"Our main opportunities are to decrease the action-intention gap for our users by making their supplier decision journey and finance journey a lot simpler."
Digital technologies take centre stage in development and offer a distinctive chance for nations to expedite economic progress and link their citizens to services and employment opportunities.
Computing's Digital Technology Leaders Awards recognise the individuals and companies at the forefront of digital transformation.
This year, we will announce the winners at a live ceremony on Thursday 6th July in Central London.
One of the finalists is NatWest Bank, who has been on the shortlist for the Most Successful Environmental Project.
We talked to Leah Waterhouse, Product Owner Carbon Planner at NatWest, to find out how their organisation has used IT for success and how they have overcome their biggest challenges.
Computing: Why do you think awards like the Digital Technology Leaders matter? What would winning this award mean to your company?
Leah Waterhouse: Awards which recognise the impact of our technology and project team's work on platforms such as a Carbon Planner are extremely important to validate our outcomes and successes. Teams across the bank have worked on ideation and screen designs with our technology colleagues putting this all into action. This has allowed us to create a market leading carbon management system with simple UX to inspire action. At NatWest our ambition is to be a relationship bank in a digital world and without new platforms such as carbon planner and all our technology teams working not only on launch, but also often daily improvements, this wouldn't be possible. Winning this award would be validation that our customers are seeing the impact of our innovative approach and that we are taking strides towards delivering our market leading customer experience digitally as well as in person.
What would you say is your company's proudest achievement over the past year?
Carbon Planner launched in September 2022 and since then c.4000 users have registered and interacted with the platform. Users have been able to create carbon footprints for their business activities, receive and act on their tailored actions from the system and have the ability to access products and services to support them. Customers have gone on to retrofit their premises based on carbon planner outputs, decarbonised their fleet, made annual savings due to using Carbon Planner rather than bespoke consultancy. We have immense pride that the system has led to businesses decarbonising who otherwise didn't know what steps to take.
What have been the biggest challenges of 2023 so far and how have you overcome them? How have your people helped with that?
Our ability to overcome our challenges is testament to the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of our team. One of our key challenges whilst in ideation, as well as implementation, of Carbon Planner has been on automating inputs. We know from our research with 4000 customers that customers want their data input automated but this is something the industry continues to wrestle with given data privacy concerns, the magnitude of accountancy data and ensuring data inputs are accurate and helpful for users. The team has overcome many barriers around connecting accountancy inputs by working tirelessly with our accountancy partners in sandbox environments to find API linkages that can work in an ever-changing platform such as carbon planner.
How do you think the channel has changed over the past year and what changes do you think it still needs to make?
Our project has launched over 11 new features to our customers in 2023 and we continue to do "always on" research with our user base, combined with deep dives, in order to ensure we continue to respond to user feedback. We have a full time customer experience team member to ensure this is always a focus of our stand-ups and scrums. We know that we need to continue to increase the level of data automation for inputs and present a turn-key decarbonisation solution so that customers can have their carbon footprint, relevant actions to take, and the suppliers and finance to take those all at the click of a button. At less than a year old, Carbon Planner will continue to develop and improve to ensure user needs continue to be met. From our launch MVP until now, there has been significant progress to get to this north-star vision and the team is excited as we continue to get feedback reflecting this progress.
What do you see as the main opportunities for the channel in the coming year? How do you plan to capitalise on those opportunities?
As above, our main opportunities are to decrease the action-intention gap for our users by making their supplier decision journey and finance journey a lot simpler. We are still seeing numerous users experiencing choice paralysis and being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the decarbonisation requirements. It is our job to ensure the decarbonisation journey is broken down into manageable components by making our platform tailored to our user's carbon maturity and rolling in other proof of concepts that we've been working on over 2023 which have been successful. The team remains passionate around bringing other successes into Carbon Planner to ensure NatWest's decarbonisation offering is in one place and even easier to access than it currently is.