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Digital transformation for the world of finance: The rise in collaboration tools and SaaS applications 

Digital transformation for the world of finance: The rise in collaboration tools and SaaS applications 

By Gary Duggan, Vice President Technology Solutions , EMEA at Riverbed Technology

Collaboration and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications have gained adoption over the years, but become a necessity for banks during the pandemic. Leadership, managers, and even technical teams, are using them daily — whether it’s to connect with colleagues, support customers via instant message platforms, have face-to-face video calls with clients, or access files from a remote server. The surge in popularity of these tools is expected to continue as financial institutions invest further in digital transformation over the next 12 months. In fact, Gartner predicts that the global SaaS industry will grow to a valuation of $121B this year, up from $102B in 2019.

Adopting new SaaS applications, while a necessity, is also an opportunity. Banks and their IT teams have the chance to ensure that the applications they are investing in accelerate and don’t limit productivity. And critically, to ensure that they do not hinder customer experience. As Europe enters a new phase of the pandemic, banks and financial institutions can capitalise on the benefits of SaaS applications and collaboration tools, remove the connectivity challenges, and optimise experience. But just how do they go about this? The answer lies in performance, visibility, and understanding the applications running across your network.

The rise of collaboration tools and SaaS applications 

In March 2020, almost overnight banks and financial institutions across the world were forced to completely change the way they communicate. They had to quickly accelerate digital transformation and put in emergency measures that would keep their distribution channels open. These institutions also needed to create new working practices to comply with social distancing advice and embrace collaboration technology to unite a sector that was simply never designed for remote work.

To overcome the challenges of the pandemic, banks and financial services teams invested heavily in SaaS and collaboration tools such as Office 365, Slack and Trello. In the first month of the pandemic alone, Microsoft Teams usage jumped by 70 percent to 75 million daily active users. During consecutive lockdowns, the use of these solutions was essential for business continuity in the financial services sector. It allowed dispersed workforces to communicate effectively, stay productive, and remain engaged with fellow coworkers, as they transitioned from operating primarily through physical interactions to solely virtual ones. Beyond this, mortgage lending, financial accounting, retail banking, customer service, CRM and HR systems — all needed to operate remotely.

Gary Duggan

Gary Duggan

This presented a major challenge for IT teams, as they were confronted with managing the huge wave of applications and devices that were now on their network – all with little to no visibility over who and what was happening from moment to moment. With almost half (44%) of finance business decision makers stating that slow running and outdated technology is currently impacting their business, according to recent research from Riverbed, banks and financial institutions needed to move quickly and put the technology in place that would support this new way of working. Many of our customers, starting leveraging SaaS and mobile client acceleration solutions to help solve this challenge.

Shifting to a hybrid model

With the end of lockdown in sight for some of Europe, banks are now looking to a hybrid model and creating a new working environment that bridges the gap between pre and post pandemic world. This presents a new opportunity for financial institutions to provide the flexibility and agility that over the last year the workforce has come to expect.

Regardless of the approach by individual banks – whether it’s a hybrid working model or a full return to the office – there is no denying that over the coming months employees will in some capacity move back into a physical working environment. But as a hybrid model comes into play, SaaS applications, collaboration tools, and their ability to avoid performance issues and have complete visibility over their network will play a critical role in making this transition possible.

Visibility and optimisation in finance  

Both employees and customers are now demanding a consumer level experience from their banks and financial services. Collaboration tools and applications that are clunky, slow, or have glitches are therefore not acceptable and have a serious impact on the employee and customer experience. It is paramount that businesses adopt technology that allows holistic visibility into their networks. To do this, financial institutions need to invest in network performance management solutions that gather and analyse data coming from every application and across every device in use. With the resulting insights, IT teams are able to understand what problems are occurring and take action to rectify them, irrespective of whether employees are operating from the office, branch, or remotely.

In any situation, but particularly during times of disruption, poor network performance has a serious impact on productivity as employees struggle to overcome latency and bandwidth challenges. In turn, this has a huge impact on the efficiency of banking operations, and the customer experience. Simply, one network outage or slow running system can mean the difference between a mortgage being approved, an investment being made, or the reputation of the financial institution being soured with its customer. However, with effective technology in place such as network performance and application acceleration tools, this can be easily prevented. With the ability to have complete visibility over networks and applications, banks and financial institutions will be able to optimise applications and provide the right connectivity at the right time, making errors, outages, and app delays a thing of the past.

The future of banking lies with SaaS 

If the last 12 months has shown banks and financial institutions anything, it’s that having the right technology in place that will support their workforce and customer base is critical to success. But it doesn’t stop at having the right SaaS or collaboration solutions — they need to work effectively. By embracing tools that not only enhance network visibility and performance but also maximise application performance, financial organisations can feel safe in the knowledge that they can maintain employee productivity and continue to innovate and grow. With SaaS at the centre, whatever the next year has in store, banks will be able to not only survive, but thrive.

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