Dean Brown, Partner, Wealth and Asset Management Consulting, KPMG UK writes that we find ourselves in an age where customers take for granted the ability to use digital products and services in a seamless and effortless way.
As a result, the Wealth and Asset Management industries find themselves under pressure to deliver technologies like digital communications and customer-centric technology to improve their offering and customer experience.
But to get the most from technology investments, these organisations must be able to apply technology quickly and in the correct way. This means boosting organisational agility to identify and explore new opportunities, learn what works, invest appropriately, and act across every product or service offering with a strong focus on customer value.
However, agility has now gone beyond software development and the definition of ‘being agile’ has become blurred, making it difficult for Wealth and Asset Managers to know how to implement this style of working.
What does agile transformation look like?
Confusingly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to enterprise agility. Companies have different customers, products, services, cultures, histories, etc. But we’re seeing a surge of activity in this space where companies are increasing their pace of value delivery by becoming agile at scale, to stay competitive in providing the best customer experiences.
Agile at scale delivers the biggest competitive advantage when done right. It goes beyond teams doing agile in their specific functions and includes portfolio level planning and alignment to organisational strategy. It means having a clear line of sight to customer needs and feedback, and a managed customer experience to ensure customers have cohesive product and service experiences.
Enterprise agility requires IT teams at Wealth and Asset Management firms to prioritise and fund the right work. So cross-functional teams need to be organised to deliver streams of value – the business and technology working together on the priority, high-value work that they deliver iteratively.
It also means having the ability to course-correct easily via fast feedback and pivoting without stigma when things don’t work out. In a regulated financial industry, this can feel like an alien and risky concept. However, this approach actually minimises the danger of implementing a large-scale transformation project that falls flat.
Most critically, agile working brings together people that understand the customer, the product and how it operates. It aligns them around a common set of priorities, plus a strong focus on value. It empowers teams to make informed product decisions and improve learning and information sharing.
All this reduces the interfaces and handoffs that work flows through, which reduces friction and provides the ability to pivot to where the value is, so the right things get done quickly. This is what increases organisational agility.
How to achieve enterprise agility
A company best achieves agility through a cross-functional effort that’s led by executive leaders who convey a clear vision, compel the organisation to change ways of working, and change the culture by walking the walk themselves.
Technology teams must understand agility and work in collaboration with the rest of the business to help boost agility across the company. In my experience, technology teams often face their own challenges and obstacles in the move to this style of working. They play a critical part in modernising the digital landscape and providing the technology runway the organisation needs to deliver value faster to customers.
If in doubt, there are common criteria to evaluate an enterprise agility project for the highest chance of success and future scalability:
Commitment exists in leadership and the business to align on agile values and principles. Teams believe in putting customers first
The product or service is new or can be iterated. Rapid prototyping with fast feedback loops and discovery of early results is possible
It is an adaptable small slice of the organisation and time to market is critical. This provides top to-bottom engagement and focus on outcomes
There is responsibility and trust in teams to deliver value independently
There are no constraints on key roles in the cross-functional team/s or scaled partners. A business product manager is in place
Can start small, then expand when proven. This fits agile principles, makes the journey sustainable, and avoids a risky big-bang approach
Wealth and Asset Management firms that can shape agile working practices that suit their organisation and can achieve true agility will be better equipped to navigate external and internal change at market speed. As customer preferences continue to evolve at pace, those firms will be best placed to serve their customers and achieve a competitive advantage.