Two Months after Meltdown, Ulster Bank Says, “Business as Usual” For Sure This Time

“All of our systems are running as normal and for the majority of customers it is now business as usual. There will be reconciliations to some customer accounts as final outstanding transactions are processed.”

So said an important customer notice on Ulster Bank’s website yesterday, two months after the bank, along with other RBS Group-owned banks NatWest and RBS suffered a massive IT meltdown in June that kept millions of customers from accessing their accounts for nearly a week. Ulster Bank customers were especially hard hit, and many couldn’t access their accounts for weeks.

Ulster Bank’s statement above is also a month after a letter sent by Jim Brown, the Chief Executive of the Ulster Bank Group to its customers stated that, “I'm pleased to inform you that the recent technical difficulties at Ulster Bank have been resolved. For the vast majority of our customers, our services have returned to normal. However, given the scale of this incident, the clean up continues and a small percentage of outstanding transactions are being processed over the next couple of days.”

But according to an article in today’s Belfast Telegraph (which pointed out the bank’s latest proclamation of “business as usual”), the clean up of customer accounts still continues for many Ulster Bank customers. Last week, a BBC story noted that despite the urging by the Consumer Council to speed up compensation to its customers, Ulster Bank management has, without good explanation, dragged its feet in defining a compensation process for its customers to use.

Ulster Bank has set aside £28 million to cover its costs related to the meltdown; RBS Group as whole has set aside £125 million.

The continuing trouble at Ulster Bank has led at least one competitor to offer £100 to Ulster Bank customers as an incentive to change banks.

Speaking of other long-term fallout from IT system problems, the Queensland Health service payroll debacle dating from early 2010 continues to haunt its employees. As you may recall, the Queensland Health service installed a massively late, over-budget and under-tested payroll system in March 2010, which immediately experienced problems of over-paying, under-paying, or not paying staff. (I consider it one of the most mismanaged IT projects ever.) The service has been trying to correct the resultant errors with limited success but at a very high cost ever since.  According to a story in Gympie Times earlier this month, Queensland Health service staff continue to be paid incorrectly even as the government “hunts down” employees to recover past over-payments.

The Queensland government also announced last week that it plans to eliminate and then consolidate into one the eight antiquated, expensive and insecure payroll systems that currently support the new Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. The government promises that it has learned from the Queensland Health service experience, and that it’s “going to be sensible about the implementation.”  I’ll let you know how sensible it turns out to be.

Finally, also in Australia, Bernie Carolan, the Victorian Transport Ticketing Authority Chief Executive, told a parliamentary inquiry  that is looking into the early decisions involving the Myki smartcard ticketing system were not very sensible from the start, reports the Herald Sun. The Myki development and roll-out has been years late and hundreds of millions of Australian dollars over-budget, and it continues to vex users.

Carolan stated that the original government Myki management team at the time wasn’t necessarily incompetent, but that it “poorly understood that, fundamentally, this [the Myki project] was going to become a software exercise.”

Sorry, but my vote goes to incompetence, especially after Carolan also stated that the management team never spoke to other transport authorities in Australia and elsewhere about their experiences introducing smartcards. Instead they spoke only to vendors trying to sell them smartcards.

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