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Banco Popular

Banco Popular Busts its Unpopular IT Backlog with OutSystems

When Banco Popular needed to scale its application development capacity to grow in Puerto Rico and other parts of the U.S., the bank chose OutSystems to spearhead rapid application development. The result, some three years later, is a “low-code digital factory” that has delivered a fourfold productivity increase for professional developers. Additionally, Banco Popular has used the low-code digital factory to onboard several less technical developers who help build and enhance enterprise-strength applications and are supervised by IT.

Low-code digital factory with 10 developers

Low-code digital factory with 10 developers

4x faster delivery speed

4x faster delivery speed

12 applications delivered and growing

12 applications delivered and growing

One app serves 7 partner firms for credit card account opening

One app serves 7 partner firms for credit card account opening

"OutSystems is one of the key platforms for our digital workforce and innovation. Two of our key vendors adopted OutSystems as result of our joint success."Sanjay Shitole, Vice President of IT, Popular, Inc.

Popular’s Unpopular IT Development Backlog

Challenge - Popular, Inc., is the leading financial institution in Puerto Rico. It provides retail, credit card, mortgage, and commercial banking services and has branches in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it provides a broader range of financial services including leasing, financing, investment banking, and insurance services.

Its real estate subsidiary deShow.com was established in 2016 and has rapidly grown to become Puerto Rico’s largest online real estate portal.

Popular’s diverse and distributed business presented a significant challenge for IT delivery:

  • On the one hand, rigorous banking and security regulations that span two jurisdictions demand enterprise-strength security, resilience, and segregation.
  • On the other hand, faster-moving parts of the business (such as deShow and Popular’s white-labeled credit card services) place a greater emphasis on speed, agility, and great user experience.

Popular only had a small application development team, spread between Chicago and San Juan, that served two entities—Popular Bank and Banco Popular de Puerto Rico—whose banking systems are entirely segregated.

The inevitable result was that Popular’s IT team could not keep up with demand for application development. “We had a large number of different applications built using .NET, Java/J2EE, and a BPM platform. Just maintaining the systems we already had kept our small development team busy, so a large number of development requests went unfulfilled,” explained Sanjay Shitole, Vice President of IT at Popular.

An increasing need for customer-facing mobile and responsive web applications put Sanjay’s team under even more pressure. To speed up development and improve agility, they needed a rapid application development platform. Not only did Sanjay want to make seasoned development professionals more productive, but he also wanted to increase capacity by empowering business power-users and analysts to develop and enhance apps under IT’s supervision.

Popular’s business and compliance requirements resulted in the following rigorous selection criteria for a new low-code platform:

  • Avoidance of vendor lock-in: They wanted the ability to take intellectual property and code with them if they decided low-code was not for them 
  • Ability to incorporate existing code: Use the code they already had in the new platform, and then extend it.
  • Support for hybrid (on-premise and Cloud) deployment: This would help them comply with banking and security regulations.     
  • Fit with their high-compliance DevOps practices: Full segregation of development, test, and production environments.
  • Lower lifetime cost of applications: They sought features to help identify interdependencies, maximize reuse, and efficiently maintain applications.     
  • Class-leading integration: They wanted to be able to future-proof their investment.

“Our selection criteria led us to OutSystems and one other low-code vendor. Our development team then ran identical proof-of-concept projects together with the vendors, which gave us much more insight into how the platforms worked. OutSystems was the clear winner, from a technical and productivity standpoint,” Sanjay explained.

OutSystems – A Popular Choice

Solution - Having selected OutSystems, Sanjay’s team invested in an OutSystems developer boot camp. “The combination of structured training while delivering a real project together with consultants from OutSystems customer success team was a great way to get our team up and running,” Sanjay explained.

It was essential to get developer buy-in, as Sanjay explained: “Change management is always an issue, but we had to disrupt our ways of working to deliver more. By the end of the first pilot project, the whole team was excited. They had seen the speed advantage, encountered no serious limitations, and the quality of what they had produced was first-rate. Once developers have seen that, change management becomes much less of a challenge.”

The Popular IT team quickly became more self-sufficient, taking the lead on their second project, but calling on the OutSystems customer success team for advice, such as application architecture planning and development best practices.

Sanjay’s team then scaled-up their use of OutSystems, with a sequence of projects that explored process-centric apps, non-linear case management style apps, and standard web and mobile apps with an emphasis on UI design.

Formalizing roles, standards, and processes for Banco Popular’s low-code digital factory proved important. “We wanted to be able to bring citizen developers into the team to increase capacity and work more closely with user departments. Establishing a center of excellence for OutSystems has been a force multiplier for us. Not only are our developers more productive, but we’ve also expanded our developer pool by having recent graduates and business analysts join the team,” Sanjay said.

A Popular Outcome

Results – Over the past three years, Popular’s low-code digital factory has evolved to include:

  • A Product Owner
  • A Scrum Master (Tech Lead)
  • A Tech Lead
  • A Systems Architect
  • 10 Developers
  • Five QAs

A UX expert will also join the team soon. Together, they have delivered twelve projects in multiple business units.

The deShow.com real estate portal and administration system

The deShow portal connects properties, vendors, realtors, and customers and provides everything needed to manage the refurbishment and sale of properties:

  • Delivered by five developers in eight weeks with one-week sprints
  • Delivery was three to four times faster than hand-coding
  • deShow is now Puerto Rico’s largest online real estate portal

The white-label credit card origination service

This business critical application provides multiple third-party credit card partners a custom-branded experience for originating new customer accounts.

  • Delivered by three developers in less than four months with two-week sprints. The previous vendor had failed to deliver in over one year.
  • The application integrates with several external systems including credit decisions and credit agencies.
  • It’s now used by seven different partners with different channels (mobile, internet, branches, points of sale, call center.
  • Account opening volume of $300 million in 2018 YTD.
  • Based on their experience, several of the third parties have also adopted OutSystems.
  • Continuous delivery with monthly updates.

Conversion of multiple applications from a previous cloud platform

Several existing applications have been redeveloped on OutSystems by a graduate business user. When he joined the team, he learned OutSystems just by using the free online training:

  • Example apps include origination of commercial loans and loan appraisals.
  • Retired previous cloud BPM tool, due to information security concerns.
  • Improved efficiency of multiple processes and reduced costs.

The low-code digital factory has dramatically improved responsiveness to the business. “OutSystems has helped us mature our Agile development practices and increased our delivery capacity. Just recently we’ve started to develop native mobile apps, and the team is seeing a four to five times development speed advantage compared to Xamarin and React Native. OutSystems has become a key platform for our digital workforce and innovation initiatives,” Sanjay said.