Organizations across the financial services industry have experienced an intense period of rapid innovation and digital transformation over the last two years. Their response to the pandemic, and the changing needs of customers and employees alike, has driven the need for new solutions and creative thinking as brands strive to offer seamless digital customer experiences across all of their products and services.
Now, as leaders contemplate what the next two years may look like, some universal truths are clear. Firstly, users have become more reliant on digital services and applications to perform all manner of transactions – from everyday banking, paying bills, mortgage applications, to managing investment portfolios. Secondly, they have become less tolerant of poor application performance. If a site fails to meet the exacting standards of today’s digital users, then a previously loyal customer will become an ex-customer.
Rather than look to consolidate recent digital transformation projects and innovation programs and rest on their laurels, now is the time for leaders to invest in their IT teams and focus on the solutions and skills which will drive the next wave of innovation.
Here are three ways in which financial services organizations can better support the technologists in their business to drive new processes, improve user experience, and cultivate customer trust.
1. Bring visibility to the entire IT environment
Flawless digital experiences can only be achieved when technologists have alignment and complete visibility across the entire IT environment. Many IT leaders are now looking to build on their existing monitoring capabilities and generate a unified view on IT availability and performance throughout their IT estate.
This need for greater visibility is being driven by a whole range of technical, operational and business factors. These include growing complexity across IT infrastructure, increased customer and end user expectations, and heightened concern about the potential impact of a major outage or service disruption.
For technologists looking to build on their existing monitoring capabilities and generate a unified view on IT availability and performance, full-stack observability has been steadily gaining momentum. Analyst firm Gartner defines observability as the “evolution of monitoring into a process that offers insight into digital business applications, speeds innovation and enhances customer experience.” Full-stack observability allows IT teams to employ critical visibility into the entire IT stack, from the infrastructure application all the way to the network.
Full-stack observability presents a great opportunity for financial services to organizations to streamline processes and improve customer experience, and IT teams know it. In a recent Cisco AppDynamics survey of more than 1,200 global technologists (including those in the financial services sector), an overwhelming 98% see its importance as a mission-critical solution that will keep them ahead of the competition, and 87% said they will be on the journey to implementing full-stack observability this year.
2. Break down silos and eliminate war rooms
Of course, it is nearly impossible to eliminate all potential performance issues. What is now widely understood, however, is that technologists must have the tools and solutions available to them. This is important so they can ensure that if and when issues arise, IT teams can quickly establish the root cause of the problem and remediate this before the end-user is impacted. Having data points to discuss in post-mortem, which outline how many were impacted, what the business risk was, and where improvements can be made, is all key intel to have.
But to be truly effective they also need a single version of the truth – a unified, consolidated source of trusted data which all teams within an IT organization can access.
The days of operating within traditional silos that have their own disconnected monitoring tools are over. Teams are recognizing the value of working together to find out why issues happen and how to solve them quicker and more efficiently.
Take, for example, a mobile banking application. If the application experiences a performance issue, such as slow loading time, transactions failing to complete or pages that are crashing, then the organization needs to know immediately what is happening in the back-end to cause the issue, and pinpoint where the error is happening. There is no room for costly and time-consuming war rooms where teams across development, security, IT operations, networking and more battle to assign ownership.
With full-stack observability, the teams involved can troubleshoot the issue in real-time, consolidating their notes and data using a timeline that is visible to all participants. Incident data can easily be translated into conversations with business leadership, so everyone can align on future solutions.
3. Invest in critical IT skills
Beyond investing in new solutions, financial services organizations need to be proactive to invest in the individual needs and skill sets of their IT teams. It is beneficial to the entire organization to invest in employee education, both formal and informal. According to Deloitte, 71% of CEOs see a labor and skills shortage as a disruption to their business strategy within the next 12 months.
As technologies like full-stack observability continue to grow, the skills required of IT teams will need to evolve too. In the recent Cisco AppDynamics report mentioned previously, three-quarters of technologists noted having the right skills as a critical factor in achieving their full-stack observability goals in 2022.
Importantly, the research indicates that technologists are clear on where they need to focus their efforts in order to hit their goals over the next 12 months. Skills are seen as the biggest priority, with technologists recognizing the need for specialist skills to monitor performance in the cloud.
This need is being largely driven by the general shift to Open Telemetry – a specific observability framework for cloud-native software. Technologists know that they need innovative strategies to attract high-quality talent against fierce competition, or to rapidly upskill existing team members to be able to optimize performance in microservices, container, and serverless environments. The reality is that it will require a combination of both approaches for most organizations.
On the front foot for innovation
A myriad of issues can affect performance and user experience for financial services customers. But by making investments in the technology, organizational changes, and the people who keep IT moving forward, leaders can ensure long-term success for their businesses. Through fulfilling IT teams’ demand for full-stack observability, breaking down department silos, and investing in critical skills development, financial service institutions can bet they will successfully ride the next wave of digital transformation.