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The best and the worst thing about modern IT platforms is that they are flexible and change can happen extremely rapidly. So, why do the same capabilities create such diametrically opposite issues?

On the plus side, organisations are demanding that their IT platform no longer constrains their capabilities in their market. Business processes need to be capable of changing to meet new demands and continuous delivery and improvement are the new watch words for organisations putting in place DevOps environments.

The counter to this can be seen in the billions of dollars that organisations have lost for misselling issues over the years. For example, through mortgage-backed securities in the U.S. or bank or credit card protection in the U.K.

These cases go back years

Even though IT systems were relatively static in previous years, the organisations responsible for them have struggled to show what the processes were that led to customers being offered a service or item. Without such proof, the courts have erred on the side of the customer being right and the organisation being financially responsible for possible losses.

Being an MSP,  you have the capability to help at a business level. Sure, it is down to the organisation to manage all its own data — you can provide the backup and restore capabilities the organisation wants. This provides a certain amount of capability – but, as organisations have found, there is little security against the law.

The problem is that just using the data to show that Customer A was offered Service B on Date C is not enough. How was it offered? What were the terms and conditions? What actions did the customer have to take to accept the offer?

Consider how an organisation changes. Some of these cases go back fifty years. Back then, no one was running a platform that bears any relationship to what they are running now. There may be a few mainframes around that have a degree of similarity to them, but even these will have had considerable changes applied to the way they deal with the business processes involved.

In a modern environment, trying to store everything is not really possible. Sure, storage is cheap, but storing every aspect of every offer made to customers will rapidly build an environment that is unmanageable.

What can MSPs do?

Enabling an environment where key aspects are stored so customers can then access at a later date can help. Providing services that do this at a granular level can be a good revenue stream.

What do I mean here? An organisation wants to make an offer of a loan to a prospect: X amount of money, to be paid back in this manner over Y amount of years, under these terms and conditions. Prospect agrees to terms on the offer.

Some time later, the customer comes back. They claim that they were not told of certain key areas that have resulted in them failing to pay back the loan in time, or that they found they were paying back more than they originally committed to.

The organisation could store all the data involved with this, along with a full record of the technical processes. They would then need to ensure that those processes can be replicated every time the underlying application is updated.

Ten years down the line, they are probably storing many different versions of the application, the underlying databases, data sets, and so on to be able to fully replicate what happened. They may even need to store the relevant OSs and even hardware if it comes to the worst case scenario.

MSPs can provide simple and effective audit capabilities

Instead of the whole technical process, the key aspects can be stored. The use of differential data storage is a key here. Items such as a pointer to a customer record, which is indelibly stamped for the date and time the offer was made, can be held.  Any changes to that record can be recorded as delta changes.

A master copy of any terms and conditions can be held and a pointed stored as to which version the customer was offered. A screen scrape of the screens offered can be stored to show what was presented and in what order. Any tick boxes that the customer clicked on (or not) can also be shown.

Through this means, a presentable record of what a customer agreed to can be held in a very small amount of storage. It can easily be recovered and presented to the customer so that they can see what they did – in many cases, preventing any perceived issues from becoming a legal case.

For the MSP, providing databases that can deal with delta storage and the capabilities to log and store key aspects of a process is of value to an organisation. It can be sold as either a replacement for the organisation’s main data storage systems, or (more likely) as an adjunct to be used as a legal store, to be called on as necessary.

Taking just the one example, the U.K.’s Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling scandal has cost U.K. banks close to $66 billion. Although most of this was undoubtedly valid claims, if even 2 percent were cases where the bank could not prove that they were in the right — even though they were —it would cost them $1.5 billion. Who wouldn’t fancy a slice of that by providing the means to avoid the cost?

Photo: photofriday / Shutterstock

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Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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