We plan to upgrade our IT systems shortly, but how can I protect my company against a NatWest-style disaster?

The key to ensuring an IT upgrade runs smoothly – and avoiding a failure of the scale that NatWest faced a few months ago – is in-depth forward planning and a regression process to deal with the unexpected.

Richard Goodall, group sales and marketing director at IT systems provider PCMS, says: “Should the unexpected occur, what should not happen is that you flick the switch and then find there is no way back, which is what seems to have occurred at NatWest.

“Most IT experts would tell you that keeping the system local and keeping it running are fundamental to software updates. When we implement a retailer upgrade, there is an emergency system running in the background, a little like the battery backup, as an agreed part of the process. The result: business as usual. However if there are problems, regression is possible.”

To maintain consistency and prevent loss of data, retailers need to make sure their system is fully backed up before transition, Goodall adds, and, if possible, should undertake the upgrade out of hours so that impact is minimal.

It is helpful to choose a partner that can offer a local service and has the expertise to fix the problem or regress if things don’t run smoothly.

Goodall says: “Upgrades rarely go as spectacularly wrong as they did at NatWest, but ensuring your company doesn’t suffer is achieved through extensive implementation plans, pilots, out-of-hours roll-outs and backup systems.”