How NAB is transforming the world’s most complex Salesforce structure

The National Australia Bank is in the midst of an ambitious transformation of its core broker software platform, deemed the the world’s most complex Salesforce structure.

Amid a broader CRM transformation, the retail bank’s brokerage division is a little under a year into the refresh of the web-based CRM system dubbed NAB Podium.

The platform is used by NAB’s three aggregators – or middlemen between the bank and brokers – known as PLAN, Choice and FAST, and supports lodgement to 52 different lenders.

It accounts for around 25 percent of the Australian brokerage market, which translates to about $50 billion worth of loan transactions every year.

The credit broking capability is a differentiator for NAB because the institution has historically held a strong foothold in specialist and business lending and services market compared to its peers.

Despite climbing to a market leading position in 2014 after a significant amount of investment by the bank, the Podium aggregation platform began to to slip behind its competitors that were quickly tooling-up.

“With the rapidly changing digital environment, we just couldn’t keep up anymore,” Podium’s digital product manager Dan McCoy told Salesforce’s World Tour in Sydney last week, adding that the platform was now ranked fourth.

A big part of this was down to complaints from customers telling the bank the platform, which consists of 2800 deployed Salesforce Classic UI instances, as well as other custom in-house developed tools and code, was slow and its UI clunky and hard to use.

However the complexity of the infrastructure underpinning the application made it difficult to deploy changes, with the team still doing quarterly releases while competitors had shifted to doing monthly.

“We in fact have the most complex Salesforce structure in the world, and its folklore – not just in Australia, but actually in the US now – because we get called into a lot of business cases with product teams to help understand and find that solution,” McCoy said.

So last April the bank began its journey to re-envision the platform with a review of Podium’s current architecture that saw it engage Salesforce’s Envision advisory team to understand whether it was possible to simplify the platform’s 2800 instances into a single partner community.

Up until that point, the bank was unsure whether it was possible to re-platform the existing complexity onto a single instance.

“Through that engagement we actually proved that proof of concept, that we could use partner and customer community to achieve that,” McCoy said.

“At that point the tech guys retired and said: “all right, let’s pick up what we’ve got now and put down”, and that’s when we had a good robust conversation around, there’s an opportunity to actually change the entire experience for our customers, and really take it to a next level.”

“Not just from a customer experience, but also from an infrastructure, deployment, things like that going forward.”

Following the completion of the review, Salesforce began a 12-week-long engagement to conceptualise the new platform in early January, and it wasn’t long into the program of work that the team began delivering results.

“Literally [in] a matter of two or three weeks we actually had a foundational set of capabilities already built out,” Salesforce senior program architect Sachin Siddalingaswamy said, adding that this was accelerated by leveraging a number of existing resources.

“So we had a head start based on a number of publicly available resources, but we had to come up with the initial sketch prototype, which we then evaluated with users and sought to get their feedback, over in Feb and March.”

Through this process “high-level discussions” were held with key stakeholders from the three aggregators Choice, PLAN and FAST to understand pain points and areas in need of change.

McCoy said the resulting prototypes were “critical” in order to secure investment in the next round of funding.

“We go through funding channels with the bank, so we had built prototypes, clickable prototypes, and a visual depiction of where we want to go to, that made the conversations a lot easier, which was critical,” he said.

Podium delivery manager Stam Gonopoulos said the Podium refresh would eventually see the bank move to “a Lightning platform, with one org”, which was currently being worked through using continuous, agile delivery.

He said this would see “387 new screens”, 200 lightning components that are reusable to minimise development and testing effort, and 2000 custom fields. There is also the need for the new single instance to integrate with 30 outside applications.

A massive six-month migration of the “three-and-a-half terabytes of data and 1.5 billion records” contained in the thousands of Salesforce instances based on different data models into one would also take place from mid-year.

It is part of a broader transformation strategy that has already introduced a new digital access platform and an alternative supplier for lodgement.


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