4 minute read 19 Jun 2020
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How the virtual command center can support business continuity for FIs

Authors
Paul Sussex

EY Americas Digital and Financial Services Cloud Leader

Technology Transformation and Cloud leader. Over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. Expertise in business-led, technology-enabled transformation.

Carl Freeman

Managing Director, Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Over 20 years of experience advising financial institutions. Leads their technology assessment, risk identification and mitigation planning for large transformations.

4 minute read 19 Jun 2020

Learn why virtual command centers are now vital to enhancing FIs’ operational resilience and business continuity in the post-COVID-19 world. 

COVID-19 has exposed systematic shortcomings in the ability of legacy command centers and control systems to support business continuity efforts of financial institutions (FIs) during times of crisis. Not only have many failed to meet basic business and technology needs, they also were built on the assumption that key IT staff members can be physically brought together to manage the response. What if the nature of the crisis prevents you from gathering in the same location or physical gathering at all?

Many of the systems used by institutions today were evolved in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These systems must modernize again to meet today’s business and technology needs of unprecedented scale and speed, not just to keep the enterprise running but also to come out of the crisis more resilient than before. In addition, FIs must also deal with evolving regulatory pressure to demonstrate control over their increasing business, cyber and technology risks.

The virtual command center (VCC) is an operational concept that builds upon a mature IT service operations state, integrating it with an immersive interaction layer to stand up and run a fully functional remote alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar facilities.

The VCC represents a significant paradigm shift in crisis management whose time has come. The form and function of command centers must catch up with modern-day technological realities and provide an immersive experience that drives innovative collaboration when it matters most.

 

The response to COVID-19 has highlighted the need for financial institutions to create a new, more agile crisis management solution.

Today’s legacy systems: a need to modernize

Even before COVID-19, the need to boost command center resiliency had become a point of emphasis. The movement of critical business functions (CBFs) and their supporting infrastructure to the public cloud has had institutions looking to modernize command centers and transition to detached, external control systems capable of managing complex IT ecosystems from the outside.

While some institutions have embraced automated continuous integration/continuous development/continuous testing (CI/CD/CT) methods to make their management of those ecosystems more agile, most continue to rely on legacy methods that were developed more than a decade ago. For years, hyper-redundant Tier 1 facilities have been the foundation for managing complex day-to-day business and technology cycles — and for enabling a steady stream of new capabilities to protect business applications and CBFs.

As activity has migrated to the public cloud, the challenges to those legacy-based command centers, command-and-control systems and crisis-management processes have become more evident. Common problems that limit their effectiveness include:

  •  A reliance on fragmented legacy tools and environments that are ill-equipped to manage the complexities of modern-day applications and sophisticated data constructs
  •  Limited AI capabilities, such as the ability to self-diagnose and self-heal
  • An inability to scale elastically with demand and manage a plethora of connected devices
  •  A reliance on human and manual input, which slows decision-making

Collectively, these problems manifest themselves in ways that are felt by customers, workers and operations, including:

  • Longer help-desk wait times, which lead to failed customer interactions and lower customer- and employee-satisfaction rates
  • An inability to integrate with internal and external system and organization controls (SOCs) and third-party carrier capabilities and to troubleshoot problems in complex ecosystems
  • Persistent difficulties in making informed decisions and solve incidents due to the lack of a 360-degree ecosystem views
  • Challenges satisfying regulators of adequate controls over business, cyber and technology risks

COVID-19 has revealed two other significant problems with those legacy systems. First, the relatively static, inflexible nature of on-premise systems supporting command centers are fraught with choke points, which can stymie an institution’s ability to react to crisis situations in an agile and flexible manner. Second, those systems don’t do well at supporting IT teams when they need to work remotely.

The VCC approach

The VCC approach represents a coordinated set of technologies, applications and processes that applies the established principles of modern-day public cloud, automation, robotics and containerization to help navigate uncertain terrain during times of business disruption. It can help overcome constraints, such as geolocation, processing capacity and network bandwidth, that are largely static and inflexible in today’s on-premise systems.

While this hybrid use of modern technologies will likely be spun up and managed by artificial intelligence (AI), it’s useful to envision a highly augmented virtual reality (VR) setup, where VR technology bridges the gap between humans and AI by providing a tangible and interactive space and structure as well as enhances communication in a virtual world.

Multiple screens could be used by crisis leads and senior executives, while senior operations leads could have a more immersive experience, taking manual control of the command center remotely. Imagine, for example, being able to slide on a pair of VR goggles or walk into an equipped augmented reality room (ARR) in your home office and see everything on your work desktop — and other people on your team — in real time.

The VCC requires successful implementation of this level of automation, which is wholly dependent on the institution having a strong foundation in modernized operations (ModOps) across the wider organization. This diagram illustrates the interplay between the VCC and what’s already in play in a typical ModOps framework:

Virtual command center value stack

Virtual command center value stack

Virtual command center overview

Virtual command center overview

Time for a new command center approach

COVID-19 has exposed shortcomings in the way legacy command centers employed by financial institutions maintain business continuity during a crisis, but in truth, change has been a long time coming.

As the use of infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and public cloud solutions drives institutions further into the public marketplace, the ability to respond with agility to ever more sophisticated cyber, technology and environmental threats will become more important.

The VCC approach, with its built-in abilities to leverage AI, VR and other capabilities, represents a paradigm shift that could help institutions manage through all sorts of threats — including pandemics — more effectively for generations to come. 

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Summary

COVID-19 exposed systematic shortcomings in the ability of command centers and control systems to support the business continuity efforts of financial institutions during times of crisis. The virtual command center represents a paradigm shift critical to bolstering FIs’ operational resilience, flexibility, and control over increasing business, cyber and technology risks.

About this article

Authors
Paul Sussex

EY Americas Digital and Financial Services Cloud Leader

Technology Transformation and Cloud leader. Over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. Expertise in business-led, technology-enabled transformation.

Carl Freeman

Managing Director, Financial Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Over 20 years of experience advising financial institutions. Leads their technology assessment, risk identification and mitigation planning for large transformations.