Friday, February 20, 2009

Technology is more difficult than you think

This is the sentence that scares me more than anything in mobile banking: "It is not about technology!". I have found that these words are usually used by some-one that have never deployed a mobile banking system! It is also used by people with no (or very little) mobile banking experience, hoping to sell you a system that they will quickly put together.

As a matter of fact, delivering working, reliable mobile banking solutions is ALL about technology. People often make the mistake of equating mobile banking to a cute little program on a handset connecting to existing banking systems in the back. This may be fine for a few subscribers and limited number of transactions, but as soon as these applications are used in earnest, the bottlenecks, the conflicts and the challenges move to the back-office. Core banking systems were never designed to deal with so many transactions.

The complexity and challenges with mobile banking systems are huge. This is probably the most complex banking systems that can be found, and specifically because of the following reasons.
  • Almost everything must happen in real-time with response times of less than ten seconds.
  • The transaction volumes of mobile banking systems are higher (by factors) than what can be expected from existing banking systems. Well-designed mobile banking systems must scale to higher transaction volumes than what can be dealt with in the back-office. At the same time it should have intelligent throttling mechanisms when the back-office cannot respond fast enough.
  • The security paradigm of mobile banking is totally different. Be careful of vendors that merely offer Internet security on the phone.
  • Consumer behavior is totally different on mobile phones than on the Internet. Transactions must be much more intuitive with less guidance and error checks, yet still be reliable and functional.
  • Mobile banking systems must be able to recover themselves from error conditions. I have seen situations where a component fails and in a very short span of time, the system have half a million transactions in pending state. No ways that this can be resolved by hand.
  • The integration points are many more than for most systems, and the type and characteristics of integrations are very different to most banking systems
  • The ability to optimise systems are different
It is clear that these systems are extremely difficult to build and deploy and should not be attempted by amateurs - after all these systems manage money.

1 comment:

Ross Taylor said...

Great article, it's very informative and useful. The bank providing the working, efficient cellular financial alternatives is ALL about technological innovation. Peoples often make the mistake of amounting cellular financial to a adorable little program on a device linking to current financial techniques in the returning. This may be excellent for a few members and small number of dealings, but as soon as these programs are used in serious, the bottlenecks, the disputes and the difficulties move to the back-office. Primary financial techniques were never developed to deal with so many dealings. Market Research Report