Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Data Is Beautiful

Sometimes data can look visually appealing (albeit when coloured by the author) such as this graph of what people mean when they provide a statement around probability.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Amazon's own brands

Did you know that when you shop on Amazon you are now increasingly likely to see Amazon's own brands appear?

Do any of these seem familiar?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

4 Steps To Surviving Digital Transformation

There's no doubt that we are in the middle of a revolution in technology (and therefore the businesses that knowingly or unknowingly rely on technology). As nearly everything becomes software and change happens quicker & quicker, businesses are being asked to transform themselves or be changed

So how does an organisation survive in a world where digital transformation is now the norm?

Embrace technology
It is no longer important for just your company COO or CTO to have all the senior level technical knowledge (although even some of these don't!). Instead other Exec roles such as Commercial Directors and CEOs now need more than just an awareness of what IT can deliver.

Hire the best people
This is very easy to say and often one of the hardest things to achieve. Hiring talented and motivated staff with a personality & approach that matches your company is incredibly difficult. Do you care if they don't wear business attire? Do you mind if they sometimes work from home or outside of the core 9 - 5 hours?  Do you want to pay them what the market (e.g. your competitors) pays?
Hint: If you don't have a huge network of digital contacts, make sure you know and use a very closely aligned recruiter.

Stay fast and agile
Don't just ask your staff to work faster and faster, there is a limit to the amount of output an individual or team can deliver - despite the 'lean' and 'growth' or hack' approaches that seem so popular now. Instead agile delivery needs support from all levels of the business (and it has to be encouraged from the top of an organisation, not just the bottom or the middle layers!).

Have a plan & communicate it
"Failing to plan is planning to fail" is the old maxim. And this is especially try when you are trying to carry out a potential change to your customer experience, back-end business processes and goodness knows what else.  There's also no point trying to carry out a digital transformation in a communication vacuum, it just doesn't work. And I don't mean just communicate with your peers or immediate boss either. Communicate with your board, your minor stakeholders and perhaps even shareholders (and consider communication to your customers too).
Hint: Adopt some of the newer communication, collaboration & project tools. If you don't know what Slack, Trello or even Yammer is.... find out!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Where Does Agile Thrive?

In this diagram from the differnet scales show where agile development typically works best....

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The ever-increasing consumerisation of IT

So, according to the latest news… enterprises now buy 50% of their software without IT involvement. Does this figure come as a shock to those of us that have foot in both the Business and Technology sectors? Yup... kinda!

There is no doubt that the consumerisation of IT is having a significant effect on businesses, with many different lines-of-business having their own very healthy budgets to procure technology that supports their day-to-day work and often without getting the IT department of an organisation involved. Online applications, software as a service (SaaS) and the general rise of digital service subscriptions over the last decade or so have added to the on-going cost of technology that is out of the hands of the very people who used to procure, manage and support it.

And just as one hand gives (functionality to the business) the other takes away (control and coordination from the IT department). Which in-turn means less budget and potentially less staff are needed… which brings its own complications: IT staff are spread more thinly, they are only brought in when a system needs fixing and they now may have to face-off to highly competent technologists in Finance, Sales or HR.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

International Trade Advice For UK Companies

Are you a UK business looking to expand Internationally?

If so, then there are several different online resources available to you that have recently launched:

The Lloyds Bank International Trade Portal

The Barclays Bank Guile To Exporting

Great Gov UK
A useful resource that brings together international trade and investment information and services from across the British government. The site is maintained by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Concensus Is Not Insight

Every organisation has to make big decisions. Whether it be to issue a dividend of a specific value to shareholders, to hand out a brief for a marketing campaign, to invest a given amount in a project or to release a product at a set time.... they all have to make some decisions at some point.

But how does your's make decisions? Are the most important ones generally made by a few people (mainly still men) in a closed room? Do they have all the available data to hand or do they come to conclusions based upon what the others say?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Digital Darwinism Doesn't Have A Start Date

Digital Darwinism, the evolution of online services, propositions and systems that will eventually change every industry, is a concept that has been gradually creeping up on most people.

It's the little changes we don't see happening every day that add up to a lot over a short period.
  • When did you start relying on Uber (or some other more ethical ride hailing App) to get you home after a late night in the office? 
  • When did you start using the term "to Google" rather than just "to search online?"
  • When did you start discussing that new Netflix series, as opposed to the regularly scheduled broadcast TV show you used to watch?
  • When did you start ordering your household goods on Amazon?
  • When did you start playing YouTube videos, rather than play music from your CD collection?

In the end you realise that there's less and less likely that there was a specific date for when you actually started doing these things... it just sort of happened. Or if you are a young person, you don't actually recall a date when many of these things were not the norm.

Evolution isn't a thing that happens to other creatures and people, with digital technologies the best example is happening right now.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Writing about Smart Ticketing

In my recent LinkedIn article “The 6 things they should tellabout smart ticketing and don’t” I cover some essential information that I would have found useful before entering into the world of ITSO Smart ticketing.

In this article I mention how: the industry if full of acronyms, Smart ticketing doesn’t necessarily mean smart customers (straight away), the benefits of combining smart ticketing with a decent online proposition, how you shouldn't stop improving the holistic user experience, testing and smart ticketing technical architecture.

This post has turned out to be my most successful article so far, with a large number of views and a few comments too. It has clearly proved to be interesting and engaging. Which is exactly why I wrote it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Failing to Architect with Agile is Architecting to Fail

Agile approaches to development and online product delivery are almost de-facto these days. Every private and public sector organisation wants to be transformed, nimble, lean and able to deploy digital services quicker and quicker to their ever-demanding customers. And it is not just in the IT coding department that there’s been a change in vocabulary. An agile approach can even be adopted by a company’s commercial team, marketing department and even some of their operational functions (plus don’t even get me started on how much senior managers, procurement and HR have to change too – but that’s something for another post).

But I’m going to stick my next out (once again) on a subject I’m passionate about… Technical Architecture and how it clashes with agile delivery.
Or more succinctly put: Agile Architecture Doesn’t Work

There, I’ve said it now and I’ve been wanting to say it for a while. It has been on my mind as I’ve heard the opposite mentioned in podcasts, or read about it in blogs and books.
I guess I was trying to get this off my chest when I wrote my recent blog post “Digital Transformations starts and ends with Digital Architecture”. As in my mind, the science (or is it art?) of crafting a robust yet flexible technical architecture that supports digital business aims is the one thing you can’t build as you go.

Creating the technical architecture for your new venture takes planning. You also really only need one Technical Architect, the person who owns the architecture and has the responsibility for its solution design and ensures re-use of common components. Not a bunch of developers who all want to create a part of the architecture they are responsible for.

It’s like wandering around on a gap year between school and university (or school and work, or university and work).  You may be able to make up your journey as you go, with just you or a travelling companion making the decisions… but the roads and the map are pretty much fixed.

So...  although some agile practitioners talk about how agile approaches can help architecture deliver quicker or better.  I firmly believe that it is architecture that facilitates faster and more robust agile delivery.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Digital Transformation Starts and Ends with a Digital Architecture

The implementation of business transformations within organisations, and especially digital business transformations, is growing to a peak level right now. Chief Information Officers and Heads of Transformation are stepping in to: “digitally enable businesses”, “implement customer self-service channels”, “put the customer at the centre/focus” or just to simply “be more digital” (whatever that means).

However, when you ask these organisations what they are doing to change their internal systems and technical architecture design to facilitate this change, many either go quiet or simply utter something such as “it’s not about technology, it’s mainly about people”… Which I have worked out to actually mean “that technology stuff isn’t as interesting as building something nice & glossy I can show to the board”.

But let’s flip this around for a minute…

Digitally enabling your business usually means taking control of the data in your organisation and enabling it via online technologies. Yes, it does therefore mean the creation of some sort of new database or cloud-based big data lake that can then have modern web services integrated to it, so that some or all of this can be presented within a browser interface.

Implementing customer self-service channels, typically boils down to pretty much the same thing.  Web services and functionality are (securely - obviously) exposed to external customers via web and mobile App channels, so that contact centres or telesales operations can be scaled back or redeployed to different tasks. This also usually comes with a more onerous set of performance & availability criteria, so that a (near) 24/7 service can be offered to customers. However, presenting these services to real users also means that the systems behind-the-scenes need to be able to scale and adapt to changing user demands. Just plugging a rich user interface into a legacy system and hoping for the best is not digital architecture, it is digital anarchy.

Putting the customer at the centre of a business is an easy thing to say and a much harder objective to implement. Most organisations have been created to make money and therefore have lines-of-business designed to perpetuate this purpose. Consequently, technology systems are developed to support these structures and maintain the status-quo, rather than re-orientate things to make sense to the customer or help facilitate their engagement. It might be the ideal, but very few companies actually have end-to-end integrated systems that enable a single customer to be consistently tracked throughout their entire lifecycle. In short, creating technology to enable a customer to be in the middle of a business isn't always as easy as the sales PDF brochure states, especially if you don’t have a decent vision of how these systems need to work together.

So what can a decent technical architecture do for your company’s digital transformation?

It can provide a stable backbone that can support your technical & process change objectives. It can facilitate agile incremental delivery based upon re-usable components. It can help your business grow by supporting integration of other online services, API’s and data sources.

If you’re planning any of this, can you afford to NOT have the right digital architecture?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Google launching subscription tools for publishers

Google has announced it is making renewed effort to help news publishers drive more subscriptions.

Initially these new changes will involve The New York Times and the Financial Times, but apparently the search giant is talking to dozens of other outlets

Full article on Bloomberg here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

6 Ways To Harm Your Business When Updating Your Website

Updating and redeveloping an organisation’s website is almost an inevitability these days. Whether the aim is to add new content sections, comply with legislation, provide a new ‘look & feel’ or because of business changes (such as merger & acquisitions)… a web presence is likely to go through some form of significant change or two in its lifetime.

But the way in which you upgrade and rebuild your site can have a big effect on your business, and more specifically how your rank organically in the major search engines. Organic traffic for most sites makes up between 30% to 50% of all visits and applying changes that affects this traffic means you get less visits, leads or conversions.

So here are 6 of the biggest ways to harm your online search traffic and therefore your key online business metrics in the process:

  1. Change the domain
    Your organisation’s domain is a brand asset and changing it means losing all the search engine reputation it may have built-up over time. On the flip-side, if your domain has been significantly tainted by bad (black hat) SEO practices in the past, it may be best to start from scratch again with a fresh URL. 
  2. Change the user experience
    A change in the site design, the navigation, the directory structure you use and many other factors can influence how your site ranks. 
  3. Change the content
    Not all online content is created equal. The way your copy is written can have a major influence on how your site is indexed and then ranked online.. from its relevance to the search term(s) to the way the text is structured. However, a new web presence is an opportunity to review all of your content (including your images and the meta content behind the scenes). 
  4. Change the hosting platform
    Migrating from one website host to another may seem like a simple task. But where and how you host your website can have an effect on how you rank in Google, Yahoo, etc. especially if the hosting is slow or not located in the country / region where your customers (and target search engines) are. 
  5. Ignore web standards
    It takes hard work and determined effort to deliver a new website, especially if you have tight timescales to deliver to. And the area that can get compromised include: the quality of the code, the compliance to accessibility, the use of ‘alt’ tags for image alternatives, etc. In other words, a failure to follow web standards can have a negative impact on your site’s rankings in search engines.
  6. Re-launch it incorrectly
    Sites fail to launch properly in all sorts of ways, from failing to cut-over all content correctly through to not getting the new site indexed in Google as quickly as possible… you are never going to get a second chance to make a first impression on the main search engines.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Product & UX Quote for the Day

I am at Turing Fest, the tech & digital conference in Edinburgh.
There is unsurprisingly a lot of presentations and chatter about improving the product & user experience.

I was therefore reminded about this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pay Your Amazon Marketing Costs With Your Amazon Revenue

It is now possible to automate your Amazon Marketing Services payment in a new way... with your own Amazon revenue.

Amazon offers those customers who advertise on their global eCommerce platform the ability to deduct their marketing costs from the payment that Amazon makes back to them.

Yes, this can be a double edged sword... in that you don't need to separately fund your AMS spend, but it is also a lot easier to spend money on marketing in Amazon.

Monday, June 19, 2017

User Maps - a better tool to help you build better products

Personas, customer journey maps and other such tools are useful... but how do they really help you build a better product or service?

In this video user research expert Laura Klein demonstrates a tool called a User Map to help product owners answer important questions they need to answer about their customers.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Is IT using the wrong names?

It must be hard for those following the IT Industry as it grows and errrr.... develops.
Recruitment agents, journalists, senior managers, HR / Talent people, etc. They must all think we make up terms just to baffle them.

Let's take a few:

A technology for automatically deploying servers to an environment.
Not a doll or a Thunderbird pilot.

A continuous deployment devops tool for groups.
Not a Sweedish muppet (see above) or a cleaver wielding ego maniac who now sells stock cubes.

An approach to software development where which pieces of code are packaged in a standardized way for subsequent reuse.
Not a metal box you see by the docks.

However.... perhaps us technologists make life more difficult for ourselves and should actually give things new names, rather than appropriating terms from outside the industry?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Android & iOS Have 99.6% Of All Smartphone Sales

Figures published this week from Gartner show that in the last quarter of 2016 the two major smartphone operating systems of Apple's iOS and Google's Android made up 99.6% of all global smartphone sales.

Android shipped 352,669.9 units, making that 81.7% of the market
iOS shipped 77,038.9 units, making that 17.9% of the market

Yup, that's correct. The remaining operating systems, which include Windows, Blackberry and others made up just 0.4% of all smartphone sales in the last 3 months of 2016.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Digital First Doesn't Mean Digital Only

You still read lots of blogs and white papers on the Internet that cite the typical "Digital first" mantra or equivalent phrases such as "Drive all our customers to self-serve", "Provide everything online by default", etc.
And personally I've helped to either put companies online, transform their business models to the always-on world or improve their digital proposition.

But through all of this we really need to occasionally take a step back and consider those prospects or existing customers who are:

- Not able to get access online
E.g. because their internet service is not working or even not good enough

- Not able to fully use the service
E.g. for those who have accessibility needs beyond those met by WCAG compliance (or at least beyond the basic compliance level that is typically aimed for by most websites)

- Not their preference or natural choice
E.g. those who have never used online technologies or feel confused and even frightened by the concept of using something as simple as a browser interface

So when transforming the user experience and building other interactions whilst sitting in your 'cross-functional' agile teams of user experience, product managers, designers, developers, testers and content specialists... take a moment to consider those who are not digitally enabled and how they might get on. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

More payment options could improve eCommerce conversions

According to a recent survey by PayPal, the average consumer in the UK has abandoned a purchase twice in the last month because they couldn’t pay the way they wanted to.

When businesses introduced a new payment type, a quarter saw an increase in sales.