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It's all about Scalability, Adaptability, and Flexibility

Kevin Guenthner, CIO & Chief Strategy Officer, First Interstate Bank
Kevin Guenthner, CIO & Chief Strategy Officer, First Interstate Bank

Kevin Guenthner, CIO & Chief Strategy Officer, First Interstate Bank

Cloud computing holds the same benefits for banking as it does with other industries. Cost, scalability, flexibility, and ease of deployment are among the most obvious benefits. However, banks have to be very cognizant of the risks associated with cloud and how these differ from what we have traditionally managed. Vendor and data management become much more important. At First Interstate, we have embraced cloud technologies but are very deliberate on when it makes sense and when it doesn’t.

“Our organization has more insight into our business and customers than ever, but we have barely scratched the surface”

Our goal at First Interstate Bank has been to grow our ability to turn data into actionable information. Data is king in today’s world. Banks have the luxury of having an immense amount of data but are often handicapped with legacy technology and processes that make harnessing this data much more difficult. Also, data is needed by many applications within the organization. Our organization has more insight into our business and customers than ever, but we have barely scratched the surface. The promising thing is that the more you use information and understand its impacts, the better you can be. Data is powerful.

Another issue is that banks have struggled with the reality that they no longer control the customer relationship. Customers consistently tell us where they want to see us go, we just have to be wise enough to listen. Successful organizations will be able to gain insight into what customers really want, not just what we think they want. Flexibility and ease of use will drive platforms; analytics and interactive technologies will drive solutions. We still need to understand that success will come for those who find the right balance between the science of technology and the art of human relationships.

Increasingly, my role as CIO has become much more strategic over the last few years. There is a lot that technology can do, but the challenge is determining what the right technology to move the business is. Aligning business and technology is no longer enough—they have to be tightly integrated within every part of the organization. Moreover, we need to stop positioning ourselves as service providers. Understanding the technology is not enough; we need to provide strong business leadership as well as move our IT organization and governance structures to be more involved in strategy. We have a unique opportunity to move from enablers to drivers.

In the end, it is all about understanding your customer better and delivering what they need, when they need it. The Internet of Things basically provides an opportunity to understand customer behaviors, which often differ from what the customer would tell you directly. The challenge will be to differentiate between information you can leverage in executing strategy and just plain information. To achieve this, IT infrastructure investments need to be made by taking into account that the speed of change is faster than ever and infrastructure decisions made today will need to co-exist with technology that’s not even on the drawing board yet. Architecture design and planning has never been more important. A patchwork approach no longer works. It’s all about scalability, adaptability, and flexibility.

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