Freedom Financial Network
Freedom Financial Network advances observability in virtual workforce transformation
Single platform for greater efficiency and responsiveness of cloud and application monitoring
Accelerated mean time to resolution due to real-time visibility and custom alerting
Transitioned to secure, optimized full remote workforce in two weeks
For millions of Americans, climbing out from under crushing financial debt can seem like a lonely, impossible task. That’s why so many turn to Financial Freedom Network for much-needed assistance. Since 2002, the innovative financial services company has provided families and individuals struggling to get their debt under control with custom debt solutions that help put them on the path to financial freedom.
There’s no time to waste when dealing with such personal, weighty matters as resolving personal debt, which is why the company has always pushed for ways to make connecting with customers faster, easier and more convenient. This sort of multichannel engagement — where prospective customers come in from website forms, marketing campaigns, phone calls or TV ads — requires an expansive and sophisticated back-end infrastructure to execute every engagement flawlessly.
“When a new customer contacts us, we know we have just seconds to connect with them to start the relationship,” says the company’s Senior Vice President, Chris Younger. “We run a number of technologies behind the scenes to facilitate those relationships, and we need comprehensive, real-time visibility into how each one is performing to deliver a superior and memorable customer experience.”
“AppDynamics eliminates the need for us to individually instrument each transaction, system, or microservice in our environment because they’re all consolidated into a single location.”Chris YoungerSenior Vice President @Freedom Financial Network
About Freedom Financial Network
Freedom Financial Network is a family of companies that takes a people-first approach to financial services, using technology to empower consumers to overcome debt and create a brighter financial future. What began with 2 people in a spare bedroom is now a vibrant business that employs over 2,200 employees nationwide who provide personalized debt solutions for hardworking individuals and families across the country.
For years, Freedom Financial Network had relied on a range of open-source software and ad hoc workflows to manage and optimize performance of the various applications and on-prem and cloud environments. But the IT and infrastructure teams tasked with keeping information and client communications flowing smoothly frequently found that the disparate tools they used increased their workload and the risk of unplanned downtime or application performance degradation.
“Our platform operations are spread across a significant number of apps and systems. All of our production applications run in Google Cloud Platform (GCP), while the voice components and the specific call center build is all Twilio, and our customer data repository lives in Salesforce,” Younger explains. “The amount of back-and-forth communication between the teams to orchestrate it all considerably increased the risk of one team making a change or update that could negatively impact other parts of the business — all without any visibility that could help prevent or resolve it.”
According to Younger, managing a complex and widespread hybrid IT infrastructure required a level of visibility across the entire environment that the company simply never had with its previous tools and systems. For example, there was significant business impact if the flow of leads slowed inexplicably or the agents’ heads-up dashboard with customer information suddenly went offline, and the IT teams had no way to easily identify the root cause of these issues or proactively prevent them.
“Our goal was to eliminate team managers alerting us that their lead flow had stopped or that the customer data wasn’t populating properly,” he says. “Because we were working in so many different systems, we had to send a product expert or engineer in to investigate any incident to figure out where the problem was, which could take a while. That’s not an ideal workflow for a company whose success is predicated on accessibility, responsiveness, and reliability.”
Freedom Financial Network deployed AppDynamics to consolidate and streamline its application and cloud instance monitoring. Now, Younger’s teams have a robust platform for end-to-end visibility of complex, business-critical environments.
“AppDynamics eliminates the need for us to individually instrument each transaction, system, or microservice in our environment because they’re all consolidated into a single location,” Younger says. “Whatever angle we’re coming from, we have end-to-end observability that enables us to get the specific operational metrics we need to proactively address issues before they become problems and keep our team pushing toward larger business objectives.”
Freedom Financial operators can visualize their entire on-prem and cloud infrastructure environment to better understand application and system dependencies and actively monitor external network connectivity for potential interruptions or service degradation.
More importantly, users across the organization can drill down to the code level in each application to rapidly pinpoint root causes of problems such as slow lead flows or nonworking agent’s dashboards in real time — and do it all from an easily configurable view.
“People contact us under their most dire circumstances and need help resolving life-altering challenges immediately. We want them to know we’re the right people for the job, so our goal is to make sure our customers get connected with an advisor quickly, never getting disconnected or languishing in a chat queue,” he says. “AppDynamics gives us the visibility and insights we need to make sure that every component of the workflow that delivers a customer directly to an agent instantly and seamlessly is working exactly as it should.”
Consistent system performance wasn’t the only institutional challenge Younger and the team had to contend with. Like virtually every company recently, Freedom Financial was forced to transition its predominantly on-site operations to fully remote work overnight.
Those teams, including more than 1,500 contact center agents, needed the same access and experiences within their home workspaces that they’d had in the office. However, the operational complexity and substantial data security concerns outpaced the capabilities of conventional virtual private networks (VPNs) commonly used in remote work environments.
Already entrenched in the Cisco ecosystem through its AppDynamics deployment, Freedom Financial turned to Cisco Meraki to simplify and accelerate its remote workforce transition. Meraki delivered a comprehensive solution that provides virtually every tool and capability the team needed to suddenly, but smoothly, migrate its business to the virtual realm with zero interruption.
“Whatever angle we’re coming from, we have end-to-end observability that enables us to get the specific operational metrics we need to proactively address issues before they become problems and keep our team pushing toward larger business objectives.”Chris YoungerSenior Vice President @Freedom Financial Network
With Meraki, Freedom Financial can provide every remote employee with a reliable, secure network connection whether they’re using their own devices or company-issued ones — all of which can be easily managed and monitored from a cloud-based dashboard.
“We needed to build out an entire virtual contact center in a couple of weeks and figured since AppDynamics was already part of the Cisco ecosystem, it just made sense to use Meraki tools for our connectivity needs,” Younger says. “We could have tried to build out our own solution or combine a bunch of other tools to get there, but having a ready-made suite of capabilities that operated in an environment we already knew and used seemed like a smarter choice for keeping our operations running and continuing to serve our customers as though nothing had changed.”
Even with application monitoring and telephony covered, Freedom Financial still faced other operational hazards. In particular, its shift of additional mission-critical workloads to the company’s Google cloud environment created another layer of complexity. In response, the company deployed Cisco Intersight workload optimization services to enhance the robust observability capabilities AppDynamics offers at the application level for its rapidly expanding virtual infrastructure.
“Our virtual infrastructure is the foundation of so many of our most essential, critical operations,” Younger explains. “With the combination of AppDynamics and Cisco IWO, we have the ability to ensure app health and performance so we can react instantly to any change or alert that may impact the digital experience.”
AppDynamics and other solutions from within Cisco’s expansive portfolio have been game changers — and game savers — for Freedom Financial Network. Younger says that without the full-stack, end-to-end observability that AppDynamics, Meraki, and IWO provide, it would have been virtually impossible to sustain its high-touch customer-facing operations while transitioning seamlessly to a fully remote business model in response to the pandemic.
At every level of the company’s operations — the individual applications and dashboards customers and agents use, the telephony solutions that connect them, and the cloud infrastructure that supports it all — Younger’s team has unparalleled insight that helps them quickly root out performance issues, adapt to a rapidly changing business environment, and pivot their operations at a moment’s notice in service of producing an exceptional customer experience for people who need it the most.
“The Cisco solutions as a whole essentially helped us stave off the hardships and business impacts that have affected so many others and have completely reshaped how we’ll operate in the future,” Younger states. “We now have the agility and flexibility to do something as big and unexpected as transition to a fully remote workforce in just two weeks while also gaining comprehensive, granular visibility into every facet of our operations so we can maintain services our customers trust and want to interact with. That was simply never a consideration or possibility in the past.”
"We needed to build out an entire virtual contact center in a couple of weeks and figured since AppDynamics was already part of the Cisco ecosystem, it just made sense to use Meraki tools for our connectivity needs. We could have tried to build out our own solution or combine a bunch of other tools to get there but having a ready-made suite of capabilities that operated in an environment we already knew and used seemed like a smarter choice for keeping our operations running and continuing to serve our customers as though nothing had changed."
Chris Younger, Senior Vice President, Freedom Financial Network
Learn how technologists can manage soaring IT complexity by connecting full-stack observability with business context.