FundTech speaks to Metrosoft’s Petra Roche and Anna Kanior-Florek about cross-organisational relationships and why mutual trust and being open to change are the keys to successfully delivering complex and crucial projects.
Trust between teams shaped by their organizations’ culture is a key component when it comes to delivering a software project that will provide the most value for both the client and the vendor.
It is also a necessity when adopting agile project management, an increasingly popular approach to software development.
So says Petra Roche, client relations and projects at Metrosoft.
The software vendor is an enthusiastic proponent of agile project management, an approach it has used in some of its most recent projects, one of which involved redesigning and digitising the processes for a global custodian’s investor onboarding and KYC compliance.
“These processes were predominantly paper-based – the client had to ask for paper copies of passports and request that important company documents were delivered by fax, and then manually update information on their systems,” says Roche.
“This frustrated investors with so much paper being sent back and forth. They were very inefficient processes,” adds Roche.
The project’s aim was to move away from manual processes and to make use of trusted data sources, eliminate paper and faxes, and automate risk calculation for investors based on digital data points.
According to Anna Kanior-Florek, head of customer success at Metrosoft, the trust that was engendered during the project was essential to its success. It created greater collaboration and a common agreement of the context and challenges which gave Metrosoft and the client outstanding results.
This is not to say the project did not have its challenges. The biggest one was to establish a common understanding of what it means to deliver a project in an agile way, says Kanior-Florek.
The traditional ‘waterfall’ approach to project management is still the option chosen by most firms when it comes to software projects. “Everybody is generally comfortable with a project that has a start and end date with fixed costs and scope,” says Kanior-Florek.
“But real life forces us to practice agile development, where we apply a ‘test and learn’ mentality. A change in working patterns is required so that everyone is understood. Without that, the team will not be able to deliver,” she says.
“...real life forces us to practice agile development, where we apply a ‘test and learn’ mentality."
The project involved a big transformation so there was some wariness on both sides as to whether the other party really understood what would be involved, says Roche. For example, was the client ready to transform and did the vendor really understand the client’s pain points?
“Both sides had to work really hard on establishing that trust by communicating frequently as a team and in a very open and honest way,” says Roche. “That was not always comfortable and both sides had to learn to listen and to understand the other parties’ point of view without assumption.”
For example, the project team had a certain understanding of what the finished solution should look like, but in reality, what was discovered, tested and delivered turned out to be very different.
“It was originally seen as a migration of existing manual processes into a digital environment,” says Roche. “But then we managed as a team to move away from that because the aim was not to simply automate but to be innovative and create a different, data-driven, digital and real-time system that in the end differed from the original request. That is what brings real value to our client and to the industry.”
It was only possible as a team that works together, to face the obstacles that such a huge project brings, adds Roche.
Another challenge involved both teams familiarity with the old way of working. “The project involved establishing new digital processes that eliminated manual tasks. But it was difficult for the people in the project to change and move away from this paper-based process way of working”, says Roche.
“We had to achieve a change in mindset. Now a single solution supports real-time digital onboarding, risk calculation, transaction monitoring and record maintenance. This means the operational teams can move away from mundane maintenance and focus on the important things,” she says.
For example, any change in investor data held on the system leads to an automatic recalculation of the investor risk and an automatic alert if certain conditions are met.
"Now a single solution supports real-time digital onboarding, risk calculation, transaction monitoring and record maintenance"
Similar experiences have arisen in other projects, says Kanior-Florek. One of these involved standardising and digitising sales agreements. “We were faced with different requirements from all parties involved, not just us as the vendor and the client’s lines of business but also across external parties such as distributors,” says Kanior-Florek.
“On top of that, our software had to integrate with a number of systems on the client side, such as workflow, various data sources and fee calculation engine. This was to streamline the process, reduce onboarding time and to produce accurate calculations. In order to achieve that, we had to agree to one standard for handling sales agreements and terms of business,” says Kanior-Florek.
All parties had to communicate on an ongoing basis and all parties had to trust that the new system would work, says Kanior-Florek. “It always takes time for teams to embrace change, even if it brings clear advantages. As in other projects, we were moving from a heavily manual, business-role specific process into one system that would not require paper and would handle the processes for all areas and for all fee types. It was a big change for all parties involved.”
What we do is not just about the successful delivery of projects, says Kanior-Florek. “It is also about establishing long-lasting relationships with clients that allow for an open and honest exchange. Together, we can shape innovation and deliver meaningful change.”
While trust is one important component in agile development, the other is decision-making says Kanior-Florek. “Normally people feel more comfortable if they have a fixed scope, budget and way of thinking, as opposed to having change, adapting to it and making confident and swift decisions.”
“Companies tend to make collective decisions which are not agile. You have to act fast, to pivot, to make changes, to transform. Having trust is one thing and having the ability to make decisions is another thing,” says Kanior-Florek.
Roche believes that to remain competitive and innovative, one needs to demonstrate a true sense of agility and take the risk of change. “Changes are happening and you have to adapt. If you don’t have that ability, you will become extinct.”
“However, it is not changing for changing’s sake. Any transformational project needs to be meaningful and add value, to our clients and the industry as a whole.”
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