Three surprising building blocks of successful digital transformation for superannuation funds

06 Nov, 2023

Is your superannuation fund committed to developing a digital transformation strategy? Clear about the target state you want for your fund’s tech stack?

Whether you’re in the process of selecting technology, in the midst of digital transformation or trying to get your initiative back on track, you want to make sure your investment gets the best results for your superannuation fund’s technology, culture and success. It might surprise you to know that your plans for transformation won’t be effective unless you also consider some other ‘softer’ aspects of change management.

Time is of the essence

Jennifer Baldwin says that 9Yards’ deep experience of digital transformation projects means they sometimes need to deliver unwelcome news about how long change will take.

“We’ve seen organisations make decisions about how long a project will take, before receiving expert advice. And because they don’t know the technical repercussions, they’re expecting too short a period to implement something major.”

An example from real life was a project where 9Yards needed to integrate an online sign-in process with back-end processes.

“The client was looking for an enhanced customer experience, and they achieved that. However because the integration was not there, the details entered online then had to be entered manually into another system behind the scenes. On the surface, it looked like the technical problem had been solved, but it absolutely hadn’t.”

Solving this type of systems integration problem takes time. “There’s a discovery phase, where we talk to everybody involved in the process. In this situation, that included the people responsible for manually re-entering data that the customer had initially entered online.”

Once this discovery phase is complete, the 9Yards team then creates a plan and puts it into an achievable timeline, which is where executive leadership can often be surprised.

“It can be tricky,” says Jennifer, “because people think they’re asking for an online form and that sounds easy, but then it has to integrate with existing systems for it to be of benefit to the business. Nobody wants to hear that an online form they thought was a quick fix will actually take 2 years.”

Applying this insight: the repercussions of a decision can reach further than it first appears. If you’re hiring digital transformation consultants to identify, plan or solve an issue related to your super fund’s digital transformation, be careful not to assume how long the solution will take to deliver.

People matter

A 2020 McKinsey and Company article written about tech-enabled transformations in the Industrials and Electronics sector starts with this line “The professionals with the jobs of carrying out, adopting, and sustaining tech-enabled transformations deserve as much attention as the technological solutions they create and oversee.”

At 9Yards, we’ve seen that this observation about the importance of culture in organisational digital transformation projects is also true for the financial sector, including superannuation.

Here’s an example, drawn from real life: two organisations merge and they each have an IT Manager, both working at an equivalent level. They are both valued and high performing. However, one of these managers is more hands-on and the other is more strategically focused. Digital transformation projects may bring a requirement for managers to think more strategically, and focus less on current state operational tasks so this needs to be considered when it comes to resourcing.

Applying this insight: It’s important to remember two employees with the same title in two organisations may not have the same expectations and skills. Understanding the preferences and specialisations that team members bring to a role is sometimes more important than their titles and their position descriptions.

Choosing the right words

Jennifer Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with 9Yards. She helps superannuation funds navigate the tricky landscape of digital transformation.

Jennifer says some of the hardest challenges arise during the current state => future state planning that is part of mergers and acquisitions. It can start with something as simple as the language you use to talk about what’s happening.

“Words like ‘takeover’ or ‘acquisition’ can make people feel uneasy”, she says. “Even neutral terms like ‘amalgamation’ can be ambiguous and open to interpretation.” It’s crucial for leadership teams to set clear expectations from the start. If the organisation talks about a merger as a partnership of equals, that suggests a shared vision. It also creates an expectation that both organisations will play an equal part in what happens next.

In her experience, Jennifer has observed that real collaboration means:

  • having an open channel of communication
  • being ready to address challenging issues, and
  • a commitment to aligning resources to the new requirements.

Glossing over issues or offering unrealistic projections can derail projects and erode trust.

Applying this insight: The way you talk about digital transformation is as important as the technical changes themselves. As a CIO or CTO, it will help you keep your project on track if you build trust by ensuring the whole team is on board, understands the roadmap and trusts your leadership team.

Get expert help for your superannuation digital transformation project

If you’re keen to get advice that goes beyond technology choices and considers the end-to-end impact of your superannuation fund’s digital transformation goals, contact the superannuation experts at 9Yards and start the conversation.