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DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: BRINGING IT TO THE FOREFRONT IN 2021

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We know that 2020 has undoubtedly been a year of change and forced many businesses to rapidly adopt new practices and operational models; across all spectrums of the business from HR to marketing to finance. At the heart of these changes has been the concept of technology, empowering and supporting employees working from home, and assisting them in streamlining organisational processes, enhancing efficiencies whilst ultimately and adding value at a time when businesses needed it most.

As 2021 is in full force, organisations need to place greater emphasis to their digital transformation journeys, embedding it within all departments of the business and using data to drive actionable insight and excel top-line growth from remote locations.

 

Senior Director of Business Solutions, John Faucher,  at SplashBI examines how organisations can untap the exponential use of technology much more effectively to help improve sales and marketing campaigns, retain and capture the right talent whilst reducing the  financial reporting headaches from mundane activity.

 

Digital transformation journey

‘Digital transformation’ has been a term adopted by the majority of well-established businesses over the past couple of years and has unquestionably been the top of many heated boardroom agendas. But there is now little reason for businesses not to adopt digital technology; digital technology should be embedded within all departments of the business to ensure that customer expectations are exceeded (and beyond!) and that value is being delivered not only effectively and efficiently.

In order for digital transformation to be successful, a cultural shift is required from everyone in the organisation; it needs ‘buy in’ of the employees and they must recognise that changing processes and challenging embedded practices will not be a walk in the park. With the right attitude, organisations  can strive towards business goals and drive services to the next degree.

Moreover, in order to be victorious and ensure return on investment is generated, digital technology must be implemented within every department and not singled out to purely product development or IT where strategies are likely to be deployed first. Instead, the processes within every department, from finance to HR to sales and marketing, must be reviewed to ensure that technology is making the department work smarter, and therefore benefiting the entire organisation as efficiently as possible.

 

A win-win for the whole business

With a collective approach to digital transformation, the true advantages can really be acknowledged and worked upon.

 

Example One: The finance department

The company’s financial reporting processes can be transformed with a data-driven approach, removing the headache of manual, repetitive, time-consuming data input and analytics. As a result, this frees up time for other priority tasks such as forecasting and reporting on results to senior leadership with visual, easy to digest data dashboards.

 

Example Two: The HR department

HR can use a data-driven approach to take the guesswork out of its hiring process and ensure all new recruits are based on desirable characteristics of existing employees and team culture. By profiling the standout or rising star employees within the business and understanding what key attributes these employees have, the HR team can ensure they are attracting talent that will compliment the business and contribute to its future goals. Additionally, embedding digital technology in the HR department and adopting a data-driven approach will not only help to attract the right talent but also retain talent, which in the current turbulent pandemic is extremely important.

 

Example Three: Sales and marketing teams.

Extracting manual data reporting on lead generation and marketing campaigns will free up time for the sales and marketing teams to focus on other lead generation activities or how to increase engagement on social media channels. Implementing a digital-first approach within these departments will help the organisation to become far more strategic in its approach to attracting and winning new business and will be in a better position to meet its business objectives.

 

Making data and technology a priority

Digital transformation is certainly not a new advancement, but it is something that many businesses still need to recognise as a positive step forward. Improving systems and changing archaic processes within the entire organisation might seem daunting and time consuming, but with recognition amongst every team that a data-driven, digital-first approach will reap significant rewards for the future of the business, the change can be readily adopted and the transition can be uninterrupted. Businesses might not always get it right the first time, but learning lessons and failing fast with a quick recovery will bring long-term gains.

In almost every case of digital transformation, the wheel does not need to be reinvented so the next digital transformation project should be a continuation, with more confidence gained each time. As 2021 quickly unfolds it’s time for organisations to step up and make their businesses truly data- and technology-driven before it’s too late!

 

Technology

OPTIMISING DIGITAL EXPERIENCE IN AN INTERNET-RELIANT FINANCIAL SECTOR

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Tony Finn, EMEAR Lead, ThousandEyes

 

It would be unfair to say that the events of the last year have started a wave of digital change in the financial services (FS) sector. Speak to any leader within the industry and, although digital transformation looks different to each organisation, it was already high on the business agenda. That said, the pandemic has undoubtedly fast-tracked many FS firms to a complete digital overhaul. In fact, according to data, business adoption of digital services was propelled forward five years in a matter of weeks. For all FS organisations who have made the transition to remote sales and services, it has evoked a re-evaluation of everything from people and property, to technology.

Underpinning it all is the core focus on how to deliver an always on digital experience. Whether you’re a payment provider or stock brokerage, ‘business as usual’ is now dependent on this, without delay or failure.

That said, keeping customers happy and employees productive is increasingly difficult, with remote business adding another layer of complexity to an already intricate puzzle. Providing a good digital experience now relies on an intricate web of Internet, cloud and SaaS services – with many infrastructures lying outside of an organisation’s view and subsequently their control. With remote business here to stay, many are realising the need for increased control over both customers’ online experience and employees’ ability to access now business-critical SaaS applications.

 

Conservative to cutting-edge

According to EY’s UK Banking Cloud Adoption Index, before the pandemic hit, the majority of UK banks (80%) had moved less than 10% of their infrastructure to the cloud. As a highly regulated sector, financial services have traditionally been conservative about diving headfirst into new technologies.

Enter COVID-19. National lockdowns meant that a new approach to technology, particularly in IT, was necessary. With offices and branches closed, never before had FS organisations had to face almost all of their customer base and workforce accessing services and products online – and perhaps most importantly, outside of their IT perimeter.

Over a year has passed and a by-product of the pandemic is that many FS organisations are rethinking their entire business operations. At the end of last year, Capital One became the first major bank to exit all of its data centres, completely overhauling its IT environment in favour of AWS’ public cloud services.

But it’s not just technology choices that have irrevocably changed. Changes are also being made to both organisations’ real estate footprint and remote working policies, with banks already making work-from-home options permanent. As a result of the latter, we’ll see hybrid work strategies emerge with different category employee personas, including field, fixed, and flexi  workers – those who return to the office, those who continue to work remotely and then a combination of both.

 

An IT blindness dilemma

Navigating new employee preferences and consumer expectations for digital banking requires a  complex service delivery ecosystem, hinging on a multitude of external components including public and hybrid cloud, SaaS applications and the Internet. Finding the source of any performance and availability issues amidst a maze of internal and external dependencies is almost an impossible task. However, gaining visibility of what’s occurring within these networks is critical for businesses to achieve that all important user experience.

The challenge is that traditional monitoring tools can’t identify the problem quickly or provide insights into what’s going on outside an organisation’s four digital walls. You certainly can’t fix what you can’t see so, more often than not, IT teams are left scrambling to troubleshoot the issue. What’s more, customers and employees don’t see or appreciate this internal battle so a lack of sight into the root cause often leads to blaming of the product, rather than the network. Not only can a potential outage cause immediate problems in the form of lost employee productivity but it can result in more harmful damage to a FS organisation’s reputation, and ultimately its bottom line.

 

Getting digital experience right in the “next normal”

So, what’s the solution for FS businesses? To optimise digital experience, it’s all about understanding the health of global Internet networks, employee and customer applications, and everything in between. Financial services navigating the digital era post COVID, will need new solutions that provide the reach, visibility, and insight they need to get a holistic view of their entire digital service delivery ecosystem.

End-to-end visibility ensures that issues – happening both in and out of a business’ control – can be quickly pinpointed and mitigated. Sometimes this can take place even before customers are aware or are impacted. This level of visibility empowers IT teams to avoid any finger-pointing and quickly decipher root cause and have purposeful discussions with relevant parties such as service providers. What’s more, there are also advantages to this approach from a network planning perspective – something which many FS organisations will need to include in their IT strategies. Visualisation and scoring of performance across applications, groups of users and locations allows a better understanding of how critical employee services are performing from a benchmark perspective.

The pandemic has undoubtedly turned the financial services sector on its head. With restrictions in the UK slowly easing and optimism around the vaccine rollout, we will see employees return to offices and customers visit branches again this year. That said, some aspects of remote business are here to stay forever and we’re already seeing the impact of this on organisations’ priorities in relation to property, technology and people. Ultimately, success in this new digital-led future will depend on a business’ ability to provide a first-rate digital experience.

 

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Finance

CAN THE CLOUD REVOLUTIONISE FINANCE?

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By Walter Heck, CTO, HeleCloud 

 

The scale of the Cloud revolution that businesses have gone through over the last few years can’t be overstated. Across almost every industry, businesses that have migrated to the Cloud have seen increased revenues, higher productivity and were more prepared to face the challenges of the pandemic than those relying on legacy infrastructure.

However, one industry that has been slow to realise the potential of the Cloud has been finance. PwC found that 81% of banking CEOs were ‘concerned’ about adopting digital tools too quickly however,  even though 91% of hedge fund executives who adopted Cloud solutions stated that their chosen cloud solutions performed ‘better than expected’. Those sitting on the fence when it comes to the cloud can afford to do so no longer. The speed, security and efficiency offered by the cloud is already changing the face of finance, as it has so many industries before it.

 

How Cloud can help Finance?

Compliance continues to be an area that financial institutions of all shapes and sizes are spending an increasing amount of time and money on. The majority (71%) of large firms are cutting the size of their compliance departments while GDPR, Brexit and increased global economic sanctions make even simple tasks regulatory headaches. Compliance is also costing the finance sector more every year. Since the financial crash, Deloitte estimates Deloitte that compliance costs have increased by as much as 60% for retail and consumer banks.

Migrating to the Cloud can solve many of these compliance issues for financial service institutions. For instance, by leveraging modern technologies on the Cloud, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), organisations can ensure financial activities remain compliant with local regulations, no matter where the data is stored. AI can also process this data far quicker and more effectively than humans, ensuring compliance matters are solved quickly and with little room for error.

With companies downsizing their expensive compliance departments, while at the same time regulation increase, the role of Cloud-based automation in compliance is set to become even more important to the financial sector.

Financial institutions that utilise Cloud-based automation allow themselves the peace of mind that they are less likely to be faced with sanctions from regulators for unforeseen or unknown infractions when carrying out day to day activities. With the cost of non-compliance running into the billions every year, neutralising this threat has the potential to save significant amounts of money for the financial institutions who make the move to the Cloud.

 

Security

Data security is vital to the survival of financial institutions. With strict rules in place, and punishments for breaches from regulators and governments increasingly common. As the number of cyber-attacks continues to increase, and costly ransomware continues to put companies out of business, it is imperative that financial institutions take the necessary steps to secure their data.

Traditional on-premises storage and data management solutions of the type utilised by many financial institutions are frequent victims of various types of cyber-attack. Gartner research has shown that up to 60% fewer attacks occur on Cloud structures when compared to on-premises alternatives.

There are many reasons for this but one of the simplest is remote access. An IBM study highlighted that 95% of security failures at companies are due to human error. This can be anything from employees using unapproved third-party applications to being the victim of ‘spill over’ malware for an attack on a different company that bleeds onto another’s on-premises infrastructure. With data being stored and managed remotely, the Cloud offers fewer direct contact points between employees and valuable company data.

However, not all Cloud solutions are created equal and when going alone companies can often find themselves under-utilising the security benefits of the Cloud and leaving themselves vulnerable to threats. Selecting the right Cloud service provider is vital. Storing sensitive data on a Cloud service enabled and managed by an experienced, trustworthy partner, ensures that client and customer data remains safe and accessible without the litany of security issues that come with on-premises infrastructure.

 

Partnering with a Cloud enabler

The Cloud is already revolutionising finance in the way it has so many other industries. Big players such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have started migrating core applications to the Cloud and setting up Cloud hubs in major American cities. Almost half (43%) of financial services decision makers have stated their intent to increase their reliance on the Cloud over the coming year as more and more finance professionals see the benefits that larger competitors are reaping from Cloud migration.

In periods of great change and uncertainty, it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and stick to the way things are already being done. However, those who ignore the Cloud revolution leave themselves vulnerable in a rapidly changing and unforgiving business climate. An experienced Cloud services partner can help guide a business on its Cloud journey and ensure they receive all the security and productivity benefits the Cloud offers. With more and more major players moving processes and workflows onto the Cloud, it is up to each finance decision maker to change now, or be overtaken by their forward looking and savvy competitors.

 

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