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As the owner of a company in the financial services space that relies heavily on technology, I do pay attention to what’s going on in both the financial services industry and the world of new technologies. As a result, I continue to research this “digital transformation” that everyone is talking about … not just bankers but, well … everyone. And in all the reading I’ve done, I’ve not seen a whole lot of discussion around what I think is a very important topic: Building consensus. I know how critical this is to integrating new technologies, as I have lived through the process myself.

Let’s start with what we all already know; that no matter what industry you’re in, digital transformation is an absolute necessity. Bankers are certainly no exception. I speak with bankers across the country every day and they recognize the important role that technology – AI-powered technology, in particular – plays in enhancing customer experiences, staying compliant with evolving regulations, retaining talent, competing with well-funded neobanks, and safeguarding PPI (Personally Identifiable Information) data assets. They also know (again, as do I, having experienced this) that the journey toward transformation has its share of pitfalls – disruptive downtime, the risk of failure, and resource requirements, to name just a few – which weigh heavily on decision-makers and hinder progress. 

As a result, in many cases, transformations are never undertaken or when attempted, fail to meet performance objectives. For greater success, leaders must take a different view of technology adoption and drive the initiative not as a technology purchase, but as an organizational change. In short, they must build consensus.

Remember — digital transformation is organizational change

And remember, too, that organizational change requires soft skills, not hard. What’s the difference? According to Coursera, “hard skills are job-related competencies and abilities that are necessary to complete work, while soft skills are personal qualities and traits that impact how you work.” 

Strange as it may sound, using soft skills and putting the focus on people, i.e., stakeholders, can be far more challenging than putting the focus on technology. Which is why firms tend to adopt a technology-first approach in the purchase process. For their digital transition to add value, change leaders must invest time (and their soft skills) in the process in order to ensure that all stakeholders are not just on board, but fully engaged.

Identify and engage all stakeholders 

Now, who are these stakeholders? A common misperception is that stakeholders are simply users. They’re not. A stakeholder is any individual who is impacted by a decision. When identifying stakeholders, cast a wide net. Make certain to “over involve” rather than “under involve.” 

A common mistake is not fully engaging all stakeholders, with the result that those who are not fully engaged often fail to understand the importance of buying into the change or what their part should be in making the change successful. They simply understand that a change is happening “to them,” and not “with them.” Engaging all stakeholders throughout the process is no simple task, but by doing so, leaders can save time and money — and eliminate friction down the road. 

Speak the same language 

Consensus begins with a shared vocabulary. Each stakeholder’s tech familiarity, their potential interaction with the considered solution, and the goals they seek to achieve, are unique. Some will focus on features, such as interface, while others will take a much broader view, i.e., how the proposed technology aligns with more enterprise-wide goals. Regardless of their functional area  – whether marketing, human resources, operations, or finance – all participants in the process must understand how the proposed change impacts the entire business, and the bottom line. 

Agree upon measures of success

Arbitrary definitions of success can and will hinder progress. What is considered a win, for instance? Automating a process by 50%? 80%? ROI, key to measuring the value of any tech implementation, is nearly impossible to calculate when stakeholders have varying definitions of success. Transformation is a dynamic process and can be influenced both unexpectedly and significantly by internal or external forces at any moment. It isn’t enough, therefore, to simply set the transition in motion and hope the desired result is achieved. Performance metrics should be reviewed regularly. Like any journey, it’s always a safe bet to frequently consult the roadmap.

Avoid SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

It’s been called SOS and the cause is clear; breakthroughs in technology are occurring on an almost daily basis. And it’s human nature to wonder if one should, perhaps, shift one’s focus from yesterday’s solution to today’s. How many times have you been right in the middle of a vendor conversation concerning a technology purchase when you accidentally stumble across a solution that could very well be better, cheaper and faster??

SOS most often occurs when leaders are managing (and distracted by) multiple initiatives, underestimate the complexities of executing the transformation, or fail to fully involve all stakeholders. Frustration with goals, frustration with progress, and frustration with performance can easily lead to a case of SOS. Often, a case of SOS grows into a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). What’s the best way to avoid SOS and FOMO from the start? Set clear, measurable, agreed-upon, and achievable goals. Monitor both long-term and short-term goals and measure success on a regular basis. 

Make the best use of user stories and use cases

A user story is a brief description of a software solution feature from a user's perspective. Remember when we talked about speaking the same language? Here’s where that really matters. Atlassian says, “It's tempting to think that user stories are, simply put, software system requirements. But they're not. A key component of agile software development is putting people first, and a user story puts end users at the center of the conversation. These stories use non-technical language to provide context for the development team and their efforts. After reading a user story, the team knows why they are building, what they're building, and what value it creates.”1

User stories typically include the following three parts: Who wants the functionality, what it is they want, and why they want it. User stories can be quite effective as they 1) guide the buying team along their journey toward vendor partnership, and 2) articulate in a simple way the “who, what, and why” of the desired outcome.

Once the user stories have been captured, distill them into use cases that include all stakeholder parameters, goals, and benefits. Prioritize them, and eliminate any that are incompatible with existing technologies or lack clarity in measurement. Ideally, these are the use cases that represent the most business value. The use cases can then be shared with vendors, who can provide ideas and insights gained from past engagements. 

Build consensus and accelerate tech adoption

As financial institutions continue to accelerate their technology investments, the need for a more structured and rigorous consensus-building process will continue to grow. C-suite leaders can spearhead a successful tech adoption with a consensus-building process that is inclusive, collaborative, and capitalizes on the knowledge and experience not only of employees, but vendors, too. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Bank Marketing Center

Here at bankmarketingcenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers — developed by bank marketing professionals for bank marketing professionals — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. 

Our web-based platform puts our client partners in complete control of their marketing production process – and for a fraction of traditional marketing costs. We’re also proud of the fact that we currently work with over 300 financial institutions. 

Want to learn more about what we can do for your community bank and your marketing efforts? You can start by visiting bankmarketingcenter.com. Then, feel free to contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

1Atlassian. User story examples and templates.