Running an efficient and successful IT team in the banking sector requires tenacity and experience. It is a challenging environment, meeting the constantly evolving needs of business stakeholders, which reflects an increasingly disrupted and shifting industry.
To find out how an IT team can thrive in this environment, Information Age spoke to Juliette French, engineering lead for IT and head of core platforms for Lloyd’s Banking Group, whose team won the IT Team of the Year award at the Women in IT Awards London 2020.
The IT lead
In her role as engineering lead, head of core platforms for Lloyd’s Banking Group, French and her IT team look after all the systems that run on the operational side of the business. This includes; workflows, business process management, middleware and client relationship management systems.
“In effect, we are a supplier to the rest of the business in the bank. Based on what the business needs, we build the applications, deliver and manage them. Currently, there are 700 people running these platforms with approximately 140 applications,” she explained.
How to run an efficient IT team in the banking sector
One focus of French’s IT team is to look after the 140 applications that the 55,000 users utilise across the bank; what they call ‘run the bank’.
“We’re responsible for these 24/7 and have to make sure they run. If there are any incidents, we have to fix them to get the business back running as quickly as possible.
“These different applications have different connectivities and we use different suppliers, so it’s a complex business,” she continued.
To run this aspect of the business, French uses a continuous improvement structure — an ongoing effort to improve process, products, services and delivery. Using this strategy, the the IT team has improved year-on-year — “we’ve improved the instances of something going wrong by 25%. This means that there are less instances to deal with and we have created more capacity in that side of the business,” said French.
The IT team can now support more application developments and innovations, because capacity has been created. “The way we do that is by allowing people to express their proposals and opinions, while supporting them in implementing those ideas,” she added.
Engineering leadership: how to manage a product engineering team
The other focus of French’s IT team is what they call ‘changed bank’ — this is where users come and ask the IT team to build systems and applications for them.
When French first took over this area she contracted a major supplier in India. “We have a single supplier and so it is a true partnership,” she said.
In this partnership, they work on a basis of catalogue pricing. If the team needs an application built, the price is determined by how many screens or connectivities are needed, for example.
“As people got more expert at what we’re doing, we brought down the price. And so, one way or another, we’ve reduced the cost of change by about 40% in total,” explained French.
These are the main aspects of an IT business, you build or you support
Other than the above, the success of French’s IT team comes down to her leadership. By her own admission, she runs “a pretty tight ship” in terms of making sure everybody completes their timesheets.
“We track the work that’s coming in, we go upstream, we work with the business to see what they want. It’s all about good management, being honest and working closely with the various teams to make sure everybody has got air time,” she added.
There is no magic formula when it comes to running an IT team, but if the leadership is provided, people will work well in that environment.