Archive for the ‘Financial IT’ Category

IT outsourcing in the banking sector – what’s the big deal?

July 10, 2012

It is no surprise for those who work in the technology and banking sectors: banks often make large use of outsourcing and managed services for their IT. It is a cost-efficient solution that can help them remain competitive within the market with easy access to the best skills, technology and processes available. However, banks tend to be wary of announcing this practice to the world as they fear customers will think their personal and financial information may be put at risk, and won’t trust them with their money.

Since the NatWest/RBS/Ulster IT glitch became public there has been a lot of speculation around the origin of the issue. The banking group has tried to remain vague while focussing on reassuring their customers, while people took to online forums and social networks to make accusations towards the bank’s IT management and sourcing choices.

The banking giant was in fact accused of hiding the fact that the problem was possibly linked to their use of offshoring, as recent job ads for the support of one particular system which was thought to be the cause were found on recruitment websites in India.

But if the glitch had been caused by an in-house team member, would it have caused less of a reaction? What about an in-house IT Service Desk, but managed by an external service provider? Rather than pointing fingers at ‘outsourcing’, the real issue might be ‘bad sourcing’ or ‘bad IT management’. As this example might have shown, offshoring to save money might actually create more costs due to many factors, such as cultural differences, lack of control, different laws related to data security, and so on. A managed service, where IT is retained in-house and simply managed by a trusted third party, can be a much safer option.

Perhaps if there was more information on outsourcing, customer culture could change and they, too, could start to see outsourcing like a good thing, an improvement, a cost-efficient solution rather than a threat.

A recent survey by the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) found that 80 per cent of UK citizens believe ‘outsourcing hinders British businesses’. However, only 27 per cent of UK citizens associated ‘a local computer company providing IT support to small businesses’ with ‘outsourcing’, while 58 per cent thought ‘a bank opening a call centre in India’ was an example. This clearly means that outsourcing is mainly associated with offshoring, which is only one possible way to outsource a service or function. But there are many other, safer solutions that still use UK resources, such as managed services, co-sourcing and shared services – some even allow the organisation to keep staff in the same office.

So on one side, banks should probably be more transparent on their use of IT outsourcing, so that customers can get used to the fact that its use is quite common. It is important for bank customers to know where their data is stored, who has access to it and what the risks are.

On the other, it is important that people are being made aware of what outsourcing is, what types exist and what benefits this practice can bring. Banks should clearly explain what measures are in place to ensure their personal and financial information is not accessed, stolen or lost and why using an outsourced or managed service can be a benefit for them as well, improving their banking experience by maximising the skills and services of outsourcers.

 

Jon Reeve, Principal Consultant

This article appeared on Director Of Finance Online:

http://bit.ly/PAAeia

Advertisements

Just how much of a saving is the reduction of heads from an IT support team?

March 20, 2012

ImageIn a bid to meet the demands of an FD who needs to see cost savings across the organisation, often it’s a portion of an IT team that have to go.  On the face of it, it’s an easy choice.  Those within an IT team will often perform the same functions as one another, therefore, if one or more leave the team, it can still perform all its required tasks, albeit a bit slower than before.

But what might not have been considered in such decision making is the organisation’s profile of staff’s expected IT skills and the speed-of-service demands.  If the two are considered together, an optimal ratio of IT staff to company staff can be derived which can be used as a benchmark against any planned reductions in heads.

Definitions:

Staff’s expected IT skills – Some business environments may have a low expectation on its staff in terms of their IT skills.  A law firm is a good example as it’s more beneficial to the organisation if their legal teams are fee earning (by practicing law), instead of being able to clear their own printer jams.  Other organisations, perhaps a software house, will have employees who are more than capable of dealing with common IT issues.  In these examples, the law firm is clearly going to need a greater ratio of IT support people to staff members than the software house.

Speed-of-service demand – An investment bank, or indeed any organisation that is wholly reliant on IT to trade, will tolerate only the most minor of IT interruptions, whereas some business types might be able to suffer IT delays for hours, or even days, without any particular impact on their business.  Those with the need for greater speed of service, or even immediate need for service, will require a greater ratio of IT support people to staff members compared with those that don’t.

If these two aspects of a business’ IT culture are considered together, one can begin to determine the optimal number of IT support people to staff members.

For organisations with a low expectation of staff’s IT skills, but who need rapid IT support, a ratio of 1 support person to every 50 members of staff, might be appropriate.  The other extreme, high staff IT skills coupled with lower speeds of support, may lead to a ratio of 1 support person to every 200 members of staff.

Then, if there is a need to cut heads, a more informed choice may be made, i.e. just how many heads may be lost without: a) requiring the established IT culture to change, or b) having a detrimental impact of the organisation’s ability to trade?

Of course, this thought process and logic need not only apply to difficult times, when reducing costs is a priority.  It can apply to times of business success and be used as a means of determining the best IT support fit for the business.

Image

Jon Reeve, Principal Consultant

Minimising IT downtime for finance professionals

November 30, 2010

High-value users downtime costs firms thousands an hour

High IT availability is nowadays vital to the majority of organisations across all sectors. For the financial sector, so heavily reliant on IT, it is ever more crucial that the business-critical systems work at maximum efficiency and that any downtime and disruptions are minimised. To high-value users, delays, an inability to access data or email and lack of business continuity in any other form have an overall cost that cannot be ignored, especially in an unstable economic environment such as the one we are currently experiencing.

If research shows that the average yearly revenue loss due to downtime in UK companies amounts to just over £200,000, when it comes to the financial sector this increases to £220,000 – the highest across the various sectors. This figure, reported in the recently published study ‘The avoidable cost of downtime’ issued by CA Technologies, is not surprising. If you add up the cost of email, servers, data centre and crucial applications downtime and take into account the high hourly cost of a finance executive who is unable to work, it is not difficult to see how the overall figure can reach hundreds of thousands.

A solution to minimise downtime and disruptions and the resulting losses is evidently needed. Efficient IT Support, tools and technology that enable business continuity and resilience are key to achieve cost-efficiency, together with implementation of the Best Practice frameworks tailored to business requirements.

Investing first of all in a Best Practice framework such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is an excellent base for any improvements to IT. By taking the processes described by the discipline and adapting them to business needs, major cost-efficiencies can be reached, and in turn, users will experience a better, more consistent service.

From a ‘platform’ point of view, the adoption of one or more forms of Virtualisation, be it desktop or server based, is another strategy which can be used to reduce downtime. “Live migration” features make it far quicker for the Service Desk to bring users back on line when they experience a problem with their desktop and failover  solutions found in lots of virtualised server environments can help to safeguard against data loss and mass user downtime caused by a fault at the ‘back end’.

Looking at the Service Desk aspect of IT, adoption of some self-service tools and appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPI) can help to make incident resolution faster and smoother, minimising disruption and to some extent, even the number of repeat incidents. The proportion of first and second/third line technicians and their skills should be reviewed, so that most incidents can be resolved at first line level. Support staff should be able to ask finance professionals the right questions in order to understand the nature of the incident, and to resolve it quickly or promptly escalate it to Desk Side or remote support.

The cost savings achieved through the appropriate management of people, process and technology to financial firms can be huge. If the systems are virtually never down and data is practically always accessible or quickly recoverable, losses deriving from downtime are virtually annulled and high-value users can carry out their work without unpleasant interruptions, helping the firm reach a level of strategic competition previously unseen.

Richard Forkan, Business Development Director