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Major Financial House

Case study
Visual process mapping aids management hand-over

The Client
Fintecs facilitated the change of management of the main accounting system for a major International Bank with offices based in European cities that include London, Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva, and Zurich.

Project Summary
Management of a critically important software development team, responsible for the bank’s main accounting system, was changing hands. A method had to be developed to transfer the outgoing manager’s expert knowledge and experience to the incoming manager rapidly and efficiently in order to ensure an effective and glitch-free hand-over.

The Challenge
The bank’s software development team is responsible for the highly critical main accounting system. This system is crucial to the bank’s operations in several different ways. Every single banking transaction that the bank performs passes through this software ‘universe’ which is also used for the vitally important function of statutory reporting. The system also provides financial consolidation information to the bank’s main board through its built-in executive information system. The system is thus the central accounting function of the bank – the core of its business.

The manager in charge of the software development team – a key role - was leaving the team and moving elsewhere in the bank while a new manager was brought in to replace him. The challenge of the project was to facilitate this change by transferring knowledge from the departing manager to the arriving manager and from the existing team members to the new manager.

The existing system was, of course, well documented in thousands of pages of text. But the very quantity of information meant that the essential knowledge it contained was inaccessible. The system was so large and its various elements so complex that knowledge was fragmented between team members. Inevitably, some parts of the system remained undocumented and the information existed only inside team member’s heads. Most challenging of all was that, because of the size and complexity of the system, there was no global view.

Fintecs Solution
Working together with the bank’s team, Fintecs devised an innovative method of documenting the bank’s highly complex central accounting system by means of visual process mapping.

According to Tony Gratton, managing director of Fintecs, who headed the consulting project, ‘It was clear to everyone from the outset that the knowledge transfer process was going to involve some new kind of documentation process – but what kind, exactly? The existing manager and his team held in their heads the equivalent of thousands of pages of text. How could an incoming manager hope to take on board this vast ocean of data in only the short time available?’

‘The solution we arrived at was, in effect, to map visually the knowledge that people held in the heads. We went through a re-iterative process of sitting around the table and talking to people about their functions, about their role in the development team and about the part of the systems that they worked on. As a result of these de-briefings we recorded the information visually, and gave them in return that same information in the form of a printed map which they could put on the office wall and live with -- work with it, write on it -- and then repeat the process, gradually refining and expanding the map.’

Fintecs also introduced two other important principles into the visual mapping process.  The first was to use a ‘top-down’ approach, which starts with the big picture, and with strategic elements of the system and then gradually drills down into more and more detailed level in subsequent iterations. The second technique was to consider elements of the system in terms of their similarities and their differences.

The project achieved its overall objective very successfully and enabled the arriving manger to take up his post and absorb the necessary complex detail more rapidly than he would otherwise.

But the project also had further, unexpected benefits. The re-iterative mapping process enabled the team to rediscover their own universe. Horizontal links between processes that were normally difficult to see were exposed and mapped. Knowledge was successfully transferred between generations of management but knowledge was also transferred between team members. The map was used by the team to structure discussions with their clients – the end user departments inside the bank. Workgroup discussions became more effective because the map provided instant context. And, most important of all, the visual map provided a global view pf the bank’s system for the first time.

Says Tony Gratton, ‘The project made the team appreciate horizontal links across business units and across different accounting functions that they hadn’t fully appreciated before – they knew they were there, but hadn’t realised the importance of them. That was an important step because often people tend to think just in terms of vertical processes and the horizontal links tend to get missed.’

‘As well as the arriving manager, the existing team actually got an awful lot out of it because one of the things that we found as we spoke to team members was that the they tended to specialise in a particular area of the domain and weren’t fully aware of what else was going on outside their area of specialisation -- where they fitted into the whole process and where they added value.’

‘Producing the map and putting it up on the wall enabled them to have an internal knowledge transfer between themselves which was an unintended but very beneficial side effect. And in fact the team started using the document regularly for internal meetings. We then found that the team was starting to use the map in conjunction with their clients – it became a tool for communications with the end user departments, which again was completely unexpected. But once they’d seen it, everyone wanted a map and we ended up producing copies which went out to all the user departments.’

The project was groundbreaking in many ways and it’s lessons far-reaching. Says Tony Gratton, ‘For me, the most interesting insight to come out of this assignment is that people think that technology is all about technology, but this project proved that technology is all about people.’

About Fintecs
Founded in 2001, Fintecs is a Banking IT consultancy that combines in-depth expertise in Banking and the Financial industry with a unique approach to the visual documentation of systems, business processes and people.

The Fintecs visual approach to IT documentation has been developed in association with one of Europe’s leading banks. It is designed to help financial institutions of all kinds to rediscover the value of their hardware and software assets and to:-

· Transfer vital knowledge among staff
· Match IT systems more closely to the needs of Business
· Understand fully how business processes interact
· Plan future systems with confidence

Fintecs draws on a wealth of experience with all kinds of financial institutions from private banking to trust administration including specialities such as asset management for private and institutional clients. Fintecs has carried out consultancy projects in countries throughout Europe. Staff are English-French bilingual and have extensive experience of the Swiss banking system.

Fintecs consultancy work has included business process analysis from front-office to back, data flows, databases and a wide range of software applications, with extensive experience of Project Management, Project Implementation, Systems Integration, and Systems Replacement.

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