The Dirty Secret of Financial Technology

In Tabb Forum, Cliff Moyce, Chairman of Advisory Board at DataArt, explores the causes and cures for the massive support overhead in the finance sector. Moyce argues that, while being deemed inevitable by the industry, mounting support expenses are due to poor quality software and substandard development culture.

“The dirty secret of systems development in financial services and capital markets is that poor quality has become the norm. Technology ‘support’ has become a euphemism for addressing user complaints and fixing poor performing software. But IT systems can be designed and implemented so that they work straight out of the box and keep on working."

"In this context, “support” does not mean the essential processes needed for real-time service delivery. Instead, it means the process of translating a multitude of complaints from internal and external customers about poor quality software (functionality, utility, and performance) into a list of items that either are missing and should have been there in the first place; or are in there but not working correctly."

"Rather, “support” has been allowed to become an industry norm. If everyone assumes – based on experience – that all systems will have to be fixed on an ongoing and permanent basis, then everyone behaves accordingly when planning, budgeting and building. But that is a mistaken assumption."

"It is no coincidence that countries where the education system for computing is centred on embedded software development are producing engineers who do not assume post-hoc fixing. Those educators and engineers have a mind-set in which any need for subsequent fixing of a system once built and deployed is viewed, as was described to me, as “total project failure” – even when it is possible to implement the fix (e.g., software sitting on a sever in a bank). A mind-set baffled by the easy acceptance of lower-quality software in our industry."

"If you design systems well; adopt the right assumptions; employ people with the best attitudes, educations and motivations; measure quality in terms of customer satisfaction and whole-of-life cost; then solutions can be built on time, on budget and up to quality, and you will not spend the rest of your life paying to fix them and trying in vain to make customers happy. It can be done!”

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