IT Leadership Opinion

Transformation in the Midst of Challenges…a Great Learning

The dawn of the year 2020 was like any other new year – the world welcomed the year with more enthusiasm, energy and empathy. However, as we slowly moved on, each passing day was a different story in different parts of the world.

While many organizations had laid down their business plans and concluded on their budgets for FY 2020-21, unpredictably, the world equation underwent massive change brought on by ‘the novel corona virus’ or COVID-19.

In fact, COVID-19 has emerged as an eminent teacher, compelling humanity to learn and practice certain basics – such as, maintaining social distancing, maintaining basic hygiene, wearing face masks and keeping surroundings neat and clean. Beyond all, corporates and their employees at large accepted and adopted the reality of Work from Home (WFH) as the business continuity plan or as a new standard for certain organizations. It also proved the point that most of the business can happen with virtual office, most conferences can happen in virtual way and even learning can happen virtually with the right usage of technology.

All these changes have brought about a paradigm shift in the overall outlook and the way organizations operate.

Increasingly Vigilant of BCP

For one, organizations have become increasingly vigilant of their Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Prior to the crisis, for many organizations BCP and Disaster Recovery were more of a checklist item to comply with on the regulatory front instead of a contingency plan to continue the business with no or minimal disruption in the eventuality of disruptions that can directly impact overall business.

Growing Digital Adoption

The other, is around growing digital adoption, whether it is digital payments or streamlining certain business processes and internal operations using digital.

When it comes to financial services, there are solutions like UPI enabled payments system, NEFT, RTGS & IMPS and Contactless Payments as well as wallet based payment solutions. It is important for the financial institutions to stay focussed on spreading awareness among their customers around the digital payment methods and associated channels for executing financial transactions. Besides ease of banking, digital payments can also help enrich customer experience in this connected world.

Besides payments, the financial services industry can adopt digital platform based services for other business activities like lending, clearing, repayment process; enable NACH on digital platform for re-payments and investments and even cross-border transactions. Similarly, the re-KYC/Customer Identification Process can be enabled through digital platforms. Off late, Reserve Bank of India has also given go ahead to the Video KYC process. This clearly shows that even the regulatory body is keen on accelerating the digital journey, which is a great leap from the traditional thinking.

Though we are in these challenging times we should try and make use of this opportunity to focus on streamlining some of the internal processes by enabling digital platforms. It is absolutely necessary for any financial institution to stay focused on the business along with strong governance and process adherence.

Quickly Aligning and Scaling Up Infra to Enable WFH

On the other hand, the WFH imperative has required businesses to quickly align and scale-up their infrastructure with security as inevitable layer. Cyber attackers are constantly looking at opportunities for targeting the vulnerabilities commonly associated with the user community connecting to corporate business systems from their home environment, including Phishing and Denial of Service attacks.

Considering this scenario it is important to engage with the right partner while deploying VDI (or only VPN depending on the size of the organization) solution to overcome the prevailing challenges. Probably, some of the organizations would have already implemented the solution, some may be underway and quite a few would be evaluating the solution. Irrespective of whatever the stage they are in, it is important to run through the security guideline to ensure that all the gaps are addressed when it comes to cyberattacks. If immediate solutions for certain scenarios are not available, at least there must be some alternate approach implemented to mitigate the risks.

Organizations that run managed services as their business must look from an overall perspective, covering internal support function users, third party support function user group, the clients’ internal user group and their partner user groups. This is because all are accessing the system from their respective WFH locations with different rights. Hence, it is important to quickly review the overall process and the way WFH solution has been or is being implemented. Most importantly, the technology group and the CISO function, along with the HR function and CRO should review the process and then discuss the gaps with the respective user groups’ leadership team and address/mitigate those gaps quickly.

When it comes to monitoring – the monitoring team will have the added responsibility to factor all the WFH usage. Especially, the User Access Management must be in place and the same has to be reviewed with the respective application owners. If gaps are identified, the same must be reported to the governing body and the gap quickly addressed either with manual mitigation process or fixed at the system level.

Finally, it is important to have a quick review of the overall Disaster Recovery Process as the users are accessing their respective business applications from their home. The prevailing BCP mode, especially the mode of access, is very critical when it comes to DR.

As COVID-19 sweeps the world and disrupts the way we interact and conduct business and associated processes, innovative technologies can help by providing solutions to maintain social distancing, ensure business continuity, strengthen healthcare outcomes and prevent service disruptions.

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