Rapid Assessment for a $400 million financial institution
This mid-sized Midwestern financial institution has faced economic challenges over the past few years. But at the time this case study was done, the economy was improving, and management expected that 2012 would provide fresh opportunities for growth. Especially promising were national growth trends that emerged in late 2011. Management expected these market trends to continue in 2012 and wanted to be ready for whatever new business opportunities came its way.
To ensure that the institution could take full advantage of a stronger market, management needed to review and assess their entire operation. Having retrenched its staffing in recent years in response to lackluster demand, the institution recognized that it may lack the capacity to ramp up operations quickly. Given the momentum of current trends, the institution determined it needed to get some quick answers.
Starting with a business plan that set down the higher goals for growth, management identified four fundamental questions:
- Cost savings – Where can we cut costs and use the savings to fund our growth?
- Scalability – Are our operations technologies and processes fully scalable with the capacity to ramp up in response to higher demand?
- Operational efficiencies - How can we improve operational efficiencies and optimize our existing resources?
- Maximizing services - How can we achieve the above goals while simultaneously improving and enhancing the services we provide?
Assessing the problems
Needing both a cross-departmental analysis of these issues and an action plan to correct them – and both needed fairly quickly – the institution sought help from McGladrey. After reviewing the institution's challenges, McGladrey deployed a cross-functional team of experts with in-depth knowledge of different areas of the organization, including staffing, technology, operations, procurement and finance. With a goal of identifying unrecognized constraints and inefficiencies in the current organizational structure, they performed a Rapid Assessment® of the entire institution . Their change management process was designed to address broken communication links throughout the organization, bring staff in alignment with the organization's strategic goals, bring technology processes up to date and manage cultural and behavioral gaps.
The final analysis identified a number of issues that needed to be addressed, which, if corrected, could represent high-value savings and improvement opportunities. Four key areas requiring investigation were identified; they are listed below, followed by specific issues that needed further analysis and review.
- Identify total spending by category
- Gauge effectiveness of current spend management practices
- Identify investment savings initiatives with high returns
- Assess technology effectiveness and current utilization
- Ferret out redundant tasks and low value activities for elimination or integration
- Develop options to reduce cycle times
- Analyze current reporting structures and identify areas needing improvement
- Analyze whether current staffing levels are adequate to maintain desired level of member services
- Review telephony systems and configurations
- Analyze wide area network design
- Review current network infrastructure hardware
Balance sheet analysis: Strengths
Once these issues were identified, McGladrey worked with the institution to create a "balance sheet" identifying its positives and negatives; i.e., the organization's strengths and challenges. Starting with the recognition that the institution benefits from its clearly articulated organizational goals, the team identified its strengths as:
- Fully engaged staff members who are committed to organizational goals.
- A motivated and well-trained team of member service representatives who are friendly, member-focused and efficient at processing transactions.
- A cost-conscious culture where employees strive to get the best prices on bids and contracts.
- Loyalty and longevity in the workforce.
- All tier 1 equipment installed and supported
- Full deployment of redundant systems, with co-location plans to occur in the near future
- Branch onboarding procedures in place and being followed
- Desktop virtualization in place
- An automated new member workflow fully implemented
- Recent implementation of improvements in loan origination processes that align assigned activities with staff strengths.
- Well-designed collection strategies and processes that focus on high-value activities.
- Partial automation of the accounts payable process, which eliminates a significant amount of paper handling.
Balance sheet analysis: challenges
On the other side of the balance sheet, the team found these areas needing improvement and enhancement:
- Organizational structure is in "silo" form, resulting in limited collaboration between and among departments
- Limited technology governance has resulted in disparate systems that are in need of integration for optimal performance
- Too many processes are manual and paper-based
- Sales, marketing and business development groups have limited interaction
- Purchasing and vendor management activities are disjointed
- Among management, accountability for strategic goals is unclear
- Use of externally hosted solutions and cloud computing options is limited
- Marketing efforts are not aligned with business goals
The above list generally shows gaps in the areas of organizational structure, purchasing functions, technology and marketing. Some gaps, such as flaws in organizational structure, lack of focus on customer services and outdated technology tools, all represent high levels of risk that should be urgently addressed to meet market challenges.
The McGladrey team then developed this recommendation list for each of these high level risks (which, if corrected, also represent high value opportunities):
Realign organizational structure
- Simplify and realign organizational structure in alignment with strategic goals, combining organizations with similar functions and goals under fewer executives.
- Define product management ownership and assign accountability for product-related goals.
- Establish ownership of electronic delivery channels and assign accountability for effectiveness measures.
- Consider integration of marketing, sales and business development departments or explore ways to make these groups more collaborative.
Update technology resources
- Explore specific enhancements to teller platform and evaluate replacement of loan origination system to correct identified gaps in functionality
- Simplify online switch kit with additional automation
- Evaluate purchase and implementation of additional document management and imaging tools to include electronic signature capture and document workflow
- Consolidate multiple marketing and sales systems onto a single solution and drive enterprise-wide adoption
- Standardize key tools throughout the organization
- Eliminate duplicate data storage
Focus on customer services
- Bring customer services to the forefront of marketing strategy
- Increase focus on customer experience across channels
- Align marketing and sales incentives with customer experience goals
- Explore non-traditional service delivery options for targeted customer segments
- Bundle products and pricing by targeting specific customer groups
Centralize purchasing functions
- Refine purchasing policies and processes
- Communicate revised policies to all staff
- Standardize contract and RFP templates and processes
- Develop a centralized system for managing supplier relationships
The McGladrey team also recommended several additional steps that were rated lower on either the risk or opportunity scale, but which still were important considerations. Among them were (1) form an information technology steering committee, (2) update the organization's business continuity plan, (3) implement technology change management processes, (4) define and track IT service level expectations and (5) implement identified process changes for improved efficiencies within selected departments.
A final, but very important part of the Rapid Assessment project, was the development of a project implementation schedule covering the next 18 months. Called the "transformation plan," it blocked out the first six calendar months for major organizational changes and quick cost savings (e.g., cuts in supplies, legal expense, printing and telephony expenses) that were easy to implement. Special attention was paid to identifying change processes that could be implemented quickly, with minimal effort and resources. Change processes requiring more time and effort (member experience, technology tools and process efficiencies) were scheduled to begin implementation beginning in the seventh month and continuing for another year.
With McGladrey's assistance, this organization has been able to embark on the key organizational and operational changes that will make it much better prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of today's marketplace.