ASX’s CHESS Project “Was Not Ready to Go-Live”, Says IBM Australia

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) suffered an outage on 16 November 2020, triggered by a major upgrade to its equity trading platform, ASX Trade.

The upgrade, named ASX Trade Refresh project, and the outage were then the subject of an independent expert review conducted by IBM Australia Limited.

The independent review was made at the request of ASIC and the Reserve Bank of Australia, who view operational incidents of this nature with significant concern.

Conducted in the first half of 2021, the review was meant to examine the project and assess whether it met internationally recognised standards or frameworks and relevant securities industry practices.

IBM Australia has finally reported its findings, which state that ASX met or exceeded leading industry practices in 58 out of 75 of the capabilities assessed, including:

– business case development and project change management, which exceeded accepted practices
– the project was provided with and had access to sufficient financial, time, people and technological resources at all stages of – delivery to meet its objectives
– communications with key stakeholders were appropriately managed, and
– incident management actions taken by ASX were appropriate.

The project, however, was found to have several key shortcomings suggesting the ASX Trade system was not ready to go-live considering ASX’s near-zero appetite for service disruption.

“This was the case even though the formal implementation readiness processes were completed and verified by multiple parties without objection to go-live”, according to the findings.

The indendepent review also pointed to gaps in the rigor applied to the project delivery risk and issue management process expected for a project of this nature, and risk and issue management, project compliance to ASX practices, project requirements and the project test strategy/planning did not meet accepted industry practices.

IBM Australia then made recommendations for risk, governance, delivery, requirements, vendor management, testing, and incident management, which ASX has already agreed to address.

Joe Longo, Chair of ASIX, said: ‘The independent expert found that ASX met or exceeded leading industry practices in most areas, but the conclusion that the project was not ready for go-live is very disappointing. ASX has acknowledged and accepted the need for improvement. We do, however, require assurance that these improvements are implemented effectively and result in an overall improvement to ASX’s enterprise-wide project management practices.’

ASX has recently seen Peter Hiom, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Group Executive Business Development at ASX, leave the operator on July 2021.

Mr. Hiom spent 23 years with the exchange operator, most recently bearing executive responsibility for the delivery and governance of ASX’s CHESS replacement project.

The replacement of CHESS will now be supervised by Group Executive Tim Hogben, who has been involved in the project from the start, assuming day-to-day management and oversight when the project transitioned from the design to delivery phase in October last year.

The project is now scheduled to go live in April 2023.