CIO/Shared Service Center
‘No red tape but short lines. That makes doing business easy.’
We manage about two and a half million credit cards and, as such, we are by far the biggest player in the market. We usually do business with major partners; ANWB is a client of ours, as are the Dutch retailer Bijenkorf and OHRA, a large Dutch insurance company. As a company, International Card Services (ICS) is itself a relatively unknown entity. Actually, nobody knows us! We work in the background, but we are the ones who create the right conditions for credit cards to effectively operate in the market. Though we are a major company, we’re nevertheless only a small organization with 350 employees operating in three countries.
We have a small IT department of our own that actually does everything we consider core, because we think a company shouldn’t outsource its core business. In the field of system developments, we are very eager to remain in charge. But we have no problem with outsourcing when the actual building of things and delivering software are concerned. In our case, it’s either all or nothing. A major project can keep us occupied for months on end and then, all of a sudden, it can be relatively quiet at the ‘front’ for a while. What we need is capacity on demand; if we need a big increase in capacity, we hire it; and if we happen to require less capacity, we downsize. In that way we remain flexible.
When we started looking for a suitable IT partner five years ago, we selected Sogeti. From day one, we hit it off together. In some ways Sogeti resembles ICS because our circumstances are similar. They are also relatively small, but with a large parent company. The same holds for us and Fortis Bank, but we are independent nevertheless. Sogeti has people who are where the action is, in the thick of things, involved, more flexible; people who you can get down to business with faster than the larger software companies where you are just a number. We really feel we can talk to people at Sogeti and that we’ll end up finding the solution we’re looking for - together. That has been the case from day one onwards and our relationship has only become closer.
The first thing we asked Sogeti to do for us was to develop our software. Later testing activities were added. And a year and a half ago, we started outsourcing certain web applications and their construction to Sogeti. There were some initial problems, because it turned out that quite specialist knowledge and expertise was required. The work involved web portals and that was quite a novel field of technology for all parties concerned at the time, not only for us, but also for Sogeti and our computer centre in Woerden. Getting the job done initially led to some tensions. Both parties, including Sogeti, made mistakes in the process. But then the advantage of a close partnership kicks in. You can just pick up the phone, talk to a few people and your problem gets discussed. Both parties then start working towards developing solutions and initiatives to improve the situation. The result is that, between the two of you, you manage to find a way to avoid this kind of problem in the future, and you end up being in control and pleased with the outcome.
The great thing about Sogeti is that they have a whole network of specialists to fall back on. If things really get complicated, Sogeti always have an expert at their disposal – somewhere! We have found that they can always come up with somebody in their organization who knows an answer or has a solution. We noticed that when we were developing the web portal. Sogeti has easy access to people who can really ‘dive’ into the matter at hand. That is exactly why we chose them at the time. In my view, the way the company is organized is their forte. The fact that they are small, but, at the same time, part of a larger whole was what attracted us as a comparable organization. No red tape, no complicated consultation channels, but short lines. That makes doing business easy.
At Sogeti, they know us and that’s why they are able to think along the same lines as us. If you have a partner who doesn’t know the first thing about you, they won’t be able to step in and come to your assistance if need be. Those people know nothing about you and consequently think that you want something done in a certain way because that’s simply how the contract reads and so that’s how they do it. With Sogeti, however, our contacts take place at all levels within the organization. I talk with the Sogeti management on a regular basis, but also across ICS we are in regular touch with our counterparts within Sogeti at all levels. They know each other, can find each other, and if a problem crops up, a solution will always be found. Both parties know what to expect from each other and so can rely on one another.
It’s all about trust. We don’t relish outsourcing to a different company every three to five years. That is not what we want. It’s not that we don’t care about prices, but for us we want our money’s worth. Value for money is what we choose and at the same time we realize that you can’t have a taste of champagne on a beer budget!
Continuity is another factor. You don’t want to have to build up a relationship with a new partner every so often. For us, what counts is that you create a strong team together and that you have faith in each other. I know the people at Sogeti. I can call them and be confident that I can count on matters getting solved. What is important to us are the personal contacts in all fields, at all levels of the Sogeti organization.
I also recognize that Sogeti’s beliefs and values are those which we at ICS also find important. For us, the quality of the service we deliver is important. In our company that is certainly not an empty slogan. We have a top quality program that obliges us to measure up to 150 different criteria consistently. We don’t think customer service can be outsourced. In our view, a client should be able to be put through to the right person in a few seconds and that if you apply for a credit card, you should be able to get one within a definite and acceptable period of time. Sogeti has a similar awareness of the need for quality and service, which in turn has a stimulating effect on us. We don’t have to convince each other that clients are our core business.
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