Last month, we hosted a roundtable discussion with senior tech executives from a dozen leading financial services firms. While there was a great deal of lively discussion, the big three topics for the meeting were use of the Cloud platform, opening and improving internal lines of communication, and the state of cyber security.
While the format was informal, participant input provided a wealth of information based upon years of experience. Discussions beginning with challenges common to the group garnered a range of solutions. As a collaborative environment, the responses to each topic clearly demonstrated an unparalleled level of knowledge and professionalism.
Go with the Cloud
Following some discussion of the use of or migration to Cloud-based technology, group consensus was evident: operating on a Cloud platform was “the way forward.” Based upon collective professional and individual experiences, the group established specific reasons for this, most notably the following four. As these were developed, the focus clearly remained on closing gaps in information.
Scalability: Expanding systems can pose problems for businesses of any size. This is especially true when merging or adding to disparate systems. Based upon first-hand professional experience, it was agreed that infrastructure as service – Microsoft Dynamics and the Cloud – eliminated major adaptability issues. Further, upgrades were completed with notably fewer difficulties and training became progressive. In short, this has proved incredibly effective and efficient.
Accessibility: More than a matter of convenience, being able to access materials while away from a physical office is critical. Unfortunately, this is easily complicated by issues ranging from unreliable or unavailable Wi-Fi connections to the need to access larger files remotely. In dealing with this, participants discussed how the Cloud platform provided deliberate means for overcoming these obstacles. "Working through OneDrive, people can access the information from their local machine and, later, synchronize and upload changes as needed to update information…this structure provides excellent mobility."
Resiliency: Power failures, fire, and water damage are major dangers to onsite data storage. Any one of these could rapidly cripple any business, and they happen all too often. Accordingly, storing data offsite via a Cloud-based platform provides an ideal failsafe against these threats.
Security: In reviewing threats, cyber security is a subject that everyone is concerned with. Once again, ease of operation with the Cloud is true for security as well. Participants agreed that IT, particularly the development of security measures, was “not a core competency” for their businesses. Utilizing the Cloud in the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics allows users to rely on the of Microsoft’s industry-leading security prowess. Letting the experts deal with security concerns and focusing on business "just makes sense."
Silos of Communication: Bringing Them Down
Communication can become stilted and less effective in a corporate structure for any number of reasons. Business growth, technical expansion, and departmental segmentation are all examples of by-products of success that can complicate communications. And each of these can contribute to real difficulties, like problems disseminating information, sharing critical data, and operating on the same system. In short, it becomes what one participant referred to as “a nightmare” to deal with. In the interest of effectively dealing with this, what is the best practice for dismantling silos of communication?
More than just identifying root causes, it’s necessary to establish "exactly what needs to be done." Articulating a specific plan of action and method for accomplishing this plan are critical. Achieving this generated some interesting conversation, as well as additional questions.
It was largely agreed that employing a business analyst or project manager to drive the effort was likely one of the most effective approaches. Naturally, this precipitated a series of questions intended to flesh out the ideal candidate for the job. While there was a great deal of input, the “right person for the job was summed up accordingly:
...they’ve got to be knowledgeable across company departments, products and services, business practices, and the technology the entire company runs on. They have to be someone who can speak to all of these aspects—to actually articulate what the business wants in these cases: development, expansion, new systems from inception to release...it’s a really pivotal role. That person must fashion consensus and drive out the true requirements. This is not easy.
While this alone is a tall order, getting people on board with change is another major challenge. "Changing culture is always going to be difficult, especially in a large company...there's lots of angst early on." Establishing a culture of collaboration is critical to making this happen. While moving this effort forward is complicated and requires a great deal of effort, the ongoing benefits – most notably improved efficiency across business assets – are worth it.
Security and Cyber Threats
During the final session, the group discussed ongoing tech projects as well as concerns. To really kick off this topic, participants were asked directly, “what keeps you awake at night?” Cyber security was immediately the dominant response and remained at the forefront of conversation.
“Nobody is immune to this risk…it can come from anywhere, anytime.” It was also agreed that because cyberattacks can be internal as well as external threats, the situation was even more complicated. While several participants agreed that addressing risks, attempting to harden weak points, and establishing protocols internally are a good start, it was again pointed out that security was not their primary business. Accordingly, it was necessary to bring another service on board to more completely address the situation.
Employing the most current technology and supported by constant development, the resources provided by Cloud infrastructure as managed Cloud Services provide users with a much greater level of security. While there are other tools available to perform the task, Microsoft works from an established base of decades of experience supported by teams of dedicated security professionals. Taking advantage of this resource is clearly a best-practice defense against security threats. Perhaps as importantly, they provide that bit of relief that allows for a better sleep at night.
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