The Digital Imperative - Avoiding The 28 Weeks Later Scenario

Busines Zombie SM-438978-edited.jpgEditor's Note: In part 2 of our blog discussing the zombie apocalypse, we dive into the 28 Days Later Sequal, 28 Weeks Later. Consumers, across all industries are driving the direction and pace of digital transformations. If banks and credit unions aren't careful as they embark on these transformations, rather than eradicating the "virus" the first time, they will find themselves in a sequel far sooner than they would like.

An earlier blog compared financial institutions that did not yet treat the transformation of their digital channels as a priority to the "zombies" that appeared in the movie 28 Days Later. This movie's storyline starts with a London bike courier waking up after being in a coma for a month to find that the city is all but deserted except for the zombies infected with a virus that was released when a group of activists inadvertently released an infected chimpanzee. Good movie if you like zombie-esque horror flicks and, spoiler alert, the zombies lose. Or to be more precise, the virus does - at least it appears so.

Thus the stage is set for a sequel to 28 Days Later, cleverly titled 28 Weeks Later. The lack of creativity reflected in the sequel's title, unfortunately "spreads" into its storyline as well. The virus from the first "28" movie re-emerges six months after its original appearance, just as people are being allowed to return to the British Isles. Of course, by this time the virus - that is being carried by the movie's equivalent of Typhoid Mary - has evolved, with the results being even more amenable to the predictable special effects horror filmmakers love to use. Mercifully, there was no 28 Years Later version of this plot produced.

What does a bad movie sequel have to do with how financial institutions do or do not embrace the transformation of their digital channels? Everything, of course. Just like the leaders in London assumed they had done enough to eradicate the virus, too many leaders at too many banks and credit unions will take the initial steps toward digital transformation by essentially taking the path of least resistance. 

They may decide to believe their current vendors providing them with online, mobile, PFM, etc. when those suppliers describe a future rosy with innovation that will fulfill every need yet always be just out of reach. Maybe, instead, they will conduct their selection process for a new vendor on a least-cost bid basis, ensuring they get an inferior product with limited shelf life. They could even buy into some of the better told "digital banking" platform stories being told, only to find out they have a licensed facade instead. 

Peter Wannemacher's Forrester report entitled "The Digital Banking Imperative Vision: A Digital Banking Strategy Playbook" warns that any institution considering transforming its digital channels should look for options outside of their traditional vendors, reflect carefully on the depth of experience any vendor they consider as the "plumbing" involved in banking, avoid going cheap and never, ever rest on their laurels. The last item is especially important since it is unlikely that the challenges in the digital arena that FIs face today will be the same the year after next.

Consumers are driving the direction and pace of digital transformation in banking and in our society. There is no reason to believe they won't continue to adopt new technology that adds convenience to their lives at a rapid pace. In other words, simply being able to deliver digital services to laptops, smartphones, tablets, and wearables - a leap that many banks and credit unions have yet to make - will not be enough in a few months.

In fact, it already isn't. Voice-activated banking using personal digital assistants is currently available. Smart appliances, thermostats, smoke/fire/carbon dioxide detectors, and televisions are being introduced into homes. Financial institutions defining their digital banking strategy today must make choices that will accommodate the myriad of possibilities these developments present while also considering how the technology on which they are betting their future will adapt to serve "the next thing" that no one is even thinking of yet. Otherwise - cue the movie reference - they will figuratively find themselves irrelevant "28 days later."