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The lesson of TSB – testing, 1, 2, 3

An organisation’s IT system might look good on the surface, but you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there

This year’s TSB bank debacle has quickly become one of the biggest technology meltdowns of our time. What started back in April as an IT migration from its former owner, Lloyds Banking Group, to a new digital platform with Spanish bank Sabadell led to millions of customers being denied access to online banking. Then, five months after the incident, TSB CEO Paul Pester resigned.

So, the big question is: where did it all go wrong for TSB? During a select committee meeting, IBM said that the “performance testing did not provide the required evidence of capacity” and it had “not seen evidence of the application of a rigorous set of go-live criteria to prove production readiness”.

Without sufficient testing, IT professionals are unable to identify critical red flags, find solutions, and patch them up to fix the problem.

Although an organisation’s IT system might look good on the surface, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. A simple routine test can pick up numerous issues, which can easily be solved ahead of a large project to avoid bumps in the road.

Legacy systems, particularly in the financial services industry, can date back multiple decades and store vast amounts of sensitive customer data. Therefore, moving from these systems can pose a high risk for any organisation and its IT department.  

With any large IT project, it is important to have not one, not two, but multiple rounds of testing to make sure systems are monitored and plans are in place for potential errors, which can turn into disasters. A “plan B” is important, so is a “plan C”. In short, organisations need to be prepared for any red flags that might occur.

The right backup plan is only possible if companies test their systems rigorously with an effective monitoring tool. Only the right testing can identify weaknesses and create fixes for anticipated problems for IT professionals, before it’s too late.

You can’t troubleshoot if you can’t see where things are going wrong. Having clear monitoring and visibility is essential for companies to be able to pre-empt vulnerabilities.

Over the next five years, we will see more and more companies embrace digital transformation, which can be strenuous. This type of transition project must be right at the top of the boardroom agenda, and given the due care and attention it deserves.

TSB is not the only organisation that attempted to transform its IT infrastructure. Many companies are putting a stake in the ground on such initiatives – at the planning stage, at the beginning of implementation, in process, or during mature digital transformation.

No matter which stage of its transformation project a business is at, it is crucial to consider and learn from TSB’s mistakes – especially as we see this happen again and again, particularly in financial services. In fact, the latest IT glitch has seen millions of Barclays Bank customers locked out of their accounts.

By creating plans for digital transformation and analysing them carefully, we can make sure that testing is a core practice. And if businesses always have visibility into the network, they can help to avoid a similar IT meltdown.

Destiny Bertucci is head geek at SolarWinds

This was last published in October 2018

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