Why is the UK banking sector in so much IT trouble?

The Which group recently published a study stating that the UK banking sector was hit by IT outages on a daily basis in the last nine months of 2018, with 302 reported failures. The major banks had suffered at least one incident apiece every two weeks.

So why is this happening?

Firstly, the banks are now obliged to report any IT issues to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Which have taken this data to form their report, so IT problems are much more visible that before.  IT systems are now more important than staff in the eyes of the FCA – if a member of staff has to take time off work for medical reasons; that’s normal business, if an IT system fails to deliver that’s an offence.

Secondly, knowing the true root cause of problems before making changes is key. IT systems are now beyond human comprehension and need automation and AI-powered IT operations management (AIOps) to run efficiently. Unfortunately, IT doesn’t have the investment or influence at board level that it should. The business insists that their customer facing applications run as planned, but don’t really care who runs the IT infrastructure for them. They see the infrastructure as an overhead rather than a vital, profit generating, differentiator giving competitive advantage.

Thirdly, the banking sector has been advised to embrace the cloud and is struggling to migrate applications, often written in the 1980’s and 90’s, to a new platform. The cloud suppliers are reluctant to provide a service level agreement (SLA) on application performance, as they don’t know the quality of application coding they will be hosting, so there is effectively no one fully accountable if problems occur. A bank can have its customer facing applications down for an hour and the Cloud Provider is not in breach of contract.


How can this imbalance be addressed?

Over years the value of the IT infrastructure has eroded in the eyes of the business. This is not unique to IT. A few years ago, for example, you would care about the engine in your car, but now you just expect it to work – and are really irritated if it fails. The same goes for domestic automation; washing machines, dish washers, stereo systems, etc. are now just commodity items to be used and replaced with no emotion.  The value of IT in general needs to be recognised and the way to do this is to report how it is helping the business, in language the business understands. The business cares about application performance so if IT is supporting the applications it needs to show how well they are running, how cost efficient they are compared to other suppliers, and how in-house IT has a better understanding of the company direction than any outsourced partner.


VirtualWisdom, from Virtual Instruments, is an AIOps-driven platform that monitors the Hybrid IT infrastructure supporting application processing.  It gives a combined, live view across the Hypervisor, VM, Server, fabric and storage. This is not solely for On-Premises as cloud based outsourced applications also need this level of scrutiny to ensure they are performing optimally.

The applications themselves can be monitored using Application Performance Monitoring tools (APM), such as AppDynamics and Dynatrace, or log file analysis from Splunk – but these only show the application performance outside the data centre with perhaps a bit of Hypervisor information. It is a similar story from the switch providers and Network monitors as they only really look at their own devices and lack context to other devices and the applications themselves.

VirtualWisdom has bi-directional analytics with the major APM suppliers, and service desk provider ServiceNow, to give a single correlated view of the entire application process, from end-user right down to spindle level in the Storage. Only by having a live, single view of the entire IT infrastructure, and application performance, can a performance-based Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) can be set and then met.

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