2 mins

Many great ideas don’t come from individuals. They come from groups. The interplay that occurs when people collaborate – be it with colleagues, clients or partners – is often what generates the most resilient thinking and the best results.

For financial firms working in complex, microsecond-sensitive environments, creating the conditions for effective collaboration is not always a simple matter. The challenges may be broader than just having good technological systems, but there is no question that technology plays a central and increasingly important role. Without the right communications infrastructure and applications the possibilities for fruitful collaboration are always going to be more limited.

Put simply, it’s all about bringing people, information and tools together. That’s where some of the recent innovations in communications can play a significant role.

The first rule of collaboration is that it is workflow-dependent. If companies want their staff to be able to collaborate, they need to make it possible without seriously disrupting people’s workflow. Yet in the case of financial services, a large amount of workflow may be determined by legacy technology. So any solution needs to be able to work seamlessly with old and new systems.

This is one reason why Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) is so important. The protocol is common in internet telephony and it allows for interoperability between various communications platforms. Not only does that mean companies can introduce new systems more easily, but also it opens the door to a wide array of available solutions.

The second rule of collaboration is that it is not just about allowing people to communicate but letting them share. Unified Communications (UC) applications enable real-time content-sharing in a single application. Traders wanting to work together on asset-specific or client-specific issues can set up “collaboration rooms” where important content can be kept for immediate and easy access.

It’s not enough, however, to just encourage financial professionals to share content. Firms need to make sure their teams have the right content at the right time. So called context-enriched experiences combine traditional push-style notifications with real-time information. That helps traders provide better service for their customers. Market events can not only trigger notifications but also initiate collaboration rooms that already have relevant information available for traders to use.

Technological solutions that are designed for mobility are also important for facilitating collaboration. New systems that allow a trader’s desktop to go where the trader goes mean that far-flung teams or staff on the move can work together at a moment’s notice. One area where mobility has become particularly helpful is in voice services.

Since so much of collaboration involves voice, the possibility of capturing and storing the data from voice-based communication opens up whole new avenues for creating business intelligence and improving performance. Voice capture and automatic transcription is a relatively recent area of innovation, one that has piqued the interest of financial firms looking to develop an edge.

Finally, companies need to consider cloud-based UC services. Unified Communications services are vital for firms looking to gain agility as they introduce enhanced collaboration technology. Given the cost pressures that banks and brokerages face, moving from a capex to opex model only makes sense. And as companies look to expand organically or acquire other firms, UC service providers can become vital to executing a strategy effectively.

The fiercely competitive nature of financial markets has always made collaboration a fundamental ingredient in a company’s success. What has changed is that as technology becomes increasingly complex, strong collaboration tools are playing an ever-bigger part in determining whether a firm wins or keeps business.

As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one. So the question for financial firms is how to make sure two (or more) heads can work effectively together, across a range of different locations and systems. Recent advances in collaboration technology are making this more feasible than ever before.