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By Peter Duffy, CTO of Sumerian

Trust is at an all-time low

Peter Duffy
Peter Duffy

Almost ten years on from the start of the global financial crisis, public confidence in the banking industry remains at an all-time low, and it’s not hard to understand why. Since 2008, at least five major scandals with UK high street banks have hit the headlines, highlighting a sector plagued by mismanagement and fraud.

Technology too is a key risk factor to the reputations of the banks, and many are facing huge brand and financial costs as a result of their IT failures.

To restore trust, UK banks need to demonstrate to the Financial Conduct Authority and their customers that they are paying more care, ensuring robust risk and service management practices and assuring end user performance.  Having a strong capacity planning capability is key to this.

Managing complexity

Banks typically operate in very complex IT environments, having a wide range of platforms to consider, a high degree of volatility in the demand for different services, and high levels of change. This creates a real challenge for IT managers needing to maintain an accurate handle on capacity headroom and potential issues.

However, the repercussions of not getting capacity planning ‘right’ can be substantial.  For example, if a database server is running over capacity then it can no longer process financial transactions, having an immediate impact on the customer experience.

The common reaction is to increase investment in resources such as storage and virtualization to solve the problem. While this can offer a quick fix, it is not an effective solution for the long-term and means banks remain in a situation where they are only able to address IT issues as and when they happen rather than effectively plan, predict and avoid them in advance.

Applying capacity planning and the latest predictive analytics techniques can help banks adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach to IT management. Yet with this in mind, many are still not making significant investments in this area and as a result risking their future service performance and customer relationships.

Time to put capacity planning back on the agenda

Underlining this issue, we recently conducted research into the current capacity planning landscape, surveying large enterprises across the UK including key decision makers from the financial services sector.

The results were very revealing. Of the 94% planning a change to their IT infrastructure in 2016, 34% admit they find difficulty accessing the necessary capacity information required to support a major IT change.

As a result, banks and other organisations across the UK, are putting their IT service capability at significant risk, with those surveyed acknowledging that capacity issues still account for nearly 30% of all critical outages.

The lack of readily available capacity insight might not be so surprising given other key findings from the survey: although 55% of businesses are using capacity planning tooling, 45% say this is simply a spreadsheet, and although a majority believe that capacity planning is becoming increasingly important, nearly 40% perceive a shortage of skills and gap in their current capacity planning capabilities.

Treating the symptoms before the outage

Given the current reputational crisis in the financial sector, the results are surprising and highlight that many IT managers are still not recognizing the importance of capacity planning.

Establishing a strong capacity planning capability is the key to improving so many things, it is not only about avoiding problems and incidents; it’s about helping put proactive measures in place that can help de-risk change, optimize IT investment and understand behaviors and trends that can help protect future business performance.

Had the banks that experienced outages over the past few years better understood how their IT estate was performing ahead of time, and had advance insight into things that might impact performance in the future, disaster may have been avoided.

While it’s not possible to avoid all outages, analysis of the predictive trending provided by the latest capacity analytics solutions can prevent many outages and performance issues. And for those outages that can’t be avoided, the same technology can also be used to assess and de-risk disaster recovery plans.

Assuring future service performance

No two days are ever the same for IT managers working within the financial sector.  Having a capacity planning capability in place  to accurately model and understand the complex inter-relationships at play across the environment and give plenty of advance visibility of any potential hazards, helps to ensure a more consistent IT environment, building service reputations and regaining both customer and regulator confidence.