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By Perry Krug, Director, Customer Success, Couchbase

A banks’ digital development doesn’t just rely on tools and technology. It also relies on software development and the processes and best practices that should be used for the most effective, efficient performance. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a real shift in the way teams within banks work together and communicate, opening up new challenges when it comes to digital transformation and the recovery this will provide.

Hierarchy is changing

Communication now relies on the speed of collaboration platforms like Slack or Monday. This means any banking or financial services companies that usually develop software in a traditional way, regardless of Open Source or InnerSource, will need to adapt and change their practices.

Those with a ‘top-down’ approach will require the biggest changes. Any work that uses very protected territorial silos and is directed from higher up, will end up with a lot of time tied up in virtual meetings. Any banks or building societies utilising new management approaches to communication and computing technologies will instantly be ahead of the competition within the financial sector.

From cellular manufacturing practices to InnerSource, there are long-studied methods of distributing authority and accountability in ways that enable decision making at lower levels – which is now more of a necessity, especially within financial services. Doing so means moving management from decision-making to goal-setting and organisational structuring.

Working with Conway’s Law

“Any organisation that designs a system will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the businesses’ communication structure.” Conway’s Law can’t be fought, but you can understand its influence and work within its constraints.

Essentially, you need to collaborate in order to successfully develop applications for the finance sector. For instance, if new ways of working make close collaboration difficult, collaborate loosely. If shared resources are causing constraints and bottlenecks, couple software more loosely to its foundations. The popularity of microservices for instance, are an explicit recognition of these constraints, and should now be coming into their own.

A customer-first approach

In a socially distant world, product managers within finance are more important than ever. Developers will know what needs to be done to create a solution – if they know what they’re supposed to solve. However, solving these issues means getting inside the customer’s head.

Expecting developers to become psychologists is a step too far. Instead, there needs to be clear communication between product managers and developers over what issues financial services customers are facing, and ideally what they want the end result to be.

This means fast communication is essential despite having distributed teams. If it isn’t in place, a priority for all teams in a financial organisation should be making sure it is.

Less meeting, more workflows

This new normal should cause us to question the role of meetings. Meetings with more than a few people are not productive – at best, they are announcements or at worst two people talking to each other while everyone else waits for their name.

Every department within financial organisations need to start taking note from developers and learn to adopt issue tracking, sprints, and a general workflow to make meetings run more effectively. Think of a meeting like a computer. The aim should be to make meetings fast – and to remove constraints on action. The aim should be to give people the data and the power they need to work more independently.

Financial organisations must learn to adapt

The banks with the biggest rewards, will be the ones prepared to shift quickly to fit in with this new way of working. The more agile an organisation is, the more resilient they will prove to be when it comes to this new normal. It is vital decision making is taken with data in mind. We must share decision making and adapt tools and structures that power creativity and growth. This is what will prove key to the post-pandemic recovery within the financial sector.

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