How Does a CTRM Software Company Actually Function?
Usually, CTRM software users are somewhat unaware of all the departments and functions that make up a CTRM software business and yet, the customer rightly expects the vendor to provide support and assistance. To facilitate improved communication and understanding, the more awareness the users have of how the vendor operates and what roles and functions it has internally, the better. To that end, upcoming articles will address this by introducing each of the seven teams within Amphora via an overview and interviews. This initial article focuses on the role the client probably has the most interaction with and that is the Business Analyst.
From the moment a CTRM implementation begins, the client will work closely with the vendor’s business analysts. This relationship will continue throughout the client’s use of the software. But what exactly does a CTRM business analyst do? Hopefully, this article will address exactly that with the help from two of Amphora’s senior business analysts, Bhuvnesh Saraswat, (B) and Luis Villegas, (L).
Understanding the role Describe your role at Amphora highlighting the areas you specialise in?
B: My role at Amphora is to assist our clients to achieve operational efficiency and to minimize specific risks using Amphora’s flagship CTRM product, Symphony. I help companies, which engage in Trading, Refining, Blending and Marketing Crude Oil, refined products, LPG and LNG and others bulk commodities, to manage their business. I help them to manage and digitalize operational workflows, to clearly view the related risks alongside the Physical Trade Life cycle. In addition, my experience in risk management allows me to advise them on how to effectively manage Physical, Market and Operational risks to name a few risk associated with trading. Additionally, to achieve greater operational efficiency, I work to improve and automate the existing processes that also involves automation of the workflow.
L: I see my role as a problem solver, liaising between the client and our company, helping to overcome difficulties, including training, and helping users understand which applications or features can align to their business, or to understand any new requirements and how to create new solutions.
How does your function impact the quality of the software?
B: The success of any system is related to the ability to correctly capture information from different users and functions, and produce a correct and easy to comprehend output. Being in a customer-facing role, it helps me to know how end users would like to use the system and at what point specific information is critical as an input or output. All this experience, through knowledge sharing with my fellow colleagues, also gets fed back into product design, development, and testing – and this makes our solution superior in terms of aesthetics, efficiency, performance, accuracy, scalability and technologically.
L: It heavily impacts the quality. We must put ourselves in the shoes of the end users. We need to think not only of the best way to solve a problem but also on how to provide the ultimate user experience. We participate during the whole process of providing a solution, starting with our clients having an idea and we follow the process through by collecting requirements, transmitting them to the development team and the Quality Assurance team. What biggest strengths are needed in your position?
B: The ability to adapt to the dynamically changing requirements of our customers and to clearly communicate those requirements to Amphora management and working groups. Additionally, people management and communication skills are important and needed for the role. It is extremely critical to foresee and manage the risks while running a project that may come from a range of factors.
L: Analytical skill; we should be able to collect information, analyse it and make decision. Being creative, thinking originally and designing out-of-the-box solutions to problems are some of the main strengths a BA should have. Empathy; as we need to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes and provide a tailored solution to all our clients. Patience; as sometimes it can take time to understand what our clients want, and we need to help them with ideas around the best solution.
Which other teams do you work closely with, what do you provide them, or them to you and how do you communicate?
B: I primarily work with Release Management, Quality Assurance and Development. My inputs to Release Management are Jira issues regarding new client environments, delivery of the new enhancements or fixes. The output from Release Management are delivery timelines, product release upgrades, updated products with fixes and enhancements. My inputs to Dev and QA are Functional Specs and helping them understand those. The expectation from them is that the output is properly explained in the functional document.
L: I work closely with our Support team daily as we work together to follow up on any issues a client currently might have, and to provide a solution as soon as possible. I also work with our Dev team to make sure they understand a problem or requirement and how the solution to that is expected to work. I work with our QA team to transmit what should be the experience of the user and the quality standard we want to achieve. Finally, I also work along with our clients’ team to help the communication between them and our company.
What in your view are the greatest risks and challenges for a CTRM business analyst?
B: One of the all-time risks is to get the right people at the right time to expedite decision-making. End users can think CTRM system are AI systems and may replace humans in decision-making, so setting up the right expectations becomes a challenge. In other words, change management is important so that users adapt to new processes and systems in an effective way.
L: I think the greatest challenge is to translate in an effective way the communication between the client and the different teams. Some teams might be more technical than others or some might focus on the business side, so we need to know how to communicate with each of them, and help all of them be aligned. I think one of the greatest risks is to rush a solution by not thinking of all possible scenarios. We need to step back and see the whole picture to be sure of the impact the proposed solution might have on the system.
Understanding the individual
Do you mostly work alone or in a team? If you manage a team, what style do you use to lead other employees?
B: Both - I normally work with client users and Amphora staff in parts. I manage a team and I believe that on-the-go training is most beneficial. Once the basic training is complete, team members must work on jobs where they work on real client issues, perform, and learn. Realtime problems help them to learn about the practical problems related to people, process, and the product. I am always available to direct them, and support them wherever needed.
What is your biggest achievement in your current role?
B: The clients I have worked with have trust in me. They use our CTRM system effectively gaining the most value.
L: Participating during the creation of the new applications like our logistics module and making them better each years have been one of my biggest achievements. Every time a new solution is live, I consider it a new achievement as well. Obviously the bigger the project, the bigger the achievement feels.
What has been your favourite project that you have been part of whilst at Amphora?
B: Innovation using automation and reverse engineering to make a solution fit as per client’s existing processes.
L: Every new project is exciting and right now one of my favourite projects is using a new technology in a new way to analyse information with the user experience set as a priority.
What do you find exciting about your job?
B: Meeting new people, help them to solve their business problems and win their trust.
L: Solving new problems and thinking of new ideas and different ways to address solutions, by listening to the users.
How long have you worked for Amphora and how is it to be an Amphora employee?
B: Seven years at Amphora has been very steep learning curve. I initially learned the business then made effective use of the opportunity by delivering a quality business solution.
L: I’ve been working for Amphora for 8 and a half years. All this time has been a great way to learn more about the commodity trading business, about CTRMs and even learn about other cultures as I’ve been working with different companies around the globe.
What attracts you in building a CTRM software?
B: It is always new – every new client, new commodity class, new region they operate in is quite different and appears afresh. However, accommodating all these variables and related issues using our CTRM software & catering to all their business problems is both challenging and interesting at the same.
L: Mainly making it better and better. Improving our CTRM and making it the best in the market.
What advice would you offer anyone considering working as a Business Analyst for a CTRM company?
B: Be meticulous and ask yourself “Why?” Be a good listener and communicate well. Be an initiative-taker and ask yourself “Can I?”
L: To be prepared to exercise your brain, to be patient, to be empathic, to be creative and overall to be ready to solve problems.
Bhuvnesh Saraswat With 15 years of experience, Bhuvnesh has been working with companies that either trade, process, consume or hedge physical commodities including – Crude Oil, Products, Coal, Natural Gas, Iron Ore, Emissions and Ags. Being a Client Solutions Director and a Senior Business Analyst at Amphora, his focus has been to help customers achieve greater operational efficiency while implementing, automating, or scaling up ETRM system setup, and services. Bhuvnesh holds an MBA degree from ICFAI University, Dehradun, India and BE degree in Computer Science from Rajasthan University, India.
Luis Villegas Luis started his career as a web and app developer, evolving into project manager and later to a Business Analyst. Luis has been a Senior Business Analyst for Amphora for 8 years. He has been involved in projects to create new applications, migrate legacy applications to new technologies and enhance the user experience. Luis holds a degree in Computer Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico City.