The Byzantine Empire is deemed to have emerged in 476 A.D., its being based on the residual Eastern Roman Empire at the point at which the Western one collapsed.

The Byzantine Empire survived for nearly a thousand years, until brought to an end by the sack of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453.

Pay.uk’s project to build a New Payments Architecture for the UK (“NPA” for short) could be of similar duration, judging from the February 2019 NPA Programme Industry Newsletter, and other announcements on Pay.uk’s website.

This is because NPA is establishing a bureaucratic and administrative programme structure that would have had any of the pictured Emperors worth their salt undertaking a thorough purge of their captains.

The programme structure perfectly fulfils the definition of Byzantine: anything that is so overly and unnecessarily complex as to be beyond understanding.

The newsletter announces that “We now have nine Advisory Groups actively established to assist with consultation on key aspects of the Programme including: Procurement, Request to Pay, Legal, Technical, Transaction Data Analytics, Testing and Transition” – and there are four more in formation.

Then Pay.uk’s website announces that it will have the two groups relating to standards (since NPA will run on ISO20022), and then both a “senior” and an ordinary Industry Delivery Forum.

That makes nineteen groups in all:

  1. Legal Task Force
  2. Procurement Advisory Group
  3. Transactional Data Analytics Advisory Group
  4. Request to Pay Advisory Group
  5. Technical Advisory Group
  6. Enhanced Data Advisory Group
  7. Testing Advisory Group
  8. Transition Advisory Group
  9. Security Advisory Group
  10. End User Advisory Council (Pay.UK)
  11. Participants Engagement Forum (Pay.UK)
  12. Senior Industry Delivery Forum
  13. Industry Delivery Forum (which may or may not be synonymous with the one above)
  14. Industry Standards Coordination Committee (in formation)
  15. UK  Standards Authority (in formation)
  16. Propositions Advisory Group (still to be formed)
  17. Operations Advisory Group (still to be formed)
  18. Rules Advisory Group (still to be formed)
  19. Confirmation of Payee Phase II Advisory Group (still to be formed)

However, it lacks several important streams upon which it surely should not risk forgoing the input of further Advisory Groups:

  • Cross-stream coordination
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Taxation
  • Human Resources
  • …and many many more

This is empire-building and hubris running out of control.

For the result we should perhaps nod towards Egypt rather than Byzantium, and quote Shelley’s “Ozymandias”: “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair”.

We can look forward, around 2045, to visiting the NPA Data Centre, wherever it ends up being located, probably somewhere out in the east of Essex:

“Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away”.