By Daniel Pickett
Managing technology infrastructure is a challenge when supporting, upgrading or installing hardware and software. For large banks upgrading teller platforms, data centers, security systems and other network equipment, it’s important to minimize installation and support costs while ensuring quality across many branch locations.
For small banks that may be outgrowing a local technical resource, it may be time to graduate to a more professional firm for technology infrastructure services, one that can guarantee quality without breaking the bank’s IT budget.
Applying Supply Chain Concepts
One approach to better managing your technology infrastructure is to treat it like a supply chain. Supply chain optimization is typically associated with bringing products to market. Its goal is to minimize the costs of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation and distribution, while maximizing the efficiency of the business processes along the way. The result is increased profitability.
These same supply chain concepts can be applied to optimizing technology infrastructure for banks. The key processes involved in supporting, upgrading or installing new technology are treated as supply chain points, with best practices applied at each point. At the same time, the entire infrastructure management process is treated as a whole.
In an optimized services supply chain, the costs of excess inventory, under-utilized technical staff or trucks sitting idle can be avoided because you purchase and use services only as they are needed.
Whether you need to support and install teller platforms, ATMs, data centers, security systems, or any other IP device — or whether you are opening or closing branches — if you can gain efficiencies and increase speed of execution at each service point in the process, your bank can save money.
What Needs to Be
Optimized, and How
Any supply chain has a number of discrete points within the process that must be optimized. For technology infrastructure, these points are the following:
Management — good management of the technology infrastructure includes the ability to meet service levels, deliver high quality and control costs. A centralized command center that acts as the communications hub for all technology infrastructure activities can effectively meet these goals and keep all stakeholders informed.
Planning — involves defining the overall project, including scope, budget, required resources and schedule. If your vendor offers a single point of contact to help define and coordinate all of your technology needs, this will lower project complexity, increase efficiency of communication and result in time savings.
Sourcing — a partner who has established relationships with hardware vendors can streamline the process of sourcing, shipping and warehousing equipment until it is ready for delivery and installation.
A best practice is to keep your inventory offsite, secured by experts and visible to you through the Web, until you are ready for it. Inventory sitting at your location takes up space, and sometimes can be hard to locate on the day of deployment, leading to delays. In the best case, have the configured, tested inventory delivered “just-in-time” prior to deployment — this is supply chain efficiency at its best.
Configuration — This important process involves installing software and configuring computers and other network devices to your specifications. Your vendor should have a quality configuration center staffed with trained technical experts who can perform the configuration as well as work and communicate with your team on specifications.
The configuration should be performed as closely as possible to your project schedule. This ensures your products have the most recent design or updates, and avoids the costs and time associated with updating inventory a second time.
Deployment/Moves/Adds/Changes — The most visible aspect of any project, deployment is the installation of equipment at your locations. It’s also an aspect of the project where both risks and rewards are high. If the equipment is delivered on time according to your schedule and installed and tested properly, with users trained as needed, you can save significant time. If these processes are not optimized, costs can escalate and delays set in. Executing on the scheduled dates, and with activities completed within the planned timeframes is a key element of the services supply chain. “No-shows” and time overruns are costly impacts to your budget.
Maintenance — Whether break/fix support is provided at your site or at an offsite repair location, two factors must be optimized in order to avoid business disruptions or downtime: technicians must be trained on your type of equipment and repairs must be performed quickly. Set expectations by defining service level agreements (SLAs) with your chosen vendor.
Support Desk — How you service your employees when they need technical support can ultimately make or break a customer interaction. The support function must effectively handle incidents based upon pre-defined priorities for diagnosis, response and resolution. Your provider should implement a smooth support process to communicate service requests, view performance and manage to required service levels.
Asset Recovery/Disposition — Don’t leave this as an afterthought. All technology equipment has a lifespan. When it comes to an end you must be assured that data is secured or completely wiped and equipment is disposed of properly, whether through recycling or remarketing. If the vendor who provides the project deployment and support services also provides asset recovery services, you can gain efficiencies and control costs. Your products’ disposal value is realized as quickly as possible in the market, while the cost of storing and managing the old inventory is off of your budget.
Banks have many choices for their approach to upgrading and installing new technology in their branches, corporate offices and ATMs. You can work with the big name hardware solution providers or integrators and pay a premium for services they are likely to outsource and markup anyway. Or you can try internally to manage multiple vendors who each contribute a piece to the process, although this will increase complexity and potentially strain your own resources.
A third option is to choose a single vendor for all of your technology infrastructure services — one that engineers the process as if it were a supply chain to ensure the best solution at the lowest possible total cost to your bank.
The right vendor will have well-defined processes, state-of-the-art tools and facilities, and expert project managers and technicians. This will result in smooth, professional technology infrastructure services, and less headaches for you during the stressful time of opening, closing or upgrading branches, ATMs and data centers.
Daniel Pickett is founder and Chief Operating Officer of nfrastructure technologies, headquartered in Clifton Park in the heart of the Tech Valley region of New York State. He can be reached at 518-664-3899 or firstname.lastname@example.org