By Dave Varney and Jim Tomaney, Q-ATM
Here's a high-level review of nine of the options available to ATM deployers in the U.K. — and the U.S. — that might prove to be hot topics in 2013. In no particular order:
1) Deployment strategy (aka estate optimization)
When it comes to ATM deployment, size really does matter. Scale is important for efficiency and also for presence in front of customers. Banks in Finland have achieved economies of scale as a group by coming together in the shared estate of Automatia; will state ownership and shareholder cost focus mean moves in this direction in Europe?
As with the property market, for ATMs, location is king. Just as we see bank branches following where post-millennial customers wish to bank, there is little doubt that ATMs will follow the crowd to maintain transaction rates. IADs and banks have different economics and strategies, so customers will see a continued shift in whose ATM they can use in rural versus urban locations. Will we also see the influence of the state here with pressure for “last in town” principles to be applied to ATMs as well as branches?
2) Hardware refresh, (aka a manufacturer’s dream come true)
There is no doubt that the UK’s hardware estate is aging (indeed much of it is end of life) and that the latest systems do perform better across a range of measures. However, hardware cannot be a standalone performance improvement solution as the role of service contracts is critical.
Contractually fixed SLAs that are not dependent on device age mean that the increased burden of parts costs will continue to fall outside many deployers’ planned cost bases (in the short run) if end-customer service is still to be maintained.
Will a wave of hardware refreshes mirror service provider changes in 2013? Price competition or the commercial models on offer may change the economics of refresh? Indeed, refreshes may occur more frequently due to the next point under review …
3) OS end of life (aka not keeping pace with the rest of the IT industry)
ATMs are one of the few systems where you can find PCs running Windows NT and XP, and even OS2, with some still even requiring software loads from physical disks. But considering the total costs of implementing PC and OS upgrades against the typical lack of identified resulting performance uplift, it is no surprise that deployers are waiting as long as possible before committing to the latest available Microsoft platforms. OS upgrade on its own is more of a mandatory change to maintain performance and avert downtime than a performance improvement option.
4) Application upgrade (aka new functionality)
Introducing new functionality to the ATM estate is one of the most visible and immediate ways to improve performance both in the eyes of customers and on the bottom line. The breadth of transaction sets may vary widely across markets globally, but a consistent theme is that ATM estates perform better when they are customer-focused, offer logical screen flows and deliver popular functionalities.
Many banks already deploy different functionalities by location and there remains plenty of technical scope to offer richer services through the ATM, or to offer reduced end-customer options to minimize transaction times and customer queues.
5) Switching your switch (aka only if you have to)
Few would disagree that the single least cost-effective way to impact ATM estate performance is to change your switch, if you own one. But many switch-owning deployers will be unable to ignore the necessary evil of switch migration much beyond 2013.
However, when a deployer has to look at switch replacement, he should ask some searching questions first: Do we really just want a “like-for-like” replacement, or do we want to advance our service? Have we decided our strategy for channel consolidation?
6) Improved monitoring (aka always being in the picture)
The point of improved monitoring has always been to ensure that downtime is minimized as far as possible. Fixing devices with remote commands, or indeed, devices fixing themselves without human intervention, produces an identifiable increase in uptime.
Then in the minimized cases where second-level maintenance is required, engineers can arrive in the right place at the right time with the right part. Implementation of improved monitoring may be one of the most cost-effective ways to increase estate performance.
7) Supply chain and operating model changes (aka asking the right questions)
In 2013, asking for increased performance from partners remains one of the simplest and most immediately available options open to ATM deployers. Key considerations are whether the marginal benefit of change is justified and whether canny negotiators, negotiating away cost increases, will produce sustainable results and productive supplier relationships.
Is the right option for your organization sweating the existing model harder? Changing suppliers? Or collaborating to re-engineer your model and achieve higher performance? Will 2013’s agenda focus on being marginally better, or on being different to bring a step-change in performance for your stakeholders?
8) Automated testing (aka learning from other sectors)
One of the perhaps less glamorous areas of ATM performance is the pace of change. While the end-customer experience in our industry is characterized by a slow pace of change, continuous change is required to keep systems secure, compliant and operational.
Automated tools can dramatically reduce the cost and time for testing, and perform a more thorough detection of performance-limiting bugs and software agent interoperability issues. As the pace of functionality change increases, the demands for pace in testing will follow.
For an organization evaluating switch changing options, it must be considered that the ensuing project will attempt to replace 15–20 years of organic development in a single project, so the organization should ask whether its historical, organic project approach can cope with change on such a scale.
9) Continuous improvement (aka leading by example)
The final option concerns a commitment from deployers to continuously focus on performance improvement, rather than leave this to partners. This entails working closely with the supply chain to share information and insight in service reviews rather than exchanging data.
Whether this takes the form of a top-down “80:20 view” of performance, a “sum of 1 percents” bottom-up program or a combination of both, most ATM estates would see significant benefit from a formal improvement program from qualified practitioners.
Having given an overview of nine of the options available, we conclude that any choice between them will be greatly improved if organizations first answer the following four questions:
- What is your definition of estate performance (perhaps end-customer availability or profit)?
- What is the strategic purpose of your ATMs (perhaps reducing costs through transaction migration, increasing customer contact)?
- What is the time period in which improvement is required (perhaps same-year payback, or 5-year business case)?
- Do you rigorously understand your current estate performance (do you know your as-is position against which to measure change)?
Whatever your choice for performance improvement activity in 2013, we recommend that you start now.
Reprinted with permission from Q-ATM, a U.K.-based consultancy to ATM fleet deployers. Q-ATM believes that the biggest barrier to success is not technology, but embedded processes and legacy thinking, and that removing this barrier requires a new, more agile approach to systems delivery and application maintenance.