Business Process Transformation in Commercial Lending

October 18, 2018 |

Fulton Financial Corporation, a financial services company headquartered in Lancaster, PA, decided to invest in their commercial lending line of business and eliminate manual processes, streamline interdepartmental communication, and give lenders more time to do what they do best — engage with prospects and customers and solve business issues. The entire commercial loan origination process, a source of frustration for Fulton’s lenders, was to be transformed into an end-to-end enterprise solution with goals to

  • Improve customer experience
  • Improve employee experience
  • Reinforce effective risk and controls
  • Increase operating efficiency

The challenge? Getting a diverse group of stakeholders, with their own priorities and pain points, to agree and compromise on an enterprise solution that would adhere to a realistic scope and timeline. Systems Flow stepped in with an answer.

Scope Definition and Project Planning

Our first step was to support Fulton executive leadership in initial scoping and project definition efforts. Diligent on-site discussions resulted in an approach that would maintain sufficient rigor and also work within time constraints mandated by the bank’s board of directors. The accelerated schedule needed to accomplish

  • facilitation of large stakeholder workshops to inform current and future-state processes and architecture
  • follow-on workshops to capture and refine business requirements
  • strong IT engagement in creation of detailed solution architecture and interface control documentation

The end goal was to give business users a voice in a technical solution that included a commercial off-the-shelf solution (COTS) and potential custom solutions to supplement out-of-the-box functionality.

With mutual agreement on an approved project approach, we began planning the stakeholder workshops.

Capturing the Current State

All-day, multi-week workshops provided numerous opportunities to walk through the current commercial loan origination process, learn about pain points, and build a mindset of cross-departmental cooperation – a crucial factor in the success of this enterprise solution. Systems Flow ensured the workshops ran smoothly day after day, from room setup and breakdown to effective conversation, time management, and decision-making. Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive – energizing the team to move on to future-state definition.

Envisioning a Future State

With the current-state process sufficiently documented with system context diagrams and activity diagrams, the team turned to designing the ideal future-state process. To understand the various desires and improvement needs, listening sessions were arranged with dozens of stakeholders spread across the commercial lending line of business.

Systems Flow was an integral partner in planning and scheduling, working closely with project leadership to tailor session cadence to expectations and obtain maximum project benefit. Whether a large on-site discussion or a small web-based teleconference, we ensured efficient use of everyone’s time and provided management with visibility into team resource capacity.

Weeks were spent documenting desired business process improvements, resulting in a comprehensive Future-State End-to-End Process, that included future-state system context diagrams, activity diagrams, and process narratives. The resulting process document contained the overarching vision for the project’s end-state and informed the business requirements gathering process.

Defining Business Requirements

Thanks to current- and future-state process definition efforts, we began the crucial business requirements phase with a clear understanding of the current process and its improvement goals. Over several months of on-site, day-long workshops, we crafted use cases and gathered business requirements from stakeholders of all major functional areas of the commercial loan origination process. Requirements were drafted and refined through several working sessions until five comprehensive Business Requirements Documents (BRDs) were ready for final review and approval. These BRDs included

  • Master BRD for overarching, cross-process requirements
  • Lending Processes BRD for commercial loan origination, modification, and renewal requirements
  • Portfolio Management BRD for requirements related to ongoing loan account monitoring
  • Generate Documents BRD to cover standard loan document, letter, and form generation requirements
  • Reporting and Data Analysis BRD to cover requirements related to transactional reporting and data analysis

Supplementary artifacts to the BRDs included

  • Data Matrix of data elements as identified by business users throughout the requirements gathering process; these data elements were intended to serve as data requirements for the chosen solution
  • Task Matrix of various auto-generated task reminders required by business users to complete necessary activities and satisfy compliance and policy mandates
  • Notification Matrix of auto-generated alerts needed by business users for task and loan origination lifecycle monitoring
  • Document Mapping templates for standard loan documents generated by the solution based on data elements within the solution

With this comprehensive set of documents, business leaders confidently moved into the vendor selection phase able to determine if a commercial offering aligned with their 1800+ business requirements. In addition, business and technical leads had a better understanding of the technology market’s “out-of-the-box” functionality and where customization or alternative processes might be needed to meet their business requirements. With this crucial understanding of business need, project management chose a commercial lending solution and proceeded to the next phase of the project: Design and Implementation.

Designing a Technical Solution

Having been involved in this commercial loan origination project since its earliest stage, Systems Flow was well-positioned to bridge the gap between the business and its implementation partner, ensuring technical reality aligned with business need. This technology-business alignment included integration specifications for 13 business systems that had to work with the commercial lending solution. These systems ranged from externally-hosted industry-standard services to locally-hosted enterprise software solutions. To identify all integration points and processes, we researched APIs and coordinated with system administrators, contract owners, external software vendors, and technical personnel. The resulting interface control documents included

  • detailed technical requirements
  • logical diagrams and physical diagrams of technology components and communication methods in the interfaces
  • data context diagrams and data models to illustrate data structures and data flows
  • activity diagrams to describe technical processing steps initiated by interface operations
  • notional data mapping based on business-identified data elements and data elements exposed by interfacing system APIs

To further assist in the integration analysis, we provided options analyses to business and technical stakeholders, to inform their decisions on final system integrations. For example,

  • Engage a development partner to create a custom interface with an existing legacy system? Or utilize the new commercial platform’s integration with a different third party application?
  • Pass system communication through a single enterprise service bus or integration platform as a service (iPaas)? Or develop point-to-point integrations?

Analysis of each alternative was based on the solid technical expertise of our solution architects coupled with a deep understanding of the business requirements. With our facilitation of options analysis discussions, the Fulton team quickly came to consensus and allocated resources accordingly.

In parallel with the integration design, we partnered with Fulton’s IT stakeholders in development of a solution design. Using solution architecture best practices and multiple facets of Fulton’s IT governance guidelines, a technical design was created using system context, logical, physical, and data context diagrams. In addition, our design

  • identified technical and procedural risks to the solution, based on design decisions
  • quantified expected user and data volumes
  • described high-level disaster recovery requirements (Recovery Time Objective/Recovery Point Objective)
  • documented IT stakeholder support responsibilities
  • provided an overview of the solution’s scalability options
  • documented open issues and design decisions

The solution design was a critical deliverable meant to not only memorialize the design decisions for audit purposes, but also empower the Fulton team in their solution implementation.

Ensuring Successful Transformation

Our on-time delivery of high-quality artifacts, planning, and facilitation was crucial to presenting a clear understanding of Fulton’s business need and keeping the enterprise project on track, especially with its highly visible schedule constraints. Our approach to business analysis and solution architecture along with experienced workshop facilitation brought everyone together effectively and efficiently, resulting in mutual recognition, decision-making, and a clear path to implementing a successful enterprise loan processing solution.

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