Implementing a third-party solution efficiently has always been an uphill challenge. The Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) industry is replete with stories of platform implementation taking much longer than originally estimated, resulting in costly overruns, budgets being cut midway, or significant reduction in the scope of the project leaving the solution unfit-for-purpose. The net result is poor ROI, not to mention the lost opportunity to deliver other programs in the meanwhile.
The current global lockdown adds further constraints, as these platforms now need to be implemented around vendor teams mostly working remotely, further increasing anxiety amongst stakeholders. As a result, many of them are delaying the program kick-offs and even reevaluating the in-flight programs. However, many of these programs are crucial components in the now remote banking environment. With expectations on full recovery and return of the global travel to the pre-pandemic levels stretching well into 2021 and beyond, the option for delays is no longer practical.
Many of our clients have been grappling with similar dilemmas lately. A few, who realize that the digital capabilities are must-haves for their medium to long-term success and probably survival, have decided to try out a different, mostly remote approach to requirements gathering (or discovery phase) and implementation. Needless to say, a successful discovery helps minimize the expectation mismatch arising due to the vendor not understanding the requirements clearly and the banks not understanding the out-of-box solution features (‘out-of-box’ being the key here). This, in turn, helps set realistic expectations, leading to overall program success.
Having deployed and fine-tuned this remote discovery approach in multiple scenarios, we are now in a position to share some insights, best practices, and pitfalls that we have come across.
Visualization: Documentation has always been a crucial part of successful discovery sessions. These intensive sessions can be executed better with clear illustrative documentation, aiding stakeholders with a clearer and quicker understanding of the requirements beforehand. Actual screens, mockups, and sketches allow stakeholders to easily see and provide inputs, further increasing the productivity of the workshops. A whiteboard utility further improves any dynamic discussion of the flow diagrams or requirements within the workshop itself.
Advance preparation: Both clients and our teams have put-in additional effort to create and document user journeys before the video calls. The prep-work done by both parties resulted in more productive deep-dives during the sessions. Advance documentation has also led to faster sign-offs.
Increased participation: Overall participation in remote sessions has been much better than expected. A large number of participants who tend to be generally quiet have been more vocal in a face-to-face setting. Even junior members of the team have contributed more freely, not getting overawed by the presence of seniors in a face-to-face setting. Side conversations, which happen frequently in face-to-face workshop settings, have virtually disappeared, leading to a more focused group. Overall, shift to online workshops has resulted in increasing the diversity of opinion and more comprehensive inputs.
Time-zone management: Managing participants across time zones has always been a major concern on project managers’ minds. Our experiences have however proven otherwise. During the recent discovery workshops conducted for a client based in Hong Kong, our extended team in India (2.5 hours behind HK time) was always available and conducted effective workshops even with the sessions starting as early as 7 am IST. While impromptu sessions are difficult to arrange, planned sessions, with adequate notice and the right participants on the call, the output of the workshops has increased overall as compared to on-site workshops.
Improved calendar availability: Reduction of face-to-face meetings has been a boon for discovery sessions as it allows easier planning of small follow-up sessions. The calendars for project stakeholders are relatively open, allowing alignments and clarification to be held promptly and quickly without the problems of finding a common open slot on stakeholders’ diaries.
Reduced Cost: Along with a noticeable reduction in workshop duration, discoveries during this time period have been completed at a significantly lower cost by completely avoiding related expenses (flights, hotels, per-diems for the team traveling to the client’s location). Not to forget the reduced carbon credits we have generated in the process.
Rapport Building: Though the output of the discovery phase has been extremely positive, only a limited level of personal rapport could be built with the stakeholders. Special consideration will have to be given to fill this gap once the execution phase kicks off. A small core team present locally will have to develop this rapport necessary for the long-term trusted partnership
To sum it up, there are areas in which remote discovery workshops have yielded great results and then there are areas where remote workshops have been less than ideal. The positives however far outweigh the constraints. Measurable success of remote discovery engagements has helped our clients to keep the program delivery timelines intact, without any compromise on the quality of the outcome. COVID-19 or otherwise, there is no need for financial institutions to slow down the digital adoption agenda.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: ATUL ARORA
Atul Arora is the Product Owner at WeInvest. He has been involved with front-to-back vendor solution deployments for the Buy-side firms for over 20 years. Atul has helped global FIs execute their digital transformation agenda across North Americas, Europe, and Asia.
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