The global health and economic crisis saw a large number of conventional services transition to digital delivery – and customers embraced the change. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in a considerable increase in expectations when it comes to seamless digital access to services.
For governments in particular, the bar has been raised significantly. In fact, Boston Consulting Group’s 2021 Trust Imperative report revealed that 76 percent of Australian and New Zealand customers now expect government services to be more personalized, and 87 percent expect some level of proactive servicing.
Digitally mature organizations had an advantage during the pandemic and were able to more easily overcome challenges to deliver services with increased speed, scale and quality. For the slow starters that are playing catch-up, what lessons can be learnt from those that are more progressed in their digital transformation journey?
At this year’s Innovate NSW Public Sector Networks conference, Campbell Smyth, CEO of Bluestone Home Loans (Bluestone), shared his reflections on Bluestone’s modernisation process – and the wider changes needed to support a truly holistic digital customer experience across both the public and private sectors.
I sat down with Campbell after the event to delve deeper into the complex issues that face organizations looking to thrive in the digital economy.
A solid technology foundation to realize big ambitions
The technology underpinning financial services is evolving more quickly than most other industries.
Bluestone is a fast-growing, full-service lender providing a range of residential home loan solutions to thousands of customers across Australia and New Zealand. Recognising that disruption is a constant in its industry, Bluestone embarked on an ambitious journey to become a future-ready organisation – and partnered with Thoughtworks to develop and deliver their next-gen digital lending platform.
This program of work required fundamental improvements to the lender’s underlying systems. As market conditions become more competitive and consumer expectations of seamless digital experiences are raised, it’s not uncommon to see organisations build an attractive front-end application, without necessarily considering what sits behind it. The problem is, if your core systems aren’t up to par, your flexibility to respond to new expectations and user needs remains limited – leading to frustration for customers and staff alike.
Campbell emphasized the importance of stepping back and looking at where your technology is hosted. “You’ve got to start by leveraging the most current environment in which to have your technology, then layer in the technology you need,” he said.
Support is also an important consideration, as Campbell pointed out. “When you build complexity on top of legacy technology you end up spending a whole lot more time supporting it. This creates a massive expense for yourself, or a bad experience for the user because what's meant to be seamless and streamlined is not actually that way.”
To modernize its business and support a sustainable transformation, Campbell knew Bluestone needed to overhaul its core banking platform while building its digital capabilities and mindset. They needed to work quickly, or risk fast-moving industry changes making their new systems obsolete before they were even completed. This would require a complete shift in delivery approach, from a traditional waterfall style to an agile one.
Shifting to more flexible, agile ways of working
Executive buy-in can be challenging for public and private sector organizations looking to implement any major system change, especially if they want to do it at speed. According to Campbell, “It doesn’t work well if it’s just a subset of people who are on board, when the business more broadly is not.”
He suggests there are two primary reasons why stakeholders might hesitate – they think they know better, or they’re scared. If they think they know a better way, talking it through can help. “If someone feels their way is better, there’s a valid discussion to be had,” he said. For those who fall into the second category, he suggests giving them an opportunity to discuss their concerns with other involved parties, to build their understanding and confidence in the process.
In Bluestone’s case, switching to an agile methodology required a leap of faith – but it paid off very quickly. “Two weeks into the process we were running through showcases on things that were actually being built or had been built. Normally you’re sitting there for months on end talking about theoretical things,” said Campbell. “You need to be fully invested and comfortable. But in our experience, that meant we delivered faster outcomes in a much quicker timeframe.”
Delivering contextual, relevant and connected services
We live in a world where we provide information to get services. Many of us want, even expect, to be able to do this easily.
In the private sector, retailers talk about the concept of contextual commerce – seamlessly introducing purchase opportunities into everyday actions and natural environments. In the public sector, personalisation in context is not about promoting add-on sales, but about relevancy and what is useful for the individual.
By connecting sources of data across the public and private sectors, we can ensure services are contextual, relevant and connected to the status of the individual. And it seems consumer appetite for greater personalisation is growing.
The BCG survey found 70 percent of Australian and New Zealand customers would be willing to consent to share their data if the benefits of doing so were clear, immediate and tangible.
So how do we balance the need for privacy and data protection with open information sharing?
Campbell believes consent is the answer. “There’s an opportunity for the public sector to hold a record of consent for data sharing. Then private sector organisations can subscribe to access the particular de-identified data they need.” Essentially, the public sector can let citizens control who they share their data with and for what purpose, this will lead to private sector innovations.
Digital transformation is inevitable, not optional
With customers increasingly looking for a seamless digital experience, it’s time for all organisations to follow Bluestone’s example by stepping up their digital capabilities and embracing a new model of flexibility and automation. Digital transformation and greater integration between the private and public sectors is no longer optional – they’re urgently needed to stay relevant and meet customer expectations.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.