Payment Security. Has it been forgotten?

8 11 2013

People may think I’m not being serious with this post title, but I really am. These past few weeks yet more examples of security not being taken seriously in the payments market have emerged. It started with an article I read on Finextra regarding Google bypassing the secure element on an Android phone for NFC based transactions. It’s the launch of HCE (Host Card Emulation).

 

HCE and NFC

I’m not going to go into too many details and technicalities about it, but my own take on the whole situation with HCE, NFC and Google is that Google and the card schemes are changing the rules in which payments are supposed to be made. They are doing this to better fit with their own solutions, and to potentially lock out ventures like ISIS in the US and WEAVE here in the UK and at the risk of security.

There are strict reasons behind PCI compliance and the use of EMV (secured chip and pin to most of us) and it seems that these are now causing issues for Google and others, so instead of looking for real solutions they change the rules. A great take on this can be found on finextra here

 

QR/Barcodes in transactions

These are the choice of many payment solutions out there, including my own companies CloudZync with Zwallet. However, QR and Barcodes are easy to create, especially static ones, so using these for passing payment information has to be taken into consideration, and I would never allow an authorisation of a payment to be made just because a valid code has been scanned. Yet I have witnessed many solutions out there now that do this…

With Zwallet we always make sure the consumer is involved in the authorisation process fully, so we keep intelligence in the process at the cost of 1 second in the transaction process. For me, 1 extra second making a payment is well worth it to aid in security. (I would like to point out that Zwallet transactions are still dramatically quicker than typical card based transactions, even with the added 1 second for security).

 

Security underlying cause for concern?

So what is the underlying cause of security concerns with payments? What really causes so much effort to go into technology a trying to patch security issues or catch fraud post a transaction? The answer is the actual card scheme itself and the infrastructure behind it.

Let’s be real. Cards are amazing. For the last 40 years they have steadily dominated the way in which most of us pay for goods and services. But, has security increased much in that time? A little is the answer. There is a lot more technology backed behind it, but fraud is back on the rise again, so we must ask ourselves why. And the answer is simple, cards were never designed for the digital economy. Everything that we do to utilise the card infrastructure is a cludge, a patch/hack in tech terms. All this technology and security to try and secure something that is very insecure, 16 digits on a card, mixed with two dates and 3 digits on the back.  If we lose control of those details then a fraudster can do whatever they want with our cards, and that’s why so much is invested in fraud detection post a transaction and so much is invested in risk management.

My fear is, while card based transactions using Chip and Pin remain ok, the way we use cards digitally isn’t so secure. Throw into the mix mobile payments and companies actively trying to utilise card details in their solutions to make payments, and holes start to appear. In essence, trying to use technology to secure something that by its nature is not secure causes all sorts of issues. And though great lengths to make things much more secure are possible, the costs behind these rack up.

No matter how you try to secure card details, or to what lengths you go, the fact remains that the infrastructure for cards requires those simple card details, and fraudsters are becoming increasingly intelligent, innovative and capable of getting their hands on those details and using them.

 

The security solution

The only real secure option is to start with a blank sheet of paper for payments and wake up and realise that the digital economy requires payments to be carried out on an infrastructure that is designed for digital transactions from the ground up. It also MUST include more human elements in the process and not just require everything to be automated.

Real intelligence still remains with the consumer and the business. By removing them from the process more and more, we may make the payment process a little quicker, but we increasingly make it less secure. After all, the process of me having to know my PIN to make a payment is far more secure if I have lost my card, compared to just waving my card in front of a reader and making a payment.

These are the reasons behind the security approaches we have at CloudZync, the reasons why we make sure the consumer has to actively be involved in the purchase process and actively have to authorise each and every payment. If we remove them too much, then there are more gaps for fraudsters to exploit.

I’m not saying everything can be 100% secure, it simply can’t, and intelligent innovative fraudsters will always find a way to exploit processes and technology, but we must actively make it as hard as possible, and currently, in the race to stamp authority on possibly the payments method of the future, security seems to be being overlooked…That is a great concern of mine, and should be a great concern for each and every consumer out there and business owner…





Tech marketing, blogs and press…Simply misleading a lot of the time

22 05 2013

If you work in the tech industry, if it’s your profession, then like me, you probably get frustrated reading numerous tech blogs, press releases and general marketing hype. You get frustrated no doubt for the same reasons that I do, these reasons being any one or all of the following:

  • Nothing really to talk about, it’s all just marketing guff
  • The facts are just wrong
  • Appears to be written by someone who is being paid by a rival company
  • Buzz words or popular terms are used and applied to software / tech when they shouldn’t

While finding any one of these in a blog is frustrating, finding more than one is just plain annoying and I believe bad journalism. Unfortunately, now that anyone can have a blog and voice an opinion (which I actually like) it does seem that there are so many miss informed and miss guided opinions, comments and blogs clogging up the web. Actually finding out the real facts, and valuable online sources is now a tough job…

So this post maybe a bit of a rant, but hopefully it will also help people to look beyond the marketing hype and start to try and understand the real facts behind the posts they read.

 

Nothing new here

A pet hate of mine is reading claims, marketing hype and articles that claim something new has been created or invented by a company when the simple truth is, it hasn’t. There are so many companies that do this, but the biggest and probably the best at it is Apple, and Apple supporters.

To be fair here though to Apple, they don’t out right claim it’s something only they have thought of, they just let their marketing machine lead us to that conclusion. I am sure many of you can think of numerous adverts, claims etc that the iPhone, iPad etc have made and realised that actually you aren’t seeing nothing new here….I could list so many (and I did in my draft of this blog, but it was starting to read like a rant so I’ve limited it to just one recent claim).

So this one really sticks in my mind and relates to Apple in-ear headphones (or ear plugs when they first were seen on the market in the late 80s). When I watch the advert it drives me mad. The advert pretty much paints a picture that Apple is the first company in the history of ear phones to create an earphone that has been shaped for comfort and to fit in your ear. How they get away with that one I will never know. Ear phones like this have been around since the Sony Walkman! (well almost).

But, lets hand it to the Apple marketing machine, it does work, and is it their fault if the public falls for this?

 

The facts are just wrong

This is a hate aimed at most tech blog posts to be honest. So many of them publish statements or claims or opinion that is just simply wrong. Sometimes these gaffs are so obvious that it brings into doubt everything that person ever writes about. I’ve seen many an example, especially involving smartphone tests, that illustrate that the writer hasn’t even used that particular device, as the statements they have made are simply wrong.

Again some examples….Windows 8 was in consumer preview and I read a few blogs posts that claimed that Windows would no longer support multiple monitors. I also read that you couldn’t flick between apps, claims that you couldn’t run old software and numerous other claims that simply showed that the writer hadn’t actually seen or used Windows 8.

It’s not just Microsoft who get a bum deal with writers getting their facts wrong. The same can be said for Apple, Google and Amazon. With that in mind, you really need to read a number of press releases and blogs on technology before you get the correct picture (if you are unable to get your own hands on that tech and form your own opinion)

 

Appears to be written by someone on the pay roll of a different company

Ahh my fav. Many tech blog posts have a real warped view, biased stance and take. It seems you get blogs that are very much “pro Apple” in which everything Apple does is amazing and Microsoft does is awful. On the flip side it’s just as easy to find very “pro Microsoft” blogs, which claim everything Microsoft does is amazing and Apple’s efforts are awful. Let’s not leave out Google, who have already been caught paying blog writers and commentators to bad mouth rivals and big up their own solutions.

If you read blogs that do appear to be slanted towards one company / brand or another, then it’s probably the case they (or their company) receives some form of funding from that company, or the writer is simply a fan boi who cannot write without expressing their love for something different. Opinion in reviews should be left to the reader, not shoved down your throat.

 

Buzz words that don’t apply

This is a tricky one as fault can be laid at so many doors. Let’s take the term “wallet” as an example. This is a real buzz word in the digital world at the moment, with many organisations now claiming they have a “wallet” solution. But you have to look at each solution to see what they mean. Marketing doesn’t help here, as we have solutions that aren’t related to a mobile wallet at all claiming to be a wallet. Google checkout is a great example. It’s a checkout process which Google put together to semi rival PayPal. However, this has now been branded Google Wallet….Really? How, it’s nothing to do with an actual Wallet and not related to their actual Mobile Google Wallet solution. So that is highly misleading.

There are lots of other wallets out there which mislead you. For years now you have been able to purchase or download a “wallet” for your iPhone. But what do you get? An app that lets you store pictures of payment cards and receipts??? Is that really a Wallet or just a photo album? Even Apples Passbook is marketed as a Wallet, and yet I can do wallet things with it. Windows Phone 8 wallet is another example, it’s not really a wallet. It seems most “wallets” are either glorified holders for pictures, or are apps that let you access other apps. Is that a wallet? I don’t think so…But Wallet is the buzzword at the moment, so lots of things that aren’t wallets claim to be wallets…

 

Make your own decisions

Reading just one blog on a subject just doesn’t cut it. You need to read 3,4,5+ blog posts from very different writers and sources before you start to get a more complete picture of something. I personally stay away from highly opinion focussed blog writers, which means there are quite a few writers I no longer read. These are writers for some big blog sites, like ZDNet, CNet, TechCrunch etc. Though these blogs do have some good writers, they also have a lot who are far too biased in their writing and comments, and I’ve now learnt to check who has written the article before I actually read it. You soon get to know which blog writers are good and which are poor.

As for reading blog comments these days, I find I only read them or comment on those blogs that obviously moderate and check comments for content first. I don’t want to wade through hundreds of pointless abusive comments to find those few valid comments and responses. If a blog has more than 10 comments I often skip the comments area these days…





The Hacker mentality in development

8 11 2012

There is a lot to be said for hackers, many of them are, well quite simply, brilliant with computers and poses some great knowledge. I’m not approving of what they do, as I think those actions are disgraceful and show a blatant disregard for the law, privacy and peoples livelihoods. However, many companies build their software with a hacker mentality, which is “get on and do it, make it work” kind of thinking….Lots of doing, little planning….I can’t think of anything positive to be said about having a “hacker mentality” when developing a piece of software or a platform. Such a mentality is ok for building proof of concept parts of software, you simple cobble together a rough solution that shows the concept and you use it to overcome / address some technical difficulties you may see in the future. However, take that mentality and approach into the actual project and it’s only a matter of time before something comes back to bite you…

 

Facebook

Facebook is the biggest and most obvious example I can think of. The platform and social network is brilliant in many ways. However, spend much time trying to use it for business, for managing ads, campaigns etc and you get the feeling that everything really is “cobbled” together in true hacker mentality fashion. Things just don’t seem to play well or consistently and you seem hamstrung by so many restrictions which have been basically caused by not enough forward planning, rather developers just doing…You really do feel like the platform was built for its one role, and that everything else is almost stand alone trying to be bolted to the UI.

In recent weeks I have watched a digital marketing agency wrestle with Facebook in order to get it to behave how it really should. It’s not the agencies fault, far from it, once they managed to get someone from Facebook to talk too; it became apparent that most of the staff at Facebook are aware of the amount of bugs in the system and the restrictions that are in play. For me, the whole experience is at best “proof of concept” and essentially shows that there has been a real lack of forward planning. Facebook is a company though that was founded largely on “doing” rather than planning…

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some impressive concepts with Facebook and many parts of it are implemented very well, but you cannot get away from the fact that anything outside its original core feels like its been added on as very much an afterthought and that its very “prototype” in terms of feel and implementation.

 

Technical Architecture

I’m not going to bang on about the right way to do things, rather just to say that any development project really needs certain key roles, and the biggest two are ETA (Enterprise Technical Architect) and TA (Technical Architect). These roles don’t fit in with the hacker mentality at all. If you have two people who fill these roles, and do their jobs well, you will find that as a project grows and new requirements come on board, that they can be added to the system in quite an efficient way. Tested separately and rolled out smoothly. The new additions become seamlessly part of the software and things don’t feel cobbled together and they don’t feel like prototype or beta software. Why? Well because these people plan for the unexpected, they see the bigger picture and look at what potentially one day may also be required from any given part of software. If you plan your system like that, when new requirements do come along, you can build them into the overall solution without causing any “jarring” effects within the software or for the user.

Having people who ensure you plan all components for the future keeps longer term costs down, and delivers software that can truly grow with your business. There is nothing worse than having to go back and re-engineer code because it was implemented with only that one function / requirement in mind…

 

Adaptive, SCRUM, RAD…

There will always be a better way to run your IT projects. New methods for ensuring you get code developed quickly, built to specification and future proofed. However, without having people who think ahead at an enterprise level (regarding technology, architecture etc) or people actually ensuring developers do the same, then no matter your methodology, changes further down the line won’t be easy, rather they will be quite troublesome, slow to implement and often result in a cobbled together field, ala Facebook ads management…

You simply can’t beat people who forward think…





Will Mobile kill free services?

31 05 2012

Sorry to be blogging about Mobile again, but at the moment it’s my main focus of work….In this post I want to have a quick look at the problem mobile presents to companies that live, and potentially die based on advertising revenues.

 

The advertising model

The biggest player in building their business solely on advertising revenue is without doubt Google. Almost everything it does is based around gaining more information on us users, so that it can effectively deliver adverts back to us in a better fashion, so we are more likely to click on them, and Google gets paid. The more clicks, the more Google earns and can even charge. It’s this model that allows Google to deliver pretty much all of their services, and software (Android springs to mind) for free, all funded by charging for adverts. Don’t kid yourself that Google delivers services for free because it’s a loving, don’t be evil company. Most of the things Google deliver for free are there to help Google gain more data so they can advertise more effectively. Mobile is a great example, and one of the reasons Google purchased Android, so they had a mobile presence to locate us and advertise based on geographic locations.

Google isn’t the only company that lives by charging for adverts, there are many businesses out there, small and large, especially online, that make their money mainly from delivering adverts. How many times do you go to a website and there are adverts delivered on it? How many times do you read a blog with adverts delivered on it? Quite a few. Even Facebook only makes money because it charges for adverts that are delivered on the website to us users.

So what happens to companies if they cannot effectively deliver adverts any longer?

 

The Mobile Problem

Currently Facebook is becoming rudely aware of this problem, so much so that its newly floated stock is now trading almost $10 down on its launch. Why? Well it’s all to do with the company’s ability to monetize and take advantage of its 900m user base. You see, on Facebook the website (used from a desktop) we have adverts constantly being shown to us. These are tailored ads, based on what I like, what I talk about, my own personal status, and as such Facebook can charge for these. However, if I use Facebook on my mobile phone, these ads simply aren’t there. The concern is then, with so many more of us using our mobile phones as our primary device to access the web that companies won’t want to pay for adverts if no one is able to see them. This basically means Facebook can no longer deliver ads effectively.

This problem isn’t limited to Facebook. Think of those free apps we have all downloaded that have ads being displayed. They are free because the ads are paying for them. But how much space do those ads take up, and typically you can only see one single advert. The problem is that ads jar the mobile user experience, they don’t fit in well and the user finds themselves scrolling to see the actual content they use the app for. I for one have un-installed 5 or 6 apps now where I simply got annoyed with the adverts.

Don’t think though Google is exempt here. Using search on your mobile is fine, and Google still can display its sponsored links there, however, a chunk of Google’s revenue is displaying ads on other peoples websites, blogs etc. As more of us turn to mobile to access the web, these adverts start to disappear, and therefore so does Google’s revenues from these ads. The next mobile problem is that many of us prefer Apps over a browser experience on our mobile phones. This means we start to not even search using websites like Google.com, rather we use an app. I for one use the Bing app, the user experience is far better than visiting the mobile website version, and it integrates with other tools and functions, such as QR code scanning, voice and local scout (which delivers search results local to me and includes such things as local restaurants, points of interest etc.) This means the only adverts I have any chance of seeing are those sponsored links that come back in a handful of searches.

With all this in mind, can the likes of Google even see revenues falling as it too struggles to deliver ads down to mobile devices? Sure, Google has a big enough market share of search to survive, but can it charge enough to then keep subsidising so many of its ongoing projects, and even worse, the number of failed projects that have cost millions which are raking up?

 

End of free services?

We have got used to so many free services online, Search, Social Networks, watching videos etc. All these things cost money, and currently so many of them are funded purely by the ability to deliver adverts to us online. Mobile really does threaten that model, if you can’t successfully deliver a number of ads down to user’s mobile device, then why will a business advertise with you? If revenues start to fall, then how long is it possible for companies to make losses on all these free services? Google subsidises everything it does based on adverts, but if those revenues can no longer support everything Google does, will we start seeing services getting switched off, or having to pay for them? No doubt Google search will survive, but the question is can Google afford to deliver everything else it does for free?

For the likes of Facebook, the mobile threat is even greater; it really does present a problem. Keep in mind that if this is true of Facebook, a company with some 900m active users, then it will be for any business that is built on advertisement revenues. Mobile really could be the death of free services online, unless companies can figure out a new way to deliver adverts back down to our mobile devices. That’s tough, especially since ads ruin the user experience currently. At the moment, mobile could be the grim reaper for so many free services.

…We shall see….





Kindle Fire in the tablet market? errm…No…

29 09 2011

So yet another tablet has been launched, this time the Amazon Kindle Fire, and again we find another entry into the tablet market is being touted as a possible iPad killer. But is it really? Have companies, such as Amazon, RIM, HP etc actually got it right when it comes to tablets? I don’t think so…

Kindle Fire

Is the Amazon Kindle Fire anything new in the tablet marketplace?

In the beginning there was Bill…

It seems an age ago that we heard Bill Gates telling us that the future of mobile computing was with touch, and he showed us a number of “Slate laptop” type things. I loved this concept, but unfortunately the UI just didn’t lend itself to this kind of touch environment, and as a result, business and consumers didn’t embrace the whole thing.

Fast forward a number of years and we have Apple announcing the first iPhone, which to be fair was not a great phone in terms of features. However, what Apple did was deliver a user experience that was not even closely matched, they delivered a sleek easy to use, touch based UI and consumers loved it. Add on top of this the “app” store capabilities and we soon have what we know as the leading smartPhone on the market.

 

Phones lead the way for tablets

Essentially tablets were dead, until Apple then decided to manufacturer what seemed to be, a bigger iPhone but without the phone capabilities, tablet. The iOS suited touch, and was easy to use, and it
appealed to consumers who liked the idea of surfing the web from their sofa on something bigger than their phone. It appealed to us running Apps on a bigger screen. And, well, the iPad has taken off. It dominates the tablet market place, and when you look at the competition, you can see why.

Many state the tablet market is highly competitive, and that is true if you aren’t Apple. Essentially everyone else is fighting it out for Apple scraps in this marketplace, which Apple has a monopoly on. All the other offerings have come at the tablet market in pretty much the same way, thats use a touch based phone OS and get it on a tablet…Namely Android in the majority of cases.

 

What a consumer actually wants?

Yesterday with the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire, many people said it will succeed because it delivers what consumers want, well I’m not so sure. Analysts are constantly stating that Amazon has people’s card details, so it’s easy for them to open up their online stores and make content and apps highly available to the consumer, allowing the purchase sequence to be seamless. Well I am sorry, having to re-enter some card details is no barrier to a consumer at all. Also, do we really feel comfortable with so many companies now holding our card details? Just look at the Sony incident? In
addition, we are all making the assumption that all the consumer wants to do is consum simple Apps, books, videos and music on their tablets. Well I don’t agree…

 

Problems…

So is what the Kindle Fire offering more of what consumer’s want (well the Price maybe), but probably not. Do we honestly see people looking at the iPad and then thinking, No, I will opt for the Amazon Kindle Fire? I don’t. Do we really see people looking at other tablets that aren’t the iPad and thinking, I will go for the Amazon device because the seamless payment is better? No. Do we see people opting for the Kindle Fire to replace their Kindles? Now that’s a BIG NO…People bought the Kindle as an eReader, and it’s brilliant at that. Not because its easy to buy books on (though that is true), not because Amazon has my card details, but because I can actually read a book as if it was a real book. Dont get this confused with the user experience. The eInk screen is brilliant, you don’t get eye strain like you do from a tablet, you can read it outside, and essentially, it works well…The Kindle Fire, is not the same, it’s a standard colour tablet, which means I am not going to be getting rid of my Kindle to read Kindle books on that…

So there are a number of problems here. Finally, do we see people going for a tablet that is so small? So far, tablets of around the 7” size haven’t made much of an impression, and I can see why. With smartPhones offering almost everything a tablet does in term of apps etc. what is the real benefit of having a tablet that in some cases is only 2” bigger? Amazon Kindle Fire or HTC Titan Phone?

 

Flexibility, consumer need and business drivers

Tablets are here to stay, but the next big thing in them is actually to deliver real flexibility in terms of how we use computers today. At the moment, tablets are too much like big phones than they are small portable computers. But don’t get me wrong, for many consumers this is perfect for them. I know some people run quite complicated Apps, but this is a rare feature. If I want to do some real computing, and some real tasks I need at least a notebook, or a laptop, hell even a fully blown PC in many cases…

Let me give you an example. One of the Directors I work with, bought an iPad 2, which he takes to all meetings we have, which he loves and uses a lot. However, I take a notebook running Windows 7 Starter. Why? Well it’s my need. I would love to take a tablet, but none exist that allow me to do all the things I want to (at the moment that is). While he looks at the odd app, browses the web on his iPad, and that’s about it, I have to plug my machine into projection screens, I have to run presentations, I have to modify those presentations, I have to go through technical prototypes and even
demonstrate applications, proof of concepts and much more, all from that little notebook. And that notebook is holding real databases on it, real development environments.

When I go on holiday, I take the notebook with me, as I can pretty much do everything I need on it (well within reason). I would love to swap it for a tablet, and have that user experience you get with a tablet for the 60% of my needs, but I simply can’t because of the other 40% of needs. So for me, I make do on my phone for what people use tablets for, and I own a notebook. What I want is real flexibility in the tablet marketplace…

The same applies for businesses. While some have adopted the iPad for certain applications, many find that it doesn’t quite deliver everything they need. The limitations of using essentially a Phone OS is too limiting for business and power users. We even find that businesses want to be able to run certain applications on a tablet, but this just isn’t possible, so reps etc use notebooks or take fully blown laptops with them…

 

Tablet market future?

Well who knows. I for one don’t believe iOS is going to be rivalled by any Android based tablet. Nor do I believe that the iPad will come up against much competition based on devices that rely on “content access” and “seamless payments” as major selling points. No, the Apple iPad will only be challenged once more is possible with a tablet than is currently on show in the market.

Enter Windows 8…Windows 8 could potentially be a game changer in this market. On many tablet devices it will run only “Metro”, but it is running real windows and delivers the power of a PC, and that flexibility to a tablet. In addition, on some tablets (just like the one given away by Samsung at Microsoft’s BUILD conference just a few weeks ago), you will have the full power of a PC, with “Metro” and access to the real desktop.

Windows 8, Metro Style

Windows 8 could be the game changer in the tablet marketplace

What does this mean? Well it means for typical “tablet needs” that we see in the market today, you have that with Windows 8. You have access to the Microsoft App store and you will have access to content from Amazon, eBay etc just as you do from your PC. In addition you have a full PC there, in your hands, so if you need to do more with it you can. You also have the option of different devices running the same software, and at different price ranges (just like we have today with PCs).

Going back to my own example. Windows 8 on a tablet would mean I would ditch the notebook. I would use the tablet 60% of the time, just like people use their iPads today. But, when I need to, I am able to carry out that other 40% of tasks on the same device. (Note I will not be replacing my PC, anyone who things we will only own tablets instead of PCs is wrong, or they see us with tablets accessing far larger screen). I will take away a USB keyboard and maybe a docking station for the device, and I can use it just as I use my computer at work. Now that’s real flexibility. Throw in all the added benefits of being connected to Azure with Windows 8, and I find that my little tablet is my PC at home, it is my PC at work…Now that’s real flexibility which opens up the tablet market to many more business users, and consumers…

The tablet market isn’t competitive at the moment. But I believe it will be, just not until we see Windows 8.





Why does Apple love HTML 5?

20 03 2011

There is an awful lot of talk and hype regarding HTML 5, with one of its main advocates being Steve Jobs and more importantly, Apple as a company…What so many don’t ask themselves is “why is Apple making a big push for something that essentially provides them no revenue”

 Apple often site HTML 5 as one of its reasons for not supporting Flash and Silverlight, stating they support the web free of plug-in technologies and want to ensure the web stays open source etc etc. Whenever I hear this it is so obvious that there is a different agenda, after all it makes no sense for Microsoft (with Silverlight) or Adobe (with Flash) to charge for these technologies, if they did, no one would use them and no websites would leverage them to deliver rich applications. What I continually find astonishing is the amount of so called journalists and bloggers that believe that Apple want a free, open web. Let’s remind ourselves, Apple exists to make money…

What’s in it for Apple?

Let’s ask ourselves, what’s in HTML 5 for Apple? I mean really in it for them? The answer is, Apps…

Now I may have lost you there, you probably thinking apps have nothing to do with HTML 5 as such, and you would be right. You see, HTML 5 is the future of the web for sure, and it will bring new life to the web with animiations, even video playback to an extent, (though we have this via Flash and Silverlight already, so nothing new to the web, just new to HTML). HTML 5 won’t make the web a “richer place”. You see, HTML 5 will still suffer the same limitations, namely running in a browser, the web architecture and the end user experience (not to mention cross browser compatibility issues, DDA compliance etc etc). This means websites wont be all singing and dancing apps, rather they will remain pretty much website experiences we have at the moment (well with a bit more “jazz” to them). You see, Apple is counting on the web going back to its roots more, and we are seeing this with many more websites looking cleaner, and simpler to meet certain compliancy issues and to make life easier for users (not to mention making life easier for developers when supporting all browsers across all platforms). What Apple doesn’t want is real rich applications to be delivered via HTML 5, well not the type that can compete with desktop based applications, or mobile apps.

Apple doesn’t want HTML 5 to be the wave of the future for application development because it can’t make money from that, rather it wants us all to have to “download” and use specific “apps” for platforms. Think the iPhone App store and you see what I am getting at.

Essentially one of the biggest reasons people opt for the iPhone is not because it’s the best looking phone, it has the so called best screen display (which it doesn’t) nor these days for its revolutionary touch screen and OS, no, it’s because of the App store, and the rich “internet” experiences these apps open the user up to.

Flash and Silverlight are technologies that can deliver “apps” via the internet and over the internet, cross platform, cross browser etc and all from the same code base. This is a real threat to Apple. After all, if I can write a great app using Silverlight and have it deployed with small mods to any form of device, then as a development company I have opened up my markets and saved money. This is a good thing. However, Apple now would have an app that, though rich and great on its platform, is just as good and readily available on other platforms. Which detracts from some of the appeal of its own product.

You see, Silverlght and Flash are real threats to Apples unique “app” store.

Here is an example of why Apps are the future and why Apple wants us all to love HTML 5.

How do you use Facebook on your mobile? Do you use a browser and the HTML version? Probably not because it’s too slow, clunky and the end user experience not that great. You use Facebook via your Facebook app for your mobile, which you downloaded from an App store (for apple, android or market place for windows). Apple take this further with the iPad, providing not just an app for your iPhone, but a slightly different app that works better on the iPad, the iPad being something that apparently is designed for web experiences on the go. Yet it still wants you to download apps, and, that is one of the reasons why Apple don’t want us to use Flash or Silverlight, because these technologies can deliver rich “apps” onto any platform potentially, not just specific to the iOS.

Today I watched an advert for sky news, and there was no mention of the sky news website, only that, for the very best experience, use the sky news iPad app…What does that tell you?

This confirms that Apple see Apps as a way of cornering the web market, especially when over 30% of web consumption was via mobile devices last year in the UK. The future of the web is reverting back to information based sites, with richer websites being delivered in HTML 5 yes, but real applications, and real rich intuitive experiences that work on multiple devices coming from dedicated apps.

Conclusion

Apple doesn’t want to supports Flash or Silverlight, if it did it means they have lost their app store edge. Imagine sky news delivering one solution for all platforms via Silverlight. The advert would have been “get the very best experience with our Sky News App, for iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Android and to your desktop”…Immediately, I don’t need to have an iPad to get the very best experience, rather I can choose which device, which OS, all of which detracts from Apple’s marketing and business plans in many may ways.

Apples tactics of using “content” to help us make the decision to purchase their hardware aren’t anything new. Look at how VHS beat off Beta-max? VHS was a lesser solution, but it had more content on it, and more to the point, content that was in high demand. Because of this, it meant users opted for the VHS platform as they then got the films they wanted, which meant Beta-max sales dropped until there was only one, VHS.

So while we all harp on about how great HTML 5 will be, we must remember that the big players (especially Apple) want it to succeed only to destroy Flash and Silverlight, which plays right back into their hands of delivering true rich experiences, only via their platform specific dedicated apps and app stores..And of course, we all do, so we will all be using apps to access the web…

I am a strong believer in the future of the web being Apps, as applications will always be able to potentially deliver far richer end user experiences. What I don’t want to see though is the need access the best experiences based on hardware and what is made available though an “App” store.  We should be able to access these apps directly from web pages, and opt for the mobile version, or the desktop version, or the slate version.

HTML 5 may be a way of lighting up HTML and making it richer, but it potentially could also be the way of forcing us all down the route of App stores and choosing hardware to best access web content. Now to me, that is not the point of HTML 5…





Why BPM, ECM and CRM struggle with Social Media

26 11 2010

There are a number of reasons why individual projects struggle with social media, hell there are many reasons why organisations continue to get social media “wrong”, but in this post I want to look at why these three “silos” fail to get to grips with social media….

Very much individual silos

Now this may at first not seem to be a bad thing. But when you think more on the subject you start to see issues. There are big areas of cross over amongst these three, massive even, yet they still are considered individual (and they should be for the time being, because almost all vendors see these as single silos).

Social Media though is very flexible, and the end user (customer) expects to be able to interact with the organisation via Social Media (especially Twitter and Facebook), and what’s more they expect whoever communicates with them to understand their “account”, or “details”. But this form of interaction within Business at the moment still wants to be highly structured. The comment may be viewed as content, but the process that may be kicked off by that interaction is very much in the BPM world of things. So immediately you have twigged that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are required to deal with a single interaction…

So the first big problem here is that ideally, each “silo” (BPM, ECM, CRM) should know and understand what I term as CCS, and in this case of the other silo as well as itself.  CCS being “Content, Context, Status”. As individual silos though, this is hard to actually do. Sure we can put together some costly integration, but this integration is at certain points and offers certain information, so does this type of integration understand CCS?

Too structured too rigid…

Let’s now through into the equation that all three, ECM, CRM and BPM are very rigid. ECM requires that you know the type of content and often that you state its “type”. However, social media means we could be talking about anything, so a tweet could go over any number of “types” within our ECM platform, or it may warrant a new type, a new classification. This is where we have an issue, ECM is too rigid to adapt to the new requirement, that our agent has discovered there and then. This leads to a hell of a lot of content being dropped into rather large, and not that useful classifications, probably “Social Media” as its type…Great use…But this is nothing compared to the issue we now find with BPM…

BPM enforces strict processes on our agents, they follow (almost all vendors do this) a flow chart approach and as such, means we cannot move away from that process. How frustrating is that for an end user? Knowing that something different needs to be done, but having to allow the social interaction to trigger off a very strict process flow which could be completely wrong…

Finally CRM. Our CRM silo is often at this stage completely unaware of anything at all. If it is integrated it may have a “tab” for “Corres” which means a big old list of correspondence with the customer that is documented. That’s fine for 10 years ago. But now imagine the number of “corres” records stored that may make up a rather simple interaction between the customer and your business. You could have any number from 1 or 2, up to hundreds, and that’s just on a single topic being raised via social media….

The solution?

Here I have a couple of pointers for a far better solution….

A Holistic approach. As a business, demand a holistic approach, not just for social media requirements (though it serves as a great example of illustrating the problem), but in general. With a holistic approach, the solution delivers far more accurate information to the agent. It empowers them with all the information they need. Think of all the customer information they may need to have to hand to understand the customer, all the related content, the context and of course the status of the interaction. Now think of the variety of work this form of interaction could generate. What the problem could be? Is it a problem or a serious complaint? If a complaint, what areas of the business does it relate too? (The potential for work is huge, which leads me onto my second pointer…

Adaptive work processes. Note I haven’t said BPM here. BPM I feel is far too restrictive (based on the version of BPM put forward by most vendors and BPMS as a practice). However, we are talking about processes that the business executes. In this situation the agent needs to understand what process to kick off. However, it could be a brand new one. In this case that agent needs to be able to identify that processes, the work that needs to be done and then, kick it off.

Single Silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. As a business, a great opportunity arises to use vendors that provide a single silo for ECM, BPM and CRM. Not only does a single silo provide a far better solution to deal with Social Media, but it provides a far better solution full stop. A single silo will understand CCS at all times, be you in a process, simply looking at content or reviewing customer details. A single silo also simplifies the agents experience, while delivering flexibility to them to allow them to do their jobs. There are of course other big benefits, think of savings on licensing, think of savings on administration and think of savings made on integration costs / development / that classic which so many vendors term as config (which is development).

Conclusion…

Social Media has shown a real weakness in the way we currently structure a business in terms of delivered IT. We use IT now very much on a “product” basis. Business purchases a product for x, a product for y and if x and y need to talk, look at integration. However, a bespoke solution would have been better, one that incorporated x and y…But bespoke just isn’t something business wants to hear (probably because they cost more and because businesses have been burnt with bespoke development in the past)

…The solution is for “products” to deliver more and merge x and y itself. A break away from single silo approaches is required, and ECM, BPM and CRM are very obvious silos that should all be as one, the social media problem illustrates a bigger issue…








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