Automation enriches security

Tom Wollard, Edge Technologies

The flexibility of a digital platform is its single biggest advantage, but it also represents its greatest risk because if not configured correctly, it can be a huge security concern. Automating the configuration of a cloud platform can help mitigate this and strengthen the security posture of a firm’s digital roadmap.

Although many financial services firms already had a cloud or digital transformation strategy in place, the Covid-19 crisis forced everyone into having a digitally dispersed workforce in an instant. So, service providers, like Edge Technology Group, have moved from from supporting and managing one primary environment per customer to 10 or hundreds or even thousands per customer in some instances. 

Tom Woollard (pictured), Managing Partner & Head of Europe, Edge Technology Group says this dispersed workforce will drive the future trends in both digital transformation and automation. However, this will not necessarily be straightforward.

“As much as any cloud solution or digital platform may have supported a prompt and indefinite move to remote working, not many firms would’ve considered doing this, so quickly or broadly for such an extended period of time. As the work force has settled into working from home for a prolonged period of days, weeks and months, unforeseen challenges are common ground, more often than not, in the form of operational challenges and risks,” Woollard explains.

Several of these risks are the result of employees working from a large number of unmanaged locations, potentially accessing cloud environments or platforms which are poorly or inconsistently configured.

Woollard warns: “When working from home you often have a magnitude of different devices working on the same network, none of which are covered by corporate policy. The inherent risk could therefore be seen as being incredibly high. Even with a secure home environment, some corporate systems may have relaxed access policies to allow the workforce to be more productive when working remotely for such an unforeseen lengthy period of time.”

Examples of this might involve loopholes being implemented to allow documents and data to be retrieved and saved on devices which otherwise would not have been allowed. Such loopholes increase the risk of data loss, particularly when firms eventually return to the office. 

Woollard discusses the way this can be mitigated: “This is where automation can play a key role. As powerful as a digital platform can be, the configuration of such environments can be manual, which increases the risk of inconsistent or poor design. Potentially more dangerous is having many users access the platform from a dispersed number of unmanaged locations falling outside of corporate policy.

“Many cloud platforms offer the ability to automate that digital estate. That means any changes to the environment are no longer made manually. Instead, they leverage automation to ensure any changes are made consistently time and time again. Thus, ensuring the quick and secure enabling of new systems and configurations, but also the quick and secure roll back of any temporary measures.”

Boost to productivity 

Although the crisis has caused upheaval, according to Woollard it simply expedited a trend the industry was going to see happen naturally over the years ahead. 

Expanding on this notion, he says: “In recent years, driven by the ever-maturing cloud landscape, the workforce has really been empowered to work in a much more cohesive and mobile manner than ever before. Remote working is not only very practical but alongside decentralised IT, it allows the workforce to access corporate systems in a really wide variety of different ways.”

He believes remote working can lead to more productivity because each worker has their own set of personal, individual challenges that a decentralised platform can digitally support and promote. Woollard discusses some aspects of remote working individuals are appreciating: “The loss of a commute seems to be a real benefit to everyone. For most outside of London the lack of commute gives them back two hours of the day, at least. 

“There are so many intrinsic benefits in that, mainly aligned to mental wellbeing and significantly reducing stress. There are also more often than not, significant financial benefits as workers save thousands of pounds in travel costs.”

The shift to remote working has come more easily to certain firms. Woollard points out: “The firms with robust cloud or digital platforms have moved with ease from the office to the home during the current crisis and the mobility and continuity of those platforms really made that transition incredibly straightforward.”

However, firms bound by a more traditional, legacy environment with a relatively rigid framework may have found the transition to remote working slightly more cumbersome. Woollard comments: “When you force people to work in a relatively rigid manner, especially when working remotely, you limit the options available to them which could be problematic when you have such a broadly distributed workforce operating for a prolonged period of time.”

Within such environments, the need for manual changes is more likely, which as outlined earlier, can give rise to additional risks. “Traditional legacy environments also increase the risk of capacity and performance issues because typically, only certain portions of the estate are reserved for remote working,” Woollard notes.

Ultimately, decision makers need to implement measures to ensure their business survives. From an operational perspective, these key decisions are centered on remote access operability and collaboration.

Woollard advises: “Decision makers need to consider how to improve the current remote working solutions, so it enables the workforce to be as productive as possible. They also need to promote collaboration to help the firm continue to work collectively in a remote manner while delivering the same results as before.”

He adds that although security remains a primary concern, it should always be at the forefront of design and operational decisions. “Business leaders need to ensure their offices continue to work efficiently and they, as decision makers, can continue to measure productivity effectively,” Woollard surmises. 


Tom Woollard
Founding Member & Managing Director, Edge Technology Group

Tom Woollard is Founding Member and Managing Partner of Edge Technology Group (UK), and was responsible for launching the European operation in 2011. Tom has seen the regional operation extend throughout continental Europe, and is responsible for the firm’s long term sustainable growth strategy.

Under his leadership, Edge has distinguished itself as one of the premier and leading IT partners in Europe, working extensively with start-up funds, existing entities, private equity firms, and pension funds.

With nearly 20 years’ experience at senior management level within the Finance Sector, Tom was providing strategic technology services as a CTO to the Hedge Fund and Alternative Investment industry prior to leading the regional Edge Technology Group efforts. With a unique blend of business acumen, industry specific knowledge, and strategic technology vision, Tom continues to extend the Edge Technology Group brand throughout the UK and Europe, solidifying the firm’s reputation as the premier provider in the community.

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