Wouldn’t it be nice if the learning curve for implementing a platform could be reduced and there was a well-trodden path that leads to success?, asks Dave Howard.

This is even more important now as organisations battle to keep pace with regulatory changes, embrace the digital-first agenda and reduce costs. Tomorrow’s winners won’t be those that compete on product features, but on a much wider wealth management proposition that is based on the following three pillars:

  1. Knowledge of your customers’ goals and needs and relevance to your offers
  2. Intuitive and easy customer journeys across all channels
  3. Low cost to serve

Second-generation investment platforms are the enablers of real-time, personalised and dynamic customer interactions. In addition to optimising customer engagement, well-architected platforms offer end-user self-service functionality that substantially reduce operational costs.

When clients first deploy a platform, they typically take the ‘out of the box’ configuration and adapt it to provide the product/investment features required to enable them to get into the market as quickly as possible. However, in today’s market, customer experience and service excellence are the two winning disciplines required to succeed in a low-cost digital world. This means that the approach to platform deployment has to fundamentally change, especially in the requirements gathering phase where the focus needs to be expanded from the narrow capture of product features to a much wider waterfront of customer experience across all channels and the associated impact on cost to serve.

The best way to approach this is to develop high-level customer journey maps, starting with the ideal journeys and then overlaying the constraints imposed by existing IT systems and the chosen platform. This has a number of benefits

  1. Ownership is firmly established with the client from the outset
  2. The solution architecture and operating model evolves in parallel, rather than as after thoughts
  3. Product marketing folks don’t call all the shots; much greater involvement is required from IT operations and Client Services

Perhaps the biggest benefits of this approach results from the exploration and shaping of the solution at the embryonic stages of the project before the big burn costs kick in.

Those of you who remember the mid-90s – when software engineering disciplines were in the ascendency – will recall the feasibility stage where the objective was to identify the key features of the conceptual solution architecture. Typically, this was a time-boxed activity that lasted between 10–20 days depending on complexity.

With the advent of Agile development, it’s much easier to just to start without putting in the foundation layers. This is not a limitation of Agile, but rather a symptom of how a robust methodology can be misused by prioritising activity ahead of design.

Establishing a conceptual solution design that is underpinned by a clear understanding of your customer’s needs, an engaging customer experience and low cost to serve can typically be developed in three to four weeks. Because it’s a time-boxed, intense and immersive experience, your proposition gets honed through the Dragons’ Den tyre kicking and what emerges is more likely to be compelling, distinctive and have support of all the stakeholders from product marketing through to operations that goes far beyond the corporate nod.

Producing the conceptual solution design is a bit like Mo Farah’s prep for a 10,000m. Before he gets near the track, he has a race strategy and has limbered up. Once the gun has sounded, his focus is all about running quickly. Without a conceptual solution, it’s a bit like running a three-legged race… blindfolded. Who in their right mind would vote for that?