Monday, August 28, 2017

Digital Transformation Starts and Ends with a Digital Architecture

The implementation of business transformations within organisations, and especially digital business transformations, is growing to a peak level right now. Chief Information Officers and Heads of Transformation are stepping in to: “digitally enable businesses”, “implement customer self-service channels”, “put the customer at the centre/focus” or just to simply “be more digital” (whatever that means).

However, when you ask these organisations what they are doing to change their internal systems and technical architecture design to facilitate this change, many either go quiet or simply utter something such as “it’s not about technology, it’s mainly about people”… Which I have worked out to actually mean “that technology stuff isn’t as interesting as building something nice & glossy I can show to the board”.

But let’s flip this around for a minute…

Digitally enabling your business usually means taking control of the data in your organisation and enabling it via online technologies. Yes, it does therefore mean the creation of some sort of new database or cloud-based big data lake that can then have modern web services integrated to it, so that some or all of this can be presented within a browser interface.

Implementing customer self-service channels, typically boils down to pretty much the same thing.  Web services and functionality are (securely - obviously) exposed to external customers via web and mobile App channels, so that contact centres or telesales operations can be scaled back or redeployed to different tasks. This also usually comes with a more onerous set of performance & availability criteria, so that a (near) 24/7 service can be offered to customers. However, presenting these services to real users also means that the systems behind-the-scenes need to be able to scale and adapt to changing user demands. Just plugging a rich user interface into a legacy system and hoping for the best is not digital architecture, it is digital anarchy.

Putting the customer at the centre of a business is an easy thing to say and a much harder objective to implement. Most organisations have been created to make money and therefore have lines-of-business designed to perpetuate this purpose. Consequently, technology systems are developed to support these structures and maintain the status-quo, rather than re-orientate things to make sense to the customer or help facilitate their engagement. It might be the ideal, but very few companies actually have end-to-end integrated systems that enable a single customer to be consistently tracked throughout their entire lifecycle. In short, creating technology to enable a customer to be in the middle of a business isn't always as easy as the sales PDF brochure states, especially if you don’t have a decent vision of how these systems need to work together.

So what can a decent technical architecture do for your company’s digital transformation?

It can provide a stable backbone that can support your technical & process change objectives. It can facilitate agile incremental delivery based upon re-usable components. It can help your business grow by supporting integration of other online services, API’s and data sources.

If you’re planning any of this, can you afford to NOT have the right digital architecture?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Google launching subscription tools for publishers

Google has announced it is making renewed effort to help news publishers drive more subscriptions.

Initially these new changes will involve The New York Times and the Financial Times, but apparently the search giant is talking to dozens of other outlets

Full article on Bloomberg here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

6 Ways To Harm Your Business When Updating Your Website

Updating and redeveloping an organisation’s website is almost an inevitability these days. Whether the aim is to add new content sections, comply with legislation, provide a new ‘look & feel’ or because of business changes (such as merger & acquisitions)… a web presence is likely to go through some form of significant change or two in its lifetime.

But the way in which you upgrade and rebuild your site can have a big effect on your business, and more specifically how your rank organically in the major search engines. Organic traffic for most sites makes up between 30% to 50% of all visits and applying changes that affects this traffic means you get less visits, leads or conversions.

So here are 6 of the biggest ways to harm your online search traffic and therefore your key online business metrics in the process:

  1. Change the domain
    Your organisation’s domain is a brand asset and changing it means losing all the search engine reputation it may have built-up over time. On the flip-side, if your domain has been significantly tainted by bad (black hat) SEO practices in the past, it may be best to start from scratch again with a fresh URL. 
  2. Change the user experience
    A change in the site design, the navigation, the directory structure you use and many other factors can influence how your site ranks. 
  3. Change the content
    Not all online content is created equal. The way your copy is written can have a major influence on how your site is indexed and then ranked online.. from its relevance to the search term(s) to the way the text is structured. However, a new web presence is an opportunity to review all of your content (including your images and the meta content behind the scenes). 
  4. Change the hosting platform
    Migrating from one website host to another may seem like a simple task. But where and how you host your website can have an effect on how you rank in Google, Yahoo, etc. especially if the hosting is slow or not located in the country / region where your customers (and target search engines) are. 
  5. Ignore web standards
    It takes hard work and determined effort to deliver a new website, especially if you have tight timescales to deliver to. And the area that can get compromised include: the quality of the code, the compliance to accessibility, the use of ‘alt’ tags for image alternatives, etc. In other words, a failure to follow web standards can have a negative impact on your site’s rankings in search engines.
  6. Re-launch it incorrectly
    Sites fail to launch properly in all sorts of ways, from failing to cut-over all content correctly through to not getting the new site indexed in Google as quickly as possible… you are never going to get a second chance to make a first impression on the main search engines.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Product & UX Quote for the Day

I am at Turing Fest, the tech & digital conference in Edinburgh.
There is unsurprisingly a lot of presentations and chatter about improving the product & user experience.

I was therefore reminded about this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.