Implementing and running a Collaborative Platform. Some tips to succeed.
As discussed in the two previous parts of this article, people are ready for more collaboration that will bring benefits for both organization and their employees. New technologies, digital and AI notably, open the door to enhanced collaboration and platform model allows to consider broader and cross entities type of collaboration.
In this context, rolling out a Collaborative Platform such as Ffyn has been an exciting journey. It comes also with many challenges related to Collaboration on one hand and Platform model on the other hand. There are several impediments and pitfalls along the road and the platform operator has to adapt permanently to match tiny day-to-day details on how people effectively interact, to focus on the value the platform will bring and to find the right balance between what can be perceived as contradictory requests (openness versus privacy being a classic).
The risk to fail is high and so the price to pay. As stated by Carl Wiese (The Collaborative Imperative) :
Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration
This is even more accurate when it comes to onboard both ends of the considered value chain on a Collaborative Platform, in our case Asset Managers (the Producers) and Private banks and Insurance Companies (the Consumers). Indeed, external collaboration requests a robust Solution that meet needs of both ends, which means a balanced approach while paying attention to offer an easy, seamless and riskless solution to all users.
6 usual points of attention to keep on the radar
The experience shows that, in most cases, project teams will face:
- Lack of Trust and Collective engagement. One may fear the loss of privacy because of systematic activity tracking or the lack of acknowledgement of individual performance versus collective achievements.
- Specific Usage adding complexity to change management. Collaboration itself is universal. What is less standard is the context in which people collaborate: data, compliance rules, business background, processes and needs from the different stakeholders.
- Inflation of traditional and digital tools. Tech is everywhere, not always easy to cope with, creating complexity adding new siloes to existing ones and triggering out of control new volumes of information to deal with. People feel they do not have time for collaboration and start to be reluctant to add new tools, as they fear the lack of connectivity and integration.
- Managerial behavior. Management has to lead by example if not it will not bring the sufficient support to legitimate the adoption of this new way of working
- Company culture & organization. It quickly becomes a source of frustration when it is the case as it results in lack of clear goals, lack of transparency in the decision making process, lack of involvement, …
- Critical mass. Attracting different typologies of users by answering their specific needs for collaboration is key. The more open the community is the more time it may take.
I suggest then, to closely monitor the 6 following factors:
Beyond those challenges and success factors, implementing a Collaborative Platform means bringing onboard the two sides of the market. Even if they have common objectives, their priorities and the way they look at some features will not be the same. The governance of the Platform has to consider this in order to protect the right balance. To go one-step further I would like to share three basic principles, no rocket science here, that guided us during our project.
3 tips to maximize the positive impact of a Collaborative Platforms.
Simplicity should drive the platform design, the communication flows and the shared processes.
As far as the platform is concerned, it’s key to make sure that the features are designed to fit with industry specifics and user day-to-day practices. Generic tools have very often proven to be disappointing, as they do not plug easily to existing environment or only through expensive and time-consuming projects. On the opposite, I have seen many tools piling up data, analytics, charts, features, extensive menus and complex user experience to cope with all cases and sub cases. It eventually became a real issue for potential users to make their way on their own and adopt the Solution. I believe a good Collaborative Solution should:
- Come with an industry specific “flavor”. Understanding the connection between data management, day-to-day interactions, reporting needs, list of contacts, business rules…
- Allow a self-onboarding and self-training approach.
- Provide with a very fluid and intuitive usage: people should not spend time maintaining rules or understanding which feature does what.
- Offer a high degree of maintainability with no need for an army of “experts” or “champions” to maintain it and administrate users.
- Deliver continuous improvement through an agile and dev/ops capacity.
All that seems so obvious but how many “powerful” collaborative solutions are eventually left aside because too complex to maintain, too heavy or too slow to use, being seen as black boxes.
We all experienced desktops crowded with plenty of Digital “user experience driven” tools adding to each other up to a point where the experience become rather negative. That is still often the case with traditional collaborative tools focusing on specific features:
- Information sharing tools: electronic messaging. Highly efficient to interact but massive usage creates frustration, cost and risk specifically when it comes to dissemination of files (no versioning, storage cost, …)
- Doc Management tools answering challenges raised above on this specific feature but highly rigid as it relies on pre-defined groups and topics.
- Project Management tools: providing automated workflow, discussion forum, on line meetings but quite heavy to roll out and maintain making the investment worth only for significant project.
There is a clear need for consolidation to deliver a solution that will allow a rationalization of the end user desktop. A quick scan on the web shows that many start-ups but also leading vendors are working on this and intend to deliver solutions that integrate more features.
Connectivity and seamless data mapping features should also be a priority as it would not be realistic to imagine replacing all existing third party or in-house tools at once.
More importantly, in most cases those tools are not designed to answer cross companies collaboration. One need to switch from tools to Platforms able to deliver solutions:
- fitting as much as possible day to day transversal processes to improve internal and external collaboration (for instance “Request For Information” or “Due diligence” processes);
- coping with industry regulatory constraints (UCITS V, AIFMD, MIFID II and PRIIPS in our case);
- providing with a single source of information avoiding inefficient research and freeing up time to focus on business topic;
- offering connectivity with in in-house tools.
To support what is stated above, it’s key to manage user involvement during the design and build phases but also after the go live, on a day-to-day basis.
The Platform team needs to stay tuned and opened to opportunities, as the “key features” will not emerge all at once. It means spending time, repeatedly, with end users, watching them in their day-to-day environment and exploring opportunities with them.
To support co-design, a proven methodology, especially in a BtoB environment is very helpful. In our case working with BivwAk! teams has been a great facilitator. Co-design plays an important role at Bivwak!, as it encourages project teams to adopt the Agile scrum method. Through various rituals, such as sprint planning or retrospective, all team members participate in the construction of the product, the prioritization of functionalities and the continuous improvement of team performance. The agile scrum method indeed proposes a horizontal organization, where business and tech roles are co-responsible and users are involved on a continuous basis.
Feedback loops :
As any digital solution, a successful Collaborative Solution need to provide with continuous feedback. This is key to promote daily usage, to help users enhancing their participation and their input but also to take advantage of what is going on in order to identify new opportunities.
Having said that, this feature has to be managed carefully with an appropriate governance. A Collaborative Platform is not a social network. People do not want to be overwhelmed by messages and regulatory framework put some limits on user interactions.
Whether or not the current rush to digital collaboration will become the new normal has triggered many debates on social networks for the last three weeks. Some start to fear the lack of human relationships it could result in. I do believe that the Covid outbreak is only an accelerator; the triggers for this evolution were already there before. I also believe those solutions can improve the future of works and New Technologies such as AI, if well used, will bring additional benefits. Beyond this debate on digital solutions, developing more Collaborative approach among Wealth Management industry players will be necessary to cope with more global and complex challenges (Introduction of ESG performance monitoring being a great example given the current lack of standards and consistency). As Platform economy is wining pace in the industry, opening opportunities to develop new business models, Collaborative Platforms will allow keeping adding value for both Wealth Managers and Asset Managers, for the benefits of the end clients.