TSB IT Disaster
In The News / ITN - Each week I pick a new story from the news and provide my thoughts and opinions on it.
Im sure by now you will have heard about the fiasco happening at TSB bank in the UK. If you haven't or just wish to sadistically put yourself through another example of a failed high profile IT project, heres what happened.
After Sabadell bought TSB from Lloyds, a condition of their bailout from the UK government, they determined the eye watering yearly bill of £100M for hosting and maintaining their IT systems was too much. Sabadell has recently had a few successes with integrating smaller banks it has acquired onto its in-house IT system. The executives thought the same could be done quite comfortably with TSB.
This is where things start to go south. TSB whilst not huge is still a bigger bank than the other banks Sabadell had migrated onto their platform. Then there’s TSB’s current infrastructure was a copy of Lloyds, which by a few accounts was a mass of intertwined legacy systems (goo.gl/ydP3Ge). Add onto all this, they were still renting their systems from Lloyds so didn't have full control and there were multiple 3rd parties involved and all this should have raised some huge red flags.
We all know IT projects can take longer than expected and there will inevitably be challenges but it seems here we have all the classic hallmarks of a failed IT project; Running behind schedule / last minute significant changes / lack of proper testing / lack of ownership and responsibility from managers and a failure to grasp the size of the task at hand.
The outcome of all this confusion and complexity for customers was:
Not being able to access their accounts online
Unable to pay staff or bills
Being notified of payments which hadn't happened
“The challenge we are facing at the moment is that while we know everything is working…”
So this is where you’d expect senior leaders to step in and reassure everyone that everything was being done and apologies for the mess, right? Wrong, CEO Paul Pester released a statement saying “The challenge we are facing at the moment is that while we know everything is working…” when it clearly wasn't. Then on Thursday, 5 days after the failure had started he stated he was taking control of the situation from his Spanish superiors.
Every problem companies face is always a result of a failure of leadership. This project is no exception, starting with the rumoured timeframe of 18 months to pull off a complex task like this shows either a lack of understanding and underestimation or it stems from a culture where pleasing managers and not speaking up is allowed to take hold.
Moving onto the reports of major code changes happening right before the go-live date, shows which ever SDLC methodology was in place had gone out the window and with it went a rigorous testing schedule. The clear lack of any performance or load testing is astonishing.
All of these failures in leadership are perfectly encapsulated in the fact it took until day 5 for the CEO to announce he was ‘personally’ taking control of the situation. The CEO is responsible for everything that happens under their watch, regardless whether they also have a boss. To wait until day 5, shows a lack of responsibility and engagement with internal departments.
From all the reports Ive read on this, i’m not surprised it hasn't worked out and i’m sure the writing would have been on the wall for quite a while.
Its very easy for me to sit here and write a post criticising what happened, we all know hindsight is 20-20. So what would I have done differently in this situation if I was the CEO.
I’d start by creating a culture where people feel empowered and are actively encouraged to voice their opinions. Having a bunch of ‘Yes People’ may feel comforting but its only setting you up for failure. You need the right answers and sometimes they’re at the end of tough conversations.
Correctly carrying out the chosen SDLC Methodology is fundamental to having a chance of success. Challenges will inevitable emerge leaving you facing either schedule / scope or minor testing slip but abandoning your basic guide is the quickest way to failure.
Finally, a willingness to take ownership. If everyone takes ownership in a task they will work to make sure it succeeds. The role of the CEO is to lead by example and show what it means to own a task or problem. Stepping in at the last minute is too late as the damage has already been done.