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Page last updated
February 15, 2003

ISSN No:1470-5494 All rights reserved. No part or portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the express, prior and written permission of the publisher. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the publisher accepts no responsibility for any person acting as a result of the content herein.



The truth is spoken here

Imagine the scene: my credit card is loaded, the shops are open and I am on a mission to spend. But what am I going to buy? And from whom? Oh dear, who can I turn to for advice?

If I were looking for a new computer and found myself in a shop selling the latest 1 gigahertz machines, how hard do you think I would have to insist that my needs are such that a lowly 25 megahertz processor would do the job for them to sell me one? Or even tell me where you could find one?

Few people would truly expect a sales person to tell the whole truth about the goods for sale in the showroom. After all, the sales person's income depends directly on them selling you something, preferably expensive.

That is not to say that they would lie to you, far from it. However, sometimes the whole story is omitted. If we are kind, we might say temporarily forgotten, an oversight.

Re-make, re-model
I am typing this article on a recent portable PC; it has a 400-megahertz processor, 256 megabytes of ram and a 6-gigabyte hard disk and I am displaying my words on an external 17-inch monitor.

Very nice. Yet, I am sure that if I went into a computer shop and described my set up to the sales person then I would have a hard time leaving the shop empty handed. Only 400 megahertz? Only 6 gigabytes? Pfff, kid's stuff.

If the truth were told, it was not so long ago that I was using a computer that had 64 kilobytes of ram, no hard disk and displayed on an old 12-inch television. It had a word processor and it worked fine.

In fact, I could do more with it than I could with the computer terminal that I had on my desk at the bank where I worked at the time.

But progress and sales persons had their way, and that old computer was consigned to the basement. A few years later, I managed to sell it to someone who obviously was from another planet since they thought it was the bees knees and a major step up from what they had.

Of course, I am very happy with my current computer, although I sometimes look longingly at the newer ones. Beige is blah, black is boring; I could really go for a blue one. The point is do I really need one? Do I really need the one I have now? Did I really have to sell my old one?

Who can I turn to?
Now, who is going to give me advice in this situation? Assuming that I do succumb to the temptations of the shiny and new (and blue), who is going to tell me how to get the thing to work properly?

Yes, I know I could read the manual. I could also check out the manufacturer's web site. I have tried that in the past; for example, when I was struggling to get my PC to remember my e-mail password and my PC was obstinately refusing.

I read terms like "Enhancement" and "Security feature". I read that "The eight asterisks are there to hide your password from prying eyes, even though your password is only seven characters long."

For a while, I actually believed this. My trust was shattered when I tried to log on to my e-mail account and was locked out because of an incorrect password.

I looked elsewhere. There are quite a lot of chat forums dedicated to this sort of topic. Maybe you have also consulted them? The point is, I found a slightly different description of my problem.

"This is a bug" was one of the descriptions that I read. "Don't bother upgrading until they fix it" was another. Some comments even suggested I should consider using another operating system altogether.

Not surprisingly, all these comments came from people who did not work for the manufacturer in question.

I still use the operating system. I still use the software in question. I still type in my password manually. I have no real reason to throw away all my investments in new software.

But I do wish that (a) it would have worked properly in the first place, and (b) I could have got an honest answer to my question "Why doesn't it work?"

You've got a friend
Nevertheless, I have to ask myself whether manufacturers are the best advisers when it comes to giving unbiased advice, particularly when it concerns their own products. And if they cannot be trusted 100 %, is there another source of information?

As I found in my search for the password enigma, yes there is. There is a wealth of knowledge "out there." All I had to do was look, and ask. And the answer was provided, in language that I could easily understand.

The same is true for most things, whether you are wondering what new car to buy, what colour to paint your walls, or training on the products that you habitually use.

In the financial services area, many providers of software and hardware organise training courses on their products. And for a general overview, or indeed for in-depth study, many of these courses are excellent.

And so they should be. After all, the trainers have direct access to the developers. They should know a great deal about the products, both the good points and the bad points.

However, for evident commercial reasons, they are not always at liberty to share this knowledge. This is a shame since increasingly the people attending training want and need to know the good and the bad aspects of a product.

There are also other information providers and trainers in the market place. They have at least as much knowledge of the products that they are explaining as the company's own staff. In many cases, they come from the company itself, or they have been first hand users of the products.

Very often they also have additional experience that they are willing and, more importantly, able to share. For example, what to do when things go wrong or do not work the way they should, whether the product suitable for the task that is asked of it, whether it is worth while upgrading or switching from one product to another.

A great number of these highly experienced people work either independently or through free-lance contracts with an organisation that takes on the organisational aspects of the training.

DITO International is one such organisation. Based in Leuven, Belgium, DITO has been organising training on S.W.I.F.T. and IBM's MERVA range of products for over fifteen years and has built up a solid reputation for impartiality, knowledge and skill.

Room for one more
We have found that there is always room for one more, if the basic premise of quality and value for money is respected.

We employ full time and free lance trainers who have practical experience working with the products that they teach. However, because we are an independent organisation, we are able to be much more impartial in our courses.

A message is badly designed? No problem, we'll tell you. A feature is badly implemented or missing? We'll tell you that as well.

This does not mean that we go out of the way to be critical. On the contrary. Recognise that if so many people are using S.W.I.F.T. as a communications network and IBM's MERVA to connect, they can't all be wrong.

In fact, we firmly believe in the fundamental, underlying quality of these products. If we did not believe in them, we would not be teaching them.

Nevertheless, we do believe that the customer has the right to know the answer to their questions. And if this means giving them bad news, well so be it. Life can be like that.

We have learned to live in symbiosis with these two giants of the financial services world. We have two different modus operandi.

With regard to S.W.I.F.T., we organise courses either on an open class-room basis, where everyone is welcome, or as in-house courses where the customer chooses who should attend. Classroom courses are organised in selected locations in hotels providing seminar facilities.

These courses are organised entirely independently of S.W.I.F.T. and are in essence competing with S.W.I.F.T. for the same group of customers. Nevertheless, most classes are oversubscribed, confirming our belief that there is room for more than one player presenting an alternative view point.

The Merva courses are organised differently. In this case, IBM has out-sourced its training on this particular product line to us. As for S.W.I.F.T., courses are organised either as open classroom courses or as in-house.

The classroom courses are, for the most part, organised in IBM's excellent AK Watson training facility in La Hulpe, just outside Brussels, where participants benefit from the excellent infrastructure and environment.

Despite the different relationships, we have found that both approaches are economically viable and, more importantly, rated equally highly by our customers.

John Pritt

John Pritt is a Managing Partner of DITO International. He has over twenty years experience in financial services, and has worked for Euroclear, S.W.I.F.T. and Cedel (now Clearstream). He has also been a member and convenor of a number of ISO Working Groups in the Banking and Financial Services area. John now works as a consultant and is presently based in Abu Dhabi where he is engaged in a major IT project in one of the principal financial institutions of the region.

DITO International





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