Standard Bank South Africa creates a Center of Excellence for the Power Platform
Standard Bank is the largest bank in Africa with a 156-year history, 12 million customers and 54K+ employees. Their motto – “Africa is our home, we drive her growth.” Since February 2017, Standard Bank has grown their adoption of the Power Platform resulting in over 300 solutions being created for a variety of business needs ranging from finance to operations to HR. These solutions use a combination of PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Power BI, connected to SharePoint Online. They have a growing Center of Excellence (CoE) within IT which operates with a principle of empowering business units to build their own solutions – “apps built by business for business”.
Standard Bank had several business problems that needed to be streamlined across various business units. There was a need to extract maximum value from their Office 365 investment, embrace digitalization, and use mobile technologies to increase efficiency and improve customer and employee experience across the board whilst servicing the unique requirements of each business lines and locations.
As one illustrative example, the Cash Tribe team in Retail Banking South Africa was responsible for 8,000 ATMs. They needed to perform manual inspections of these ATMs on a regular basis for problems such as vandalism, broken screens and dirty surroundings, that were not flagged through automated alerts.
BEFORE POWER PLATFORM – processes and challenges
Prior to Office 365 and the Power platform, many of the business processes were executed using a combination of manual processes, Excel spreadsheets, email and other disparate technologies that did not integrate with each other.
In the ATM inspection example – the inspections were done on a clipboard and the team was buried in reams of paperwork. The process was fragmented across various job functions such as facilities, technicians, etc. Logging of the tickets could only take place once back in the office, which resulted in issues taking up to two weeks to get reported. Moreover, there was no central data repository against which to run business intelligence that could aid in future improvements.
Looking across the landscape of digitization challenges, the central IT team was simply not resourced to build mobile and digital solutions for every business unit requirement.
CREATING A CENTER OF EXCELLENCE – enable business units to own their own digital journey
Ian Doyle is the Head of Employee Experience Engineering at Standard Bank. His team was formed to find ways to maximize value from their Office 365 investment. They discovered PowerApps and Microsoft Flow as “hidden gems” in their Office 365 subscription. While their initial focus was on Office 365 solutions, they quickly expanded this scope to include building desktop and mobile apps and optimizing backend processes. An early success case was the mobile ATM inspection solution built using PowerApps and Power BI connected to SharePoint Online lists.
ATM Inspection app
Ian’s team worked closely with the Cash Tribe team to build a mobile PowerApp for inspecting ATMs. Within twenty-four hours they had a working prototype, which was then tested and refined alongside the business. Today, over 300 inspectors use the app to generate over 5,000 inspection reports each month. Watch a demo of the ATM Inspection.
Screenshots of the ATM inspection mobile PowerApp
The app uses the device GPS capabilities to find nearby ATMs and the device camera to take pictures when issues need to be reported. All the data is stored in SharePoine Online lists. Power BI dashboards and reports are used to visualize the aggregate data.
Center of Excellence Overview
Based on the success of the ATM inspection app and similar early wins, Ian’s team proceeded to create a Center of Excellence (CoE) focused on Office 365 and the Power Platform. A key to their center of excellence approach is to involve business teams directly. The business teams are closest to the friction points in their working lives. Ian’s team dedicates people to help these business teams identify friction points and then get trained to build time-saving solutions using Office 365 and the Power platform. The center of excellence has continued to grow and partner with business units to create solutions that broadly fall into these categories: client onboarding, auditing, manual to digital, cognitive services, universal client engagement, automation, structuring workflows, and chat bots. The team recently won the Beyond Excellence award for the top performing team. These are some of the 350+ solutions built over the past 18 months:
Center of Excellence Best Practices
They follow a repeatable model to take a new problem from idea to pilot to solution. Watch Vanessa Welgemoed speak to these in her BizAppsSummit presentation. Here are some of the key principles and steps in this process:
- Deal directly with the business and work as an embedded unit with the business team.
- Start by training people on Office 365 and the Power platform to understand the art of the possible.
- Do a whiteboard session to identify all the pain points – not just what the business says they want implemented, but what are all their challenges.
- Identify quick wins and even walk out of the initial training with tangible wins. Some of them might be just on Office 365, others include the Power Platform.
- Always keep it simple and train the business along the way. IT delivers the initial app with consensus that it’s a collaborative effort with business. The business is then taught how to deploy, maintain and update the app so they can be self-sufficient. IT helps the business “take off the training wheels” while being available to answer questions and get them unblocked.
- Establish clear constrains and guardrails – IT provides the guidelines within which to operate, initially reducing the integration with other systems and keeping the apps self-contained. They also make sure the solutions are built in a way that is scalable. Data and information always remain the asset to be controlled and protected.
- When you start, don’t aim to replace “enterprise line of business systems” – these apps aim to fill a gap, a necessary functionality that is not adequately covered by one of the “heavier weight” departmental systems.
- Leverage learnings from Microsoft and the community and channel that back into the internal community of champions.
BENEFITS AND IMPACT
Some of the key benefits gained from establishing a CoE focused on Office 365 and the Power platform:
- Within twenty-four months, the IT team helped business units create over 350 mobile and desktop solutions
- They have delivered hands on training to one-third of the organization.
- Have created a knowledge portal where staff can access learning material and prior created solutions.
- A set of digital champions have been developed within business teams.
- IT has a model in place that will enable it to scale to meet the demands of each business.
- Since all PowerApps are built in-house, the bank doesn’t need to employ outside consultants, thus saving costs.
- Employees in business units are getting empowered to solve their own digitization problems.
- Some business areas do require solutions to be built on their behalf, the COE delivers these on their behalf.
- Technology literacy and appetite for technology have grown within the organization.
- Improved collaboration between IT and business teams through rapid prototyping, training and iteration.
- Reduction in paper usage, storage and physical handoffs, which has resulted in greater security and a happier, more efficient staff.
- Employee journeys are now a focus area for the team with an intention to transform employee experiences.
- Speed of development – having tangible working prototypes within a few hours and days.
- Time saved in backend operations has resulted in an improved customer experience, which is reflected in Nett Promoter Score metrics.
These are some of the key learnings that have emerged from this 24-month journey.
You can also watch Vanessa Welgemoed speak about these in her Microsoft Business Applications Summit presentation.
- People will adopt technology at a pace they are comfortable with, a key to success is spending time upfront to educate constituents in the business and be patient with their needs.
- Control functions such as compliance and security can slow adoption rates. It is important to take these functions with you on the journey from the outset. Start with the low hanging fruit problems that are simpler to tackle.
- Not all capabilities might be available in the platform upfront, but it’s evolving at a steady pace – engage with the community, and don’t be scared to vote for ideas on forums.