For banks today, unlocking business potential requires three pre-requisites: an integrated landscape, transformational focus to fuel architectural innovation, and a data driven approach to perform better. Without these three fundamentals in place, organisations will continue to use siloed systems and struggle to reach their financial, business and operational potential.

The banking sector has faced ongoing disruptions for a while – from new fintech players in the ecosystem, new regulatory changes, margin erosion and new ways of working, to new digital channels and rising expectations around customer experience. It’s easy to lose sight of how to unlock potential when the competitive sand keeps sifting under your feet. And it’s even harder to innovate without having the fundamentals in place.

But it’s now becoming urgent. Industry disruption shows no signs of slowing, and growing dissatisfaction from customers is on the rise with just one in five UK customers saying they’re satisfied with the support they receive from their bank. Over half of UK SMEs are reassessing their bank’s suitability, according to new research from SAP. There are also significant differences around the gender and generation of customers and turnover of companies that are shaping banking behaviour and preferences.

It’s time for banks to hit the reset button – and fast. While the disruptive gap is widening between traditional and digital banks, customer tolerance for over standardised, impersonalised products is wearing thin – all of which tie back to outdated technology architectures. It’s not just a question of brand reputation, but also loss of market share and legacy maintenance costs and restrictions. This isn’t just a functionality fix. It’s a platform rethink.

A unified platform helps the bank’s business to run better by bringing together data, analytics, artificial intelligence, application development, automation, and integration in a single environment. It takes you from a closed and complex architecture to an open, opportunistic approach to services, processes and landscapes.

It means you can unlock your organisational potential and functional innovation to easily create new disruptive customer offerings with back-end integrations, real-time connectivity between ERP, procurement and the bank’s core.

That’s way more than just putting the fundamentals in place. It means banks can unleash and accelerate innovative ideas, such as self-service analytics to ensure consistent decision-making across the front and back office with richer reporting and dashboards. They can harness Machine Learning for Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering regulations, gain greater insights for workforce analytics, and ensure seamless integration with partner solutions and applications for a better user experience.

When banks know better, they can do better – which means the cumulative and continuous results of insights and intelligence drive more meaningful innovation and better performance.

But results require action – and that action should be now. Banks should start looking at different functions and processes and identify the best use cases that could benefit from technology driven transformation. They should then experiment with proof of concept environments and leverage ‘fail fast’ learning methods, so they can execute rapidly with their vendor partner of choice. Focusing on long-term benefits and identifying value drivers lets banks put innovation into practice through flexible and agile commercial models based on need and usage.

Failing to unlock business potential, has become obvious and urgent. If the technology fundamentals aren’t right, efforts to bridge the gaps around disruption, competition and customer attrition will always fall short. Act now!

Michael Walsh is Head of Financial Services at SAP, UK