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’s been fun watching the computing world mature, from the days when mainframe computers occupied an entire operations-intensive room to the power of applications on our mobile phones. Have we finally awoken to the reality that mobile communications has caught-up with the Dick Tracy comic character and his 2-way wrist watch phone? Technology has been (as predicted!) evolving so quickly, that even professional prognosticators are merely guessing where we will be in another 10-20 years; Science Fiction has rapidly become Science Fact.
Technology & Lifestyle Morphing
Today, data intensity is enveloping our business and social worlds – from airwaves, to telephone circuits, computer cables, and mobile devices we are growing into data junkies relying on our next data fix to help us make the smallest of decisions! Our lifestyle and habits are changing radically with our dependence on technology to support our daily existence. In this new digital-centric way of life businesses that provide services and products supported by digital highways and mountains of data must pay close attention to the operation and performance of their technology infrastructure. On the other hand, consumers need to develop reasonable expectations on the value and use of the data retrieved and used. For example, do we rely completely on sourced data or attempt to balance with our lifetime of experiences and insights contained in our sensory, short and long memories?
Information is King. That was true a thousand years ago, and it is true today. It was also true that gathering information, for the purpose of making informed decisions, was and will always be the most critical success factor in almost any undertaking. Leveraging the digital environment: What has changed immeasurably today over a thousand years is the ability to find and access data. If you can access the internet from your handheld, you can access more than a thousand years’ of human learning almost instantly.
But, what do you do with it? Furthermore, how do you handle structured versus unstructured information? Can you aggregate the information as you need it? Probably not, there’s too much there. What about a web application though? There things get more interesting, because you may be able to interface with the data you want, already organized in a useful manner in a database. In effective decision making the big challenge is making sure that the data is being aggregated into actionable information and subsequently used to generate new tacit knowledge accurate, complete, and appropriate.
The astonishing acceleration of data growth and the heterogeneous character of the data mean that organizations whose IT infrastructures transport, store, secure, and replicate large amounts of data, have little choice but to employ ever more sophisticated approaches, techniques, and tools for information management, security, search, storage and database management. Add mobile into the mix and data management presents a new level of complexity for ensuring total accuracy, high level of performance and successful rendering of data and information with the different technical environments. Effective data and database management empowers business and technology executives to use current information as the basic building block of high-quality decisions.
Enterprise Data Challenges
That said, let’s talk about your corporate database and remote access. Some of your data and information is customer facing, some of it is internal-eyes only. You probably have some information that you simply don’t want accessible from a web application without VPN protection. What happens then when you have an off-site conference, sales event, or activity? And what happens when you are missing either the VPN or the internet access?
You need to give your off-site workers access to critical data in order to facilitate their decision-making processes. The ability to get the right information to the right mobile devices and mobile workers has gone from a “nice to have” to “mission critical.” We are in a whole new work environment — much different than in our grandparents’ days when the work day was 9-5 and they left work to enjoy the remainder of the day with their family. Contrast that with today’s typical executives or workers who are expected to respond quickly to after-hours calls and emails on their hand-held devices and be in a position to instantly make decisions and collaborate with colleagues!
A Typical Data Story
At a recent event on a cruise ship, it was observed that the sales staff struggling to get sales desk set up because they did not have the information they needed at hand. Customer information was missing; inventory information was missing; and the ability to connect past sales with present sales (essential for a variety of reasons) was not there. Their helplessness to process transactions on a timely basis and without correct information cost them over 6 figures in sales for the event. This is not isolated to cruise ships; outdoor events in remote locations have the same issue, no cell tower, and no internet access. Even some higher-end hotel locations may not have disabled VPN connections through their own pipelines.
There are two potential solutions to data helplessness: first, you can create the custom database access application (to your remote data) for the remote (handheld) device; second, you can put critical, selected components of the data directly on the remote device. Both cases are probably meat for a couple of additional blog entries.
Your “feet on the street” need access to the right data, right now, for two reasons: first, it maximizes sales and improves customer service and loyalty; second, if you don’t do it, your competitor will! The simple truth is that data needs to be proactively managed and accessible 24/7 if we are to reap the significant benefits from leveraging and exploiting our valuable corporate data.
In conclusion we leave all with a topical Albert Einstein quote – “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. ”
Authored by Jeffrey Garbus, President of Soaring Eagle Consultants Inc. (http://www.soaringeagle.biz/) and,
Kevin M. O’Sullivan. President of The Knowledge Compass, Inc. (http://www.knowledgecompass.com )
Pompano Beach, Florida – Monday, September 19, 2011 – Star Knowledge Technology Alliance Team LLC a global software and solution services provider today announced a strategic partnership with Soaring Eagle Consulting, Inc, a Tampa Florida-based consulting and technology services company to extend their technical services offerings with database performance and tuning services and products.
Star Knowledge offer innovative and cost effective customized software development and support services that assist organizations achieve their business goals and attain or maintain competitive market advantage. Through technology-based services and solutions, Star Knowledge enables customers to fully exploit their technology investments for rapid business transformation and success.
Soaring Eagle offer specialized database consulting services and world-class database performance tools. Their services portfolio embrace end-to-end solutions including: performance based architecture design, database performance audits and tuning, training, and staffing services as well as highly-tailored custom database projects.
In the current business environment data are flooding in at rates never seen before – doubling almost every 18 months – as a result of greater access to customer data from public, proprietary, and purchased sources, as well as new information gathered from Web and social media communities and newly deployed smart assets. In this data intense setting many private as well as public organizations are leveraging and exploiting data use to new levels, using it to support rigorous and constant business experimentation that guides more effective and timely decisions and to model and test new products, business concepts, and innovations in the customer experience. Notwithstanding the availability and innovative use of advanced database software and solutions to handle the increased data velocity there still is the very important need for databases to be proactively maintained at optimum performance levels by highly trained technical personnel. Over the last fourteen years, Soaring Eagle has helped countless companies through-out the US maintain their databases at the highest performance levels with preventive and corrective database technical services.
Kevin M. O’Sullivan, Chairman of Star Knowledge stated – “We believe that partnering with Soaring Eagle will immediately enrich our services portfolio and will unquestionably amplify our customer value proposition with the addition of world-class database services and products”.
”We are eagerly anticipating adding Star Knowledge’s depth of application development experience, particularly in mobile environments, to the offerings we’re currently bringing our clients on a world-wide basis” stated Jeffrey Garbus CEO and founder of Soaring Eagle.
For additional information contact:
Star Knowledge Technology Alliance Team, LLC
Kevin M. O’Sullivan
Star Knowledge Sales Center
Soaring Eagle Consulting, Inc
About Star Knowledge Technology Alliance Team, LLC
Star-Knowledge is a software services, and solutions provider that delivers high-value results to business and public sector organizations globally, ensuring a level of certainty and quality unrivaled in the industry. We offer a full spectrum of customized software development and support services and open source solutions, Microsoft, and emerging technology business solutions for replacement of legacy systems and introduction of additional mission-critical capabilities. Our Info-Mobility Portfolio of Services provides services and solutions to support the new mobile technical environment as it converges with the virtual knowledge worker work setting.
About Soaring Eagle Consulting, Inc.
Soaring Eagle has been a leader in database consulting, architecture, performance and tuning of all major database technologies, while promoting mentoring and training all over the world for over two decades. Many of our employees, and partners have written books, speak at seminars about leading edge technologies. The company has expertise in all business tiers, financial, health, manufacturing, government agencies and many ecommerce businesses. Clients include Fortune 500 and 100 sized companies and helping startups getting solid computer systems up and running.
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.
A knowledge audit is a qualitative appraisal and examination of the enterprise’s knowledge ‘health’. It is about determining the knowledge (and actionable information) required to enable competitive success of the business within its targeted markets.
A knowledge audit includes assessment of the following organizational components:
1. Mission-critical knowledge assets (tacit and explicit)
2. Organizational business infrastructure
3. Knowledge-handling business processes
4. Mission-critical decisions
4. Organizational culture and learning environments
Knowledge Asset Audit Focus
A successful knowledge audit answers the following questions:
- How is knowledge defined in the organization?
- What knowledge is needed to support the business?
- Is a glut or lack of knowledge / information impacting effective and efficient decision-making?
- Where are the knowledge assets?
- What is the format and media of the knowledge assets?
- How does that knowledge flow within and outside the enterprise?
- How is knowledge captured, stored, enriched and exchanged?
- How is knowledge secured against potential loss?
- How is knowledge created in the organization?
- How do workers keep their knowledge from becoming obsolete?
Knowledge Compass Approach
The Knowledge Compass Audit approach includes the below actions:
1. Conduct holistic assessment with key stakeholders to understand the organization’s business, culture, employee universe, products and services, infrastructure and processes.
- Identify cultural underpinnings and learning points
- Determine key decisions in support of business requirements, objectives, and strategies
- Identify mission-critical knowledge requirements
2. Identify and map mission-critical knowledge flows within the organization’s business processes:
- Chart formal and informal knowledge relationships and communication networks; highlight knowledge-centric flows
- Confirm use and source of knowledge within processes at employee and customer touch points
- Identify and create inventory of mission-critical knowledge
- Identify knowledge gaps with knowledge requirements
- Assess use and value of mission-critical knowledge
- Identify knowledge obstacles and barriers
3. Formulate recommended actions to improve effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge handling processes.
The Bottom Line
A knowledge audit creates a powerful advantage for organizations who seek a competitive advantage. Benefits include development of knowledge-centric actions to stimulate improved creativity, innovation and profitability. Specifically a knowledge audit provides recommendations to:
1. Leverage and exploit corporate knowledge assets
2. Enhance and improve quality and consistency of knowledge
3. Mitigate inefficiencies and duplication of current information and knowledge processes
4. Improve worker productivity with more timely access and richness of knowledge
5. Improve strategic and tactical decision-making
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