If the penetration of enterprise data, resource planning and other soup-to-nuts solutions in the capital markets is any indication, then our business is behind the curve. By comparison, penetration in industry segments such as utilities, transportation and manufacturing is in the range of 80% to 90%. (In other words, 80% to 90% of these companies are using enterprise-class solutions to help optimize how their businesses run.)
Although we don’t typically think of it this way, this assessment could be attributed to the fact that capital markets businesses are relatively young. Even at the global dealing banks, many business units are young in comparison to their banking and insurance units. Couple this lack of enterprise optimization with the current deleveraging and regulatory environment, and many capital markets firms are behind the 8-ball.
While one tactic for conservation is reduced head count, maximizing resource utilization is only made more challenging with fewer personnel and the same old tool kit. As a result, the pressure on these firms is transmitted proportionally to solution providers. While investing in new technologies and solutions is counter-intuitive during a downturn (and capital investment statistics of late support this claim), capital markets firms need to selectively strive against this urge. And, out of respect for this discomfort, solution providers need to deliver more value.
This brings me to “ease of use.” Vendors consistently claim it, and end users consistently demand it. Across the board, TABB Group outreach – no matter the asset class, geography, or position in the workflow – consistently shows that end users rank ease of use among the highest attributes they require from their solutions. The problem, however, is that this equation doesn’t match up. Either vendors are not really providing ease of use, or end users don’t really want it. Otherwise, why would end users keep asking for something that the vendors say they are already delivering? My guess is that marketing folks like to talk the talk – whether they can walk the walk or not. Ease of use is simply too easy to promise.
My point? Design. (I am definitely in broken-record territory, but I expect this crusade to last for a while.) Design is the special sauce for the next era of the capital markets. Ever wonder how Apple became so successful? Design. Herman Miller? Design. Costco or Walmart? In large part, design.
Design impacts all components of a business. From technical architecture to process engineering (from the mundane to the star-spangled), from organizational culture to service offerings and, finally, user experience, design is really what can set you apart from your competitors. All that said, user experience design – the part that gives the sensation of ease of use, of satisfaction – is where the Oscars will be won. Respect your customers’ time by making solutions (in large part through improved interface design) that don’t waste their time, and you may just have an argument to invest in your gizmo, even when the times are tough, and getting tougher.