By @SimonCocking. Interesting interview with  Alon Zadka Senior Innovation Lead at Lloyds.

What is your background briefly?

I have been at Lloyds Banking Group for four years, first joining the internal digital strategy team, which alongside more “traditional” corporate strategy work also introduced an innovation function, which subsequently became our day job. Before joining Lloyds I worked as a strategy consultant for OC&C Strategy Consultants for a couple of years, and before that I spent a few years in the army in various commanding positions.

Is it a logical progression to what you do now? 

The Lloyds Banking Group’s  innovation journey has been very organic – as a strategy team we noticed a gap in our ability to do quick and cost-effective R&D so we set up something we called ‘the innovation rail’ as a strategic priority. This was effectively a ring-fenced process in which we were able to secure (small) funding for some experimentation, however at first it was quite disjointed from the rest of the business. It did, however, start to make waves across the organisation and we took on innovation as a full-time job. Throughout the years our model has changed numerous times and  I personally moved from being a strategy guy to a hands-on delivery lead, which I really enjoy.

Innovation in large organisations – what are the biggest challenges?

To me the biggest challenge is a cultural one – we can talk about clunky processes and internal bureaucracy all we want, but at the end of the day they are dictated by the existing financial services culture we have that has been around for hundreds of years. As you’d expect from a large organisation, there are multiple stop and decision points along the cycle of every deliverable, this is to ensure mistakes are not made, but when you try to get something out there really quickly these can become challenging barriers. If you want to overcome these while of course recognising we are a bank and must ensure we follow correct processes then you must rely on the people on the ground for support and to challenge existing working practices, and it is not always easy. As we have now been around for a few years and established a certain reputation, we have a lot more senior-exec backing than we ever did, which means that our speed-to-customer has improved a lot, and we were able to do that by constantly evangelising innovation and making sure the benefit we can bring to the organisation is clear and tangible.

How was it for you at Lloyds in 2016?

2016 was a good year for us as an organisation with the continuous successes of our customer journey transformation programme which is looking to deliver great multichannel experiences to customers, and for us as an innovation team as we were able to start establishing ourselves as a test & learn vehicle for that large programme. We aim to be able to support and lead thinking across all strands of the group, so being able to flex our team to deliver an array of diverse projects across multiple parts of the business is key for us and I think we are doing it better every year, although there is still room for improvement of course.

What were the big wins?

I think one big win is increasingly establishing ourselves as an alternative way to explore new ideas across the group, while influencing ways of working across the organisation. A significant portion of LBG’s large programme delivery is now done using agile and lean methodologies, while these are of course not textbook and are adjusted to fit the Lloyds model and culture, many of these concepts were introduced by us and it is great to see the delivery culture of Lloyds changing for the better. In terms of actual delivery we spent the beginning of the year working with a part of the business who was looking to completely re-design its model of engagement with customers, which relied on services design, systems thinking, rapid prototyping and lean UX – it was a huge project that I was privileged to lead and has influenced their roadmap significantly. It is always great to lead large teams who are passionate about driving change and are given the remit to do so.

What are the challenges / anything you will do differently in 2017?

We strongly believe in testing and learning as a mean to de-risk roadmap investments and remain closer to customer needs. As such we constantly look to improve the way we operate as a team and we are thinking about introducing changes to our ways of working for next year, as we have done pretty much every six months in the past three years. As per the challenges, we are keen to get even closer to the customer journey transformation programme, and help them explore some of the more complex questions around customer experience and how to create journeys that will truly delight our large customer-base.

Who are your go-to sources of inspiration?

I live a relatively connected and digital life, so I constantly seek inspiration from all industries looking for potential applications for Lloyds. There are actually some really interesting concepts that exist in eCommerce, physical retail, wearables and even gaming that could potentially change the way we interact with banks. This is a connected world, and people have less and less patience for anything that feels clunky, which forces organisations like ours to constantly experiment and improve customer experiences. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

unBound had several panels looking at this theme, how important is it, and can a large company like yours successfully be innovative and remain relevant?

I think that if companies want to stay relevant they have to remain innovative, however I am mindful that innovation can mean very different things for different organisations and even for different teams within the same organisation. While tech-driven innovation is really interesting and could add significant benefits to customers we are keen for our customers to know that they can interact with us how they want it, and when they want it. To achieve that, innovation can sometimes mean something entirely different, like challenging existing internal processes and making them leaner, more customer friendly and less restrictive. Digital banking is a user-experience game and customer expectations from UX are constantly evolving and we have to evolve with them. The challenge is for us to do it quicker than before, so that our journeys are not too far from what a customer might expect when dealing with Google, Amazon or Facebook.

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