Meeting Goliath

by Andreea Darlea

The first steps are always the hardest, the most wavering, but also full of hopes and eagerly expected. You can almost feel the air filled in with anticipation and tension, just like before a 100 m race. Only this time was more of a marathon-like race: 2 Allevo representatives, 4 days, 6 meetings, 8 entities. One may say that the action itself might be considered Goliath, and wouldn’t be far from the truth.

But the true Goliath was more impressive. I remember our grandparents were very proud when they had an object marked with Сделано в России (Made in Russia) as they were made forever. When we grew up this Made in Russia was replaced by Made in Germany. And now picture this, a German beneficiary proud of having something Made in Romania! This is actually what we are trying to do.

We think that our initiative, BOOST – Banking On Open Source Technology, is a project that deserves to be better understood and supported even by great players on the banking and financial market. It is not an easy job for a small company from an Eastern European country to make its voice heard in the multitude of voices raising as the technology limits are challenged almost every day. Besides technology, we think that we can bring a change in attitude. We hope to create an environment where bright minds in this domain can meet and create better tools faster, less expensive and more responsive to the end users’ needs. This environment is the community Finkers United we are continuously building around FinTP product, a software that allows managing financial transactions from various angles: detecting duplicates, enriching transactions with specific data, validating certain pieces of information, reporting based on various criteria, transforming transactions in various formats, as required by the regulatory bodies, anti-money laundry and financing terrorism filtering, cash and risk management, and so on.

We wanted to contact a mature, well-established market and make use of its experience, expertise and ideas, so we chose one of the European economic engines, Germany. When you look from outside at the German economic infrastructure you know you are in the presence of first-class artefacts. When you do the same from inside you may be even more impressed, as you meet the people who made all this possible. The people and their beliefs. There are many preconceptions about German people: they drink a lot of beer (they are cheerful), they eat a lot of sausages (who wouldn’t?), they are serious and hardworking (or was it seriously hardworking?), they stick with each other (good job), and others. We went there and found professionals, ready to listen and to help us with their own ideas, to share their experience and give us tips on how to approach certain situations. As they were gladly shared, we, in return, faithful to our open source principles, would like to give back some of our thoughts on this matter.

Mainly, there are three directions for covering the software need within an enterprise: buy it, develop it yourself, or outsource either the services or the personnel to develop it. Strangely enough, or not, the second most met situation is to have in-house developments. This gives us hope as it means that we can address a core of developers, testers, architects that might be interested in taking away, if not an entire suite, at least some parts of it and integrate it within the larger system. Another thing that might encourage us on our road is that nowadays even financial institutions are more willing to accept open-source software. It is true that there are still strong hold-backs as far as the critical software is concerned; but, for example, at least, operating systems such as RedHat made their way into this environment. Anyway, this means that we have to pay special attention to our documentation, code specification, architecture and functionalities description, tutorials, and, in general, to any mean that may convey vital information to potential users/ contributors to the software, so that people may better understand the strengths of the product, as well as where the product may be improved. The big issue is ultimately of trust: do I trust to use this product, and if I do, do I trust to contract this company to maintain this product for me? It is obvious that both are equally important to us.

Another approach would be that instead of addressing directly the final user, to address the existing providers on the market, who have established strong partnerships with the potential users and offer the missing blocks in the financial transactions processing. Again, we will have to prove the abilities of the product and of the community around it.

So, if on the short term, maybe even on medium term, the perspectives are less abundant, and the hard work most probably will never stop, we may change the legend and put the two, David and Goliath, at the table and just talk it through their own fears and expectations and make them work together.

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