Entering the Banking Technology Awards – guidelines from the editor
Entries for the Banking Technology Awards 2014 have been open for a while now, but as we move into the last few weeks, this is always a time when we are flooded with questions about the process. By way of response, here are some guidelines based on my experience chairing the judging panel over the past 11 years.
Top of the FAQ list is how to enter the Readers’ Choice Awards: the short answer is that you don’t – these awards are for vendor products and services, as chosen by users. We don’t stop vendors voting for their own product and services – it is a way for the smaller vendors to get themselves on our radar – but it won’t say the final results, which are based on the numbers of votes from user institutions. We also run checks on multiple voting from the same IP address or email and other measures to prevent fraud as much as possible, including calling voters to check that they have actually cast a vote.
The second most common issue we have is banks and financial institutions entering themselves for the Readers’ Choice Awards. Sorry, they’re for the vendors: banks and FIs have to jump through a few more hoops and submit an entry to the Judged Award categories. This involves a written entry describing a project that fits into the various categories outlined in the entry form.
Over the years we’ve learnt that different institutions have different views of where their projects fit in – is it a payments project, or a transaction banking system? Innovative technology, or an outstanding retail service underpinned by new technology?
As part of the judging process, the panel takes this into consideration and moves entries where appropriate. In fact, the panel has been know to modify the categories in-flight to accommodate project trends (they are, after all, experienced project managers). In 2013, for instance, it quickly became apparent that the entries in the Best Use of Mobile Technology split largely into two types: internal applications, such as for retail branch staff or portfolio managers; and external applications, such as Personal Finance Management apps. This year those two strands are built-in to the entry process.
The infrastructure categories were split into two a few years ago for similar reasons: industry infrastructure and institutional infrastructure. The former is for pan-industry projects or services used by multiple institutions – and has been won by FIs whose services have been widely while the latter is for individual institutions.
All qualifying entries are considered by the Banking Technology Awards judges. Judges are not allowed to comment on or vote for entries from their own institutions, and they are not allowed to disclose details of other entries – brief details of all short-listed entries will be published on our website and in the official Awards brochures, so all entries should include a short (50-100 word) description that can be published in this way. All other information will be treated in strictest confidence.
So what are these judges looking for? Generally, the more detail the better, but the perfect entry will include as much of the following information as possible. (I don’t think we’ve ever seen the perfect entry – many close decisions have come down to the fact that one entry has included a detail that another hasn’t).
- Dates of the overall project: all entries should be for the period from July 2013 to July 2014. In practice, this means that the projects should have been completed and in production during that period. We realise that many large projects will run over several years and several geographies, but if it isn’t out of user acceptance testing in its first location it probably isn’t ready for entry. (Similarly, the final phase of a three-year project that achieved it’s main milestones in year two is probably too late.)
- The unique points of the project – what makes this implementation/project different
- Performance metrics – how were the project benefits measured and monitored? By how much did the project improve process performance or reduce process time?
- Project team size and mix – how many people were involved at different stages? How did this vary between internal staff, contractors or outside consultants?
- User breakdown by number – how many internal/external users? How did this vary over the life of the the project? For instance, a project many have started in London with 50 users and then been rolled out across Europe to 200.
- Financial impact/return on investment – this is particularly useful to the judges in distinguishing costly Tier 1 juggernaut projects from smaller
- Functional diagrams/screenshots– where appropriate these can be helpful, but not too many please
It is also worth noting that over the years we have become more relaxed about accepting entries from systems vendors as institutions have moved more towards buy rather than build – but only if these are done with the approval of the institution, which is why the entry form requires the name of a bank representative who will collect the award on the night if it is a winning entry– the inscription on the trophy will say MegaBank, not XYZ FinTech Systems (though some banks have included supplier’s names on trophies).
Similarly, the team and individual awards have a slightly different set of criteria: they are not simply about doing the job: one of the standard complaints among the judges is that team entries often lack information about what makes it a team – my personal favourite was the Indian development team that taught their German colleagues how to play cricket over a series of regular matches.
That bank may well have the best cricket team in Germany; they certainly showed us they had a multicultural team that worked well together across dispersed locations.