High Profile Failures ‘Have Focused Spotlight on IT Integration’

IT integration is often sidelined in preference to other IT projects, but this approach has been turned on its head with recent revelations of shortcomings at several UK high street banks according to Freeform Dynamics and Liaison Technologies, which have conducted research on data integration.

The two companies report that their recent survey of 120 mid-to-large sized UK companies revealed some surprising attitudes. Nearly half (48%) of the respondents are dissatisfied with their current integration capabilities, but most of them (41%) believe addressing the problem was too much trouble.  Almost 37% cite internal complacency and inertia as reasons why they never get around to improving their systems and processes. 

Recent high-profile IT systems integration shortcomings cited include the failure of a deal under which the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had planned to sell over 300 branches to Santander, which was blamed on integration difficulties. Shortly after the Bank of Scotland (BoS) was fined £4.2m when its mortgage systems were found to be ‘inadequate’ after problems arising from the integration of data from Halifax mortgages. Both are part of the Lloyds Banking Group.

The most notorious integration failure this year also involved RBS. Its retail banking infrastructure in the UK went down for a week in the summer after a botched software upgrade failed to integrate with existing systems at the bank.

“It is shame that it takes such high profile failures to make organisations take more notice of this issue but I am sure the potential financial impacts have made a number of chief executive officers [CEOs] feel extremely nervous,” said Mikko Soirola, vice president for Liaison Technologies.

“Companies must realise that proper data integration is fundamental to all business performance.  If you start from a position of poor data you will be compromised on all future projects, which will have adverse effects on operational efficiencies and employee motivation.  It is vital they are addressed from the beginning.”

Dale Vile, research director at Freeform Dynamics, added: “While integration technologies and best practices have moved on considerably over the past decade, the temptation is always to take the short-cut route and join things up using quick and dirty bespoke developments. Another common problem is putting too much focus on the points of integration, and not enough on ensuring that the underlying systems and information landscape are up to the job. The upshot is fragile systems, and a lot of accidents waiting to happen.”

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