Digital innovation: A road map for CIOs

By James Cammarata

What does it take for a CIO to lead business and digital innovation at their company? What's the winning formula? A look at a CIO innovator provides some answers.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is the largest bank in Canada, and one of the largest financial institutions in the world. It is built on business and digital innovation, as evidenced by its long history of continuous improvement, investments in technology and ability to make it easy for clients and employees to do business and lower costs. The company's strategic priority is to create a digitally enabled, relationship-centered bank.

Bruce Ross, RBC's head of technology and operations, is the bank's senior IT leader. He combines a strategic business focus with technology expertise. Bruce knows banking, and he knows IT. He describes RBC as "a technology company that happens to have a bank sign on the front door." He demonstrates a great ability to unite people to get things done. The company's combination of technology, people and customer awareness drives its success. RBC is a pioneer in transforming its development platform, the customer experience and the culture that nurtures it.

Cloud technology is at the core

RBC uses cloud as a key element to drive transformation in app development. The opportunity is considerable: a Forrester study shows that great apps generate 79 percent more sales and ad revenue than merely good apps. The cloud provides the flexibility and speed to develop multiple apps while meeting internal and external client expectations for rapid delivery and continuous improvements.

This constant iteration is of particular importance for RBC's online banking, with its 12 million online users. Everything new is being developed in the cloud, and competitive battles will be in "business-as-a-service." This approach unlocks the value from a company's existing systems and digital assets, which are the raw materials of this digital era.

People and culture are the engines

Ross promotes an engineering culture while ensuring that technology delivers the right business outcome. The goal is to change how teams work and collaborate. That includes teams in development, infrastructure and non-IT roles. Transformation should be routine for the way teams work. Ross drives a vision of innovating for the future with emerging technologies such as IoT and blockchain.

Customers are the ultimate arbiters

The bank knows that customer expectations have changed because of technology. Fifty-five percent of managers believe that customer experience strategy improves customer satisfaction. People expect a lifestyle experience, not a digital experience. For example, better technology is not about offering a mortgage, it's about helping customers start their home-buying journeys. The vision is to incorporate cognitive technologies that will allow RBC to do marketing that is customized precisely to each client's needs and preferences.

Marketplace outcomes matter

Outcomes are measured by adoption rates of technology and speed to market versus competitors. For example, RBC was the first to announce Siri payments in Canada. Mobile capacity and capabilities are essential as mobile demand from customers continues to grow. The speed of releases is accelerating, while businesses must ensure that customers are satisfied.

RBC earned industry recognition for its business accomplishments in 2017, winning Global Retail Bank of the Year and Best Branch Strategy at the Retail Banker International awards in London. The awards cited its best-in-class distribution model, which includes online, mobile, ATMs and call centers, along with physical branches.

How to lead in digital innovation

Remember these three takeaways in order to become a digital innovation leader:

  1. Think of the cloud for flexibility, speed and innovation.
  2. Integrate with existing data to access the value that exists in your company.
  3. Mobile is often the first choice for customers and employees.

Making transformation come to life is about investments and people. Make the commitment, then communicate the vision and foster collaboration across IT and business teams. Set external metrics based on client and competitive benchmarks, then continually monitor and adjust your technology to meet and exceed the benchmarks.

This article was originally published on Mobile Business Insights.