The Finnovate Show
The Finnovate Show

Episode 4 · 1 year ago

Monique Allen - How do you replicate the value of human interaction as you move toward a digital reality?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

As an experienced executive leader and change agent, Monique Allen advances digital business transformation in her role as Executive Vice President, Data & Technology at OMERS. She shares the unexpected benefits they discovered as they pivoted quickly to respond to business and people issues. Learn how the team at OMERS stayed the course, embraced change, and maintained a seamless tech infrastructure.

As a leader of your company, you must stay up to date with your strategies and execution or risk obsolescence. Welcome to the fin of a show financial services innovators bringing you the future today and now. Here's your host, Jerry purcell. It's the fin of a show brought to you by invasion three hundred and sixty group. I'm Jerry purcell. Get ready to think about your biggest challenges and capitalize on your biggest opportunities. After this, executives depend on external consultants to fill knowledge and experience gaps or to have an experienced mind audit their thinking. The innovation three hundred and sixty group brings together a wide range of proven thought leadership from around the globe and cost effectively makes it available to you get the insights, advice and systems you need to succeed. Learn more at www dot innovation three hundred and Sixtycom our guest today is Monique Allen, executive vice president data and technology at Almers and experienced executive leader and change agent who advances digital business transformation. Monique has led several software and services businesses, including setting strategy, driving product and service innovation and leading new business pursuits and ongoing portfolio management. Miney joined Olmer's in two thousand and eighteen as executivice president. In her role, she's responsible for leading information technology strategy and operations and keeping it aligned with growth and performance goals. Welcome to the show. Thanks, Terry. It's great to be here. So, for those who don't know about Olmers, maybe you could tell us a little bit about Olmer's and its business. Yeah, Jerry, Olmers is a pension plan that provides members with consistent income in retirements. So we operate in service of our members, both those who are actively employed and those who have already entered into retirement. So I think you know, most of US equate participating in a pension plan to getting a consistent, reliable pension pay paint, of course, and we're keeping you aware that what retirement means has changed. So we're thinking about the total member experience for our pension members and supporting our members wrote all their life stages. So you know, that makes us think about the experience that someone has participating in a pension plan. Our youngest member is sixteen and our oldest members a hundred and nine. So that member focus naturally expands into their financial wellbeing and Omers we operate our investment platform so that these support our members pension promise. So all I hope is that I get to be a hundred nine some day. So there really has never been a time when when we've been more...

...challenged in business to make change and to innovate. How is the new business environment impacted you? You know, it's been interesting and it's been a lot of fun. Right. I think that it's every technologist's dream to have the case to rise to the digital challenge and our team, our team, did just that. We have. We thought of a the changing landscape in a couple ways, and one was, you know, what are our members meet? And in a time like this, where we were thinking about the isolation that some of our older members must feel, we first put that uns on. So what a what do we need to ensure that our members are getting not just that consistent, reliable pension check in the mail, but that they're all our deposit into the bank accounts, but they're also part of a community. So our pension leaders actually did a wonderful job of reaching out and creating a community amongst our plan members, creating the opportunity to have coffee chats and some forums that are members to could could call in or interact in the digital way and combat some of those early fears around isolation, and they're very real fears and impact acts of health and wellbeing and mental illness. In a time where we were isolating, and we thought as well around our employees and what our employees need in the the same vein, what did we need in order to interact with one another? You know, in a time where we've been physically distanced for the past six months, we've also never been as close. So you know, right out of the gate we asked everyone to ensure that they had their cameras on that we we preserved as much of a facetoface connection for engagement. In the last six months we really vectored on over communication. So we have frequent town halls and and stand ups are CEO Blake has reached out at the early days on a weekly basis with a self video video message and video blogs where we reached out to our members and our employees and I think that that social connection, despite the fact that we couldn't be in person with one another, and the the social connection through those digital channels really kept us connected to one another and connected to what really mattered in a time like this, and that made it just so much more powerful to follow with what our businesses need when we knew that we were taking care of each other, we were taking care of our members and we were taking care of our employees. So what got in the way? What we're sort of the challenges that's experienced. Well, we knew and of course we thought about the thing that could be our biggest challenge was one the technical capacity of our infrastructure as we entered into this new work style on a global basis, when we thought,...

...as I'm sure every business leader thought, about what's this going to mean when I send my entire workforce home and am I going to have the capacity for them to do the work that they need to do? And then the second is are now we're going to have the know how, in the knowledge to work with the the digital tools and you know, I I often like to think of the the challenges that we have in those environments as a team that's running on a racetrack or on a you know, a track and field track where the tracks been laid out to do the eight meter hurdles and I've got a hundred meter sprinters behind us that aren't ready to jump. So you know, I'm out in front of them moving away all of the hurdles that might possibly get in their way so that they can just have that throughput and to sprint down the track. And as we use that approach and we thought about what's going to get in the way. We thought about and several weeks before we went into the workstyle that we're in. So we thought about our network capacity, what could get in the way. We thought about things like predicted where we would have bottlenecks and critical applications and how we were going to preserve the throughput to those critical applications and rerouting network traffic so that we could ensure that had the capacity city that we needed. And and we felt really comfortable with our network capacity. We put it to the test and we that probably the end of the day, had less of our concern and more of our concern was are we going to have the knowledge, we going to have the digital know how to move from an environment where much of the work that we did was facetoface and move into an environment where all of the work we were going to do was was digital and you know, had we done enough training? Had We focused en off on adoption? And we're going to struggle right out of the gates because if the tools didn't work, then we would we really not have a success. So one of the early and I was remembering back as we were thinking about this conversation, that one of the early things that we did with our team, is in my team, in the data and technology team, was we held our town hall and I asked for all of my team to think a bit differently about their role and the way that I looked at it, we had a two hundred person team that we're focused on a variety of priorities going into this remote workstyle, and I asked each and every one of them to think of themselves as the Digital Ninjas, that we could turn ourselves into a teaching organization and that at every opportunity that we had with was to lean into interact, to share our knowledge and to teach if we saw that one of our colleagues was maybe struggling of it with the tools that we had or wasn't getting the experience in the performance that they wanted to. And we had a lot of fun with it. Jerry. You know what we did? We really embrace that notion of having digital Nija, as we use Webex. So we also dugged our champions, are wet x wizards, and as time went on and some of our senior leaders really understood...

...the power that they had in the role that they had to play in that, we started to give out some honorary webex wizard certifications and and and having that fun and perhaps using that opportunity to just to show we all had what we needed to be successfully. I think it contributed to a team that now, many people have said we're closer as an organization than we had been before, and I think times of crisis brings out and bring up the best in people. The world is moving fast. It's difficult to keep up. Your executive team routinely needs new ideas to keep them ahead of the competition. Imagine having a plan in place in thirty days to focus your innovation efforts, improve customer experience, accelerate your move to digitization or increase speed to market. Our Guide to accelerating your innovation agenda provides you with insight and time saving resources to plan your path forward. Contact Jerry to book a quick call or for your complementary copy at www dot linkedincom max slash in Backslash, Jerry Purcell, Ge Urry Pu are cel or email, Jerry at Jerry dot personal at innovation, three hundred and sixty groupcom. So I imagine, if we sort of take that hurdles analogy to the next level, that you had the odd person that sort of stuck their foot out, that was a sort of a critic. So perhaps there's a story you might have about about sort of the people who weren't exactly on the bus to start with. Well, we did. We had some nervous participants and you think about the scale of investments that that we make and that we protect for our members, you know that really has to work and it's got to perform reliably every day, all day long. And I know that one of my toughest critics was open and honest with me weeks into our pandemic situation in our in our remote work style, and he said, you know, I got to hand it to you, I really didn't think the technology was going to perform. You know, I really thought we'd get tripped up. There's no way that we could send our work first home and do the work that we did today and and in that it's success and that cautious optimism that the team had. Those very same critics came back within a very short period of time, and so, you know, I'm really got to hand it to you that your team did an amazing job and we didn't we didn't miss a beat as we shifted into a digital work style. Wow. So these kind of crises and these kind of times tend to become all consuming and and so what kind of approaches did you use, or do...

...use, to keep people focused on on innovation in the future versus the the current issues? We acted in a few things that remained true, right. So we anchored in the notion that the capabilities that we needed to progress in our strategy were still true and that one of the things that were it was really important in that was this notion of business agility, and we had early on, in the time that I joined ohmer, started to embrace the notion of business ability and and that meaning how we bring together cross functional teams that can be responsive and Nimble and considering different personas of the the challenges or the opportunities that that we have the ability to satisfy. So you know, in in that design and applying that design thinking, the business agility mindset is one that tests, improves, it forms hypotheses, it can shift direction on a dime if needed, and really focuses on the problems or the opportunities that will have a meaningful impact. So we use the very same methodology. When we were thinking about clearing those hurtles ahead of us. We thought about those roadblocks that might get in the way, that they are hardware, the networks, that critical APPs, that we needed to maintain that that through put form. We solved each of them and we maintained that focus and after a period of intense work, we also needed to make sure that we came up for air and that we celebrated our successes before we anticipated the next set of hurdles. And and I think time in times like this, if we pay attention to those first principles, when we take the friction out of what's getting in the way, you know that it's it's true of great product design, it's true of any innovation that makes a meaningful impact and it's true in crisis management. But if we can take the friction out of the way, if we make people's jobs easier. Then we make a great progress, we build great momentum and we have to celebrate those successes and celebrate the people. And people work hard. They know. We were, just like most people, were working around the clock to not lose a beat and and we needed to celebrate that. So I think for paying attention to those first principles of people management and first principles of innovation, we acknowledge great work broadly, we celebrate the successes, we stay focused on the things that matter and we spend time with people and in empowering our people. It truly is those times that, I think, we build stronger teams and we have great outcomes. So how did all this affect your members? I presume there wasn't a huge amount of face to...

...face activity, but there may have been some. How does this sort of change and crisis impactage your members in terms of our expectations? And second part of the question is, had they changed in terms of their expectations? Yeah, it's it's a great question. I think that, you know, we were maybe a step ahead of being prepared. We certainly weren't thinking in terms of a global pandemic, but we were thinking about the digital journey and the digital member experience. So for the last two years the our pension team and our pension technology product and technology team is really been thinking about what the interaction model is with the digital experiences for our members. So, you know, I would say all of the things that we started had started down were tools that we could continue to use and interactions that we could contin in you, to leverage in a way that we were already looking for what our members wanted. So we were thinking about their their experience, the design experience, we were thinking about moving away from a paper system to a paper list system. We were building great methods of digital interaction for our members in the member portal, in our member newsletters. So I'd say, if anything, I don't think any of that changed at all. In fact, we were well prepared to continue to keep that interaction going and, if anything, it helped us continue to perpetuate that journey and and think of complementary ways that we could add value to remember, so as we talked about having, you know, online coffee chats and having an outlet that our members could reach out or interact with us in in in a new way maybe for them, but in the consistent way for the journey that we had already started down in a digital member experience. Were there any unique applications or issues that came from being internationally have a sort of a vast network, both from in terms of investments but also in terms of members? What all sort of implications did the geographies present? Well, you know, it really made geographies less of a barrier all together. So, you know, I think whenever you're moving from a physical work style to a digital work style, it challenges some of those assumptions that we believe to be true or what we needed to be able to work together. And and I think what we found in particularly in my team and in some of the other teams that we work with and Omers that it's no longer important when we're working in a digital form if our colleagues are in the office or if they're working from their kitchen table or from their lakehouse or cottage or in another country or in another continent. The the experience that we have was so consistent and how we worked together that it's suddenly, in fact, allows us to challenge some of those status quos and and see where we can be effective in...

...a digital form. Now we've also challenged to say it's not everything's cut out to be digital. And while we did surprise ourselves where those barriers that we may have had in the past we've been able to work through and challenge, there are still some places where face to face interaction and building relationships, some kinds of work and work that we can build off the creativity and the energy that happens when we're in a room. Will never take that away, will never, you know, replace that fully with digital, but I do think that we're likely always going to have next media. We're likely always going to have some people that will be together in a in a geography, whether it's in the same office building or, you know, whether it is in a global location, and we'll have others that are participating remotely. So what I do think we're going to need to get great at is how we have that mixed collaboration and mixed teamwork. Right now, we're all digital. Right is the great leveler. We're all we've all got the same challenges, we've all got the same interfaces and we're all trying to accommodate new work styles. Eventually we're going to start to get back to office and how some of our collaboration happen in different formats, and I think that's where we're going to need to pay some attention to in the coming months. So what comes next for for your team? They're all moving back in the office like. What do you think comes next in terms of how we're going to deal with the situation? Yeah, so what's next? It's certainly an interesting time ahead. I think, you know, in the last six months we've accelerated two years worth of our digital road map and as we're becoming more comfortable with digital tools, we're finding the appetite to learn and push what else is capable with digital is quite high. So we're starting to think about the shift from doing digital to being digital, and that means, you know, we're accelerating our initiatives that we already had on our road map. So, for example, our PA or robotic process automation, will quickly turn into intelligent process automation. And then, as we look down into the innovation horizon, we're anticipating that this incredible pace of change is going to accelerate and that technologies that we're going to be upon us that we anticipated we're going to be upon us in the next two years are going to be upon us in the next six months perhaps, and those that we thought were going to be two to five years out or going to be on at sooner than we thought. So I think we're really on a tipping point that will change the way we work and and do that in a way that's more profound than we might have thought. You know, if I look back on where we've come in the last ten to twenty years, I'm sure many of your listeners can relate to this, that our children are generation that hasn't lived without an iphone and social media and Amazon and Netflix or ordinary products and services in our lives today. So when we look ahead to the next horizon and see how we can innovate the way we work and give back time to our employees so that they can get to complement the ways that we're working with faster decision making and more robust insights, I think that the potential...

...for opportunity is exciting and we're curious about how smart contracts using distributed leger technology might help us simplifier operations and how virtual agents can provide a more connected employee experience, perhaps how augmented reality might enrich the mixed work styles. We've talked about earlier how quantum computing will change the processing capacity. So I'm really excited to see what lays ahead and to look back on the next decade and just how much opportunity of finding new ways of working with technology will bring. I'm curious about how we might look back and find out how ordinary these technologies might become in the future. So innovation is going to remain central to business, no matter whether we're at home or where we are. What ad ice would you give to today's leaders, or tomorrow seaters, actually, in that case, without their own team and Ninjas? You know, what sort of advice would you give? Well, I think you know the lessons learn for me are ones that they start with truly those basics that make a connection to people and to real opportunities. So first would be continue to lead with compassion. So when you have great people and people feel that you have their best interests, their safety, their well being and their contribution, their jaw progression, their empowerment in mind. When you have great people, you get to great outcomes. So continue to lead with compassion, continue to make those big, hairy, audacious goals that that inspire you to take action. Continue to look for those points of friction, because when you can take the friction out of the system, when you can make everybody's lives a bit easier, whether that is in a workstyle, in a way that you can collaborate, whether it's in great product innovation, if you can find those points of real friction that you can remove, you'll uncover great value and always innovate. It doesn't you know, we tend to think that innovation goes hand in hand with invention or that creation of new products, but the way you solve any problem can be solved with innovation. So even the way that we tackled our readiness to go into a global remote work style, that was a monumental change for us. We thought about it with the very same principles of innovation and business agility, and I think that those were some of the key contributors to our success. Thank you, manique. Really enjoyed our conversation, as I always do, and that's going to wrap up our episode for today. As always, I look forward to hearing thoughts from our listeners about today's are other shows. Keep the conversation going by commenting on Linkedin or go to www dot innovation three hundred and sixtycom to listen to more shows, download the transcription from today's show or to contact today's guest. Thank you very much. Money. Thanks, teria. Was Great. Speaky, you've been listening to the fin of a show...

...with Jerry pursill. If you like the show, share it on your network and subscribe on Itunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and you can go to www dot innovation three hundred and sixtycom to listen to more shows, download the transcription from today's show or to contact today's against this is the fin of a show financial services innovators bringing you the future today.

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