Bullish Bets on Customer Interfaces from IDFC AMC

By : |May 20, 2014 0

MUMBAI: Empires have never been built so much when swords hang on crowns but rather, they have always flourished under the far-poised eyesight of special kings. Like the emperor who planned to conquer more lands when he could have easily swayed on a hammock and enjoyed his wine (or whatever emperors drank in those days).

It has always been about investing in something that others are oblivious to. It’s a war that is layered with small battles one upon other. As to battles, winning them is as much about big elephants as it is about small pawns. This is where aspects like timing, area of movement, arrow-lines, sunsets, number of horses and such many seemingly small factors can bring you closer or farther vis a vis victory in no time.

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People like Madhusudan Warrier who is Senior Vice President, IDFC AMC Limited seem to understand these words with the same agility and gravity as any king of yore would have. Time creeps, scope spill-overs, sticking to goals, wiping out assumptions still make the meat of many project battles. You can’t win a territory by sitting aloft a chariot and that’s why Warrier soiled his cudgels and took a hands-on control of this ambitious march.

New flagposts

The reason that corralled his team towards implementation of a Mutual Fund website and Online transaction portal was not so hard to fathom. It meant an invincible competitive palisade for IDFC AMC Limited. This meant munitions of a business need for an additional sales channel, extended customer preferences, and the relentless emphasis for staying one step ahead of competition.

Spurred by a business bugle, a process of revamping entire IDFC website and to make it more operational and user-friendly was initiated. This would mean a revamp of the MFOnline transaction features in order to provide better accessibility to their investors and at the same time a complete overhaul of the existing design, features and functions available in the existing form (i.e. prior to 2012-13).

The fort to be attacked was quite huge. It not only entailed a website that supports content management and content updation through interaction with the database but also took in its scope other terrains. These ranged from hard turrets like building and maintaining an online platform MFOnline, to soft gates like ensuring that the look and feel of contents, functionalities and features on Website and MFOnline are user-friendly and giving a fresh experience to customer.

 Routes  Destinations 
 Website Revamp  User-delight 
 Online Transcation enablement  Stronger investor access
 Overhaul of applications for errors and availability Fresh customer experience and robust uptime

The project had simultaneously to take into stride managing and fixing of all errors, which are not in conformity to the signed-off SRS, and breakdown to the application during testing and post deployment in live. As to the IT offensive, there was also the issue of supporting the hosting solutions provider in hosting Website and MFOnline portal and including necessary training required to administer the site / generate reports. 

In short, Warrier and his team had to stay hawk-eyed when it came to delivering the source code; triggering email alerts to investors wherever it is identified to send email communication and ensuring proper integration between websites, web services, third party components/services availability. Not to forget the part of connectivity between website applications and web services/third party components and services.

This translated alongside into sharp-sizing of hardware infrastructure required for using the software delivered by this project and ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the associated systems like CAMS TA System database as well as databases of other third-party service providers like CRISIL, etc.

 

War Room Chatter

Like any crucial battle, what could define or ruin the anticipated conquest was the infantry of small oversights and slips that could cost precious blood.

Discipline was indispensable and not to be compromised with at all. Project plans were reviewed every fortnight. Necessary milestones with achievements were maintained. What ensued was a detailed calendar for milestone that was adhered to with rigor and constant review. From concept approval that entailed feasibility studies and basic system concepts to be approved by Business Operations and marketing through requirement and design reviews to test readiness and operational stages, every date was subject to strict adherence and strokes.

As the battalions moved forward, technical infrastructure requirements were understood and minutely planned for. Functional and technical specification documents were shared by vendors. IDFC business teams were part of the camping interludes as they prepared a project report on the existing features available and the changes required.

As Warrier reveals, “There was a mutually acceptable commitment between a project sponsor and a project team. A senior business resource who is aware of the operations process was named as the eventual owner of the product of the project. The project team (two senior resources from IT, one senior resource each from Operations and Marketing) created were knowledgeable and qualified group able and willing to undertake the work of the project.  The project scope, quality grade, time-to-produce and cost-to-complete were all mutually consistent.”

What made the tough terrain well-asphalted was the use of process principles. “Effective and efficient policies and procedures were in place for the conduct of the project commitment. A proper UAT environment was created and business teams conducted that before any release was done to production. Professional testers from reputed testing agencies were involved in the testing of the entire deliverables. The roles, responsibilities, maintenance of quality, schedule and costs were reviewed periodically with the Chief Operating Officer every fortnight. Project milestones were agreed and deliverables were measured against the expectations and agreed sign off on the scope.” Warrier elaborates.

Troops Ahoy!

Stringent quality measure became a weapon to reckon with as the battalion proceeded towards its goal. Professional testers from a reputed testing agency were assigned the task of reporting quality. Test cases prepared by this agency were reviewed by business and technology teams.

As the strategic contours started falling into place, care was taken that necessary changes were done by IDFC MF teams and the quality and testing process was agreed upon. Proper templates were designed and the reporting mechanism was agreed. “A comprehensive list of used cases, test data and calculations were maintained in Excel. The tests performed were documented and shared for review with business and technology teams at IDFC MF. After review the relevant observations were sent across to the respective vendors for rectification. Post movement to production environment all functionalities were retested and only then released for general access.”

Horses for Courses

The IT enclave was not without its share of challenges and guerilla attacks. IDFC Project teams’ expectations on the deliverables versus the vendors’ part of understanding was a tough and bare-bones bridge that had to be crossed with care. There were times when concepts were misinterpreted by vendors. On such occasions IDFC business and technology teams did those one-to-one knowledge transfer sessions on the concept and processes.

As to some other technology challenges his army had to confront, integration and sharing of connectors with multiple vendors were major ones. These moats were overcome by ensuring that right communication channels were enforced to ensure timely deliveries.

When SEBI circular dated September 13, 2012 came on unique identity numbers to be created and captured for all mutual fund transactions, this called for many required changes to be done in the online platform to comply with regulator. This was taken up in parallel with other phase II deliverables. 

The project saw its time in the sun and what made a new business bailiwick strong and worth all the trouble was a great lesson into some tiny, invisible yet fierce project management ammunition. The team basked in the new level of customer engagement and interface as envisioned. This became a victory for more ambitions ahead.

For Warrier and his IT soldiers the experience was akin to living a golden adage – wars are fought on battlefields but they are won on paper by strategic brains.

 

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