Building a Digital Bank – The Lessons I Learned Part 2

You Can’t Fight the Sun

In my previous blog post, I outlined my role in an audacious project to build and launch a digital bank within a year, how we achieved it and one of the lessons I learned along the way. (Click here to read; “Lesson One: Success is a Mindset”)

Whilst the timeframe might have seemed the biggest challenge, there was one bigger.

The bank was in Australia, but the core tech was to be built and managed from the UK, so our greatest issue was the time differences between teams – the sun.  We needed an effective plan in place that could leverage the 12-hour time zone difference in our favour, rather than it working against us. 

Lesson Two: The Extra Mile

The main Appian tech delivery team was based out of London. We had a tech team in central Europe and a team in Australia.  At any one time, 4 or 5 companies were working simultaneously on different aspects of the project. We used a military ethos and compartmentalised the different areas of the project with one central management operation out of London which reported to the exec team in Sydney weekly. 

Waterfall methodology would never work for this type of project and we were fortunate enough to have a project lead with over 20 years experience of delivering complex international solutions in an agile methodology. 

The main concern was whether we could deliver in the timescale provided with the disparate team across the globe and this did take some convincing to the exec board in Australia, but they bought into the idea and we started to plan accordingly. 

To make this work, the senior team needed to be available if required at all hours of the day.  Granted 3 am calls were rare, but they did happen.  Early in the project, there were some concerns over what was going to be delivered in one of the sprints.  The COO in Australia sent an email that was ‘direct and succinct’ about his concerns following a review meeting that evening in the UK.  My phone pinged at about 2.45 am and I picked it up, emailed the COO back and told him to call me. He was surprised to say the least. This is when we gained their trust fully, it was a Saturday in Sydney and silly o’clock in the UK, he was at his son’s football match not expecting a response.  He was fully onboard at that point and that weekend the rest of the team dived in to get some risk assessments done to change the delivery outcome, so it was ready for them in Australia when they got into the office on Monday morning their time. 

There were more instances like this, but not to that extreme. The importance of making sure that lines of communication were always open, and everything was transparent both the good and the bad, was paramount.

Lesson Learned

Success comes from being prepared to go that extra mile to make sure the outcome is positive. As a manager once said to me early in my career; “Don’t expect kudos for the job you are paid to do. If you’re lucky and you go above and beyond the whole team will get kudos for the extra effort put in and remember you are only as strong as your weakest team member, they will need support, so support them or you all fail!”

It’s this ‘dedication to outcomes’ that inspired me to create 90-day accelerators for those in the finance industry trying to leverage intelligent automation. IT projects have traditionally taken too long. It’s time to deliver measurable outcomes to customers or staff inside 90 days.

In my next blog, I reveal how we delivered a technology solution that supports a model of 1 employee for every 100 customers, making it the envy of most Enterprise Banks.

Click here to read part 1 ‘Success is a Mindset’

Click here to read part 3 ‘First Time Right’


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