My role is being a customer advocate across the digital landscape Melissa Macfarlane, Westpac NZMelissa Macfarlane pauses briefly when asked whether she works in business, marketing or technology.\u201cI would say, I work in customer experience,\u201d says Macfarlane, who stepped up to the chief digital officer role at Westpac New Zealandnearly a year ago.\u201cWestpac has a vision to be the greatest service company and you can only do that if you focus on customer experience,\u201d she says.Startups are a model for this, she says.Startups do some things really well, she says. \u201cThey have great agility into the organisation, are moving at a great pace, and are getting that customer feedback loop, acting on that really quickly.\u201cThey are not constrained by their past and they have that relentless focus on customer experience.\u201dThus, she says, Westpac is thinking and acting like a 200-year-old startup.''We have invested in building that agility into our organisation,'' she says.\u201cThe CPO (chief product officer), the CIO and myself are really focused on getting that clarity of the customer vision and the value we want to drive out and empower teams closest to the work to actually do the right things, at the right cadence and to deliver value to the customer really quickly,\u201d she states.\u201cGone are the days when we have really long project governance meetings and all very formal. Now it is how we are inspiring these teams to deliver the value to customers really quickly.\u201cIt is a refreshing change.\u201dNo captionRather than taking old application forms and digitising them, we actually start with a blank sheet of paper and say, \u2018what does a great customer experience look like? How do we map that out under no constraints?Melissa Macfarlane, Westpac NZMacfarlane works closely with CIO Dawie Olivier.\u201cWe both have the same passion for cultural change and transformation.\u201dShe says Olivier is a \u201cfantastic advocate\u201d on the goal to shift the culture at Westpac.\u201cYou can\u2019t do this alone at a bank,\u201d she says.\u201dYou have got to have a team of people who really believewe can change that mindset.\u201dShe says in the traditional sense of the world, she has a team of around 30.But if you add all of the delivery team and the CX support team it is much bigger, she says. \u201cUltimately we have got the whole bank behind in the digital transformation.\u201cDigital is not just a channel,\u201d she adds. \u201cIt is a team that is driving transformation at the bank.\u201cWe are really embedding digital in the bank so it is less about us, as just a team owning online banking.\u201cIt is more about us really helping the rest of the organisation understand what digital transformation means for them and how that can create great customer experiences.\u201cWe want to empower the teams closest to the work to actually do the right things at the right cadence, to deliver value to the customer really quickly.\u201cOne of the biggest catalysts of the mindset shift for us has been the use of true design thinking,\u201d she says.\u201cIt means you are really fixated on watching your customers, empathising with them and putting yourself in their shoes before you understand the solution to the problem.\u201d\u201cI like the concept of starting with a blank sheet of paper,\u201d she says.\u201cRather than taking old application forms and digitising them, we actually start with a blank sheet of paper and say, \u2018what does a great customer experience look like? How do we map that out under no constraints?\u201d\u201cThat gives us a sense of what can be possible.\u201d Becoming a CDOMacfarlane became chief digital officer from head of global transactional services at Westpac NZ.She has always worked in the finance sector, starting with Citi in London.''I started my career in London, and spent some time in New York,'' she says.Ten years ago, Macfarlane moved to New Zealand and joined Westpac. \u201cI am an adopted Kiwi now.\u201dShe explains while she has held several portfolios in the banking sector, it was always \u201ccustomer facing roles\u201d and usually in the business space.\u201cIt makes me a lot more aware of the whole ecosystem connecting business with consumers,\u201d she says. \u201cThat background really helped, because a lot of what we are doing is how to make payments as frictionless as possible.''It is important to hear first-hand what customers are looking for,\u201d she says.To me the best piece of technology is one that really helps people in their day to day life; solving real staff and customer pain points.Melissa Macfarlane, Westpac NZ\u201cSometimes you can talk [about] technology. But if you do not have the customer lens, angles on how to solve their pain points, what is the value that you get to deliver at the end of it? \u201cAnd that is what my role really is, being a customer advocate across the digital landscape,\u201d she says.\u201cConsumers are engaging with businesses all the time. It is all about having really seamless great customer experiences in the services element. And then, how do you then create great conversations?\u201dShe says Westpac has a two-pronged approach to a business model, which is: \u201cHow do you have really simple seamless customer experiences and how do you use digital to create great quality conversations with customers?\u201cAll businesses are facing that and ultimately that is the new model that everyone is going to be embracing,\u201d she states.When Macfarlane moved to Westpac, the role of chief digital officer did not exist.But she says she was drawn to how digital has enabled great customer experiences and interactions with their customers.She says a survey early this year done by Westpac Australia, stated how eight out of 10 customers indicated that their preference was to engage with the bank digitally.As well, she says customers are asking for simple and seamless ways to engage with the bank.\u201cCustomers are telling us they are engaging more and more with the digital channel,\u201d she says. \u201cWe have got to respond to this...it is a customer driven need.\u201d \u2018You can\u2019t do this alone at a bank...You have got to have a team of people who really believe we can change that mindset\u2019, says Melissa Macfarlane on working with CIO Dawie Olivier (in photo) as Westpac acts like a 200 year old startup. (CIO NZ photo by Sean Gillespie) 'Disruptive prototyping'She says Westpac has a digital ventures team that looks at trends across the globe.\u201cThey are part of my team and they are very focused on what is next in banking. When I talk about innovation, we take the 60-30-10 approach.''Sixty per cent is around solving customer pain points and making sure you are delivering value with day to day stuff, Macfarlane says.\u201cWe spend 30 per cent architecting what is next in banking,\u201d she says \u201cWe are thinking of all of the various buildings blocks like data, AI and virtual reality.\u201dThe 10 per cent is on experimentation, she says. \u201cFor instance, what are the implications of biometrics and other trends that are happening?One of the biggest catalysts of the mindset shift for us has been the use of true design thinking.Melissa Macfarlane, Westpac NZ\u201cWe may not know the answer to them now, but we are constantly playing with [these technologies],\u201d she says. \u201cWe are learning, we are figuring out user cases to make sure we are on the cutting edge of what is next. It is about keeping that forward looking vision.\u201dAs part of this vision, Westpac will soon be launching a prototype branch near its headquarters on Takutai Square, in the Auckland CBD. \u201cIt is based on the premise that more and more we want to test and learn with customers. We want to observe them interacting with channels and we want their regular feedback.She says the customer experience team will ensure customers who participate in the focus group are diverse. \u201cWe want to learn from a whole subsection of customers, including our staff as well.\u201d \u201cThey will help us figure out how to design the space,\u201d she says. \u201cIt will all be modular so we can move things around quickly and we can watch how they interact with a piece of technology, or some signage. And then, we can change it and say, 'right, how does this feel?' Does this generate a better result?\u201d she states.\u201cIt is, again, about disruptive prototyping.\u201dShe says her team will integrate the feedback and constantly refine whatever they are testing.\u201cSo we will constantly be iterating.\u201dThe human dimension is important, as they work on the digital space, Macfarlane says.\u201cYou can develop the most amazing piece of technology. But unless people are actually drawn to using it and are advocates for it, the technology is never going to be as effective as you want it to be.\u201cTo me the best piece of technology is one that really helps people in their day to day life; solving real staff and customer pain points.\u201dShe says this view is also espoused by Westpac CIO Dawie Olivier. In an earlier interview with CIO New Zealand, Olivier said the killer app for today\u2019s CIOs and their teams, \u201cis the ability to build a culture and for the team to learn to experiment and iterate forward...When this happens, 'Any technology can be your oyster'.\u201d\u201cSo it is not just one thing,\u201d Macfarlane says, \u201cit is a combination of a couple of different technologies.\u201dFor instance, among the technologies that excite her are the combination of algorithms and new communication technologiesto have \u201cproactive and helpful conversations with customers\u201d.\u201cWe can have great proactive conversations with them,\u201d she says.\u201cYou can have an experience that says what we can tell that you are likely to go overdrawn,\u201d Macfarlane says, as an example.So their message with the customer would be, \u201cAt this point let us help you by clicking here to transfer your savings, so it does not create a bad experience and you are not get caught at the end of the month.\u201dHow they deliver this will be depend on each customer\u2019s needs.\u201cBe passionate about the customer,\u201d she concludes. \u201cAlways have them front of mind and the rest generally follows.\u201d\nNext: A new way to work in the digital world\n\nPage BreakNo captionInside the workplace of the futureMelissa Macfarlane reveals she has another role at the bank - as mentor to the employee action group on flexible working.This is a formal group that is raising awareness and confidence levels across the bank, to be able to embrace flexible working, she explains.Flexible working is \u201coften a female conversation\u201d, but not at Westpac.A number of male staff also utilise flexible working, as some of them have family responsibilities or are involved in external interests such as sports refereeing.She says Westpac is incredibly supportive of flexible working. \u201cIt is a real strength of the company.\u201dAs well, this is also one way of preparing the organisation for the workplace of the future,she says. "More and more, the new workforce is going to demand it.\u201dMacfarlane is a prime example of how to go about it. \u201cI work flexibly in the truest sense of the world.\u201d Put parameters around how often you use technology to connect to work. She works three days of the week in Auckland, with the rest of the week spent in the Kaikoura Coast in the South Island.She helps her husband in their cafe and restaurant in Kekerengu. \u201cIt is in the middle of nowhere,\u201d she says.\u201cI am not a barista, I often get stuck in the sink washing dishes,\u201d says Macfarlane, who also lends a hand with accounts.\u201cDifferent people work flexibly in different ways. Sometimes Monday needs to be my day off, so I will move it around. \u201cThe beauty of that is I experience on a regular basis what it is like to be an SMB (small business) in New Zealand, with a lot of the challenges that brings.\u201cThe trick is how to make it work for you,\u201d she says. \u201cTechnology is an enabler of flexible working, so long as you put boundaries around it.\u201cYou\u2019ll always need the right people on your team, delivering great results. But they don\u2019t have to be sitting at a desk 9 am to 5 pm, five days a week to create excellent outcomes.\u201d She shares with CIO New Zealand her five-point approach for building a more flexible work schedule:? Stay in the loop: \u201cA remote location can\u2019t be a barrier to collaboration and conversations.\u201d? Put parameters around how often you use technology to connect to work: \u201cYou still need a life.\u201d? Be honest and realistic \u2013 with both yourself and your team \u2013 about what can be done working flexibly.? Support people leaders to understand how to get the most out of their flexible team.? Be flexible about flexible working: \u201cKeep assessing the arrangement and be open to changes in terms.\u201dMelissa Macfarlane talks about digital transformation and innovation at the 2016 AWS Summit in AucklandSend news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.