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In Debt Collection, A Is for Agility

I could start out today by telling you all about Cabot Credit Management. About how they’re a market leader in debt purchasing, contingency collections, process outsourcing and litigation, supporting 600 users over five sites in the UK and India.

Or how recent mergers – with Cabot Financial, Apex Credit Management and Marlin Financial Services – created a long list of complex challenges.  I could mention how growth was accelerating, with plans for additional acquisitions, using different currencies and languages.

But forget all that. The theme today is one word:  Agility.

Their challenge was how to retire an aging collections platform and become more efficient in their debt collection. How does one align the troops, when many of their staff members were new to this merged environment?  Or keep up with ongoing regulations and requirements from the Financial Conduct Authority?  Historical data and information was uneven and it was hard for anyone to fully understand the depth and breadth of existing inefficiencies and gaps.

One thing was clear: There was no appetite for a long, drawn-out implementation of a new platform. Their experience told them that migrating to a new collections and recovery platform would take 18 months and this was unacceptable.

They had six months to get this done.

They decided early on that everything aside from the timeline could and should be challenged.  Instead of a waterfall approach, moving from requirements, to design, development, testing and deployment, they would use an agile approach. This started with requirements, to prioritizing backlogs, to sprint planning, functionality testing and release.

They aligned resources which ensured they weren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul. They started with migration, went to product support and on to strategic optimization. They spent more time asking “how” rather than “what,” looking at multiple options and complex decisions, from identifying barriers, assessing risk, determining appropriate action and achieving goals.

They changed how they worked. Sponsorship from the top meant the priority was always clear to everyone. They accepted things they couldn’t control and changed course as needed.

What did they learn?  That the ability to assess their situation and remain agile was central, and essential, to their success. That iteration is more successful than trying to plan every detail.  This approach proved popular across the business, as staff members and system users became engaged, saw progress, had a voice, saw risk reduced, quality increased and fully understood the gains of their new platform.

“We’re now 18 months from where we started and a lot has changed,” says James Edwards, enterprise architect at Cabot. “We’ve acquired dlc and Mortimer Clarke Solicitors, both in the UK, and GESIF in Spain. Customer complaints have been reduced, we’re routing calls across sites, collections have increased, and compliance and monitoring is improved.  IT costs have been reduced and we’re more strategically enabled.

“The migration was complete in six months. Our starting position was disparate businesses, systems and processes and a year and a half later, we’re still working at the same rhythm the project established, with vast improvement and a singular focus on our customers. It’s possible to deliver big change at high speed if everyone is moving in the same direction, using an agile approach.”

James Edwards led an “A for Agility” session at FICO World last month. His presentation is available on request by emailing carolbyrne@fico.com.  A video featuring James and the Cabot Credit Management story will be available soon.

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