Sunday, January 12, 2014

Banks and Technology

The more banks adopt technology, the farther it seems to be distancing itself. The more facilities it seems to introduce, lower the banks seem to fall short in the expectations. Does that mean that the banks are not serious about what they do to improve customer service, facilities with additional support from the emerging and growing technologies?

Though prima facie the banks' efforts to reach out to people and bringing Indian banking on par with the best in the world may appear to be more of a dressing up exercise and with goals other than customer satisfaction, it cannot be totally swept aside. After all, computerization introduced amidst so much of resistance from major walks of stakeholders way back in the 1980s has indeed brought benefits to the customers around but then it appears to be insufficient. More so, the banks' struggle seems to be in keeping up with the technologies used and extract the maximum benefit out of these efforts, rather than its willingness to serve. In short, the banks seems to be falling short of directions in choosing the right priorities !

But then, what exactly ails the banks' technological aspirations that gives way to more of frustrations from the customers? A recent article I read seems to provide some thoughts and insights (

Even when computerization was introduced in the later half of 1980s, banks though hurriedly brought in computers also did their best to provide support by stationing technical staff from the software providers but then, this obviously could not have been a permanent solution. Indian public in general are well equipped and knowledgeable to expect and extract the best out of banks and this is where the latter faltered.

The initial hesitation and dilemma of the banks about using third party applications or in-house developments took their own toll and by the time the issue stabilized many precious years have rolled by and so also rose the customer knowledge and expectations.

Those banks which chose to use third party applications had a head start in that the usual strapping and paraphernalia accompanying any application launch  was there but by the time the euphoria started clearing up , the realities began descending in and only then the banks started talking about the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) etc., and the software developers made good use of the time between the initiation and reality. The banks that used such software had to then continuously engage themselves with the developing organizations about the functional gaps and support.

The gaps in functionality was blissfully absent in those handful of banks which chose to develop their own software. But then the people who were involved were mostly bankers who were falling short of the professional intricacies, expectations and were obviously struggling to keep up with the mercurial advancements- both technically and professionally. Bankers being such a serious breed would never accept anything other than perfect and that seem to be directly at loggerheads with the existing practice of  deliver and then started discussing about shortfall in the name of 'production support'.

Long and short of the story is that from both the sections of banks, the customers suffered uniformly. Banks should have neither indulged in complete technical aspects nor given away total control to the developing organizations but must have had a finger in both. In short, they lacked the wisdom, sight and professionalism that typically signifies many US and other customers who provide software business to India. Though, they entrust the work of development of the software they also engage immediate rungs of professionals who effectively monitor, report and scream when things go out of control. And for them, "Customer Satisfaction" is the ultimate and no compromise will be made in this area.

Even now it is not too late for Indian banks and with some non political, non trade unionist attitude and actions they could well come out of the shackles as these are not problems that could be resolved over months. With no dearth of technical talents in the country, banks would do well to form core experts team and technology team, who should work closely as a single unit.

With so much of vendors also available and making the best use of the existing competition , the banks could well extract their pound of flesh which would result in a stable and sturdy software more user friendly to the customers. Instead of trying to impart technology into the aging skulls of bank men, Banks would do well to blood young engineers into their fold and run a focused and specialized banking boot camp to groom a possible pool of techno bankers, a breed that is going to be in great demand in the years to come. The senior bankers could well be allowed to specialize on project managements and control mechanisms, so that the banks don't lose their experience and expertise. When these groups start jelling together, the customers would well start heaving sighs of relief in having struck the right combinations. Until then, the steam let out by dissatisfied customers could add to global warming in no small means, rather justifiably too.

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