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Standard Bank: shifting to enterprise service management with ITIL 4

Case Study

Standard Bank: shifting to enterprise service management with ITIL 4

Case Study

  • Case Study
  • ITIL4

Author  Peter Clark – CEO, Foster-Melliar

November 21, 2023 |

 15 min read

  • Case Study
  • ITIL4

1. Introduction

Standard Bank is one of the major South African banks and financial services groups and is Africa’s biggest lender, with assets of 2.9 trillion Rand. In business for 160 years, it provides personal and private, corporate and investment, business and commercial banking services plus insurance and asset management to 17.7m active clients in 20 different African countries.

2. Challenge

Michelle Slabbert, Head of IT Service Management at Standard Bank, described the ever-increasing challenges of meeting customer expectations in a digital world:

“Customers expect to be digitally connected 24/7 and have services at their fingertips

whenever they want them. At the same time, the days of loyalty to banks don’t exist so much and changing banks is easy. So, it’s important we meet their expectations and, equally, the stringent regulatory requirements in financial services.”

“Previously, issues and service outages were less visible but, with social media, customers can make their feedback (and frustrations) public”, Michelle said.

“We need to prevent and resolve outages ASAP as there are start-up banks with new ways of working, technology and a lower bar to enter the market as competition. However, as a 160-year-old bank, our legacy approach included a very centralized IT service management function with process-centric ways of working and multiple handovers. Rapid changes in technology and the need for greater collaboration and a quicker response to customer needs required a shift: taking service management across the business and closer to the customer.”

3. Solution #1: Decentralising service management

Standard Bank decided to change the bank’s operating model and decentralize service


This meant having autonomous teams close to customers and accountable for end-to-end service delivery; teams that could make decisions and respond with more speed and agility. But this change in operating model revealed a need for greater capacity of Service Management skills and experience, which would demand new training and development.

For example, devolving service management responsibility to development teams exposed

an under-appreciation of service management skills such as incident, problem and change

management, as well as capacity.

The gap in service management skills, at the start of the transition, led to some outages, a decline in process efficiency and outcomes that weren’t clearly defined. To help counter this,

practices were established to define working standards and measurement.

However, as Michelle explained, there was an overall plan in place: “The senior leadership teams were focused on creating stability, system resilience and a positive trend in customer service and satisfaction. This meant reviewing daily feedback from customers to know where

they were experiencing issues.”

4. Solution #2: The Service Management Leadership Development Programme

From January 2022 – in conjunction with accredited consulting, training and development

provider, Foster-Melliar – Standard Bank introduced the Service Management Leadership Development Programme.

This programme was designed to upskill employees across the organization in service management – and ITIL 4 was an important part of this, as the service management framework in the bank.

Michelle explained: “To build people’s competence and skills, the first thing we turned to was ITIL 4 courses and certifications. But it wasn’t only about growing technical knowledge but having softer skills – such as personal mastery, servant leadership and coaching – to influence others and champion and shape service management among engineers, leaders and CIOs.

“So, at the end of each ITIL module, there was an assignment which took the theory

and asked our trainees to align it with real objectives at work – giving them a practical wayof thinking and application.”

5. ITIL and enterprise service management

As Standard Bank’s new operating model moved from IT service management to Enterprise

Service Management, ITIL 4 became part of the “daily conversation”, Michelle said.

“Where ITIL had once not been recognised as value-adding, ITIL 4 became a godsend; aligning to new ways of working and using different technologies to create a marriage between engineering, development and service management which allowed us to deliver at a higher velocity. It helped with embracing Agile and DevOps methods and the practices guided us in particular situations and with certain problems to solve,” she added.

“Senior stakeholders saw how service management outcomes had a direct link to customer satisfaction scores and this led us to create a KPI score card for practices. Now, we can see how teams are performing at business unit, country and team level.”

6. Results: Numbers talk

  • Priority 1 incidents – down by almost 40% (from 16 to 6)
  • Core applications on cloud – up by 28% year-on-year
  • Reduction in legacy systems – up by 138% (from 73 to 101 year-on-year)
  • Improved response time to system outages – up by 60%
  • Material cyber incidents - zero

 IT systems experienced:

  • Improved reliability of business processes and services
  • Streamlined processes for real-time decision making
  • A risk-based approach to change management, service availability and performance
  • Full understanding of incident root causes plus effective mitigation

“The programme has helped me build my confidence and shift the stereotype about service management being just about ITSM. Using ITIL processes, practices, and principles, we now better understand our process, technology and date dependencies, but also the cost. This shifts the conversation and we are no longer operating [separately] as business and IT.”

Deepti Mitha – Service Management Lead, Standard Bank South Africa

7. Lessons learned

Michelle Slabbert had a few things to say about the programme: “The way we have evolved service management looks at an end-to-end approach rather than in silos. And we have succeeded in a culture change of continuous improvement: looking at metrics and trends to know how we should improve.”

With service management sitting in each business area rather than centrally, the responsibility falls to each CIO to reflect on its performance, measure outcomes and compare it to other business areas for successes or deficiencies.

“If service management in any area needs support, we can have conversations and engage people with the community of practice to ensure they get involved in masterclasses, take suggestions and ensure visibility through reporting.”

“The way we have structured our business unit-led operating model means it’s necessary for our people to embrace new technology, understand customer expectations and be able to respond quickly to meet them.”

“Transitioning to this model wasn’t easy but we are reaping the fruits now,” Michelle said.

“The delegates now have the leadership styles for modern day management and leadership. Service management leaders have critical and service design thinking skills to benefit Standard Bank’s customers.”