Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe (SMBCE) has reduced its work load by up to 70 percent in some of its departments after implementing three new business processes.

Juan Moreno, IT business analyst at SMBCE, told the Gartner Business Process Management Summit 2010 in London that the bank had carried out a number of projects that used business process management software from Metastorm to help increase efficiency in the business.

As a result, the bank has achieved a significant reduction in workload and cut response times in the report approvals and credit control departments, as well as streamlined the employee appraisal process.

Sumitomo’s Metastorm systems operates on a Windows platform and uses a SQL server backend.

"When I joined the bank in 2006, the company was very dependent on paper. My goal was to improve communication and reduce use of paper," said Moreno.

Before the implementation of software for the SMBCE report approval process, staff would print off hard copies of documents, which would be collected and delivered to the approver's desk for stamping. These documents could sit on the desk for around a day before the next stage, which was the move of the documents to archive departments.

Moreno said that this process was subject to a lot of delays. Documents were also submitted in basic formats, mainly fax, which involved employees having to wait by machines to remove the paper and chase up approvals. The archive was also getting larger, which meant that employees were spending even more time managing the documents.

The bank therefore built a system using Metastorm that would improve this document approval process and also be able to handle over 70 types of documents.

"Changing the process was a huge challenge because nobody wanted to change," said Moreno. "We had a huge pressure to develop something quickly and with little resources, so we needed something very, very simple.
"We found inspiration in Google. Google is incredibly simple and very powerful. So we basically needed our own Google to assimilate the documents in the bank," said Moreno.

Sumitomo therefore developed a "very simple" digital form, which allows the user to selct the type of document to be attached, to attach the document, input any comments and then click 'submit'. The system then sends an email to the approvals desk alerting them to the document.

Moreno said the system has allowed the bank to reap a range of benefits.

"We reduced the workload by 70 percent, while maintaining volume. We don't need testing because the code doesn't change. It is always the same code, for whatever document and we don't need training", said Moreno.

He added: "The response time [from submission of document to approval] went down from one week to four hours."

Moreno said that it took one week to design the system, one week to implement it, one week to test and the week after it was live. After the initial roll-out of the system in Europe, "we extended the process to Africa and Asia by the next month," he said.

However, Moreno admitted that such a speedy implementation was not without its problems.

After six months of the system being in use, an increasing number of documents were being submitted via the system, which resulted in senior managers approving the reports receiving an increasing number of emails every day.

“We solved that very quickly by developing a new model to group emails into one email in the morning, to help balance the workload,” said Moreno.

A second process implemented by the bank was for the credit control department, which analyses information about customers and their credit limits.

Prior to the process implementation, the staff in this department would spend two to three hours every day simply collecting the information about customers and then sending an email. They would then wait another hour to receive an email that would allow them to generate reports.

Moreno therefore developed a system to improve the efficiency of this process.

“Every day, users receive a report [that lists the details about customers in one line], they put the comments on the end, and when it’s done, they approve and it’s done. Once the user clicks ‘approve’ the system checks if any other information is needed from someone else.”

As a result of this new process, Moreno said that workload was reduced by 60 percent and response time, between when credit control launched the emails and when it received the reports, went down from two weeks to three hours.

He added: “After we went live with this process, the manager of the team reorganised the people in the team and made it much more efficient.”

A final process Sumitomo implemented was in the HR department, which Moreno said was not a ‘normal’ business process management (BPM) project.

Moreno went about creating a bespoke appraisal system according to how the bank’s HR department used the process. This replaced a software specialised for appraisals that the bank was using, which Moreno described as “not very user friendly” and “very expensive” due to maintenance, licence and reporting costs.

As with other redesigned processes, the new HR system was very simple. Sumitomo developed an online form with a list of long-form questions. When the employee fills in the form and clicks finish, it then goes to the manager, who then arranges an appraisal meeting.

“We gave full control to HR and saved a lot of money,” Moreno said, refusing to be drawn further on the amount of cost-savings.

The European arm of Sumitomo has completed 28 BPM projects over the last seven years, and the bank has around 44 projects across the rest of the group around the world.