Digital companies are built by digital natives | NTT DATA

Wed, 16 February 2022

Digital companies are built by digital natives

It’s all about the people…

We could talk about the technologies, strategies, organisational and operational aspects of change all day every day- and all night, too for that matter. These topics are endlessly fascinating and so complex that there is always something new to discuss.

But even if you dedicated all your time to the topic, there would still be something missing. The biggest, most sensitive and complex topic of all: people.

This is a special challenge to traditional banking groups that are moving to Cloud, because they will be taking with them a lot of people who are culturally bankers, and who may not really grasp the essential requirements for inhabiting and competing successfully in the Cloud.

Compare this position with all those challenger banks, FinTechs, innovative startups who are constantly disrupting the marketplace, even if they do not always last very long. These businesses are cloud-native first, financial service businesses second. The people who set them up, joined as employees, develop and shape their future were formed and trained in the Cloud and are culturally fully aligned with Cloud principles and values.

They live there. It’s the only (employment) home they have ever known- or ever wanted to know. Of course, this digital native status brings some problems with it. Banks and insurers have developed their cultures and methods over many decades for good reason. This history and culture means they are secure, ethical and trustworthy.

We don’t want to lose any of those virtues, yet we have to accept that you must find a way to marry traditional working practices with the Cloud culture, if you want to progress. So what are the key recommendations we want to make?

Be more attractive

This is a short and simple heading. You need to attract the “right kind of people” and you won’t do that unless you are more attractive to them. Digital natives still have a specific vision of what a bank is and they often don’t find it interesting.

Yet banking groups form the necessary foundation for every economic activity, including setting up exciting, creative new businesses. Why should a bank not be the most interesting place in the world to work, if you are a digital native? You need to think carefully about your culture, about every signal you send into the market, about each point of contact with potential future employees…

Most difficult, you need to be genuine about wanting to change. You have to make a big effort to understand digital natives and respect their priorities. This cannot be about them conforming to your norms: you have to do some work to conform to theirs.

Look for different people

Who do you want to employ? Diligent, hard-working, competent people, who will follow instructions and deliver to established processes and procedures? Well, yes, but…

You also need different types of people. Digital natives generally have what is known as “T-shaped” profiles. That means deep expertise in one area, with broad expertise in many others. They are curious, always looking for new opportunities and new ways of doing things. They see the online world as a source of almost infinite possibilities, and that lead to exciting developments for you- if you select and then manage them correctly.

Organise and manage them in new ways

And that’s the next issue, of course. As you move to the Cloud you will start to develop a “multiple geometry” organisation, in which full time employees with collaborate with regular and occasional ecosystem partners. You will no doubt develop relationship with smaller businesses, which can contribute innovative ideas, sell you fresh IP and contribute to agile development of new offers.

How is this new kind of organisation going to work? Culturally, as we all know, large banking groups have tended to do everything in-house, although the days when a bank might employ several thousand software developers have long gone, and a good thing too.

The Cloud enables you to focus on what is most critically important to you and dynamically access other resources, capabilities and partnership as and when you need them. The point we all need to remember is that creative interaction of this kind is about people, just as change is about people.

How can you structure your own organisation so that people can feel embraced, welcomed and instantly form part of high performing teams, as and when needed? How are these points of interface managed? How do you integrate cultures and outlooks, methods and working practices?

This is a challenge to everything you thought you knew about organisational management. It is important for your management team to understand the nature of this challenge and be able to deal with it.

Stay open minded

The most human requirement of all is simply this: are you ready for continuous evolutionary change? Be honest here. All businesses tell the world they like change but most people really do not. It’s hard work, managing change. You want it to stop at some point- but it won’t. There will be something new to challenge you every day. Can you be open minded enough to deal with it?

Cloud is not just about technology. It’s about attitude, energy, curiosity, empathy, communication, creativity… It’s about the best of our human nature. The Cloud is our home now. We need to make sure we are happy to live there.