Intelligent Workplace Offers Path to Success Post-COVID
by Sean Scampton May/June 2020
Although most organizations are using cloud technology in some form, COVID-19 hit many companies hard when they discovered how much data was inaccessible when every employee was suddenly working from home. Sean Scampton explains why cloud-first intelligent workplaces are needed to adjust to the new normal.
Sean Scampton, Director, Sales & Marketing, Leasepath
In the wake of COVID-19, everyone’s best laid plans were tossed into the fire. Survival mode kicked in, and the industry discovered quickly that becoming nimble was among the most crucial attributes for success.
“Nimble” does not describe the state of the industry from a technology architecture standpoint. Before COVID-19, even large businesses could hide their systems deficiencies with “quick fix” solutions. VPNs are great when you’re expecting to be in the office most of the time, but leaning on antiquated tools in the immediate wake of the pandemic quickly showed that they couldn’t handle the stress. Moreover, technology-constrained business processes quickly yielded to the pressures of a post-COVID working world that demanded immediately adaptive technology to enable business agility.
COVID-19 Exposed Insufficient Business Processes and Systems
Technology-challenged companies were forced into unfamiliar territory, relying on now ubiquitous work-from-home tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. But while these were relatively easy to acquire and implement, decades-old core business systems have largely struggled under the spotlight. In this scenario, it might feel like there are no immediate solutions, only bandages. Changing infrastructure in the middle of a pandemic might feel like trying to change a tire while doing 80 on the interstate.
Luckily, a blueprint for success in a post-COVID-19 world exists. It requires overhauling what we think of as “bare minimum” technology, and it starts with adopting cloud architecture.
Cloud computing was once the “next big thing.” Risk concerns kept it from exploding within the financial services industry, and true cloud-first business solutions became conflated with old-school “data center hosting” — clearly very different models, with the latter termed “lipstick on the pig” by industry analysts. No matter the form, cloud computing has been a sometimes uncomfortable prospect for executives for the better part of 25 years. Today, most of those concerns have been alleviated, yet while 96% of organizations are using cloud computing in some fashion, just 48% of corporate data and applications are stored with cloud computing.1 This number may sound like a lot, but it means 52% of this data was nearly inaccessible when COVID-19 hit and workers were sequestered to their homes worldwide.
Cloud computing is more than data access. Providing seamless and secure access to mission critical tools like customer information, pricing tools, amortization calculators and document storage is crucial. This isn’t news, yet the industry is woefully behind. In my years spent working with financial services, the joke is that the day the industry catches up to technology, it will look up and realize it is 20 years behind again.
Now mix in accessibility problems, unforeseen maintenance issues, sophisticated cyber-attacks, rising costs of private server hardware and staff, and throw in a heaping helping of fear regarding going to the office and general uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and it becomes clear cloud computing will be needed moving forward.
Simply put, businesses will not thrive with inadequate solutions in a post-COVID-19 world. The days of getting by with substandard data management and limited access are over, and the longer it takes to adapt, the more companies expose themselves to risk. Preparing your business to be adaptable to ever-changing world conditions will no longer be considered an advantage — it’s now table stakes.
But it’s not all fear and loathing. Cloud-first architecture is the foundation of exciting solutions that can and are supercharging origination cycles and customer experiences in our industry. While risk is certainly important to consider, the benefits of the cloud now far outweigh the costs and challenges involved. Cloud computing offers tremendous agility in terms of scalability and connectedness. Microsoft’s Azure network, for example, provides unified security tools with multiple layers of defense, whether that data is secured in a cloud server, on a personal computer or a mobile device. A proper cloud network doesn’t impede the users’ ability to track and monitor data, rather it streamlines those tasks. Cloud computing isn’t just a bandage that plugs infrastructure holes and offers flexible access in times of crisis. Quite the contrary, it is the foundation for the intelligent workplace, offering massive opportunity for growth and efficiency.
The Intelligent Workplace is the Solution for the New Normal
The intelligent workplace is defined by a seamless, smart and dynamic experience for employees, partners and customers. In the intelligent workplace, the right digital tools connect and support these groups wherever they are and encourage productivity, engagement and collaboration. Data is centralized and the work experience is made efficient through automation, integration and highly adaptive business processes. When humans lag, the system picks up the slack and is responsible for automatically scoring deals, routing tasks, updating queues and dashboards, and offering leadership dynamic control over all of it.
How do we get there? Through digital transformation.
Digital transformation is adopted by an organization when it decides it wants to transfer its operations from the analog (paper and human-driven processes) to digital (data-driven and automated). Digital transformation is not so much a checklist of tasks to complete but rather a handful of principles that companies can implement to become intelligent and adaptive.
Cloud-first enterprise systems and digital transformation are not just foundational concepts, they are proven enablers of growth. Many industry experts believe that new business demand is still strong or will be very soon, which will result in a burst of business as we transition to a slightly more normal business climate. So you have to ask yourself, if you experience a 30% jump in applications tomorrow, are you prepared to handle the traffic, run credit reports, review documents and make rapid underwriting decisions to keep up? If the answer is “no,” you owe it to yourself and your business to explore how to change it to “yes.”
If there was ever a time to pivot, now is that time. Forward-thinking businesses can capitalize by using this time to openly assess where current systems and processes are breaking under the stress of adaptability and noting where changes are beneficial. There is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, but it’ll be brighter for those that use this as the opportunity to make their businesses faster, more accessible and more resilient.
The time to prepare your business for growth is now. The risk is minimal, but the rewards can be monumental. Seek digital transformation and create your intelligent workplace today. •
“Protecting Data in the Cloud: 2019 Thales Cloud Security Study.” Thales Group. 2019.
Sean Scampton is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Leasepath, an intelligent workplace solution for Customer Engagement (CRM) and Originations (LOS) built exclusively for asset finance brokers and funding sources. He has worked with cloud-hosted Microsoft technology for more than eight years, providing consultation and guidance to the financial services industry, municipal governments and fortune 500 companies. Scampton is a member of the ELFA, NEFA, CFLA, NACFB, and is a regular fixture at industry events.