Reto Gruenenfelder, Chief Technology Officer (Financial Services), IBM Asia Pacific
Before automated teller machines, customers looking to access banking services had no choice but to wait in line at a bank, during its opening hours. Today, online and mobile banking platforms have provided customers with instant access to the majority of banking services, creating a new reality for banks.
Customers today have little tolerance for downtime. They want banks to be responsive to their needs at all times and offer services that can address their financial concerns or increase the efficiency of their transactions.
Banks have worked hard to put in place detailed processes to ensure security and quick recovery from unplanned outages -- all in hopes of mitigating potential service disruption. Despite all the positive measures, the pressure to ensure continuity continues to mount.
It's time banks realise that high availability is a multi-faceted challenge. It involves a hard look at business and operational processes, IT infrastructure, planned maintenance, security mitigation, risk management as well as business continuity and disaster recovery policies.
In short, availability is a strategic business issue that requires commitment from top management and even the board. To ensure continuity, there are several fundamental issues that banks have to address.
Simplification -- Understanding organisational complexity
Management needs to gain insights into internal business processes and understand the complexities of its operations. Over the years, banks have developed organisational and product line complexities that put a strain on flexibility and ultimately, availability.
Complex dependencies can slow down operations. Banks need to be able to identify and isolate potential single points of failure and eliminate them, or build redundancies for failover.
When downtime occurs, management looks to IT to reinstate operations and conduct a post-mortem on how to avoid the same failure. However, these discussions are usually focussed on how to solve the technical challenge, when what is needed is a long and hard look at the processes that brought such failures.
For example, most banks today are organised by product lines, with many common processes and services across deparments. These duplicate and siloed processes are making banks into complex matrix organisations. Any single failure within this complex matrix will have repercussions on multiple processes within the organisation.
To address this challenge, the board and management must give the mandate to simplify the bank's "operational ecosystem" -- eliminating process complexities and creating dynamic business structures that empower the frontline.
Simplification begins with a due diligence on all business processes and services, even those that are not technology-driven. A simplified business process will aid in the development of defined IT and management systems as well as transparent process hierarchies, improving the ease and speed of problem solving and troubleshooting. Management's visibility into processes and their relative potential for failure will also enhance risk mitigation and operational resilience.
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