A Cloud Platform Is Nothing Without A Personal Touch

A Cloud Platform Is Nothing Without A Personal Touch

A Cloud Platform Is Nothing Without A Personal Touch

When I first joined Options in late 2012, I was in awe of the company’s capabilities. In Wombat, we had run a partially cloud-based infrastructure, facilitating a global 24×7 development organisation with all the key data and services running from one data centre in Belfast. Having come from this background, I then found myself in the steering group for the global desktop management and support solution for NYSE Euronext. Looking back, it was shocking how far behind ‘Blue Chip’ IT was, both in terms of the working models that could be supported, and the resulting expense. We ran a comprehensive RFP process with all the top players in the space, but all the solutions were clunky, and extremely expensive.

Meanwhile, leveraging the Options’ platform a small team in London (and later New York) were supporting well over 100 firms, many of which had complex global operations, not to mention the associated security and compliance requirements demanded within the financial services sector.

The scale of what can be achieved with a solid investment in the right technology is mind-boggling and the Options platform illustrates the power of a cloud-based solution.

First, a well-engineered platform brings both agility and flexibility. Options can roll out new customers and applications across multiple locations globally very quickly; generally the main constraint on the critical path is connectivity (you can’t light up an office without the comms lines). Other than that, on-boarding customers to a standardised platform can happen overnight, with a consistent quality of service.

Second, there are numerous benefits that go hand-in-hand with cloud-based systems. For instance, DR (for the end user) becomes something of a moot point. DR is managed within the cloud platform, and users can access their systems from anywhere. Support for full ‘home offices’ is another powerful aspect of the Options platform and we now have customers where every user in the firm has a home office setup. We have also rolled this out internally so everyone in the Options’ management team and quite a number of other team members are fully setup from home. The home office is completely seamless, especially in tandem with the global VoIP solution.

All this means that business can continue seamlessly, whatever happens. For instance if Juno had hit as expected it wouldn’t have been an issue for any of our customers. When Sandy came through in 2012 we had a number of lower Manhattan customers who were able to access their cloud services and data from home despite their offices being destroyed. This was a far cry from the old days of onsite deployments where there was the potential for anything from a server room fire to a server room flood with hundreds of permutations in between.

Third, shared back-end infrastructure facilitates flexible pricing models and deterministic costs. The dream at NYSE was user based pricing model that scales down as people leave the firm (IT costs are seldom a issue when businesses are growing but top of the list when cost cutting kicks-in) and this is exactly what a cloud-based platform like Options can offer.

Considering the above, there’s little doubt that the benefits of a well-engineered cloud-based delivery model are compelling. That said, in recent years it was clear from talking to our larger clients that when they signed with us, in their minds at least, they were commissioning a managed service and not subscribing to a cloud platform. We quickly came to realise that there was a fundamental flaw in our thinking about the product.

What is clear now is that even when services are delivered over a cloud-based platform, many clients still expect a personal touch and high-quality onsite services remain a fundamental part of this mix. People will always need help to log-on, change a mouse or a keyboard, setup a headset, and dozens of other day-to-day tasks and the ‘user experience’ is transformed when theses issues are supported in person. When it comes to funds with a more electronic bias the Head of Trading still wants IT support onsite through the morning to market open even if there are never any issues because it is important for tech support to be ‘Johnny on the Spot’ the one time a problem does arise.

Understanding this balance is what sets Options’ services apart today. We continue to invest heavily in the platform, layering on more and more cloud-based services, but we now also invest just as heavily in delivering high-quality face-to-face time with clients. We now have full-time onsite support at many of our larger clients, and schedule weekly onsite visits for many others at no extra charge. The customer gets all the benefits of world leading cloud delivery but with a personal touch.

– Danny Moore

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