The Problem With Glitches

When a glitch is big enough, the government will step in
When a glitch is big enough, the government will step in
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In a perfect world, IT systems would always work and they would always work correctly. However, we don’t live in that perfect world. What this means for CIOs is that glitches happen. It’s our job to minimize them, but we’ll never be able to eliminate them completely. We’re always going to have to come up with a plan for dealing with them and their aftermath when they do occur. U.S. stock exchanges, who know about the importance of information technology, have had their fair share of glitches in 2013. I wonder how their CIOs are planning dealing with the aftermath of that?

The Role Of The Securities And Exchange Commission

In the United States, trading of stocks and bonds is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In 2013, a series of glitches in the stock markets were severe enough to gain the attention of the SEC. On May 6, 2010, there was the so-called “flash crash” in which the stock markets plunged in a very short period of time. This alerted the world to the fact that glitches could affect modern stock markets. On August 22, 2013, a breakdown of a data feed from the Nasdaq halted trading in more than 2,700 stocks for over three hours.

Clearly these glitches were occurring within the IT departments of the stock market IT systems. It was up to the person with the CIO job to fix them. The attention of the SEC meant that now the world was watching and it was up to the CIO to create a solution.

In the short term, the SEC has now proposed a new set of rules for the stock market CIOs and their IT departments to implement. These rules have to do with the maintenance and testing of the trading systems that run the stock market. There has been some initial resistance to the new rules by CIOs because they will be expensive to implement.

Possible Glitch Fixes

If glitches like the August 22 outage can’t be completely prevented, then what is to be done? CIO’s need to create plans for how to deal with a glitch when it is happening and then what to do in the aftermath of the glitch.

Stock market CIOs are now looking into ways that they can improve the computer-driven data feeds that are used to report the trades that have been executed on the stock exchanges. Additionally, the various players in the stock market need to start to do a better job of coordinating their testing on changes to their systems before they are rolled out into production in order to prevent the occurrence of unplanned outages.

There has been additional talk about implementing so called “kill-switches” that would allow the stock markets to be shut down if something bad starts to occur. This all leads to the fact that the various parties also need to create a way to coordinate their actions for restarting the stock markets after a glitch induced shut down has occurred.

What All Of This Means For You

Glitches happen. Even the best CIO’s can’t stop them. However, what we all can do is to come up with ways to deal with them when they do happen and then manage the aftermath.

The problems with the U.S. stock exchanges in 2013 clearly proved the glitches can happen to even the best funded IT departments. In this case, the impact of the glitches was so great that that federal government in the form of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to step in. Plans for dealing with future glitches include having the person in the CIO position set create coordination between firms on testing and creating plans to for how markets could be reopened after a shut down.

We can’t stop future glitches from happening – that’s just the way that life is. Instead, we need to take steps to deal with glitches when they do occur. Additionally, taking the time today to create plans for how the impact of the glitch can be dealt with will solve tomorrow’s problems before they happen.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think aftermath plans have to include other firms or are they just internal plans?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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