Technology Drives Change at a Top Global Bank
Ascent strives to anticipate long-term technology trends within the enterprise that can change business for the better. Taking the long view means the technologies we identify can take years before their impact is felt at the enterprise level, so it’s encouraging to get a glimpse of emerging areas of technology that are already driving massive change at large companies.
Recently I had a breakfast meeting with the senior IT team from one of the largest banks in the world. Typically with organizations of such size, changes in IT infrastructure don’t occur often – enterprise sales cycles can be slow, and the implications of change can be so massive that they’re burdensome to users and IT. It was refreshing then to learn about a few key areas where new technology adoption is driving real change. It was clear evidence that they view such initiatives as strategic advantages, and they are making material headway in driving broad adoption within an enormous company.
Of the many areas of technology we discussed, the main themes that stuck out to me were:
- Cloud & Virtualization – The team told me they had deployed north of 50,000 virtual desktops, and had plans to increase that number substantially. The team views infrastructure as a commodity – using platforms as abstraction layers, they are allotting more than 10 virtual machines per server on average. Server virtualization has been a game changer in IT economics as server capacity can be adjusted on a dynamic basis, enabling enhanced efficiency and cost savings. I think we will see the continued migration away from legacy business processes toward virtual or cloud-based solutions that offer lower costs.
- Mobile – Consistent with the consumerization of IT/BYOD and overall power shift to the employee, this bank wants to be able to provide employees “access from any device from anywhere.” Their current active mobile user base is in the millions, and is growing at 40 to 50 percent per year. Their efforts are worthwhile; they see twice the usage from mobile app users than from browser users. Though large organizations were slow to recognize that mobile devices will become the predominant computing interface for both employee and external constituents, these companies are beginning to connect the dots.
- Big Data – While it’s now possible for huge financial organizations to inexpensively perform very extensive and complex data analytics across almost infinite data sources, it’s not easy. It was great to hear that this bank is moving towards being able to ask big questions and use many different data sources to compile evidence for informed answers. This kind of intelligent analysis of new structured and unstructured data types can provide the organization serious strategic advantage.
As progressive as this IT team is, they are really just scratching the surface on where these technologies can go. Big data requires innovative thinking beyond compiling data; large companies will need to build confidence and know how in writing new algorithms and applying them to industry problems before they can claim to be truly data driven. Virtualization will be increasingly used by organizations in all industries to run business critical applications. Speaking of apps, enterprises have to be more prepared to face a mobile, post-PC era, and create an integrated workspace centered around the user’s needs and informed by the capabilities of the device in use.
Overall though, this breakfast meeting proved to me that this business “gets it,” and is stepping outside its comfort zone to implement new technology that can move the needle.