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Financial Services organisations that don’t support the evolution of IT will be left vulnerable

Thomas Coles, managing director, MSM Software

IT is fundamentally changing, and not least in the financial services sector. A recent study of 100 large UK-based organisations showed that 96 per cent of IT managers within the financial services industry believe the IT role has transformed over the past twelve months.Thomas-Coles

Most notably, 67 per cent of respondents stated that IT has shifted into a more strategic position. Changing skill sets and IT staff spending less time running in-house systems were cited as ways that the role of IT has changed.

Due to this change in strategic focus, 37 per cent of IT managers within the financial services sector state they no longer have sufficient resource to support business-critical systems, or undertake the host of software projects that business requirements necessitate, which can be both resource intense and complex.

With organisations across all sectors facing a faster pace of technology change than ever before, due in no small part to the ever-shifting landscape, and demands on the IT department increasing, the strain from a lack of resource has left IT teams at breaking point.

Financial services organisations must ensure they are not placed at risk by a failure to ensure their IT function can drive forward technology innovation. I believe financial organisations need an assertive approach to IT in 2013; here are my tips for how organisations can empower the IT department over the coming year:

Be flexible with resourcing. Financial services organisations should consider adopting a fresh strategic approach to resourcing, for example, ‘body shopping’, where a business loans the technical expertise of an IT organisation’s employee on a short or longer-term basis. This can ensure staffing requirements are met and ease the pressure of skills shortages, while keeping costs to a minimum.

Make systems fit for purpose. Our research shows 98 per cent of financial services IT managers are not convinced IT systems are matched to their own specific business needs. More organisations need to undertake technical audits, such as software health checks, to assess the current status of business critical systems. This will be a necessary change to establish whether systems really are fit for purpose and meet the evolving needs of the organisation.

Renew investment in technology. Investment in new, innovative business-critical systems has fallen significantly, with 37 per cent of financial organisations choosing not to invest in IT over the past 12 months. Organisations must wake up to the importance of renewed IT investment; without new investment in projects, technologies and the resource to support these developments, no new wave of productivity improvements is possible and IT will not be able to deliver its developing strategic role effectively.

Outsource IT technical tasks. To meet the long-term objectives more financial services companies must consider outsourcing IT. This presents one of the key ways of introducing change into business culture through outside innovation. Contracting IT enables an organisation’s in-house department to focus on their core activities, whilst bringing dedicated, and in some cases more experienced, hands on board to act as an extension of the team.

Accept the importance of IT. For too long, many organisations have been content to shift IT into a supporting role where it is not most effective. As IT becomes more strategic, there must be greater acceptance from the board of the importance IT holds in the wider organisation. Only then will IT receive the on-going support in terms of resource and investment that it needs to meet the long-term objectives of a growing organisation.

As IT becomes more strategic, organisations must recognise that business technology can be a key enabler for growth. However, this in turn requires a commitment of adequate resource, and robust IT systems which are fit for purpose.

This is the only way firms can enable technology to meet the long-term objectives of the business, whilst ensuring that the department is not spreading itself too thin – leaving the wider organisation vulnerable in the process.

Research study

Research from MSM Software in conjunction with Dynamic Markets, ‘Strategic change in IT’, presents quantitative research findings based on interviews with 100 IT managers (middle manager level and above) in large UK-based third sector and financial service organisations with 250+ employees. The study was conducted to pinpoint industry views about the changing nature of IT in their sector.