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Powering the Hybrid Bank Workplace | ABA Banking Journal

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By John Antanaitis

Picture a workday where you’ve lost access to just half of the videoconferencing and messaging tools you regularly use. Chances are it wouldn’t be a very productive day. That’s especially the case for banks, where everyone from senior leadership to part-time staff and technical teams use these tools to support customers in real-time, connect with colleagues, engage clients through video calls, or tap into remote servers to retrieve files. The software as a service applications and collaboration tools we’ve learned to both love (and loathe) during the pandemic are here to stay. In fact, Gartner forecasts that the SaaS industry will grow to a valuation of $121 billion globally this year, up from $102 billion in 2019. The past 13 months introduced new tools we use every day. The next 13 will redefine how we use them.

Opportunity lies at the heart of this widespread adoption of SaaS applications. Banks have a chance to ensure their digital investments improve, rather than impede productivity and exceptional customer experiences. We’ve gone through the challenges of the past year together. Now banks’ digital strategies will start to diverge. Some will prove more successful than others at fully realizing the benefits of collaborations tools, overcoming connectivity challenges and optimizing SaaS-supported experiences. But what will determine success? The answer lies in a deep understanding of how these apps are performing across your network.

Digital transformation finally arrives. But so do its challenges.

When the pandemic hit, banks and financial institutions across the world were forced to completely change the way they communicate. Almost overnight, they had to start working in new ways to stay socially distanced and embrace technology in a sector that simply wasn’t designed for remote work.

To do this, organizations invested heavily in SaaS and collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, and Office 365, resulting in a surge of usage. In just the first month of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams usage spiked 70 percent to 75 million daily active users. Nearly every facet of every organization in the financial services sector, including mortgage lending, retail banking, financial accounting, customer service, CRM and HR systems, all needed to operate remotely and reliably.

To call this shift a major challenge for IT teams would be an understatement. These teams were faced with a wave of applications and devices that suddenly were part of business-critical networks—and they had little to no visibility over most of those access points. It’s no surprise, then, that 44 percent of finance decision-makers identify slow and outdated technology as having an impact on business, according to recent research from Riverbed. Financial institutions needed to move quickly to stand up solutions that could support new ways of working and were soon faced with visibility gaps. Many banks turned to SaaS and mobile client accelerators to help solve this challenge.

The inevitability of a hybrid model

With the end of capacity restrictions and mask requirements, and the viral risk that instigated them, banks are turning to a hybrid model that aims to combine the best of working environments from the pre- and post-pandemic worlds. Financial institutions have the chance to make the flexibility and agility that the workforce has come to expect permanent by ensuring remote workers can collaborate with in-office employees securely and without disruption.

Regardless of each organization’s approach, some employees and clients will, move back into physical working environments. Likewise, some will remain remote. As a hybrid model takes shape, SaaS applications and collaboration tools will need to run seamlessly, wherever workers are logging in from. Higher degrees of network visibility and performance will be essential in creating an equitable and productive experience for all employees—not to mention fast, secure and reliable service for clients. Collaboration tools and applications that are clunky, slow, or have glitches have a palpable impact on both the employee and customer experience.

For these reasons, every financial institution should adopt technology that provides holistic visibility into every corner of their newly-expanded networks. It starts with solutions that gather and analyze data coming from every application each device in your network. This paints a fuller, clearer picture of your IT landscape, so teams can better understand pain points, wherever they emerge, and take meaningful actions to rectify them.

Tools to keep the future in sight

Increasingly, network performance defines both the employee and customer experience. Small latency and bandwidth challenges accumulate overtime and have an outsized impact on organization-wide success, especially now that even the most basic business functions are tethered to network performance. One network outage or slow running system can mean the difference between a mortgage being approved, an investment being made or a bank’s reputation being soured with a customer.

With more complete visibility into networks and applications, banks and financial institutions can optimize the way they work and resolve disruption before they leave a serious impact. Embracing the right tools, will not only provide comprehensive visibility but also help maximize the performance of each application, clearing a path for organizations to innovate and grow. With fully-utilized SaaS tools at the center of their strategy, financial organizations can truly thrive in a post-pandemic world.

John Antanaitis is VP for product and solutions marketing at Riverbed, where his responsibilities include positioning and messaging, content strategy and execution, market intelligence and evangelism and strategic influence as conduit for voice of the customer.