The financial services technical “Grand Design”
Some of us are familiar with the UK architectural design TV show “Grand Designs” – the everyday tale of brave self-builders. Less common in later seasons of the show, are the stalwarts who do every detail themselves; typified by a timeline stretching to decades and budgets blown out into countless credit cards.
The self-builders have evolved, the sane realising on-time and on-budget houses are built using the right expertise and components in a modular way.
After significant architecture, design and supplier selection effort, the walls are built in a factory, the steel framework is fabricated off-site, the foundations are laid by an expert and the services are provided by skilled expert contractors. This is HBaaS (House-Building-as-a-Service), where the architect is key, and the project manager acts as an integrator. If the position of the foundations is wrong, the house will not fit together – disaster.
The self-builder has created a very personal house but at much lower risk and is still able to express individuality in the interiors.
Financial services is awash with large legacy estates, monoliths and conglomerates that provide the main business functions; supported by a cottage industry of processes and loosely controlled “shunting” of files, often containing sensitive data. We all know these systems are not sustainable, FS must move to a new “home”, one that utilises the latest appropriate technology and responds quickly to change.
Before deciding how to build a new “home”, a financial services organisation must plan and design what it will look like. The main lesson from the successful self-builder is clear, upfront thinking is the difference between success and failure, or very deep pockets and no end date. What does this mean? A meticulous focus on architecture, design and integration, to borrow again from the building trade, “measure twice, cut once”.
The importance of good architecture, design and integration is best illustrated with the windows; always manufactured off-site, the show’s moment of peril is experienced when a hugely expensive pane of glass is moved into an opening with a ridiculously low size tolerance, whilst hanging from a crane, in a gale. One error in measurements and the project is delayed for six weeks.
In financial services, we should treat this process of transition to a new system as an opportunity to re-evaluate our current systems and processes in order to shape the future. Design what shape the future FS systems take. As savvy self-builders have learnt, when you reduce the system to its component parts, the experts can do what they do best, and you can spend all your effort in ensuring all the components fit together well.
Once you’ve decided on the “what”, you need to think about the “how”. Of course the drivers for a self-builder are not the same as your average FS re-platforming but the questions to determine what I buy build or outsource are the same; where do my strengths lie, what capability can I buy in, do I want to do a lot of maintenance, what am I willing to get off-the-shelf and where do I want or need my design to be unique.
Ultimately, a financial services company is a little different as we are not building a static building, we are building a home that will need to change and evolve. The ability of the business to change quickly and to switch direction in line with changing requirements is rooted in its culture and structure, not just in the choices of technology used. As with the successful “Grand Designs” projects, if you recognise the strengths of your core business and harness the expertise of third parties, the window will fit, and the view will be outstanding.
By Sarah Bateman technical architect at Altus