Stop Hating Legacy Systems, Start Hating Complexity

Christopher Koch

I had an epiphany while attending the SAP Financial Services Forum in New York City: I no longer hate those 40-year-old mainframe legacy systems that for years I dismissed as old and uncommunicative.

I realized it’s not the legacy systems I hate. They are actually marvels of engineering. No, it’s what has built up around them that I hate. Companies and IT departments have spent decades layering complex add-ons around those heroic cores until system architectures started looking like hairballs.

Time to Hock up the Complexity
And now the banking industry is collectively starting to do that rhythmic retching that cats do before they hock one up. PayPal is stealing their bread-and-butter transaction business, bank branches get as much traffic as the school vending machines that dispense broccoli, and regulators are getting ready to feast on Dodd-Frank’s 900-page carcass.

Banks are going to have to get rid of that complexity. Things have finally gotten to the point where they can’t keep slathering more stuff on. Want to know what removing all that complexity does for you? It lets you release a mobile banking app in two months—at least that’s what Don Good and the rest of the IT team at Canadian bank ATB Financial did, as Don noted in his presentation at the conference.

Reward for Removing Complexity
Another idea: Instead of only rewarding IT and business people for adding more processes and functionality, reward them for removing complexity. Better yet, incent them to do both at once.

Banks had better start doing it now, because customers are pushing for things—like online and offline channel integration and free mobile banking—that drive up complexity rather than reducing it. Meanwhile, internal management is looking for more and better management tools, including real-time analysis, which will also complicate IT. The systems are going to need to get simpler and more agile to keep from umm, breaking the bank.

Here are some other things I learned last week that seemed wise and/or surprising:

  • To innovate in financial services, where do you begin? Benchmark existing processes.
  • CFOs want a consolidated view across risk, treasury, and finance—that’s what gives business insight.
  • Real-time risk updates matter: An insurance company lost $1.6 billion in trading in 12 minutes in 2011.
  • Marketing will soon have a bigger IT budget than IT spends on its own department according to Gartner
  • Spending on risk and regulatory has been a #1 priority for banking IT for some time, according to research Kathy Burger of Bank Systems and Technology, but now analytics, BI, modeling, and information management are at the top.
Image: IBM Mainframe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post originally appeared on the SAP Community Network and has been republished with permission.


About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. An experienced journalist and analyst, he blogs about the intersection of business and technology. Follow him on Twitter: @ckochster.

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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Time For Banks To Fight Back

Laurence Leyden

Metamora, Illinois, USA --- USA, Illinois, Metamora, Close-up of man photographing checque --- Image by © Vstock LLC/Tetra Images/CorbisThe financial services industry has suffered consecutive blows in recent years. The global banking crisis, new regulations, empowered customers calling the shots, not to mention a new breed of digital disruptors out to steal market share, have wreaked havoc on business as usual.  Profits have been slashed, reputations have been damaged, and management has been blindsided.

The only way forward is change – a change of business model, a change of mindset, and a change of ecosystem.  It’s a major upheaval, and not to be taken lightly. Banks in particular have operated largely the same way for the past 300 years. Management is facing a once in a generation reassessment of 21st century banking.

Changes in customer behaviour, including 24×7 omnichannel service expectations, lack of loyalty by current customers willing to exchange privacy for easier access to information, generational expectations of future customers – “screenagers” and tech savvy Millennials – and technology advances in cloud, mobile, real-time data, and predictive analytics make yesterday’s business model redundant.

Banking isn’t actually about banking anymore. It’s about enabling people’s lifestyles. That means you have to completely re-think how you engage with customers. The lessons are everywhere in parallel industries. Nokia, for example, thought it was about the phone, not the customer experience. Digitisation has both emboldened and empowered customers. Ignoring this fact is pointless. You need to cater to what consumers want. That means your back-end systems need to be integrated, consistent, contextualised and easy to deploy across any channel.

There’s also a whole new ecosystem required to support this new business model. Banks are facing disaggregation as they no longer own the end-to-end value chain, as well as disintermediation as new market entrants attack specific parts of the business (think Apple Pay). Smart banks are forging relationships with different and unexpected partners, such as mobile and retail organisations, even providing products from outside of the group where they are the best fit for a customer’s needs.  As I’ve said in one of my previous blogs, there’s a new mantra for modern banking: “Must play well with others.”

Old-fashioned banking is gone, and with it so have old style processes, business models and attitudes. Nobody wants to be the last dinosaur.  It’s time for the industry to dust itself off, and step up. Embracing change is easier – and far more profitable – than risking irrelevance in the widening digital divide.

I’ve briefly summarised only some of the key drivers of digital transformation, but you can find much more insight – including views from thought leaders in banks, insurance companies, fintech providers, challenger banks and aggregators – by downloading the eBook from the recent SAP Financial Services Forum: The digital evolution – As technology transforms financial services who will triumph.

It’s essential reading if you’re going to successfully fight back.


About Laurence Leyden

Laurence is Director, transaction Banking for EMEA and is primarily involved in helping banks in their transformation agenda. Prior to SAP he worked for numerous banks in Europe and Asia including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC. He regularly presents on industry trends and SAP’s banking strategy.

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4 Biggest Risks In NOT Using Social Media

April Crichlow

These days social media is critical for success in business. Early adopters have made great strides, using it to engage with customers online and find new clients. For the laggards — typically small businesses that think they don’t have the resources or need for social media — the question looms: “Is social media a fad, or is it here to stay?”

Unfortunately for these companies, social media is here to stay. There are four major risks in not using social platforms as a business tool:

  1. You risk being out of the loop. Social media is a key channel for consumers collecting information and connecting with other consumers. It is also a great opportunity for companies to engage with current customers, as well as potential customers, all over the world. By not using social media, you run the risk of losing customers, credibility, and crucial information that can benefit your business. Even if you choose not to actively participate in discussions, you need be aware and stay informed regarding conversations about your company. Don’t stick your head in the ground and hope for social media to “blow on by.”
  1. You can’t respond to negative comments about your business. When customers are not satisfied with your product or service, one of the first things many will do is complain on Twitter or Facebook, or they will write a bad review online. If you are not actively keeping tabs on these discussions and reviews, they can hurt your reputation and cost you potential business. How can you protect your brand if you don’t know what’s being said about it online? Social media is now the default platform for customer service. Instead of calling an 800 number, consumers want to send businesses a tweet or post something on a Facebook page. When they can’t find you online, they will go to a review site such a Yelp or Merchant Circle to complain and warn other customers. However, if they have a relationship with your company, they are much less likely to take such actions and will instead send you an email or a private message about the problem.
  1. You risk missing the positive comments about your business. Customers also leave positive feedback online about companies with which they do business. However, if they believe their comments won’t be read by the companies they are praising, satisfied customers are less likely to leave feedback.
  1. You risk giving your competitors an unfair advantage. If your competitors are active on social media and you are not, your rivals have a leg up on winning business from potential customers. You don’t allow for comparisons and can’t answer questions in real time. Unless your product or service is overwhelmingly superior, this is one risk you cannot afford to take!

Social media is an excellent forum to participate in discussions happening right now about your business and your industry. Building an active presence on social sites offers numerous opportunities to promote your products and services, provide outlets for customer service, and check up on your competition. It’s not too late to start using social media as a business tool…but one day soon, it might be.

If you are an SAP partner and would like to learn more about this topic, join me on Dec 1st for How to Spend 15 Minutes a Day on Social Without Breaking a Sweat. Register now: (s-user) #SAPMarketingAcademy


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