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Adapting for a COVID-19 Workforce

Adapting for a COVID-19 Workforce 1

By Diane Robinette, CEO of Incisive Software

Across the globe lockdown and work-from-home mandates are slowly being lifted. As offices begin to reopen, for many it will not be the same as it once was—at least not for some time. Large, open workspaces are being redesigned to create safe social distancing spaces. Sanitation stations and touchless doors will become common sights. Meanwhile, costly real estate and demonstrable work-from-home successes are prompting some financial services institutions to reevaluate where work is conducted. For many a hybrid model is a very appealing option.

Nationwide announced a significant reduction of office space as the company transitions to a permanent hybrid work model. A recent CNBC article includes comments from Mondelez’ CEO Dirk Van De Put stating that the coronavirus crisis has showed, “we can work in different ways,” and as a result, the company does not need all its global offices. Barclays CEO Jes Staley said crowded corporate offices with thousands of employees, “may be a thing of the past.”

While much uncertainty remains over what the work life will look like in a post-pandemic world, the reality is that financial services companies can’t take a wait-and-see approach. Technology and controls must be put in place that enable employees to do their job accurately and efficiently for the long haul, no matter where they work.

An opportunity to get IT right

Without warning, Coronavirus forced financial institutions around the world to transition their workforce away from an office environment to work from home. Some organizations rose to the challenge at lightning speed. IT teams responded quickly, enabling secure remote access for the masses; policies and resources were put in place on the fly with great success. For others, the shift has not been smooth, and vulnerabilities were exposed.

As companies work to determine the best path forward in a post-COVID environment, an information technology assessment is critical for future success. This is especially true for organizations adopting a permanent hybrid model. While remote workstations and VPN access may have been enough in the interim, what about the long-term? Is the infrastructure in place sufficient to support a large-scale hybrid model? Can existing technology support necessary business functions and objectives? Another important consideration, do employees have the tools they need to do their specific job remotely?  For example, in the financial services industry where people aren’t used to working remotely, common—yet important—tasks like Excel collaboration, reviews and approvals can be very difficult when working remotely.

Financial companies rely heavily on data from complex models—created within Excel—for estimating costs and future risk.  Given the severe economic consequences of the coronavirus, model accuracy is more important than ever before. And while using a VPN to access spreadsheets on an internal share drive may have been tolerable for the short-term, during the work-from-home mandate, VPN access is not a long-term solution for spreadsheet collaboration. In addition to connectivity issues, maintaining accuracy and consistency of numbers is extremely difficult when spreadsheet controls are missing.

Reigning in risk

Hidden within every spreadsheet is inherent risk; risk that formulas are not consistent or recalculating properly, coworkers are not using the most current version, and that information is hidden behind formatting. When working in a hybrid environment additional risk is introduced when team members, who are not in the same room, are unable to collaborate to ensure accuracy of numbers. Common tasks like tick marks and approvals are much more complex when team members are dispersed.

For employees to be effective in their job, and to ensure the data from which key business decisions are made is accurate and reliable, user needs—like the ability to easily collaborate in Excel—must be taken into consideration during the technology assessment. Spreadsheet management technology offers an easy solution to this problem by providing a comprehensive view of all spreadsheets regardless of where they reside within an organization. Users can continue to work as they always have using SharePoint, OneDrive, IBM ECM, etc. Meanwhile, changes are tracked providing greater transparency and governance over spreadsheets. Supporting documents can be captured at both project and revision levels. Project level documents can evolve with business needs while revision level is permanent for stricter change management. Maintaining a complete trail of who made changes, when and specifically what they did all greatly simplify compliance management.

While it’s too soon to know what the post-COVID business environment will look like, it is highly likely there will be modifications. And while financial institutions may have been able to get by with turning a blind eye to issues like spreadsheet collaboration, in the new pandemic environment where a hybrid workforce will become increasingly more common, technology shortcomings will become more consequential. Understanding what technology employees need to get their job done will help companies avoid potential issues in the future.

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