need 10 years ago. The difference between now and then is that before it was a ‘should,’ i.e., “We should have a well-defined, integration layer with standardized interfaces because that’s the most elegant way to do it.” Today, it’s a ‘must,’ i.e., “To support easy customer interactions across the plethora of devices that accompany them, we must have a convenient integration point that can be easily used in the presentation (or customer interaction) layer.”
2) Build user experience DNA into your organization. In the old enterprise application days, if users were unhappy, so what? They were employees. Even if they griped, no one resigned because an application was clunky. Even if they did, there was always someone else who would take their place. Today, your users are fickle. They’ll try an app, and if they can’t get it to work right away, they’ll go on to another. If people can’t do what they want with two or three clicks, you’re going to end up with a gaping wound in your company’s forecast. You have to learn from the best out there. Examine the most popular mobile business applications. I use Dropbox and Evernote apps all the time. They’re elegant, single-purpose, applications that I rely on every day. Find your own application exemplars. Learn from them. Your Bank 2.0 applications should deliver value on the opening page–without someone having to do more than enter some simple information. Your applications should make even more valuable information available via progressively deeper interaction.
This User Experience trend is far more profound than slapping a pretty interface on a decade-old enterprise application. That’s just lipstick on a pig. It’s all about recognizing that the boundary between your company and the rest of the world is getting blurry–and that’s a good thing. Letting end users engage with your systems can transform your business relationships and your economics.