Digital Transformation: The Process Problem

This is the third post in a series looking at what’s blocking financial services organizations from creating a more TurboTax-like experience. (To read the first post, click here.)

Just to recap, what’s blocking them is as many as seven key roadblocks:

My previous post dealt with the first item on this list, the demographic problem. Now, let’s move on down the list to the process problem.

The process problem is a big roadblock for legacy organizations. It’s such a big problem that organizations have lost top talent to new financial services startups because these upstarts provide technical individuals the opportunity to design a process from scratch, instead of having to deal with the mare’s nest of issues faced by a traditional organization—one that’s grown through acquisition over decades.

For purposes of our conversation on data capture / e-forms / digital transformation, let’s split the process problem into two primary organizational components. First you have the business. In a process like new account opening, the front office which is handling the customer-facing interactions for onboarding is totally separate from the middle office which is responsible for approving the transactions, and again separate from the back-office operations group that processes the data downstream. At many organizations, there are multiple technical groups which support the different line-of-business systems and workflows for those processes.

The second organizational component is the group responsible for the creation, maintenance, and production of e-forms. This ordinarily includes a group within the business that owns the forms. When a change needs to be made or a new form needs to be created, they create a request that goes to a forms management team that is responsible for implementing the design and update of the form as requested by the form’s owner. Depending on the organization, the forms management group may be centralized, or there may be individual groups for each line of business. Then there are representatives from Legal and Compliance who are responsible for signing off on the language of forms. In some cases, there are also members of Marketing who own customer experience and need to be involved in editorial decisions about look, feel, and tone of the document and the language it contains.

And where are the digital transformation teams in this quagmire? In my experience, they are focused on the customer-facing web properties and the social media platforms, and on the analytics tied to each of those. Issues around collecting customer data in electronic forms, signature, and passing the data downstream have not been impacting the “customer experience.”

Many of these groups have "customer experience" as an item on theie roadmaps, but believe they have much more pressing issues to address. I asked a director of one global financial services provider if their Center of Excellence dedicated to digital transformation was thinking about the impact of digital transformation on operations; he basically laughed at me, and said they had to fix the customer experience first. When I pressed him about the operational benefits of straight-through data processing, he said it wasn’t under his responsibilities and that the Ops guys were in contact with him, but this was not high on the priority list. Instead, he is focused on the company web site looking consistent across products (investments, wealth, etc.) and channels (desktop, mobile, etc.). (FYI, more on this particular issue in a later post.)

So what do you need to do if you want to overcome the process problem?

  1. Begin by creating an inventory of the major business processes and the forms that support them today (most will be paper or fillable PDF). Identify who touches those forms in the front, middle, and back office.
  2. Identify who your form owners are in the business and who manages the forms for them. Are there central Legal and Compliance resources that support them, or does form review go into a queue?
  3. Create an inventory of forms across business processes and prioritize the list by volume. In many organizations, there will be five to ten iterations of a form, depending on the product it supports (Brokerage, Trust, Term Life, etc.) or the channel that distributes it (retail branch, third-party advisors, etc.). But that is a limitation of paper / static PDF. Once you move to digital, you can create variable templates to serve those uses. In many cases, a Wire Transfer is a Wire Transfer, so you can probably combine the number of “Wire Transfer” forms being processed across all product lines.
  4. Establish whether there are any additional support groups that are involved in data capture. Examples of this would be the team that supports e-signature, data capture on the customer-facing web site, line-of-business application owners that use forms as a part of their process or create a form at the conclusion of their process, etc.

Once the major processes, forms, and support groups have been identified, you can begin rationalizing those efforts and re-imagining them against a more centralized, flexible model that support a true digital transformation. You will also have the beginning of an assessment of where the opportunities for straight-through data processing exist within your processes.

Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.