June 9, 2020

How to Innovate With Data From Inside Financial Companies

Graeme Ozburn

Topic:   Industry Focus

Three ways to move people beyond their reluctance to embrace new technology.

Guest Blogger: Graeme Ozburn, Former Director, Product Design, RBC Investor & Treasury Services

In more than three decades working in the financial services industry, I’ve been constantly amazed at how often people in large organizations block new or unfamiliar initiatives, consciously or unconsciously. This was quite a challenge for someone charged with developing technology products that give investors and money managers access to the information they need to make smart decisions.

I can assure you, however, that you can innovate – no matter how big your organization may be – when you help people to overcome their reluctance to change. If you want to learn how, register for this  webinar (broadcast on June 17 and now on demand), “From Idea to Implementation: How to Achieve a Strong Data and Analytics Strategy in the Financial Services Sector.

Here is a sample of three of the most effective strategies:

1. Understand All Aspects of the Project, and Then Start Asking Questions

In a big company, it’s easy for people to withdraw into their corners of specialized knowledge. A project leader, however, must understand the complete picture: business objectives, client needs, underlying data structure, and capabilities of the technology being used. But a good leader should not come off as a know-it-all; that will just invite people to retreat further. Instead, use your knowledge to keep asking questions that will help team members see better approaches to overcoming challenges.

Detailed knowledge is especially helpful for spotting the all-too-common case where someone appears to be adopting an innovative technology but in fact is just putting a new wrapper on an old solution. Early in my career, I saw colleagues adding up numbers with a calculator before typing them into a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, which they didn’t trust to do the math. Decades later, I saw the same kind of doubt in play when a team working to facilitate new online accounts proposed that customers submit PDF versions of existing forms. I knew that wasn’t technologically necessary and not in the user’s best interest. So, I kept asking questions until the team devised a much more streamlined solution.

When people can touch and play with something, they understand it much more than if you try to describe it to them. Once a team aligns around a goal – and not the path to achieving it – turf battles generally fall away.

2. It’s Not the Journey, It’s the Destination

One of the best ways I’ve found to move people beyond their instinct to protect fiefdoms and status quo solutions is to re-frame discussions around the end goal rather than the means to the end. It’s especially helpful to build a working proof of concept for the product you’re trying to build. When people can touch and play with something, they understand it much more than if you try to describe it to them. Once a team aligns around a goal – and not the path to achieving it – turf battles generally fall away.

3. Focus Groups Are for Everyone

Even after rallying a team around a prototype, it’s still easy for team members to get so close to what they are building that they can’t see their mistakes. That’s why it is important for everyone – including the engineers – to observe focus groups and user testing.

Watching end users interact with a prototype program – asking questions about sources of confusion or opining about experiential preferences – is the best and quickest way for developers to get a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t working. These days, users are so used to well-designed websites and apps that they are quick to point out when a digital experience doesn’t work as smoothly as they have come to expect. That really helps to communicate what’s needed to the whole team.

Those are just a few highlights of my webinar. There is a lot more – about structuring project management, employing agile methodologies, and aligning people around innovation in organizations of all sizes – so be sure to register.