Right partnerships can help businesses script success stories

Managers must have a clear vision and conviction that digital technologies are the future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 9:55pm

Too many consultants talk about going “digital”. It’s a good buzz word, but what does it actually entail?

The State Bank of India has been transforming from a traditional financial institution into a digital, futuristic bank – and there are lessons to be learned from its journey. SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya has launched game-changing digital products in India ranging from mobile services to video statements to being able to bank with a smart watch. I won’t go into all of the services but together they present alternatives to ATMs and queuing up at bank branches.

One of the key areas we have worked together is SBI Buddy, a mobile wallet available in 13 languages that was launched in 2015. In early October the wallet surpassed the five million customer mark, underscoring how rapidly the bank’s users embraced the product that makes banking easier. How did the bank take up the digital transformation so fast?

To digitise an enterprise, you need a clear vision and conviction that digital is the future. You cannot simply roll out one product, but rather a suite of solutions. And they need to be joined up, unveiled as a steady, predictable flow of solutions that demonstrate a faith in the new way forward. You need to have the resolve to succeed despite faltering.

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The manager driving such an initiative has to make digitising a company-wide effort. It’s not just about working in a silo with the IT team, but getting the entire enterprise on-board – your ambassadors are your people. It doesn’t mean just giving lip service to the “new” ideas of As a Service Platforms and creating digital ecosystems. It means truly embracing the “new”. You have to work with your strengths but equally bring on board new partners. You have to accept that the partnerships are peer relationships even if you are commercially unequal.

It also requires listening to your people – from outside consultants to the IT department, to the front line workers who are interacting with customers, to the tea lady who will tell you the unvarnished truth.

It means driving that initiative forward. Anyone who has ever launched a new product knows this is round-the-clock work to meet deadlines. Equally important, it means flexibility – somewhere along the line there will be a new problem, a new deadline, a new issue with which to grapple.

And you need to fund it. Overhauling an enterprise is costly, and stakeholders need to understand that the investment in the future is worthwhile. If you form the right partnerships and give your partners the right support they will invest with you. We have invested to create the As-a-Service platform for Buddy.

The State Bank of India is now the leader in mobile banking with a market share of more than 34 per cent. Buddy, for example, has enabled 10.2 million transactions – roughly 50,000 per day. The transformation is a work in progress but it offers lessons on how to make changes.

Piyush Singh is managing director and head of Accenture’s financial services group in India