I hold accounts with two different banks. One chose this weekend to carry out a four day upgrade of its IT – from Friday 30th through Monday 2nd. Four days turned into five as “teething troubles” meant the service didn’t actually come back on time. Today it’s working but it has my account history only since the 1st April in it – prior data will apparently “be applied over the coming weeks” until I eventually have a 6 year record.
The trouble is, it’s the end of the tax year this week. What kind of numpty would figure that the best time to carry out a major upgrade of a bank’s customer-facing IT systems is just before the financial year end when people are doubtless trying to top up ISAs, move money into pensions, pay out salaries, reclaim expenses and so on? I’m sure that there’s no good time, but year end must be the daftest.
Funny thing is that every April, HMRC carry out a series of major releases around this time, in preparation for the new tax year. We rarely hear about these, partly because they’re mostly back office systems but mostly because they’re very good at it and have few failures. So major upgrades can be done at this time of year but it helps to practice.
The second bank rolled out its own major upgrade in March after some months of beta testing (I declined to participate – the idea of beta testing moving money around just didn’t grasp me as a great idea).
The result is an awful website that has gone from usable with some trouble to almost completely unusable. It’s the basics – not allowing a date format of “30/3/12” to be entered and insisting on “30/03/2012” for instance; or, here’s another, if I want to transfer £100, why make me enter £100.00 before you’ll make the transfer? Tasks that use to be one click away are now buried in dynamic menus that pop up and disappear as you move the mouse across the screen.
Two different banks, neither owned by the taxpayer, but both failing to deliver in entirely different ways. And, of course, none of them are being open and out loud about it.
We all find it easy to spot government IT failures – and ensure that they get massive coverage – but let’s remember that there are plenty of private sector failures that just drift by us without getting the same scrutiny, even now.