Mobile Architecture, Strategies Drive Opportunity
Traditionally the appeal of credit unions has been attributed to their member service and accessibility. Since the financial crisis, big banks have been threatening credit unions’ niche by improving customer service and accessibility through mobile technology.
The race for the financial services customer has not been won. Credit unions must look toward digital technology and especially mobility to continue to exceed their members’ expectation of access.
Members expect access to not only account information, but also to a wide array of internal financial management services and third-party financial services, the same information that members can obtain from their primary financial institution.
While a single credit union cannot provide all the features of a big bank, mobile technology allows credit unions to connect all the services customers need to maintain financial health and remain loyal customers. CTOs, CIOs and other credit union tech staff must now re-think the ways information is accessed, the user experience is developed, and the user interface is presented across all customer touchpoints. Careful design of mobile application architecture can help a credit union create affordable solutions.
Enhancing the mobile smart device experience through smart technology and architecture choices. A major driver of an enhanced mobile experience is the growing adoption of Representational State Transfer architecture. RESTful Application Programming Interfaces use HTTP requests to connect between machines, instead of SOAP, CORBA or RPC. Although the concept of REST architecture is not new, it is finding new utility in a multi-platform world. Today, consumers are able to access information and interact with service providers and other enterprises through devices that are very different from each other, not just in size or form factor but also in computing power.
The use of RESTful APIs eliminates a major limitation of previous API types: what were once separated channels (or devices) can now be transformed into connected, bi-directional digital channels of information exchange. As a result, information in these separate channels can be integrated easily. Likewise, protocols no longer constrain what information can be communicated and in what formats.
From a technical perspective, the journey essentially involves the following three main steps:
- - Designing the API in a channel-agnostic manner;
- - Implementing the design with data stubs/mock objects;
- - Mediating and integrating between the façade and the systems using COTS/custom adapters (as available).
Credit unions adopting RESTful APIs will benefit in the following ways:
- - Enabling greater flexibility, adaptability and extensibility of software systems and platforms;
- - Creating more re-usable components because the APIs are channel-agnostic;
- - Using façades to implement the handling of common patterns (pagination, sorting etc), authentication, versioning, etc.
Migrating to this architecture will clearly position credit unions to be better prepared for a future where barriers between applications and device types are all but eliminated. It is our view that the future will be about "headless" application services delivered from clouds. These cloud-based services will act as business logic engines without a dedicated user interface. Indeed, one day in the not-too-distant future, many of these applications will also share access to a common "data lake."
So how do credit unions go about harnessing RESTful APIs for business benefit?
The key to achieving omni-channel integration across device types is to develop APIs as an abstraction layer, thus decoupling the presentation layer from the core business system. This development strategy eliminates the constraints traditional architectures impose on what information can be shared and how it must be shared.
We believe that the right way to implement this strategy is to let the process be driven by business priorities. Do not fall into the trap of letting your business be limited by what IT can currently do; look for innovative partners who can help you find ways to leverage IT to give your business the edge in an omni-channel world.
Read more: Steps for articulation, implementation ...
We recommend a four-step approach:
Step 1: Identify and articulate priorities for your credit union. Are your priorities about productivity and cost savings? Or is your focus on increasing levels of customer satisfaction and hence retention/loyalty? Do you find speed to market of new products most important?
Step 2: Establish implementation priorities. Once you articulate business priorities, many possibilities will emerge. Use criteria such as complexity (organizational, operational, technical, etc.) and priority (will aid innovation, will address gaps in current offerings, will help respond more effectively to competitors, will reduce costs/improve productivity etc.) to categorize the possibilities into four buckets that could be labeled as “Quick wins,” “Begin soon,” “Put on hold,” and “Re-evaluate.”
Step 3: Create a roadmap/blueprint. Too many IT (and other) projects have not delivered the expected benefits or have consumed more money, time and resources than anticipated. Therefore, create a blueprint that enables you to answer questions such as:
- - How will we measure benefits objectively?
- - How soon will we start seeing these benefits?
- - What resources will we need? Can we get these resources committed?
- - Is the organization ready or are there dependencies that need to be addressed (e.g. new processes, new hardware, etc.)
- - How will we phase the work, keeping in mind resource constraints and the imperative of normal business operations?
Step 4: Focus on quick wins to energize the organization. As they say, nothing succeeds like success. Focus on putting in place the easier (but high-priority) elements so that both business and IT stakeholders start seeing the benefits and are more willing to commit resources. If the quick win involves customers, it increases the odds of building loyalty; at a minimum, you will gather valuable feedback on pitfalls to avoid.
Craig Besnoy is a mobility specialist with Mindtree in Warren, N.J., and Karnataka, India.