Michele Kidane Mariam is an Intelligent Automation Engineer at BNL in Rome. Here, he tells us...
The banking jobs : Agile & Lean Transformation Agent
Alice joined BNL Group in 2012. She first worked in customer satisfaction team and like Lean & Process Change Agent before becoming an Agile and Lean Transformation Agent. In 2016, she embarked on a new mission to support teams, across the whole group, with the bank’s digital transformation and new practices. Everyday, she helps them navigate change and create valuable products and services. She tells us more about her job, in which she finds a real sense of purpose.
In a nutshell, what does it mean to be an Agile & Lean Transformation Agent?
Basically, my role is to design tools and frameworks that allow internal teams to develop, from concept to delivery, better products and services for their customers. My team and I work across all business units and departments within the BNL Group. Generally speaking, our goal is to try to get teams to adopt a customer-centric and test-and-learn approach.
What exactly is Agile? Why is it crucial for developing a product or service?
Agile is known to be a methodology, but for me it is more than that. I see it as a mindset, a set of principles that guide you through the choices you make. At BNL, we promote this way of thinking internally as we believe it has many benefits, especially when it comes to developing new products and services for customers. One of its advantages is that it incorporates continuous integration and daily testing into the development phase, allowing the development team to address issues while they are still fresh. Also, it is incremental, which means you move one step at a time, thus, reducing the risks of error as you progress. In addition, what makes Agile so great is that it brings all stakeholders, including the customer, into one room. This proves to be incredibly efficient in terms of transparency, collaboration and decision-making.
Photo : Alice Tancorre
Do you use other methodologies apart from Agile?
Yes, we also rely on design thinking, which is a common methodology used by designers to solve problems and find desirable solutions for customers. It draws upon imagination, logic and intuition to explore possibilities and create outcomes that will benefit the end user. What I like about it it’s that it really puts the customer at the heart of the process. They are involved, together with the other stakeholders, in all the workshops, focus groups and brainstorming sessions.
It’s great because it really ensures we take into account and respond to all of their needs, at each step of the project. Also, just like Agile, the process is interactive and it allows us to go back if, for example, we feel like we need to return to the prototyping phase after we’ve done some testing. To put it simply, this is how design thinking works: you generate ideas, you prototype them, you show these prototypes to customers, you gather customers’ feedback and, if needed, you go back to the idea generation or prototyping phase. And you do this until you’ve found the perfect solution!
It draws upon imagination, logic and intuition to explore possibilities and create outcomes that will benefit the end user
Could you explain how your team collaborates with other business units?
Just a quick recap of how it all started... At the end of 2016, the BNL Group introduced a new way of working, based on Lean and Agile practices and methodologies. The aim was to respond to new digital transformation challenges and, by doing so, reach the group’s 2020 business targets. This new way of working involved a greater collaboration between the IT department (which includes our team) and the business units; to encourage cross-sharing and, more generally, promote technological solutions, innovation and customer-centricity. On the operational side, Digital Labs, which are stable, cross-functional and autonomous ecosystems, were set up to work on the delivery of digital transformation projects. Each Digital Lab is specialised in one type of customer-journey and, within its area of expertise, it is responsible for developing products or services for end-users (either customers or employees). And this is when we come in! Our Agile and Lean Transformation team basically joins these Digital Labs to help them successfully deliver their solutions. For example, we recently joined a Lab to help the team develop a new portal for corporate clients, designed to assist them in their day-to-day tasks and allow them to do everything in one place; like check their accounts or pay their employees.
Your unit is part of the IT department but this is about to change… Could you tell us more about the upcoming restructuring?
In the next few weeks, our team will join the Chief Transformation Officer teams. This restructuring aims at providing support to the bank’s general management. More precisely, our goal will be to help the different departments in defining strategies and implementing initiatives that will lead to BNL’s global digital transformation. Another objective, specific to the office I will be joining, is to disseminate a business culture, based on agility and customer-centricity, within all of BNL’s divisions. To do this, we will widely promote the adoption of collaborative methodologies, such as Agile and design thinking, but also encourage supportive leadership and the creation of value.
we will widely promote the adoption of collaborative methodologies, such as Agile and design thinking
A story that illustrates what you like most about your job…
One of my favorite anecdotes is about a project that happened last spring. My team and I were involved in the development of a new loan servicing process aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. To design this solution my team and I organized a workshop with all the stakeholders, from top management to operations, and together we analyzed the customers’ pain points and needs. And what we did was simply incredible... We accomplished in just one day what we would normally have done in 3 months! By facilitating communication and decision-making, we managed to create, in just a couple of hours, a whole new process for our customers, which was ready to implement. As you can imagine, we all felt pretty satisfied after this workshop!
The best piece of advice you ever received?
One of my managers told me that passion and curiosity are the most precious qualities you need in this job. I would say that, the ability to listen and to be empathetic are also key.
One of my managers told me one day that passion and curiosity are the most precious qualities you need in this job. I realised he was right. To succeed as an Agile and Lean Transformation Agent, you need to have a deep interest in customer service, strongly believe in the methodologies and tools you design, and always be on the lookout for ways of improving them. Also, if you ask me; I would say that, the ability to listen and to be empathetic are also key. Indeed, change can be difficult thing to accept for people involved, so you really need to pay attention to their concerns, try and step into their shoes, and see how you can help. At the end of the day, the biggest reward is when you see that you have made a difference for the teams you work with and the customers!
How would you explain your job to a 5-year-old?
Imagine you drew a lion. But you don’t like it, so you decide to draw another animal instead. But starting a new drawing from scratch can be hard, right? Well, people at work sometimes have to do the same thing. They have to change the way they do things, especially when they want to improve products or services for their clients. But, just like you, it is not easy for them to change and start something else from the very beginning. So I help them not to be afraid of change and stay positive. I don’t give them answers, I simply listen to them, try to understand their problems and, give them tools and ideas so they can find their own solutions themselves.
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