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AKA Enterprise Solutions

A Financial Services Roundtable: 3 Major Takeaways


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A group of senior tech executives from a dozen financial service firms gathered in May for an AKA Enterprise Solutions roundtable. The group covered a lot of ground, discussing challenges specific to financial services as well as the tech industry in in general. While experience and background varied, conversation focused on the use of Cloud technology, breaking down silos of communication, and the role of security in tech-driven fields.

Taking full advantage of this professional diversity, participants worked through a range of solutions to challenges inherent to the industry. In line with the second topic, open communication and lateral thinking marked the day. More to the point, this level of collaboration provided a great deal of valuable insight and information.

Choosing the Cloud Platform

The initial session focused on advantages provided by the Cloud. In terms of challenges and opportunities, it was agreed that Cloud-based technology allowed both large and small corporate structures to address several concerns, most notably scalability, accessibility, resilience, and security. True to the spirit of collaboration, all present worked in answering questions and closing information gaps.

From mid- to large-sized businesses, expanding or adding to different systems can pose difficulties. And full merging or migration of different systems can pose even more. In sharing professional experiences with these situations, it was agreed that the degree of scalability provided by Microsoft Dynamics and the Cloud eliminated the need to deal with these adaptability issues. As importantly, upgrades were implemented with fewer issues and subsequent training followed a much more logical structure. This improved process allowed the focus to remain on business and enhanced efficiency.

Being away from the physical office to conduct business is a necessary aspect of the financial services industry. Naturally, this presents potential complications: unreliable Wi-Fi or lack thereof, lack of access to a full range of materials, and the need to access large files remotely are all issues that add to or create these complications. Several participants explained how Microsoft Dynamics used via the Cloud platform allowed them to overcome these obstacles. Working “through OneDrive...people can access the information from their local machine and…synchronize and upload changes to update information.” It was further agreed that this level of accessibility and mobility were a key component of efficiency “on the road.”

Seemingly more dramatic, dangers to onsite data – fire, water damage, weather, and power outages – were also noted as a major concern. More than temporarily denying access, the destructive nature of any of these instances can be catastrophic for any business. And they happen regularly. Again, having data secured offsite via the Cloud mitigates this threat entirely.

This applies to access security as well. Participants agreed that the advanced security measures provided by the Cloud allowed businesses to rely on Microsoft’s extensive security experience. This is “not a core competency” of most financial services providers. Rather than spending time and money in attempts to develop in-house measures, depending on the experts to deal with security concerns at this level “just makes sense.”

Tearing Down Silos of Communication

It was agreed that communication is central to effective business practices. It was also agreed that, as a company grows, issues develop that can cause breakdowns. In these situations, identifying the specific hindrances as well as what can or will be done to correct them can be as problematic as the issues themselves. In the words of one participant, dealing with silos of communication can become “a nightmare” requiring a detailed and continued effort to address.

Initially, it’s frequently the idea of change itself rather than new policy or technology that received push back. “Changing culture is always going to be difficult, especially in a large company…there's lots of angst early on.” Even when positive changes have been identified, getting people engaged and keeping them on board is one of the most notable ongoing tasks.

Searching for specific problems within larger issues (multiple systems or CRMs, segmented departments, multiple physical locations, etc.) was agreed upon as the initial step in improving communications. However, once all considerations have been thoroughly evaluated, it’s critical that means of resolution be clearly articulated. Establishing “exactly what you really need” is central to making this happen.

Moving forward, hiring or appointing a project manager or business analyst was discussed as one of the most effective ways to approach the task. Yet again, this raised questions. Establishing who constituted the “right person for the job” led to a lengthier discussion of skill and personality. Based upon first-hand experience, the following were noted as skills critical to the position; the person must have the following:

  • Thorough knowledge of the company
  • Professional familiarity with all products and services
  • Demonstrated competency with company technology

 

It was also agreed that the person had to be able to articulate and clearly convey what “needed to be done.” And be personable. “It’s a really pivotal role. This person must fashion consensus and drive out the true requirements. This is not easy.” Despite inherent challenges, it was the group consensus that the effort was well worth it.

Security and the Threat of Cyberattack

Moving to the final session, participants were asked to discuss efforts or concerns they were dealing with. Eliciting continued dialog, the question was asked: “what keeps you awake at night?” Given recent media coverage, the damage inflicted upon victims, and potential damage they might inflict upon the financial services industry, it’s no surprise that cyberattacks were at the forefront of the discussion.

It was immediately agreed that “nobody [was] immune to that threat…and it can have disastrous consequences.” Perhaps most alarming was the total unpredictability of the threat; that attacks can occur at any time, from internal or external sources. The goal at this point is to do the very best to address all security issues and harden every position accordingly. Even with this, concerns were still evident.

Regardless of the grave nature of the threat, the group was largely optimistic. Looking to current technology and the rate at which it’s being improved, there are resources available to mitigate this threat. Specifically, those available through Cloud infrastructure as managed Cloud Services, offer resources that clearly provide a range of defensive measures against security threats. While cyber security will always be a concern, knowing that you’re protected by the combined prowess of Microsoft’s entire security team should make getting to sleep at night a little easier.

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