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Bringing data and process together at Bank of the West

I just attended an interview at Appian World that’s particularly relevant to organizations focused on bringing process and data together for business transformation. The speaker was Martin Resch, Executive Vice President at Bank of the West. Michael Heffner, Global Financial Services & Insurance Industry lead at Appian, was the interviewer.

The bank’s transformation journey started five years ago. At that time, Bank of the West still used green screen technology. They also relied on several legacy apps that needed replacing. But old technology alone wasn’t the biggest problem. Instead, the biggest challenge they faced was poorly aligned customer onboarding and product onboarding data. Because the data was unintegrated, the systems forced employees to ask new customers for the same data repeatedly. For example, at least nine different people would enter the commercial customer’s zip code eighteen different times. Of course, this led to frustrated customers (poor customer experience) and internal inefficiencies (poor operational effectiveness).

To achieve business transformation, the bank focused on integrating process and data to better support the customer. Here’s a high-level description of the transformed business process they implemented to deliver great customer experiences and implement operational excellence. (Note, Digital Clarity Group refers to this type of effort as supporting end-to-end processes for digital outside and digital inside.) Transformation efforts started with by putting the customer first, following these steps:

Step 1) launch client prospecting for finding prospects and converting them to new customers. To help in this, the company now uses data analytics for prospecting.

Step 2) launch client onboarding which includes specific steps in “know your customer” practices.

Step 3) start product onboarding, which involves finding out what does the customer want? How does the customer want to engage? What are the risk and compliance issues?

Step 4) start servicing the new customers while protecting their privacy.

From a technology perspective, the bank to these steps:
• Implemented a Party Data Model to store client and product data in the same place, and support visualization and search.
• Deployed Appian BPM software to automate each business process and integrate with applications.
• Ensured data privacy and protection so that employees only see the relevant customer data during interactions.
• Implemented risk and compliance engines for greater control.

Business impact: Sometimes business transformation drastically improves headcount. But in this situation, the bank had 950 employees when it started and still has 950 employees now. But as a result of greater efficiencies, employees were reallocated to other parts of the business, and job descriptions were changed to reflect their new responsibilities. Employees now have greater empowerment. In the meantime, the commercial bank has grown by 50% and other parts of the business have grown significantly without adding headcount.

Business transformation enablers the company attributed to its success are:
• Putting the customer at the center of everything they do
• Making sure they know what the customer is trying to do, and then making sure they get the customer “the right thing at the right time.”
• Ensuring that they have sufficient data quality for when customers enter their data.
• Validating that every step in the process has a purpose—either from a customer service perspective or from a risk/compliance angle. Otherwise, they advise “don’t do it.”
• Using BPM to automate business processes without having to custom build the solutions. The company believes that tackling their transformation project would have been very difficult without BPM.

In closing, Mr. Resch noted that most other banks are trying to determine how to put the customer front-and-center without having to retool their entire legacy stacks, which tend to be product-centric instead of customer-centric. He said this is a common challenge for banks, and that one would be hard pressed to find a bank that isn’t actively working on business transformation. The banks that Digital Clarity Group has interviewed are on a similar three to five year transformation path, with a strong focus on getting data better integrated and accessible to business processes. Business process management (BPM) software provides the orchestration layer that allows banks to continue continue leveraging legacy applications while supporting seamless end-to-end business processes.

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