Innovating for Omnichannel

Channels were at the frontline of digital disruption in the banking industry and continue to be hugely influential in banking transformation. Channel experience is a critical factor in how customers rate their overall banking experience. Also, for an entire generation, the value of a bank’s product and service offerings is only as good as its mobile channel. Channel innovation, therefore, still represents a huge opportunity for banks to deliver a differentiated and personalized experience to their customers. Little wonder then that it tops the innovation and investment agenda at a large number of banks.
More importantly, channel innovation investments seem to be broadly converging towards a singular priority or theme. Let’s turn to the BAI- Infosys Finacle Global Banking Innovation Awards for empirical evidence.
Last year’s nominees for channel innovation represented an eclectic mix of outstanding solutions targeting different possibilities across the spectrum of channel experience. First there was (arguably) the first wearable banking solution, which integrated both the smartwatch and the Glass into the banking experience. A mobile wallet enabled a range of self-service, peer-to-peer and in-store transactions. There were also two solutions focused on the customer service component, one involving voice biometrics to streamline a customer’s call center experience while the other redefined the boundaries of social customer care. The final nomination, and eventual winner, was an integrated and comprehensive Internet + Mobile banking platform boasting over 200 innovative features.
This year though, “omnichannel experience” seems to be the implicit theme with most of the nominations conforming, in varying degrees, to this narrative. The omnichannel project from Bank Millennium SA has developed a core digital banking foundation on SMAC solutions that allows the implementation of end-to-end processes across all channels, including online, mobile and ATM. An immediate outcome of the exercise is a 200 percent increase in sales through digital channels. The Bank of East Asia brings a new digital branch model that would more tightly align customers’ branch experience with that on digital channels. The digital branch packs some of the most innovative, next-generation digital banking tools into a footprint less than half that of conventional branches. A unified customer experience, the core proposition underlying the concept of omnichannel, is also the focal point of project ‘Unique’ from Odeabank. The project involves the complete redesign of all direct banking channels, including mobile, Internet, and ATM, for customers/ non-customers.
The two outliers in the omnichannel cluster also bring their unique perspective to channel innovation. Basemap, a mobile tablet interface from Finansbank, is designed to extend the bank’s Small Medium Enterprise (SME) and Commercial Banking reach beyond physical locations. By enabling roving relationship managers with access to every corner of the market, Finansbank is able to significantly enhance performance in customer acquisition and cross-selling, and marketing efficiency. Rounding off the mix is Hello Bank!, a mobile-only bank from BNP Paribas, conceptualized as the digital bank for the mobile consumer. Apart from accessing a range of intuitive and easy-to-use applications to manage their finances, Hello! customers can also interact with the bank’s experts through email, chat, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or call center.
The nominations highlight a whole range of innovation opportunity in banking channels and showcase the aptitude for innovation in specific components and processes within. Seeing how the focus of innovation has evolved from channel-specific to omnichannel between 2014 and 2015, it’s intriguing to think what next year will bring. But in the meantime, let us honor this year’s innovators for their contributions to the future of retail banking. I hope you can join us in the celebrations.
Winners and finalists will be recognized by Infosys Finacle and BAI during an awards ceremony at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference & Expo, on Oct. 13th at 3 PM, in Las Vegas, NV, USA.

Software Product Documentation – Less is More

Here is a quick question to begin with. When was the last time you referred to a bulky user manual for a consumer product? Chances are that you haven’t done that in a while. There was a time when a manual was often larger than the product it described, such as a scientific calculator. But when I checked the documentation that came with my iPad mini, smartphone, and Acer Tablet, in each case it was minimal. Of course, there was plenty of electronic content online.
Now, check any software product that you acquired recently. Although the documentation will be mostly electronic or online, it will be extensive. If you are lucky, there will be a short Quick Start or Getting Started Tutorial that is actually helpful and will get you up and running quickly. But you will still have to go through a lot of stuff to get many things done. Of course, software is getting smarter with all kinds of contextual help, floating tips, prompts, popups, dropdowns, hover help, wizards etc., which makes it easy for a new user to get going without reading the manual. Many consumer products are intuitive and don’t need a manual to operate, unless they have a lot of knobs and switches and levers in which case some help may still be needed to figure out the cryptic icons.
Product documentation is undergoing a lot of change today. As product categories become better known, their manuals shrink in size. Compare the size of a typical manual for a mobile phone or calculator today against that when they were still new categories. But the same trend is not seen in enterprise software, where product complexity remains huge. Developments, such as Graphical User Interface, Touch, Workflows etc., have tried to make it easier for the user, but enterprise software deals with complex processes such as Accounting, Manufacturing, Banking, Production, Software Development and so on, which aren’t easy to simplify. Tons of manuals must be created to help users, administrators and installers understand the complexities of the software. Documentation may no longer be published on paper, but it is available online in electronic formats. Online documentation has given opportunities to embed videos, simulations and other multimedia elements to make it even more user friendly. Documentation can be brought up automatically based on the context, or it can be searched for using powerful search engines with Artificial Intelligence capabilities, but the sheer volume of the documentation still makes it a daunting task for users to find exactly what they want.
While for many mobile and desktop software, there is little need for a detailed document because the application itself is self-explanatory, enterprise software is still dependent on detailed and long explanations in external manuals to help users understand, install and configure it correctly. Is this a sign that enterprise software still has a long way to go before the documentation shrinks to something small and easy to read? Or is there something inherent in enterprise software that will continue to need extensive documentation? The evolution of product documentation has shown that it shrinks as a product becomes easier to use. Probably the extensive documentation accompanying enterprise software suggests that some amount of improvement in usability will be required, before the paperwork can downsize. Does anybody see that happening anytime soon?