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DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION FOR FINANCE: LEADING WITH SAAS AND COLLABORATION TOOLS

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Gary Duggan, VP Technology Solutions EMEA at Riverbed Technology

 

Throughout the pandemic, software as a service (SaaS) and collaboration applications have become a necessity for financial institutions. From having video calls with clients and supporting customers via instant message platforms to connecting with colleagues and accessing files from a remote server – these tools are being used daily across the entire workforce. The sudden popularity rush of collaboration technologies is predicted to continue over the next 12 months as banks push forward with investment into digital transformation. In fact, Gartner expects that the global SaaS industry will grow to a valuation of $121B this year, up from $102B in 2019.

The adoption of SaaS applications presents a huge opportunity. Financial institutions and their IT teams can now ensure the tools they are investing in don’t hinder but rather accelerate employee productivity. As the pandemic continues across Europe and employees embrace working from anywhere, financial organisations and banks are successfully able to optimise experience, eradicate connectivity challenges and maximise the benefits of SaaS application and collaboration tools. But the question is, what is the key to banks and financial institutions effectively achieving this? Performance, visibility and understanding the applications running across the network, is the answer.

 

A surge in SaaS applications and collaboration tools

As organisations across the world went into lockdown at the start of the pandemic, banks and financial institutions were forced to completely overhaul communications methods. Overnight businesses rapidly accelerated digital transformation initiatives and embraced new technologies to maintain distribution channels and operations. Whilst also refreshing working practices to comply with social distancing and adopting collaboration technology to unify an industry that was never designed for remote working.

To tackle the challenges of now operating remotely, banks and financial institutions turned to collaboration tools and SaaS applications such as Slack, Zoom and Office 365. In Zoom’s last quarterly results of 2020 alone, the company reported its total global revenue for the quarter to be up 369% year-over-year. It cemented itself as a critical communication and collaboration service during the pandemic. Fast forward over the last 13 months, these solutions have been fundamental for business continuity and maintaining employee productivity within every aspect of the financial services sector. From financial accounting, customer service and HR systems, to mortgage lending, retail banking and CRM.

But the swift implementation of SaaS applications and collaboration tools created a serious challenge for IT teams as they faced having to manage the huge influx of new devices and applications onto their network. All of which had to be done with little to no visibility over what was happening or where it was happening at any given moment. Considering that almost half (44%) of finance business decision makers state that slow running and outdated technology is currently impacting their business, according to recent research from Riverbed, it was crucial financial institutions quickly adopted technology that would support this revised way of working. At Riverbed, many of our customers began utilising mobile client acceleration solutions and SaaS to help resolve this issue.

 

Optimising applications and gaining visibility in finance

An instant consumer level experience is the expectation that many banks and financial institutions are receiving from both employees and customers. As such, SaaS applications and collaboration tools that are slow running or outdated are unacceptable and will have a negative impact on the customer and employee experience. To overcome this, it is vital financial organisations have in place solutions that provide holistic visibility over the network. With the right level of visibility, businesses are able to quickly troubleshoot any problems on the network and prevent detrimental network outages. For this to happen, businesses need to invest in network management solutions that collect and analyse data coming in across every device and each application in use. Armed with the insight from this data, IT teams can pinpoint any issues on the network and implement solutions to correct them – regardless of whether employees are working remotely or in the office.

For example, poor network performance has major implications on productivity as employees battle with bandwidth and latency challenges at home. This is true for any situation but is especially compounded during times of disruption. With employee productivity damaged, this in turn has a serious impact on the effectiveness of financial operations and ultimately the customer experience. A single slow running system or a network outage could result in the failure of an investment being made, a mortgage being approved or customers trusting the bank to complete their requests. However, these kinds of outcomes are easily avoided when solutions such as application acceleration and network performance tools are put in place. But with complete visibility over the networks and applications, financial institutions and banks can avoid errors, outages and app delays and instead optimise applications and deliver on connectivity at the right time.

 

Putting Saas, performance and visibility at the heart of finance success 

For banks and financial institutions to successfully maintain employee productivity and ensure business operations continue without disruption, having the right technology in place is critical. While the first step to this is adopting the right collaboration and SaaS solutions, the second is most certainly to ensure that the performance of these tools is optimised. By adopting technology that maximises application performance as well as provide visibility across the network, financial institutions and banks can efficiently boost productivity, continue to innovate and, ultimately keep the business growing. Both during times of disruption and beyond.

 

Finance

FOUR STEPS TO INTEGRATING INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION IN THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

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Marieke Saeij, CEO of Visma | Onguard

 

It’s clear that Intelligent Automation (IA) is still very much an emerging technology, with one indication being that is has only been mentioned a handful of times on Twitter since the beginning of 2021. Results from our latest annual FinTech Barometer reveal a mixed picture in terms of awareness, with half of finance professionals having never heard the term before. Whilst this is unsurprising for a technology concept very much in the ‘early adopters’ stage, organisations can stand to gain real benefits from embracing Intelligent Automation now, particular within the finance department. With this in mind, we explore some of these benefits and share a step-by-step best practice to implementing it into business operations.

 

Intelligent Automation ensures a predictable order-to-cash process

Such is the speed of introduction of new technologies that it’s a challenge for businesses to keep pace. As the newest innovation in finance, Intelligent Automation is one that organisations can’t afford to let pass by. It truly takes financial process automation to the next level. In addition to helping maintain a high-quality customer service, it also complements the existing skillset of finance professionals in the industry.

Marieke Saeij

While Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Big Data are key innovations for the sector, IA can be likened to an additional layer that enhances existing technologies. By combining applications, this layer is capable of independently assessing situations and determining the appropriate process sequence. It can, for example, fully determine the risk of a specific customer, and can also predict at an early stage which invoices will be paid late, or even not at all, ensuring that finance professionals can then plan accordingly. The result is a reliable and predictable order-to-cash process.

 

The four steps to an IA-proof organisation

While the benefits of IA are numerous, implementing the technology can prove complex, although some are already treading the IA path without knowing it. In this instance it’s crucial to become aware and begin the purposeful process to full integration. Below are the four key steps to becoming fully IA-proof.

  1. Exploring the potential: Brainstorm where automation can be applied

Step one is to examine the extent to which automation can help your organisation. Blue sky thinking is the key here. What is the ideal relationship with the customer? What does the ideal order-to-cash process look like? In this phase, involving multiple departments from within the organisation is key, from management to operations. The finance professionals who have the most contact with customers are likely to have the strongest knowledge of which processes they would like to see automated. With no limits to ideas, it’s best to explore all the opportunities in the entire order-to-cash process and describe broadly the potential value to the organisation.

 

  1. Decipher which data and technology is needed

The second step is to map out which data and technology is required. Working with a specialist, either external or from the internal IT department, is beneficial at this stage to see where the opportunities lie. In many cases, off-the-shelf solutions are already readily available to help make the difference, so it pays to do the research and gain advice where possible.

 

  1. Firm up the strategy

With the plan mapped out, it’s time to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. Which technology and accompanying software is proving most valuable? It’s vital at this stage to analyse the results the organisation is achieving from deploying the right technology and software. It’s also important to outline any limitations and emphasising the potential risk of failure. This is the business case and the basis for the elevator pitch that will be presented to internal stakeholders.

 

  1. Draw up the roadmap and start benefitting from agility

The fourth and final step is prioritisation. The roadmap will describe step-by-step how to move from the undesired current situation to the desired end goal. In the first step, choosing a subproject that is relatively easy to achieve will help gain support from other departments within the business, and provide invaluable experience that can be applied to the more complex components that follow later. This agile approach facilitates a learn-by-doing mindset and allows the following steps to be tackled in a smarter and simpler way.

 

Effective preparation is half the battle

Exploring the potential of automation, mapping the required data and technology, establishing the strategy and laying out the roadmap are the four crucial steps to ensure the foundation for Intelligent Automation. Effective preparation and estimating which technology and accompanying software is needed will help to create a streamlined and error-free order-to-cash process. To ultimately save time and costs, empower finance professionals and maintain customer loyalty, the time for Intelligent Automation is now.

 

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READING BETWEEN THE BUZZWORDS: DISCOVERING THE POWER OF INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION?

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by Yad Jaura, Product Marketing Manager at Netcall 

 

The nature of automation means that new technologies, ideas and solutions are frequently developed and invented. New words and phrases are banded bandied around, with many similarities and discreet distinctions. A relatively recent buzzword in the business process transformation arena is Intelligent Automation.

Here I explain what is meant by intelligent automation. In doing so, I aim to unravel some of the terms that are intrinsically linked to automation and explain why intelligent automation can be so crucial for organisations in transforming business processes, fast.

 

So, what is intelligent automation exactly?

Put simply, it is the combination of multiple process automation technologies together into a single platform or solution. Those process automation technologies include low-code, robotic process automation (RPA), built-in workflow, integration platforms and intelligent business process management suites (IBPMS). Using any combination of these to automate business processes qualifies as intelligent automation.

 

And how is that different from hyper automation?

It’s very similar to be honest; they were created by the technology research analysts. Forrester coined the phrase intelligent automation, while Gartner came up with hyper automation. Essentially, they mean the same thing.

 

Define RPA and how that is a part of intelligent automation?

The simplest definition is that robotic process automation (RPA) focuses on automating repetitive and rules-based on-screen processes. Intelligent automation does the same job but in addition to using RPA techniques, it incorporates other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies (like machine learning, natural language processing, structured data interaction, intelligent document processing).

RPA when combined with Process as a Service technologies such as low-code can automate interactions with existing systems on a screen. In effect, what the robot is able to do is replicate the actions that a person takes when they are operating various different systems, and do those things automatically.

For example, opening a system, accessing some data, copying it, pasting it to another system, generating a report, emailing that report to someone. This is a process flow. And a robot can be instructed to replicate that exact process flow. It’s especially effective for repetitive and tedious tasks, the robot can take that activity and free your people to work on other more meaningful tasks.

 

Why is intelligent automation so important?

Releasing your people from the necessary but repetitive or high-volume tasks can open up endless possibilities. It’s extremely potent in a customer experience orientated environment because staff can use that freed-up time on activities that need more cognitive, imaginative and interpretive work and more complicated interactions with customers. It allows robots to perform the menial tasks freeing up people to concentrate on delivering a great experience for customers.

 

Can you trust a robot?

Yes. You have to select suitable tasks and you have to program it correctly. But you can absolutely trust that the robot will do EXACTLY the same process, with no deviation from what you asked it to do. RPA robots don’t make mistakes or stop for any breaks – for the right type of tasks, they are better suited to the work than humans are.

The analysts also believe that we need to put our trust in automation and software robots. I particularly liked this quote from a webinar we ran with Forrester in 2020:

“Every process within an organisation needs to be automated in software, or else be liable to failure, and the consequences of failure.”

I really like that, because for me, it provides a real-world definition of intelligent automation in practice. Intelligent automation is the automation of business processes at scale. Plus, the quote demonstrates where we are headed – the idea of automating everything in software, so that those processes can be operated from anywhere, at any time. It’s been proven in the last year, with lockdowns and restrictions, because processes are no longer reliant on people being in specific locations, with access to certain paper, machines etc in that location. Intelligent automation is really about process automation at scale, to address these issues.

 

If the potential is endless… will automation and robots take over everything?

People will always be needed in organisations. You need a human to build an RPA process – a robot can’t think of what is needed to build the set of tasks for another robot. Intelligent automation gives you the best of both worlds. Build faster, reliable processes that are virtually infallible. Use your people for the human interaction side of your business and for the planning, creative and intellectual responsibilities that only a human being has the ingenuity and talent to deliver.

Side by side, people and robots can develop highly competent, successful operations and deliver outstanding CX, every single time.

 

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