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Bank fail: Ready or not, here's our new software

When IT goes bad, from the end-user's point of view

Today, I was a user Every now and again The Register runs articles from sysadmins around the world about the horrors of working in IT. From time to time, however, it is probably worth reading something from the user's point of view. This is one such story.

Today at the grocery store, I saw an advertisement for a smallish regional bank. I used to be a customer of theirs. My first thought was, “so they’re still scrambling for customers?”, followed by a mental cackle of pure schadenfreude.

I have no evidence that this is true. I’ve been interpreting their marketing campaigns as increasingly desperate, but actually the grocery store advert was pretty ordinary stuff. But my last interaction with this bank – specifically with their apocalyptically terrible IT upgrade a few years ago – left such a bad taste that I want it to be true. I want them to still be suffering.

They upgraded both their back end software and their customer-facing online banking site. It needed doing, no question. And it seemed at first like it was going to be the Platonic ideal of good change management. They informed customers months in advance that the upgrade was coming, and told us when the outage would be and how to get into the new site when it came online. There were several reminders as the day drew nearer.

Though it's a bit hazy, I think the upgrade happened on a Thursday night. In any case, the bulk of the customers noticed its effects on Friday morning. Somewhere in the transition, a large amount of data concerning payroll direct deposits went missing. I didn’t get paid. Neither did any of my co-workers who used that bank.

I called their customer service center. I was on hold for longer than usual, so this probably wasn’t an isolated issue. When I got through, I noticed the effects of the back-end software change. The person speaking to me took a long time to look up my account information. She kept muttering things like, “where did they put it?” and, “this damned computer!”

The change management process seemed not to have involved sufficient re-training of staff. She left her headset on while wrestling with the software, so I could hear her dispirited comments to the person in the next cubicle. I wondered if either of them would be coming back to work after this shift. They sounded like an abrupt job change was the mildest of the options they were considering.

There was no way to push a button and instantly re-do the lost payroll transaction. Apparently I might get the money Monday or possibly Tuesday. Someone had authorized the call center agents to make short term advances on a case-by-case basis – they could give me a portion of the missing money, but not the whole sum. (I can only imagine what a record-keeping nightmare that created on their end.)

I moved my accounts to another bank not long afterwards. I did stick around long enough to see the new online banking site, though. It was an improvement – you could do a lot more types of transactions, and the interface was good. Pity the login never worked – I had to call tech support and get them to reset my password every single time I wanted to use the site.

It wasn’t just the deleted pay that got me furious. It was the pointlessness of the whole thing. If the software wasn’t ready – and it clearly wasn’t – it wouldn’t have been expensive to inform customers that the release date was being delayed. I doubt anyone would have cared. But by pushing it out the door unfinished they created such a fiasco that five years later it’s still the first thing I think about when I hear the name of their company.

What about you, dear readers? Do you have any user-side stories of IT woe to match the above submission? If so, click here to tell us the tale. ®

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