Digital Factory for Sub-Saharan Africa

A Digital Factory dedicated to the sub-Saharan Africa (AFS) region opened its doors at Casablanca. Sohel Rattani, IT System Supervisor of the AFS Zone, tells us more about this 4.0 factory.
Interview with Sohel Rattani.

Sohel Rattani, IT System Supervisor of the AFS Zone

How did the project start?

Africa is experiencing an unprecedented digital transformation and new ways of interacting with the Bank are evolving faster than elsewhere. We must therefore support these developments and propose innovative solutions, co-constructed with our clients and respect a much shorter time to market.

We questioned our ways of handling projects and the findings were clear: we applied the same standards, the same processes, the same organisation, in a way, the same "mould" for large projects of regulatory type than for tests. The approach is robust and brings high quality projects but is not suitable for projects requiring agility and speed The findings highlighted the importance of changing our operating methods, especially to for tests.

We also drew on current tests in the Group, including the Innovation, Technologies & IT Service Unit for the French Retail Banking (ITIM) Digital Process Hub (DPH) and BRD's (in Romania) DCE (Digital Center of Expertise). We also exchanged with Societe Generale Maroc, which is setting up its Digital Factory and has done a lot of work defining its strategy for digitilasing key processes.

The AFS Digital Factory has emerged as an effective answer to address these issues and sponsors Alexandre Maymat, Head of the Business Unit International Retail Banking, Africa, Mediterranean Basin & Overseas (AFMO) and Pierre-Paul Benoit, Deputy Head of Resources for International Retail Banking (IRBS) gave their wholehearted support!

What is the Digital Factory?

The Digital Factory is a platform, both human, organisational and technical that will be located in Casablanca in SGABS (Societe Generale Africa Business Services). It has two components, "Design" and "Fast Delivery":

  • The "Design" phase allows to co-build with the front and back experts but also with our clients the new customer and process path; it is animated by process path coaches and supported by digital enablers (standard functional blocks, Wireframes, Virtual Lab, etc.) allowing to create in a very short time prototypes (POC),
  • On the basis of the prototype created during the Design phase and subject to eligibility, the "Fast Delivery" phase allows to design, develop and integrate digital applications in our Legacy and our IT system and deliver an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with a Time to Market adapted to the experiments, without compromising the security of our assets.

The Digital Factory will bring together, by 2019, some 30 experts dedicated to digital innovations grouped into multi-skill teams: Agile coaches, process path facilitators, product owners, scrum masters, architects, security, infrastructure, developer, tech lead, etc.

Product Owners from entities or regions will be able to make decisions on a daily basis. Grouped in the same place and answering to a single management, Digital Factory players will all work in Agile mode.

Before the Design and Delivery, there is the "Discovery" phase, which is a key step to sourcing and selecting the digital initiatives coming from the field including our entities, hackathons, startups and African fintechs. The Lab Innovation, located in Dakar, is particularly active in this stage and it drives the entire ecosystem by cultivating a close working relations.

So the three stages: Discover, Design and Deliver constitute the virtuous dynamics of sourcing and realisation of AFS digital projects with a continuous interaction between entities, regional management, startups and SGABS.

What are the objectives?

The main objective of the Digital Factory is to support and accelerate the innovation and digital transformation of our entities in the West and Central African Regions. In particular we will address new client journeys and procedure dematerialization.

As a target, we aim to conduct about eight experiments per year and deploy them in a standard and industrial way to the entities of both regions.

But to succeed the Digital Factory has also set goals in its operation and interaction with the players in its ecosystem:

  • Be closer to our users in the entities and our clients and favour a test and learn approach in co-construction mode; this will enable the design of adapted solutions, taking into account local realities,
  • Simplify our delivery process by adapting our ways of handling projects to the Time to Market requirements of our business. This involves optimized integration processes, the implementation of standard production patterns, the use of devops tools, a dedicated organisation including experts and a Virtual Digital Lab, to deliver MVPs; the goal is to be able to experiment with new products and services in an average of 10 to 12 weeks,
  • Carry out projects in Agile mode by embedding regional management, entities, GTS and major publishers,
  • Steer our projects first by deadlines,
  • Offer the ecosystem of African startups, who are not familiar with the complexity of our IT system, a host structure so they can plug into Societe Generale IT systems more easily.

What challenges will the Factory face to be sustainable?

The way in which Africans interact with their bank is changing very quickly, faster than elsewhere. Technology and especially mobile is a factor in accelerating this transformation. We also have to face dematerializing our front-to-back process which weighs on the overhead costs of our entities.

In addition to the banking sector, there is also a very large non-banked sector (around 80%) with significant development potential. For example, this audience is more receptive to electronic wallets. It is an opportunity for us to reduce the cash footprint, facilitate financial inclusion and contribute to development to Africa. That being said, the uses of banked and unbanked customers tend to converge.

We must therefore learn to anticipate these developments and propose innovative solutions adapted to the African context. The Digital Factory, which is also a key feature of AFMO's Innovation strategy under the responsibility of Valérie-Noëlle Kodjo Diop, is one of the answers to this transformation challenge to build the Bank of tomorrow!


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