Customer information is a heart of the business process in every bank and there’s no banking transformation project that doesn’t put “customer-centricity” very high on the priorities list. In the last 4 years I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of core banking implementation project, where this wasn’t only mere expression; it was a real driver for the whole transformation program with the scope embracing replacement of several legacy product systems with Banking Services from SAP platform. And the heart transplant – SAP Financial Services Business Partner to replace legacy CIF as the bank-wide master system for customer information. Our customer, one of the top banks in the world, manages tenths millions of active accounts, held by approximately 15 million of persons and organizations. It is also leading institution in customer service, always looking for creative ways of improvement. Technology, with modern, feature-rich Internet and mobile channels plays significant role in this process.

The legacy…

Customer Information File was a mainframe based system that stored customer data records, but also all accounts held by the customers and due to several significant issues, the bank has decided to decommission it:

  • Product-centric instead customer-centric data
    model

   

  • Not future-proof, not easily extensible

    

  • Redundant customer information and data quality
    concerns

    

  • No support for multi-languages,
    multi-time-zones, multi-entities

    

  • High maintenance cost  

    

Out of them, the most important was the data redundancy and quality. For instance, a customer tax number was a very important piece of information and it was captured as a part of account model, leading to situations where customer with several accounts could have several different tax numbers and no one could tell which one is correct.

The tricky part…

Despite of the issues described above, old CIF was still a true master system for customer information, customer-to-account relationships, as well as account master data.  It served as a replication hub to various product systems, provisioned transactions to access and maintain data for branch front-end and Internet banking systems. It fed several reporting systems with data and offered “green screens” for back-office users to perform specialized tasks, such as customer “splits” after wrong de-duplication or returned mail registration. The system was also responsible for automatic customer de-duplication process, running on weekly basis and combining thousands of duplicate versions of customer records. Apart from online channels and back-office screens, CIF received 20+ batch feeds from internal roduct systems and from external sources, such as post office or tax office.

In short: it was a real heart of the system landscape and we were about to replace it and reconnect all the wires to SAP Business Partner, without disturbing vital business processes. In fact, we were going to do it, without disturbing any kind of processes.

Laying the Foundation

First step of the journey was to analyse both data models and define mapping of legacy data to SAP BP. Thanks to enormous commitment of the bank’s specialists and commitment to the program principle “design simple and standard”, we were also able to simplify or just drop some of the old information that was either not relevant anymore or the quality was very bad. What appeared to be a very important later, we haven’t focussed only on “as-is” model, but also looked into the future and have analysed requirements coming from core banking streams. Out of the discovered gaps the most significant was the new “home” for account master data from legacy CIF. As not all of the products systems were supposed to be migrated to Banking Services from SAP platform, we still needed to have this information managed, so that we can offer the same functionality as the old system. At the end of the day we’ve decided to build an enhancement in Banking Services and deliver it as a Customer Development Project.

Migration, synchronization period and final touch

For we had run the customer information transformation in parallel to the core banking migration, the next step was to migrate records of customers as their accounts were moved to Banking Services platform. This gradual process allowed us to verify and test the model, but required a replication process to be built to keep both systems in sync. At the same time having this replication in place, has enabled us to approach next milestone – migration of all customer and account records to SAP.

At the same time we have prepared the remaining features: over 30 online and bulk services, several GUI-driven processes and an extensive set of data validations. 

Piloting, piloting!

The one thing that scares every financial institution is harm to their reputation. Dealing with changes to customer information, even when the change is small, is always a very sensitive operation. And of course no bank wants the customer to be the onewho tells about a system problem. That’s why we have adapted a piloting strategy, building into solution a set of features that allowed us to start gradual ramp-up process for branch front-end and Internet banking users independently. Piloting was function (service) based and included a set of most complex and strategic operations, such as customer inquiries, profile information retrieval or customer and account maintenance. For branch application our strategy was server-based, users logging via certain application server were connected to SAP Business Partner master, while all the rest of servers were still talking to the old master. As the confidence grew, we could ramp-up the pilot by adding subsequent servers. Internet banking, being the customer-facing application, required more savvy approach. Customer base was divided into segments, “Friends of the program” was the first one, followed by groups of customers based on the number of accounts they have. We also had capabilities to include or exclude certain customers from pilot. Again – ramping-up the pilot over several weeks and carefully monitoring and tuning system gave us the confidence, that we are ready for the next and final step in this journey.

 

… and finally …

On one particular night we’ve pulled the switch and disabled access to old system and re-pointed all the remaining online services, all the batch feeds and activated required features in Banking Services. All this was done within half hour down-time required for core banking to deploy their code and took no more than a few minutes.

For the next hour or two, for I was supposed to support the deployment and monitor production after that, I was sitting at my desk and mostly killing the time as there was nothing that required attention. The next morning, when the usual busy banking day started and customers rushed to branches or were accessing the Internet banking system, the only noticeable difference was a bunch of new features available to them.

Our patient survived, sound and happy, with new stronger heart.

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