Vishal Brown
Vishal Brown Sep 14, 2017

Communication transformation: How banks can build a smart digital workplace

Digital workplace transformation impacts every economic sector. And despite Deutsche Bank analysts’ optimistic prediction last year that big banks will put 30 percent of their IT infrastructures in public cloud environments over the next three years, the financial services sector lags in adopting collaboration technologies. It’s conservative by nature and the spectre of FINRA and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance only amplifies the industry’s cautious nature.

What’s more “Banks, both US and foreign, have increasingly come under attack by cyber criminals,” says Charles Weaver, CEO of the International Association of Cloud & Managed Services Providers. “The threats are increasing and so are the costs for preventing these attacks.”

And as the workplace evolves from legacy to digital, there will be new demands and challenges that may not be fully understood by IT—even as it faces a daunting challenge to get up to speed. How best, then, to tackle digital workplace transformation in financial services?

First, there are two types of employees to support: digital natives and digital immigrants. Immigrants are steeped in the analog world, and as new digital technologies become the norm they need support. To facilitate adoption of collaborative technologies, IT must provide or source proper training.

The same applies for the underlying applications, regardless of platform. Digital tools such as video collaboration will play a more central role in the next-generation workplace; digital immigrants will need help in learning how to integrate it into their everyday workflows. This may come naturally to millennials, but won’t for older workers.

Another factor to consider is how to provide the needed training. Traditionally, IT has taken a “push” approach, with end users trained in a classroom setting where the content is presented to the group. Or worse, they receive emails with attached instruction documents they’re expected to read and understand. Both millennials and older employees adopt new technology faster with personalized, individual training modes delivered online.

This is a different way of training, and when budgeting for a collaboration solution, you must build in that cost. IT should anticipate this as part of the planning process, as it’s much harder to fund later. Valuable time will also be lost in getting end users on board.

Digital transformation isn’t just impacting the workforce, but the workplace as well. With collaboration inside the enterprise, conference rooms will be the first and possibly only space that comes to mind. This is what IT conventionally knows, and will frame the requirements for a collaboration solution both in terms of physical setting and endpoints.

But today’s digital workers are both mobile-centric and web-centric and for them, every space equals a collaboration space. Though large, dedicated meeting rooms always serve a purpose, workspaces are more fluid now, and collaboration just as likely occurs in a huddle room, lounge area or even a cafeteria. Accordingly, IT needs to think differently with these changes. Otherwise, a good chance exists that the solution will fall short of end-user needs—and ultimately, won’t be used.

Meanwhile, the supply of skilled professionals in this realm doesn’t match demand. A new report from PayScale shows proficiency in Cisco UCCE/IPCC (enterprise communications software) among the most sought competencies for new hires.

And as today’s cloud-based collaboration platforms extend contact beyond the four walls of your business, there are data protection issues to consider—especially with sensitive financial data. Not only must IT filter this through domestic SOX regulations, but also comparable offshore market regulations when collaborating internationally.

Related to this is the need to have proper cybersecurity safeguards in place. IT security compliance requirements are still evolving for IP-based communications technologies, and without enterprise-grade protection, collaboration applications can easily introduce new vulnerabilities via the phone system or when using public Wi-Fi.

Employees can all too easily download consumer-grade applications without considering the data security risks. Establishing best practices to mitigate these behaviors will become part of IT’s role with digital transformation, as will be the need to design secure networks from the ground up.

Taken as a whole, all of these changes will create new expectations for IT to manage. The starting point is to understand what digital workplace transformation means for your workforce and workplace. Collaboration now represents a strategic driver for management and to support that, many IT departments will need a re-boot. We often hear this discussed as being a “skills gap”, and while that may be true, IT also faces a “knowledge gap, “especially around fast-evolving cloud-based technologies.

“MSPs knowledgeable about servicing bank customers have the experience and training necessary to advise and proactively guard bank infrastructure against data thieves," adds Weaver.

Yet most IT managers lack the time and funds to bridge these gaps in-house. More than ever, this is where the professional services teams bring so much to the table. Most financial services enterprises have a long way to go on their digital transformation journey.

The old roadmaps no longer apply. Changes occur at superhighway speed. Collaboration competency and communication technology can look, to the untrained eye, like two distant points with no road to connect them. Yet the trip financial services organizations must take gains poignancy—and power—when stretched and challenged IT teams find the right traveling companions.

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Vishal Brown is SVP of professional services for Yorktel, provider of global cloud and video managed services, as well as unified communications and collaboration. 

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