If you spend time at pretty much any tech company, from startups to big corporates, you’re likely to hear the word ‘digital’ a bit too much. Some people are doing it, some are making their journey towards being more digital and others are still struggling to define what exactly it is, and in many ways, it’s that final category that have the most honest answer to the question – What is digital? And this is what experts from the technology and financial services industry discussed during a recent seminar at London Technology Week.
It’s easy to define digital as being about technologies – that digital is at its core the binary ‘0’s and ‘1’s, on and off and all the brilliant devices and interfaces that have spawned out of it. While that’s not entirely wrong, it paints a picture that everything digital is very clean cut, with a definite right and wrong answer that follows any question – but the truth is very different. The technologies are far from a constant, and everything from the technology chosen to the implementation will change not only for different demographics but from person to person, and will adapt to their current situation, desires, needs and moods. Technology then, is transient, and to be truly digital you must be open to constant and relentless change, throwing away technology, processes and ways of working constantly, and ensuring that the new tool adopted is chosen intelligently, to be the best tool for the job, and the most commercially viable solution.
This however all sounds like the territory of startup businesses. Businesses that are new to the scene, or with very flexible business models are often far more adept to change as they do not have the long-standing commitments to clients, legacy platforms and some of the regulatory requirements of their big corporate counterparts. Some may suggest that these big corporates should simply throw away the legacy platforms, circumvent the regulation and transform their clients, and noble though that may be, it’s a fool’s errand. For these businesses, what they really need is to find a way to take advantage of new technology, whatever that may be, and develop systems that allow them to adapt to change which work alongside and complement their legacy ‘technological debt’ and support their regulatory requirements rather than dispose of them. This is digital at scale.
Put simply, digital at scale explores how businesses can leverage digital, be it technology, ways of working or any other idea that comes under the umbrella of digital to transform their business, supporting existing technologies, commitments and regulation where appropriate, and disposing of them where necessary.
Sopra Steria’s MiFID II project with the FCA is an example of where digital at scale has been implemented. For all the businesses that are wary of how technologies like cloud and open source could work in a highly regulated environment, there’s no better example than that of the regulator itself adopting these technologies. The MiFID II regulatory support service is built for the cloud, ingesting, processing and persisting files on AWS, with innovative open source platforms like Cassandra and Spark ensuring that all submissions are processed quickly and with an extremely high degree of accuracy, with an architecture that supports changes should a specific client or geography require, like private vs public cloud or separate technology components. What is particularly profound about this solution though is how it backs into and supports the legacy environment, through a simple FTP gateway, ensuring that the wealth of historical data is utilized and, as is so important in an environment like this, remembered with a system that can speak both the languages of the old and the new into the future, maintaining a stream of communication regardless of changes made on either end.
The MiFID II platform is only one example of these principles put to work, and though the distant future might see us living in a fully digital world we must be conscious today that whether we transition fast or slowly, we must do so safely too, and with a strong commercial focus to build not simply small digital players, but truly successful enterprises with digital at scale.