Inspire Technologies GmbH
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INSPIRE Referenz Header

Global payments in the METRO Group

Process management suite speeds up payment traffic with 50,000 vendors in 17 countries

The METRO Group is one of the world's largest commercial enterprises: The company occupies leading market positions in a variety of business sectors with its Metro Cash & Carry, Real SB-Warenhäuser, Media Markt/Saturn and Galeria Kaufhof brands. It employs 300,000 staff from 150 nations at its 2,100 sites in more than 30 countries in Europe and Asia. At its head is METRO AG, which acts as the strategic management holding company. The operational business is split into four areas of business activity: wholesale, grocery retail, non-food specialist markets and department stores. The Metro Group's sales lines operate independently in the markets in these sectors. Inter-group services such as logistics and advertising are provided by cross-divisional companies.

MIAG is the group's supply chain financial service provider. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of METRO AG, this company provides services involving domestic and international payment traffic for the METRO sales lines and cross-divisional companies. It also provides del credere and vendor discounting services METRO GROUP's vendors. In its role as a "payment factory" for the METRO GROUP, MIAG is currently active in more than 17 countries and handles payments for 50,000 vendors. Every year, MIAG processes over 35 million items and generates more than 1.5 million payment requests.

Settling due payments in an internationally active company group of this scale is an extremely complex process. At local level, the various different companies in the group have to comply with their own country-specific regulations. Communication with the sales lines and various banks involved ensures that the settlement process combines and complies with a multitude of systems and formats. In 2009, the exceptional complexity of the necessary settlement processes, added to stringent demands for security, was one of the reasons that triggered the "MIAG Settlement Validation" (MSV) project. Overarching goal: to put in place an independent system to monitor, and also improve the security, efficiency and quality of, all the processes and interactions involved in daily business that are impacted by every aspect of the entire regulatory process (from the sales lines and partner companies up to the different banks that perform the processing) handled by the applications and platforms (for example, the MIAG Settlement System (MSS), the Multiversa payment platform, the TradeXpress EDI data converter, etc.). Being able to take into consideration the existing system and process environment within the Metro Group was a basic prerequisite for monitoring the data flow and its associated processes. "In a group like ours, you can't simply change all the systems from the top down, just to simplify the structures and processing functions," stated Herbert Uster, Head of Risk Management, Governance and Projects at MIAG. "From the very start, it was clear to us that the only way this project could succeed would be if we could leave our existing processes, interfaces, and applications, such as banking and EDI systems, unchanged as much as possible."

Need for additional checks
A lack of automated control processes meant that the necessary seamless linking of payment requests entered by the sales lines and third-party customers with the issuing of payment instructions to the banks could not be created to the extent required, or with adequate levels of security. "The fact that a significant proportion of the payments still had to be converted in ESB MULTIVERSA after they had finally been approved represented a particular problem with compliance," remembered Herbert Uster. "This created a major gap in control, and failed to meet MIAG's stringent demands for security. There was also the danger that, in the long term, manual checks would merely become routine, and this would have a negative effect on the quality of the checks." MIAG also wanted to use MSV to extend the checks on payment streams down to attribute level.

For this reason, the main aim of the MSV project was to meet the exacting requirements of MIAG's internal control system (ICS) as quickly and efficiently as possible. 23 specific tests have been developed that will monitor payment processes in greater detail in future. At the same time, automatic alarms will be triggered if any disruptions or discrepancies are identified. In contrast to existing testing processes, this will exclude errors that impact the ability to make payments, and also make reactions to disruptions in the settlement process more efficient. As part of MIAG's responsibility towards payment senders, the MSV tool has been developed to guarantee that the number of transfers and total amounts on all outgoing payments to banks not only match up with the payment requests from sales lines and third-party customers, but also that all the details, such as the basic attributes needed for the payments (beneficiary, bank sort code, bank account, amount, currency, transaction date), match. This tool will be able to detect any discrepancies in this data and then automatically prevent the payment file from being send to the bank involved in the transaction. "In addition to increasing the quality and reliability of the checks, this will also greatly reduce the amount of working time that previously had to be devoted to checking and auditing the data. With all this in mind, our primary aim is this: to achieve the absolute security that only thoroughly audited payment requests would reach the banks tasked with processing them," summarized Herbert Uster.

Process-oriented organization
In order to meet its declared aims, MIAG also places exacting demands on potential partners and the solutions it is prepared to implement. Only companies with more than 10 years experience in the IT financial services sector, that were able to provide reference projects in the financial/banking industry, were permitted to bid for the project. Providers that showed an interest also had to have experience with international payment traffic and already be familiar with the most commonly used formats for representing and processing payments (for example DTAUS, DTAZV, PAYMUL or MT101). At the end of an exhaustive, multi-stage selection process, it was the Swiss IT service provider PMC Informatik AG that emerged as the winner and was entrusted with implementing the BPM inspire process management suite. "PMC had a number of different interesting projects in this sector in its portfolio, which it had already implemented successfully," confirmed Herbert Uster. "In addition, the proposed BPM inspire suite had already been implemented successfully for well-known customers and proven its ability to handle the large volumes of data that had to be processed."

BPM inspire was able to cope with the requirements drawn up at the planning stage with ease. Using this solution has made it possible to organize a process-related, not just function-related approach: unlike a hard-wired bespoke solution for process management, the approach of the BPM solution is oriented towards an ever-growing trend towards process-oriented strategies for organizing companies. This trend places customer-oriented processes in the foreground and can be integrated into a company's hectic daily schedule flexibly, with a minimum of cost and effort. The seamless interplay of technical and specialist process modeling means specialist areas always have oversight and control of their processes. This enables them to include any changes necessitated by organizational or market conditions in the BPM system at any time. And, all the while, the process-oriented view ensures increased transparency in business processes: Using BPM inspire means the current processing status of any process can be verified at any time. Even the standard version of the solution records every activity, so a consistent audit-proof process log is generated automatically at the end of every process.

Efficiency in operation
A high level of automation and wide-ranging escalation and substitution rules, for example, like those that clearly regulate cases of illness or vacation, result in significantly reduction in throughput times. At the same time, the workload placed on the individuals responsible for these processes is greatly reduced, with the added benefit that targets for sharing information and meeting reaction times are improved.

"A unique feature of BPM inspire that made it stand out from the other BPM solutions was that it is not only able to model and automate processes, but also support application development for the user interfaces, including linking to existing systems," said Louis Flach from PMC. "The graphical designer can be used to create browser-based user interfaces for individual process steps and also to create entire web applications – even for areas that have nothing to do with the processes, such as administrative or data maintenance dialogs. This makes the solution ideally suited to the development of a complex tool like the MSV." BPM inspire can also be integrated in existing or strategically selected technologies – an aspect which makes it much easier to use in a large company association like the Metro group. Its compatibility ranges from complete .NET integrations such as Microsoft Sharepoint or Office through to ERP systems like SAP, Wilken or Navision. Even portal, CMS or web application servers can be linked to the suite without any trouble.

This new solution has helped MIAG achieve a noticeable improvement in efficiency in its payment settlements: "Previously, trying to maintain oversight over all the settlement transactions in the many and complex data flows, and controlling the necessary processes efficiently, was a very demanding task," remembered Herbert Uster. "With the MSV Cockpit, and its multitude of different functions, we can get an overview at any time. The flexible process management suite within the MSV tool monitors deadlines automatically to ensure data is processed at the right time and, if necessary, escalated automatically. We are completely satisfied with the myriad of modification and upgrade options provided by BPM inspire and also the expert support given by PMC Informatik AG."

User report MIAG/METRO