Innovation and where it comes from

People ask me how we handle development work at the credit union. There is no simple answer or formula that one can recite as to how ideas flourish into a product, a process or a service. You wonder if they sometimes appear out of thin air.

Today was a prime example. Our e-statement project is finished, done, complete. Next Wednesday the interface will be in place for actual use by the members. All the components were developed in house except for the web site interface which was done by Central 1’s MemberDirect people. What does it do? It puts a link on the web site to a monthly PDF which is an exact duplicate of what the members have been receiving in the mail in paper form. For all the benefits it saves money and paper. But then as we talked about it, something happened.

Why not have a link for an up to date, real time PDF statement? If it is the 10th or 20th or whatever date in the current month, why not just click and a PDF created on the fly and delivered. Your transaction of 1 minute ago would be included. That means besides the depository of a few years of statements on your account, you could get a real time version statement anytime. As all of the methods and code were built, it looks like it would only take a half a day to do that. That means before Wednesday of next week this added feature will part of the launch.

But where did that idea come from? From a simple suggestion that with our ability to trigger real time transactions we could move that forward to being part of triggering real time statements. Was it valuable? I spoke to a few people and yes it was valuable. In fact it would make some businesses very happy in reconciling their accounts on a daily basis. The beauty of the whole function is that we aren’t using an outside supplier to do this on a month-end batch basis. What has been built is real time in-house the ultimate IT mantra. Expanding what we can do in real time gives us the idea for another product. If statement processing had been done by a 3rd party we would have been stuck in thinking in a ‘batch’ mode and never contemplated doing it differently.

I believe that innovation comes from dynamic thinking. Thinking how something can be done now and not later is important in what you have to offer. In today’s instant age much is possible by keeping everything fluid. It is important that you work in the environment you want to live in. There is always another step. If I ever have to get into a lifeboat I want a life preserver now, not pink plastic water wings later.

BarCampBankDallas

Everyone is on there way home or soon to be headed in that direction. BarCampBankDallas is over and once again one sits back and slowly begins to digest what took place since Saturday morning.

The topic of the iPhone and what it can and will do for the financial service industry was discussed at length. The opportunities for development of products and services with this device surfaced again and again. In essence this device gives you some dimensions (where you are, where others are, push technology, enterprise development, etc.) that either were not available or unanswerable in the past. If Jobs is right in suggesting that the iPhone could reach 60% market share then this device could become as common as the iPod. When hardware and software arrive at this new technology plateau who knows where it will lead.

Regulators and regulation and what that means to this industry was considered in a number of sessions. No one likes this segment and though it is necessary sometimes it is very hard to see some reasonable means of dialogue with this group. It seems a continual challenge to find the resources in order to comply with these demands. Much of what we have and continue to do has not changed much but in the regulators eyes that does not matter.

There was an excellent mix of attendees with no single group becoming the main focus. I really appreciated the responses and input of so many people. Everyone there had a passion for the business and you could see that. The food was great and the venue was very different. There were a number of ‘creatures’ (stuffed animals) in the centre area that became part of few discussions. I had never seen a stuffed giraffe before.

People will ask me ‘Was it as good as Seattle or New England?” I have a hard time comparing each event because they are so different. They are all equal in some fashion but also different just based on the agenda and people. The first BarCampBank was exciting because it was new. Those that follow are exciting because you can understand what will be occurring. You not only measure what you learnt and discussed but also view the unmeasurable, the relationships that you have renewed and those new ones that you have made. To me that might be the most important aspect of BarCampBanking.

These relationships create that network of like minded individuals that for the most part are exploring technology, people and markets. They have the common desire to make something better, to change something. There is little if any of a defeatist attitude. You share stories, dreams and the realities of the business you live in. Larry Hooper was the only non-FI person there and it was great to hear his take on things. I think the story he shared is one reason why we continue to strive to do things better.

Did I come away with any great ideas? Certainly. The most important thing though was to hear that your ideas and your plans were being challenged and validated at the same time. You will only get that kind of response at a BarCampBank.

It was an enjoyable event. Good to see everyone again. Good the have some great food and experience that Texas hospitality.