Agility…the ability to respond quickly to changing environments and demands. Historically a bank’s technology department has been seen as a roadblock to business in their search to address market, customer, and compliance demands quickly. This perception has forced technology and technology groups to transform and address agility. Besides the advances in technology that move towards agility an agile software development methodology was developed and continues to be refined where requirements and solutions evolve via a collaborative effort involving cross-functional teams.
For me, in the context of core banking technologies, agility means decoupling underlying services from parent processes, decoupling applications from channels, decoupling workers from desks, and to decoupling real time data from operational data stores. With service-oriented architecture, cloud computing, mobile applications, and in memory computing solutions gaining ground agility is no longer a concept it is an achievable end state.
Decoupling seems to be key to agility but the truth is that it is only the enabler of agility. Decoupling provides autonomous working parts that when put together in various combinations becomes greater then their sum. True agility is found in the coming together of decoupled services into a composite application, the provision of the composite application across all channels immediately, the meeting of an employee and a client in a new environment, and the ability to run near real-time analytics. The agile method and the outcome of agility are reliant on bringing concepts, services, and most importantly people together.
I am a fan of TED Talks. I recently saw one from TED Brussels by Paddy Ashdown. The talk he gave was related to shifting power in the world. One of the main points of the talk is summarized below:
…in the modern age, where everything is connected to everything, the most important thing about what you can do is what you can do with others. The most important bit about your structure – whether you’re a government, whether you’re an army regiment, whether you’re a business – is your docking points, your interconnectors, your capacity to network with others.
To become more agile technology has taken Paddy’s lesson to heart. Having said that the ability of a complex business, like a bank, to take advantage of the agility of new technology is limited by their existing structures with vertical hierarchies, and specialization of tasks within disparate business silos.
Unlike technology, which has embraced the exposure of docking points, created common languages and translators between disparate systems providing specialized functionality the organizational structure and culture have failed to keep up. Want to transform your bank quicker and cheaper then figure out how to transform your enterprise into one that works well with itself and ensures specialist can talk to and understand each other.