Technology challenges and industry forces: How do you stay ahead?

By: James Marofske

IT leaders at financial institutions face tough challenges within the industry today. Managing IT spend, merger and acquisition activity, and branch enablement are top-of-mind and drive high user and consumer expectations. As a result, IT decision makers must focus on building a technology environment to deliver solutions that produce high end-user, business, and IT satisfaction—a tough and daunting task to be sure. But can it really be done?

The short answer is yes. Fortunately, today’s technology landscape includes hardware and software that can address both business and IT requirements. This will not be an out-of-the-box solution, unfortunately. But with an enterprise-focused architecture that integrates business applications, software, and hardware, the results can be revolutionary. Business users get seamless and efficient IT service delivery. And IT gains a scalable, flexible, performance-driven technology stack from end to end.

To begin, stop picking point solutions!
Building a technology stack to meet financial services requirements requires careful attention to direction and purpose. The days of picking “point” solutions are over; technical architectures with standards for software and hardware must be flexible and scalable.

Organizations often select software solutions to meet an immediate need or solve a pressing business issue. They don’t involve all affected people, and especially IT, when assessing and selecting products. As a result, they end up licensing a product without a full evaluation of its scope or the magnitude of its impact. Inevitably, a similar product already exists, and the company must adapt or change its current architecture. This, in turn, increases costs—typically in the form of unnecessary licensing, additional hardware, application and infrastructure technology platforms, and human capital.

Establish process, software, and hardware standards!
Enterprise technology hardware architecture is critical to an organization’s costs and service delivery. Is your organization using standards? Or taking full advantage of virtualization and shared storage?

Organizations that utilize hardware and software standards with supporting processes are able to simplify cost and budget management. As those standards and processes mature, IT will begin to operate using a predictive cost model. Standardization enables IT to understand the cost of adding/removing hardware, software, and virtual resources—from start to finish. Financially, this leads to predictable costs and informed budget management.

Design with efficiency in mind; maximize virtualization and shared resources!
Virtualization and shared storage significantly reduce hardware footprint (typically by a ratio of 10:1 or greater), potentially reduce energy consumption, and when licensed properly, reduce overall cost to operate. Virtualization is a software solution that uses advanced hardware technology to allow multiple operating systems on a single physical hardware device. Shared storage is a critical component to a complete virtualization solution. The resulting resource efficiency can also reduce or simplify management costs and effort. As a result, such a solution can reduce hardware, software, and human capital costs at each layer of the technology stack.

Bottom line: A technology stack optimized with virtualization does more with less.

It seems that every month leadership keeps telling IT to be ready for growth, but how?
For financial organizations, particularly banks, growth most often happens through acquisition, market penetration, or product expansion. Critical to the success of each is speed to market. As a result, IT must be able to deliver systems and services as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

These four critical concepts can aid fast, efficient deployment:

  • End-to-end technology standards and processes
  • End-to-end virtualization
  • Shared storage
  • Centralized infrastructure and connectivity

First, having mature standards and processes can speed up decision making. During periods of high growth, reducing analysis and moving straight to design with known technology can significantly decrease the time required to deploy—often eliminating one to two months of analysis and selection time. Additionally, a per branch cost to deploy services can be generated by IT within one to two weeks.

Also, end-to-end virtualization and shared storage allow faster deployment of end-user devices, servers, and applications. If implemented correctly, system availability can be nearly 10 times faster than traditional implementation methods on physical devices.

Finally, performance is critical to user satisfaction and customer demand, and connectivity is a significant element of the performance equation. Integrated application components must be centrally located, have redundant connectivity, be provided  to all sites, and supply ample bandwidth. Historical data from existing locations can provide insight about deployment requirements for new sites. This will reduce the unknowns and facilitate better, more accurate communication to service providers.

So, all this technology is great, but what are the benefits?
Great question. First and foremost, adopting the technology will enable IT to execute and deliver more efficiently. Additional benefits include gains in scalability and knowledge. As a result, IT should be able to reduce downtime and improve delivery through predictability.

End users  should experience better application performance and availability. Requests for new services will take less time to deliver. Branch services will have higher availability, performance, and reliability. Executive leadership will see managed and predictable costs. In times of growth, time to market will be quicker.

Overall, the organization will spend less time worrying about IT and the company can focus on improving revenue streams and consumer services. In short, it is a win for all.

West Monroe Partners works with an array of banks to align technology with business goals. For more information, please contact James Marofske.

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