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How to avoid the IT problems that have hit Barclays, Sainsbury’s, Greggs and MacDonalds and damaged vital consumer trust

How to avoid the IT problems that have hit Barclays, Sainsbury’s, Greggs and MacDonalds and damaged vital consumer trust

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Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson, CEO and founder of Quality Engineering consultancy Roq, looks at the major software and network problems that have hit some of our biggest retailers and banks – and how other organisations might be able to steer clear of similar issues

Some of the biggest names on the high-street have had to deal with some very high profile technology problems, in recent weeks. From Barclays and Nationwide to Tesco, Greggs, McDonald’s and Sainsbury’s, software and system glitches have stopped customers getting shopping delivered, caused payment backlogs and forced stores to go cash-only or even close.

It seems likely that many of the problems firms are currently experiencing are down to under-investing in Quality Engineering. Serious issues are affecting major retailers and banks and they are affecting smaller businesses too.

This comes at a big cost. When customers can’t get access to their cash, or much-needed groceries or other products are delayed, their faith in a business is damaged. Up to 50% or more of consumers say that even simple things like app availability and website speed have an impact on their business loyalty. Major tech failures are likely to have a huge effect.

This is particularly true when people are being told that AI and other automated computer systems will take an ever-increasing part in their consumer experience, including safeguarding their credit card and other financial details. And, of course, software systems are absolutely integral to the way consumers operate, these days – more than four times as many transactions are made by credit or debit card as by cash, for instance. It’s time, then, that all firms make sure their systems and technology are fit for purpose.

Companies should undertake regular, detailed analysis of their software. They should make sure that they still meet customer and staff needs, and that they are robust enough to meet any likely challenges a business might face. It’s also important that firms are confident they have the maintenance resources to deal quickly with any software and system problems that may arise.

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Fast, agile, system-testing capabilities are essential. Automated testing of systems can be particularly valuable for firms, not least because it may avoid human error and can lower costs. Roq, a Quality Engineering company, has overseen technology projects for major organisations across banking, retail, manufacturing and more, reducing manual work by 60 hours a week for one client, with an automated test solution.

Organisations must develop detailed, easy-to-implement mitigation plans for when something goes wrong. Don’t rely on a Plan B – devise Plans C, D and E, too. Make sure that your staff are well-versed in them and try to design them so that their impact on customers is almost unseen. The Quality Engineering approach to software systems taken by Roq identifies potential issues early on and makes mitigation easier – or avoids the need for it completely.

Regular quality assurance reviews help make sure firms’ standards and testing processes are at the highest-possible levels. They should include interviews with engineering and delivery teams, along with a meticulous appraisal of organisational testing practices and processes, standards, tooling and test documentation.

Waiting for something to go wrong shouldn’t be an option for a firm’s IT systems. Failures not only reduce customer confidence, but also cost time, money, brand damage and undermine staff morale.

Organisations must ensure their systems are operationally resilient and ready for an ever-changing consumer and business landscape. The failures experienced by Barclays, Sainsbury’s, Nationwide and the like should serve as alarms and lessons for every organisation to learn from.

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