Fintech makes the world go around

May 1 2018   8:51AM GMT

Could Agile and DevOps be to blame for banking IT failures?

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40


This is controversial and feel free to air your views or even vent your anger.

During a conversation about the TSB IT disaster a contact of mine, a senior IT professional in banking, asked a question about the link between Agile and DevOps development methods and the bank IT failures in recent years.  Legacy systems are usually blamed, but what is the role of Agile and DevOps when things go wrong?

I would be interested in hearing from other experts so please send you ideas.

This is what my contact said: “Regarding big bank systems failures in the last few years – I have been wondering for some time if there is a connection with the recent growth of agile and DevOps in banking IT.

In the old days systems were fully designed in advance so you could take everything into account before writing the code. Agile is just a polite way of saying everyone is playing it by ear and making it up as they go along because they don’t really know what they are building. In the past there was a strong control point between development and production so that operations could check out a system very thoroughly before letting it go live. With Agile methods undermining the full design process and devops eroding the ‘go live’ gateway, I am wondering if these new approaches have introduced systems problems that might not have arisen doing it the old fashioned way.

Taking into account the cost of such failures and consequential impact, the old fashioned ways might be cheaper overall. Hence why clunky old legacy systems in PL/1 and COBOL on mainframes generally work ok and have been around for 40 years in some cases.”


Read below some articles about how banks and other financial services firms are using Devops.

Barclays banks on agile and DevOps to tackle competitive threats in fintech

HSBC combines AWS with agile thinking to tap into growing demand for mobile banking

Insurance giant Allianz opens up about how DevOps success is fueling its move to cloud

Overcoming the scale-up challenge of enterprise DevOps adoption


Also read more about the TSB IT migration disaster

TSB customers have experienced a weekend of problems with online banking services as the bank migrates from Lloyds Bank systems to its new core banking system.

The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Financial Conduct Authority are assessing the IT meltdown at TSB that led to some customer accounts being seen by other customers.

TSB’s very public IT problems will send shivers down the spine of IT teams at large banks that are yet to migrate to new core banking systems.

TSB chaos: When choosing bank people should look at core banking platform and not just funky apps.

TSB customers are still experiencing problems using online and mobile banking services after almost a week of disruption.



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  • Derek Britton Micro Focus

    As the recent high profile IT outage situation unfolded, I commented that replacing the old with the new, rather than bridging the old and the new comes with inherent risks, and also threatens to remove vital competitive advantage from the business. While agile and DevOps have prevailed as new methods in IT delivery, different levels of adoption or maturity within a hybrid IT estate (or “Multi speed IT” as it is often termed), with it is inherent delivery gap, pushes companies to take further risks to close that gap to meet market demand. The rush to deliver something new has often compromised too heavily on the right level of control and quality. Such risks are unthinkable in established areas where the systems and delivery rigor is well established. So the best approach is, to coin a phrase, a hybrid model: by building an inclusive, single speed roadmap for all of IT (mainframes and elsewhere), utilising the best of ‘older’, more robust methods (and proven technology) alongside the ‘newer’ more Agile methods. In must-not-fail systems, the plan must be evolution, not revolution.

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  • KarlFl40
    Thanks for your comments Derek. I am currently looking for the areas people think TSB should be questioned on. The CEO is to be grilled by MPs tomorrow so should be interesting. I wonder what level of IT governance is in place at the bank.
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  • MJamesDataStax

    I don’t think agile or DevOps adoption are responsible for the issues taking place at TSB. From my understanding, the issue is that the timescales for implementation were unrealistic and the deadline was not able to be moved for reasons of cost. When this takes place, it’s always easy to look back with hindsight at where problems started. However, you run the risk of sunk cost fallacies affecting decision making – we have already spent this much and committed so much effort here, so we have to continue rather than backing out.

    From my experience, phased migrations that allow teams to build out a data layer between the customer and the back-end are more likely to help banks succeed. For the work we are doing at DataStax, this approach allows banks to continue serving customers with information requests which are typically 80% of customer interactions – how much money is my account, say – while the core banking system can be changed. Rather than a big bang approach, this allows banks to test with a smaller group of customers and check that things are working properly in parallel. This means that banks don’t have to run the risk of an all or nothing migration and run the huge risk of failure.

    Other banks have had these migration issues recently as they have had to comply with industry changing regulations like PSD2. This phased approach, based on keeping things consistent for the customer experience, has help them successfully change over to these new environments.

    I’d say that TSB has taken on some of the biggest amount of risk in its migration. However, all banks will have to make changes in their infrastructure over time. Either they have to carry on running mainframes with legacy applications, or they too will have to migrate in the future. At this point, the TSB example will be one that all banks will learn from. In these circumstances, newer approaches like DevOps can complement more traditional migration planning, as part of a phased roll-out. The important element here is that development and testing phases have to be respected. You can’t ignore the crunch phase in deployment and expect to be lucky.

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