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Learn How NatWest Built a Center of Excellence to Improve Process Orchestration

See how NatWest accelerated their process automation and orchestration, even as their usage grew, with a CoE using Camunda.
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For NatWest, great customer service is timeless

The NatWest banking group has been dedicated to championing customers’ goals since their founding in the 17th century. Whether it’s helping one of their 16 million customers make the most of their finances, partnering with businesses to help them grow and thrive, or building more sustainable communities, NatWest strives to deliver services that transform people’s lives. 

Today, many of those banking services are delivered digitally as a series of business processes. But like most mature banking organizations, NatWest’s IT team was challenged with a growing list of requests to create new, digital business processes, as well as modernize existing legacy processes. To accelerate their process automation and orchestration and maximize resources, NatWest built a center of excellence (CoE) around Camunda’s open, developer-friendly platform.

At CamundaCon 2023, James Holt, leader of NatWest’s Camunda BPM platform team and CoE, and principal engineer, Pieter Schutte, shared how their team grew from supporting a financial crimes business deployment to managing a CoE responsible for the adoption of Camunda across 10 departments, including NatWest’s international, retail, and shared services businesses—all within six years. They also detail how the CoE expedited their ability to deliver Camunda, and how the quality and velocity of their Camunda project deliveries “went through the roof.” 

NatWest's Process Orchestration Journey with Camunda: Adoption, Growth, Innovation, + Transformation

How they did it: Evolving Camunda from a line of business implementation to a CoE 

NatWest adopted Camunda as a strategic BPMN solution in 2017 and deployed its first Camunda financial crime and risk applications a year later. As interest and project requests continued to grow, they established a dedicated internal delivery team to support adoption of the Camunda platform and looked for ways to use the CoE to bring even more efficiency to their process development and orchestration. 

“By year three,“ said James, “what we realized is that there are two, distinct responsibilities of our team: one is product development and the center of excellence—servicing those customers that are already embedded within Camunda and helping them grow, helping them become self-service. And then also, delivering to new adopters or really, really complex use cases.”

To support business users and make it easy to use Camunda in a self-service capacity, the CoE team created a “starter kit” of reusable patterns, components, tools, and artifacts, including pre-established archetypes—processes and commands that output an artifact with initial code that can be customized by the developer.

The archetypes, as Pieter explained, “give you your initial code out of the box with Hello World examples, which you then go customize.”

And to help ensure that the output of these customized, self-service projects comply with the organization’s standards and best practices, the CoE built governance into its workflow, starting with an intake application that must be submitted for all projects. This gives the team visibility into the project goals and promotes collaboration between the requestor and the CoE.

James described how it works: “Across the bank, everybody—self-service, new customers—must come through our design authority that’s chaired by the CoE, so we have consistency of adoption to make sure that actually Camunda is the right solution for them.”

“Once you use the self-service model, you are required to come to the community,” added Pieter. “Just present what you’re doing so we can check that it’s a good fit for Camunda. It’s also a chance for us to advise on our principles and patterns and say, ‘You should be using it this way… you should be thinking of this.’”

For projects that are not self-service and that require more involvement from the CoE’s Camunda experts, the team evaluates requests based on the potential overall value.

“We prioritize value stream first,” explained James.

That means, when someone requests a project, the team sits down with them to find out:

  • What is the value to the customer?
  • What is the benefit to the business?

Then they tie those business benefits to individual value streams within the product and determine whether to move forward with support from the CoE’s team of experts.

“We make it very clear to the business that we want to help drive the best benefit,” said James. And to quantify the outcomes, the CoE is able to track and trace the benefits of each delivered project.

To date, the CoE team has scaled support for Camunda’s process automation and orchestration capabilities to thousands of NatWest users and numerous individual applications, which are generating significant results. 

The results: Impacting employee and customer experiences through the CoE

In the six years since Camunda was adopted as a strategic solution, business teams have used it to process more than £3 billion worth of financial transactions, including 3 million loans and 250 thousand customer bereavement journeys, and saved approximately three-and-a-half years of processing time.

“Pretty amazing,” exclaimed James. “If you think about our ability to deliver mortgages, loans, deposits, help customers who need help—our vulnerable customers—we’re saving huge amounts of time.”

“And again, this might not look like a big thing, 250 [thousand] bereavement journeys, but the most difficult experience for any customer is you lose a loved one, and the last thing you want to do is go through that whole process of closing bank accounts. We’ve made that process so much smoother that we can help customers through that journey.”

For a team whose mission is to deliver value to their internal clients and, ultimately, the bank’s customers, their CoE is making an impact.

What’s next: Using the CoE as an engine to build value across the organization

NatWest’s CoE team continues to think big and is looking for ways to improve their process orchestration and deliver true end-to-end transformation. So, what does their roadmap look like? James and Pieter outlined four areas for innovation: 

  • Bank-wide integration: “We’ve used Camunda initially as a standalone workflow solution. Now, as we try and bring more value, the key is integration. How can we integrate with some of our core platforms, our mortgages, our fraud business? How can we exercise more automation? How can we leverage on the connectors that Camunda has versus our own? So that’s the first priority,” said James. 
  • Multi-tenancy: Establishing a multi-tenancy model for hosting and maintaining multiple use cases for Camunda 8 on AWS to increase cost-efficiency.
  • Camunda 8: Adoption of and migration to Camunda 8 to save costs and drive value. “We want to leverage the new technology,” said James. “We want to continue to drive forward the benefits of the new solution.”
  • Low code & Optimize: Embedding Camunda into the wider ecosystem to take advantage of its capabilities. For instance, using the process intelligence and analytics of Optimize to discover where there are problems and where processes are failing by identifying hotspots, break points, and efficiency gaps.

As James explained it, “Like most banks, our journey and our priority now is to help customers with their digital experience, and to really help them deliver on their long-term values, whether that’s their lending, savings, and understanding the role that the bank plays in modern society. We’re not just a bank, and I think that’s important, and it’s really played a part in the way that we use Camunda.”

Additional best practices for organizations that want to establish their own Camunda CoE 

A CoE should enable collaboration between teams and consistency of business processes across an organization. It helps get everyone on the same page, so development, delivery, implementation, and execution are more efficient and effective. 

NatWest’s presentation highlighted a few of the best practices their team is using to improve adoption and effectiveness of Camunda. For example, take time in the discovery phase of a project to challenge the way things are done. “Camunda’s not a magic wand,” said Pieter. “It’s not going to take a bad process and suddenly make it into a good process.” 

In short, if you are building a new process or modernizing a legacy process, look for ways to optimize it. Also, make each project a partnership. A CoE’s role is not to be an IT delivery service, but to enable business-led projects. Finally, the more you invest in training your business users, the greater the success of your CoE projects. At NatWest, they recommend their users take courses in Camunda Academy.

James and Pieter’s presentation includes slides and audience Q&A. To hear more of their conversation and get more details on how NatWest is using their CoE to improve the speed and quality of their process orchestration, check out the full session replay.

Download our handbook and learn how to establish your own Camunda process automation CoE.

See how to achieve true end-to-end automation with process orchestration.

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