Leading the pack

How professional services firm KPMG has developed a unique technology that helps banks manage their business processes

KPMG, is carving out a reputation in technology-based solutions for its clients. "We've moved into a very different space to your traditional professional services firms," says Natalie Semmes, partner in charge of technology for KPMG's Customer Relationship Centre. Natalie and her team at KPMG have been developing an exciting new system known as BPM-O (which stands for Business Process Management Optimizer) to help accelerate the delivery of BPM to businesses.

The genesis of BPM-O

In 2011, KPMG's retail banking clients were coming under heavy regulatory scrutiny from the Financial Services Authority (now known in this capacity as the Financial Conduct Authority) and were facing huge pressure to redress their customers for the misselling of payment protection insurance. Regulators were keen to see banks develop a more transparent decision-making process and quicker results for customers. Meanwhile, banks were looking for ways to achieve this in a controlled, repeatable and scalable way. They also needed to find a more efficient way of responding to the regulator's requirements. In response, KPMG set up the KPMG Customer Relationship Centre (K-CRC) which helps banks manage any customer related business processes - this is turn led to the exciting development of KPMG's BPM-O technology.

The benefits of BPM-O

As the name suggests, BPM-O works on top of traditional IBM BPM software and it's the key technology KPMG offers to help banks ride the wave of regulatory change. "We came up with a technology solution that would satisfy the regulator and provide faster outcomes for the bank's customers," says Natalie. "BPM-O accelerates speed to market while keeping the process highly secure, efficient, scalable and transparent."

BPM-O makes it faster to automate a new business process than with traditional BPM software. "The traditional BPM model can take anywhere between 12 and 18 weeks to be implemented," says Natalie. "BPM-O takes three to six weeks." BPM-O is also much more flexible than traditional BPM software because it allows new processes to be automated directly by business analysts, removing the need for developers to build the core process. Says Natalie: "For example, during the course of a workshop a business analyst built a new process right before a client's eyes." A business process can now be easily altered during run-time, which gives the business the flexibility to adapt the process for changing requirements and implement process enhancements quickly.

In addition, BPM-O is available on demand as software as a service, which means that a bank using the software doesn't need to invest in complex and expensive infrastructure in order to run it. A bank can have a new process up and running in production in as little as one week. BPM-O also has a clear audit trail and quality control framework that makes BPM-O processes incredibly transparent and easier to audit - something that's extremely important to banks, which need to satisfy regulators that they're working efficiently.

The future of BPM-O

BPM-O is so innovative that the firm is now making moves to patent the technology and roll it out in other areas of business and finance besides banking. "We're constantly innovating," says Natalie. "We've got a road map for the next three years of how we're going to continue to evolve our technology platforms to really stay at the forefront. Our solution is unique in the marketplace right now, and we need to innovate to maintain our market lead. What we have developed is ubiquitous - we can apply this technology to any sector, any process and any geography."

What's it like working as a technology graduate at KPMG?

Jason Bell graduated with a degree in computer science. He's one of ten graduates currently involved in the BPM-O project.

Within the first couple of weeks of joining KPMG, I was doing a lot of SQL database work to try to identify and improve a number of data related scenarios. Later on, I was also given the opportunity to work with project architects, taking client requirements and turning them into technical system functionality designs. I had a lot of opportunity early on to shape the direction of my career, which was very important to me.

My role in the BPM-O project means I get to think about the big picture: how much a solution costs, whether we need to buy new servers, or invest in new networking or firewalls. I'll also think about what language we're going to build the solution out of and often get the option to do some coding. At other times, using my technical background, I'll write up process flows and designs that our developers can follow. Quite recently, I've taken ownership of a lot of our data modelling and that's involved a lot of work with a client, both remotely and face-to-face. At the moment I've been primarily London-based, but within KPMG there are lots of opportunities to travel abroad.

One of the things I enjoy most about my role and all graduate training programmes at KPMG is that right from the start you get to meet your clients and feel as if you're really making a difference. For example, I'll go and see a client, help them work through their problem, and produce a technical solution, which in turn I'll then see implemented. All KPMG's Technology graduate schemes offer this kind client exposure, project work and on-the-job training as well as professional qualification training.

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