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The IT Grinch: The lack of scalability that ruined Christmas

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The IT Grinch: The lack of scalability that ruined Christmas

 

By Hannah Leslie, Prolifics UK

“The holiday season is here, meaning Black Friday is a real test for some retailers. I’ve been thinking about how a lack of scalability can lead to not only poor customer experience, but unflattering sales.”

Whether you play Black Friday like it’s a highly competitive strategy game, or you’re a notoriously last-minute gift grabber, the technologies underpinning high street stores probably don’t cross the minds of holiday shoppers. But these tools are like Santa’s elves- hidden and invisible to us, yet hard at work making the magic happen. For retailers, all systems become mission-critical at Christmas and especially on Black Friday, when the implications of failing to deliver a seamless, Omni channel customer experience are huge.

How can you ensure that you’re providing this critical experience? We’ve outlined a few digital transformation strategies based on the effective management of data analytics alongside a comprehensive Hybrid Cloud strategy that includes Container-based architecture.

Making a list and checking it twice
Emerging digital channels have been a tremendous help for retailers, creating a growing number of opportunities to capture customer data; when every interaction is a collection point, amassing data is not hard, but using it to effectively guide your business strategy can be a challenge. One great application of data in the retail industry is to create a single customer view- a summary of a customer journey collected across channels from card transactions, logins to loyalty programmers or IP addresses. These records can be used to provide customers with relevant marketing information about products or services they’ll need in the future. Customer X might purchase a pair of trainers in November, if the average pair of trainers is worn out in 4 months a retailer can seamlessly anticipate that Customer X will need a new pair around February. What a great time to offer them a discount code on their favorite brand of sportswear!

Whether you’re interested in using Big Data to increase loyalty, or attract new customers, retailers that use predictive modelling can effectively meet the challenges of supply and demand by scaling in response to peak sales times. A proactive approach to managing data is a surefire way to improve customer acquisition and retention to keep ahead of the competition.

Hybrid Cloud is coming to town
Still looking for a good reason to take your business into the Cloud? Many decision makers balk at making this investment, unaware of the benefits they’re losing out on. Even if it’s still ‘getting the job done’, on premise infrastructure simply can’t scale to meet sudden and dramatic changes in customer behavior. Cloud-based infrastructure and applications can easily provision new services across multiple geographic areas and allow for region-specific scaling.

As its popularity grows in the UK, Black Friday is now the highest traffic day of the year for e-commerce platforms. According to a BBC report, one major online retailer had over 13,000 Black Friday shoppers visiting their site per minute on the last Friday of 2018. Such high volumes of traffic require greatly extending resources without compromising the customer experience- a problem with a Cloud based solution.

Have yourself a merry little Micro service
A key component of a Cloud-Native landscape, anyone looking to build scalable architecture should consider the many advantages of Micro services. By breaking applications down into smaller, single-purpose functions, they can quickly be spun up, and torn down again to meet changing demand. For example, if there is an anticipated 5x spike in inventory searches on Black Friday, a retailer can scale up this specific function of the platform. Working separately from, but in tandem with the enterprise system, lightweight and independent micro services make adding new functions and services (such as web payments) onto an existing platform easy. Through both traditional and mobile apps, integrating micro services as part of a Cloud-centric strategy allow retailers to flex their digital capabilities by quickly responding to shifting market demands.

While nothing can 100% failure-proof your architecture, micro services will contain any potential failures to a single system, limiting disruption and allowing for simpler, target focused problem solving. With Container infrastructure and a reliable Container Management Platform (such as Kubernetes) you can deploy the same image multiple times, and allow for faster runtimes of your Micro services.

2019 saw headlines dominated by news of major retailers going into administration one after the other. And there are the stories we don’t hear- for every collapsed brick and mortar store there are a dozen more silently struggling to keep their doors open. Retailers looking to avoid the same fate must rise to the challenge of digital disruption, and take advantage of the opportunities to innovate and thrive. Unlike Black Friday deals, the strategies discussed in this article aren’t for one day only. Implementing these measures year-round will insulate your organization against future disruptions and create a solid foundation on which to stimulate growth.

Technology

Optimising and Securing Device Management in a Corporate Environment

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Optimising and Securing Device Management in a Corporate Environment 1

By Nadav Avni, Marketing Director at Radix Technologies

The proliferation of digital devices used in every organisation has only grown in the past few years. Digital devices provide greater flexibility and mobility for companies, but they also create more of a burden on IT teams and administrators to manage it all. Is there a device management solution powerful enough to support your corporate needs?

What Is Mobile Device Management (MDM)?

Mobile devices have more capabilities than ever before – and they’re accessing more sensitive and property data, too. In fact, 42% of enterprises now consider themselves mobile-first. As more employees moved to remote work, it underscored the need for greater security. At the same time, it made device management more difficult for IT teams.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) allows the remote management of every device in an organisation’s fleet from a centralised platform that’s accessible from anywhere. It gives complete control of devices and provides a way to manage settings, policies, and security in one place.

The Importance of MDM

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of CFOs said they expect to keep some employees working from home and shift others to remote work permanently. The need to manage devices remotely isn’t going away even when the pandemic is over. Even when employees are working on-site, they still use mobile devices.

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other single-use devices all need management. Workers may be in different locations than IT administrators. MDM allows efficient remote management of every device in the fleet regardless of the administrators’ and employees’ location.

Some of the core functions of mobile device management include:

  • Managing setting and policies
  • Monitoring app usage and performance
  • Updating equipment, software, and applications
  • Monitoring health of equipment
  • Monitoring equipment location, status, and activity
  • Remote device control for diagnosis and troubleshooting
  • Encryption of email and files
  • Segregation for work and personal device use, creating separate and secured environments for work data.

More than Security

Most MDM solutions focus mainly on Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and the security layer. A fully-featured MDM/EMM system adds another layer that provides comprehensive device management. This gives IT administrators the ability to manage nearly every type of device running on every major operating system from one platform.

Flexible solutions can be installed as an on-premises solution or on the cloud for reduced latency, redundancy, and end-to-end security with encryption. When you’re running a mobile device management platform in the cloud, the service provider automatically applies updates and patches. Hence, it’s one more thing you won’t need to worry about. It also makes it easier for administrators to access the platform remotely.

Managing Compliance

Nadav Avni

Nadav Avni

Mobile devices increase the possibility of data breaches or leaks. Besides the possibility of cyber-attacks, a staggering number of laptops and smartphones are lost or stolen. On average, 70 million devices are lost or stolen annually, with less than 10% of ever being recovered. This is an exceptionally big problem for managing compliance in regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial, and other businesses.

A robust MDM/EMM software provides end-to-end security and encryption to protect data. Devices can be tracked with geofence and anti-theft filters. If a device leaves an authorised area, it triggers a warning note to administrators, who can remotely lock the device or wipe the data. MDM/EMM apps with advanced security features also create snapshots on the fly even while devices are running to make restoring or recovery from virus attacks or system crashes easier.

Besides automated data audits, these functions help organisations comply with even the most stringent compliance regulations, including GDPR, the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulations. It also acts as an essential element in complying with HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, PCI DSS, and other regulations.

More Efficient Deployment

Devices can be deployed in batches with preset configuration, settings, and corporate policies. By automating enrollment tasks, the devices can be up and running in your environment without user intervention. It all happens in the background the first time a device is fired up and connected to a network.

Besides the platform’s native and priority enrollment modules, devices can also be deployed using a range of platforms. This provides an extremely friendly out of the box experience (OOBE) for employees without tying up IT teams for hours to configure new devices.

Tools for All Stakeholders

Modern MDM/EMM tools also provide sophisticated reporting tools to all stakeholders in the organisation. IT teams can manage the entire device fleet holistically or drill down to any individual device. Managers can look at adoption and usage rates. CFOs can look at the ROI. Each automated report can be customised to show what each group of stakeholders needs to make data-driven business decisions.

Tools for OEMs and Vendors

APIs are usually available for solution developers. That means the platform can be embedded in device firmware and integrated at the factory level for OEMs. System-level integration is also possible, so mobile device management software can be pre-installed and ready to go upon device delivery.

Managing Use and Content

Not every employee needs every functionality on every device. MDM software allows you to apply single-app or multi-app kiosk mode. This creates an encapsulated environment with access to the functionality and apps you determine.

It creates a consistent look-and-feel for devices and control device elements, such as locking down external ports or preventing unauthorised interaction of non-company installed apps. You can limit external internet use or enable/disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections.

Device Management Solution

One of the biggest barriers to continued remote work is the lack of technology and infrastructure to allow remote employees to work productively. Therefore, implementing a modular and flexible MDM/EMM solution is key to successfully and efficiently managing your devices. Look for one that not only accomplishes the points listed above but one that also allows customisation for just about any use case. Take control of your entire mobile device fleet and gain the ability to finally manage nearly every aspect with ease.

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Technology

2021: A year of digital enablement

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2021: A year of digital enablement 2

By Peter O’Halloran, Vice President, Global Digital Commerce, Fiserv

In 2021, digital innovation will continue to accelerate, allowing businesses to shift to new ways of operating and adapt to changing consumer behaviour and expectations. We will continue to see an increase in digital commerce and alternative payment methods, and more intertwined physical and digital experiences. Here are my five predictions for the year ahead.

  1. Digital commerce will continue to rise

This year, businesses will be focused on ramping up existing avenues of growth and generating new ones, leaning into experiences and incorporating lessons learned during the pandemic. To stay ahead of the competition, drive sales, and continually engage with customers, we’ll see businesses send out special offers on a more regular basis, integrate loyalty and gift schemes, as well as offer additional value-added services, such as click-and-collect services that allow people to pick up online orders in store, free shipping and better options on returns.

  1. Physical and digital environments will blend

A growing consideration for businesses is how to optimise and connect digital and physical experiences. There has been an exponential rise in click-and-collect services, virtual queuing and appointment systems. According to 2019 research from Barclaycard, a third of retailers (34%) saw in-store sales increase after offering click-and-collect services. And by digitalising certain parts of the customer experience, businesses from restaurants to salons can operate more safely in their physical locations. Apps that allow customers to order and pay for food in advance, or book time slots for in-person services, are some examples of how businesses will continue to connect the physical and digital environments as they navigate the current landscape.

  1. Alternative payment methods will proliferate

Consumer payment habits have shifted significantly since the start of the pandemic. The recent Expectations & Experiences report from Fiserv found that a large number of consumers have increased their use of mobile payment apps and person-to-person (P2P) payments, and that they expect those changes to last. We will also likely see an increase in the adoption of proximity payments, such as mobile payments, NFC payments and QR codes.

Peter O’Halloran

Peter O’Halloran

In addition, the rise of digital payments could also accelerate the adoption of local or regional payment methods to better engage with customers. There are a number of methods that have emerged and already gained popularity, such as Klarna across Europe, Paytm in India and Brazil’s Boleto voucher system.

  1. Commerce-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) will grow

As consumers continue to expect new payment forms and digital experiences, businesses will continue to adopt more innovative capabilities. There is a growing usage trend for IoT in commerce, such as smartphone-based or voice-enabled capabilities. From grocery, fashion to other day-to-day activities such as paying for petrol, IoT devices can enable businesses to harness customer data to gain further insight into their behaviour and provide personalised offers and services. The new year will see commerce-enabled IoT increase, as well as further digital innovations to help grow revenue streams and enhance customer experience.

  1. Security will continue to be a priority

As more activity moves online, security is more vital than ever. 2020 saw a proliferation of COVID-19 related scams and fraud, such as phishing emails on relief funds or health information. These trends will likely continue, evolving to latch on to the concern of the moment, and we will see businesses, payment providers and financial institutions increasing their investment in the appropriate fraud solutions to protect both their organisation and customers.

Regulatory requirements will also continue to bolster security and fraud management. In Europe, regulations such as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA), which is part of the EU Revised Direction on Payment Services (PSD2), help ensure that payments are secured with multi-factor authentication, providing additional security and assurance for consumers.

A digitally-enabled future

Many businesses have successfully adapted to a new way of operating. As we go into the new year and continue to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses will be able to rely on those learnings to adjust quickly to changes that come their way.

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Technology

Viewpoint: Autonomous Cloud Security 

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Fortinet Expands Integration of Cloud Security Offerings with Microsoft Azure to Provide Advanced Protection

By Scott Dodds, CEO Ultima 

Moving to the cloud securely remains a significant challenge of flexible working 

While the end may be in sight for full-scale remote working, most companies are looking to continue with flexible working in some form or other. The benefits that both employers and employees have reaped in terms of cost reductions and flexibility are unlikely to be given up quickly. But in a recent survey of customers, Ultima has found that many challenges still exist for companies if they are to embrace flexible working successfully in the long-term.

The pandemic has forced many companies to innovate at an unprecedented rate, and digital transformation has moved on in a year to a place it would have taken five or more years to do. But many businesses are still struggling with the new normal. They have become more susceptible to cyberattacks, and poor IT infrastructure has resulted in poor employee experience causing productivity and profits to fall.

In a recent survey of over 200 prospective customers, Ultima asked about the challenges they were facing due to current requirements for remote working. Nearly half (41%) cited security concerns as an issue and 17% application access.

IT infrastructure is a cause for concern too. While many companies have embraced the advantages of cloud computing during the lockdown, over a third (37.5%) of respondents, don’t believe they have the capability to move to the cloud. There were a variety of reasons why the respondents don’t think they have the capability, with 16% saying it was due to legacy applications and another 16% saying it was due to budget constraints or challenges. A further 12% per cent blamed lack of in-house technical expertise and another 10% on investment being made in on-premise infrastructure.

The pandemic has created exponential growth in companies requiring cloud services, but their IT staff don’t have all the technical skills to effectively and safely move them to the cloud. This leaves companies open to security vulnerabilities as well as meaning they are not optimising their cloud environment.

While many businesses have risen to the challenges of remote working, infrastructure and security remain an issue. But automated cloud services with in-built security solutions can solve these problems. They can be bought on a pay-as-you-go basis, addressing large CAPEX outlay issues and allowing companies to overcome legacy application issues and provide security that protects both employee and company from outside attack.

Lack of capability and capacity solved  

For those companies who’ve still not made the leap to the cloud, automated cloud migration services exist that can overcome the financial and skills shortage barriers to entry. Managed Service Partners (MSPs) can provide technical expertise and technical solutions to make this possible. The results of moving to the cloud can be spectacular too: from an average 30% reduction in expenditure and up to a 750% increase in productivity. They also have no upfront costs.

Using Microsoft Azure’s open and flexible cloud computing platform, for example, combined with automated migration, you no longer need to look after and buy hardware, or sort out power and cooling. Your IT infrastructure and security can be run on a pay-as-you-go basis. And if you need increased capacity, automation means you can extend your on-premises data centres and infrastructure to Azure within a few hours, providing the extra capacity required for critical systems and applications.

Poor security solved  

We know that traditional security solutions don’t work well in the cloud. When customers move to the cloud, they try and take their traditional security solutions with them. But as the cloud works in a very different way to on-premises, this leaves companies open to vulnerabilities. You need a made for purpose solution, based on cloud security best practice.

With the latest automation technology security and monitoring solutions are automatically applied to existing and new workloads. It scans the collected data and includes proactive monitoring around security events that will let you know exactly what’s happened in clear-to-understand alerts, and where action should be taken if needed, covering critical areas such as anti-malware. IT staff can view in real-time their security and compliance reporting. Soon we will be able to scan a customer’s environment for security-related bad practice or incidents and make recommendations on how to fix them and even give them a score as to how they are doing.

At Ultima, we’ve also found that on moving to the cloud customers have poor visibility of what is going on in their environment. We know about 25% of companies don’t even realise they have high severity patches missing. This is down to a skills shortage and a lack of time – as patches are often done manually.

With automated cloud services, patching happens automatically on repeat and even scales as your infrastructure grows. If a patch is due and fails for whatever reason the system will automatically create an alert. This information will go to the third line technical team, and they will investigate it themselves, whether that’s your MSP or your own IT staff. The time savings to the IT department are huge – often 100’s of hours a year – enabling them to focus on other projects and have peace of mind about security.

Traditionally, you would do a true-up every month or quarter of your IT environments to bring new things, including security issues, to the management. But when you are in the cloud, you can spin things up so fast, that you will have a gap if you are only doing a true-up every month or quarter. With an automated service, you can automatically onboard things, so you don’t have to wait for the true-up process, which means you have a more proactive security service and less vulnerability. We’ve found that customers who are using automated cloud services have a 66% reduction in security incidents.

Lack of visibility of critical data solved  

With ever increasing cloud resources, it can be hard to get visibility into your cloud infrastructure. The technology exists now to automatically scan and configure your cloud resources with centralised logging and telemetry capabilities. As your environment grows, this process repeats itself automatically as it scans and configures itself when new resources are added. This means that all logging information is available, and you can also see on one dashboard insights into your security posture. Usually, it’s hard to see what’s happening from a security perspective – what data is coming in and going out, top destinations, any malicious activity detected in the last 24 hours, etc. Automated services give customers a dashboard that centralises all the information to see what is happening in a simplified format and how your infrastructure is performing at a high level.

These new autonomous cloud services enable companies to free up 100’s of hours of IT staff time and reduce security incidents. Moving to the cloud has previously been a struggle for some companies as costs escalated for support, maintenance and security. New technology has changed that and is ensuring security and infrastructure are no longer barriers to successful cloud deployments and productive, flexible working.

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