Developing new business processes

Established government departments and challenger banks demonstrate how important modern business processes are in the cloud era

The rise of challenger banks, online e-commerce giants and social media platforms is often attributed to the technology these organisations use. There is some truth in that. But take a look at the government of the UK, departments such as tax collectors HMRC and the Passport Office are at the forefront of new services and new ways of working.

There is a technology element to their story, but whether a web-based challenger or an agile government department, the commonality is, in fact, that these are organisations that have rethought and refreshed how they operate.

At the heart of the rethink is that challenger banks and agile government departments have become outcome-focused. All too often, organisations develop a series of business processes that become more important than the organisation, which can lead to the process defining the organisation and that leads to outdated customer service or an inability to respond.  

HMRC is an example of an organisation that is outcome-focused. When the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic was realised and the UK had to head into lockdown, the government had to step in and support the national economy with a series of benefits to support employers, employees and the self-employed. As an outcome-focused organisation, HMRC had adopted continuous delivery methods within its technology team; as a result, three new services to citizens, the: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), and the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPR) were launched in a matter of weeks of the national lockdown being announced. These three new digital services used the cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Application Programming Interface (API) to support citizens in their time of need. Legacy technology still provided a background system of record, but it was the new business processes, enabled by the latest technologies, that abstracted complexity away from the legacy systems that meant the HMRC civil servants were there when it mattered most.   

That same outcome-focused approach to business processes is shaking up the financial services sector, with banks such as OakNorth having methods and technologies that scale rapidly and needed just one day of testing to become a remote working organisation. Mettle, a new challenger brand from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), used a set of business objectives to define and develop business processes and a technology platform that again was scalable and responsive to the outcomes that the customer requires.   

All three of these stories are examples of delivering value at pace for the customer. Customers only want outcomes from a business; whether it is a bank or public sector organisation, they do not care what your business processes are. Value delivery requires organisations to have a good understanding of the customer base they serve. Within any financial services or public sector organisation sits a wealth of data – data that has been termed to be more valuable than oil in the 2020s by leading international newspaper The Economist. Data provides insight when engineered correctly and aligned to a business-driven data strategy. Organisations with modern and adaptable business processes are able to take insights and quickly flex their business processes to deliver a new valued outcome to the customer. Sean Hunter, CIO of OakNorth Bank, recently told a digital business title: “Major banks are only looking at how to reduce cost, rather than looking at what the customer really needs,” is it any surprise that the new banks are winning so much business from the established bankers?  

Technology is an enabler to business process change. Without the modernisation of the technology, estate organisations cannot develop business agility; as demonstrated by HMRC, an organisation of its size and heritage will always have an element of legacy technology that will be hard to remove. The adoption of PaaS, API and continuous delivery business processes have, though, given HMRC the ability to be agile. HMRC has demonstrated that if the applications and business processes used by the core staff of the organisation are modified, then the legacy technology can be retained, but its impact on business processes and, therefore, the customer is reduced. In most cases too, this reduces the operational cost of the technology stack within the organisation.   

Application modernisation, delivered in tandem with business process transformation, can and will reduce bottlenecks in business processes that team members may have become so used to they hardly notice them, or which frustrate customers to the point of churning to another provider.  

Banks such as OakNorth and Mettle have had the luxury of developing their technologies to be cloud-native, but the pace of business change means that even cloud-native organisations must always be vigilant to not let business processes entrenched and unchanging.  

As new technologies promise to automate the organisation, increase connectivity, deliver more data and insight or accelerate digital transformation, business processes will continue to adapt. The last decade of business and technology processes was shaped by the cloud, the next decade too will be shaped by the cloud as business processes, and customer outcomes increasingly reflect the cloud – scalable and adaptable.