In an interview with The Banker in September 2007, Thomas Balgheim, the head of SAP's global banking line of business, mentioned the lack of progress in banks' ability to execute on strategy. In the 2007 EFMA/SAP research, 46% of the responding banks said that they believe that their IT systems fall short in supporting the achievement of business strategy. That's a significant increase from 2004, when 36% thought their systems fell short. But banks expect to do better: The 2007 study found that only 6% think that their systems will fall short three years from now.
The 2004 study found that banks had high expectations for their systems at that time, and yet, their dissatisfaction actually increased in the ensuing three years. There are a variety of reasons that might explain that disconnect. For example, we might assume that:
* Banks weren't able to execute as planned.
* New types of customer behavior had a strong impact on the services delivered by the banks, which required banks to adjust their IT support.
* The market environment changed more, and in more unexpected directions, than banks thought they would.
Looking at banks' actual situation in 2007 and their plans for 2010, the research shows that:
* Banks think that the gap between expectations and reality will largely disappear due to recent adjustments to IT services.
* The momentum of market development could be built into the business strategy on top of the 2004/2007 gap resolution.
* Preparations made between 2004 and 2007 have not yet contributed to IT service, but should do so in the 2007-2010 timeframe.
Meanwhile, IT is being called on to support business targets that have changed, and continue to change. For example, banks now tend to see cross-selling as key to growth, as opposed to the past emphasis on mergers and acquisitions. Customer-focused strategies aim to understand and manage customer behavior and the customer's perceptions of the bank, which supports cross-selling, retention and new customer acquisition. These factors have helped bring analytics and business warehouse support to the forefront-something that wasn't widely foreseen in 2004. Banks are also interested in the synchronization of customer engagement across different channels, which requires the reduction or elimination of siloed data management.
The research also provides a sense of what banks need to do to support their business goals, and to keep the gap between IT expectations and reality from growing larger. For example, it seems clear that strategies built entirely on in-house systems don't guarantee competitive advantage. Meanwhile, standard applications are less cost-intensive in terms of development and maintenance, and can typically be implemented fairly quickly. They also don't tie up as many internal resources, so banks can focus more on innovation. Most of the respondents said they are open to using standard software, especially in human capital, supplier management and financial processes.
As they consider these issues, banks should look at the experience of other industries that have made the transition to standard software and used it to achieve greater efficiency while preserving the ability to create competitive advantage. Banks face significant and growing IT issues, and the lessons learned in those industries could help them move more quickly from strategy discussions to execution.