Friday, August 29, 2008

Phone Banking in 150 languages!

Can you believe it!. Its yet another innovation by Royal Bank of Canada. In order to respect the diversity in Canada and to assit and attract new immigrant customers in Canada, RBC has recently rolled-out a customer service help line that works 24/7 and assits clients in more than 150 languages. I love Toronto!. I had been to the city twice and worked with major banks in the city. I can understand and appreciate how valuable the service would be!. The RBC bank has roped-in 2600 interpreters for this service.
More than this, I found another idea interesting...where in the Bank's website, the new immigrants can locate a RBC branch where their preferred language is spoken by more than three people. Guess what, its a Google Maps mashup!. If an immigrant is going to stay in canada for few months, I am sure this service would be invaluable. Apart from this, the website also provides various such as locating a house where a preferred cultural composition is high (sounds like BI heatmaps to me! :-))
Now, thats what I call Business Innovation that is truly sensitive to the local context!.
On a side note, RBC is also working on a Pilot with Visa to launch Contactless payments in Mobile devices. Just swipe your phone with the cash register at the merchant store and payment is done. Absolutely no contacts and no bills either!.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New way of Banking @ ATM

Bank of America has recently rolled-out an enhanced ATM facility where customers can deposit cash and get immediate credit on their account for the same-day deposits. The ATM also includes a fake currency detector that can immediately alert about fake notes in the deposited cash.
For cheques, the ATM gives out a receipt that contains the 'scanned image' of the cheque that was deposited. On seeing the cheque image in the ATM transaction slip, the customers will be immediately assured of the deposited cheque and the exact amount. There is no need for math and fill-up deposit slips as the ATM automatically adds-up if there are multiple cheques.
Some of the benefits that are quoted:
- Paperless transaction in the deposits
- Improved Customer Experience
- Real-time security
Its interesting to see the way technology & innovation touching consumers' lives. :-).
Slowly, but steadily, innovation is making inroads into the enterprise. Looking forward to the tipping point!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Integrated Tech & Ops

In times where CIOs themselves dont see their positions attractive or influencing in the corporate, the article recently published in CIO magazine raises hope. The gist of this article is that the new role of the CIO could be a SVP for Technology & Operations. One can find many number of instances in the industry where CIO is complemented with additional responsibility to IT. In most cases, the Operations is merged with IT. In other cases, the CIO is given additional responsibility for other support functions such as HR, Infrastructure/Real Estate, etc.
I see this transition as a very good opportunity for bringing IT close to business. Under the unified umbrella of Technology & Operations, IT can influence lot of business process automations/optimizations and Business Processes can benefit a lot from IT. Of course, there is a catch, provided if they both work together.
Having an Enterprise Architecture body that talks to business trying to create a business-IT alignment is a top-down approach, whereas having a SVP who heads both Technology& Operations can be a bottom-up door opener for achieving business-IT alignment. I will be curious to read successful case studies where these two functions really sit along the same side of the table , 'not' across the table to discuss their problems and improve them together.
On these lines, I would like to bring up a fact that a company in India, called iGATE, have sensed the significance of this organization model five years ago and came out with a integrated tech & ops offering for Mortgage/Insurance and Banking industry. It was a really interesting and visionary model for the maket, to start with. It will be interesting to see how this model shapes up and how this model gets adopted by other IT majors in India.
The consequence of my earlier apprehension - only if the tech & ops in the customer organization are really integrated and working together in spirit, not in letter - the vendor outsourcing will happen as a unified entity. Otherwise, it would still be treated as two different offerings - one for BPO and another for IT.

Monday, August 18, 2008

MBA is a course that is dead on its feet!

How is the title?. :-) . This is something I didnt make it up. And its a reference from an interesting article in India business magazine 'Businessworld'.
I was tempted to pickup the last week edition of Businessworld, as it was a special issue having the theme called 'Using Design as Competitive Advantage'. Of course, the title is so tempting to read in detail, because of its one of my favorite subjects and me being an architect! :-)
The point in story is that, in recent past, the companies that are admired most are the ones that have achieved global success though design!. Do you agree?. I do. Examples - Apple, Intel and Sony. Apple was rated as the No.1 Admired company in the World by Forbes magazine recently. The next No.2 being GE. The rating indicates that it does not matter what products that you manufacture - whether its for lifestyle segment or aerospace segment - the question is how well do you manufacture? - It matters how well the product is designed and whether the product explictely demonstrates the company's vision, passion, creativity and innovation. So, the question for successful companies of the future would be - Not how much revenue you generate, but how well do you design your product/service that will truly 'delight' your customers?. Of course, this yardstick cannot be applied to all companies. But, it will be really be applicable to companies that want to make a difference to their respective industries.
Another key point to be noted from the story goes like this - "Design when practiced at strategic level, it can alter the fortunes of the business dramatically as it engages the core offering of the company - be it product or service". Absolutely!. This is exactly what Zachman said in his conference on how Enterprise Architecture can be positioned strategically within the company to give itself a competitive advantage.
Now, coming to the 'impeachment' on MBA, it is a part of a Indian CEO's interview. He states "MBA degree signifies nothing more than the acquisition of a resource allocation skill, and now it is time to move from that to a more creativity-based mode where design becomes the heart of problem solving, the driving seat of business innovation.” And interestingly, the CEO himself is an MBA.
Not to trvialize the degree, the point the story wants us to buy is that that design has to be given equal importance as Management within any company. And I endorse it! :-)

Software+Services gaining momentum!

Internally, we have played with Microsoft Office Business Applications for quite sometime now. But, its very exciting to see industry majors like FedEx experimenting with those ideas.
Fedex has recently launched an application called 'QuickShip' which lets you to execute critical functions like shipping&tracking without leaving Microsoft Outlook. It is basically a Microsoft Outlook add-in that talks to FedEx services. I looked at the demo and I should say it was impressive and exhaustive. It has forms and menus built right into your outlook. Above all, FedEx distributes the app for free!.
Its a paradigm shift where companies are moving away from websites to consumer-side apps. And the next logical step would be composite apps that integrates not just FedEx services but with other external/commercial services as well.
Have a look at a list of other experiments that FedEx is engaged with, in Microsoft Sharepoint / Office areas. In one of the offerings, the FedEx data is integrated with Virtual Earth as well.
I firmly believe that we are few steps away from the tipping point for Composite applications.