Reduced budgets have become a reality for credit unions today, especially within the information technology (IT) department, which is often viewed as a “cost center.”
At the same time, maintaining business continuity and ensuring top-level member support are all the more important as network downtime or poor member service can quickly result in lost business to competitors.
For IT departments, this means the stakes are higher than ever. The challenges are particularly compounded for smaller institutions, as we generally have all of the problems of our larger counterparts with a significantly smaller staff and budget.
The good news is that technology is evolving to help address some of these challenges. Chief among these innovations is remote support technology, which enables IT support reps to remotely access, control, and troubleshoot computing devices and systems regardless of their physical location.
Using remote support, IT staff can assist multiple people simultaneously and increase efficiency as users don’t need to wait for IT to come on-site to fix their issues.
Because staff can tackle reactive support requests more efficiently, even the smallest of IT departments can focus on more proactive initiatives—and ultimately strengthen the organization in the process.
As the sole IT representative for Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn., I recently implemented remote support software to improve support for our six branches and 16,000 members.
While our offices are all located within 30 miles of our company headquarters, driving to each site when a problem occurred was unsustainable.
If a major glitch arose, I would deal with it right away. But to maximize time, I often waited until a few small issues cropped up in one location before scheduling a visit.
This was obviously less than ideal from a business continuity perspective, and most of my time was spent driving from site to site putting out fires rather than focusing on more strategic projects.
I began researching remote IT support solutions to address this issue. While the benefits of this technology were immediately evident, I was concerned about security given the sensitive nature of much of the information we handle.
I ultimately chose a remote support solution from Bomgar. It’s an appliance-based solution, meaning I can remotely access users’ devices without passing through a third-party.
This keeps sensitive data behind our firewall, ensuring our security measures remain in place throughout the duration of a remote support session. This is a particularly critical issue in the financial services industry, as unsecure remote access portals have been documented as a growing hacking threat according to numerous studies, such as the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.
Another useful feature is the ability to support mobile devices. Like many other financial services institutions, we’ve recently launched a mobile banking app and I knew we’d need a way to access and troubleshoot this new technology.
The benefits of deploying remote IT support technology were evident right away. I estimate I’ve gained back at least 20 hours of productivity a week as I’m no longer driving from site to site. Moreover, our entire business operates more efficiently as we can resolve any IT issue in near real-time.
It’s also a boon for our members. In banking, one of the most critical components is ensuring that information is accurately processed and that account withdrawals and deposits, balance transfers, and other activities are updated as they happen.
Prior to utilizing remote support technology, if one of our signature transaction pads malfunctioned, a member who deposited a check might not see the amount reflected in his or her account until I could resolve the hardware issue.
Now I can remotely access the hardware in question and resolve the glitch long before the member logs onto to our online site to check the balance.
Remote support not only allows us to quickly fix our internal systems, but also assist members who are having issues with our web tools. For example, if a member is having trouble logging onto our website due to a pop-up blocker, I can securely gain control of their mouse and adjust the pop-up settings, allowing them to access their accounts.
The response I receive every time I use our remote technology in this way assures me that this is a benefit our members appreciate as well.
I expect more small IT departments will adopt remote support solutions to deal with the new challenges instituted by mobile applications, as well as the ongoing struggles of reduced budgets and workforce constraints.
Based on my experience, I encourage IT directors to consider these benefits of a remote support investment:
* Collaboration. Many solutions enable reps to collaborate within a remote support session—by, for example, inviting a more senior technician into the session to solve an issue. These technologies represent a huge knowledge-sharing opportunity and are an excellent way for junior staff to get on-the-job training.
* Vendor access. Remote support can provide a centralized, secure gateway for external technology vendors to access corporate applications and devices as needed to keep the company’s infrastructure operating as efficiently as possible.
* Member support. More members are relying on Web portals and mobile apps to conduct banking transactions.
Some remote support solutions can be configured to only allow reps to access the member’s Web browser rather than their entire desktop. This allows you to help members navigate your Web applications without raising security concerns.
My experience using remote support has convinced me that the benefits of the investment extend far beyond the help desk. The ability to efficiently support staff, remedy any technology issue in real-time, and ensure members can access and use the website is critical for any financial services organization to remain competitive.
Remote support does all this and more, giving small IT departments the tools they need to truly do more with less.
BILL WEINGARTNER is IT director at Seasons Federal Credit Union in Middletown, Conn.