Trend analysis in the experience roadmap
Taking a technology platform from a project to a product mentality is a big shift, but it’s needed to keep an organization looking forward – connecting the dots between the small victories released every sprint, and the long term future of an iterative technology backbone.
The lifecycle view of our banking product only extends about 12 months. To shape a longer-term roadmap and strategic vision, we need to answer one big question: how do we maintain current user expectations while preparing for the changing, unknown horizon? To answer that requires an understanding our users and how our current product differs from emerging needs. We do not need to solve every problem, or anticipate all technology innovation to come, just to uncover some broader truths to help shape where we are and what we may need for our future. 
Working on our banking product for almost two years now – interacting with members face-to-face, by phone and over email – you get to know the ins and outs of how users behave, and how their needs and expectations differ. Combine that with regular data mining around feature usage, device behaviors, channel interactions, account usage, etc. and you end up with some common threads you can use to form a skeleton to hang your roadmap on. You start to see the ‘why’ of what makes users tick, which allows you to anticipate where their expectations are going.
Roadmap strategy is not about incorporating flashy, cutting-edge technology for technology’s sake. It’s about knowing what the right feature(s) are that solve a very real need people have, and having a benchmark to use for analyzing new needs or opportunities that come along. What it gets us is a “stickier” product that increases engagement in the digital channel and eases channel gaps that create abandonment or slow atrophy.
Not surprisingly for a conservative institution, we see big behavioral and usage differences in our online banking audience bucketed by generation, with another bucket for military. By comparing our membership’s usage to national trends based around rough generational breaks, we hope to understand where our users were coming from, create some persona characteristics to benchmark potential features and identify channel gaps to help formulate and validate our roadmap.
Trend analysis and comparison
To gather information about generations and understand the future usage patterns and expectations, I broke trend gathering into three determining categories for comparison.
Imprints/defining life events: We are all shaped by the life-defining events that happen to us and those around us. These events, or imprints, help formulate a generational personality, setting the tone for values, behaviors and attitudes shared by a particular era or generation. Understanding these events can help you better ascertain expectations and assumptions made by your users.
Views on finances and financial institutions: Generations shaped by different economic and political factors develop different attitudes about money, finances and institutions. Behaviors and experiences (or lack thereof) with finances not only help determine how they will interact with your product, but what they expect or need.
Views on technology: Technological adoption and penetration continues to increase its pace. This leads to uneven adoption patterns in a product utilized by a broad age demographic, as the generations have variedtolerances for change, and differing needs and expectations when onboarding and adopting internet technology developments.
Starting from the wrong place will guarantee you will end up in the wrong place. It is important to do the research and put aside presumed notions about behaviors and patterns. Understand assumptions are not facts. Assumptions have led us to a bunch of generalizations which, although entertaining, are not helpful in identifying where to take our product: Millenials live in their parent’s basement, Boomers can’t work technology, and Gen X is forgotten and bitter. These assumptions turn out to be rabbit holes since they are ill-conceived benchmarks from which to begin.
Major (unexpected) takeaways
Spending the time to analyze trends gave some unexpected insights that will help shape our roadmap. Here’s a few:
•  Surprising percentage of affluents
•  Expect to access digital services when and where they want it
•  Want to plan ahead for major life experiences to avoid debt
•  They are looking for institutions to work with them to educate themselves on fiscal responsibility (they want a partner)
Gen X: 
•  Had kids later in life due to economic conditions, which means they have college-age kids closer to the time they should be retiring
•  Took the biggest hit in home equity after the housing bubble burst
•  Need for autonomy and self-reliance (they want control)
•  Loss of around 25% of their investments value right near retirement
•  Willing to learn new technologies, and self-help, self-teach; expect humanness in technology to make it relatable and predictable (they want a guide)
•  75% have relationships with 4 or more financial institutions
The next piece is to see which of the data points we gathered we can verify by mining against our own user data. For those we can’t cross-verify, additional analysis will be needed to see whether our user base is truly different than trending data, or whether we have an incomplete picture. The key takeaways from each generation will combine with customer journey maps and “micro journeys” of critical processes, to visualize our analysis of which channel gaps are critical to fill, and what emerging technologies are needed to keep the gaps closed in the next 3 to 5 years. 
The research, analysis and roadmap proposal are really just step one of the process, so more to come. No roadmap works without organizational buy off, so stakeholder input is needed to forecast resource needs and make sure that proposed milestones align with the shifting priorities of the business.
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