When managing a critical IT event, the organisation and coordination of various teams can be complicated and time-consuming, leaving room for human error and taking up valuable hours. Historically, manual methods have been used that are now vastly outdated and which don’t give managers, teams or stakeholders a clear visualisation of the event in terms of both their role in it and how it is progressing. In financial services, strict regulation also adds to the existing pressures of complex event management.
So how does Cutover help to solve these problems, give greater clarity to those involved in the project and reduce risk?
We spoke to Richard, our Head of Business Development, about how Cutover provides a new way to coordinate these activities. The focus is on helping teams to avoid the human error and disjointed process that working with traditional methods, such as phone calls, emails and spreadsheets, engenders. Having previously worked in the financial services sector, Richard has first-hand experience of how difficult and stressful managing these events can be and how Cutover has helped to revolutionise the way projects are managed at every stage of the process, from testing to post-event analysis.
What is your role at Cutover and how is your background in finance useful in this role?
My role at Cutover is largely centred around business development within financial services. I “speak bank”; I speak our clients’ language. I’ve actually worked in a lot of the same roles as the people we speak to and therefore I can authentically speak about the value that the product brings to them. Beyond the immediate product, I understand the pressures that people working in that environment are under, which aren’t always about the events that they use our tool for. There are a lot of other pressures related to working in large organisations, like managing budgets, dealing with the political landscape, keeping everyone happy and ensuring that the internal and external clients benefit from a supportive experience. We are a small but important part of that, so my understanding of their pressures is helpful.
What are the biggest risks and challenges a company can face when executing a critical event, particularly in regards to finance?
There are three main use cases in which a company would use Cutover. The first relates to circumstances in which teams are delivering complex change in the form of projects going live. The second type of use case surrounds teams using Cutover to rehearse and test their recovery processes in the event of a major incident outside of their immediate control through a planned event. There is a final use case in which teams can use the tool to navigate ‘in the moment’ an unplanned major incident.
So there are three distinct use cases and, in all of them, the risks and challenges are much the same. Financial services is a highly regulated industry where the FCA holds companies responsible for Conduct Risk, making sure that financial institutions always act in the best interests of their clients and employees. When you’re making a major change or dealing with a major incident the bank is at risk both from a client perspective and an employee perspective, so they need to use tools and processes that can demonstrate that the situation was managed with integrity. In addition to that, these critical events are high risk and high cost in nature and therefore it is important that they are carried out seamlessly.
What was it like managing an event of this kind before Cutover?
If you didn’t know any different it was just normal. Normality was having the central team of people sitting around a spreadsheet with highlighter pens, ticking things off when they happened. When things didn’t happen to plan, they had to cross out the forecast timings and add plus ten minutes, plus ten minutes, plus ten minutes... and so on. It was just completely manual and it relied heavily on people being on continuous telephone calls and the production of a rolling continuous email. It meant that the people who were in charge of managing the event were really spending most of their time being administrators, rather than being in a position of command and control.
Firstly, the person in command and control, for the first time, has a real-time status on how the event is progressing, whereas historically they would always have had to wait for the next conference call to ask if the things that should have happened in the last hour have actually happened. Now that they have a real-time view, they’re never looking backwards, only forwards. Senior stakeholders are also kept informed in real time. These people will be held accountable for the event and, using traditional methods, will either not be aware of the status of the project or will need to constantly ask the management about the status, which can be disruptive. By using Cutover, those individuals don’t have to interrupt anyone. They can just look at the same real-time status that the rest of the involved teams are seeing and keep up-to-date in a completely non-invasive way.
What is the importance of having a recorded audit trail that can be viewed after the event?
Forensic analysis is important in such a regulated environment because businesses need to be able to evidence that they operated with integrity. If you didn’t use Cutover you would have to painstakingly put together instant messages and emails, look up telephone call times and manually put together an overall picture for the FCA to show how you managed the project and what the key decision points were. It can take days! With Cutover, a full audit trail of the event is provided. This means you can simply ‘rewind’ to any point in the event and see who was operating, what the status was at that given point in time, what actions were taken, which decisions were made and the reasons for those decisions.
Are there other systems providing a similar service and how does Cutover differ from them?
There are lots of systems that are now involved in the broad category of release and deployment management, but they’re centred around technical implementation, such as how code is released. Our unique selling point is that we’re primarily focused on human orchestration with the inherent ability to also support technical release.
Finally, what do you see in the future for Cutover?
I expect Cutover to become the platform of choice for all critical IT events activity, from the forward planning and scheduling of events through to execution and delivery and ultimately driving continuous improvement and risk reduction through data analytics.