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Issue of December 2005 

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Managing changes

Ravikiran Mankikar, Deputy GM, Shamrao Vithal Co-operative Bank, shares some practical tips on implementing quick, painless and successful change management

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
Niccolo Machiavelli

The key to implementing or introducing a new technology or process is to convince people that it will make their work easier. Show them the benefits brought about by the change and they automatically become open to the idea. Their mindset begins to change and ultimately shifts to acceptance.

Change is in the mind. Never change out of fear, but never fear to change.

The Mindset Of A Co-Operative Bank

In the co-operative banking sector, IT usage is usually on the lower side. Therefore, introducing change in IT is a major challenge.

Until recently, there were people who were not comfortable using a mouse, so moving from DOS to Windows was a painful process.

Implementing the in-house core banking solution was done in phases. It had to be started with one branch and slowly expanded to other branches. People were given time to adjust and learn. They had to understand the advantages of the system in order to appreciate and accept it.

It took four months to cover all our 46 branches in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. But eventually the strategy paid off. Once feedback started coming from branches that had implemented the core banking solution, the remaining branches began to demand that it be implemented for them as well.

In-House Software

The main challenge faced by any CIO is to align technology with business needs. Our bank took the decision to develop software in-house to reduce dependence on vendors for servicing and business needs.

Initially there was a lot of scepticism. It was felt that software development was for IT pundits and bankers should stick to their core competency. But early on we realised what IT professionals really do—they come to you, understand your business, develop an IT solution, and sell you the same thing. But the same software can be made in a better way by a banker having IT competency because in-house teams know the pitfalls and areas that need improvement.

That’s why a team from the bank itself was groomed and sent for training. The finished product was a software designed by the bank itself. The team knew what was required and how to put it in place. When the core solution was being implemented, sceptics within the organisation had to appreciate that the job was indeed well done. Currently, the in-house banking solution is deployed at all 46 branches and has evolved to the extent that virtually everything required for banking is covered in it.

Today, other co-operative banks approach us for guidance on implementing core banking solutions in their banks. They are more comfortable talking to us because we talk to them as bankers and not as software vendors. We understand their needs and difficulties in implementation because we have already gone through the same.

Be Proactive

Proactive change management works wonders in attracting and retaining customers. After all,only a happy customer is a committed one

Proactive change management works wonders in attracting and retaining customers. After all, only a happy customer is a committed one.

We encourage people to come forward with suggestions to improve banking services. A committee has been set up to review suggestions, and evaluate and discuss merits, costs and impacts. Any practical suggestions are forwarded to the IT department for further development.

A simple but successful innovation was introduced in fee collection activities for schools. Many banks have extension counters in schools, but they focus only on banking activities. Going a step further we offered to manage the entire fee collection module of the school. The school was free from the entire fee collection process and obtained other direct benefits including reconciliation. The bank had a happy customer without offering anything new or something that was not a part of its core competency.

Initially, when ATM facilities were introduced, customers resisted the concept, so some ATM cards were made and issued to the counter clerk. A customer wanting to withdraw his money was given the card. He then went to the ATM and got his money. This reduced work pressure on the counter clerk and cashier. At the same time, the customer got his money faster and did not have to wait in a queue.

Even without taking ATM cards themselves, customers were getting ATM facilities. It introduced them to the benefits of ATM, encouraged them to use it, familiarised them with the process, and changed their mindsets about ATM facilities.

In co-operative banks, if people wanted to shift the account to another branch, the entire set of documents had to travel from one branch to the other. A new account was opened there only after the documents arrived. We developed an account opening and closing system to make the process instantaneous.

Another example. The trader community used to crowd the bank during clearing hours to know the status of their cheques, so a small utility was developed for them. All they had to do was dial up a number from anywhere and they received the latest information about the cheques that had arrived for clearing. They had a choice to get the information either via e-mail or as voice input. This facility was in addition to the regular balance inquiry and account statement.

Banking On Change

Banks need to change because they need to be competitive and give service to the customers faster, on demand, and at competitive prices. Taking cognisance of their needs and anticipating them lead to customer satisfaction.

Giving satisfactory service is definitely appreciated and translates into customer loyalty. A bank must have a process in place for fast decision-making if it has to survive and retain the edge despite the cut-throat competition of today. Whether it is a process for loan disbursement or anything else, a quick decision and quicker implementation of it helps provide customers with services at the right place and the right time, 24x7.

Joint Effort

CIOs must convince the management that change is essential. Most managements lay down business goals and tell the IT department how to achieve them in a given time frame.

Successful change management is a joint effort, possible only because of the management’s commitment towards it. CIOs have to be receptive to change as technology keeps on changing. They have their own limitations about budgets and industry constraints, hence they cannot keep changing or updating equipment and software every time something different comes along. Changes must be made judiciously and must last for at least three years.

Second, it is crucial for CIOs to keep pace with change. Changes are triggered by the market, industry, business compulsions and bold management initiatives. Ultimately, the customer matters. If the customer is not happy then the company loses business. Only a happy customer is a committed customer.

Finally, a CIO must focus on the company’s core strength. He must put himself in the user’s shoes and experience things from the user’s perspective. He should consider different users from clerks to officers to managers. Taking their various needs into account, the software should be designed accordingly.

— As told to Kumar Dawada

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