Tag Archives: digital media

How Your Website can Handle Emergency Announcements

School Flooding Announcement on Website - what happens if the website crashes?
Flooding Announcement on a School Website – what happens if the website crashes?

Major General Patrick Sanders, assistant chief of the UK defence staff, who is currently coordinating the armed forces’ response to the UK floods has described the damage as an “almost unparalleled natural disaster”.

I listened to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning (a treat that I rarely enjoy now that I cycle to work – and only heard it today because I took my brother-in-law to the airport), and the presenters were speaking to various spokesmen from train companies and utilities around the country.

I’ve recently been speaking to a number of not-for-profit organisations about their digital platforms. Digital is key to these organisations because it provides a direct-to-consumer communication channel (although they each have different terms for consumers) which is far cheaper than previous methods. The commercial sector which recognised this advantage a few years ago.

One specific question which keeps being raised it how to deal with emergencies announcements.

Commercials organisations can often afford robust platforms and fault tolerance because the increased digital traffic from mobile apps and websites usually translates into extra revenue or improved customer service.

However, if you are a school and want to let parents know whether the school is open today or not because of flooding, snow or other natural problems, it’s unlikely the school will be compensated for the added digital traffic. Many UK schools offer a text messaging service to parents to let them know if the school is open or not, but still they receive huge web traffic from concerned parents.

Additional web traffic can often cause website issues. There are a number of methods to ease this high web traffic, most of which are free to use. Continue reading How Your Website can Handle Emergency Announcements

The future of financial services

techUK (formerly Intellect UK) has released a new paper called “Towards a ‘New Financial Services’” which is a thought-provoking view of the future of the UK financial services industry. The paper itself is 75 pages, very well produced, and free to download.

You may remember back in November I mentioned Endava had contributed a couple of thought leadership pieces (see Identity & Authentication – Time for a Financial Services digital services passport? and What constitutes a first class digital experience for banking customers?) – this is the compiled paper.

Continue reading The future of financial services

2014 Digital Media trends/ predictions now on Slideshare

Here’s the Slideshare presentation for my 2014 Digital Media trends (click on that link to see the description for each trend).

Agree or disagree with them? Feel free to comment below.

My 2013 Favourites for Gadgets, Books, Apps and Industry Awards

At the end of every year, I’ve listed my highlights of the previous year. See the post from 2012 with links to previous years. Here are some of the highlights from 2013:

Favourite New Gadget

An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass
An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass

There are several contenders from 2013. After 4 years with my previous work laptop, I took the plunge and went for a new convertible tablet/ laptop, the Dell XPS 12. It’s good, in fact the speed is still as fast as the latest laptops in the office, but my original intention was to stop using my paper notepad, and the XPS with the touch screen just can’t replace it. If you are looking for a decent laptop and have the budget available, I recommend the XPS – but keep a paper pad close by.

I also swapped from my iPhone 3GS (or as I preferred to call it, my “iPhone Classic”) to a Samsung Galaxy S4. I prefer the Samsung to Apple in every area except the lack of the red underlining for misspelled words, and that alone is almost a showstopper.

Continuing the Google theme, in December we bought Google Glass at work, and I’ve used them as much as possible. Google Glass is the future without a doubt, however I think it’s a generation (of users) too early. After watching colleagues and some customers struggle to use them in the office, it’s fascinating to watch my kids use them so naturally.

The prize for my favourite between these three? Sorry to wimp out, but it’s a tie between the laptop and Glass.

Favourite Book

I don't agree with all of it, but it's still my favourite read of 2013
I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s still my favourite read of 2013

I’ve been fortunate to read several good books this year. Removing the fictional titles (I rarely read fiction but my ex-manager at Endava guaranteed I’d like a particular author so much that he’d pay for the books if I didn’t like them), here is my 2013 reading list:

  1. The Intention Economy, Doc Searls
  2. The Tao of Twitter, Mark Schaefer
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: An Hour a Day, Jennifer Grappone & Gradiva Couzin
  4. The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson
  5. Total Recall: My Unbelievable Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger

I recommend all of them.

The Tao of Twitter provided inspiration, and results, of higher levels of engagement on Twitter.

I’ve recommended the SEO book to everyone I’ve met this year who has shown interest in natural SEO – it’s written in a simple, friendly manner with practical suggestions on almost every page.

The Arnie book caught my eye at Heathrow airport on one of my business trips this year. If you’re unsure about the book, just read the back cover – you’ll be surprised how much he’s achieved in his life.

However the award for my favourite book goes to Doc Searls. I didn’t like (or perhaps a more appropriate word is ‘appreciate’) some of his earlier work such as The Cluetrain Manifesto, and even in The Intention Economy I didn’t agree with all parts of the book (my major criticism is his firm view on open source – why isn’t his book open source if he believes in it so much?) If you need some inspiration for corporate digital transformation, this book will offer it. At Endava we are working with large consultancies who list The Intention Economy as mandatory reading for their senior directors.

Favourite iPhone/ Smartphone App

I’ve had to rename this since defecting to Android!

Strava is still my favourite. It’s the best cycling app available, mainly due to it’s implicit gamification. I sent them some suggestions for improvements which they implemented within a few weeks, so a big “Thank You” there.

A very close second is OneNote. I like how I can create a note in OneNote and it appears on my computer in OneNote. It’s quick to use, and comes with the Microsoft Office stack, so there’s no additional app to install such as EverNote.

Favourite Award

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2013 – Endava came 17th

A huge well done and thank you to the team at Endava for ranking us as the 17th largest agency in the eConsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies. The award was presented for our 2011/12 accounts due to Endava’s financial year finishing after the Econsultancy entry deadline, and so next year is likely to look even healthier.

As well as the Econsultancy, Endava also won a number of other awards which we are also very proud of.

 

This is likely to be my last post of 2013, so I wish you and your family a wonderful festive season, a Merry Christmas, a Happy & Prosperous New Year, or just some good old-fashioned time off.

Review of 2013 predictions

How did my 2013 Digital Media predictions from last December turn out?

2013 was due to be another tough year. Still in the depths of the recession, 2013 followed the pick-me-up of the 2012 London Olympics – it was billed as the hangover year. But 2013 proved, especially in the UK, to be a signal of the end of the recession.

Yahoo! stock price in 2013 - don't you just wish you'd bought a few more of these?
Yahoo! stock price in 2013 – don’t you just wish you’d bought a few more of these?

1. Many, many new devices will be launched

A number of UK retailers and European super brands launched their own tablet devices – Argos, Tesco & Deutsche Telekom to name a few.

And at the end of the year we’ve seen the launch of the new XBox One and PlayStation 4.

And continuing the tradition of previous predictions that it will finally be the year of the 3D printer, even Argos think that at some point we’ll be printing stuff out at home.

Prediction rating: 9/10

2. Yahoo! Makes! A! Comeback!

At the start of 2013, Yahoo! stocks were $19.90. I’m writing this article on 17 December, and Yahoo! stocks are $39.51. A double exclamation mark for that!!

The reason for that valuation? According to Comscore, Yahoo! has seen a 21% increase in visitor numbers, and in July had more traffic than Google.

Prediction rating: 10/10

3. Microsoft to return

It’s been a mixed year for Microsoft. On the good news front, Windows 8.1 has helped with the market perception of their latest Operating System. Personally I couldn’t go back from Windows 8, I really like it. XBox One has also helped.

On the not so good news, 2013 has seen a stuttering stock price and the CEO Steve Ballmer resigned.

In neutral news, Microsoft bought Nokia for $7 billion this year – let’s see what happens.

Microsoft is still a fantastic company. 16% growth (year on year) in the first quarter for 2014 to $18.5 billion revenue with a healthy profit margin. A new CEO who can sort out a strategy for the next decade will also sort out the stock price.

Prediction rating: 6/10

 4. Indoor GPS

Indoor GPS hasn’t taken off as expected. Google are busy mapping (and recording Street View) as many shopping malls and larger buildings as they can.

Prediction rating: 2/10 – perhaps a year or two early

 5. Learning to switch off

2013 didn’t quite promote Quiet-modes as much as I’d expected (or hoped). That being said, when I went on holiday in the Summer and told people I wouldn’t have my mobile or laptop with me, they said it was an inspiration, but they wouldn’t be able to follow suit.

Prediction rating: 1/10 – Am I alone??!

6. Context sensitive

Google has become even more context sensitive in 2013, especially on Android devices with the launch of Google Now. 2014 will see new Android releases which push Google Now to the main menu screen.

Unfortunately other websites haven’t followed suit. I’m not sure whether it’s the funding or the want, or the imagination to build a page which could be different for everyone. Either way, we’re not seeing as many context sensitive, personalised experiences as we should.

Prediction rating: 2/10

7. The end of the QR code

Thankfully I haven’t seen many QR codes recently.

The last time I saw one was when I received Google Glass, and it was used to transfer a number of settings from my computer to Glass. So it made a lot of sense. A lot more sense than replacing a human readable, memorable domain name with a QR code – and that’s why I dislike them.

Prediction rating: 9/10 – QR RIP

 8. Healthcare apps

Our company healthcare insurance has launch a smartphone app which tracks how much exercise we all do. It groups everyone from Endava together and shows a leaderboard of who’s done the most exercise – a great piece of gamification.

We’re at the tip of the iceberg. In years to come we won’t visit a doctor for routine appointments, we’ll use sensors on our smartphone to communicate with healthcare professionals.

Prediction rating: 7/10

9. Drones buzzing in the sky

My favourite TED video this year was about robotic (i.e. automated, unpiloted) drones. And this month Amazon announced that by 2015 they’ll be using drones for deliveries, assuming legislation is available.

Drones will change society more than any other technology in the foreseeable future.

Prediction rating: 7/10 – A bit too early, but we’re on the cusp of a an amazing change to society

Summary

That’s a total of 53 out of a possible 90. Not as good as previous years, although I’d tried to be more adventurous than previous years. I’ll release the 2014 predictions in the next couple of weeks.

Identity & Authentication – Time for a Financial Services digital services passport?

Endava has been helping a UK IT industry association with some thought leadership pieces recently, and I’ve been permitted to share my contribution before the report is published.

We’ve contributed to two essays, and I’ll post a link on this site when they are released in early 2014 . This is the second part of two posts – you can read the first one on user experience for banking customers here.

Identity & Authentication – Time for a Financial Services digital services passport?

The answer here lies in three distinct areas:

  1. The Authentication Conundrum
  2. The Internet Identity Crisis
  3. The Organisational, Political and Social Resistance to Single Sign On.

The Authentication Conundrum

Let’s take one of the biggest retail banks in the UK. To log into their online banking systems they have a variety of authentication methods:

  1. Website which requires a physical security device to create a one-time numeric password
  2. Website for their credit card product which requires the user to enter specific digits of their password
  3. Telephone banking which requires a requires the user to enter specific digits of their telephone banking password
  4. Mobile app which requires a 5 digit numeric password
  5. ATM machines which require a 4 digit numeric password
  6. Message board/ forum which requires a username (none of the other services require this) as well as a password with a minimum of 8 characters with a combination of numbers, symbols and mixed case letters.

These methods are not only inconsistent, they negatively impact the users’ experience of the online servicing channels.

Organisations need a unified authentication standard. I understand that an ATM requires a physical card, so it can have the easiest authentication of only 4 characters, but why does the message boards (which have no account access) need to be more complex than the mobile banking app?

The Internet Identity Crisis

In order to trust online retailers with our private details, we use SSL security certificates. Certificates are not just for encryption, they are a means of ensuring we are buying from a company who is who they say they are.

It’s now time for the other way round – for customers to prove who they are.

If a user books a room on Air B&B, they don’t want to stay at a mass murderer’s house, and the house owner doesn’t want a mass murderer staying with them either. Both need to have a level of trust on the network – usually achieved by previous transactions being validated.

I have an eBay account with 100% positive feedback amassed over a few years and over 500 ratings, both buying and selling. So when I join a site such as TripAdvisor, or Air B&B, that eBay ‘score’ should count for something. I’m the same person. And this is the Internet’s Identity Crisis.

The Internet needs a centralised Single Sign On system to link all accounts into a common identity. Facebook and Twitter both have their own systems in place (Facebook Connect and Sign in with Twitter), but the issue here is about Trust. I don’t trust those two organisations to log into my bank, tax or healthcare providers.

I do trust my bank though. And so do most people. Whilst the media attempts to discredit banks, there aren’t mass cash withdrawals from banks because the public fundamentally does trust them.

In my view, to solve the Internet Identity Crisis, banks should build a Single Sign On system which uses similar OAuth based technologies to the social networks which can be used by any third-party website. The system provides authentication to the website, but won’t allow any other details to be exposed unless the user explicitly permits.

Only then will the Internet Identity Crisis be solved.

The Organisational, Political and Social Resistance to Single Sign On.

Technically, Single Sign On has been solved by a number of organisations. This leaves three resistances to Single Sign On: Organisational, Political and Social.

Metro newspaper headline. Source: weareblink.com
Metro newspaper headline. Source: weareblink.com

Traditional organisations are built in silos. When one part of an organisation builds a system, it’s uncommon for that part to comply with existing authentication systems unless specifically mandated, which is also uncommon. This leads to the issues outlined in the retail banking example above, with six systems, each with different passwords and password complexity.

Political resistance is encountered where a specific authentication system isn’t adopted because of perceived risk or perceived non-standard technical constraints.

Social resistance are attention grabbing headlines such as the one shown above. These headlines undermine the credibility and security of large-scale websites and digital service providers, creating resistance to adopt new technologies. And this doesn’t help anyone.

 

What constitutes a first class digital experience for banking customers?

Endava has been helping a UK IT industry association with some thought leadership pieces recently, and I’ve been permitted to share my contribution before the report is published. We’ve contributed to two essays, and when they are released in early 2014, I’ll post a link on this site.

What constitutes a first class digital experience for banking customers?

Autocomplete text box on Bing
Autocomplete text box on Bing

In order to create a first class digital experience for customers, we should first look at the user experience, i.e. how the user interacts with a bank inside a digital channel.

Fundamentally, users expect the same level of quality for the design and functionality of banking systems as they receive on a social network. For examples, users expect functionality such as autocomplete – where a text box provides a number of options based on what the user has started to type.

When a user is looking for a transaction in their online or mobile banking app, the text box should help them find the item, rather than a non-functional text box waiting for the user to press the search button before helping.

Banks have a wealth of data on their customer’s accounts, so it’s a surprise that the levels of personalisation is so basic. Banks should upsell savings, overdraft or loans products based on individual’s account activity.

Banks should offer targeted promotions based on a customer’s purchasing history (“You visit <xyz> coffee shop twice a week, why don’t you try the new <pqr> coffee shops and receive a 50% discount?”) – this could be funded by the competitor brands. Or, the loyalty could be rewarded by the regular store.

Banks are good at adopting new technologies, less so on the user experience side. New technologies are often adopted as an alternative channel for the same functionality, rarely for innovative services which maximise new functionality offered by the new channel.

For instance, one high street retail bank which offers a smartphone app still provides a text messaging alert for low balances and suspected illegal transactions. Ideally the alerts should be part of their own smartphone app.

Historically, retail banking products have been built around branches. If a user wanted a new product from their bank, they had to physically go to the branch. Even the first ATMs were located at the branch site, so users still had to go to the bank. Web and mobile banking options rely on users going to the bank’s web & mobile addresses to access the systems.

However in the digital world, banks should consider moving to where the users are. Today’s users are found on social networks, so the banks should move into these environments.

The future

As a trend, financial services organisations are becoming “utilities” where customers visit third-party agencies for financial products (e.g. a loans, savings, credit cards, etc.), the cheapest one is displayed and the user completes the transaction.

This has already happened to most of the insurance industry. Users first flock to comparison sites and click-through to the insurance website once they’ve decided which policy to buy.

The most common time when a user sees their bank’s logo is when paying by card. As card transactions are replaced by mobile phone payments such as NFC, bank customers will have less awareness of their bank. This user experience will turn banks further towards commoditised utilities. Now is the time for banks to act.

 

SaaS as Standard

Cloud hosting is now the norm for digital media applications
Cloud hosting is now the norm for digital media applications

Four and a half years ago, Endava took over the Digital Media arm of IMG. We looked at the service IMG were offering our customers at the time, and remarked that we were providing a Digital Media PaaS (Platform as a Service), or more specifically, SaaS (Software as a Service) way ahead of the rest of the market.

We were ahead of the curve and spent the next couple of years educating organisations and suppliers about PaaS, SaaS and cloud hosted Digital Media products. Various organisations joined our platform.

Some didn’t agree with this approach and continue to buy licences, servers and host internally, until usually something goes wrong or the key resource who holds everything together leaves the organisation.

There have been three key tipping points in the industry which has helped promote SaaS offerings over traditional licensing and hosting internally:

  1. Salesforce.com has become almost ubiquitous for CRM systems. In the commercial world, Salesforce.com has become a household name, and organisations accept that Salesforce.com is a cloud  based platform. Salesforce.com holds sales leads and invoicing – really confidential stuff, which has made IT organisations accept that not all systems need to be inside the corporate firewall.
  2. Organisations are moving their email systems to cloud hosted servers such as Google Apps or Office 365, again relinquishing control of their data to a third-party.
  3. Adobe Marketing Cloud. Adobe bought Day Software in 2010 and have spent a huge amount of money marketing it, not only in the industry press but in the mainstream media too. Together with the power of the Adobe brand, a cloud based marketing solution became acceptable.

These tipping points sold the IT organisation and marketing organisations the benefits of SaaS.

My recent visit to New York confirmed that SaaS is now a standard requirement when companies asked us to confirm “And you’ll be hosting this, yes?” and “Do you have your own cloud hosting, or will you be using a public cloud?

The concept of asking the client how they’ll host the solution themselves is as alien now, as asking about SaaS four years ago.

Top 5 Sponsorship Innovations

Working for IMG for a few years, I got to learn a few things about sport sponsorship. It’s one thing to put a sponsor on a t-shirt, but there are also new ways. Here are my top 5 sponsorship activations:

  1. One of my favourite sports sponsorship deals is
    Team Sky Cycling Team Photo: Mogens Engelund
    Team Sky Cycling Team Photo: Mogens Engelund

    the Sky cycling team. My assumption is that Sky didn’t own the television rights to the Olympics in 2012, plus they could see Bradley Wiggins rising through the ranks of British Cycling. This meant he could potentially win the Tour de France and if the sponsorship was activated correctly, the two brands could become synonymous. By pumping more money into the cycling team than any other team was receiving, training and winning was a little easier. Also, some consider cycling as ‘the new golf‘, with popularity steadily increasing, so Sky have capitalised on this too, with events such as Sky Ride. Even the branding and design of the Sky team wear has been carefully thought about.

  2. Deutsche Telekom sponsor Bayern Munich. The German telco also want to prove their IT capabilities, so they use their own domain (which also really helps SEO) for the Bayern Munich website: www.fcbayern.telekom.de. In digital media terms it’s not only innovative, but subtle and effective.
  3. In 2008, a computer gamer and YouTube user, Levinator25, uploaded a video to YouTube of a glitch in the game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. The video showed that if a ball landed in water in a specific place, Tiger Woods would stand on the water and still take the shot. EA responded with a video that is just brilliant, and more importantly, has been watched over 6.5 million times.
  4. Clever marketing from Morrisons for Andy Murray
    Clever marketing from Morrisons for Andy Murray

    When Andy Murray won Wimbledon, most of the UK came to a standstill. Some clever people at Morrisons had thought about this historic event a fortnight earlier when Wimbledon started, and converted the front of their Wimbledon store to read “Murriwins“. Interestingly, I think this was technically ‘ambush marketing‘, because I don’t think Morrisons was a sponsor. And Morrisons isn’t a sponsor of Wimbledon either.

  5. The last example isn’t a sports sponsorship but it’s very clever. And apparently no money changed hands either – quite what type of sponsorship this is categorised as, I have no idea! Nevertheless, for Nestle to sponsor the name of the next Android Operating System as ‘Kit Kat’ is ingenious. The Kit Kat brand can handle this – it’s a bit of fun, and the previous names of Android Operating Systems such as ‘Eclair’ and ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’. For Nestle to agree to this ‘deal’ it demonstrates how mainstream and ‘cool’ the technology has become. Did you know that Android Operating System names are in alphabetical order? This meant Kit Kat nicely slotted into place.

Digital Media reading recommendations for October

People

Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington – how to harness (and monetise) content in the digital world

I like reading autobiographies to understand what makes people tick and how they meet their aims. (Incidentally I have ‘Drive’ on my reading pile at home at the moment). The Guardian website has a great article on the daily routines of history’s most creative minds. It’s very interesting, and in itself it’s a summary of the book Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey.

SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a skill that everyone in Digital Media should understand. I try to brush up on my SEO skills every couple of years, so I’m halfway through SEO: An Hour a Day. I’ve read a few SEO articles and wanted a book which I could concentrate on without distractions. It’s comprehensive and approaches SEO correctly – i.e. from a business goal point of view and not ‘I just want to appear higher in Google results’.

One of the best SEO articles I’ve read online was from Jeff Bullas. It only takes a few minutes to read, and it’s very worthwhile.

Twitter

The Tao of Twitter is the best resource I’ve read about how to use Twitter. It was easy to read in a couple of days. I then went back through the book with a highlighter pen over all the simple hints and tips. Thoroughly recommended.

Publishing

And finally, I read an academic white paper called “RIPTIDE: What Really Happened to the News Business”, subtitled “An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, 1980 to the present”. It’s over 120 pages and has taken me a couple of months to read (I have too many distractions when reading a PDF).

If you have any interest in content publishing – digital or traditional, you’ll like this paper. Some of the biggest names on the Internet and business contributed to the white paper, include Sir Martin Sorrell, Eric Schmidt, Arianna Huffington, Tim Berners-Lee, Dick Costolo, and the list goes on. The paper was produced in September 2013, so it also covers Jeff Bezos purchasing The Washington Post.

A highly recommended read, full of nostalgia and incredible business deals.

Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum on Flickr