NAB took two years to shift its broker system from 2,800 instances to just one

National Australia Bank (NAB) three years ago embarked on a project to simplify its CRM system, called NAB Podium, which reduced the number of instances from 2,800 to one.

According to Stam Gonopoulos — NAB head of technology, broker aggregation — Podium is one of the largest third-party broker applications in the market, comprised of both a Salesforce CRM component and in-house sales tools.

Speaking at Salesforce World Tour Reimagined on Wednesday, Gonopoulos said the system was built 10 years ago.

“Now over the years … in order to maintain data separation between all of the broker groups we support, each broker group had [to have] their own Salesforce instance,” he said. “Basically, we had the famous ‘2,800 orgs’ — effectively each broker group had their own org, their own set of config, and their own data.”

Gonopoulos said the system had many problems; it was expensive and deploying change was challenging.

“It’s expensive to maintain and run from a licensing perspective. It’s also difficult to deploy change. We were taking 12-hour outages just to deploy change, which you can imagine is less than ideal,” he explained.

“In addition, we have reliability problems as well, we had quite a number of outages in 2017.”

In 2017, there were 44 outages.

“Just not acceptable. We had this infamous title as the most complex setup in the world, which I’m glad to say we’ve now resolved. However, it was a headache for quite a long time,” Gonopoulos said

“In addition, our in-house and on-prem software were running on-prem and our own data centre was near the end of life as well. So we had to do something about that.”

NAB wanted to implement change without disrupting its brokers.

“Obviously, there was quite a lot of change required, two years-worth of disruption, how we go about it, what does Salesforce offer, how we migrate our data. Everyone’s protective of their data — so they should be, we’re a custodian of our brokers’ data — so how do we move from 2,800 instances onto one? Lots of things to consider,” he said.

The bank is now on one core Salesforce platform, with the shift taking two years to complete. Six months of migration activities concluded in November 2019.

“Now we’re in a state where we can now maximise the investment we made and deliver features at pace for brokers and keep up with not only the market but obviously the compliance as well, which is ever increasing,” Gonopoulos said.

Key to the success of the transformation, he said, was focusing on NAB internal workforce, as well as adopting an “agile mindset and approach”. The bank’s broker business was also restructured.

“Gone are the days of you [having] different delivery and operations and infrastructure and DevOps teams — we stack them all in one team and you build it, you own it, you run it,” he said.

Instead of decisions being made by a board or a committee, he said there would not be a clear product owner, project owner, and technology owner, giving empowerment for decisions to be made based on what was right for the platform.

Gonopoulos said brokers were also involved from day one.

“The broker experience was a key point for us. When the project started off, obviously, we know there’s so many orgs, it’s a difficult technology problem. But we almost went down the route of technology remediation only; but what that would have done, it would have solved down that org problem, but it wouldn’t have made things good for the broker,” he added.

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