Category Archives: Contributors

How Big Data Is Helping In Customer Service Environment

How Big Data Is Helping In Customer Service Environment

Customer Service Environment

Do you remember the last time you spoke to an agent over the phone seeking some help? Did you get the solution immediately or did it take some time to reach a convincing answer or solution?

The answers to these questions decide how intelligently your customer support system has been designed to face such challenges of the customer service and how effectively the customer data is being used with total focus on the customers.

The specificity in the service that is sought by an individual customer is a vital factor to maintain a good rapport of the customer service. The ability to answer such specific needs comes with a sheer understanding of the customer behavior. The existence of data is unavoidable and its importance is immense. The idea for good customer service lies in data analysis. It always helps to keep an innovative approach towards making good use of the customer data and bring corresponding changes, accordingly.

Customer data is the factor which helps to improve your services substantially and when data analysis gets involved, the behavior of the customers become more predictable. And predictability helps to manage things better. The productive insights coming from data, help to get expected results, provided the unstructured data of your company is given due worth and is utilized well.

Let’s look at the scenario in more detail and understand that how data plays a crucial role in the customer service environment.

Giving Shape To The Bulk Of Data

Data comes involuntarily on every step taken in business as well as by customer activity. This bulk of unstructured data gives many cues for innovations in the contemporary business environment. But you have to acquire the right tools to analyze this bulk of data and get meaningful results out of it. Today we have tools that help us analyze the unstructured data towards meaningful deductions. Most of the businesses are dependent on such data for better results.

So application of analytics helps you to understand patterns and trends that customers are looking for in the customer support environment.

Furthermore, intelligent data analysis also leads to powerful customer insights. A seamless customer experience is a matter of understanding the customers well and prepare a plan to respond with them effectively. The accumulated data supports and structures this plan.

Data And The CRM Strategies

A 2014 Gartner report suggested that 50% of CRM programs failed to meet client expectations. The same is true in old time as well. A company uses CRM tools to make a point that every aspect of good customer service should be taken into consideration for the best possible strategies. It also helps in taking the most efficient steps ahead of the benefits of the company.

The proliferation of the software industry and start-ups led many companies towards instant results. So most of the companies integrated CRM tools in their system without knowing that it was not on par, as the insights from data didn’t show up aptly and didn’t help to bring any meaningful changes. The supreme reason behind it was, they didn’t use the customer data effectively.

With the arrival of cloud technology, call center software came into existence and virtual call centers took shape. With specific details related to the customers that can be easily integrated into the company’s CRM, one can find an immediate solution to help the customers with much better customer support. Because the data is already there, the best one can do is, use it.

Customers differ in their interests and preferences for the same reason, it is necessary to give individual attention to the customers. While the customers avail the services they give many cues regarding, how efficient the services are and more. A data driven customer relationship management becomes crucial to maintain a sound customer support.

Individual Customer Preferences

Most of the companies have a huge bulk of unstructured data , it’s their ability to reap the benefits out of it, which decides their efficiency for purposeful customer engagement. The data that is collected to help know the customers individually and provides a medium to the service provider to restructure and redesign the services to its best potential.

Customer Service Environment

The best possible way to keep the performance of customer service high, depends on how effectively the customer choices and preferences are taken care of, by giving attention to the minute details related to the customers. By keeping an eye on the individual customers with the help of complex analysis of data, the scenario becomes more and more customer centric.

Virtual call centers have gradually turned out to be very meaningful in this stake as they work on a Call center software that uses meaningful deduction out of the data.

If the agent-customer conversation has more specific details related to the individual customers then customer specific points are brought in during the conversation that eventually lead to favorable results like sales acceleration and a better customer retention.

Data Is The Base Of Today’s Customer Service

The customer related data is the base of today’s customer service environment and because of the same reason the best ideas of the customer benefits are the ones that totally depend on the results of data that give forward-looking insights about customer service.

Virtual call center tools use the customer related data and keep the deductions applicable for the best possible solution, that too without much wastage of time. Nowadays the virtual call centers using their data effectively have tremendous competitive advantage over others who are lagging behind in the usage of data.

On a Final Note

Data is crucial and so is the way to handle it. Cloud technology is one of the best ways that has shown relevance to use this data productively. Cloud is undoubtedly the best solution for usage and retrieval of data.

Innovation depends on the results that one can rely on and these results totally depend on effective usage of data. In this current scenario, it is not affordable to miss out on the importance of big data that has great potential to face contemporary challenges, successfully.

By Kirti Khanna

Expect Open Source Security to Become a Major Focus in 2017

Expect Open Source Security to Become a Major Focus in 2017

Open Source Security

There is no doubt about it: We are living in the middle of the Digital Age.

But we didn’t get here alone. Thousands of people from all over the world have come together to develop programs, apps and software to get us where we are now. In order to maintain the level of technology that we have become accustomed to, we need the help of coders and programmers from all over to help solve problems and make changes.

When the coding community is invited to manipulate the source code of a program, it is known as open source. But what does open source really mean for your software — and your security?

Open Source vs. Closed Source

Open Source Security

(Infographic Source: Kinvey)

Behind each program you are running, there is a set of codes that allow your computers, cellphones or tablets to read. For large companies, this code is heavily protected. When a company does not allow customers or users to manipulate the code of the program, this is known as closed source.

A company may choose to keep their code secret in an effort to protect their ideas or property. They may fear a competitor stealing their code to make a similar program, or they may not want to lose control of how the program or app runs. But in keeping the code a secret, customers and users are unable to understand how it works or make changes for themselves.

On the other hand, an open source code is available for users, coders and programmers to manipulate as they see fit. For example, Vid.ly is an open source video platform and an excellent example of the benefits one offers. Another popular example is GitHub, an open source community where developers and coding fanatics can follow or create projects.

Using an open source code rather than a closed source code gives users the opportunity to solve problems for themselves or recruit coders to make necessary changes for them. Open source code also gives users the opportunity to see and understand how the program works.

But open source codes can also bring up questions of security.

Why Is Open Source Security Important?

When code is open source, anyone can make changes or view the code. There are not restrictions on who can access that information, make adjustments or pull details.

Unfortunately, this means that hackers also have access to open source codes. Does this mean that open source is less safe than closed source? Not necessarily.

Having a source code open to the public means that many individuals can look for potential areas where hackers may attack. When multiple professionals can make changes when they are needed, codes are updated more frequently. Users can also browse through the code to determine its safety and security, something they are unable to do with closed code.

As we move into 2017, open source codes are only going to become more popular. This also means that security for open source codes will continue to grow.

What Open Source Security May Look Like in 2017

While open source code is no stranger to the world of database management systems, 2017 will be the year that it truly takes off. As more companies adopt open source codes as the standard, there will also be a new focus on how to keep that code safe from hackers.

As the demand for open source code grows in 2017, so will the demand for open source security. With more companies using open source code to run their programs, it can be expected that 2017 will see an increase of attacks on open source codes. To combat this and protect users, open source security will increase as well.

With the right security measures, there’s no reason to believe that open source code is less safe than closed source. By allowing teams of coders from all over the world to find potential problems and recommend solutions, open source code may actually be safer than closed source. In 2017, we will continue to see that level of security increase as more companies focus on protecting their open source codes.

By Kayla Matthews

A Resilient Cloud Strategy: Standardize or Diversify?

A Resilient Cloud Strategy: Standardize or Diversify?

A Resilient Cloud Strategy

Over the past few years, I have seen IT organizations adopt cloud in very different ways. Some organizations prefer to standardize their cloud infrastructure to drive efficiencies in their data centers. As a result, they eventually reduce the number of suppliers across their entire IT value chain. Conversely, other organizations adopt a ‘best of breed’ approach and tend to put in place complex and heterogeneous IT environments that enable them to optimize their IT infrastructure for the specific applications they need to run.

For example, a large enterprise – whose CIO recently visited our executive briefing center – runs their backend ERP system in their data centers; they rely on public cloud providers primarily for a portion of their office productivity applications. They also have multiple LoB applications running in their self-managed on-premises private cloud. Additionally, they have deployed a large portion of their customer-facing billing applications in a hosted private cloud environment managed by a large system integrator. This type of mix of environments to suite different business needs is typical in the organizations I have worked with.

As organizations continue to increase their appetite for cloud services, do we expect senior IT decision makers to increase or decrease their choice of cloud providers? We asked IDC to help us understand these trends on a global scale and we sponsored a broad cloud market research study, which was completed earlier this year. The market study highlighted important findings. 

Organizations with Advanced Cloud Strategies Use Multiple Cloud Providers

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify. I know just common sense you may think … We see this principle being applied by smart investors (they diversify their investment portfolio to better manage risk across a number of possible and unpredictable market conditions.) We also see the same principle applied when selecting suppliers (for example to increase your bargaining power.) We can all think of other examples I am sure. So you may wonder, why would we expect the thinking behind the formulation of cloud strategies to be radically different?

The use of multiple cloud providers is another hallmark of mature cloud organizations. The most mature organizations expect to be able to choose from multiple cloud providers based on location, policies, and governance principles. This was one of the key findings of the IDC study.

More interestingly, as organizations get better regarding their ability to extract maximum value from their cloud environments their appetite to consume cloud services from multiple cloud providers grows. In fact, 84% of organizations with ‘optimized’ cloud strategies expect to choose from multiple cloud providers. Similarly, organizations with more mature cloud strategies are more likely to have implemented collaborative business and IT governance to define cloud management policies and SLAs. 

The Challenge

However, multicloud environments can increase complexity. The challenge many organizations face is that of being able to manage and orchestrate that diverse portfolio of cloud-based applications. And this where we can help.

Specifically, Cisco CloudCenter™ is an application-centric hybrid cloud management platform that securely provisions infrastructure resources and deploys applications to data center, private cloud, and public cloud environments.

With our Cisco CloudCenter application-centric technology, you can:

  • Model: Quickly and easily build a cloud-independent application profile that defines the deployment and management requirements of an entire application stack.
  • Deploy: Use one click to deploy the application profile and related components and data to any data center or cloud environment.
  • Manage: Apply a wide range of application lifecycle actions to set policies to enable in-place scaling, support cross-environment bursting or high availability and disaster recovery, and stop the deployment.

Cisco CloudCenter administration and governance capabilities span applications, clouds, and users. Administrators can centrally manage cloud accounts, better control costs with financial plans, and report on use. They can also manage tenants and users and provide tag-based governance and role-based access control (RBAC). If you focus on the application, you can tailor IT services to meet the unique needs of your users. With an application-centric service model – IT stays in the loop wherever workloads are deployed.

All of this helps IT organizations pursue a well-diversified and hybrid IT strategy that includes IT as a service (ITaaS), automated DevOps or continuous delivery, temporary capacity augmentation, and permanent application migration capabilities. And if you need help navigate the multicloud maze our Cisco Cloud Professional Services portfolio can provide additional guidance and reduce your risk profile.

Originally published on November 29th, 2016

By Enrico Fuiano, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Cisco Cloud Marketing

Cloud Access Security Broker and the Cloud-based Business Role

Cloud Access Security Broker and the Cloud-based Business Role

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

Cloud is the new address for businesses nowadays. The number of applications, hosted on the cloud, is rapidly increasing and that contributes in the streamlining of various business operations. Accounting applications, PBX, ERP, and CRM, etc. are some of the business applications that bring in more convenience and efficiency with the touch of the Cloud.

Cloud hosted applications can modernize the way businesses connect –be it employee connectivity or customer retention strategies. With the ability of cross-integrating different applications, cloud provides a more able and productive platform to deliver enhanced business solutions. On the other side, this ability arrives with some valuable business data, concerning to customers, employees, and several other parties. So, any lack of security on these nodes can make way for some dreadful consequences.

Cloud Access Security Broker

Businesses are willing to move to the cloud to enjoy smoother operations, but that should not come at the cost of security vulnerabilities. This need of security leads to the rise in demand for Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) products.

CASB – Definition & Basic Importance

In simpler interpretation, CASB can be defined as dedicated security points deployed between cloud server and the user device. They together enable a highly secure and protected line of access for exchange of information for cloud applications by enforcing better authorization, encryption, loss-protection, vulnerability-detection, etc. CASB introduces innovative access, control, and monitoring solution for the enterprises to meet the rising business necessities, such as – BYOD, real-time collaboration, permission-restricted user access, etc.

Think of it as a third-party security broker hired to safeguard the application data during the transmission from premise to the cloud. Businesses strive to maintain data security at the user-end while cloud providers are burning candles at all ends to mitigate the security flaws. The gap between them remains susceptible. Implementing CASB will secure the gap between them and eventually, the overall cloud system will become secured.

The importance of CASB can be judged with the prediction of Gartner that states close to 85% of the large enterprises will have CASB product in action, by 2020. Currently, less than 5% of enterprises have these services in action. So, the coming years are all set to see a tremendous rise in the number of CASB implementation. This improved level of security will also allow the developers to deliver more productive applications on the cloud.

What CASB Can Do For Business Applications

Cloud security has grown by leaps and jumps in the recent years. But it may still have certain weaknesses and anyone with the proper knowledge and malicious intent can hack their way into the system and wreak havoc. A cloud-based business service, such as – Hosted PBX, can carry crucial details of your business like call logs, client contact details, call recording, etc. Such information cannot be compromised upon by the business. So, there is demand for more reliable security measure – CASB. CASB ceases the flaws that exist between the local device and the cloud server. Mitigating those errors, cloud can be even more reliable solutions for business, as well as the end-user.

Here is what CASB has to offer:

1. Application Governance

Applications governance refers to understanding and the controlling of permissions associated with the Cloud hosted applications. To help this cause, CASB enforces an enhanced credential mapping, encryption, device profiling, and policy classification. These actions help better application detailing and boosting the security points accordingly. It is very much like a personalized security setup for the application. Regardless if its a soft-phone, tax software, or any other Cloud hosted application, CASB will offer special security governance as per the need of application.

2. Access Monitoring

security watch

Better access monitoring ensures that every attempt made to access the application is detected and duly logged. By defining the access permissions on the basis of recent and usual log in activities of the users in an intense manner for different users (support agent, customer, manager, etc.), they are restricted to access only the permitted data and hence, shielding the key data from the different users. CASB utilizes various methods, such as- single sign-on, authentication, authorization, logging, etc. to monitor the accessed application.

3. Controlled Safekeeping

Different CASB products have various boosted security measures that help them detect and prevent any malware intrusions. To keep such attempts at bay, they are even able to offer them non-sensitive (worthless) data to steal away using the ‘tokenization technique’. So, attempts for the data intrusion can be mitigated without much damage.

Wrapping It Up

Cloud computing is considered one of the finest examples of technical advancements as it offers on-the-go solutions without any restrictions of the device platforms. Cloud dependent services, such as – application hosting, VoIP, etc. have eased the data control element for businesses and enhanced the productivity measures. The technology has advanced to offer high-on-quality and low-on-expense solutions. However, the challenges associated with data security has often restricted the Cloud from being a supremely accepted option for businesses. Implementation of CASB products promises a near-perfect security for the cloud setup. But the fingers are kept crossed for now as the service is yet to face the real usage testing.

By Kirti Khanna

Common Cloud Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

Common Cloud Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

Common Cloud Mistakes

One of the first lessons in order to avoid common cloud mistakes with anyone entering the tech field learns is that nothing is as simple as it appears to be at first glance. That lesson goes double for companies implementing a hybrid-cloud strategy. Yes, it is possible to achieve the “best of both worlds” ideal of public-cloud efficiency combined with private-cloud security and control. Just don’t expect to get it perfectly right on your first try. Take some tips from those who have been there, done that, and then done it again the right way.

The first mistake made by many cloud-computing neophytes is choosing the wrong cloud. No, the cloud isn’t this monolithic entity that you simply plug into like a power outlet. In a November 2016 article on TechTarget, Marc Staimer identifies six different kinds of public-cloud storage:

  • Block storage is local embedded disk or SAN storage best suited for high-performance applications.
  • File and NAS storage work best for apps requiring NFS or SMB protocols.
  • Three different types of object storage are available for active archiving, cool archiving, and cold archiving.
  • Tape storage, usually in the form of a linear tape file system, is also used for cold archiving.

Block storage provides the lowest latency and the highest IOPS and throughput, but it is also the most expensive form of cloud storage, priced as much as 30 times more than active or cool archival storage. At the other extreme, cold archive storage costs as little as one cent per gigabyte, but it can take hours for users to access the data, and some providers charge up to 12 times the storage cost to read more than a small amount of the archived data.

On the other side of the hybrid-cloud connection, it can be just as difficult to select the optimal form of on-premises storage:

  • A primary NAS or SAN storage system replicates snapshots or tiers of data to public-cloud storage based on the policy you determine.
  • A gateway or cloud integrated storage (CIS) works like NAS or SAN storage by caching data locally and moving the bulk to cloud storage based on policy; it leaves a stub that makes public-cloud data appear to be stored locally.
  • An on-premises object storage system offers the same de facto interface as public-cloud storage, or alternatively, it extends to the public interface, replicating data based on policy, similar to the way it is done in a NAS or SAN system.
  • The existing NAS or SAN storage setup can be augmented with archive or backup software that copies data to the public cloud based on the policy you set.

CIS systems are generally the most cost-effective option, but only if the correct amount of data is cached locally to avoid frequent calls to the cloud. Object storage can be much simpler to integrate with cloud services, so long as your apps don’t require a high level of performance. Object storage can also conflict with some subsets of Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service (S3) interface. Likewise, recovering and restoring data from the cloud requires a physical or virtual media server in the public cloud itself, which is far from a given.

Expert consensus: Focus on goals, not cloud tech, and keep it simple

Cloud technologies change faster than the weather, which means it can be a mistake to become overly committed to a single platform or toolset. The first bit of advice offered by Forbes’ Dan Woods is to identify the cloud features that will improve your business and then become proficient in them rather than trying to become an expert on cloud technologies generally. No organization needs all the capabilities offered by AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and other vendors. Find the handful of specific cloud services that promise to deliver the biggest return for your business needs and focus on them initially.

common cloud mistakes

“Cloud platforms such as OpenStack can be difficult to deploy and manage, but 90 percent of the reasons cited for project failures are related to people and processes rather than to technology…” Source: Gartner, via the RackSpace blog

C-level executives are likely to rank cost savings at or near the top of the list of reasons why they’re interested in cloud computing. That is the second big common cloud mistake that companies make when formulating their cloud strategies, according to Woods: neglecting to value the cloud’s ability to help the organization achieve its goals. The role of IT is being transformed as IT functions become integrated with business departments, and IT itself becomes just as business-focused as the rest of the company.

This leads directly to the third common cloud mistake: “forklifting” your internal infrastructure onto a cloud platform with little or no effort to optimize your apps and other systems for the cloud’s best features: extensibility, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability. Initially, your big concern is getting your operations up and running on the cloud infrastructure, not doing so in a way that maximizes the cloud’s capabilities. Eventually, the only way the cloud will prove to be cost-effective is if you make the adjustments required to match your apps, databases, and other resources to the best features cloud services have to offer.

See cloud services as partners rather than vendors

IT is far from the only department affected by cloud computing. The nature of the relationship between the company and the service provider is changing fundamentally as well. According to TheCsuite’s Andrew Peddie, one of the top mistakes companies make when choosing a cloud service is treating it as a buyer/seller relationship. Any cloud project has a better chance of success if you see it as a partnership and collaboration with the cloud provider.

common cloud mistakes

“Cloud computing has had the greatest impact on the role of chief information officers, but all areas of the organization have been affected by cloud-driven changes…” Source: SpencerStuart

Peddie warns against underestimating the length of time required to complete cloud projects. To avoid unnecessary delays, evaluate only a handful of potential cloud partners rather than casting a wide net. Conduct interviews in person rather than over the phone. Have your decision-making process in place before you need it, and make sure your agreement includes long-term protection against future price increases.

When it comes to developing, managing, and protecting your company’s vital digital assets, there has never been a better time to embrace the changes presented by the cloud and its related technologies. The effort required for your organization to realize the benefits of cloud computing doesn’t have to be daunting, particularly if you learn from the lessons of those who have tangled with the cloud, and lived to tell the tale.

By Brian Wheeler

3 Major Concerns For Cloud Computing In 2017

3 Major Concerns For Cloud Computing In 2017

Cloud Computing Concerns

With the rise of cloud computing, different concerns about adopting the cloud have arisen over the years. In 2016, the top concerns are pretty similar to previous years, though some have become higher or lower priority as the understanding of cloud computing has changed. Three of the top cloud computing concerns going into 2017, according to Corpinfo,  have been a lack of resources/expertise, security, and cost control, all of which can lead to an avoidance of cloud computing, even if would ultimately be helpful for an organization.

Lack of Resources/Expertise

Cloud Computing Concerns

“To me, it is telling that the cloud has become so complex and evolved so quickly that even professional IT workers and CIOs cannot always get their heads around what is possible…” Jonathan Hassell, CIO

The top concern for 2016, even over security, is a lack of resources/expertise in the field of cloud computing. This can be attributed to several factors: lack of training, multiple and varied cloud vendors, and the addition of hybrid clouds. Training for cloud expertise can be somewhat difficult to find, and the lack of many standards and certifications also makes it hard to know when someone has the needed expertise. The numerous cloud vendors that can all use different terminology, and all have different strengths. Depending on what your needs are, one company may be better than another, but you could go with one that is not optimal if you are not aware of these differences. Also, adding hybrid cloud infrastructure into the mix can make it even more difficult to determine the best choice. Taking the time to find a good training for your employees could be an important step toward helping to get the proper expertise, which can be used to more effectively identify and properly make use of the best cloud service provider(s) for your company.

Security Concerns

Even though it isn’t at the top of the list for 2016, security is still solidly in second place. Many companies are concerned about cloud security, but modern cloud providers often do a good job of providing security on their end.

Cloud providers often take care of some of the tougher issues, such as keeping unwanted traffic outside a specific scope from accessing the machines on which your data and apps reside. They can also ensure automatic security updates are applied to their systems to help prevent recent security threats.

Given that cloud security has been a top concern for some time, it may be surprising that banking had the most cloud activity in 2013, which would seem to indicate that at least one sector that deals with highly sensitive customer information has had a great deal of confidence in security provided by cloud providers for some time. Keep in mind, though, that the quality of security does depend on the cloud provider, so be careful to perform the needed research on any cloud providers you may be considering.

Even though cloud providers tend to do a good job at security on their end, you must still be vigilant with your own internal security policies. Some security issues are outside the scope of a cloud provider, and you need to be sure to take proper precautions against such things.

xss-wordfence

For example, losing or misplacing a device that has access to your cloud could allow an outsider directly into your cloud administration, which could cause significant damage or losses. Another example would be an application vulnerability, such as an opening for SQL injection, cross-site scripting, or similar issues. An attacker can use such vulnerabilities to bypass otherwise excellent security measures. Keeping a good internal security policy is just as important as choosing the right cloud provider when it comes to mitigating security concerns.

Cost Control Concerns

Even though cost control is not one of the top three concerns, Corpinfo identified it as the fastest growing concern, so it may indeed move up the list quickly in the coming years.

While cloud adoption does in most cases save money over a data center, expenses can still add up quickly or be higher if the proper options for your situation are not chosen. This can be linked back to having a team with the necessary cloud experience and expertise to choose the proper cloud provider and to make use of the proper features to help ensure costs are kept at a minimum.

While all of these concerns are very real, they can all be dealt with if steps are taken to obtain good training and to keep a good security policy. So, when you are considering the move, be sure to take the proper precautions and bring in the needed expertise to ensure a successful transition.

By Brian Wheeler

Resolving the Normalization of Deviance by Building a Culture of Communication

Resolving the Normalization of Deviance by Building a Culture of Communication

Building a Culture of Communication

Real-time monitoring and corresponding alerts are critical for maintaining the performance and security of today’s complex cloud infrastructures. Given the exorbitant amount of data effective network monitoring can produce, however, a troublesome problem often occurs: organizations and their Security, Operations and Development teams start to develop a normalization of deviance.

What’s a Normalization of Deviance?

A normalization of deviance is an incremental and gradual erosion of normal procedures, and it can lead to dire consequences. The explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986 is, unfortunately, an infamous example of a normalization of deviance (and the resultant investigation is where Diane Vaughn developed this theory). NASA had been testing the limits of the joints on its solid rocket boosters and found they weren’t behaving as expected. Rather than halting the development process and dealing with the booster errors head on, NASA chose to accept the problem and move forward with the launch. This normalization of deviance led to the Challenger tragedy, as it was later confirmed that the O-ring gaskets on one of the problematic boosters were responsible for the disaster.

Cloud Disaster Recovery

The lesson to learn here is that the normalization of deviance stemmed from an organizational failure at NASA at the management level. It’s also a common occurrence amongst fast-growth technology companies and enterprises that are rapidly scaling their cloud-based infrastructures and adapting their architectures to changing business needs. In these settings, more tools are required to monitor infrastructure as the business grows and evolves and compute needs adapt to keep up. With more tools come more data and alerts, and as a result, operators have to balance the signal-to-noise ratio to ensure their teams can focus on the most important inputs.

The Harmful Effects of Burnout

With alerts coming in from a variety of different systems and tools, Security, Operations and Development teams can sometimes feel as if they’re at an obnoxiously loud party, with dozens of people having different conversations about different things at the same time. Without a systematic approach to compensate for this chaos, these teams can become desensitized, so that even when the system flags a truly anomalous activity, the alert may get ignored.

Burnout can lead to longer response times, create an unmanageable volume of technical debt, and generally have a negative effect on a company’s workforce. Team members who are struggling to keep up with never-ending alerts can experience anxiety, sleep deprivation, cognitive impairment and even increased blood pressure or headaches. A normalization of deviance and resulting burnout can also lead to a lack of interest in solving problems or helping customers, and as a result, negatively impact company culture.

A helpful way to determine if there’s a normalization of deviance in your own company is to watch how existing team members interact with new hires. When a new hire asks about an incoming alert, does your team brush it off and dismiss the problem as nothing to worry about? If so, your team has likely developed the habit of accepting bad practices as normal. This happens. It’s not a reason to upend everything, but a signal that leaders need to discover early and begin corrective action.

How to Prevent Desensitization

Chef CTO Adam Jacobs directly addressed burnout at the 2016 ChefCon: “We should make a conscious and intentional choice to build the future we want to be a part of, with our technology and culture.”

The most effective and long-lasting way to prevent a normalization of deviance from permeating your company and Security, Operations and Development teams is simply to communicate more and ensure those teams are empowered to enact change in their tools and process where needed. The fatigue and numbness that can result from a normalization of deviance is usually easier to spot in others than in ourselves, so be on the lookout for team members who may be struggling. Have burnout and personal health be a regular topic of discussion in one-on-one meetings, and make sure everyone is transparent about how current business goals or customer demands are physically and mentally affecting different teams. Perhaps most importantly, recognize that combating the normalization of deviance requires continuous effort. It’s not a task you can check off and then ignore.

Fast-growth technology companies and their Security, Operations and Development teams are all focused on moving at warp speed, building new cloud-based features and making sure complex platforms scale. But it’s equally important to prioritize building a culture of communication, honesty and improvement in order to catch and prevent a normalization of deviance before it sets in. This negative behavior pattern needs to be addressed, not tolerated, to ensure your company’s security defenses remain ahead of any adversaries’ offensive maneuvers.

By Chris Gervais

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Cloud Beacons Flying High

When Apple debuted cloud beacons in 2013, analysts predicted 250 million devices capable of serving as iBeacons would be found in the wild within weeks. A few months later, estimates put the figure at just 64,000, with 15 percent confined to Apple stores.

Beacons didn’t proliferate as expected, but a few forward-thinking brands did dip their toes. Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Sephora deployed beacons to send in-store notifications. Tech-happy airline Virgin Atlantic used them to offer currency deals and deploy blankets to chilly passengers. For the most part, though, retailers scoffed at ahead-of-its time geotargeting tech.

Despite their slow start, beacons are tottering on the edge of a renaissance. Apple and Google keep releasing updates to their beacon ecosystems and wallet platforms that allow many different types of integrations. Major retailers are starting to pay attention, and the barriers blocking beacons are now falling fast.

Great (Unfulfilled) Expectations

Beacons were expected to boom for good reason. Contextual relevance is the holy grail of digital marketing, and beacons deliver personalized information to passersby at opportune moments.

Beacons

(Image courtesy of Unsplash and the tremendous artists involved in the initiative) 

When a connected shopper nears a store, the retailer’s beacon jumps to action. It supplies the customer with information, promo deals, and personalized offers. For the business owner, it paints a data-grounded picture of the shopper’s behavior and desires. Not bad for a small, inexpensive piece of connected hardware.

But before beacons could strut their stuff, they were indelibly stained by privacy fears. Tamped down, too, by the costs and timelines of building the necessary infrastructure, beacons lost their steam.

It’s unfortunate, but perhaps unsurprising. Concerns about security loom large in popular imagination. Consumers have long balked at being tracked by phone, and they’re not crazy about pop-up ads, either.

Retailers, though, have since learned to throw in coupons or rewards, raising the share of shoppers amenable to beacons to 70 percent. Absent incentives, Oracle found just 23 percent of consumers were comfortable with the technology tracking their movements in store and online.

Hardware lag also stymied beacons. Hardware adoption always moves more slowly than software, and — although it seems strange now — not everyone had a beacon-sensitive smartphone in 2013, nor did many retailers have the capacity to broadcast beacons.

The fault, in part, lies with Apple. Estimote co-founder Steve Cheney notes that “nearly everything Apple does…works perfectly right out of the box,” but not iBeacons. Retailers couldn’t roll out beacons until developers learned to deploy and secure them at scale, gutting “within weeks” popularity predictions. Other limiting factors like network coverage were beyond Apple’s control. Networks were traditionally fragmented and closed, but they’re opening up fast.

Beacons bombed in 2013, but 2016 is another year. Beacons require a huge, deployed network to be successful. Slowly but surely, that network has been getting implemented and is now about to hit a usable saturation point. Developers have done their digging. Smartphones abound, networks are broader, and Google has addressed the security problem.

Beacons may be gone from the news cycle, but they’re popping up fast in stores. By the first quarter of 2016, 6.2 million sensors had been deployed globally. When the second quarter rolled around, 2 million more had popped up, bringing the global total to 8.27 million. At the current pace of installation, 400 million will be broadcasting globally by 2020.

Beacon Leadership?

In the coming years, we’ll see beacons broaden from brick-and-mortar retail locations to venues of all sorts. Sports, transportation, and banking establishments are also likely turf for beacons.

Beacons offer deals and details now, but in the future, they’ll facilitate transactions. Customers will leave wallets at home in favor of smartphones. Purchases will be simpler, and context-conscious discounts will become part of the shopping experience. CVS Caremark, for example, uses Google Nearby to notify shoppers they can print in-store photos from their phones’ galleries. United Airlines’ app lets travelers access free entertainment before boarding, and The Broad, an art museum, offers patrons an audio tour. The possibilities for contextual enhancement are as diverse as businesses are themselves.

Contextual Sports and Entertainment

In sports and entertainment, venues will use beacons to engage attendees and manage tickets. With a ticket sales app, for example, an attendee will buy a ticket and download it to his digital wallet; the ticket will pop up when he arrives at the venue. Already, North American sports team have used proximity tech to regain $1 billion in lost ticket sales. Beacons will allow brands, teams, and musicians to push contextual information, deals on refreshments, and emergency notifications directly to fans’ smartphones.

cloud-data-baseball

Tourism and transportation are obvious candidates for beacon technology. Apps that suggest events tailored to users’ interests and locations will help tourists explore sights free of interpreters or itineraries. So far, a beacon-infused app offers guided tours of the Berlin zoo; the University of Notre Dame uses Nearby to guide visitors to historical landmarks; and the MyStop service sends transport alerts in London, with plans to expand across the U.K.

The banking sector, too, will find beacons attractive. Millennials — now the largest U.S. age demographic — seldom visit branch locations but retain attachments to them. Beacons may be the thing to finally bring Millennials in for that auto loan, mortgage, or retirement account. Citibank is testing beacons at select New York City locations, where customers use iPads to access enhanced ATMs for services typically provided by tellers.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Businesses must ensure their offers present enough value to merit the interruption. To allay security fears, brands should give customers in-app options to disable beacon transmissions.

Beacons may not change things like the smartphone or internet did, but they’re about to make shopping smoother, marketing more precise, and live events more engaging — and they may even help us ditch those annoying chip cards.

By Tony Scherba
tony-cloudTony Scherba is the president and a founding partner of Yeti LLC, a product-focused development and design studio in San Francisco.

Tony has been building software since his teen years, and he has led product development efforts for global brands such as Google, Westfield Labs, JBL, MIT, and Sony PlayStation.

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