Unhappy new year for banking customers

  • Michael Allen, Director of APM for Compuware

    New Year’s Eve is arguably the biggest night of the year: people plan their evenings’ months in advance, getting ready to start the next year with a bang. But it is also one of the most expensive nights of the year, so you can imagine the faint feeling of panic experienced by partygoers who went to draw out their much needed funds only to find them unavailable.

    This was the dilemma faced by Halifax, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB customers last week, according to reports in the national press. The troubles started at 4pm when a massive systems failure in the banking system left customers stranded, unable to transfer money online, pay on card, or draw money from cash machines. For some, the credit in their accounts was completely wiped and cards were actually swallowed by the ATM machines, leaving customers completely at a loss.  As a result, the customer complaints came flying in, with many saying that they had been forced to change their New Year plans due to the problems.

    The issues were resolved in just over an hour, but for many the damage had already been done, demonstrating without question, the impact IT has on all of our lives.  With consumers interacting with IT every few minutes, when it goes wrong the impact on them, and on the reputation of the offending organisation, is significant.

    The problem is that in recent times, IT systems have become vastly more complex. Delivering money at a cashpoint could be reliant on 20 different IT systems.  Even if a small change is made to one of these systems, it can cause major problems for the whole banking service. We will continue to see problems like this happening unless performance and quality is engineered in IT applications while architecting, developing and testing new systems. Even then, problems can and will occur, and so it’s equally important that companies have the ability to react and solve problems in minutes, not hours.