AI ILLUMINATIONS: If You Build It, Who Will Come? Part 2


Continuing from Part 1 of this series appearing on Digital Wealth News …....

User and client expectations around technology have changed in recent years, especially as a larger chunk of the population has started managing their financial lives online and via apps.

“It’s important to be right on day one. Technology has advanced so rapidly that the days of coming to market with the minimum viable product are over, holding over things you’re working on for day 2 or version 2.0 are over,” says Michael Partnow, Group President of Wealth Management at, an Autonomous Enterprise Cloud platform working in the Wealth Management space.

Yes, in fact, technology advancements including low-code no-code software development have put an end to those days. Anything short of perfection is no longer accepted, buyers are used to ‘utopia’ and accessing their ideal experience. Anything shy of that being developed—the promise that things will continue to be enhanced is yesterday’s news.

Technology has moved beyond requiring tons of developers and months of critical resources being dedicated to production, Partnow says. Changes, enhancements and upgrades are done in a matter of seconds as low-code no-code technology empowers and enables developers to meet client demands and expectations instantaneously. They are no longer dependent on the coders for this.

But that also means that coming to market with an unfinished product—one that is waiting to be upgraded, updated or enhanced at some future date—no longer meets consumer expectations. Consumers have learned from past experience that such updates or enhancements are often late in coming, if they come at all, because technology firms have to bear the coding burden of keeping up with other critical launches and regulatory actions.

“Now we’re putting the power of the build into the users’ hands and the period of expectation is shrinking to immediate, because users can see instant gratification by changing, tweaking, adapting or adjusting what they are developing as opposed to requiring months of laborious programming,” says Partnow.

That implies that firms really need to understand their clients and their users before implementing technology. Technology firms also need to solicit feedback from centers of influence in the marketplace.

“The product and the technology should not be in the back room developing without 100% transparency, alignment and partnership with the client-facing groups and business-development teams that are going to be responsible for distribution .” Partnow says. “Today, it’s still incredibly siloed, which leads us to this challenge: everything is inside-out driven. It should be outside-in, and part of outside-in is making sure the client-facing team is intimately involved representing the voice of the customer or potential customer.”

Extant Examples

What does this completely open process look like? There’s a good example from the world of blockchain, where decision-making groups called “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations,” or DAOs have been formed to control just about any sort of organization one can think of. A DAO allows token-holders to vote on its governance.

In a DAO, a customer group holding tokens can be used to drive product strategy and direction and the underlying build of a new technology.

“We need to adjust to that kind of thinking, we need to pivot there,” Partnow adds. “Successful organizations already do that, their products are driven in partnership with clients, with client-facing teams, and constantly looked at through a client lens.”

In the traditional financial industry, firms like Charles Schwab and Vanguard are great examples of companies dedicated to soliciting user feedback.

At Vanguard, customer steering committees help guide decisions on new technology and investment products throughout the development process.

“Charles Schwab is phenomenal. The Schwab organization monitors and pays attention to every client interaction from the point they walk into the branch all the way through their experience of completing a transaction. How long did it take, what questions did they ask, what responses were given…they look at it strictly though the literal client engagement angle. They are developing, tweaking and adjusting what they offer based upon the real time actions they see,” Partnow says.

A Long Way to Come, A Long Way to Go

Earlier, the industry used to solve for the same problem in the technology development process through “usability labs.” However, such a lab required firms to substantially build out trial versions of their technology, which involved significant time and effort.

A lot of technology was 90% or more through the development process before any feedback was solicited from potential users or buyers. Only then critical adjustments were made to improve the user experience, and those adjustments had to be done using code, by developers, again costing time and resources.

For example, technology firms usually didn’t care to discuss requirements or specifications with their consumers or users before beginning the development process. Coding often commences without any potential users seeing the mockup of a product.

It’s not a new problem. When Microsoft launched Windows 95, its revolutionary operating system representing a huge leap forward for PC users—many users were eager to boot up Windows 95 for the first time. When they did, most found that their computer did not have enough memory to run the much more demanding new system.

“Rather than doing that, take an outside-in perspective,” says Partnow. “Watch the potential user or consumer behaviors as you are developing, keep alignment with your potential users every step along the way.”

Coming back to the Microsoft example, other companies survived and thrived primarily because of their ability to listen to and understand consumers, says Partnow.

“I think about Apple with the see-through Mac,” he says. “That was a brilliant idea. People really wanted to see what was going on inside this thing, and Apple totally viewed it from a customer’s lens. They monitored customer activity and then applied that in developing the next iteration of the personal computer, and they did that repeatedly.

If you build it this way, they will come— The only way to have that sort of confidence is today to know that you’ve built something with 100% of what the customer likes and wants because jointly, you both built the solution!