In his presentation at the SCHUMANN Conference 2021, Florian Zeilerbauer, Head of Credit Risk Management & Collection at UTA (Union Tank Eckstein GmbH), discussed the challenges and lessons learned during the digitization project he has led and is still leading at UTA, which he sees not so much in the technical execution rather than in the non-technical aspects: the motivation and engagement of the employees and a thoughtful resource management.
Achievements with the help of SCHUMANN's credit risk software CAM
The introduction of CAM Financial Services, the credit risk management solution provided by SCHUMANN, has led to the following achievements:
- The data of 100k customers are kept in CAM
- 4,5M accounting information have been transferred so far
- An automated limit management 24/7 has been put in place
- Process design is managed via BPMN/DMN tables only
- Company identification and duplicate check is highly automated
- Main relevant Credit Services for Sales are integrated in Sales Force
Biggest challenges within IT projects are not technical
To achieve these goals and improvements of processes and decision making, a rocky road had to be gone in the credit risk and IT department of UTA. Mentioning those departments implicates the first challenge during the project: IT people and other departments usually speak a different language. This can lead to misinterpretations, misunderstanding or even loss of information. Also, the wording between the provider and the company’s departments is sometimes different, which leads to the same problems.
Another challenge when leading digitization projects is how to ensure that the existing know-how is used for the project without falling back into old, outdated habits or methods. According to Florian Zeilerbauer, this can be achieved by, among other things, building the so-called “Chinese wall” between the project team and the operational team to avoid that old process structures and routines are influencing too much. This, of course, is not intended to stop the operational team from raising new ideas and recommendations frequently.
Project leads should never ignore the workload of the operational tasks "besides" the project
A critical aspect in digitization projects is resource management. Florian Zeilerbauer advises not to put projects of this size on top of the operational work. “You should not expect from a team or a person to follow you motivated without explaining them how the company will take care of the operational tasks”, he says. By the end of the day, people might unconsciously work against the delivery of their tasks because they might feel the need to prove that it was impossible to deliver on top of the operational work.
Zeilerbauer also mentions the “home office impact”. To his opinion, it is important to have one-to-one-meetings frequently. It enables to perceive the nonverbal part of the communication, which is still the main part of communication. Furthermore, people feel more comfortable with raising challenging questions in a personal conversation, and they also feel more appreciated when their manager spends personal time with them.
Most significant challenge: Leaving the comfort zone
The last but perhaps one of the biggest challenges Florian Zeilerbauer mentions is the user acceptance. During and after digitization projects, users need to change their behaviour, their routines; they have to leave their comfort zone. To ensure that the project is successful, it is important to support all users in the best possible way. Situational leadership is needed in this case. Also be prepared for not rational or emotional resistance for no reason, for cultural differences etc.
Complex data structure and sources
Although not the main challenge, the technical side had its obstacles as well. The automation of master data verification happened to be very complex. UTA is working with different credit rating agencies in different countries. Every agency has its own format which made adjusting the matching rules very complex and time consuming.
Key recommendations for successfully introducing a credit risk software
- Master data cleansing should happen before the Go Live, independently of time pressure. Clean master data are key to success.
- Customizing should not or hardly be done before the Go Live as the real world is hard to anticipate. It is easier, smoother und more efficient to adjust details after the Go Live, according to the individual needs.
- As the main challenges are not to be found on the technical side, the project lead, or management level need the time to focus on the non-technical, often internal challenges. To do so, it is important to choose the right provider; a provider, whose advice can be followed in good conscience as they have proven experience. Their performance and technology are state of the art.
Florian Zeilerbauer has more than 20 years’ working experience in different leading positions regarding Credit, Collection, Accounting & Treasury for consumer goods (electronics & toys), Financial Services (Leasing, AccRec & BtB E-Marketplace Services/Outsourcing), Semi-Conductor & Mobility within Europa, Russia, Near East & Africa.
UTA (Union Tank Eckstein) is a specialist for fleet and mobility solutions. They offer fuel cards, toll and parking services as well as tax and vehicle services. UTA belongs to Edenred, which is the world leader in transactional solutions for companies, employees and merchants.