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No one ever said running IT was an easy task – certainly not in recent times. In financial services (FS), this challenge is compounded by other issues facing the industry, particularly around innovative challengers in the market, data management, internal decision making and customer expectations. But there is also huge opportunity, which was discussed at length at our recent meeting with IT leaders from global banks in London.
Those who get it right will be rewarded with reduced costs, improved services and the opportunity to go after a bigger slice of the market. The question is how to deliver against this challenge, particularly when the technology demands from different teams within the business can differ hugely? And how can you streamline the process so that you don’t have to start from scratch with each request?
One option is to consider organisational change; to run IT as a business within the business. The scope of this activity can differ hugely based on the scale of the business and the reasoning behind business unit requests, but ultimately the principle remains the same. By creating a best option for the business as a whole, delivering this within the remit of the IT team and offering a bespoke service to those business units looking for an alternative option (costed based on the project parameters) the IT team and wider business units can develop a system which is far more profitable for all involved.
When we consider the setup of most financial services organisations, it’s important to bring the infrastructure, developer, security and IT teams together under one umbrella, working towards the overall objectives of the organisation. When departments make requests on IT, they have access to this pool of expertise who can tell them whether their request can be delivered within the options that the IT team has in place. If requests are outside of the IT team’s usual remit, the organisation can then look at providing a bespoke option, and billing that part of the business accordingly. This means that rather than tying up the team in multiple projects with slightly different scopes or underlying technologies, they can provide a more cost effective, common architecture option based on the centralised development and sharing of tools.
For some organisations, this could take the form of employing a business manager in the IT team to engage with the wider business. For others, it could simply be in how their IT service and processes with the wider business are constructed. Typically people will go for the option with less customisation and more compromise, in order to ensure that they can move ahead with the development they need, without unnecessary costs or time delays. A further positive is that the IT infrastructure can be 100% allocated, with the expense for capacity and new tools borne by the wider teams, while security and compliance can be much more closely monitored and aligned, in a far more straightforward and centralised manner.
Business units aren’t adverse to bearing IT costs either. We only have to scratch beneath the surface of many organisations to find IT services that have been purchased outside of the IT team in a bid to speed up the process – particularly under the umbrella of cloud services. The result of these purchases is, in fact, likely to result in more delays in the long run. Getting the tools on board and working through compliance can be lengthy processes, so there is a real driver for the rest of the business to align with wider IT policies in the business and meet their departmental objectives much faster.
The key to delivering against this challenge will inevitably be the delivery mechanics within each organisation and how the shift in policy is communicated. No one wants to feel as though they are having to compromise on a new product or service which they are developing for the organisation. By ensuring that it is communicated from the top down that the new IT service platform will ensure faster delivery and improved outcomes, along with aligning with security and compliance obligations, it can be viewed as a positive for all involved.