Stakeholder involvement in the new service design process: The Information Systems department

The IS department is a key stakeholder in the NPD process. The view of the NPDD, however, is that IS tends to be rather inflexible and to restrict what products can actually be offered. The bank operates with accountancy-based systems (the ‘legacy’ system) from the ’60s and ’70s which, because they are transactions based, are good for some accounting purposes, but do not readily permit customer management. Additional management information systems have been bolted on to make provision for data management but as this has taken place only since 1993 there are few customer data on the system. Because of these limitations, to a large extent data management has been driven by the systems department. Of course no product design can proceed when the systems department is unable to support it.

‘. . . we came up with two really good ideas for new products and everybody loved them, the consumers thought they were fantastic and then we went to ”systems” who said ”well fine, but we don’t actually have the resources to do that this year”. You’ve got to make a really good case for why they’ve got to do your bit of product development and ignore something else. We managed to get a couple of the products through, but with two it’s been really frustrating. We know they’d do well but we’re stuck.’

The head of market analysis conceded that the systems department, although involved in the NPD process, is deliberately not closely involved in it.

‘We should probably involve them more but what you don’t want is to get into the situation where you’re only doing things because they’re technically feasible. Because there are so many IT constraints and issues, if they were really closely involved, well the business has got to drive the product development and then if it becomes a technical issue you have to strive to get over that. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.’

The branches

There was little suggestion of any problems between NPDD and the branches, although as interviews were not conducted with branch staff the converse cannot be assumed.

The crucial role of the branches in the development and subsequent implementation of new services was recognised. Indeed branch managers are often ‘key drivers’ in the product development process. Cooperation and communication with the branches is vital because each branch has a different customer profile. The NPDD has responsibility for developing the product and then communicating both the characteristics and intended target market to the branches.

‘They have a different viewpoint . . . they really are the realism a lot of the time. They say ”yeah that’s okay but in the branch that’ll never work”, which is obviously useful to know.’

Although opportunities to involve the branches in creating and stimulating design ideas are limited, they are becoming involved in design workshops and are encouraged to provide post-launch feedback. Ideally, market analysis will start to solicit the views of branch staff but, as with other initiatives, this takes time to put into operation.

Much of financial service delivery has been automated but there is still an element of human delivery in services. The amount of information branch staff have, plus their ability to understand and communicate the details of any product, are important elements of service delivery as was acknowledged in the design of one particular account:

‘. . . branches . . . are customer facing, we have to be sure they are happy with the process. If they’re discontented . . . that is bound to have an impact on how they then deliver that service to the customers. If they’re not brought into the whole process we will fall down . . ..

how complex the product appears to be will be one of the deciding factors of how much information we have to give the … branch staff. The new account is actually a very simple account so therefore the process that has to be gone through to train the staff is limited. If we were to go down the road looking for a more complex product (mortgages are a prime example) we have specialist sales staff [who] deliver mortgages to the customers because of the complexity.’

Although product team members were aware of the need to ensure that sales staff were trained, they acknowledged that this was an area they hoped to improve in future NPD activities.

Other stakeholder groups

The previous discussion focused on a number of key internal stakeholder groups who have an impact on the design process; many represent the external environment, government, shareholders etc. Other identifiable actors include intermediaries, who played a key role, and internal groups such as Treasury and Compliance Units. The next section considers a major external stakeholder: the customer whose interests are specifically channelled into the organisation through the market analysis section.

 

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