One of the biggest priorities in banks has to do with the much overlooked project of voice transformation, according to Marc Carletti, VP global banking & financial markets at BT Global Services.
"Voice transformation is a topic that is not yet well understood in banking in my view," says Carletti. "There is a lot to do to put it at right level and priorities. For me it is part of one of the key topics among banks, which is how can I manage to effectively reduce costs and increase business efficiency at the same time?"
So what is Voice transformation? It's a review of the traditional approach to telephony and IT, in which telephony has been siloed from IT operations.
Why is it a "transformation?" Carletti says to look at were it comes from: "Think about banks where IT managers and CIOs are very much focused on data centers networks, complicated networks that are well looked after, from the low to high bandwidth networks, to the fragmented and globally standardized. Traditionally it has been looked at only from a data network perspective: Data was a component of IT, and voice was not a part of that."
"Voice was more a part of real estate of the bank," he explains. "That's why the PABX (Private Automated Branch Exchange, a telephone central) has been managed as part of the buildings." In past, were a firm to open another office branch on another block, IT would care for the IT network but building and real estate managers would take care of voice and install the proper telephone network in the building. This meant when technology was ready to converge voice and data, it brought up some fundamental questions about voice's part of IT strategy.
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"Transformation is all about tackling that problem in a proper way. Transformation starts with the IT department organized in such a way to look at it from a convergence point of view, not as a silo. Even if technology allows for the efficient management of voice as traffic on those networks it has not been very well understood by IT departments because they didn't historically look after it," adds Carletti. "Now it is the one and only thing, so banks face an interesting challenge, knowing that each is there but unaware of how they can better manage voice."
Where to BeginVoice transformation, particularly in US comes up as the first or second priority challenge for 2014, observes Carletti. "Even if a banking firm has been through a lot of cost cutting in 2013 there is still need for banks to continue to address costs in a massive way. And that's why transformation often comes as the number one challenge."
From a technology point of view, IT is asking what kind of network technology they can buy to sustain the objective and standardize voice on the networks. There's also significant investment to be made around the increasing demand on bandwidth to prevent decreases in performance.
Some banks are thinking about a more innovative approach than others but all in all the global banks BT looks after face the same challenge and are at same stage in terms of researching level of efficiency. "In voice transformation I saw a rise of projects at the start of 2013 and really increase, so it looks like from a technology perspective and from a transformational point of view it is something that is maturing right now. Big decisions are probably going to happen this year or next year around that topic."
And it makes sense for telephony to experience an IT makeover. After all, there's nothing worse than having an issue with a telephone system. You can really paralyze a bank if phones aren't working. Imagine you have big teleconference with a high level end customers and have a glitch, it can be dramatic, from a level of service it is absolutely critical. "And from a cost perspective, efficiencies have to be found," he adds. "That's a real challenge we have now. Without a doubt this is an area customers can do much more."