Nigeria’s first major financial institution is today, in its second century of operations, one of the nation’s biggest and most prosperous financial services groups. One of this historic institution’s stated aims is to build on its history and
reputation by streamlining using new-age processes, technology and mindset. First Bank Nigeria’s IT team opted to use Microsoft SharePoint to automate its account opening processes – with results that exceeded even their most optimistic projections.
One of First Bank Nigeria’s pillars of operation is service excellence. In 2007, the bank was rated as a Superbrand in Nigeria, by the Superbrand Nigeria Council, and in 2012, BrandFinance Banking League tables rated the organization as one of the top 500
most valuable banking brands worldwide.
The bank’s website states that as it revolutionizes its operations and dynamics with new products and services, at the heart of the organization is the understanding that customer service delivery and trust are the ultimate way to stay ‘truly the first’.
In line with this, Onyebuchi Akosa, Head of Workflow Automation and Business Integration at First Bank Nigeria, explains that his team’s approach is to consider what the bank really wants to achieve and then build strategy to solve the related business problems.
One of the challenges that the bank faced was that of processing applications for new bank accounts. They were able to open less than 2 000 accounts a day, and felt that if they could speed up the applications and process more accounts, their most valuable
asset – their customers – could be maximized.
“We had a manual form for customers to fill out, and our people then had to input the information into our systems,” says Akosa. “The process was slow and we couldn’t pick up volumes. People would apply at the branches and it took a long time to process
Although the bank used some document sharing, without a widespread strategy underpinning it and without workflow automation, this wasn’t revolutionizing the way that they did business. “We were using a 2007 version of SharePoint, but our user adoption level
wasn’t high,” says Akosa. “Instead of just using it as a document library, we wanted to do enterprise collaboration and business process automation.”
||“While the initial intention was just to automate our processes, it has now enhanced our entire business in terms of speed and agility.”
| Onyebuchi Akosa
Head of Workflow Automation and Business Integration
First Bank of Nigeria
As an existing Microsoft customer, First Bank Nigeria approached the software corporation to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 – wanting to automate the applications process, realize other potential benefits, and bring the staff on board by selling the solution
internally. “We wanted to take the current version to the next level,” says Akosa.
The First Bank Nigeria team, with Premier support from Microsoft, brought more than 500 people onto the system and automated their workflow processes – primary among these being the account application process. This was automated in such a way that applicants
could access and fill out the necessary document directly on the bank’s server, cutting out the tedious manual processes.
“It was a collaborative process with Microsoft and we had very good support from them to ensure that whatever internal implementation we were doing went ahead as part of SharePoint,” says Akosa. They also implemented My Site, allowing different departments
and users to put personal information onto the server, along with news headlines, banner advertising and other information to be shared internally.
“We appointed an Internal Communications unit to be responsible for ensuring all information is in the right place,” says Akosa. “Now there is no need to send large attachments that congest our email system. The Communications team put all the policies in
Akosa and his team also understood that in order to realize the benefits of the system, they needed to achieve user buy-in. So they engaged with all the different departments in the organization, to make sure that they were providing a solution that answered
to everybody’s needs.
“We needed to be sure that it was what everyone wanted. We had to sell not just the technology, but get the business and operations keen an interested in what the portal would give them. Different aspects of the business wanted different things, which we
created an application for, so each department had what it needed,” he says.
The SharePoint implementation has changed the way that First Bank Nigeria does business. “It was a paradigm shift for us,” says Akosa. “We had had no automated workflow as a part of our business – all our handling was paper based. With SharePoint, our departments
and units have libraries where they can put their documents and search for information. Access is much easier with documents stored in a document library, and continuity is easier. Our people can access the information that they need and use it as quickly
Once First Bank Nigeria had its documents and processes automated, they went to work on their people, to ensure uptake. With management’s mandate, they identified web champions to be trained as trainers. “We taught them what SharePoint could do, and they
showed everyone else how it could help them in their work, and it spread like wildfire,” says Akosa.
But the most significant measure of the value that SharePoint has driven at the organization is the realization of the initial goal that started it all – for the last year and a half, since the implementation was completed, First Bank Nigeria has been processing
8 000 new account applications every day, with a turnaround of less than 48 hours per application. Customers are happy and business is booming.
The income generated by this spike in new business has reached millions of dollars. “The return on investment is more than we bargained for,” says Akosa. “The portal is used for information dissemination. Every single department uses it for information management
and stores their documents on it. They use My Site and SharePoint Workflow. While the initial intention was just to automate our processes, it has now enhanced our entire business in terms of speed and agility.”
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