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!!

5 Minutes With Mark Prior

Posted on : 18-12-2015 | By : Maria Motyka | In : 5 Minutes With

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Which recent tech innovations are you the most excited about?

I get most excited about how my business can benefit from technology (whether it’s new or not). It’s my team’s job to understand our business; its processes, strategy and competitor landscape and bring technology to bear to address those challenges.
Smith and Williamson is a very client centric business – there is a great opportunity to leverage even well-established technology like IPT, Workflow and Document management to improve the service we provide to clients. Additionally Cloud based collaboration tools offer new ways to engage with our clients 1-1 and perhaps open up new markets for services.

Like all industries if we can both improve the service to the client through technology and at the same time lower the cost of servicing a client we will be successful.

From a pure technology perspective I’m looking forward to improvements in price and functionality of end user devices – particularly low cost 2in1 windows devices displacing the desktop or traditional clam laptop as the default end user device. I hope the combination of these devices, windows 10, office 365, Wi-Fi and IPT will provide a better mobile platform that’s easier to manage and support and offers a seamless user experience regardless of location and connection type.

Looking ahead I’m also interested in how graphene will impact IT – whether it’s in battery technology or the size and speed of microprocessors, it appears to have the potential to be revolutionary (and it was invented in the UK!!).

 

How do you see business applications in wealth management adopting As-a-Service operating models?

Firms buy solutions that best meet their needs – how those solutions are delivered is often secondary, however vendors that deliver their solution (only) as a service are I feel better placed to rapidly adapt and evolve their offering as it’s a single code set, single port etc. This should keep their costs down and by passing those savings to customers they will drive adoption and create a virtuous circle. It should also mean they can focus development resource on new features rather than maintaining multiple code sets and branches.

 

In your opinion, what are the biggest data security risks that financial organisations are currently facing and how can they be overcome?

I think everyone understands the need for perimeter security, good patch management, access controls etc. But I think an area this is sometimes overlooked are “end users” either inadvertently or deliberately exposing data. We need to ensure we classify our data based on risk, educate our employees and have appropriate audit trails and controls based on data classification (all easier said than done). Service like MS Office 365 and OneDrive mean this has to be driven as much by policy and education as by IT.

 

Why did you choose Broadgate to assist you? What value has working with Broadgate brought to your team?

I’ve known the team for many years and trust them to do a good job for their clients.

Broadgate’s engagement style is collaborative and consultative, unlike other firms where every conversation is viewed as a selling opportunity.

 

Which technology trends do you predict will be a key theme for 2016?

Every year we think it will be cloud – maybe this year it will happen (though personally I’m not sure it will) Financial service firms are still hesitant to put client data into the public cloud and many firms say the cost of cloud is more than the marginal cost of adding capacity to their own facilitates.
Hosting strategies are difficult to formulate as the options are many and varied with no clear leaders. I think Google will drive into MS market share (a few years ago I can’t recall anyone seriously considering alternatives to MS Office) which should ensure healthy competition and better options for their customers.

Data is like Oil….Sort Of

Posted on : 30-09-2015 | By : Jack.Rawden | In : Data

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  • We are completely dependent upon it to go about our daily lives
  • It is difficult and expensive to locate and extract and vast tracts of it are currently inaccessible.
  • As technology improves we are able to obtain more of it but the demand constantly outpaces supply.
  • The raw material is not worth much and it is the processing which provides the value, fuels & plastics in the case of oil and business intelligence from data.
  • It lubricates the running of an organisation in the same way as oil does for a car.
  • The key difference between oil and data is that the supply of data is increasing at an ever faster rate whilst the amount of oil is fixed.

So how can data be valued and what exploration mechanisms are available to exploit this asset?

The recent prediction that Google will be the first company to hit the $1 Trillion Market Cap is a good place to start to identify the value of data.  Yes, they have multiple investments in other markets, but the backbone of the organisation is the ability to capture and utilise data effectively. Another similarity is the valuation of Facebook at $86 dollars a share and ~$230B market cap with tangible (accounts friendly) assets of around $45B.  The added value is Data.

This highlights that calculating a company’s data worth or value is now integral in working out the valuation of an organisation. The economic value of a firm’s information assets has recently been termed ‘data equity’ and a new economics discipline, Infonomics, is emerging to provide a structure and foundation of measuring value in data.

 

The value and so price of organisations could radically alter as the value of its data becomes more transparent. Data equity will at some point be added to the balance sheet of established firms potentially significantly affecting the share price – think about Dun & Bradstreet, the business intelligence service – they have vast amounts of information on businesses and individuals which is sold to help organisations make decisions in terms of credit worthiness. Does the price of D&B reflect the value of that data? Probably not.

Organisations are starting appreciate the value locked up in their data and are utilising technologies to process and analyse the Big Data both within and external to them. These Big Data tools are like the geological maps and exploration platforms for the information world.

 

  • The volume of data is rising at an ever increasing rate
  • The velocity of that data rushing into and past organisations is accelerating
  • The variety of data has overwhelmed conventional indexing systems

 

Innovative technology and methods are improving the odds to finding and getting value from that data.

How can an organisation gain value from its data? What are forward thinking firms doing to invest and protect its data?

1. Agree a Common Language

Data is and does mean many things to different firms, departments and people. If there is no common understanding of what a ‘client’ or ‘sale’ or an ‘asset’ is then at the very least confusion will reign and most likely that poor business decisions will be made from the poor data.

This task is not to be underestimated. As organisations grow they build new functions with different thinking, they acquire or are bought themselves and the ‘standard’ definitions of what data means can change and blur. Getting a handle on organisation wide data definitions is a critical and complex set of tasks that need leadership and buy-in. Building a data fabric into an organisation is a thankless but necessary activity in order to achieve longer term value from the firm’s data.

 

2.Quality, Quality, Quality

The old adage of rubbish in, rubbish out still rings true. All organisations have multiple ‘golden sources’ of data often with legacy transformation and translation rules shunting the data between systems – if a new delivery mechanism is built it is often implemented by reverse engineering the existing feeds to make it the same rather than looking at the underlying data quality and logic. The potential for issues with one of the many consuming systems makes it too risky to do anything else. An alternative is to build a new feed for each new consumer system which de-risks the issue in one sense but builds a bewildering array of pipes crossing an organisation. With any organisation of size it is worth accepting that there will be multiple golden copies of data but the challenge is to make sure they are consistent and have quality checks built in. Reconciling sets of data across systems is great but doesn’t actually check if the data is correct, just that it matches another system….

3. Timeliness

Like most things, data has a time value. As one Chief Data Officer of a large bank recently commented ‘data has a half-life’ – the value decays over time and so ensuring the right data is in the correct place and the right time is essential and out of date/valueless data needs to be identified as such. For example; A correct prediction of tomorrow’s weather is useful, today’s weather is interesting and a report of yesterday’s weather has little value.

4. Organisational Culture

Large organisations are always ‘dealing’ with data problems and providing new solutions to improve data quality. Many large, expensive programmes have been started to solve ‘data’. Thinking about data needs to be more pervasive than that it needs to be part of the culture and fabric of the organisation. Thinking about data (accuracy, ownership, consistency, and time value) needs to be incorporated into organisations as part of the culture, articulating the value of data can help immensely with this.

5.Classification

Understanding what is important rather than having a blanket way of dealing with data is important. Some data doesn’t matter if it is wrong or not up to date because either not consumed (obvious question is – then why have it?) or irrelevant for process.  Other data is critical for a business to survive so a risk based approach to data quality needs to be used and data graded and classified on its value.

6. Data ownership

Someone needs to be accountable for and owner of data and data governance within an organisation. It does not mean that they have to manage each piece but they need to set the strategy and vision for data. More large organisations are now creating a Chief Data Officer role to ensure there is this ownership, strategy and discipline with regard to their data.

Data is the core of a business and there is a growing acknowledgement of its potential value.

As the ability to extract information and intelligence from data improves there will be some disruptive changes in the market value of firms that have the sort of data which can improve the organisations market share, profitability and potentially traded.

Companies that have huge amounts of information regarding their customers: banks, shops, telecoms firms will be well positioned to take advantage of this information if they can manage to organise and exploit it.

 

The Blockchain Revolution

Posted on : 28-08-2015 | By : richard.gale | In : Cyber Security

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We’ve been excited by the potential of blockchain and in particular bitcoin technology and possibilities for a while now (Bitcoins: When will they crash?  More on Bitcoins..  Is someone mining on my machine? ). We even predicted that bitcoins would start to go mainstream in our 2015 predictions . We may be a little ahead of ourselves there but the possibilities of the blockchain, the underpinning technology of crypto currencies is starting to gather momentum in the financial services world.

Blockchain technology contains the following elements which are essential to any financial transaction

  1. Security – Blockchain data is secure as each part of the chain is linked with the other and many copies of that data are stored among the many thousands of ‘miners’ in an encrypted (currently unhackable) format. Even if a proportion of these miners were corrupt with criminal intent the voting of the majority will ensure integrity
  2. Full auditability – Every block in the chain has current and historic information relating to that transaction, the chain itself has everything that ever happened to it. The data is stored in multiple places and so there is a very high degree of assurance that the account is full and correct
  3. Transparency – All information is available in a consistent way to anyone with a valid interest in the data
  4. Portability – The information can be available anywhere in the world, apart from certain governments’ legislation there are few or no barriers to trade using blockchain technology
  5. Availability – There are  many copies of each blockchain available in virtually every part of the world blockchains should then always be available for use

The blockchain technology platform is flexible enough to incorporate additional functions and process without compromising it’s underlying strengths.

All major banks and a number of innovative startups are looking at ways blockchain can change the way transactions are executed. There are significant opportunities for both scale and efficiency using this technology. Areas being researched include;

  • Financial trading and settlement. Fully auditable, automated chain of events with automated payments, reporting and completion globally and instantly
  • Retail transactions. End to end transactions delivered automatically without the opportunity of loss or fraud
  • Logistics and distribution. Automatically attached to physical and virtual goods with certified load information enabling swift transit across nations
  • Personal data. Passports, medical records and government related information can be stored encrypted but available and trusted
There are still some significant challenges with blockchain technology;
  1. Transactional throughput – limited by banking standards (10’s of transactions per second at present rather than 10,000’s)
  2. Fear and lack of understanding of the technology – this is slowing down thinking and adoption
  3. Lack of skills to design and build – scarce resources in this space and most are snapped up by start-ups
  4. Complexity and lack of transparency – Even though the technology itself is transparent the leap from the decades old processes used in banks back offices for example to a blockchain programme can be a large one. In the case of time critical trading or personal information then security concerns on who can view data come to the fore.
  5. Will there be something else that replaces it – will the potentially large investment in the technology be wasted by the ‘next big thing’?

We think blockchain could have a big future. Some people are even saying it will revolutionize government, cutting spending by huge amounts. If blockchain transactions were used to buy things then sales tax and various amounts to retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers could be paid immediately and automatically. The sales person could have the blockchain credit straightaway too.

Blockchains could remove huge levels of inefficiency and potential for fraud. It could also put a significant number of jobs at risk reflected in John Vincent’s article on the future of employment.

Is your small business the next target for hackers?

Posted on : 28-08-2015 | By : kerry.housley | In : Cyber Security

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Cyber attacks make great headlines but behind the headlines are the real stories affecting real business.  The fact is that smaller medium sized companies are increasingly more likely to be targeted than their larger counterparts.  SMEs are now considered the biggest target in the cyber threat landscape.

There are many reasons for this, smaller companies don’t think that that they have anything of interest to hackers “why would anybody want to attack us we don’t have anything to steal”. They couldn’t be more wrong,  even if they don’t have any information which is of interest in its own right they may well provide a way into a larger organisation in their supply chain.

Some worrying statistics are emerging which show hackers are specifically targeting smaller companies as they do not have the budget for people or technology to protect themselves. Key risks for smaller firms are:

  • Lack of security policies and controls
  • Low levels of knowledge of potential threats and methods to combat
  • Small or no budget allocated to cyber protection
  • Outdated technology and update procedures
  • ‘Ostrich’ approach to risk assuming it will happen to someone else

The impact of a cyber attack on an SME can be disproportionate to its size. Larger companies can absorb relatively large losses well and can call on external help to resolve  – Sony’s breach in the end was estimated at £35m which had negligible impact on a multi-billion dollar organisation. For smaller firms, any loss (whether cyber or other fraud) can put them out of business if it impacts cash-flow and could result in the loss of major clients if they are part of a larger firms supply chain.

It is crucial to understand that information assets are more valuable than you might think.  Although larger enterprises now appear to be taking steps to protect their organisations many do not look to their partners and vendors so they too are guilty of not understanding the effect on the supply chain.  There is no point in pulling out all the stops internally to protect information assets if the companies that you do business with are not doing the same.

Many commentators have described SME’s as the Achilles heel in the business world which will result in devastating financial consequence if they do not take appropriate action to protect their information assets.  The UK Government Information Security Breaches Survey 2015 found that 74% of SMEs had reported that they had suffered an information security breach. They also found that severe attacks can now cost up to £300k+ for a smaller business.  This would put many smaller companies out of business as they couldn’t afford to take a hit this big.

In response to this threat the UK government have launched a number of initiatives designed to help SME’s to understand the cyber security issues that they face. 2014 saw the launch of the Cyber Essentials Scheme which is designed to be a much simpler way for business to take steps to limit their risk of a breach.  Most recently in July a voucher scheme has been set up which will enable SME’s to apply for a maximum of £5000 which can be used to fund specialist advice from Information security specialists that they otherwise would not be able to afford.  These initiatives are designed to increase the resilience in the UK business community to cyber attack. Ed Vaizey digital economy minister has said “We want to protect UK business against cyber attack and make the UK the safest place in the world to do business online.”

It is imperative that all businesses of any size understand the cyber threat and the effect this has on their entire supply chain network. Always know who you are doing business with and take steps to ensure you know how they are protecting your information assets.

In addition to assisting many ‘blue chip’ clients we also provide information risk assurance to smaller organisations. Often this can be quickly assessed with our ASSURITY product. Please do get in contact if you need some advice.

Kerry Housley

Kerry.Housley@broadgateconsultants.com

 

“Scores on the Doors” – The Broadgate Brand Perception Survey Results

Posted on : 27-05-2015 | By : Jack.Rawden | In : General News

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Recently Broadgate kicked off an internal initiative to try and gauge the “Broadgate” brand and it’s perception across its stakeholders.  In March a survey was distributed and responses flowed thick and fast.  Respondents were from a variety of groups, from clients to partners, associates, rivals – even one of Broadgates director’s mothers.  If you were one of the people that took the time to respond, thank you.

Survey Aims

Since 2008 Broadgate has been providing Technology and Business Services to a range of institutions.  A decision was made in January this year to see if Broadgate could gain an understanding of how it is viewed by its stakeholders. As a company we were keen to get a feel for:-

  • How the Broadgate “Brand” is seen and what is associated with it
  • If there are any gaps in services Broadgate are currently providing
  • Our Communication Channels, how people use them and the content
  • If there is anything that Broadgate should be improving

Results from the survey were combined, analysed and key trends/themes emerged. Broadgate has taken valuable insight from this and some of the findings are included below.

Broadgate Brand Quotes

Communication

Broadgates communication channels have been generally well received.  Stakeholders have reviewed the Broadgate twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, website, blog and newsletter.  In general the level, detail and frequency of communication was good and as part of the process Broadgate will continue to develop these, particularly the newsletter to keep content informative and relevant. In the near future the newsletter will receive an updated look and we will strive to continue to produce informative, relevant and forward thinking articles.  There will also be a push to improve the social media content, so if you don’t already, follow Broadgate on LinkedIn, Twitter and soon Google +.

Brand Perception

The good news for Broadgate is that the Broadgate name and brand is overall perceived well.  Trust, knowledge and strengths all scored highly.  This is something that as a company we will endeavour to keep and improve as Broadgate grows.

A few comments that came from the survey associated Broadgate as being “Credible”, “Un-biased”, “Knowledgeable”, “Delivers Value”, “Experienced” and “Flexible”.  From a Broadgate perspective this aligns with Broadgate’s “Core Values” and what we pride ourselves as some of our key strengths.  We will continue to work to these “Core Values” and ensure that our standards don’t slip.

Could improve

The survey did highlight some areas in which Broadgate can improve and work has been started to try and improve these areas.  Broadgate has a social media presence, however, respondents to the survey did not view or engage with the content.  Broadgate also needs to improve visibility on its core technical strengths between groups.  Certain groups see Broadgate differently to one another, which means there is an issue with the way Broadgate is communicating its core skills and values.  Work has already started on both of these areas and hopefully these will be resolved in the near future.

Overall the survey has been a success, things that Broadgate are doing well will be the core values for Broadgate as it progresses and expands further.  Areas for improvement will be addressed and plans are in place to try and remediate them.  All feedback received has been taken on board and will used to improve the level of services Broadgate provide.

More on Bitcoins….

Posted on : 31-01-2014 | By : richard.gale | In : Finance, Innovation

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Our article last year on the future of virtual currencies provoked a great deal of interest (“Bitcoins: when will they crash and what is coming next?“). One area we didn’t touch on was the threat to banks and other payment systems. Transaction costs for payment systems are very high and Bitcoin may offer sellers a much cheaper way to transact.

We are using Bitcoins as an example but it could be applicable to any virtual currency out there.

Obviously the internet has revolutionised the way we buy and sell products and services. New payment firms such as Paypal have emerged through clever technology, become massively successful and then bought for huge amounts of money.

The issue is with Paypal and other transaction systems such as Visa/Mastercard is the charge to the retailer can be excessive. If a company is working in a high margin space then this is less of an issue but a the majority of internet companies rely on a large number of low margin transactions. With Paypal & Visa generally charging between 1 & 3% of total cost this can reduce and almost eliminate any profits. If multi-currency exchange rates are then applied then profit can disappear altogether.

It is generally accepted that Bitcoins transactions costs are insignificant compared to Paypal, Visa etc –  there is some debate around the actual costs (Bloomberg’s Matt Levine thinks transaction costs are on a par or higher than Visa)  but transaction cost of using Bitcoins is around 0.1-0.2%.

Another potential advantage of Bitcoins or alternative currencies generally (Altcoins?) is that the exchange rate transaction can be controlled and may not be needed at all. Money can be held in Bitcoins and so if an individual or company buys and sells in Bitcoins it can be used as a common currency (like having a consolidated FX bank account) so eliminating expensive foreign exchange transfers.  Unless Bitcoins replace all existing currencies then at some point some money would have to be transferred but it would the net difference after buying and selling rather than a ‘tax’ on each transaction.

The success of Bitcoins, as with any currency or payment method, depend on a wide enough acceptance (with associated trust etc) to make transactions viable and easy. Bitcoins have a long way to go for general acceptance but more and more places both virtual and real are starting to accept them.

Obviously there are other important factors including general acceptance, volatility & reputation that may impact the acceptance of the alternative payment methods but it should make sense for etailing firms and will be keeping Paypal Executives awake at night. An obvious way for them to fight the risk could be to reduce their transaction costs. Paypal is immensely profitable and their model would probably still work with a lower margin, we are not so sure in regard to Visa & Mastercard with heavyweight organisational structures and legacy processes & systems.

If nothing else the rise of the virtual currency will provide some competition and lower costs for retailers and so hopefully buyers too!

 

From a single view of a customer to a global view of an individual – bespoke banking for the mass market

Posted on : 02-09-2013 | By : richard.gale | In : Innovation

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Customer interaction with banks can be complex. Historically this has resulted in lost opportunities for both institutions and their clients with neither obtaining full value from the relationship. Forward looking banks are addressing this through changes in thinking and technology.

Banks have many touch points with their existing & potential clients;

  • Accounts –  such as current, saving, loan, share trading, business/personal, mortgages
  • Products – such as life insurance, pensions or advisory services
  • Channels – face-to-face, telephone, ATM, web application, mobile, social media and a multitudes of formats in advertising and marketing
  • History – banks have bought and absorbed many different, divergent firms and may not have fully integrated across people, process & systems

The complexity potential of this interaction combined with the sometimes disjointed nature of these organisations mean that connections are not made and so opportunities can be lost, customers can feel undervalued whilst increasing the potential for fraud.

Change – Cultural & organisational integration

Most banks are huge organisations with thousands of staff based around the globe. To scale the organisation, roles have become more specialised and most people have deep skills in relatively narrow fields of the banks overall capability.

This has worked well and has enabled the global growth of the organisation but opportunities are being missed to further grow customers and clients through the consolidation of information and consistency of customer experience.

That additional value can be enabled by a cultural shift towards a ‘one bank’ philosophy, most banks have these programmes in place and seem to work at the infrastructure level but a different way of thinking that gives an incentive to think about other areas that could help their customer.

To enable this to work there would need to be a supporting framework in place;

  1. Knowledge of the other areas/business units/geography – a simple view of a complex environment is critical
  2. Open & effective communication channels – the mechanism is less important than the knowledge that it is available and there are people listening and willing to help
  3. Communication needs to be valued and seen to be valued by all levels with the business

Improve – Customer Relations

Timely, accurate & complete customer intelligence  is critical. Who, what where are your customers? What do they do, what do they like & dislike and what are their dreams? Gaining this insight into your customer’s mind and tailoring communications & solutions to match this will make them want to do more business with you.

A major factor in achieving this will be to collate & analyse all possible information and so having a single point (such as customer relationship team)  accountable for ensuring its accuracy & completeness will help this process.

Having a more complete set of information in regard to your customer will help understand their needs and, with a consistent approach to communication, also help avoid alienating them through providing inaccurate or inappropriate information or advice.

As important to consistency & completeness is the longevity  of the relationship. Customers in the past have generally stayed with the same bank for a considerable time, this ‘stickiness’ is now being eroded through;

  • Improved knowledge – of other options available
  • Legislation – forcing switching of accounts to me made easier
  • Changing attitudes – people are commoditising purchasing and usage based on value and quality ahead buying from a single company
  • Technology – information from many sources & companies are available on a phone or tablet

The relationship between a customer and a bank is similar to any long term partnership, it’s based on a set of core features; trust, openness, well-being. equality amongst others.

Thinking about these principles when engaging with a customer will only help the relationship endure.

Integrate – Infrastructure, systems & applications

Large scale, standardised technology has been the norm for banks interacting with their customers. This works and has been the only real way to handle the millions of transactions from thousands of customers in the past.

That same core technology still underpins the banking world but with the advances in capability & speed and parallel reduction in cost there is an opportunity to build a view of the individual and then start providing bespoke services on a manufacturing scale.

The move to more customer centric technology should enable the standard bank account holder to experience a ‘Saville Row’ world for a Marks & Spencer price.

An impact of this may be that the Private banking and Wealth management divisions of banks will have to raise their level of service to differentiate from the ‘norm’.

The use of data analytics to search through the volumes of data and analyse and extract insight and value from it are essential tools to achieve the bespoke solution.

Big Data databases and tool-kits can help provide the framework but knowledgeable teams of people with both the understanding of the customers and technology will be required to provide answers and the next set of questions to achieve an even greater level of customer satisfaction, retention and growth.

From CIO to CEO – Can clouds break glass ceilings?

Posted on : 24-11-2011 | By : richard.gale | In : Cloud

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As technology becomes even more entwined in the fabric of organisations, the opportunities for technology executives will increase. Will a CIO’s potential promotion to CEO be as commonplace as the CFO or COO in the next few years? Historically, with a few technology industry exceptions, it is rare for CIOs of organisations to become CEOs. CEOs either come from the profit-making, client side of the business or the financial area. CIOs are generally seen as managing a silo and being a cost centre rather than being a part of business growth.

How can cloud computing change this? Cloud infrastructure has been hyped to be the answer to almost every technology issue and we think it does have great potential. However, will it change the make-up of a CIO and go as far as to alter the way businesses view them enough to take the chair at the top table?

Well, we think that the IT department in a significant number of organisations will transform radically over the next few years. Let’s take universal banks as an example. Why would a global bank build and operate £200m datacentres? It is nothing to do with their core business and has significant financial, personnel and regulatory complexities. They only do it because they have to. They have vast processing requirements and need to support a huge level of increasing demand. Furthermore, new technologies are always breaking through so the equipment, skills and services constantly have to be upgraded and renewed.

Cloud or Utility computing fundamentally changes this model. If computing is seen as another resource to be switched on and off as required (with an associated usage based charging model) then the basic questions to be answered are:

–          What is the cost of supply compared with others?

–          How reliable, safe and secure is the supply?

–          How flexible and appropriate are the providers?

Obviously it is unlikely that all of the major banks’ IT operations would be placed in the cloud, but it will become the exceptions that are not in the cloud rather than the default.

The traditional IT department would then shrink down to very specific IT functions that were not suited to be run elsewhere. Obviously business-focused change and delivery teams will be the core functions and will keep on growing. Another focus of the ‘IT Department 2016’ will be on management of the demand and supply of technology with vendors. Infrastructure IT will become a relationship management and negotiation function requiring people to change their skillset radically or a different set of resources altogether. The emphasis will be on finding the most appropriate execution venue with external suppliers for an application rather than building the disk or server farm to house it.

So how will this impact the CIO and their future career direction?

–          The move to utility computing will enable CIOs to focus more or real business value and change.

–          CIOs will have to be even more business-orientated, managing external suppliers and their internal customers.

–          CIOs are less likely to be dismissed as ‘techies’ as they will no longer manage large technology-led departments & datacentres.

–          They will be more involved in the strategic future of organisations as the commodity aspects fall away

The modern CIO is already on this road and the future will further embed IT into the backbone of firms.

However, being an essential part of the fabric of an organisation is not enough in itself to get the leading role. Other aspects which are common to CEOs are needed such as the ability to have an external focus, international or overseas experience and proven business experience and qualifications. The business sector also matters – technology & manufacturing organisations currently have many more CIO to CEO promotions than financial services, for instance. But there can be little doubt that the impact of cloud could play a small but important part in ensuring that more CIOs become CEOs in the future.

 

Clouds, Grids & Meters – The commoditisation of computing. Are there blue skies ahead?

Posted on : 07-05-2011 | By : richard.gale | In : Cloud, Data, Innovation

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In the last year or so Cloud technologies seem to be everywhere, every bank’s technology department is desperately building private clouds, and most vendors are re-badging  their services as Cloud products.

Cloud computing is advertised on television &  the Underground in London – even my mum knows about the Cloud.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle shows Cloud technologies are currently near the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and are ready to fall into the ‘Trough of disillusionment’.

Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2010 (c) Gartner Inc

Cloud computing is and will be a significant part of the future of computing technology – basically because it makes sense to utilise only what you need when you need it – as you do with electricity, water and gas.

Without the hype Cloud will become a utility.  Why would anyone want to spend money on hardware, infrastructure, real-estate, support, licences and resources when there are computing utility companies out there ready to supply you with reliable, secure computing power on demand from their extensive, global grid.

We think a couple other references from the supply of utilities and the market place are crossing over to the computing world:

Metering

 

The location of a electricity meter within your home is a given. It provides both you and the supply company with common reference point the amount of power consumed.

In most IT organisations the usage processing power is more granular, it is generally bought by the server, the processor or maybe a proportion of the machine and charged whether the power is utilised or not. This is changing with the provision of first virtualised and now cloud based services but does metering make sense in this context?

A number of challenges need to be addressed in order for this to work. Your household supply is generally from one provider supplying all the power. The electricity company itself will purchase power from multiple suppliers and sources but you have one retailer.

With Cloud there are multiple vendors potentially both internal and external to your organisation that want to supply you directly with computing resources. It is likely the larger organisations would have more than one supplier for different purposes, pricing or risk mitigation purposes – the hybrid cloud.

There are opportunities here for service companies to provide the metering capability whilst managing the wholesale suppliers of computing – this model could result in better prices for clients as the metering company’s bulk purchasing power should drive the ‘cost per CPU tick’ down.

Smart metering is currently a hot topic in the utilities world and a convergence of computing, electricity & other utilities is likely in the near future.

­­­Virtual Marketplace and Exchanges

 

Amazon constantly innovates to provide new services and products which has kept it the number one online retailer for years. The success of the ideas varies but the introduction of a virtual marketplace where other vendors can sell using the Amazon site now provides a significant slice of revenue for the company.

Could this be applied to computing power & resources? There is no reason why not – sellers of product could advertise their products and organisations could ‘click and buy’.

As these products are commoditised then the next logical step is the construction of a Cloud Exchange with many buyers and sellers in the market with a constantly changing price depending on demand and supply. A futures market of computing power with derivatives trading on trends and market intelligence would surely follow.

Cloud computing is growing significantly and Forrester expect it to expand from $40B today to $240B by 2020 (differing slightly from the Gartner view) with the significant part of that Software as a Service. We think that Business processes as a Service are the area where a significant advantage can be created from the Cloud and are currently working with our partners to build a strategy to progress this.

It will be interesting to see if and how far organisations will use the cloud for their core revenue generating applications – currently the appetite is very limited due to concerns over security, control & reliability as highlighted in Amazon’s cloud recent outage.

Concerns over hidden costs (such as transition/migration costs, architectural changes & integration aspects) are starting to rise as maturity of the model progresses.

The book is open on how long it is before Cloud becomes so part of the normal world that it ceases to be mentioned – on the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ in Gartner’s words.