The banks need to keep pace with the changing user experience of new age applications.
“These are the working horses” – the CIO of a bank once told me while showing the IT capability of his bank. It was a huge data center with racks of hardware and computer monitors with blue and black screens. “These are not the show horses – they look ugly but they never fail” – the CIO repeated while showing the banking applications, it was only an extension of the data center in many ways. The applications do not appeal but most often work without fail and that was what the CIO of the bank was proud of – guarantee against failure.
Not designed with users in focus
Business applications of the past were mostly designed with technical engineering in mind but hardly for the user experience. The objective was the application should be available 24X7, scale up, be available all the times – and other technical parameters. The business applications were expected to be difficult to understand for the users. The end-users were expected to be trained for the special handling of the application. Users would eventually adapt to the system behavior which was ingrained in the design principles of these applications. The ‘content’ was always given priority over the ‘form’.
Are complex things not trusted?
I had this hypothesis in any problem solving or situation analysis – anything that looks very complex must be wrong. Most of us do this subconsciously – if we don’t understand, we don’t trust or adopt if we have the choice. Engineering formulation of the problems was always complex and the complexity manifested in the business applications also. One of the design principles earlier was to provide a comprehensive ‘help/FAQ section’ to help answer any queries. There was always an element of training for the correct usage of these applications.
The new digital world
If you ask some of the 13 years old, who have grown up using tablets as a primary device to browse through your banking application login, in all probability they will give up after few minutes. You may think as this is not a gaming app, they will learn to use this when they grow- up and learn to handle more complexities. Possibly they will learn when they grow up but there is also a danger that they may never adapt to this and switch to other new age banks that make the whole banking experience as good their gaming.
The fast developing world of new age applications has raised the expectations of the end-users. On the contrary, the enterprise applications have been very monolithic and less amenable to keep pace with the new age apps.
Do the business applications really need to respond to change?
The common Blackberry vs iPhone paradigm – one was designed for functionality and other was for usability. I am not sure but maybe the engineering problem was solved better in blackberry but Apple had user-centered design and it swept the once so dominant market of smartphone. There has also been a difference in B2B and B2C applications approach thinking. A B2C application needs to be user centric while the B2B could afford to be functionality centric.
Basic technology feasibility problems have been solved – initial wave of IT transformation are complete. The decision making now will eventually move from the technologist to business users of those applications. For the business users, the underlying engineering problem is incidental; it is all about his experience.
In the new digital world, the user experience divide between the new age consumer applications and banking applications in office would eventually reduce. As the engineering problems get solved, users would get more and more power to demand a better experience from their banking applications. A banking user can’t understand why his application can’t be as simple and intuitive as his Facebook. The applications (across the industry) that adopt this change faster would have better success in the long run.