Thursday, 26 November 2020 05:43

Financial software firm cites security, control as reasons for moving from email to Slack

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Financial software firm cites security, control as reasons for moving from email to Slack Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

ASX-listed financial software firm Iress is moving away from email to Slack for communications and its chief technology officer, Andrew Todd, says this is because the app offers improved security and control.

He pointed to security incidents involving companies, including those in financial services, as justification for the decision, saying the rise of cyber fraud during the pandemic had been a major reason for the shift.

"During this time, we've been glad to use Slack," Todd told iTWire in response to queries. "It allows us to move our conversations with partners, suppliers, industry peers, customers and others out of email and into channels. In this environment, we can verify who we're talking to while maintaining a transparent and frictionless way of working."

According to Wikipedia, "Slack is a proprietary business communication platform developed by American software company Slack Technologies. Slack offers many IRC-style features, including persistent chat rooms organised by topic, private groups, and direct messaging."

Todd said reliance on emails and phone calls for urgent issues opened up the possibility that messages could be missed as emails bounced around and the process was not streamlined.

"Now, we handle critical issues in channels. For example, our team is able to quickly come together and solve issues in specific and dedicated channels," he said.

"It's not just internal conversations, we've also set up channels with external partners, allowing open and transparent collaboration — once again all securely handled. We're also using automated alerts in channels, to share information about products and support requests."

He claimed trust in emails was misplaced. "In fact, they can come from anyone and anywhere, and it's hard to authenticate senders. Lately, we've seen cyber security threats rise, including phishing scams and spam. Earlier this year, Google reported more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 scams in just one week and more than 240 million daily spam messages."

Citing the way Iress worked, Todd said email communications tended to isolate information, as one could only see the conversations on which one had been copied.

"Context can also be lost with discussions happening across multiple email threads," he said. "With Slack, everyone sees the same messages, so a team knows who's responsible for what and how to move work forward.

"This gives our teams access to real-time conversations with any person or team. Unlike email, where every new message is given equal weight, it's easy to grab a person's attention with a notification when you need a timely response. This is also true for our clients, who increasingly want quicker response times and transparency."

Another reason Todd offered to justify the switch was the level of integration which he claimed Slack has with other applications. "Email has limited integration with other apps – you need to constantly switch tabs, windows and your focus for even the smallest of tasks," he said. "Slack is different. It integrates with the apps and work tools we need, allowing us to easily jump between the likes of Google Drive, Zoom, Miro and Jira."

Todd said Slack also allowed Iress to easily manage user access to important documents and information. "For example, our Google Drive integration allows our team to control this with the click of a button. This is far more secure than attaching documents to emails which can then be forwarded beyond their initial recipient," he said.

"Rather than asking people to log in to 20 different apps every day, we consolidate workflows with integrations, pulling in key information and processes from other platforms. By building Slack into our workflow, we're making everyone's work experience much more streamlined and easy."

Asked about unauthorised data access by Slack team members, Todd said: "Unlike email, which was designed before the Internet came to life, Slack is a controlled environment, built and designed with security in mind.

"We take advantage of the comprehensive security features that Slack has built in. We have the power to authenticate people into the environment, making sure the company knows who they are upfront. People can't inject themselves into Slack, like your email inbox."

He said Slack allowed Iress to categorise employees into administrative and non-administrative roles, which determined who had the ability to manage Iress' Slack workspace. "Each role has a different level of permissions suited to their roles and level in the company. Workspace owners and admins determine who within Iress can create user groups."

Asked about the threat posed by third-party app integration, Todd said Iress' admins closely monitored and regulated apps installed in the workspace, "using app approvals to maintain control and to protect our company data from security threats".

"Before installing an app, our admins review what permissions an app is requesting, as well as its policies for security and data retention, to ensure we keep a close eye on third-party integrations while giving staff the ability to use these apps in one place," he added.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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