Financial services is going through a period of wholesale change, from traditional high-street banks to plucky challengers. These days, competitiveness comes down to an organisation’s ability to evolve with market demands. And the effects are seen everywhere, from traditional financial powerhouses like Lloyds and Barclays closing branches and embracing an increasingly digital approach, to innovative challengers like Metro Bank rolling out new digital banking platforms.
Change is not optional. But in an industry where compliance is essential and security overshadow innovation, it’s easier said than done. Not only does change require cultural acceptance, it requires key infrastructure changes. If systems are not agile, neither are processes—increasing the likelihood that projects will be slow and difficult to complete, and ultimately decreasing project success rates.
It sounds daunting but, with the right steps, financial services organisations can ensure they’re agile enough to weather disruption:
1. Get the right communication tools in place
Our recent survey of more than 1,200 IT project decision makers and managers revealed that 31 per cent lack tools for managing communication across teams and projects. Almost half (49 per cent) cited communication, intra and inter-departmental, as the most difficult aspect of project management. Agile project managers had the most challenges—60 per cent struggle with communication.
Effective, real-time communication is essential for managing change initiatives. These tools lay the foundation for project execution. Many financial institutions have a long history, so breaking siloes won’t be easy. However, efforts to improve communication fluidity between team members, departments, and across locations will help. Open communication broadens the pool of shared knowledge and standardizes organizational best practices, and offers key context for decision-making. Opening lines of communication will benefit financial services organisations and pay dividends in the long term by ensuring more projects end successfully, and knowledge is shared across the organisation.
2. Don’t waste time managing workloads and schedules
Our research found that 65 per cent of project managers spend more than three hours a day managing people, and 55 per cent spend three hours a day establishing and managing processes. Whether they have a Project Management Office (PMO) or other departments in charge of projects, organizations must carefully guard time to avoid wasted hours.
With 28 per cent of project managers still relying on spreadsheets, it’s no wonder so much time is spent managing people, processes, and administrative tasks. If your organisation relies on spreadsheets and manual processes to manage projects, gaining business agility will be elusive if not impossible. Instead, project teams and PMOs should rely on systems that automate data entry, updates, and workflow—enabling teams to use real-time information and save time, not waste it.
3. Make sure you can manage multiple projects at the same time
Disruption is chaotic. Tackling it on multiple fronts becomes more so if your infrastructure and processes are spread across disparate systems. Yet, we found that most organisations still rely on a patchwork of outdated legacy systems, including multi-tenant SaaS, hosted software, on premise software, proprietary systems, and manual spreadsheets to manage project tasks and information.
Without a collective means for managing projects and resources, nimble execution is compromised and places organisations at risk. To manage multiple (successful) projects, you need one connected system for project management, portfolio management, and resource management. Instead of sifting through disparate information, a unified platform supports business agility—succinctly delivering actionable, up-to-date insights.
As with any area in financial services, projects need to be tracked for regulatory and compliance reasons. An integrated project portfolio management (PPM) solution automatically aggregates data and reduces time spent organizing and creating a clear paper trail to demonstrate regulatory and compliance requirements have been met. PPM systems also highlight potential problems so they can be rectified before they have a damaging effect. The risks of not being compliant when putting in place new, digital systems is not something you want to gamble with given the levels of investment involved.
Winning your battles
The hard truth is, at any moment, banking organizations are likely either disrupting or being disrupted. Building a successful organization in today’s business climate demands agility and nimbleness. Yet, agility will be an ongoing struggle for organizations lacking effective work and communication management tools.
Now is time to take action, to embrace open communication and connect disparate project and resource management systems. Digitising and enabling real-time insight must be a priority. Those who continue working in spreadsheet-dominated, manual worlds will continue to suffer from slow, incomplete and confusing business analytics. In this world, banks who continue to do ‘business as usual’ are set up to fail when faced with ‘evolve or dissolve’ situations.