Data Days

You’ve all heard of working days but the big question is, who has heard of data days? I hadn’t and I work in IT. The individual who first mentioned to me about data days was a business banking customer services employee.

It seems that, despite updating millions of financial records every second, any change of customer details is only committed to the central database once a day. This means that if you provided data to a customer services employee at your bank and they add it to their machine, it will not go live until up to a day later. I guess you could argue that this makes sense because expensive (both financially and computationally) integrity checks don’t have to be carried out that often but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t agree.

The first issue is quite obvious and that is the potential for data loss. Luckily I’m a business customer so I can get through on the phones quickly and get something sorted. If they lost data I’d given them before the central databases were updated then its no biggie, but for those who had waited 30 minutes to speak to someone it would be a right pain. I’m not saying they lose any data, but it *could*, theoretically at least, happen.

The second and more subtle issue is that these updates happen at 5pm. This means that despite the phones being open till 8pm on some nights, any updates that occur as a result of phone conversations after 5pm will not be seen to be updated until after 5pm the following day. Even if this data day practice has to happen, can’t it happen at 3am so that at least that days updates will be live the day after?

I just find this shocking. The technology exists to do things in real time. We use it everyday. What would happen to the popularity of facebook if it took someone 24 hours before they could read a post on your wall? We don’t put up with it there so why should we put up with it from our banks? Annoyingly the banks are willing to invest in the technology to fix the issue where it involves money (try taking money from a cash machine and then checking your balance on another – you can be sure you don’t have to wait 24 hours to see the change).

IT these days is very powerful but when used poorly like this it gets a bad name. I’m proud to work in IT but when I see IT being used as an excuse for this kind of poor practice I’m simply ashamed.


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  1. raby whyte Said,

    August 30, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

    This is a classic example why I hate banks so much (with pleasure sometimes).
    I worked in the RBS callcentre for 6 months, I lost count the amount of times I said and thought the words “Why are things done like that?!”.
    Constantly, the very frustrating archaic processes really annoyed me.

  2. Matt Said,

    August 30, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

    Its this sort of thing that makes me shudder and dread my future career. I am steadily convinced I will be banging my head against so many brick walls, knowing that I, we, and the whole industry could do so much better, but we can’t because an accountant postulated that it might be beneficial for profits to not do the best we can 🙁

  3. Norman Said,

    August 31, 2008 @ 12:53 am

    Banks have only recently been forced to admit that it doesn’t take them six to seven working* days to transfer money from one account to another, rather it is an almost instantaneous process!

    *I say working, but since when do computers not have working days? Can a computer really say “sod off, I need Saturday and Sunday to do my DIY/take the kids swimming/go to the pub”?

    There are some processes that really do take time. For example, whilst working for RBS we qouted 6-10 days for new cards to be delivered, but then the order to have the card printed had to be queued, the card printed and dispatched. In practice this only took 3/4 days, but Royal Mail are not known for their timely service.

    Archaic practices are in evidence everywhere – not just banks.

    It will only stop when customers stop accepting the excuses they are given. Bank charges are a key example – it was only when it became financially unviable to continue the illegal fining and charging of customers that it was worth the banks actually adhering to the law!

  4. Matt Said,

    August 31, 2008 @ 1:08 am

    “Can a computer really say ‘Sod off…’ ”

    They can if you forget to say “sudo” 😛

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