TSB: Leadership and judgement failure at all levels?

The Badger, like many, has been following TSB’s recent very public IT difficulties in moving from the Lloyd’s banking systems to new banking platforms that have their roots in TSB’s parent, Banco Sabadell of Spain. The reasons and economics for the move are well documented in the media, and a quick Google will provide you with all the background. TSB told its customers well in advance that its banking systems would be out of action for a weekend for the move to happen. When the Badger heard this, there was a big twitch of the nose and a surge in the Badger’s business and IT delivery instincts!

Right from the early planning stage there was never any doubt that this was going to be a large, complex and business critical endeavour that must be a success for TSB. Well, to say the move has been calamitous is an understatement! It’s been an expensive mess and a public relations and customer service disaster. Almost two weeks after the migration the bank is still struggling to regularise its services, and TSB executives have been called to explain what’s happened to a parliamentary committee.

The media is, of course, full of commentary on what went wrong, with lots of the normal ‘an insider says’ snippets. If you’ve worked in IT you’ll already relate to snippets like ‘inadequate testing’, ‘architecture of the new platform not up to it’ and so on. You’ll also know that technical staff in IT often work their socks off and go well beyond the call of duty when it comes to these types of move. The Badger’s nose didn’t twitch because of the inevitable technical and data complexities of the migration. It twitched because moves of this business significance require extremely high levels of confidence in a) business and IT readiness, b) the approach to handling failure, and c) enhanced post-live customer service mechanisms before taking the formal ‘Go’ decision. An enterprise’s business imperatives can often get in the way of objectivity and create a climate and momentum where no one wants to say they aren’t ready.

The Badger has seen many formal ‘Go-live readiness processes’ that haven’t been as business and IT comprehensive, rigorous, or evidentially based as they should be. If the readiness and decision-making process and the associated internal climate  were flawed – and events certainly raise questions in this respect – then there’s likely to have been a wide-ranging leadership and judgement failure at multiple corporate, business, service and IT levels within TSB and Banco Sabadell regardless of specific IT technical issues.  Time will tell, but no doubt TSB’s move from Lloyds will become a case study on MBA courses in due course. And in case you’re wondering…the Badger is not a TSB customer!


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