In the early '50s when the Cooperation Bank (nom de plume) was established, all banking transactions were done by hand. The bank started with about 5,800 clients and in a short period of time grew to one of the major banks in South Africa today, having about 800,000 clients. Although the bank performed well without using any special information technology, its top management realized that in order to gain competitive advantage, they needed to look at the whole situation of applying information technology.
In the late '70s the top management decided to establish the bank's own IT department and appoint the necessary IT personnel to do the job. IT skills were very rare, and they decided to allow their current bank people to take part in a selection process in which employees could apply to follow a career in the IT department. If initially selected, an employee had to write an aptitude test and went through a thorough interview process. If an employee finally was selected, he/she went through the necessary training programs for the specific job. In this way the bank established an IT department with about 40 of its own bank employees and 20 employees from outside the banking environment. The number of employees later grew to 110. The most important IT functions that were established at that stage were those of development, facilities and training.
In the late '70s the IT department established a network division. Its manager reported directly to the facilities manager. At this stage more than 11 large transaction processing mainframe systems and 20 online systems were developed. A large network of terminals was available, allowing end users to have access to different data/applications from remote terminals. The above-mentioned systems were developed to support bank managers in their decision making, as well as for serving clients at bank branches. Some of the most important applications/systems in this regard are:
Human resources management system
Branch systems for handling savings accounts and investments
In the late '80s the bank started to use microcomputers on a limited basis. Under the strict (almost autocratic) control of the bank's administrative manager, employees were allowed to buy microcomputers and certain software. This was the case for the head office of the bank, the 80 branches, as well as for the IT professionals.
No standards were available when buying microcomputer technologies, and everyone who was able to convince the administrative manager about his/her specific taste could buy what he/she wanted.
Also in the late '80s, the IT department grew to such proportions that the need for an end user computing division and a training division emerged. End users with the necessary skills and knowledge, and who had access to microcomputer technology, started to develop their own systems. Although this contributed to a decline in the backlog, there were neither standards nor proper control over these systems development activities of end users. The table in Appendix A displays the variety of systems end users developed.
It was the responsibility of the IT department to develop all the information systems for the bank. To fulfill this responsibility, the following divisions were established.
Systems development and maintenance
This division was responsible for the analysis, design and implementation of all information systems at the bank. Apart from systems development, this division was also responsible for the maintenance of all software products.
This division was responsible for quality assurance, and as such they had to evaluate all software products against a set of standards. They also had to make sure that the official systems development methodologies were used in the correct way. The writing and spreading of end user and systems documentation was also one of their major responsibilities.
Facilities—Also called the production division, they were responsible for running all systems that have been implemented. Their responsibilities included database administration, network management and the smooth operations of all systems
Office automation—Initially this division started to introduce the microcomputer to the different divisions of the bank. It was basically responsible for giving users advice about hardware and software.
Training—Although this department was responsible for the training of users on all systems, they made use of personnel from the other divisions to conduct most of the training. They also arranged and presented courses to personnel in soft skills. The organizational chart of the IT department is shown in Appendix A.