TSB solution lies within

Martin Ewart, Chairman of the Group Advisory Board, Taranata Group

I really feel for the customers of TSB over the last week.

But I felt even more for the IT Director and their team as the service interruption unfolded. It is a lonely place to be when there is a major service outage at a large bank.  I’ve been in that position myself – accountable for IT Service across a large bank and struggling to bring stability back to customer service after a failed change. It is a time to keep your nerve and trust the power of the team around you.  Which is why the language of the CEO, Paul Pester, has been so interesting this week, telling the press that he had “taken control” and that he had brought in experts from IBM that were reporting “directly to him”.

It had echoes of a major service situation when I was the IT leader. We spent the whole weekend seeking to sort out a failed change that was about to have a major impact on our customer services. As the situation went on we had briefed the CEO and press responses were at the ready.  Our key supplier (IBM in this case too) worked with us and other suppliers, and collectively the overall ‘team’ eventually found a solution.

The situation was resolved shortly before customers would have noticed the major issue, but just a few hours later and we would have been covered on breakfast news across all the major media networks.  The power of the internal capability, working in conjunction with suppliers, found a way forward. The collaboration of this “team” resolved the situation and averted what would have been a major customer impact.

Times like those experienced by TSB this week need calm heads, full support and trust in the team. They are best placed, with the right support, to stabilise the situation. There will be no group more concerned about the situation, and motivated to fix it than the IT function.

Paul Pester’s language in the briefings to media show that he is decisively ‘messaging’ his taking control. IBM are reporting “directly” to him. This tone may well give some assurance to his customers; however I wonder if it is the right message in the long run?  Without being close to the details, I also wonder if it is, in fact, reality.

There will be well defined incident management processes and roles for such a critical service issue at TSB.  At times like this, leaders need to trust these processes and practices to take you through the most difficult of times. It is what they are designed for. I wonder what the ongoing impact of a leader can be, having asked the outside help to report directly to him, rather than to do everything they can to support his team.  What will be the aftershock after such a major event?

Once the fix is secured, it will be time to look at what the team can do to ensure it never happens again – and that the long-term solution includes leaders and workers.

I have every sympathy for the extreme challenges faced by TSB customers, they deserve better.  I also hope the IT team at TSB feel as supported as I have been in the past, and that they are fully part of the preventative measures that come next.