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Coordination is vital for the roll-out

Under the name Crésus, Epsitec offers a range of software products for SMEs that have all been adapted to the new ISO 20022 formats as part of a pilot project with PostFinance. Around 15,000 customers currently work with Crésus software. Olivier Leuenberger, deputy managing director of Epsitec, looks back on the project – and the roll-out in particular.

In terms of programming, converting the software to ISO 20022 was no big deal, says Olivier Leuenberger, deputy managing director of Epsitec Ltd. During the past four months, the software company based in Yverdon-les-Bains has adapted its Crésus software products to make them ISO 20022 compliant. The focus was on customers’ needs. “We not only did our best to offer a solution that would be particularly easy to operate. It was also particularly important for us to offer our customers intensive support during the migration,” he emphasizes.  

Joint migration planning

We could not have done it single-handedly, however, because successful migration requires interplay between the software provider, PostFinance and our joint customers. As a result, PostFinance has had to make changes to its systems as well – for debits and notifications, for example – in consultation with the customers.  “We had to work out which customers to inform and when about the project as a whole and about the next steps to be taken.” During the pilot project, there were a few teething problems with the allocation of tasks. “Some of our customers were quite surprised to be asked to migrate directly by PostFinance.” Based on experience of this kind gathered during the pilot phase, PostFinance developed a roll-out plan to ensure optimal coordination during this stage of the project (see the Handshake article). All in all, the migration stage went very smoothly. “The only thing customers had to do for EPO migration, for example, was to tick the box for ISO 20022 in the settings. This required minimum effort – both for customers and for ourselves.” The migration took place in two stages. Only a few customers were migrated during the initial stage, then much larger numbers were migrated during the second stage. Around 15,000 Crésus customers now work with ISO 20022-compliant software products.

Always out in front

Thanks to its pilot role, Epsitec was one of the first software providers to introduce ISO 20022-compliant products on the market. It is only natural during pilot projects like this that unexpected extra work crops up. “We had to create an intermediate tool, which was not scheduled,  enabling us to read files in the old format and write them in the new one, for example.” All the instruments needed and of the desired quality were not available from PostFinance from day one either. “The test platform was not completely developed to start off with. We often had to adopt a trial and error approach”, explains Leuenberger. This changed over the course of the project, however. “PostFinance has constantly improved the test platform and it has become an essential tool for us.” Ultimately, the test platform has worked very well just like our partnership in general. “We particularly appreciated the fact that we had a single point of contact at PostFinance, with the same person implementing the entire project with us from A to Z.” 

Epsitec was also the first software provider to get to grips with bringing the OSR – outpayment slip with reference number – into line with the ISO standard. “What took us the longest was trying to understand how the printing process works as special paper is needed for OSR”, explains Leuenberger with a smile.

There’s always something new

For Olivier Leuenberger, time was a critical factor for the modifications associated with the harmonization of payment transactions. “We had scheduled three to four months for the pilot project with PostFinance, and managed to stick closely to this timetable”, he notes. We still need to make the switch to ISO 20022 with all the other financial institutions, however. “The problem for us as software providers is that we don’t know when each bank will go ahead with the changeover. I would have welcomed better coordination from the Swiss financial center in this respect”, he says. We are also having to deal with upgrades to the Electronic Banking Internet Communication Standard (EBICS) – and the introduction of the QR code for inpayments. 

This makes it essential for software partners to start work as soon as possible. PostFinance will be switching its customers to ISO 20022 by the end of 2017. “As a software provider, there is no escaping the modifications. And if software is not ISO 20022 ready, from 2018 onwards customers simply won’t be able to do anything”, stresses Leuenberger. PostFinance therefore advises all its software partners to complete the changeover by mid-2017 by the latest.

About Epsitec

Epsitec was founded in 1978 as an EPFL spin-off. The innovative company initially developed and sold computers. “Even before the first Apple Macintosh”, notes deputy managing director Olivier Leuenberger. Since 1994 Epsitec has provided software products that are distributed under the Crésus brand. The company is one of the leading providers of SME software in French-speaking Switzerland, and employs around 20 members of staff.