In today’s hypercompetitive market, banks must become skilled at how to
create services quicker, cheaper, and better and improve profit margins in the
face of escalating competition and other economic realities. Increasing business
process efficiency and effectiveness are critical success factors to improve
margins and allow more flexibility in financial product and service pricing.
Sustaining an elevated level of service in customer, agent, and broker interactions
is one of the most effectual ways for banks to distinguish themselves and
increase profitability in a highly aggressive and crowded market. According to
the Economist, “banking executives are discovering that the winning differentiator
is no longer the product or the price, but the level of engagement – the degree to
which a company succeeds in creating an intimate long-term relationship with the
customer and external stakeholder.”
Banks are always talking about searching for the silver bullet that will somehow
transform their bank lending activities into a well-oiled cost-effective machine!
However, without discovering the silver bullet most banking executives will agree
that a successful year over year profitable lending activity will always
contain exceptional and skilled governance supporting with well-organized
and high performing people, processes, and technology.
Real Life Experiences
Have you been a participant in a real life drama with a bank in attempted
to negotiate a business loan? If so, the following should be familiar scenarios
and bring back some frustrating thoughts as you recall your own experiences.
- The effort to complete the loan forms during the process of negotiating
a commercial loan is often a waste of time or very frustrating as bank
representatives will typically ask the same questions in the initial
meetings and follow-up phone calls.
- Banks have a lengthy list of forms that require input from the
borrower, the borrowers’ attorney or outside agents (appraisers,
inspectors, etc); these documents habitually are misplaced or are the wrong
version which requires significant duplication of effort.
- Identification of the authorized borrower’s representatives
during the loan negotiation process can be subject to weak security and
controls that generally increase compliance and legal complications for
- Banks cannot locate your completed documents after submission
due to error prone processes and routing activities.
- Banks do not know if the documents that you mailed or sent
by courier have arrived at the Bank and therefore delay the loan processing
- Compliance and transparency of the process is inconsistent particularly
with keeping pace with the correct version that reflects new
The experiences highlighted above are difficulties that are assumed by many
to be part of the game and accepted as a way of doing business! However,
that was yesterday in a different economic climate. Today, new technology
and processes enable banks to become better at the process of managing
customer expectations. In addition, collaboration tools can empower
bank staff to work in an efficient and timely fashion with their clients which
results in significant gains in improving the customer experience.
The Productivity Factor
For the last decade, a key goal of banking institutions within their lending
areas has been to rely less on manual-centric paperwork by automating
lending transactions and communications. Thus the stacks and files
of paper that clutter lending offices and bog down employee productivity are
evidence of the fact that many banks are far from achieving their goal and
improving the overall productivity of these activities. So why have banks not
improved their business practices in dealing with their lending activities?
Some key causes may include bank management’s:
- Failure to appreciate the strategic and mission critical nature of content
management as applied to bank lending in ensuing that customer
loans are handled in the most effective and efficient manner supported by
state-of-the-art technology and time-tested best business practices.
- Employment of legacy document and content management systems
- Critical functional and technical capabilities
- Cross-division and external integration for exchange of
vital documents and information
- Automated process work flows
- Non-supportable outdated versions of vendor content
- Absence of enthusiasm to aggressively challenge current failing loan
policies and processing activities and identify enrichments to customer
customer and stakeholder ‘touch points’ and the overall banking experience.
The Lending Activity Triangle
What are the critical components for consideration when undertaking
bank lending improvement? Our experience is that best-in-class
banking institutions place focus on the lending activity triangle elements
namely, people, process, and technology people.
The focus on each of these is both individually and combined as
People: The people focus of the triangle is always the most complicated
as training typically takes a back seat to populating the production line with
live bodies to move loan packages through the paper mill. A successful bank
lending activity will generally have difficulties if the people component is not
fully prepared with appropriate training and empowered for prime time
immersion into the process as productive employees. Considerations for
evaluating the people element include matching skills and experiences with
the current employee universe, training requirements, and approach to
continual monitoring employee performance.
Process: What should be the first consideration for enhancing bank lending?
Improvement typically starts with identification of the current process
weaknesses followed by a top-to-bottom redesign of the associated activities and
flows. Key decision points include considerations for bank policies controlling
cross organizational borders, roles and responsibilities, governance and
risk and control.
Technology: A successful process design typically entails pairing the redesigned
process with the most appropriate enabling and supporting technology to meet the
joint objectives of improved productivity and customer touch point effectiveness.
Key considerations include design of an innovative technology architecture that
provides functionality richness, user flexibility, performance, and support
and cost effectiveness.
In actual fact, no major software implementation is really about the technology.
It’s about aligning people, processes, and technology to implement a solution
that meets business needs. The result is the ability to capitalize on the full
potential of a business technology investment.
Changing a bank’s approach to improving overall performance by embracing
a holistic approach to people, processes and technology has the potential to
mitigate risks, inject better-than-anticipated improvements into your
organization, and lead to a successful deployment of a content solution
that solves critical business problems.
The bottom line is that banking institutions need to constantly challenge the norm
so as to identify and enable necessary changes on an ongoing basis if they are to
maintain or attain competitiveness in their targeted lending areas.
In conclusion we will leave all with a topical W. Edwards Deming quote:
“A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to
try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim.
Without the aim, there is no system.”
Brian Blair, President of Malvern National
Services LLC (http://www.malvernnational.com) and,
Kevin M. O’Sullivan,
President of The Knowledge Compass, Inc. (http://www.knowledgecompass.com )
It is estimated that over 70% of leading US businesses currently use or are planning to deploy SharePoint over the next few years, but few have formal content and information management strategies and plans in place! The introduction of SharePoint is providing many of these companies a rare opportunity to take ‘a time-out’ to formally re-examine their core business processes, fully understand and redesign ECM and knowledge-centric systems, and streamline the use of content at the convergence of customer touch points, employees, and corporate IT systems.
Knowledge Compass offers strategic and business and technical level consulting services to assist customers assess their content requirements, design, develop (or customize), and implement ECM solutions in alignment with their corporate business and technical strategies.
Over the last year, Knowledge Compass customers are increasingly selecting SharePoint for their ECM business activities throughout the enterprise in situations where they formally selected ECM point solutions.
A recent review of customer projects identifies that the majority of our SharePoint development customers believe that SharePoint will result in a more effective, efficient, and flexible business environment managed through a familiar Microsoft desktop environment and built on a trusted and extendible platform.
The three benefits reported by our customer’s business and technology leaders with the highest value from SharePoint ECM deployments include:
- Improve User ECM Acceptance & Participation
- Avoid Content Handling Risk
- Increase IT Productivity
Improve User ECM Acceptance & Participation
It is typically understood that ECM project success relies heavily on user acceptance and participation as key critical success factors (CSFs). Briefly, employees who are expected to use an ECM application within their work processes should be able to accept without reservation the new ECM solution as a practical and valuable tool that supports and not restricts their work activities.
SharePoint is a unique solution that provides genuine ECM capabilities to users where they do their content creation and collaboration – inside customized SharePoint group-centric sites that is familiar to all who have used Microsoft desktop solutions. This addresses the challenge that users will not need to learn and identify with a totally dissimilar user interface, navigation, and other content-handling activities.
Our customers report that their ECM project’s user acceptance and participation were improved significantly by SharePoint’s capabilities including:
- Uncomplicated use, integrated tools and rich capabilities to manage, find, and share mission-critical documents and information
- Straightforward to add and identify document meta data to track, find, and share documents and information throughout the enterprise
- Improve decision-making; easily find the right business document or information—regardless of who created it, what format it’s in, or where it lives.
Avoid Content Handling Risk
A dilemma facing most ECM projects is how to successfully design and implement a fully integrated enterprise governance framework that eliminates inefficiencies and waste that have been institutionalized over many years within the enterprise’s content (and information) handling policies, processes and activities.
Our customers identified the below SharePoint capabilities as having the largest impact on the successful alleviation of content-handling problems and risks.
- Information Architecture (IA): defines and categorizes SharePoint site content and format, including Web pages, documents, and lists within a formal IA; provides users a more productive work experience organized within a consistent information framework.
- Taxonomies (& Folksonomies): allows users and groups to craft and manage global and local customized Taxonomies and Folksonomies; provides improved content categorization and quicker access to required decision-making content.
- Metadata Management: supports improved refined and filtered searches for more effective and efficient navigation of SharePoint lists and document libraries content.
Increase IT Productivity
Customers are enthralled by the IT productivity improvements typically realized with use of SharePoint’s comprehensive out-of-the-box capabilities such as:
- SharePoint 2010 works seamlessly with technologies currently used including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Unified Communications
- Use of Microsoft .NET Framework object models to reduce learning curves and development timeframes
- End user management of their own SharePoint sites without having to contact the IT Team, thus saving time and cost of software expenses.
- Integrate with legacy systems with reduced work effort and fewer difficulties generally experienced in integration activities
- Interoperability through SharePoint Business Connectivity Services provides a standardized method of accessing, displaying, and editing content in legacy system environments
- SharePoint 2010 provides a simple installation and configuration process, including a smooth upgrade from SharePoint 2007
- SharePoint’s provides our customers a pragmatic user-friendly front-end to their ECM solutions. Users and work teams can easily navigate to a recognizable SharePoint site to collaborate, innovate, create content, and make decisions.
- SharePoint allows our customers to save and redirect their centralized IT Team’s technical resources for other mission-critical enterprise developments and support activities.
The demands and challenges to improve the effectiveness of business processing are placing renewed focus on organizing and homogenizing critical business content into a structured ecosystem. In response, leading organizations are creating enterprise wide content management strategies and infrastructures focusing on people, processes, and multi-vendor technology solutions in alignment with enterprise business and technology strategies.
Microsoft’s SharePoint is gaining widespread attention and adoption as a platform capable of meeting most business workers’ desk top content handling needs. But many companies enthusiastic on the potential benefits of this exciting tool are struggling with the question of whether there is a need to supplement their SharePoint installation with a more robust and function-rich content management engine for enterprise-wide centralization, governance, and support (i.e. Documentum, File Net etc.)
How do enterprise decision-makers tackle this quandary and craft a successful content strategy and infrastructure design? One approach is to conduct an assessment with the key goal of discovering the information that supports the ‘what, why, how, where, and when’ of the organization’s current and future enterprise content handling and process-based decision-making activities.
Key enterprise content handling questions that require study and answers include:
1. Are content business and technical requirements identified, coherent, and accepted by stakeholders?
2. Are vital content systematized within a structured taxonomy, owned and managed, and accessed with a security and permissions scheme?
3. Are content vendor product capabilities, under consideration, been identified and understood?
4. Has content vendor / product selection criteria been developed?
5. Is there a business justification for employing a tiered content strategy with multiple vendors?
6. Is there an appreciation for the potential risks and changes for implementing and supporting a tiered content infrastructure?
Knowledge Compass Approach
Knowledge Compass helps clients access their content handling activities and develop a formal ECM strategy and plan with a structured and time-tested approach, as outlined below:
1. Conduct holistic review of the business environment:
- Establish current content handling policies, processes, and activities
- Identify content handling ‘points of pain’ and critical business impacts
- Identify critical decisions that require content support
2. Determine key user, functional and technical ECM requirements
3. Design or redesign content handling infrastructure:
- Evaluate with industry ECM best practices
- Identify Gaps and mitigations
4. Develop strategy: acquisition, development, integration, deployment, and support of an ECM solution
- Identify future ECM governance policies, guidelines, and procedures
5. Establish ECM strategic business case, potential risk factors and probable organizational and cultural changes
- Identify quantitative value and benefits
- Identify qualitative value and benefits
- Identify risk and exposures
- Identify change to existing infrastructure and impacts
6. Determine content acquisition, migration and population plans
7. Construct next steps and timeline
The Bottom Line
An ECM Assessment provides a consensus-based strategy and roadmap for designing, developing and implementing an integrated enterprise content management system.
Key deliverables resulting from a successful content management assessment and strategy project include:
1. Concept of Operations
- User Content Requirements
- Functional and System Content Specifications
- Redesigned Content Environment
- ECM Strategy & Governance Plan
2. ECM Blueprint
- Logical Architecture
- Information Architecture
- Content, Conversion & Migration Plan
- Implementation Plan
3. Supporting Analyses
- ROI – Return on Investment
- CDB – Cost of Doing Business Analysis
- Risk and Change Analysis
- Best Practice Gap Analysis