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Breaking out of the Henry T Ford approach to FS infrastructure

From our regular meetings with FS IT leaders in the UK, we know that the challenges of delivering scalable, secure and timely IT to support vastly different, yet constant, requests from across the business can at times seem overwhelming. Alongside these requests, technology and consumer behaviours are changing quickly and decisions made now could be viewed as the wrong choice in 12 months’ time. What’s essential is that these challenges don’t result in paralysis for an IT team, either in restricting innovation, their ability to deliver or in teams putting off decisions due to fears that they may turn out to be wrong.

What’s interesting to note is that, in many organisations, the infrastructure layer is yet to have been through the cultural and technical shift which has already been experienced in other areas of IT. This means that infrastructure teams could be accused of slowing down the transformation process in banks – in some cases in a self-preservation bid. There are also skills challenges, as the role of project management and provisioning become the stepping stones to broader transformation.

When we look specifically at the use of applications within FS firms, this challenge is even more prevalent. What’s interesting to note is that many organisations therefore take a Henry T Ford approach to IT infrastructure as a way in which to cope with the barrage of application needs from the business. What this results in is rigid application architecture, limited freedom for customisation and, ultimately, a poor user experience. Security elements are also a significant challenge when it comes to application architecture, and where many processes often break. Yet this area of the business is essential for driving future successes and therefore must be addressed. But where to start?

What’s important to note is that the complexity comes from the ask – and it’s often designed for the old world. If you switch the business approach to applications being grouped and then provision based on this system, it will allow IT teams to simplify processes and deliver a better service, without having to customise at every level. By creating a pattern based on elements such as consuming patterns, security required, compliance and the load environment, organisations can streamline their approach to application delivery and  better support the business, without a complete overhaul of processes. Following this approach also makes delivery more straightforward for the broader IT team, as these patterns also provide a simplified model for the infrastructure layer to provision against. Crucially, it also enables businesses to provide a greater range of options and some levels of customisation for the business, breaking out of the Henry T model - at least somewhat.

But this process itself isn’t a straightforward one, and lots of development is required in order to set a business up in this respect. What’s crucial to remember is that applications are going faster than ever and have evolved significantly both from a technical and user experience perspective. As such, infrastructure must catch up or run the risk of slowing down innovation across the board.

I’ve talked previously about the importance of clear leadership and the cultural shift, alongside technology transformation, and this is certainly true when we look closely at applications. Implemented well, reviewing application architecture should result in shifting ownership, roles and the removal of some processes which have been held dear for a long time. Organisations must elect which battles to have and where automation can alleviate some of the workload as we switch over to the new world.

We’ve already seen progress from financial organisations when it comes to their data and processes (of which they’ll certainly be further shifts over the next year) but applications are the heart of the future opportunity and the ability to spin them up quickly and efficiently must be tackled by organisations as a matter of urgency.

What’s needed to drive success is a clear definition of the business objectives, buy in from across the team, controls to ensure that the business doesn’t try to run before it can walk and a clear sight of what applications consume which infrastructure; a recipe for application delivery within set boundaries and in place at the authentication layer. It’s down to teams across the IT landscape to work together to make this a reality.



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