Digital Workplace: O365 and the future of banking

20 February 2019


Digital Workplace: O365 and the future of banking

With competition at its peak and an increasingly restrictive regulatory framework shaking up the banking sector, the industry had to rethink its employees’ working environment. The best way to succeed? Through the deployment of a real “digital workplace” that will ensure both data security as well as process compliance.

Digital transformation within the banking sector isn’t just restricted to infrastructures, the cloud and optimising cash flow. Alongside these issues, banks also have to learn how to improve the work environment they offer to their employees. The growth in online banking and the emergence of new players in the fintech field is forcing new standards of agility, flexibility and responsiveness. Bringing together and streamlining the tools used for collaboration, communication and productivity is truly the crux of deploying a digital workplace.

Office 365: a suite tailored to meet employees’ specific needs

With Office 365, Microsoft offers a unique portal to a vast catalogue of services that will meet employees’ expectations. On top of the traditional Office suite used to create and edit documents, it now offers tools for real-time collaboration all within a single interface. It’s also possible now to create applications or use services such as PowerApps, PowerBI or Flow tailored for the specific requirements of each professional. Every single tool is linked by common interfaces in order to encourage best practices in sharing, versioning or saving documents. Moreover, it offers improved efficiency and better information flow.

These services are all available in SaaS mode, centrally administered then set up and deployed individually to meet the specific needs of each user. The objective, then, is twofold. On one hand, it’s important to allow users to access relevant services to foster efficiency and improve information flow. On the other hand, it’s important to avoid the trap of offering users too many services and risking to overwhelm them. Office 365 addresses most of the needs, which reduces the demand for specific developments and allows a lighter management load for IT services than with similar on-premises MCO infrastructures.  

With service-based distribution allowing more flexible working methods, employees will no longer be stuck at their desk but they will rather work on their laptops and smartphones with similar management and compliance requirements. This distribution mode alludes to ATAWAD, a result of the digitally transformed space-time/information relationship, standing for Any Content, Any Time, Any Where, on Any Device. Security policies, particularly in the banking sector in which the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is rarely authorised, must change. The SaaS model also simplifies both maintenance in operating condition (MCO) and software licence management, because CapEX will be abandoned in favour of OPEX eliminating the need to develop a new deployment plan for each release upgrade.

Key factors for successful deployment

The main issue when it comes to deployment is linked to change management, meaning how a bank will introduce these new tools to their employees. The aim is not only the introduction of the tools or the training of employees but it’s mostly about their adoption that will foster change when it comes to using such new tools.

Establishing a governance focussed on a digital workplace is a good way to keep an eye on its adoption. This should be done at the highest level of management, under the responsibility of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO), although it’s not necessarily a top-down approach. On the contrary, it should spread throughout the company by implementing specific roles, such as Digital Ambassadors, Change and Use Evangelists and Solution Leaders (by tech or product), for example. This might even include appointing a specific authority responsible to inform employees and gather inputs that will be used to feed into the development of tools and services for the future..

The key to success lies in placing employees at the heart of this transformation from the very beginning of the project while taking into account their maturity in relation with the services and uses offered. Design thinking, i.e. the involvement of employees in defining their new work environment, has turned out to be a fantastic lever for long-term adoption and cultural integration. The approach will then be extended by creating pilot groups responsible for testing out the tools, while local ambassadors will contribute to their adoption within each team. A successful project will also produce indirect benefits such as promoting the employer’s brand.

Deployment involves a technical project that mainly consists of supervising every aspect linked to security and compliance with the company’s standards. Again, part of this response will require an appropriate governance style, for example by creating specific responsibilities for IT management.

A response adapted to new challenges in banking

In a December 2018 study on transformations by 2025, the French Observatory of Banking Professions (OMB) highlighted that those traditional roles such as customer service will evolve to address the emergence of new market players and paperless services. Customer service advisers will become omnichannel customer relationship specialists and will be responsible for providing personalized and person-centred advice.

The digital workplace is used for precisely this purpose, as the tools it offers allow the bank’s employees to improve their productivity but also more specifically to navigate their performance. Above all, it provides the framework that banks need to ensure  that new uses (collaboration, home working, etc.) can be developed properly, without the risk of shadow IT problems such as the use of online storage solutions intended for the public.

Finally, the migration to Office 365 simplifies regulatory compliance processes as Microsoft requires its infrastructures to be certified by the relevant authorities in the US and Europe (FedRAMP, ISO/IEC 27001). The Microsoft suite also integrates all the needed tools to monitor, audit, modify or delete personal data so that companies can be assured that they are compliant with GDPR requirements.

The digital workplace at the heart of value creation

However, the implementation of a digital workplace such as Office 365 is not an end in itself. This approach is part of a wider transformation project that, when properly used, provides more agility and flexibility within the banking industry. It opens up new pathways of development that can be explored safely in terms of banking data regulation and security.

As this is a long-term transformation, it is logical that the project doesn’t end once Office 365 is deployed. It’s important not to think of Office 365 as a digital workplace in itself but rather as one of its important bricks. Moving to a digital workplace means giving ourselves the tools we continuously need to improve. Its success is measured over time, by monitoring the evolution of different uses and fostering the emergence of behaviours likely to create value for companies, such as reducing the volume of emails, reducing travel costs, and improving the availability of meeting rooms, for example.

Manager CIO advisory, he works for Sopra Steria consulting on CIO subjects in financial and industry sector.
One Comment
  1. RajeshN

    Good, this is really an interesting blog article to know the increasing impact of the digital workplace in banking sector and why banks need to adopt it. Digital transformation in banking and financial services industry has been evolving but, it has yet to touch some of the interesting features to meet the customer's demands and expectations in this fast-pace digital world. Best Regards, RajeshN, Nous Infosystems

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