Scotiabank computing migration shows thin is in

Scotiabank desperately needed to break the cycle of its relentless desktop upgrades and refreshes.

Speaking at the Citrix Strategy Day in New York City on April 26, J.P. Savage, senior vice-president of systems, operations and technical services at Scotiabank admitted his company’s 20,000 services representatives spread across 1,000 locations were a frustrated community.

Their problems had everything to do with poorly performing IT as a result of aging desktop technology that was seriously outdated. Failure rates were high and performance was low, as the Scotiabank users struggled to do their jobs. It was a particularly disconcerting situation for a bank that has earned awards for customer service excellence.

The spectre of having to endure yet another major desktop lifecycle refresh that would ultimately put the company in the same position down the road was a scenario that troubled Savage.

“We were at the end of this cycle and users were growing frustrated,” he told an audience of approximately 100 financial analysts and journalists. “The performance was slow and seriously affecting our customer services success.”

In hammering home the point to the assembled audience, Savage played a recorded telephone voice mail that had been sent to the company CEO by a Scotiabank service representative. It was a plea by the service rep for a desktop technology refresh based on her highly frustrated inability to work efficiently. She noted that her level of frustration was so high that she was at a point of wanting to quit her job.

Savage said he needed a better way – other than the vicious cycle of a “WinTel” upgrade to refresh “fat clients.” He wanted to “focus on a new desktop paradigm,” and was looking to keep a low-cost IT delivery model and also improve branch productivity.

The better way was a move to 120 application servers powered by Citrix remote control and collaboration software. Instead of difficult to control and manage fat client desktops, Scotiabank moved to a thin-client model, powered by a centralized server farm that housed most of the applications that resided on the desktops.

The move allowed Savage to cut in half his cost of operations over a five-year period. The thin-client approach also extended the PC lifecycle since, although outdated as fat clients, most of Scotiabank’s hardware was powerful enough “once I got all the junk off my desktops,” Savage said.

Transitioning to a server environment, where the bulk of applications and data resided, made the desktop environment much faster and allowed the bank to do more with its customer support staff. “By delivering them the improvements in productivity … it translates into (additional) sales revenue,” Savage reasoned.

The new environment was also much simpler to manage. From purely a mathematical perspective, it’s a lot easier to maintain third-party software on 120 servers. Maintenance also happens a lot faster. It previously took between seven and nine months – and up to $14 million – for Savage and his team to deploy new applications and upgrades on 20,000 desktops.

Similar upgrades can now be done over a weekend, Savage said.

The new computing approach has become a growing concern. Savage outlined the next steps in this thin-client rollout and said it will include the additional of 3,000 new users by the end of May, as well as enabling the Scotiabanks wealth management and finance centres by the end of October.

The latter migration is expected to garner a savings of $15 million over the next five years.

Related link:

Scotiabank upgrades to help its branches