Financial services institutions, both traditional and challenger organizations, have known for long that they must move to the cloud to deliver seamless workflows to staff and secure viewing and transaction-execution capabilities to customers in the digital era.

The pandemic, which saw a significant shift in the way people work and also how consumers interact with financial institutions, has forced their hand and accelerated their journey to the cloud and to digital maturity, and ensured they take ownership of the experience they provided to staff and customers. As a result, infrastructure became a priority.

From an operations point-of-view, managing infrastructure to meet the ever-evolving needs of users in the new normal isn’t easy. This is especially because these organizations often leverage applications they may or may not own, which are delivered over networks they don’t control.

To own – monitor, analyze, and remediate – the user experience in such an environment, requires new tools and skills.

For example, a client of ours in the financial services industry, with about 30,000 staff and operations spread across several countries in multiple continents found themselves in a tight spot when the pandemic hit.

In the past, less than five percent of their staff worked remotely. As a result of the lockdowns or shelter-in-place recommendations and safety protocols issued following the initial days of the pandemic, almost everyone had to work from home. Further, customers no longer preferred to visit branches; Instead, they needed a wider offering of digital services they could access via the internet. Security, for staff and customers, of course, was paramount.

Infrastructure was suddenly the biggest priority for the financial services institution.

Their team monitored and reported on IT assets that they controlled. However, they traditionally had an “inside out” approach, that meant that they viewed the environment from within their own network’s boundaries with the biggest focus being on driving a predictable, improved user experience. They had control of “what” was provisioned, “who” could use assets, as well as “how” these resources were managed.

COVID-19 forced them to wake up to the reality that there were blind spots in their network and infrastructure.

Why look into network and infrastructure?

With all staff, including call center employees, working remotely during the pandemic, monitoring applications became challenging.

The team soon realized they had no visibility of staff members’ home networks, the hundreds of ISP(s) used to access their applications, and devices they used, which made their jobs tougher. Staff also had flexibility in terms of the connections they used, each needing a different level of experience management.

One of the biggest challenges during the transition to working remotely was that the IT team could not pin-point the root cause of an incident as it was occurring. Often, once a support ticket was raised, the IT team would get all the stakeholders together to look into the issue, but the issue would disappear. As a result, the chance to obtain a technical resolution was lost and caused significant frustration to the IT team as well as staff who needed to be online to perform their jobs.

A poor experience for the financial services institution’s call center employees directly impacted customers, degrading their interactions with the organization. Obviously, this was unacceptable.

Whether it was a VPN issue, an inability to log into to the remote desktop, a poor connection to the VoIP solution which resulted in call drops, or anything else, call center employees – and the rest of the staff across the global workforce – needed reliable infrastructure to do their job.

The organization’s leaders believed that it was critical for their team to be able to accurately pin-point performance and usability issues. Failing to do so makes it impossible to take proactive measures to support end users. It also inhibits the AppDev team’s ability to make informed decisions, ideally before users complain.

To remedy these issues – and more – the financial services institution chose to work with Cisco’s ThousandEyes.

Digital experience insights is a critical enabler to digital rollout

Leaders and organizations embarking on any digital initiative need to ensure that experience monitoring is a cornerstone of their strategy.

By leveraging Cisco ThousandEyes’, the financial services institution was able to do just this. They used Cloud Agents to set up availability tests on VPN environments and ran cloud tests on vendor providers in some geographies, all to quickly generate actionable insights.

The IT team also leveraged the solution to run page load tests for key web applications to benchmark their performance and even evaluated their collaboration tools, all to provide actionable insights to help ensure ever user has an optimal experience

The organization also set up tests for its end user ISP connections and are also gathering testing metrics from their internal networks. The team also set up and deployed 1,600 Endpoint Agents, mostly in the call center team, to understand the home network infrastructure better —what the performance of the device looks like, and how the local ISP may be impacting the call center agent’s connectivity. What’s even more fascinating is that the deployment of those 1,600 agents took just a few days and was done automatically, outside of regional business hours, using a zero-touch approach.

To address the specific issues facing contact center staff, the operations team ran a contact center device remediation exercise.

Cisco ThousandEyes enabled the organizations to identify issues on laptops where resources were under the minimum requirement of CPU and RAM. This gave them an estimate of device health. Next, the team focused on identifying local gateway loss and tested the user’s ISP network using an FTP server to download a file which helped uncover bandwidth issues.

This led to the remediation of a large percentage of the call center employees’ issues and was a steppingstone to solving issues faced by the rest of the workforce.

This new depth of visibility has been a game changer for the team looking to upgrade the organization’s infrastructure.

Thanks to the analytics and insights Cisco ThousandEyes provides, organizations can have a real-time conversation with users when they face an issue or incident and find a way to mitigate and eliminate the root cause altogether. This new state is a great leap forward from a time just a few months ago when they could only speculate about what the issue might be.

Within a short time, thanks to the visibility it gained into its network and infrastructure, the organization was able to deliver great experiences to users across its customer and employee pools.

It also helped the financial services institution win over their customer’s hearts and gain their trust and loyalty during the pandemic which put them in good stead for the future. The success of its remote working program also meant that the institution is better prepared to leap into ‘hybrid work’ which has become the norm among leading organizations across the world.

The work that the client is doing is a testament to Cisco ThousandEyes’ ability to help traditional financial services as well as challenger banks and fintechs better manage the experience they provide. It’s also why such organizations are increasingly rely on Cisco ThousandEyes and making it a part of their core stack of digital tools.