(Joint Stock West Siberian Commercial Bank)
– In 2015, the bank celebrated its 25th anniversary. What are the most significant
achievements the bank has made over this period?
– Over the past 25 years Zapsibkombank has grown big, has expanded the list of its services, and has won a good reputation. In 2015, we received some of the most prestigious awards in the professional sphere, for example the XI All-Russian Banking Award in the nomination “Best Regional Bank of the Country”. We also won the first place in the category “Best Risk Management Program” of the Best Risk Management in Russia and CIS – 2015 Award. Moreover, in the annual study of the banks websites effectiveness the Markswebb Rank & Report agency recognized our website as the best bank website in Russia. However, the most important achievement of the bank is the trust of our customers, who appreciate the best technological solutions we use.
– You have grown from a programmer to the level of a vice president. Please describe how
the IT-landscape of the bank has been developing?
– I came to the bank for one simple reason: Zapsibkombank was equipped with the best computers in the city of Tyumen, and a high-quality technological base was always my priority. First, the calculations were made in the Central Bank of Russian Federation. We delivered customer cards to the Central Bank, where they were processed and then returned to us. After some time we began to process daily bank operations on a personal computer, then came the first server… Like the rest of the world, nowadays we cannot imagine ourselves without the Internet. We offer digital services, and our customers no longer need to visit the bank in person – they can do everything online.
– When did you decide to start using process management?
– I have been interested in process management all my life. While still being a programmer, I always wondered, how to make it easy for an internal customer to set tasks for the IT department. First, we used process management in order to understand what we were doing and to regulate our work. In 2011-2012 we realized that the process approach could be successfully applied to the development of Terms of Reference. It significantly simplified our work. All we had to do was to model a process and while doing so we would come to understand what steps we were supposed to take and what results had to be achieved. The task forms and reports would be developed later.
– What were the criteria used to select the system?
– First of all, the notation had to be easy to understand. Let’s start with the science. The very method of description must be simple. If we recall how process management was developing, starting with Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh, and other authors, we will see that in the beginning, process diagrams were too complex for business users. We were not able to apply them and had to wait until something changed. Then the BPMN 2.0 activity diagram appeared. It was simple and clear; one could model any process using three to five BPM elements. We knew it was the time.
Second, we needed the system that would support the BPM notation and would have convenient tools for adjustments. The programming language had to be easy to understand, such as C#, which is used in ELMA.
The third and the most important requirement was the availability of the technical support. We needed a partner who knew the system well and would support its implementation. There is an interesting story associated with the selection of the system and the partner. We were looking for a good ECM system. But we didn’t like what we found: the systems weren’t flexible or didn’t offer many possibilities for adjustments. Foreign analogues were good enough, but the price was unreasonable. At some point, we came across the EleWise Company, the developers of ELMA. It was all thanks to a programmer who was then a member of our team. He found ELMA, made a presentation and told us how the processes could be managed with this system. We contacted EleWise and they quickly responded, came here, showed us the product. At that time, we were collaborating with the Tyumbit-ASU company. They partnered with another vendor and suggested we used their system. We enjoyed working with Tyumbit, but of all the systems, we chose ELMA. Eventually Tyumbit became the ELMA partner and implemented the system in our bank.
The head of the Tyumbit-ASU project Alexey Matveev comments:
– Among the formal criteria, I can mention the web-interface support. The bank has an extensive network: there are branch offices in Tyumen and other cities, and the quality of the Internet connection is very different in each place. The second requirement was about the reports. They had to be easy to understand and set up. ELMA satisfied both these requirements. There was another requirement concerning the system interface. It had to be well designed and user-friendly. Other systems sold on the Russian market had hardly intuitive interface, while
ELMA’s interface is much appreciated by users. People like ELMA because it is easy to work with. This attitude is very important for the successful implementation of the system.
– What business processes were automated in the first place and why?
– We faced a serious dilemma: what process should be automated first. Eventually we chose the most frequently used processes: incoming emails, memos, instructions and orders, invoices. These processes involved many concurrent users and thus allowed for an optimal system adjustment. The implementation of the first processes went well. All bank employees were engaged in the creative process.
Of course, initially people continued using paper versions along with the electronic documents… According to one study, when a company implements an electronic document management system, the circulation of the paper documents increases. It was true for us. When receiving an electronic document, everyone wanted to make a hard copy, as it was a familiar way to work. We had to face it, but in the end, we managed to go through it and succeeded.
The most difficult test for us was the performance of the system. When approximately half of employees started to use the system, suddenly something went wrong. Apparently, too many users were connected at the same time. It was a difficult stage, about half a year we were struggling through it. Tyumbit-ASU helped us a lot. As a result, we managed to adjust the system in accordance with our organizational structure.
Alexey Matveev comments:
– Our task was to make sure that the customer didn’t need to develop terms of reference. Previously we used to implement ERP systems resorting to the classical approach: we prepared the
terms of reference, both parts signed it, then we started the implementation, once this step was finished, we carried out the staff trainings, tested the system and launched it into operation.
Here it was different. We specified only general requirements and implemented processes iteratively: first, we prepared processes, then we demonstrated them, gathered feedback, and after two or three iterations, real users tested the processes under actual operating conditions. Thanks to this approach – from simple to complex – by the time processes were launched, they were adapted to the needs of the customer as much as possible.
The documents we used for business process modeling (incoming emails, invoices, orders, memos) are quite typical for many organizations. The bank is a very large organization with a branched structure which imposes certain limitations. Several top managers supervise different aspects of work. Top managers have their own requirements and demands concerning the system. First, we set up processes for each manager individually, but as result, the system became cumbersome and inefficient. We are grateful to Andrey Y. Sidorov that he explained the situation to the bank employees. After that, if certain process configuration proved to be advantageous for one top manager, we implemented it for the others. We began to implement processes that covered all bank activities.
– How are you developing the system in the bank now?
– We are developing it according to the plan. One and a half years after the launch of the system, we experienced some difficulties associated with system performance. In spite of all our doubts, everything was settled and went back to normal. People got used to the electronic workflow; all the paper documents were transformed into an electronic format. For the moment, we almost do not use paper documents for the internal bank needs. Some unique documents, for instance Board’s decisions, still have paper copies, as the Central Bank of Russia only accepts them as such, certified by the signature and the stamp.
Now we model complex processes. It is not a simple sequence of orders from one employee to another; these processes imply logic that is more sophisticated. There is a responsible user at each process stage: one enters the data, another processes the information, the third gives feedback to the customer. Thanks to this approach, we do not miss anything important. The flexibility of the system turns out to be an extremely useful feature. If it is necessary, we can easily change any process stage or add some tasks we haven’t previewed earlier at the modeling stage.
Process implementation changes the way of thinking. We used to heavily relay on paper documents, and unfortunately, it cannot be changed in one day. By the tenth or twentieth process, you come to the realization that everything must be done differently. Now it is easier for us to model processes because we have opted for the process approach and have changed the way we think.
Our employees have changed as well. Look at one of our first processes. We wanted to improve the work environment, keep the office clean, comfortable, and well decorated. We created the checklist process, which eliminated the need to check whether a responsible employee had done all the necessary things. ELMA copes with this perfectly. In the morning, the responsible employees receive the task: to check whether the porch is cleaned, snow is removed, lights are turned on, and so on, according to the items of the checklist. They answer “yes” or “no”. If they choose “no”, the system asks whether all the necessary measures have been taken to prevent this situation.
The employees, who saw the process, were attracted by the idea to control those aspects of work where previously they relied on someone’s sense of duty. Now our work is organized as follows: in the morning the system automatically checks the schedule, and, for example, monitors work conditions in the office or examines legal files, etc… Such attitude is contagious. For the moment, we have a list of processes our employees would like to automate.
– How would you evaluate the impact of ELMA implementation?
– When we had to prove the techno-economic feasibility of the system, we showed how using ELMA we could reduce paper usage and time consumption. To tell the truth, to really measure the
efficiency of such systems you must look at the results the company achieves after the implementation. Efficiency – is not just time or money spent on paper, toners, printing. The most important thing is the way of thinking. People started to think differently and realized that the electronic environment does not allow them being irresponsible. If employees do everything right, they see the results immediately, if they commit errors the system will warn them. Now it takes us considerably less time to make a decision. This is our biggest victory.
Alexey Matveev comments:
– We experienced some problems during the implementation phase. The data in the system did not match with the information from users. We analysed the processes and it turned out that the data compiled by the system were correct. The system registered who and when uploaded the information. It was easy to see when the employees started to work and when they committed an error. With the system implementation, the processes became transparent. The employees started to feel personally responsible for the task completion. The managers appreciated it, and the system won over more supporters. People realized all the benefits and were willing to accept the changes, such as new conditions for document approval, new monitoring criteria, and so on.
– You are known to be an ideologue and investor of innovative projects. In your opinion, what will the banks look like in 10 years?
– Things have already started to change. The future belongs to Digital Banking. It will allow customers to get any bank service online, without having to visit the bank itself: to make a payment or a deposit, to receive a loan… As always, at first people are excessively optimistic, they feel like “Hooray, computers will work, while we relax!” However, the bank’s staff will have to work all the same and their duties will change; they will have even greater responsibility. Someone will have to model the processes, monitor their productivity, efficiency, profitability and convenience. The banks employees will have to think differently, be smarter and even more broad-minded and reliable. The era of digital banking will look like this.
– What advice can you give to those who think of business processes implementation in their company?
There are many people in each organization, and they are all different. Some employees use modern technologies. Others are accustomed to work with papers, while some think, “We have always been working like this! Why should we do anything differently?” One who decides to implement process management will have to face it, but, in my opinion, the reward is worth it.
I have a theory of a four-year cycle. The first year everybody is optimistic, nobody asks questions. The second year everybody feels disillusioned: the new technology hasn’t brought the desired effect, what is more, you need to work hard. The third year everybody is worn out, but the first results are visible. Finally, the fourth year, they reap the fruits of their labour. It’s our fourth year now, we already have good examples, there is an understanding that the new technology is nonetheless winning. People finally have accepted this innovation.
There is always a risk that after a successful launch of the system, the colleagues may underestimate your merits. They will say, “We did it all together, we have always known that the result would be great.” One must be prepared for this.