Application Performance Management (APM)  – Monitor Every Critical Swipe, Tap and Click

Posted on : 30-08-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : App, Consumer behaviour, Innovation

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Customers expect your business application to perform consistently and reliably at all times and for good reason. Many have built their own business systems based on the reliability of your application. This reliability target is your Service Level Objective (SLO), the measurable characteristics of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between a service provider and its customer.

The SLO sets target values and expectations on how your service(s) will perform over time. It includes Service Level Indicators (SLIs)—quantitative measures of key aspects of the level of service—which may include measurements of availability, frequency, response time, quality, throughput and so on.

If your application goes down for longer than the SLO dictates, fair warning: All hell may break loose, and you may experience frantic pages from customers trying to figure out what’s going on. Furthermore, a breach to your SLO error budget—the rate at which service level objectives can be missed—could have serious financial implications as defined in the SLA.

Developers are always eager to release new features and functionality. But these upgrades don’t always turn out as expected, and this can result in an SLO violation. Deployments and system upgrades will be needed, but anytime you make changes to applications, you introduce the potential for instability.

There are two companies currently leading the way in Business Service Monitoring, New Relic and AppDynamics. AppDynamics has been named as Gartner Magic quadrant winner in APM for the last six years. This suite of application and business performance monitoring solutions ensures that every part of even the most complex, multi-cloud environments—from software to infrastructure to business outcomes—is highly visible, optimized, and primed to drive growth. The need for such a monitoring tool can be evidenced in the large number of Tier One banks which have taken it onboard.

AppDynamics is a tool which enables you to track the numerous metrics for your SLI. You can choose which metrics to monitor, with additional tools that can deliver deeper insights into areas such as End User Monitoring, Business IQ and Browser Synthetic Monitoring.

The application can be broken down into the following components:

  • APM: Say your application relies heavily on APIs and automation. Start with a few API you want to monitor and ask, “Which one of these APIs, if it fails, will impact my application or affect revenue?”  These calls usually have a very demanding SLO.
  • End User Monitoring: EUM is the best way to truly understand the customer experience because it automatically captures key metrics, including end-user response time, network requests, crashes, errors, page load details and so on.
  • Business iQ: Monitoring your application is not just about reviewing performance data.  Biz iQ helps expose application performance from a business perspective, whether your app is generating revenue as forecasted or experiencing a high abandon rate due to degraded performance.
  • Browser Synthetic Monitoring: While EUM shows the full user experience, sometimes it’s hard to know if an issue is caused by the application or the user. Generating synthetic traffic will allow you to differentiate between the two.

There is an SRE dashboard where you can view your KPIs:

  • SLO violation duration graph, response time (99th percentile) and load for your critical API calls
  • Error rate
  • Database response time
  • End-user response time (99th percentile)
  • Requests per minute
  • Availability
  • Session duration

SLI, SLO, SLA and error budget aren’t just fancy terms. They’re critical to determining if your system is reliable, available or even useful to your users. You should be able to measure these metrics and tie them to your business objectives, as the ultimate goal of your application is to provide value to your customers.

GDPR – A Never Ending Story

Posted on : 28-06-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : compliance, Consumer behaviour, Cyber Security, Data, data security, GDPR

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For most of us, the run up to the implementation of GDPR meant that we were overwhelmed by privacy notices and emails begging us to sign up to mailing lists. A month on, what is the reality of this regulation and what does it mean for businesses and their clients?

There was much agonising by companies who were racing to comply, concerned that they would not meet the deadline and worried what the impact of the new rules would mean for their business.

If we look at the regulation from a simple, practical level all GDPR has done is to make sure that people are aware of what data they hand over and can control how it’s used. That should not be something new.

Understanding where data is and how it is managed correctly is not only fundamental to regulatory compliance and customer trust, but also to providing the highly personalised and predictive services that customers crave. Therefore, the requirements of regulation are by no means at odds with the strategies of data-driven finance firms, but in fact are perfectly in tune.

Having this knowledge is great for business as clients will experience a more transparent relationship and with this transparency comes trust. Businesses may potentially have a smaller customer base to market to, but this potential customer base will be more willing and engaged which should lead to greater sales conversion.

The businesses that will see a negative impact on their business will be the companies that collect data by tricking people with dubious tactics. The winners will be the companies that collect data in open and honest ways, then use that data to clearly benefit customers. Those companies will deliver good experiences that foster loyalty. Loyalty drives consumers to share more data. Better data allows for an even better, more relevant customer experiences.

If we look at the fundamentals of financial services, clients are often handing over their life savings which they are entrusting to companies to nurture and grow. Regardless of GDPR, business shouldn’t rely on regulation to keep their companies in check but instead always have customer trust at the top of their agenda. No trust means no business.

The key consideration is what can you offer that will inspire individuals to want to share their data.

Consumers willingly give their financial data to financial institutions when they become customers. An investment company may want to ask each prospect how much money she is looking to invest, what her investment goal is, what interests she has and what kind of investor she is. If these questions are asked “so we can sell to you better,” it is unlikely that the prospect will answer or engage. But, if these questions are asked “so that we can send you a weekly email that describes an investment option relevant to you and includes a few bullets on the pros and cons of that option,” now the prospect may happily answer the questions because she will get something from the exchange of data.

Another advantage of GDPR is the awareness requirement. All companies must ensure that their staff know about GDPR and understand the importance of data protection. This is a great opportunity to review your policies and procedures and address the company culture around client information and how it should be protected.  With around 50% of security breaches being caused by careless employees, the reputational risks and potential damage to customer relationships are significant, as are the fines that can be levied by the ICO for privacy breeches.

Therefore, it is important to address the culture to make sure all staff take responsibility for data security and the part that they play. Whilst disciplinary codes may be tightened up to make individuals more accountable, forward thinking organisations will take this opportunity to positively engage with staff and reinforce a culture of genuine customer care and respect.

A month on, it is important to stress that being GDPR ready is not the same as being done! Data protection is an ongoing challenge requiring regular review and updates in fast moving threat environment.

With some work upfront, GDPR is a chance to clean your data and review your processes to make everything more streamlined benefiting both your business and your clients.

Everyone’s a winner!

 

kerry.housley@broadgateconsultants.com

 

GDPR – Are You Ready?

Posted on : 30-04-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : compliance, Consumer behaviour, Cyber Security, Data, data security, GDPR

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It is less than a month until the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, but after two years of preparation, how many businesses are GDPR ready? The latest flurry of figures suggest that many businesses are nowhere near prepared for the new legislation’s demands that they: re-establish a legal basis for using people’s data (whether that’s consent or otherwise), are able to quickly respond to subject access requests, can delete people’s data if asked to, the list goes on!

So, what does all this mean for your organisation? Well, firstly, there is no need to panic. Hopefully, you have made a start on your compliance journey, even if you’re not going to make the deadline.  Any business that deals with personal data in the UK is currently bound by the terms of the Data Protection Act.  If you comply with the Data Protection Act, then you will have made a great to start towards GDPR compliance. Regardless of GDPR, any business that takes the needs of its customers seriously will already be taking all the appropriate steps to protect its customers information.  Cyber crime and data theft is ever increasing, and organisations must be prepared for a breach and be confident they can deal with it quickly with minimum fall out. Reputational damage can lose you customers and seriously dent your profits.

There has been much GDPR hype over the last few years with talk of extortionate fines and punitive actions should your business fail to comply. The frenzy whipped up by the media and the new GDPR “experts” is unfounded says Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner.  The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) do not intend to start dishing out harsh fines as soon as the regulation comes into place and neither will they target smaller organisations because they will be easier to catch.  The purpose of the ICO has always been to protect peoples’ data and to help business to do this by providing policy and guidance. It follows the carrot before the stick approach and has always viewed issuing large fines as a large resort. Ms Denham has been quoted as saying the implementation of GDPR will not alter this business-friendly approach.

That said, there is no denying the new regulation and the obligations placed upon all business to comply. At this late stage with a round a month to go, all organisations who have not yet addressed GDPR should try to achieve as much as possible in the run up to the 25th May deadline, to build up their compliance and demonstrate that information security is a priority for their business.

  • It is important to show that your organisation takes GDPR seriously and has taken action and has a plan in place to become GDPR ready.
  • Evidence of action taken is crucial.
  • Review all the personal data you hold, where is it, what is it, why do you need it, how long you need to hold it for, and who do you share it with.
  • Identify whether you are the data controller or data processor of this data.
  • Review of all policy and procedures in place around data protection and identify any gaps.
  • Review all contracts, who process personal data on your behalf, update all contracts with a data privacy clause which shows that processor is protecting the data on your behalf as the controller.
  • Demonstrate that you have a tried and tested Incident Response and Data Recovery plans in place should a breach occur.

You’re far less likely to suffer a significant fine if you show documentation of the GDPR compliant processes you have implemented and show a detailed roadmap of achieving anything that you still need to do.

GDPR isn’t all about the race to comply. Once you have tackled your data protection issues your customers will be happy, and you will have minimised the breach of data risk for your organisation. Everyone’s a winner!

OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri – The Rise of Voice Control Technology

Posted on : 30-04-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : Consumer behaviour, Finance, FinTech, Innovation, Predictions

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OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri…. All too familiar phrases around the home now, but it was not that long ago that we did not know what a ‘smart phone’ was! Today most people could not live without one. Imagine not being able to check your email, instant message friends or watch a movie whilst on the move.  How long will it be before we no will no longer need a keyboard, instead talking to your computer will be the norm!

The development of voice activated technology in the home will ultimately revolutionise the way we command and control our computers. Google Home has enabled customers to shop with its partners, pay for the transaction and have goods delivered all without the touch of a keyboard. How useful could this be integrated into the office environment? Adding a voice to mundane tasks will enable employees to be more productive and free up time allowing them to manage their workflow and daily tasks more efficiently.

Voice-based systems has grown more powerful with the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based computing power and highly optimised algorithms. Modern speech recognition systems, combined with almost pristine text-to-speech voices that are almost indistinguishable from human speech, are ushering in a new era of voice-driven computing. As the technology improves and people become more accustomed to speaking to their devices, digital assistants will change how we interact with and think about technology.

There are many areas of business where this innovative technology will be most effective. Using voice control in customer service will transform the way businesses interact with their customers and improve the customer experience.

Many banks are in the process of, if they haven’t done so already, of introducing voice biometric technology. Voice control enables quick access to telephone banking without the need to remember a password every time you call or log in. No need to wade through pages of bank account details or direct debits to make your online payments instead a digital assistant makes the payment for you.

Santander has trialled a system that allows customers to make transfers to existing payees on their account by using voice recognition. Customers access the process by speaking into an application on their mobile device.

Insurance companies are also realising the benefits voice control can bring to their customers. HDFC  Insurance, an Indian firm, has announced the launch of its AI enabled chatbot on Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa. It aims to offer a 24/7 customer assistance with instant solutions to customer queries. Thereby creating an enhanced customer service experience, allowing them to get easy access to information about policies, simply with the use of voice commands.

It could also help to streamline the claims process where inefficiencies in claims documentation take up insurers’ time and money. Claims processors spend as much as 50% of their day typing reports and documentation; speech recognition could rapidly reduce the time it takes to complete the process. US company Nuance claims that their Dragon Speech Recognition Solution can enable agents to dictate documents three times faster than typing with up to 99% accuracy. They can use simple voice commands to collapse the process further.

Retailers too are turning to this technology. With competition so tough on the high street retailers are always looking for the ultimate customer experience and many believe that voice control is a great way to achieve this. Imagine a mobile app where you could scan shopping items, then pay using a simple voice command or a selfie as you leave the store. No more queuing at the till.

Luxury department store Liberty is a big advocate of voice control and uses it for their warehouse stock picking. Using headsets and a voice controlled application, a voice controlled app issues commands to a central server about which products should be picked. For retailers voice control is hit on and off the shop floor.

So, how accurate is voice recognition? Accuracy rates are improving all the time with researchers commenting that some systems could be better than human transcription. In 1995 the error rate was 43%, today the major vendors claim an error rate of just 5%.

Security is a major factor users still face with verification requiring two factor authentication with mobile applications. However, as the technology develops there should be less of a need to confirm an individual’s identity before commands can be completed.

As advances are made in artificial intelligence and machine learning the sky will be limit for Alexa and her voice control friends. In future stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned.

 

How long will it be before you can pick up your smart phone talk to your bank and ask it to transfer £50 to a friend, probably not as far away prospect as you might think!!

How is Alternative Data Giving Investment Managers the Edge?

Posted on : 29-03-2018 | By : richard.gale | In : Consumer behaviour, Data, data security, Finance, FinTech, Innovation

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Alternative data (or ‘Alt-Data’) refers to data that is derived from a non-traditional source covering a whole array of platforms such as social media, newsfeeds, satellite tracking and web traffic.  There is vast amount of data in cyber space which, until recently remained untouched.  Here we shall look at the role of these unstructured data sets.

Information is the key to the success of any investment manager and information that can give the investor the edge is by no means a new phenomenon.  Traditional financial data, such as stock price history and fundamentals has been the standard for determining the health of a stock. However, alternative data has the potential to reveal insights about a stock’s health before traditional financial data. This has major implications for investors.

If information is power, then unique information sourced from places not-yet-sourced is giving those players the edge in a highly competitive market. Given that we’re in what we like to call a data revolution, where nearly every move we make can be digitized, tracked, and analysed, every company is now a data company. Everyone is both producing and consuming immense amounts of data in the race to make more money. People are well connected on social media platforms and information is available to them is many different forms. Add geographical data into the mix and that’s a lot of data about whose doing what and why. Take Twitter, it is a great tool for showing what’s happening in the world and what is being talked about. Being able to capture sentiment as well as data is a major advance in the world of data analytics.

Advanced analytical procedures can pull all this data together using machine learning and cognitive computing. Using this technology, we can take the unstructured data and transform it into useable data sets at rapid speed.

Hedge funds have been the early adopters and investment managers have now seen the light are expected to spend $7bn by 2020 on alternative data.  All asset managers realise that this data can produce valuable insight and give them the edge in a highly competitive market place.

However, it could be said that if all investment managers research data in this way, then that will put them all on the same footing and the competitive advantage is lost. Commentators have suggested that given the data pool is so vast and the combinations and permutations analysis is of data complex, it is still highly likely that this data can be uncovered that has not been uncovered by someone else. It all depends on the data scientist and where they decide to look. Far from creating a level playing field, where more readily available information simply leads to greater market efficiency, the impact of the information revolution is the opposite. It is creating hard-to access pockets for long-term alpha generation for those players with the scale and resources to take advantage of it.

Which leads us to our next point. A huge amount of money and resource is required to research this data, and this will mean only the strong survive. A report last year by S&P found that 80% of asset managers plan to increase their investments in big data over the next 12 months. Only 6% of asset managers argue that it is not important. Where does this leave the 6%?

Leading hedge fund bosses have warned fund managers they will not survive if they ignore the explosion of big data that is changing the way investors beat the markets. They are

Investing a lot of time and money to develop machine learning in areas of its business where humans can no longer keep up.

There is however one crucial issue which all investors should be aware of and that is the area of privacy. Do you know where that data originates from? Did that vendor have the right to sell the information in the first place?  We have seen this illustrated over the last few weeks with the Facebook “data breach” where Facebook sold on some of its users’ data to Cambridge Analytica without the users’ knowledge. This has wiped $100bn off the Facebook value so we can see the negative impact of using data without the owner’s permission.

The key question in the use of alternative data ultimately is, does it add value? Perhaps too early to tell. Watch this space!

UberEATS – A tax on Hipsters

Posted on : 28-09-2017 | By : richard.gale | In : App, Consumer behaviour, General News, Hipster, Innovation, Uber, UberEATS

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It was Friday night, we’d all had a long week and so family decision to order a fish and chip supper seemed the right thing to do. I called in the order with the local chippie and popped down the road to pick it up.

 

All was well, the place was warm, buzzing with people and the sight and smells of frying fish. Then I noticed one of the guys packaging up food, printing off labels and placing it to the side of the counter. Then it got really strange, men with enormous beards, checked shirts wandered into the shop looking intently at their phones, walked to the counter, picked up a package, placed it in their shoulder bags and walked straight out again without a word to anyone. The shop guys didn’t even look up.  Had we been invaded by a gang of hungry, kleptomaniac lumberjacks I wondered…

 

I had to ask the guys. No. They said. The fish bar has signed up with UberEATS and they now have a whole new set of customers. They used the UberEATS app to order and then used their phone to find and pick up. Now I thought UberEATS was all about delivery but the guys said a lot of people picked up too on the way back from the station.

 

All seemed pretty logical and I was thinking about yet another use of tech to make our lives easier until one of the guys told me they have a different price list for Uber. It’s about 30% more expensive to cover Uber’s take and, because there is no mechanism to NOT do this, they have to charge for small items like ketchup etc (otherwise no one could order them…).

 

This really got me thinking, I get the convenience angle but is it REALLY worth an extra third on your meal just so you don’t have to pick up the phone? Are there other areas where this is the case and what’s the reasoning behind it?

 

I believe it’s the disconnect between the purchasing and the paying which enables this model to succeed. Once this is broken then the cost of buying becomes less important. It first really began with credit and credit cards where you could buy things you couldn’t afford but now I think the distance has become even greater.

 

I don’t like to use Uber myself but each month money comes out of my card for Uber journeys by various other members of the family. They effectively have a free, on demand, always available transport system whilst I have various amounts of random expenses. I get the convenience factor – out in town on a rainy evening and it’s great to know a clean car with a friendly driver is close by – but for most other journeys then a quick call to our local minicab firm ensures the same service, often at a better price and we’re supporting a local business too.

 

Once I started to think about time value vs. cost aspects of this then the new model started to break down. But pretty quickly, the scale, the tech and service plus the obscuring of costs outweigh any pricing concerns.  As these disruptive concepts grow into the mainstream, Uber and other disrupters still need to learn how to operate within the existing rules. Maybe….