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Technology Is Just A Tool: Why People Are The Heart Of Everything We Do In Business

Steve Durbin is Chief Executive of Information Security Forum. He is a frequent speaker on the Board's role in cybersecurity and technology.


The idea that technology can solve all our problems is seductive. It seems like every product vendor claims to have a silver bullet for whatever ails your organization, and we’re all looking for a quick fix. However, I believe the danger is that we can become overly fixated on software and artificial intelligence to solve our problems. I've found this belief in technology to be particularly strong in cybersecurity, but most industries have embraced digital transformation. While technology undoubtedly has a role to play, it must go hand in hand with people.

Every product and service we create is ultimately built to serve people. Technology can empower us in many ways, and it can be an incredibly useful multifaceted tool, but it is just a tool; it needs a person to wield it effectively. Deep insights, creative sparks and relevant perspectives come from people. We need to take a moment to step back and remember that everything we do is not technology-related but people-related because people are at the heart of it.

Taking A New Approach To The Skills Shortage

The skills shortage has long been a hot topic in security. Experience is at a premium, but there’s a shortage of experienced people with the right technical skill sets. This experience problem is a bit like the chicken and the egg. Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place. We’re focused on the shortage of experienced individuals who've been through the security processes, who understand how to respond to a breach, who can do all the network configurations and security modeling that's required. But is that what we need?

From my perspective, we might benefit more by bringing people who already possess other skills that are in short supply within security through the different levels. The challenge that security faces is how to remain relevant and add value to the business. Why not take people who understand how a business functions, such as people from sales and marketing, and support them in acquiring some of the security skills we seek?

The truth is that it’s very difficult to train somebody in the softer, emotionally intelligent skills that security professionals need to be effective in their roles. Why not do it the other way around?

We also need to embrace diversity because through inclusion, we get a fresh set of insights and perspectives on every problem. The most effective teams include a mix of genders and cultural backgrounds. Organizations are operating in a global environment, and they need a workforce that reflects that.

Enabling People To Do Their Best

Investing in people will always pay dividends. Technology is there to help people do a better job. Where possible, it shoulders some of the heavy lifting on monotonous tasks so people are freed up to collaborate, be creative and innovate. Good management will always look for ways to facilitate the workforce, energize them and remove obstacles to their success.

The pandemic has completely broken this old-fashioned notion that for a corporation to be effective, everybody has to be under the same roof. We’re no longer asking people to spend three hours a day commuting to and from work. I predict that few organizations will go back to five days a week in the office (and many workers might even be less stressed as a result). It could open up opportunities for people who have been unable to travel or relocate. The potential recruitment pool just got much wider.

While there are challenges in securing this new landscape, there’s also a lot of opportunities. A key part of this is making it count when people do get together. It’s madness to ask someone to come into an office and then have them sit and do something they could have done at home, but face-to-face collaboration is crucial for success.

Collaborating: Where The Real Magic Happens

Technology is useful, but when people come together to decide how they're going to use the tools for improvement, differentiation or transformation, that’s where things get really exciting. By reimagining traditional offices as collaboration centers, we can get more value from the limited time people spend together. They may come to the office once a week or once a month; the important thing is to make space for people to come to feed off one another — in a comfortable environment where they can share ideas.

I believe the interactions you would get in these environments could be so much richer and better because people would be there for the right reason. They're not just there because they have to be. Free of this arbitrary requirement, the daily drudgery of the commute and the grueling office workweek, people can bring enthusiasm and excitement to the table and collaborate to generate fresh, innovative thinking that can drive your organization forward.

Of course, technology will always have an important role to play, but it’s there to serve and facilitate the real heart of every organization: its people.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

Source: Technology Is Just A Tool: Why People Are The Heart Of Everything We Do In Business

The future of retail, mobile, online, and digital-only banking technology in 2021

Digitalization is changing how people interact and do business on a day-to-day basis, and advancements in banking technology are continuing to influence the future of financial services around the world. An increasing demand for a digital banking experience from millennials and Gen Zers is transforming how the entire banking industry operates. 

From retail and mobile banking, to neobank startups, technology has its hand in seemingly every aspect of the banking industry; and, the influence of technology will continue to launch banking into a digitized future.

Retail banking, also known as consumer banking, refers to the specific services banks can offer to consumers–such as savings and checking accounts, credit and debit cards, and loans. Consumers' growing desire to access financial services from digital channels has led to a surge in new banking technologies that are reconceptualizing the entire retail banking market. 

Future of Retail Banking

Technology geared toward improving retail banks' operational efficiency is positively impacting the market. According to Insider Intelligence, 39% of retail banking executives say that reducing costs is where technology has the greatest impact, compared to only 24% who say  it's improving customer experience.

Retail banks are also launching platforms in the Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) space to remain competitive. For example, UK neobank Starling used to exclusively offer business-to-consumer (B2C) retail banking services; but, after launching a BaaS platform, Starling diversified its product and revenue streams, helping it remain relevant in the neobank space.

Meanwhile, mobile banking has solidified its place as a must-have feature for financial institutions to remain competitive, particularly among digitally-savvy millennials and Gen Zers. In fact, over 45% of respondents to Insider Intelligence's fourth annual Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Study identify mobile as a top-three factor that determines their choice of FI.

Future of Mobile Banking

Mobile banking has become the go-to method for users to make deposits, account transfers, and monitor their spendings and earnings—and a key differentiator for banking leaders. Nearly 80% of our survey respondents who have used mobile banking say it is the primary way they access their bank account.

Successful mobile banking options include money management features that help users cut spending and grow savings. BI Intelligence

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, mobile capabilities is a more significant factor in bank selection among respondents than it was last year. financial institutions should understand which mobile banking features consumers value most and where they stand compared to their competitors, so they can pinpoint specific areas to devote the most attention to.

The foremost concern consumers have when mobile banking remains security. The fear of data breach increases the demand for services that keep users' data secure–allowing consumers to place holds on credit or debit cards, schedule travel alerts, and file and review card transaction disputes are some successful security banking features. 

Online banking, which includes mobile banking, refers to the overall experience of banking through digital channels, including mobile apps, desktop, live chatbots, and more.

Future of Online Banking

The popularity of mobile banking has surpassed that of online banking, and the overall number of online customers has slowed worldwide. According to Insider Intelligence, mobile banking is growing at five times the rate of online banking, and half of all online customers are also mobile banking users. 

Despite this growing popularity, some banks still fall short on the demand for mobile tasks, like bill pay and reward redemption, causing them to push users to online banking. However, even this push won't be enough to popularize online banking as millenials and Gen Zers continue gravitating toward the mobile market.

Digital-only banks, also known as neobanks, are redefining the future of banking around the world. Though off to a slow start in the US due to high regulatory barriers, recent developments and the loosening of regulations suggest that US neobanks are set to take off.

Future of Digital-Only Banks

Sophisticated mobile banking tools are a top factor fueling US neobanks' stratospheric rise—one that's taken on more importance amid COVID-19. Incumbent financial institutions, neobanks, and tech companies alike can benefit from understanding exactly how leading neobanks are raising the bar for customer expectations and trust to successfully scale their businesses.

Chime offers a "no-fees" bank account. Chime

San Francisco-based Chime, the largest US neobank, has attracted over 7.4 million account holders by 2019, and is projected to grow this figure to 19.8 million in 2024. The development of more neobanks in the US will bring awareness to digital-only banking, and eventually wane-out traditional banking firms.

Banking Technology Trends

The future of banking technology is driven by consumers, especially Gen Zers, who see technology as something that enhances their lives. A common trend in banking technology is using an application programming interface (API) to make proprietary data available to anyone who has the consumer's permission to access it.

Banks are using AI to smooth customer identification and authentication, while also mimicking live employees through chatbots and voice assistants. Android Community

APIs could be used to enable a bank's mobile app to pull down customer account information. Fintechs have also used API technology to enable their businesses to work, and their success is encouraging competitors to develop their own APIs.

Additionally, Insider Intelligence reported that 48% of banking executives believe new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) will have the greatest impact on banking through 2020. According to Insider Intelligence, banks are exploring blockchain technology in hopes of streamlining processes and cutting costs.

Consumers can already see AI being used by most banks through chatbots in the front office. Banks are using AI to smooth customer identification and authentication, while also mimicking live employees through chatbots and voice assistants.

Interested in more related Banking research?

Do you work in the Banking industry? Get business insights on the latest tech innovations, market trends, and your competitors with data-driven research.

And here are some related Banking reports that might interest you:

  • The Rise of Banking-as-a-Service, which looks at five major BaaS providers, ranging from fintechs to 20-year-old legacy providers that we think represent a good cross-section of approaches to offering BaaS. 
  • AI in Banking, which identifies the most meaningful AI applications across banks' front and middle offices. 
  • The Global Neobanks Report, which explores how the neobank market has grown rapidly, and what's in store as the industry pivots from hyper-growth to sustainability. 

  • Source: The future of retail, mobile, online, and digital-only banking technology in 2021

    VISION 2021 Technology goes viral as area schools learn with changes

    Feb. 27—Ralph Cecere, Portage Area High School principal, considers the mandatory adoption of technology this school year to be a blessing in disguise.

    "It's really forced us into the 21st century," he said.

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused schools across the country to take a leap of faith regarding technology, and embrace new forms of education in order to meet the needs of students who stayed home to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

    After the spring shutdown, administrations had to purchase new computers and educational subscriptions — and get teachers on board with updated instructional techniques to prepare for the coming year.

    What Cecere's school district found was that the students were ready for the adjustment and the teachers were more than willing to get on board.

    For many area school districts, a need for computers was paramount in order to adjust to the new virtual environment.

    Similar to other institutions, Portage used COVID-19 relief funds to purchase laptops.

    Because of emergency stimulus money, the district was able to supply a number of students with devices through a state Department of Services surplus program and then many more through School Tech Supply.

    'Wonderful opportunity'

    With the same funding, Greater Johnstown leaders implemented a one-to-one initiative in that district, purchasing new computers.

    Superintendent Amy Arcurio said that move "was not in the foreseeable future" before the pandemic, because money was rarely available for technology costs such as this.

    "With this crisis came a wonderful opportunity," she added.

    Additionally, her district has developed a technology plan for upgrading older devices on a rotating basis.

    Westmont Hilltop leaders also focused on new computers — purchasing 830 Chromebooks during the summer.

    The district was one-to-one in grades 9 through 12, but now kindergarten through eighth-grade students have devices, too.

    Laptops weren't the only items on district shopping lists.

    Story continues

    Cecere said his school also finished outfitting every classroom with a smart board, which allows teachers to draw on the device and stream lessons for remote learners, and purchase document scanners.

    Riding the cloud

    At Westmont, conference rooms throughout the district were outfitted with TVs, cameras and speakers to allow for virtual meetings, and Greater Johnstown worked with community partners to install hot spots around the city to provide internet access to those who don't have connections.

    Now, Arcurio and her team have set their sights on MyFi devices — wireless routers that act as mobile Wi-Fi connections.

    She said that initiative is still in the works, but should be accomplished soon.

    Richland School District embraced technology through a new pick-up system — CarRider Pro — at the elementary, a new camera system at the school that will be installed soon and an electronic hall pass system.

    Officials also deployed more devices to remote learners and replaced core switches, IT system administrator Shawn Hostetler said.

    The latter advancement involved upgrading to the Cisco Meraki cloud-based system that provides Hostetler and other administrators more "insight on the network" and more options for monitoring bandwidth usage.

    "A major benefit that comes with Meraki is that all their devices are licensed with support which includes instant technical support, firmware and feature updates for the life of the device and instant replacement, all stuff we did not have before," Hostetler said. "If a device were to fail, we can have one overnighted to the district and back online in less than a day at no additional cost. Any new features made available in the future will be made available to us immediately."

    'Meet a challenge'

    Technological upgrades weren't confined to classrooms.

    Area districts invested in cameras, microphones and speakers in order to live-stream board meetings and other events, such as football games.

    Aside from physical upgrades, educators received technological instruction advancements as well.

    Many became proficient in teaching online and using learning management systems such as Schoology and Google Classroom.

    "They are capable of doing so much more than our professional development plan had marked out," Arcurio said. "It's like they became an overnight success."

    However, embracing technology didn't come without any growing pains.

    Cecere compared the process to teaching an old dog new tricks.

    But overall, he was pleased with how Portage educators have pulled it off.

    "I just got to watch a professional staff raise their game and meet a challenge," he said.

    'Broadened our horizons'

    One of the instructors is Brian Randall, who teaches mathematics at the high school.

    "It's really broadened our horizons," he said.

    Randall admitted that the process was somewhat overwhelming at first, but acknowledged the benefits of this style of education, such as introducing students how to interact in a "global society."

    One of his favorite additions to the classroom has been the ability to record his lessons through the smart board.

    Each session is saved in an easily accessible folder for students to refer to anytime after the class session.

    Tina Lutz, who also teachers math at the high school, agrees.

    She said allowing the students to access the recording is a serious benefit to them and live-streaming her classroom is crucial to reaching all of her pupils.

    Additionally, Lutz believes virtual education makes students more accountable and will assist them in the future.

    "I think it helps them be better independent learners," she said.

    Other district leaders were just as pleased with improvements they have seen.

    "We've made a decade's worth of progress in six months," Westmont Superintendent Thomas Mitchell said.

    He commended the teachers, for taking the initiative to help the students — and parents, for being supportive during the learning period.

    Now, Westmont is exploring blended learning options for the juniors and seniors of the future.

    Mitchell said many students have embraced online classes and mused about the possibility that older learners don't need to be in school five days per week — dependent on good standing.

    "We have to meet them where they're at," he added.

    From a technology standpoint, this is an exciting time to be in education, Mitchell said.

    All of the school leaders acknowledged that from now on education won't be "business as usual" anymore.

    "That's what I find so interesting right now," Mitchell said. "Where are we going to go next?"

    Source: VISION 2021 Technology goes viral as area schools learn with changes

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