About The Author: The author, a senior IT executive at one of the nation's largest banks, shares his experiences under the pseudonym Coverlet Meshing. He has spent the last two decades in the financial services sector, picking a fight with anyone who doesn't understand that banks are actually software companies and need to invest in engineering as a core competency. His cheery outlook and diplomatic nature are rarely reflected in his writing. Write to him at coverlet.meshing@ubm.com

The big banks are in a mobile arms race, constantly adding features to their already bloated flagship apps and misguidedly defining success by how closely their mobile capabilities match their more mature online offerings.

The unfortunate casualty is customer experience.

What's lost on the big banks -- and most other large enterprises -- is that software should be so simple as to border on the obvious. It's a design imperative for mobile.

It's counterintuitive, but the optimal mobile experience comes from the app with the fewest features. It's not simply that each new feature provides diminishing marginal returns. It's that each new feature actually detracts from the product.

That last paragraph isn't a secret held by twentysomethings in Portland. Fortysomethings like me get it. Mobile is different. It's about context and simplicity. A paradigm shift.

So why do mobile banking apps, like most enterprise-produced software, continue to have the Microsoft Word problem (i.e., as adoption of a platform broadens, there's an inertial institutional response that often leaves v2 worse than v1)?

Here are five reasons large enterprises are hard-wired to damage the mobile user experience, usually by increasing product complexity.

1. Consensus is predictable.
With something as sexy as mobile, every senior manager with a smartphone thinks his design aesthetic deserves knighthood. And the larger the org, the more seats at that roundtable. Consensus (unfortunately) gives them a voice. So even if there were a semblance of product vision, once all those stooges are heard, consensus plays the role of eye poke.

Minus a coherent product vision, consensus affirms the seemingly intuitive, a problem compounded for mobile because the answers to the harder questions are usually counterintuitive (i.e., pare down your offering). Consensus, designed to amplify a crowd's intuition, predictably falls on its face.

Intuitive output confuses bigger with better and necessarily increases the app's complexity. And with enough releases, that complexity becomes the defining characteristic of the app.

The answer here is obvious. The best products, app or otherwise, are taken to market by independent, engaged individuals -- visionaries who I'll continue to argue (counter-intuitively) need to be engineers. And who, for the most part, fly solo.

... Read full story on InformationWeek


Post a comment to the original version of this story on InformationWeek