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HAS YOUR BPM PLATFORM BECOME A WHITE ELEPHANT? ASKS NIGEL WARREN.

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HAS YOUR BPM PLATFORM BECOME A WHITE ELEPHANT? ASKS NIGEL WARREN.

Many finance businesses are disillusioned with their BPM investment. A BPM expert explains why…

BPM Suites promise a more visual approach to developing business applications, an approach that should enable closer collaboration between business stakeholders and IT professionals. But, in reality, they suck.

Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the recruitment pages of BPM companies, such as: “Junior Application Developer – required experience 2-3 years in Java centric application development, experience of J2EE, Oracle, DB2 and SQL”.

These requirements reveal that many BPM Suites are still highly technical products, meaning business stakeholders and IT specialists still struggle to collaborate throughout the process improvement lifecycle.  Business departments and even IT Departments end up out-sourcing development on BPM Suites to system integrators.  The learning curve is simply too long and too steep to achieve the required expertise in-house.

When development gets deeply technical like this, you inevitably re-open that divide between business stakeholders and developers, and the risk of communication breakdown, late discovery of requirements and scope creep become far more likely.

But worst of all, it’s this reliance on consultants that is a real barrier to agility.  There has to be a specification, a budget and a project plan.  You end up with change request log-jams.  However much these heavyweight BPM Suites claim to be built for change, the reality for businesses at a commercial level is that it doesn’t quite work out that way.

So what’s the answer?

Low-code Development Platforms are now regularly mentioned in analysts’ reports[1], that predict dated and IT centric BPM Suites are going to suffer dwindling demand, particularly for fast paced process improvement projects in areas such as customer service and digital innovation. The idea behind Low-Code Development is that you make it easier to achieve ‘software-powered’ business improvement without needing to code i.e. program.

Moreover – thanks to Cloud or private Cloud deployment – a business is not dependent on its IT department to install servers and software before a project can start.

So you now have a choice for how automation gets built.   You can talk to your central IT department and see how they can help you.  Or you can turn to a low-code development platform and build it yourself.  That may sound daunting – but as there’s little or no programming involved, it’s not so difficult. You can learn how to use a low-code platform very quickly.

Nigel Warren

Nigel Warren

The need for speed!

Process improvement champions are chiefly attracted to low-code development methods in order to“jump the IT queue”.

With 80% of CIOs complaining that they’re unable to hire and retain sufficient developers with the latest technology skills, lengthening IT queues have become the norm.  When process improvement specialists and business leaders are told they’ll have to wait for six months or more for development support from central IT, a more D.I.Y. approach starts to have real appeal!

The other reason people are attracted to low-code is lowering the risk of software development.

Youdon’t associate DIY with lower risk?

This may seem counter-intuitive; how on earth can a DIY approach to software development be less risky than relying on the technical skills of programmers?  Chances are, you or colleagues close to you are already doing this.  For example, if you’ve ever set up a blog or a website, then you used an off-the-shelf Cloud solution such as WordPress- because it comes complete with templates, navigation, styles, publishing and revisions all built in. With lots of ready-made wizards to take the strain, you can rapidly create a beautiful and customised blog or website – without learning to write HTML!

A Low-code platform (like MATS®, for example) offers all the same kinds of advantage.  It’s got a lot of wizards and templates built in that help you create workflows, databases, user interfaces, reports, service level alerts and communications without having to program.

You configure a business solution by filling in forms and selecting options -a kind of ‘drag & drop’ alternative to programming.In itself, that’s not a guarantee of lower risk, but the business practice changesthis approach enables can lower risk!

Lean startup – if you’re going to fail, fail faster. 

By now the average IT reader is probably ‘throwing a fit’. They’ll be thoroughly unimpressed with the suggestion that line of business managers should start a DIY approach to building business applications.  Clearly such people cannot program.  And to cap it all I’ve proposed that they should fail quickly.They may think I’man idiot who should be locked up for my own protection?

But in truth, more and more business solutions are being built this way.  Gartner predict around 20 per cent year on year growth of technology spend initiated outside of central IT.  And the results are often remarkably fast and successful.  Here’s why…

Test and Learn

This is where you create a minimum viable product and then test it with customers. See what they think – what they like; what they want different.  The brilliant thing about this is you can build something basic really quickly – perhaps 20 per cent of what you need.  Then, based on user or customer feedback, you get a very much better understanding of what the next 80% looks like.

When you show people something working – what it looks like, how it behaves -you suddenly unlock their ideas and excitement.  “Can it do this?” “Can this bit work differently?” “We need this extra field.”“We need this kind of report.”

When you get this kind of feedback early on in a project, it’s not ‘scope creep’, it’s just a more accurate statement of requirements.  And this is what reduces the main risk factor in software development – late discovery of requirements because business people and developers have such difficulty eliciting and communicating requirements.

Should all software projects work this way?

No – I’m advocating Gartner’s so-called ‘Bi-modal’ approach[2] where Mode 1 is a traditional and more cautious approach, and Mode 2, which is more agile and experimental.

With Mode 1 the emphasis is on scalability, stability and accuracy.  Clearly that’s the right approach for back office, systems of record, where reliability and accuracy are paramount; and changes are seldom required or can be planned with plenty of notice.

Mode 2 is better suited to “systems of engagement” – the systems and processes required to win, serve and retain customers.  Here businesses value agility and speed to deployment over stability and accuracy, because clearly if you have a burning customer experience problem, you need to address the issue fast.  Equally if you’re launching new marketing and sales initiatives, the window of opportunity may be short, even temporary.  Clearly in these situations, Mode 2 is the required approach.

Faster “ramp-up” a key benefit for IT

Low-code development platforms clearly help make Mode 2 possible – by reducing the ramp up time that is normally associated with traditional development technologies and heavy weight BPM Suites.

Naturally you don’t have to subscribe entirely to the kind of DIY, business-led approach outlined above.  Many IT organizations are now adding a Low-Code platform such as MATS® to their software portfolio simply because they can offer faster and more agile projects, with faster ramp-up of developer skills.  Lowering the learning curve and training investment that’s required to master more traditional and technical development tools is a huge benefit to IT departments that are struggling to retain increasingly valuable programming staff.

Designing for engagement and emotion

Forrester’s Low-code platform expert Clay Richardson provides the following perspective on how test and learn and Low-code development techniques apply in the Age of the Customer.

“The age of the customer means putting the customer at the center of everything you do. That changes the way we think about designing solutions. Instead of focusing on internal systems we need to think about the emotional impact on a customer. It’s a different way of approaching building systems and solutions, having empathy with the customer and what they’re trying to get done, and designing the system to be as convenient as possible and to deliver delightful experiences.”

So why try to predict how a customer will feel when you can ask them? Just as an optometrist tests their eyeglasses solution with ‘is this better or worse? And how about this?’, Low-code’s test and learn approach lets us experiment to discover how an application makes the customer feel, rather than making our own assumptions of what they will want.

As Emma Chase, author of the New York Times best seller ‘Tangled’, says: Assume nothing. Even if you think you know everything. Even if you’re sure that you’re right. Get confirmation.”

Where to discover more about low-code

There’s an excellent Forrester report on the topic – Google“MatsSoft low code” for a free copy.

Author Nigel Warren is Head of Marketing at global Low-code platform developer MatsSoft.com Nigel has worked in the business process improvement sector for over twenty years with companies including SAP, Nimbus, TIBCO and MatsSoft.

[1]Forrester Report http://www.matssoft.com/low-code  and also see link to key market trends here http://www.matssoft.com/blog/emerging-technology-themes-pex-week-2015

[2]http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/bimodal

Business

The 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report Finds Growing Email Volumes and Stressed Employees are Causing Rising Breach Risk   

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The 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report Finds Growing Email Volumes and Stressed Employees are Causing Rising Breach Risk    1

Research by Egress reveals organisations suffer outbound email data breaches approximately every 12 working hours 

Egressthe leading provider of human layer data security solutions, today released their 2020 Outbound Email Data Breach Report, which highlights the true scale of data security risks related to email use. 93% of IT leaders surveyed said that their organisation had suffered data breaches through outbound email in the last 12 months. On average, the survey found, an email data breach happens approximately every 12 working hours.* 

Rising outbound email volumes due to COVID-19-related remote working and the digitisation of manual processes are also contributing to escalating risk. 94% of respondents reported an increase in email traffic since the onset of COVID-19 and 70% believe that working remotely increases the risk of sensitive data being put at risk from outbound email data breaches. 

The study, independently conducted by Arlington Research on behalf of Egress, interviewed 538 senior managers responsible for IT security in the UK and US across vertical sectors including financial services, healthcare, banking and legal. 

Key insights from respondents include: 

·         93% had experienced data breaches via outbound email in the past 12 months 

·         Organisations reported at least an average of 180 incidents per year when sensitive data was put at risk, equating to approximately one every 12 working hours 

·         The most common breach types were replying to spear-phishing emails (80%); emails sent to the wrong recipients (80%); incorrect file attachments (80%) 

·         62% rely on people-led reporting to identify outbound email data breaches 

·         94% of surveyed organisations have seen outbound email volume increase during COVID-19. 68% say they have seen increases of between 26 and 75% 

·         70% believe that remote working raises the risk of sensitive data being put at risk from outbound email data breaches 

When asked to identify the root cause of their organisation’s most serious breach incident in the past year, the most common factor was “an employee being tired or stressed”. The second most cited factor was “remote working”. In terms of the impact of the most serious breach incident, on an individual-level, employees received a formal warning in 46% of incidents, were fired in 27% and legal action was brought against them in 28%. At an organisational-level, 33% said it had caused financial damage and more than one-quarter said it had led to an investigation by a regulatory body. 

Traditional email security tools are not solving this problem  

The research also found that 16% of those surveyed had no technology in place to protect data shared by outbound email. Where technology was deployed, its adoption was patchy: 38% have Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools in place, while 44% have message level encryption and 45% have password protection for sensitive documents. However, the study also found that, in one-third of the most serious breaches suffered, employees had not made use of the technology provided to prevent the breach. 

Egress CEO Tony Pepper comments: “Unfortunately, legacy email security tools and the native controls within email environments, such as Outlook for Microsoft 365, are unable to mitigate the outbound email security risks that modern organisations face today. They rely on static rules or user-led decisions and are unable to learn from individual employees’ behaviour patterns. This means they can’t detect any abnormal changes that put data at risk – such as Outlook autocomplete suggesting the wrong recipient and a tired employee adding them to an email.”  

“This problem is only going to get worse with increased remote working and higher email volumes creating prime conditions for outbound email data breaches of a type that traditional DLP tools simply cannot handle. Instead, organisations need intelligent technologies, like machine learning, to create a contextual understanding of individual users that spots errors such as wrong recipients, incorrect file attachments or responses to phishing emails, and alerts the user before they make a mistake.” 

Organisations still cannot paint a full picture of the risks, relying on people-led reporting to identify email breaches, despite severe repercussions 

When an outbound email data breach happens, IT leaders were most likely to find out about it from employees. 20% said they would be alerted by the email recipient, 18% felt another employee would report it, while 24% said the employee who sent the email would disclose their error. However, given the penalties that respondents said were in place for employees who cause a breach, it is not guaranteed that they will be keen to own up, especially if the incident is serious. 46% said that the employee who caused a breach was given a formal warning, while legal action was taken in 28% of cases. In 27% of serious breach cases, respondents said the employee responsible was fired. 

Tony Pepper comments: “Relying on tired, stressed employees to notice a mistake and then report themselves or a colleague when a breach happens is unrealistic, especially given the repercussions they will face. With all the factors at play in people-led data breach reporting, we often find organisations are experiencing 10 times the number of incidents than their aware of. It’s imperative that we build a culture where workers are supported and protected against outbound email breach risk with technology that adapts to the pressures they face and stops them from making simple mistakes in the first place. As workers get used to more regular remote working and reliance on email continues to grow, organisations need to step up to safeguard both employees and data from rising breach risk.” 

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Creating an engaging email marketing campaign that avoids the junk folder

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Creating an engaging email marketing campaign that avoids the junk folder 2

By David Wharram, CEO of Coast Digital

With more than 280 billion emails sent every day, email marketing is a tried and tested marketing method with a multitude of benefits. In addition to resonating with those looking to save on their marketing spend, email marketing generates significant ROI for businesses. Statistics have shown that email marketing significantly outperforms social media when trying to reach customers, while also proving more cost-effective. Additionally, Mckinsey found that email marketing is 40 times more successful at gaining customers than Twitter and Facebook combined.

As business owners digest these facts – low cost, high return – it can be tempting to plan a barrage of untargeted marketing emails to both prospective and existing customers. Yet, this “spray and pray” approach may not generate as many sales leads as you’d hope. In fact, this method often tends to deter prospective customers and impact the relationship with existing clients, resulting in your emails consistently making their way into the junk folder. The key to a successful email marketing campaign is investing in the right tools to plan, automate, track, and analyse your outreach.

Effective planning

Like other marketing channels, email marketing takes effective planning and the right strategy to make it work. Rather than trying to sell a product or service from the outset, you need to engage with the customer and build trust with them first. To do this, you need to consider who the customer is, how to reach them and what information they are likely to want. For example, returning customers will be much more receptive to an email presenting discounts and timed offers. However, new or prospective customers would most likely prefer to familiarise themselves with your businesses first in order to understand how your product or service will benefit them.

Not only do you need to identify different audiences and identify how to engage them, but you should also consider the frequency of communication. Too often, and your emails could appear as spam. Too irregular and there’s a risk the customer might forget about you or turn to a competitor.

A crucial part of planning the overall strategy is considering the ideal outcome. Whether this is to attract new customers, send product or service updates, or retain customers through offers and discounts, the objective will determine the scope of the entire campaign.

The results of a well thought out email marketing strategy can drive brand awareness, boost lead generation and increase revenue. The results of a poorly planned strategy often lead to disgruntled recipients and a high number of unsubscribes.

Keep content relevant, personal and useful

In addition to planning the overall strategy of your campaign, you need to consider the content you will push out to your audience. From our experience, this will largely depend on which goals have been determined during the planning process.

It’s essential to ensure you’re providing something of value. While you want to make sure that your email marketing campaigns generate ROI, you also need to make the recipients feel that they’re not always being sold to. The key to this is by building a level of trust with the audience, which can be achieved by providing relevant advice and insights, or by asking for feedback.

Additionally, audiences are more receptive to content that is personal to them. It’s easy to spot a generic email that has been created to cover all bases for an entire mailing list. Therefore, making the emails more personalised to recipients tends to strengthen the overall campaign.

According to recent research by Econsultancy, personalisation remains a top priority for marketers as 67% of those asked said that was the main focus for improving their campaigns. Also, a study by Salesforce found that 84% of consumers prefer to be treated like a person not a number. That’s why taking the time to make content more relevant to the receiver could make or break the campaign.

Evaluate and evolve

Once your initial outreach has been complete, you need to take the time to reflect on your efforts. One aspect of the planning process should include setting clear metrics and KPIs so that you can be clear on whether these were met or not. There are several metrics that businesses should consider when it comes to the success of their campaign – including clickthrough rate, conversion rate, bounce rate and email forwarding rate. Each KPI will depend on the overall goal. Companies need to invest in the right tools and resources to evaluate email marketing campaigns, especially if this is new territory. Measuring the success of your outreach will enable you to determine what worked well, what needs refining or what needs to be completely overhauled. What’s more, if the initial campaign didn’t generate the outcome you were hoping, don’t be deterred from using email marketing altogether and instead use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Email marketing remains one of the most effective methods to engage with your audience on an ongoing basis. However, far too many businesses try to run before they walk and could be spamming their customers with irrelevant, uninteresting content. To ensure your outreach is successful, you need to effectively plan your outreach – considering your audience and delivering helpful and engaging content to them will help your emails avoid the dreaded junk folder.

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How to communicate when the world is in crisis

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How to communicate when the world is in crisis 3

By Callum Jackson Account Executive at communications agency Cicero/AMO

Across sectors both private and public, the coronavirus crisis has brought with it a list of overused yet unavoidable tropes. Phrases such as ‘rapidly changing times’, ‘the new normal’ and the king of COVID clichés ‘unprecedented’ have been deployed by communications experts of all ilks to engage audiences, linking their products and businesses to the pandemic however they can. In fact, amongst online news articles from January to September this year, ‘unprecedented’ received about six times more column space than over the same period in 2019. The financial services sector is far from immune – a quick scan of the 21.9 million Google results which the search term “unprecedented banking covid” throws up reveals a distinct preference for the platitudinal over the insightful.

But as often as this is said, it bears repeating: communication plays a central role in all of our lives and all of our businesses. In the banking and financial services sector, one PR misstep can mean the difference between an investment round succeeding or failing, between a challenger being awarded its coveted banking licence or having its reputation demolished, between a fintech app appearing on every other smart phone in the country or dying an obscure death.

While communication is vital, however, it is not a straightforward science or art at the best of times. Below are some key approaches for comms professionals to consider taking when communicating during a crisis.

  1. Start with the bank in the mirror

In all sub-sectors of the comms industry, from in-house external comms to agency PR and everything in between, inauthenticity stands out like a sore thumb, and badly thought-through messaging or imagery can reek of it. Take Pepsi’s heavily pilloried 2017 ad campaign featuring Kendall Jenner, the imagery of which attempted to position the soft drink – and the business producing it – as a saviour of divided and oppressed communities. Accused of seeking to capitalise on the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi rightly pulled the commercial and apologised for missing the mark entirely. Interrogating what your business stands for, what it does well, what its goals are and, most importantly, what it is not in the business of (in the case of Pepsi, saving the world) is essential to communicating with your stakeholders authentically. This has been conventional wisdom amongst banking and finance grandees for a while. In 2015, Tesco Bank’s then CEO Benny Higgins noted, “Authenticity [is critical] – we all have strengths and weaknesses but being authentic gives a consistent notion of what your leadership is about.” By all means, talk about doing good but make sure it’s good you’re actually doing.

  1. Read the room

Being aware of your audiences’ needs is two-fold. First, it is about identifying the topics that consumers of news (be they your customers, your suppliers or the general public) want and need to hear about, and secondly, it’s about being sensitive to audiences’ anxieties and preoccupations. Our current environment is characterised by companies asking staff to take pay cuts, having furloughed others at 80% of their salary, all while social distancing or staying home. During these – yes, unprecedented… – anxiety-inducing times, money saving advice, working from home tips, and information on the best cost-saving financial products are subjects of interest and necessity to journalists and readers. Listicles of the best luxury summer getaways are not. Think about what your business or client is doing that might directly help those who are worst affected and use that as a springboard for your communications messaging.

  1. Look ahead

In late 2019, few of us could have foreseen the sheer magnitude of a potential pandemic, nor indeed its short-term and residual effects on the economy, society, and individual financial institutions. However, as professionals in charge not only of spreading the good news but also of putting out reputational fires, it is the duty of financial services PRs to game various scenarios – sorted by likelihood and impact – pre-empting possible outcomes and preparing for the negative fallout as well as the positive opportunities a situation might present. Looking ahead to identify these ‘opportunities’ is not per se a cynical attempt to boost business reputations or commercial outcomes. It can and should involve looking ahead to ascertain the potential silver linings, gifts in disguise, and diamonds in the rough that come along with a crisis. One unforeseen consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a reminder of the warmth, appreciation and even love we feel towards the frontline workers of the NHS. If yours is the company that finances the manufacture of their uniforms, insures the production of their machinery, or invests on behalf of the factory that makes their PPE, you should be proud of that and should let others be proud too. All this requires

Callum Jackson

Callum Jackson

foresight, however – the ability to identify both the risks and opportunities of a dire situation.

  1. Adapt your offering

Shouting from the rooftops about something you do well, especially when it has a net good impact on the world, is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, a surprising number of businesses are actually quite bad at telling us what’s good about them – particularly those that need to the most: banks. Cue the PR professional. But that quality of self-promotion – not in the sneering, braggartly sort of way; but rather the recognition that telling your story is how people get to know you – only stands up when what you’re promoting really is good, both morally and commercially speaking. If you are planning a campaign showing that your customer, The Big Bad Oil & Gas Company Ltd., is doing wonders for the planet, it had better be investing heavily in wind and solar, offsetting its carbon output and cleaning up natural areas affected by its commercial activities, and not just paying lip service to environmental conscientiousness. And if your customer or your own business isn’t doing those things, it is time to re-evaluate the corporate strategy. Too many heads of comms are cautious of recommending product and operational changes that require significant investment for fear of CEOs’ eyes rolling back into their heads with ‘dollar shock’. But if you want to be known for doing something good, you had better do it well.

  1. Take advantage of digital

It comes as no surprise that shares in videoconferencing services such as Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) just about doubled between late January and mid-April (up to $142.80 from $70.44). As demand for online services increases due to prolonged social distancing and isolation measures, so too does the need for journalists, and therefore PRs, to produce quality digital content that speaks the language of technology. Rather than asking how your logo will change or about the latest appointment to your board, media and the audiences that read them are increasingly asking, ‘How does your company’s offering help us do business, manage our money, or lead better lives by harnessing smart data, open finance, AI, etc.?’ Or more generally, ‘How can I do all the things I’m used to doing and need to do without leaving my house?’ Most banks provide online banking, most insurers allow digital policy purchases and claims, most lenders enable virtual applications or use digital ID to confirm affordability and suitability. If your business is lagging behind, it’s time to catch up.

  1. Put a relevant twist on business as usual

“Well, our business doesn’t do anything to do with viruses,” is a natural reaction to a crisis that no one saw coming and that stands to affect the global economy in a meaningful way for years to come. But, as well as being natural, it is also limiting. Thinking creatively about the ways our product offerings and operations do, in some way, affect the outcome of a crisis does not have to extend to preventing the spread of a disease or accelerating the creation of a vaccine. It may be that your lending platform can offer mortgage holidays for those financially impacted by the pandemic or that the insurer you work for can interpret policies leniently and with compassion – especially important in light of the FCA’s recent finding on business interruption insurance. Showing your worth in a crisis does not require you to be a central cog in the machine, nor does it require you to dominate the narrative in order to have cut-through. Do your bit, however small, and then tell us about it.

Being alive to developments in politics, society, culture, science and business, and remaining nimble and ready to adapt to those developments sensitively are the cornerstones of good communications. The ancient Greeks knew this before we did; it was no storytelling accident that Olympus’ divine messenger, Hermes, wore winged sandals. The metaphor may be ham-fisted, but the sentiment is sound: sensitivity, fleet-footedness and boldness are the communicator’s greatest weapons. Don’t be a Pepsi, be a Hermes.

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