EOS is now into punk rock. At least according to the Sideways Dictionary, which is an online resource created by ‘The Washington Post’ and Google that explains complicated technical vocabulary using analogies instead of definitions. Take agile software development for example: ‘It’s like punk rock. You don’t spend years crafting the perfect guitar solo. You pick up a guitar, learn three chords, and get on with it’. Musicians release their as yet unfinished song to the public to find out what works and what needs improvement.
For IT projects, that means the parties involved approach the goal in small steps by testing intermediate products, improving functions and adding new ones. They are in total control of their instruments but continually test the best way to use them. This makes it easier to complete complex IT projects like the new debt collection system created by EOS in Germany.
EOS has been working on a fundamentally new piece of software for receivables processing since mid-2016. The new system will see an end to pre-defined procedures. The software analyses the data EOS has on a particular debtor and expands it based on experiences with him. The system learns from these experiences with consumers and can generate recommendations for when it is the best time for EOS to reach the debtor and what payments he can make on what date. ‘This helps us to decide what course of action to take in a way that is individually tailored to each debtor’, explains Jörg Schweda, Managing Director of EOS Deutscher Inkasso-Dienst (DID), Germany.
The goal: A highly-efficient system which meets the strict ethical standards of the EOS Group. ‘Of course, person-to-person communication is still important in receivables management but the software will support us in our engagement with debtors’, says Mr Schweda. Data protection plays a key role in striking the right balance between effective use and optimal security. ‘The sensitive handling of client and debtor information is our greatest asset. This is why our IT security and data protection experts are helping us to find the right solutions’, says Lars Ludwig, Managing Director of EOS Technology Solutions, the IT service provider of the EOS Group.
Developing modern debt collection software requires innovative working methods, including mixed project teams consisting of employees from specialist areas and IT. ‘In-depth experience is essential for IT to be able to develop suitable software. To put it another way, IT experts know what is technically possible and what is available’, explains Mr Ludwig. The initiative enables everyone involved to act like a start-up, but still within the Group. EOS has been working with coaches to develop an agile working method perfectly suited to the company.
The development process for the software is divided into individual stages to allow developers to react quickly to changing requirements and any outside influences. Employees present a new partial solution every two weeks. Those involved in the project also expand available functions piece-by-piece, such as an automatic check that was previously performed manually. ‘Agile procedures are all about transparency and openness. This includes a distinct error and feedback culture. We consciously take into account that an assumption may prove to be incorrect. It can be bothersome, but it brings new findings and pushes the project one step closer to a solution’, explains Thomas Lieder, Agile Coach at EOS Technology Solutions.
To make sure everyone feels part of a team working toward shared goals, project staff in Hamburg are assigned space on the same floor. They meet on a daily basis in specially designed rooms. ‘We need to consult with one another regularly to plan the next step. Coloured charts on the wall depict our working procedures. Both the look and content of our work are colourful’, says Mr Lieder.
To ensure the future debt collection system reaches its true potential, EOS runs an organisational development project parallel to the IT plans. This is because the software will change the day-to-day work of many employees but how it will look in detail is still unclear. After all, the experts do not yet know what the end product will be. To prepare employees as well as possible, EOS is optimising processes and responsibilities in Germany. ‘The new debt collection system will keep EOS on track in the new digital age. As a leading provider of receivables management, we are setting further standards in terms of service, quality and payment success’, summarises Mr Schweda.
‘We want to stay one step ahead of the market’
Germany is taking a leading role in the digitalisation of the EOS Group. Right at the centre is the new debt collection system. Andreas Kropp, Member of the EOS Group’s Board of Directors, talks about agile methods, smart data analysis and automated processes.
Why does EOS need a new debt collection system?
Andreas Kropp: Digitalisation represents a key challenge for our core business. EOS in Germany is rising to the challenge by developing a completely new debt collection software that is automated, data-driven and capable of learning. The key phrase is advanced analytics. Analysing consumer data and behaviour patterns allows debtor-specific receivables management, which introduces the next step in the collection process in a much more tailored way.
Where are the biggest differences compared to the old system?
Andreas Kropp: Even today, our analysts have a good overview of our data inventory. The new core system, however, takes it a huge stride further. At present, employees need to enter data continuously for analytics, but the future system will be far more automated. It will use analytical mechanisms to continually check the best way of engaging with debtors and the ideal time to make contact. But the system is capable of more than determining the right point in time; it can also initiate contact. In the future, for instance, it will be able to send a letter or email autonomously in specific cases, or organise for an employee to get in contact with the person in question.
Why are you developing the new system in-house?
Andreas Kropp: We are one of the leading companies in the German debt collection market. There is no standard software that can meet our wide range of requirements. Our core system needs to be capable of processing millions of receivables while meeting our stringent requirements in terms of analytics, process automation and data protection. That is why we are developing our own flexible debt collection system – second-to-none in the industry – that can adapt to future needs. We want to stay one step ahead of the market.
Fintechs are currently on everyone’s lips and are regarded as digital pioneers of the financial industry. Do you see them as a competition?
Andreas Kropp: Fintechs are all about agility, digitalisation and innovation, keywords that are also part of everyday life at EOS. We will be working with agile methods and developing a debt collection system to revolutionise the world of receivables management. Many debt collection fintechs have only a handful of clients with low volumes of receivables. For such companies, a simple piece of collection software that maps just a few functions can be adapted relatively quickly. At EOS, however, we work with a huge number of customers and millions of receivables. Naturally, it will take longer to develop such a complex and powerful debt collection system, but the final product will be even more impressive as a result. EOS thus combines both: the innovation and flexibility of a fintech with the experience and reliability of an established Hanseatic company with a tradition spanning decades.
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