By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
Sramana Mitra: So, are there nuggets of information that you can share about strategies you are using as far as cloud computing is concerned?
Mandy Edwards: Well, in terms of strategy, everything we do has to be secure. We also have to understand risks and vulnerabilities, and our job, when we are going through a client implementation, is to work with our customers to ensure that those companies are satisfied with the security that is inherent in that integrated solution. It can be both technology related and operationally related, and I will give you an example. Some clients require that we have a complete clean desk policy; that is, the agents who service that client would be allowed to have nothing on the workstations.
Sramana: That seems to be an inconsistency with your thin client strategy in any case. If everything is being stored in the data center and fat server, you don’t put anything on the client workstation anyway. So, the agent doesn’t have any access to anything.
Mandy: Absolutely. And even in the current environment, with the desktop, many of the desktops are locked down and configured in such a way that the agent can’t plug in a USB device, for example. They don’t have access to any applications on the desktop. The only thing they can do with a desktop is actually access the client’s system and then, in that case, they are given access only to information they need to do the work required.
Sramana: What about vulnerability management? You have so many different locations and so many different centers. What is your policy on vulnerability management?
Mandy: We have a standard security policy that covers patch management. We manage it centrally and distribute it locally. We are moving into a new model where that will all be managed and distributed centrally, so that will help us to make sure there are no nuances in the process. I am pretty confident that most CIOs are doing similar things with their environments. But we pretty much got all of that locked down, and we are very confident in our processes.
Sramana: OK. We talked a little bit about social CRM earlier, in the process you were integrating with Facebook and Twitter and so forth. Now, are you starting to see the more cutting-edge stuff like crowdsourced customer support and things like that?
Mandy: I’m not familiar with the term crowdsource, would you help me here?
Sramana: Sure. Basically some organizations, and this is a very early trend, are starting to use customers to do customer support.
Mandy: Absolutely. I know exactly where you are going. I will tell you that I have read about some rather challenging problems with that, though, because the caution is being able to make sure that those communities aren’t giving out wrong or inaccurate information. So, I think while that might be an easy “cheap way” of trying to solve problems, in other words, just like communities of like-minded people solve the problem for you, you’ve got to put just as much effort into monitoring that to make sure that the information is, in fact, accurate and not causing residual issues. That, obviously, could backfire very quickly.
I would like to take you back to the concept of these knowledge base environments that I think are going to become so crucial. It goes back to the commentary I gave you about in many corporations’ across the world today, they can’t even integrate their lines of business and have a common interface for single consumers. So, while there are always going to be new ways that people compile it and try it out per se, what we need to be doing is providing consumer affinity back to the company that owns the products and services. To me, that is what this is all about. Now, a consumer can be swayed by a comment that is made to her in response to an inquiry by someone who could be completely uneducated about the decision.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say I want to purchase a new washing machine. I go out and do a quick Tweet to a couple of communities I am engaged with saying, Hey, which washing machine should I buy? Well, let’s say I said, Tell me if I should buy from company A or from company B? Well, obviously companies A and B, if they are engaged with their consumers, are going to know the moment that that request is made in that environment. One of them is going to quickly offer the consumer who is asking the question either a credit or some type of incentive to go with their product. That is what the future is all about.