Major South African banking group Absa previously used the Barclays Plc System called BRES (Barclays Regulatory Engagement System) to record and manage the organization’s engagements with its regulators globally. As a result of the 2018 separation between Absa and Barclays, there was a need for Absa to replace BRES with its own regulatory system that would be centrally managed in South Africa by the regulatory relations team, but used by all the banking group’s entities.
|Solutions being used||IsoMetrix Business Continuity Management|
|Go live date||24 October 2018|
|Number of employees||30 000|
IsoMetrix Business Continuity Management
Meeting challenges head-on
Jaun Harmse, Resilience Strategy and Engagement Head: Absa Group explains how choosing IsoMetrix for the Absa OneWorld Resilience initiative played a significant role in the bank winning the BCI Africa Continuity and Resilience Innovation Award.
Absa's Resilience Strategy and Engagement division is responsible for the analysis, design, implementation and validation of resilience controls, processes and strategies. The division’s focus is to ensure the business can anticipate, avoid, respond and recover from business disruptions. The mandate of the division spans people, premises, supplier, building and technology resilience. There are two teams within the Resilience Strategy and Engagement division: Crisis Management and Resilience Partners. These two teams form the primary point of engagement with business for all resilience-related work, including strategic, tactical and operational response to business disruptions.
Jaun was heavily involved in the design of a new resilience and recovery toolset. Effectively it bundles his collective risk management experience into a single toolset. The toolset is now the largest information system within the bank, based on information integration alone. It facilitates the entire Business Continuity Management lifecycle throughout the group, and integrates with the various Enterprise Resource Management systems within the bank to provide real-time views of resilience and recovery risks to the operation, tactical and strategic forums within the bank.
Achieving the “impossible”
Jaun explains that Absa needed to find the balance between an off-the-shelf solution that would not have the flexibility they required and a fully bespoke solution that take too long to implement. IsoMetrix stood out because the software is flexible and provided the necessary dashboards for reports. “More than that, the most important thing was the people,” he says.
Juan Hestresses that it was important for Absa to find a team they could partner with, “We are people’s people and trustworthy. People who you know you can rely on and partner with, are worth their weight in gold.”
“In the RFP (request for proposal) stage, we asked for a proof of concept, and IsoMetrix demonstrated to us that nothing was impossible,” says Jaun. “It was a challenging proof of concept and IsoMetrix was the only one that could do what we wanted. Everyone else said that it was impossible to do in such a short space of time.”
One of the project success factors was to win at the annual BCI Africa Awards in 2018. Right from the start Absa was willing to push the boundaries and do something that really stood out.
Juan explains that while the project met challenges as all projects do, the IsoMetrix team was always ready and willing to meet the challenges.
The IsoMetrix team did not just build new software to match an existing process and automate it, they created efficiencies within the business processes themselves. “We understand our processes and how we do things internally. During the scoping phase of the project, we drew lots of pictures and process flows. At every point where we said do things this way, the IsoMetrix team suggested potential efficiencies.”
Building efficiencies by automating reports
“Where it previously took me three months to do one front-to-back process in Excel, it now takes me four hours,” says Juan.
IsoMetrix is an integrated system that connects various data sources and overcomes the complexity and limited usability of Excel spreadsheets. “My Excel had a million lines of macro code," says Juan. "It consisted of 14 sheets that you must complete to generate a report. This spreadsheet took me six months to develop. It took the IsoMetrix team less than a day to recreate it.”
The efficiencies created by the IsoMetrix system have had a significant impact on time saved within the organization. “We have freed up two entire job roles from just compiling reports to be able to focus on bigger and better things, and work on innovating,” he says.
Going above and beyond
“I am convinced that this is the first of its kind in the world, and this is what won us the BCI Innovation award. With IsoMetrix, we have created a dynamic planning model,” says Jaun.
Where before, Juan could only create static plans to be reviewed once a year, the integration of the IsoMetrix Software allows him to create a plan for every team, and he is not limited to existing plans, he is able to simulate to a great degree, every potential negative impact to the business’s resilience and continuity and see within the software where any issues might occur.
Absa’s continuity strategy accounts for every employee on an individual basis. “By creating hypothetical scenarios. I have a plan for every team with specific parameters built in, but we’ve created a module called Functional Planning which allows us to create a scenario on the fly. This scenario could be likely or purely hypothetical. Previously if an incident occurred, I would have to pull out all of the existing plans and try to coordinate where various teams would go and what steps would be taken to ensure continuity.
The Functional Planning module can summarize for us, by recovery strategy, who goes where. This means that if staff need to move location, we know exactly who is going where, and are able to anticipate issues that may crop up within those logistics. It creates small efficiencies that most people do not see, but that make a distinct impact in our ability to manage unwanted events.”