Stop, collaborate and listen…sharing performance data in a controlled way

Date: October 11, 2013

Cloud usage within the enterprise is here to stay. Business users are recognizing and seeing the benefits of flexible applications that don’t require intensive IT management and care. 

These apps are finding their way in to all departments and technology teams are playing catch up trying to provide control over access and usage. Seven out of ten organizations are running cloud applications that are not “officially” sanctioned by their IT departments (Source: How can forward thinking IT departments meet this increasing demand for new business applications?

The cloud is helping release a vast untapped pool of innovation but controlled adoption and support is needed to make the most of it. There is little advantage in having several unofficial cloud-based file sharing solutions, or multiple portfolio analysis and reporting platforms for that matter. Cloud application vendors need to understand more about how their services will be deployed in the enterprise and provide the right tools to make them easier to support and compliant with internal processes. User management, role profiles, notifications, auditing and secure collaboration should all be part of this toolset.

Read: New Insights for Asset Managers: How Technology Can Drive the Most Effective Middle Offices

Cloud apps promote easier collaboration (at least the good ones should!) Being able to access the same business information at the same time from anywhere is all part of the cloud experience. Used properly, it really is an incredibly powerful way to work without requiring any software. I have used this example in other blogs, but it’s a real world example of how we’re using cloud-based applications at StatPro and how they have fostered innovation.

StatPro develops software and delivers it as a service. We design the user interface for that software and at the start of that design process, we draw out ideas with buttons and charts and menus. We used to use a piece of software that we installed on our laptops. This allowed us to create these design sketches so the developers could see what we wanted to build. This was great for a while, but sharing the output was difficult and maintaining the sketch versions was very difficult. You had to have the software installed to see the sketches which was expensive and needed IT support, and we used email to communicate about our ideas. With lots of people as part of this process, this quickly turned into a nightmare.

Then we discovered the cloud version of this little sketch tool and we tried it out. I created a ‘project’ online and invited people to be part of it. The sketches got created, people collaborated online all using the same version of the sketch so each update stayed in the same place. I could invite anyone to view or edit the sketch and they didn’t need to install or manage any software to do this. Instead of paying for each bit of software I used to install, I now paid a monthly fee based on the number of projects I was working on, not the number of people. This made the whole project cheaper, easier to manage and much more productive. Instead of using software, we were now using software as a service. It was easy to get started, flexible and cheaper than local software. Now, the cloud app is only part of the solution, we got the full benefits because we made sure that everyone knew this was the chosen solution and we would not support any other online user interface design tools. Once it became the accepted standard, nobody would be tempted to use anything else.

We also controlled the user management centrally with an admin user who had the rights to create projects and invite users to join them. Having this control meant the usage could be monitored and we wouldn’t be exposed to any unknown or hidden subscription cost increases. Without the right controls in place, the explosion in cloud-based apps threatens to overwhelm IT and compliance teams trying to keep track of who is using what application and for what purpose. It’s not about managing local applications anymore; it’s about users and their roles. This is a message echoed by Mark McLaughlin, CEO, Palo Alto Networks who says,

“In a cloud environment, you need to care about applications and content and users, what are they and where are they and how do you keep up with that in a very dynamic environment? It’s about the user now, what are you allowed to do, or not allowed to do with this application at this time?”

Forward thinking IT teams want to support the cloud and realize it’s the right way for a business to stay agile and share information easily. They need cloud vendors to bake in the right toolset to their applications to make the user management and control possible. The cloud vendors that do this will find friends and not enemies within enterprise IT departments.

StatPro is bringing open collaboration and control to the investment management community. Sharing portfolio information makes it more powerful, usable and more likely to enhance business decision making or client relationships. Keeping performance data locked away in the middle office doesn’t serve anyone. It’s the by-product of having legacy information systems keeping data in silos making it difficult, time consuming and expensive to distribute. Making it easily available across the organisation adds value to the data immediately. It can be analysed, questioned and acted upon. It also adds value to the team producing such information, raising its profile across the wider business. The cloud now makes this possible and incredibly easy. Distributing timely, accurate, and interactive portfolio analysis information takes minutes to achieve using StatPro Revolution. It can be centrally managed, controlled, and monitored while still being quick and easy to accomplish.

It’s amazing how few systems out there support simple, secure, and fast distribution. Local software makes this very difficult to achieve because it’s installed on devices such as desktops and laptops. Sharing information beyond a static PDF involves software being installed as a distribution method and this is time consuming and expensive to support. Terminal based systems are no better, unless you have access to the terminal or a remote access license you can’t easily collaborate and it’s certainly not cheap.

Cloud-based systems with the proper user management tools and in the right hands within the business can enable rapid deployment of valuable information across an entire business. There has been an explosion in the number of cloud solutions available for various markets and the investment management community is seeing the start of this. The quick benefits of collaboration and sharing are clear, but having centralized user and access control help make the benefits stick around for the long term.

Does your department run any cloud applications that aren’t “officially” sanctioned by IT? How does your firm fare when it comes to distribution and reporting? Would the collaboration and access to information provided by cloud-based solutions enhance your innovative thinking? Share your thoughts and opinions by adding a comment or complete our efficiency, performance and reporting survey.

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