“We want to get that it is more convenient to use a ready-made industrial solution, such as Digital2Go, across to the market”
Why do banks need a new digital platform, how a product that entered the top 5 of Markswebb’s rating was created in six months, whether BSS will make an Internet bank for the self-employed, and why the main focus is on solutions related to artificial intelligence — in a long interview with Georgy Kravchenko, Director general, BSS.
— Let’s start our conversation with a summary. What did BSS come to the finish of the 2018 with? Did you manage to do everything? Or did you manage more than planned?
— It so happened that BSS sums up not one year, but several years. We have achieved some success, which we can already demonstrate. Two years ago, we announced the start of work on the creation of a new platform, and in 2018 we presented it. It’s about Digital2Go.
— Can you give more details? Why did you need a new platform? Do your clients need it?
— Yes, we are striving for an ideal digital platform, and our previous one did not fully meet these requirements. In fact, there were no tools provided by "Open Platform". Those that were, did not allow quickly implementing convenient UX and digital services attractive to clients. The need for them for us and our clients is obvious.
We faced a difficult task. On the one hand, not to stop development, constantly provide our clients with new services and products. Maintain changes in regulatory acts of the Bank of Russia. On the other hand, to develop and bring to the market, in fact, a new "Open Platform" relatively quickly. It is guaranteed to withstand the load and meet the highest safety requirements. It also should easily, via a simple update, without client data migration and integration work, be implemented at current clients. It should provide banks with ample opportunities for modification, customization, rapid development and implementation of new services with a short Time2Market.
— And how did you do it?
— The solution laid in the introduction of flexible development methodologies and the creation of cross-functional teams. We had to significantly reorganize the structure of production, to change employee approaches to daily work, to upgrade the assembly line. But it was the right decision. Now I can say it with confidence.
Working in short two-week iterations in cross-functional teams gave a tremendous effect. In addition, each of the teams is able to solve any problem, from the database and integration to the design of the user interface. And this — taking into account inaccurate and rapidly changing requirements and a large number of research tasks.
Step by step, along with the current development of functionality, we have upgraded the platform. To get a guaranteed result, the project was planned so that each step was self-sufficient. For example, during the development of functionality we began to use exclusively SDK, after it was created. So, we made sure that using this toolkit you can implement any (of course, within reasonable) platform functionality.
Two years later, we got a new platform — Digital2Go. It is guaranteed to meet its goals. Otherwise it cannot be. The process was under complete control. We checked each stage and consistently implemented at our clients.
To prove the practical effectiveness of our platform and its compliance with all the stated capabilities, we developed a specialized solution for small business based on Digital2Go. The product received a high rating from Markswebb company, and it says a lot.
I note that a specialized solution is more than we wanted to do in 2018. We planned to test the effectiveness of the platform, and as a result, we quickly and efficiently implemented a successful solution for individual entrepreneurs.
— By the way about the rating. Has Business Internet Banking Rank 2018 shown that it is possible to create a highly competitive industrial solution in a short time and with small forces?
— The main idea of our platform is that BSS and banks can quickly create new solutions or services, for example, implement specialized solutions for different types of business. As an illustration, I’ll say that in six months we made a solution for small and medium-sized businesses with a team of up to 30 people. And despite the fact that we have never had any solution for small and medium-sized businesses! As you know, BSS is a leader in the large corporate business segment. We created solutions that are used by trained employees of the finance department of large companies, and not by small business owners who need a completely different set of opportunities. For such users, simplicity of working with Internet banking is much more important.
We made our solution from scratch. Made it in six months. And entered the top 5 by Markswebb. This is a great result!
Moreover, all companies that are in the ranking above us are, unlike us, engaged in developing of Internet bank for small businesses for much longer and more. There are more people in teams there, and they work on such products for longer. That is, in terms of effort, the difference is an order of magnitude, and the result is close. For us, without a doubt, this is a matter of joy and pride.
Now five banks are in the process of implementing our solution for small and medium businesses based on Digital2Go platform. And we will be able to sum up the first results already in the first half of 2019.
— Considering such excellent results, do you plan to replicate your solution, including to other client groups?
— Yes, we do. Depending on the target client group, we will rethink some things and some functionality will be redone. For example, it will be necessary to rethink how to arrange the ruble CSS. How to make a payment order as convenient to use as possible. We already have the functionality that will suit almost everyone. Photo payment function, for example. It is clear that we will rethink and improve customer experience for large businesses. We will take something as is, we will make some functions anew, for example, deposits and loans for large business.
We intend to replicate not the solution, but the approach. There is a platform on which we organize work. We know how to use it so that the process is fast, efficient and gives a high result. There is an understanding of analytics, which we have significantly improved during this time, especially in the UX part. In this matter, BSS has changed a lot in recent years. Previously, we simply did not have such an expertise, we had to create it. We have people who are professionals in this matter. There appeared roles that did not exist not in BSS before. And the result you can see in the rating by Markswebb.
— Do you plan to create a solution for self-employed based on your platform in the near future?
— The self-employed is an interesting segment with its own set of needs. We have a solution for the IEs. I think that something close in spirit is also necessary for the self-employed. We will definitely make an application for microbusiness, which in fact differs little from physical persons this year. We affectionately call them "fisjuricki". After all, why would such a person have two Internet banks — for individuals and for business? He needs a solution, where he can solve all his questions in one place, in a single interface. You also need to help him carry out all operations correctly, taking into account all the nuances and peculiarities of the legislation. We have not yet completed the concept, so I would not like to give specific examples. The role of the bank is to organize a safe and convenient space for such a person. We plan to actively address this issue in 2019. This is one of those things that are not on the market now, but it is needed.
— What do you consider the success factors and competitive advantages of Digital2Go platform?
— There are several features of the platform that favorably compare us with last year’s us and all other competitors. These are our API, SDK, competence in terms of scalability, resiliency and security, and of course, the modularity of the system. Other market participants have some of them, but we have collected all the best in one product. That is why we have all the necessary elements for success.
— Please tell more about them.
— First, it is API that is well implemented. But, most importantly, it is implemented in such a way that there is the possibility of modular development of the system. When you add a certain "piece" regardless of the main system, you do not spend time and resources on rework, just add something new. This can be compared with a modular furniture set: in order to add one box, you do not need to redo everything. And if this box doesn’t work well enough, you just throw it away and put a new one. The furniture set itself will not suffer in any way. All of our previous systems and the vast majority of competing systems look completely different. This approach saves time and is much cheaper in terms of development.
Secondly, it is our SDK — Software Development Kit. The SDK allows our client to write new functions, add any module, there is the possibility of self-development. The advantage is that the client does not depend on our plans, but relies only on his needs. And so you can try a lot of different things cheaply enough. You can, for example, quickly make functionality for limited groups of clients and test whether it is in demand and how convenient it is.
In this case, there are two options for supporting these changes: the client can do it on his own or let us support it.
As for scalability, resiliency and security, this is an eternal headache for all developers. We are the only vendor that is audited annually by Group-IB. And if you take all these factors together, then you will not find such a set from any of the vendors.
— Now the topic of artificial intelligence is on everyone’s lips. BSS also "keeps up." What to expect from you?
— For me personally, the development of solutions related to artificial intelligence is the main focus. We are actively engaged in this topic. These are our own developments, our experts and our own technologies. We have two areas of development: speech recognition and dialogue management.
Surely you know that there are two polar scenarios in the development of such technologies. The first assumes that the dialogue is based on a pre-written script. The problem is that the active development of such a system requires significant and qualified resources — both for the actual development of the dialogues, and for the preparation of the data necessary for machine learning, and so on. Our idea is different. We minimize the data preparation process; we need to mark them less to learn the system. We completely move away from managing the dialogue using a script, the system does it itself. We are sure that this is the future. People will less and less engage in elementary routine operations which will be taken over by machines. And let’s leave something more interesting and creative to the people.
— What is the motto of BSS company for 2019?
— Of course, we will further develop Digital2Go platform. There will be currency CSS, there will be currency control, there will be deposits and loans. We will present what we have done for small and medium-sized businesses in new design and with new solutions to other business segments: for trade and service enterprises, for companies engaged in foreign trade activities.
Our task is not to slow down. We want to demonstrate vivid introductions of what we have already done, and, of course, make new solutions. After all, no one supports these inconvenient things for everyone: security, scalability, sustainability, and legislation better than us. We want to show that it is convenient to use a ready-made industrial solution. And we will actively carry this philosophy to the market.
And we plan to create solutions not only for the banking market, but also for other segments of the economy. And of course, our solutions based on artificial intelligence will be just a "bomb"!