Application Services provides a platform for IT Development and Maintenance professionals to discuss and gain insights into best practices, process innovations and emerging technologies that will shape the future of this profession.

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September 28, 2012

Tellers to Tablets - Can Social Media become the Payment Channel of tomorrow?

It is really hard to ignore the large scale adoption of social media. Already one tenth of the world's population has a Facebook account and the number of people logging onto YouTube every month is more than 500 million. Businesses are also flocking to social media and leading the charge here is consumer goods closely followed by other segments.

Banks have been able to adapt well with the digital world with social media and mobile payments emerging as the next big destination for banks.Those who get their first could reap rich rewards...

The relevance of banking via social media offers the brick and mortar banks a clear opportunity to expand their service portfolios and capitalize on a new generation of e-bankers. The global trend of consumers using disruptive technology and social networks as a primary channel through to manage accounts and carry out transactions is a clear indication that the financial services market has evolved.

Consumers are now using established platforms for integration of mobile solutions like smartphones and tablet PCs to transact and manage accounts - basic banking services which previously were in the sole control of banking institutions.


Also, the role of social media is to compliment the banks to expand & improve their service offerings to newer markets to attract more customers. Technologies today help the banks migrate onto the social graph (the point at which the payment technology converges with social networks) and capitalize on the interest of mobile driven customers. Experts forecast that the rise of the social graph will facilitate the replacement of payment via credit cards as early as 2020.

On the other hand, many banks are still contemplating on whether to join the Social Media Bandwagon primarily because of regulatory issues and the humongous amount of technology enablement required. Many banks cite regulatory hurdles as one of the largest deterrents to embrace social media. Also, to extract the most out of this new age media, banks will need to create or harbor optimal IT environments that support these new age channels perfectly.

So, are Banks ready to make the change - shed their legacy filled IT worlds for more nimble and agile IT environments? Can Social Platforms or Social Media really become the Payment Portals of the future? Do watch this space for more.

 

September 25, 2012

From 'just support' to 'highly strategic' - the evolution of application maintenance and operations (AMO)

Albatross". "Necessary evil". "Budget eater". Over the years, application maintenance and operations (AMO) has received many undeserving monikers. Beyond the CIO's office, AMO is an enigma - misunderstood and written off as cumbersome and constant re-tooling done by "those IT geeks". This is a pain shared by most CIOs across leading global organizations. And during my many interactions with some of these CIOs, they have shared their angst - no management buy-in for AMO, the perception of being a cost-center, and worst of all, the inability to see value beyond "keeping the lights on".........

For more on this, please visit Thought Floor

September 10, 2012

Is Consumerism in IT Industry impacting the Enterprise Applications?

Recently, I was talking to a friend from my school days who now runs a cooking gas connection agency. He showed me his latest Samsung Galaxy S3 with a slew of apps that he uses for his regular work. The apps that he uses include Reminders to Evernote to various social media apps. He is so familiar with the 'Apps' language that it is difficult to imagine that he has nothing to do with IT industry or that he was uninitiated to apps just 2-3 years back.
The more I think of it, the firmer is my belief that that smartphones have truly conquered the last standing brick and mortar businesses, people and activities. At the personal level, people are using different 'Apps' to improve their productivity and connect with people. What does this mean to enterprises and more so for the applications within enterprises...

 

Recently, I was talking to a friend from my school days who now runs a cooking gas connection agency. He showed me his latest Samsung Galaxy S3 with a slew of apps that he uses for his regular work. The apps that he uses include Reminders to Evernote to various social media apps. He is so familiar with the 'Apps' language that it is difficult to imagine that he has nothing to do with IT industry or that he was uninitiated to apps just 2-3 years back.
The more I think of it, the firmer is my belief that that smartphones have truly conquered the last standing brick and mortar businesses, people and activities. At the personal level, people are using different 'Apps' to improve their productivity and connect with people. What does this mean to enterprises and more so for the applications within enterprises?

I think consumerism of IT will create new benchmarks as the user base of the consumer and enterprise apps is common and thus there will be an obvious comparison between what is offered on their phones/tablets and what is offered internally within the organization to get the work done. The IT departments need to be ready for that and see how they can manage these expectations proactively.
Few areas that come to mind immediately are:

1. High End User Experience - Many users will use high end devices for personal use that will have top quality user experiences modeled around them. This will make them wonder as to why the app that they use at their workplace doesn't behave in a similar manner. It might also impact the user adoption of some of the IT apps that can make the underlying business processes dysfunctional.

2. Personalization - Many apps on the smartphone/tablets have the ability to learn user behavior and modify the behavior of the application accordingly. How many enterprise apps do this at this time? At best, the personalization is restricted to some standard things like currency, language and color schemes that one can choose. In fact, the enterprise apps can collect far more information than the consumer apps and utilize it meaningfully to offer truly personalized options. For example, while using the invoice entry application, if a particular user is making frequent mistakes on a certain screen, the user can be alerted and if required a short training capsule can also be provided.

3. Enterprise Social Connectivity - On a regular weekday, we spend almost one-third of a day in office. Consequently, all of us have our share of social network within the company. With some, we share our hobbies while with some others we share issues related to work. Can we tap into this enterprise social network to improve our work habits and outcomes? Suppose there is a customer service agent and he has a network of his peers and gurus in his profession. How that can be utilized on the fly to improve the experience of customer on the line? Can he take advice in calming down an agitated customer from his guru? Can he utilize the network to solve some unique problem that the customer is having? Can he look at the discussions happening within his network and learn from it?

4. Shorter Turnaround Times for Upgrades - Look at the pace in which the consumer apps are getting upgraded. Most apps follow weekly release cycle. What does this mean to enterprise IT apps? The users will expect a quicker turnaround time for their problems. While the complexity between enterprise app and consumer app is very different, the users may not be ready to wait for months together to get a particular issue fixed. The IT departments need to find a way to develop and deliver solutions to users on a monthly basis than the earlier 3-6 month cycles.

If we put this in perspective, to me, it means that the enterprise IT departments need to look at how they can provide similar features to users of their applications. The broad user group will push for such Apps in an enterprise setup. If the enterprise IT departments are not able to respond to these needs, they might also look for options outside the organizations (read SaaS and buy application services in the utility mode.

Where to start then? It will need a careful evaluation of current application portfolio to align and prioritize applications and then decide if an application or set of applications need to be modernized, retired or replaced. If this exercise is done with regular periodicity, say once a year, then it will help the IT teams to respond to the needs of their users effectively and efficiently. This will also lead to a much satisfied user group. Is there is an end point to this? I don't think so , this has to be an ongoing activity with some major technology breakthrough and industry dynamics acting as a trigger.

What do you think? How enterprise IT groups will respond to these trends or business users will end up moving to SaaS based applications?

Why Invest in UX for your Staff

We all know that benefits of good User Experience (UX) cannot be overstated.With the new wave of smartphones and tablets, UX has assumed center stage in the discussion.Good UX sells; bad UX gets negative feedback...

We all know that benefits of good User Experience (UX) cannot be overstated.With the new wave of smartphones and tablets, UX has assumed center stage in the discussion.Good UX sells; bad UX gets negative feedback and tweets.See any app store feedback list; you will see that if an app has good UX it will get 5 stars and will feature on the top of the "downloads" lists.

So it would come as no surprise that enterprises are paying a lot more attention to the UX Design of their customer facing systems.But when it comes to applications for their staff, companies cut corners more often than not.  Some of the common reasons I hear are:
1. Audience is captive and will use the system whatever the "experience" so why spend time/money for UX.  
2. Users don't care as long as it works without bugs.
3. Budgets are tight so I would rather get two more features than a fancy screen with just the rest.

  
Yes, some of the concerns are genuine but I think this is an increasingly untenable position.I have personally come across at least two cases where large programs faced significant problems with user adoption when UX was ignored.In one case the users simply refused to move work from the older application which they said worked better for them despite having to put in several workarounds.The RCA of the failure pointed to bad UX in the new system as the #1 reason.
 
I believe with the increasing consumer centricity of our economy, employees will see and react to bad UX.With enterprises enabling social interactions within the company, any rollout of systems with bad UX will face an uphill task.
   
And don't even get me started on the whole good UX = higher productivity track.