Staying ahead is the name of the game in the fiercely competitive financial services industry with revolutionary tech and increasingly intricate IT systems at their core. The flipside? Those very complex IT systems in the form of numerous databases, diverse applications, and devices used on and off site are leaving already beleaguered IT departments firefighting and playing catch up with an obscured or “dark IT estate”, where it’s hard to discern what issues are lurking or where to begin.

Illuminating dark IT estates

Diagnosing and remedying IT problems from slow loading apps and underperforming devices is a challenge, costing valuable resources and impinging on employee productivity. Additional company resources are wasted through overprovisioning devices and unused software licences, with costs sometimes running into the millions. The good news is that these issues can be addressed by illuminating these dark IT estates.

By using technology that gives visibility into precisely what’s under the hood of their estates, companies can address problems before they become crises.

Roughly translated, financial firms in the know are using software that gives them enough intelligent and actionable data to paint a comprehensive picture of what is happening in their IT systems. Systems are available that can gather 10,000 data points per 15 seconds and viewing it on a customised dashboard gives IT a 360° view to justify and support changes.

Culling unused, under-used software licences: huge potential savings

Let’s consider software licences as a case of such systems in play. Now with data offering a clearer picture, IT teams can identify where software licences are underused or are not needed. When a global bank performed this type of diagnostic, they saved $4.8m by shedding over 66,000 unused software licences in a year. Another EMEA-based financial services firm recouped $4.3m, meanwhile by culling unused software.

The same strategy can be applied to device provisioning. Of using data-led IT visibility, in a discussion with Mark Wayt from the Strategy, Architecture & Innovation Team at Tesco Bank, he gave me an example of how they use that data to make smarter decisions, whereas in the past colleagues may have suffered silently with underperforming devices.

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Of a battery analysis Tesco Bank ran, they found that the batteries of 70 devices gave colleagues less than a 40% charge. Data now allows Tesco Bank to reach out to those 70 people and find out if they want the battery replaced under warranty. The pre-emptive call from IT to advise them that their laptop is not performing and offering a remedy, suddenly delights them, they feel looked after.

Instead of regularly reordering devices every 1 to 3 years, “sweating out assets” for longer and replacing the inefficient component in the device, instead can save money, deploy sustainable IT practices and importantly, make employees feel that their IT service desks are looking out for them.

The latter builds better relationships between IT and business functions and improves employee satisfaction.

One New York-based bank was on a planned refresh cycle of 7,000 laptops per year. After evaluating usage patterns and machine stresses using SysTrack data, the IT team determined that only 600 laptops needed replacing that year. That data unearthed a potential cost savings of about $9.6m (based on an average laptop price of $1,500 per laptop).

IT model: transitioning from reactive to proactive

Of course, shifting from a traditional reactive IT model over to a more proactive one is a process. In a discussion with Marcus McCran, Head of End-User Services, Abrdn, he agreed that a journey to proactive IT couldn’t necessarily be overcome overnight. His team worked closely with HR and their communications teams to implement effective tech initiatives that work for his colleagues.

abrdn uses a collaborative approach to get departmental buy-in to a new IT model with weekly user experience groups to highlight any areas for improvement. This helps to present service desks and other teams with increased data and managing major IT projects. Marcus expanded that data intelligence tools have to be embedded front and centre into everything a company does to be optimally effective.

Getting visibility into what hides in your dark IT estate can only happen through increased visibility and this is a necessary step to a proactive IT approach, led by comprehensive data. Companies in the financial services industry are seeing the advantage of improved IT visibility through employee satisfaction and smarter resource allocation. While a new approach may take time and is a gradual process, the dividends of ensuring that your IT systems are right-sized to your businesses needs are worth it.

Jon Oglesby is Customer Success Delivery Architect, Lakeside Software