How to Keep Costs in Check After Converting a Monolith to Microservices By Chris Parlette

stevepb / Pixabay

You’ve gone full-blown DevOps, drank the Agile Kool-Aid, cloudified everything, and turned your monolith to microservices — so why have all of your old monolith costs turned into even bigger microservices costs? There are a few common reasons this happens, and some straightforward first steps to get microservices cost control in place.

Why Monolith to Microservices Drives Costs Up

As companies and departments adapt to modern software development processes and utilize the latest technologies, they assume they’re saving money – or forget to think about it altogether. Smaller applications and services should come with more savings opportunities, but complexity and rapidly-evolving environments can actually make the costs skyrocket. Sometimes, it’s happening right under your nose, but the costs are so hard to compile that you don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.

The same thing that makes microservices attractive — smaller pieces of infrastructure that can work independently from each other — can also be the main reason that costs spiral out of control. Isolated systems, with their own costs, maintenance, upgrades, and underlying architecture, can each look cheaper than the monolithic system you were running before, but can skyrocket in cost when aggregated.

How to Control Microservices Costs

If your microservices costs are already out of control, there are a few easy first steps to reining them in.

Keep It Simple

As with many new trends, there is a tendency to jump right in and switch everything to the new hotness. Having a drastic cutover, while scrapping all of your old code, can be refreshing and damaging all at the same time. It makes it hard to keep track of everything, so costs can run rampant while you and your team are struggling just to comprehend what pieces are where. By keeping some of what you already have, but slowly creating new functionality in a microservices model, you can maintain a baseline while focusing on costs and infrastructure of your new code.

The other way to keep it simple is to keep each microservice extremely limited in scope. If a microservice does just one thing, without a bunch of bells and whistles, it’s much easier to see if costs are rising and make the infrastructure match the use case. Additional opportunities for using PaaS or picking a cloud provider that fits your needs can really help maximize utilization.

Scalability and Bursting

Microservices architectures, by the very nature of their design, allow you to optimize individual pieces to minimize bottlenecks. This optimization can also include cost optimization of individual components, even to the point of having idle pieces turned completely off until they are needed. Other pieces might be on, but scaled down to the bare minimum, then rapidly scale out when demand runs high. A fluctuating architecture sounds complex, but can really help keep costs down when load is low.

User Governance

Along with a microservices architecture, you may start having certain users and departments be responsible for just a piece of the system. With that in mind, cloud providers and platform tools can help you separate users to only access the systems and infrastructure they are working on so they can focus on the operation (and costs) of that piece. This allows you to give individual users the role that is necessary for minimal access controls, while still allowing them to get their jobs done.

Ordered Start/Stop and Automation with ParkMyCloud

ParkMyCloud is all about cost control, so we’ve started putting together a cost-savings plan for our customers who are moving from monolith to microservices.

First, they should use ParkMyCloud’s Logical Groups to put multiple instances and databases into a single entity with an ordered list. This way, your users do not have to remember multiple servers to start for their application – instead, they can start one group with a single click. This can help eliminate the support tickets that are due to parts of the system not running.

Additionally, use Logical Groups to set start delays and stop delays between nodes of the group. With delays, ParkMyCloud will know to start database A, then wait 10 minutes before starting instance B, to ensure the database is up and ready to accept connections. Similarly, you can make sure other microservices are shut down before finally shutting down the database.

Everything you can do in the ParkMyCloud user interface can also be done through the ParkMyCloud REST API. This means that you can temporarily override schedules, toggle instances to turn off or on, or change team memberships programmatically. In a microservices setup, you might have certain pieces that are idle for large portions of the day. With the ParkMyCloud API, you could have those nodes turned off on a schedule to save money, then have a separate microservice call the API to turn the node on when it’s needed.

The Goal: Continuous Cost Control

Moving from monolith to microservices can be a huge factor in a successful software development practice. Don’t let cost be a limiting factor – practice continuous cost control, no matter what architecture you choose.

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Not a Tech Expert? Here’s How to Turn Your IT Department Into an Asset By Jon Schram

Free-Photos / Pixabay

IT investments make up more than 3 percent of all corporate spending. However, every company views this investment differently. For many, the right IT infrastructure is considered the most important tool for productivity and customer relations in the toolbox. For others, it’s a necessary cost so employees can access their emails.

It’s important to consider how technology is used in your company. After all, how productive will your employees be if they are twiddling their thumbs while their computers’ hourglasses are spinning?

Treat IT as a Tool, Not a Cost

Companies that pinch pennies by using old technology are wasting time and resources. For example, the average mid-range laptop lasts only four or five years before the hardware slows down significantly and the battery life becomes almost nonexistent. Invest in higher-quality machines upfront, and you’ll save money in replacement batteries or new laptops down the road.

Employees waiting on frozen screens to come back to life aren’t the picture of productivity. In any other context, sitting around and waiting isn’t acceptable work behavior. Expecting employees to be productive without investing in equipment that supports their productivity sends a mixed signal, at best.

Without a crack IT team in place, you might not have the expertise to use technology to its full potential. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your IT investment into a valuable resource. With these tips, you can use your IT to boost revenue rather than cutting it to save costs.

1. Give employees tools that work

The minimum standard for your company’s laptops, printers, and internet modems should be that they work when you turn them on. The more time employees spend waiting, the more money your company loses in productivity.

You should also invest in some level of training for your employees on the tools they’ll use. Many IT vendors include initial training services in their contracts to help everyone become familiar with the new system. You can also designate an in-house superuser to find ways to further optimize different features and to solve problems that arise.

2. Put your mail and CRM on the web

Although IT security requires you to keep a lot of your operations within the walls of your company, you can easily put your customer-relationship management (CRM) and business applications on the web. With affordable platforms such as Microsoft Cloud and Google’s G-Suite, things like emails and ad campaigns can be managed and kept up-to-date much more efficiently.

In most cases, this decision comes down to cost-effectiveness. As long as employees can access these applications easily and securely, you might find it more efficient to host them on your in-house infrastructure. However, to streamline routine maintenance and updates, it often makes the most sense to keep them on the cloud.

3. Get regular tune-ups

As with any well-crafted machine, keeping your IT infrastructure running smoothly will require routine maintenance. Someone will need to regularly install software patches, monitor antivirus solutions, and manage data backups for both productivity and security reasons.

It’s no different from the maintenance needed to keep your car running reliably. You don’t want to wait for a timing belt to break before you take your car in for a tune-up. Likewise, you don’t want to wait for your infrastructure to collapse before you pay attention to your system’s soundness.

4. Be strategic about data access

Data security is the law in most industries, but the penalties for noncompliance shouldn’t scare you away from innovation. After all, staying compliant isn’t necessarily difficult or expensive. For instance, your in-house IT superuser can lock down sensitive information or assets and then grant access to off-site salespeople when necessary. Two-factor authentication is another easily implemented solution that adds extra security and is often required for compliance.

5. Outsource your IT needs

IT encompasses more than just workstation equipment and laptops. Until you can afford to hire an IT department of about three people, it’s probably best to outsource your needs. A high-value IT company will include network services, vendor relations, project management, and hardware maintenance. For optimal results, partner with a trusted IT services company that can offer training, support, and maintenance services to speed up and smooth the transition.

Even if you don’t know all there is to know about modern business tech, you can still turn your IT infrastructure into one of your most important assets. You just have to focus on what your company and employees need and give it to them.

Want to know more about whether your business is properly secured? Download my company’s guide on five easy ways for small businesses to protect themselves from online threats.

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The Power of Mobile is Changing the Marketing Game By Andrew Gazdecki

power of mobile

 

Imagine stepping into the past and telling marketers that they can now communicate with their customers anytime, anywhere, and at any budget. Not only can you communicate with them, but customers want and expect it. Oh and by the way these same consumers will generate brand content and basically do half your job. What would sound crazy 10 years ago is so common today that we take it for granted. It’s one of the most amazing times in the history of marketing to be a marketer.

Mobile technology and consumer habits are paving a new and exciting way to reach your customers. The possibilities are endless with the only limit being your creativity. These interactions are becoming even more immersive with new technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Brands are able to reach customers through authentic communication that provides value and builds trust, rather than through a giant obtrusive billboard in their face.

More People Have Access to Mobile

Today, it should come as no surprise that it’s more common to own a smartphone than a desktop or laptop computer. People are more likely to go to their smartphone when considering a purchase or getting answers to their questions. Mobile devices are portable and more convenient, no matter who or where you are. If mobile is where consumers are, than that’s where businesses should focus their efforts.

more people have access to mobile

Mexico, Indonesia, and India each have more than 4x as many smartphone users as they have desktop users. The UK, USA, and Canada have mobile customers that will also have access to a desktop but spend more time on mobile and, in the next decade, may transition to mobile only. Roughly 20% of US adults are “smartphone-only” today. People in these countries already spend more than twice their time on mobile, even if they own a desktop.

mobile only

The Mobile Connection Is Strong

We take our smartphone everywhere we go – and let’s be honest, we panic if we can’t find it. We check our phone an average of 47 times a day, as it has become a vital source of information in modern day life. That alone changes things. However, not only has mobile gained rapid and widespread traction, it has also changed what people value.

Mobile technology is creating an on-demand world where consumers expect things to be delivered to them faster and more efficiently. It’s creating new opportunities in almost every industry. This is possible because of the direct connection a brand has with the consumer on their mobile device. Many modern brands have relied solely on mobile to interact and transact with the customer.

Google has coined the term “micro-moments” to describe an intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need – to know, go, do, or buy. These micro-moments are increasing and, with it, the the chance to interact with your customers. This gives companies the opportunity to deliver what users are looking for and ultimately gain their business. The winner of these micro-moments will be decided based on the quality of the user’s experience.

Brands need to understand the mobile customer journey and how they can be there when a customer is in need of something. Mobile provides a diverse way for users to interact with and consume media. For instance, video is by far the most popular format for mobile users, attracting 82% of mobile viewers regularly. Social networking and audio content follow, drawing 70% of mobile users on a daily basis. Mobile games, while not quite as popular, are still used by over half of all mobile device users.

More Ways to Deliver Your Message

Mobile has also “invented” and improved nearly every other marketing method available. There are dozens of possible channels you could use to deliver a marketing message. The following eight are the most effective on mobile and have a few distinct differences presented on mobile compared to their desktop incarnations:

Social Media – Social media and mobile are linked in quite a few ways. The manner in which their audiences grow and respond to content are very similar. The 55+ user group is growing the fastest for both of these platforms. For the most popular social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, 80% of their most active users will primarily use mobile to connect.

55+ users mobile

Email – Smartphones and tablets can no longer be ignored by email marketers. They represent a massive part all email interactions and revenue. Email is largely read on mobile, with 61% of email opens occuring on a mobile device.

email mobile

SMS/Text – SMS is becoming a more and more popular way to reach customers. In fact, by 2020, 48.7 million consumers will opt in to receive business SMS. These messages could be appointment reminders, promotions, or time-sensitive updates. Customers are more likely to opt-in to receive messages from businesses they already deal with, and 90% of these text messages received are read within three minutes of receipt.

Video – Video is the most consumed form of mobile media. Twitter sees 90% of its video views come from mobile users. Mobile users are also 3x as likely to view a video than a desktop user.

Native and Progressive Web Apps – Mobile phone users spend 92% of their time on applications. Mobile apps done right can provide your customer with an exceptional user experience. With an app, a customer is likely to spend more time with your brand. This could be research, shopping, communication, or the use of a tool.

Push Notifications – A virtually mobile-exclusive marketing tool, push notifications are interrupt-driven and likely to get attention quickly. According to Localytics’ research, “push notifications that add the most value are ones triggered by a user’s stated preferences. About 49% percent of respondents said these types of notifications cause them to use an app more.”

Marketing Made Personal

Mobile marketing creates an opportunity to personalize the digital experience by collecting consumer data. While data might seem intimidating at first glance, with the right tools, it is incredibly easy to tailor experiences to each individual. The goal is to understand how much your customers want to interact with your brand and on what channels.

Besides understanding customers’ wants and needs, you also want to allow them to choose how they receive communications. If they only want an email newsletter once a week, they should be able to have that while others receive them once a day. The same goes for push notifications. While these are arguably the most effective tool a mobile marketer has at their disposal, they are also the most likely to be a double-edged sword. Push notifications, if unwanted, are annoying. The more relevant, the more personalized, the better.

A Seamless Experience

Done right, mobile marketing is unobtrusive. It fits right into a person’s life. They can control how they interact with your brand and how much. That creates a more positive relationship. Further, through timing, tracking, and intelligent use of data, it’s possible to anticipate and seek to fulfill a customer’s needs before they realize they have them.

seamless experience

Smarter marketing efforts that capitalize on the advantages of mobile are being developed all the time. For now, better data collection, privacy protection, and personalization efforts should be the primary focus as these have proven to be the most effective methods to grow customer relationships.

Besides the issues mentioned above, there is still something many people overlook when it comes to creating a mobile experience: mobile screens are smaller… sometimes. We are referring to the fact that not every mobile device is the same. Screen sizes vary from the sleekest smartphone models to the largest tablets. These are all classified as mobile devices. In order to create that seamless experience, adaptability (and not just from desktop to mobile) is key.

The Mobile Audience is Still Growing

With more than double the amount of time being spent on mobile than any other internet-connected device worldwide and smartphone ownership significantly outpacing that of any other internet-connected device, how much further can the mobile audience expand?

The truth is, mobile audience growth lies in two primary areas: adoption by older members of the population and primary business applications. By 2018, mobile adoption rates overall will start to slow down slightly due only to the fact that the adoption has been so rapid and incredibly widespread. Who else is left to adopt?

First, those over 55 are the only group with double-digit adoption rates projected for this year and subsequent years. These same people are still likely to own and use a desktop as their primary source of internet access, but the shift is happening.

The second avenue of growth, once mobile device usage has spread to every demographic of the population, is in the business arena. Desktop and laptop computers are still the primary source of everyday business operations for many people. In some industries this is starting to shift, in others, smartphone capabilities and technologies like virtual intelligence still have some way to go before this shift can occur.

Wrap Up

Chances are, you get to experience a dozen or more carefully crafted mobile marketing interactions every day. Some may register as helpful; others will be ignored as inconsequential. Either way, this is a part of day-to-day life as much as searching the internet has become. Mobile is going to stick around. It is heavily cemented into everyday life and businesses need to find a way to weave themselves into those daily mobile actions. Mobile experiences must be adaptable, personalized, human, and unobtrusive. If you can succeed in those areas, your marketing efforts on the mobile platform, whatever shape it takes physically, should be successful.

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Why Are Companies Changing Their Privacy Policies? By John Burcham

Not Your Average Email Communication

It’s not uncommon to receive emails from a company, especially if you are a frequent customer or client. But when multiple businesses inform you of privacy policy changes at the same time, it can often mean something bigger is happening behind-the-scenes.

The European Union made recent changes to its data privacy regulations (the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR) that went into effect on May 25, 2018. These regulations mandate that companies clearly communicate how and why they are collecting consumer data.

While these regulations directly impact European businesses and consumers, they are still relevant to those of us in the U.S. that utilize international services such as social media, smartphone apps and more. Let’s walk through some common questions about these new data regulations, and what they mean for Americans.


Q: What are privacy policies?

A: Privacy policies explain how a company will collect, use, store and share a user’s sensitive information, as well as other personal data. Historically, these policies have been dense, hard to understand and filled with confusing legal jargon. With Europe’s new data privacy regulations, privacy policies must be easy to understand and accurately outline how and why a consumer’s data will be collected by a business.


Q: If these are European data privacy regulations, why am I receiving these emails?

A: If you receive any emails relating to privacy policy updates, they will most likely be from larger companies that do business in international markets. Social media networks and other services available internationally are required to comply with these new data privacy regulations. As such, larger companies may apply these changes across all customers – sending these emails to their European and American consumers alike.


Q: What impact does this have on me, if any?

A: Many services that American citizens use every day are offered by companies who must comply with these new data regulations. If you use services from international companies like social media networks, smartphone apps or other businesses that serve both Americans and European citizens, you could receive emails to inform you about privacy policy updates, or to get your consent to continue sending you emails.


Q: Do I need to do anything?

A: From a legal standpoint, you are not required to take any formal action related to these changes. However, the new European data privacy regulations were put in place to make it easier to understand what consumers are sharing with a business, and how it’ll be collected and used. Americans can benefit from these changes by reading through easy-to-understand privacy policies to ultimately make informed decisions about the information they share with businesses. Remember, each email you receive represents a company that is currently collecting your data.


What should I do?

  • Know what to expect: Companies that must comply with Europe’s new data privacy regulations are required to have simplified privacy policies that are easy to understand, and clearly outline the data they are collecting from consumers. While these new regulations directly impact businesses that serve European consumers, these changes may also impact U.S. citizens if a company does business in international markets.
  • Take control over your data: You may get a headache just thinking about “reading a privacy policy.” However, this is a great opportunity to review simplified privacy policies so that you can better understand what is being collected from you. Some businesses even allow consumers to choose the data elements collected by a company, as well as opt-in and out of future email communications.
  • PII vs. personal data: Your identity is more than just your Social Security number, birth date and sensitive credit information. In fact, it’s the entire combination of your unique data elements – which includes your “non-sensitive” information, too. Take an all-encompassing approach to protecting your identity by securing all your data, not just the highly sensitive parts.

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Action Cohort Analysis: A Key Tool For Understanding User Engagement By Hannah Levenson

So you’ve been tasked with “monitoring user engagement” in your mobile app. But wait a second, what actually defines good user engagement? “Engagement” can be interpreted in many ways and applied differently across mobile app categories.

As Intercom elaborates, “For a to-do app an engaged user should be logging in every day to add and complete items whereas for an invoicing app, an engaged user might only log in once per month. There is no consistent quantifiable definition of engagement across different products.”

Despite the fact that there is no quantifiable definition of engagement across varying verticals, there are still some basic metrics that mobile professionals gravitate towards. With any standard analytics tool, you’ll probably start by tracking metrics such as daily app launches, churn rate, and daily sessions per DAU.

These are important metrics, but there is so much more that you can do for measuring user engagement.

There’s one tool in particular that can provide you with a deeper understanding of user engagement: action cohort analysis.

Action Cohort Analysis: What is it?

“Cohort” is a term that’s used to describe a group of people who’ve banded together due to the same attribute. For example, people born between the years 1980 to 1990 who have attended a private university are a cohort. In the case of mobile app cohorts, a cohort is a group of users who have performed a common action or actions during a specific time frame.

In app analytics, action cohort analysis allows you to create groups of users based on what they do in your app within a specific time frame (whether that be a day, week, month etc.). Action cohort analysis can help you understand how users are actually interacting with your app and examine trends in behaviors over periods of time. By enabling you to view your users as specific, defined groups, rather than a single aggregate unit, you can better identify engagement and usage patterns throughout the user lifecycle. These patterns can help direct you towards the data that really matters and allows you to make more informed decisions on your app’s optimization.

To help you better understand how cohort analysis works, let’s first go over the actual setup of this tool. When creating an action cohort you need to set up three parameters.



Now that you have defined your time frame, first action, and section action, you are good to go. If you have defined the time frame as a current month or week, you will need to wait for your behavioral analytics tool to populate with enough data. Bear in mind that in cohort analysis, a user will only be counted once per cohort, but can be included in more than one cohort. For example, let’s say you have a weekly cohort that is based on the first action of a completed ‘login’ event. That means that a user who actively logged in at least once each week will be in every cohort, and not only the cohort for their initial login.

Take a look at the visualization below of an action cohort based on a weekly time bucket. Notice how the same individual is not repeated within the same cohort but can appear across multiple cohorts depending on your initial selected action. If you have defined the initial action as ‘started 1st session’, then you would not see that individual repeat across cohorts as that action can only occur once.

action cohort analysis 4

Pro Tip: Cohort analysis + user session recordings

Action cohort analysis is a great way for you to ask a specific question about user behavior and/or usage trends, and then examine relevant data. However, in order to confidently act on this data, you need to try to understand why you are even seeing those numbers. A key question to ask here would be why some of your users are not completing a second action (and trust us, there will be at least “some”). A lot of hypothesizing and “educated guessing” is likely involved. Today’s users are complex and it can be challenging to apply one reason for an incomplete action.

There is an effective work around that can save you time, resources, and stress. It comes in the form of user session recordings.

Mobile app analytics tools that provide user session recordings, like Appsee, enable mobile professionals to watch session recordings of users within specific action cohorts.

For example, let’s say you set up an action cohort with the initial defining action as ‘Started First Session’ and the second action as ‘Triggered Event: PurchaseComplete’. With qualitative analytics tools, you can watch session recordings of users who did not complete the second action within a certain time frame. Maybe there’s a crash happening for some users who attempt to pay via Paypal? Perhaps there is a confusing text element within the billing vs. shipping address section? The answers to these questions can be visualized via the pairing of session recordings with cohort analysis.

action cohort analysis 5

How does this combo apply to other app categories? Let’s take a look at some powerful use cases.

Business/Productivity action cohort analysis use case 1

So you have a business app that enables users to manage their tasks. A powerful action cohort for your app could be to track how many users started a session and then came back and tapped the “+” button to add a new task. This cohort will help you examine whether users are adding a new task to their task list as frequent as you anticipate. With user session recordings it will also enable you to see what friction points might have stopped them from adding the task.

action cohort analysis use case 2Gaming

If you’ve got a gaming app and you want to optimize IAPs, you need to be able to examine your users’ in-app purchase patterns. A good way to do this is via an action cohort with the first action as an in-app purchase (i.e. buying coins) and the second action as an in-app purchase. This can help you understand on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, how quickly and often your users are willing to make recurring purchases.

action cohort analysis use case 3Entertainment

Just as tv channels want to understand how many users are tuning into episodes of a show, an entertainment app should want to analyze how many users are streaming videos. In this case, you can create an action cohort with the first action as “Started a Session” and the second action as “Play Video”. This way you can dive into the how many users are streaming videos (or specific videos) after starting a session and how frequent.

action cohort analysis use case 4Health & Fitness

Most Health & Fitness apps have an onboarding process that requires users to complete specific weight, diet, height, and/or exercise preferences. While this information is typically necessary for the user to complete, only “committed” users will actually follow through with this requirement and then use the app. To identify the commitment level of your users, you can set up an action cohort with the first action as “Completed Onboarding” and the second action as “Started a Session”. You can then watch session recordings of users who did not complete the onboarding process and zoom in on the exact reasons as to why.

Bear in mind the key to effective action cohort analysis is composed of two parts.

  1. Selecting the right parameters for actions and behaviors relevant to your app
  2. Utilizing a powerful behavioral analytics tool that provides insights beyond quantitative metrics

Can’t get enough of cohort analysis? Check out this live-action visualization of action cohort analysis via this tutorial.

 

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How AI, VR, and IoT are Redefining the Hospitality Industry By Seleah Gardiner

Mediamodifier / Pixabay

Whenever it seems that customer expectations can’t rise any higher, they do. Our ‘State of Digital Care’ report found that 81 percent of consumers have higher digital customer service expectations in 2018 than they did the previous year.

To continue to earn their customers’ loyalty, hospitality brands are embracing technology. And in particular, they are finding that Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer a mutually reinforcing equation of excellent service:

1. AI helps brands personalize the customer experience

Hospitality brands are increasingly on the hook for personalizing customers’ experiences the way Amazon recommends purchases and Spotify recommends songs.

While the idea isn’t new–rewards programs for capturing customer information have been around for decades–what’s different is that consumers expect continuity between their online and offline experiences. Guests want an offer they receive on an app to be valid at checkout, to fix an in-person service issue by chatting with the brand on Facebook Messenger, and for hotels, taxis, and airlines to remember their preferences. Because private Social Messaging conversations are asynchronous and persistent, they tie guests’ pre- and post-booking conversations together so service agents always know their history.

It can take a lot of work to unify all that disconnected data, which is why hospitality brands are investing in data warehousing and algorithms to help them know guests better than they know themselves.

Best Western, for instance, has deployed Amazon’s Alexa smart devices as in-room concierges. The brand aggregates this interaction data with online and offline behavioural data to make sure that consumers’ preferences travel with them. Similarly, Premier Inn makes use of Navigator on Twitter for Conversational Automation. This enables a dedicated, 1-1 delivery of frictionless and discrete customer care whilst automating functionality. Navigator effectively works as an in-line menu system for Twitter private messaging threads. By preemptively prompting the customer to provide relevant information means that only if necessary, is an issue seamlessly escalated to a human agent. A combination of automation and simple human interaction makes for a richer, authentic and more tailored digital customer experience.

2. Virtual reality allows travelers to try before they buy

For families and individuals, planning a getaway can run thousands of dollars and often requires careful consideration. One might think that VR travel experiences that can bring a tropical rainforest or the streets of Paris to life in a viewer’s living room might compete for these dollars. But travel brands are embracing VR as a marketing tool.

The ski resort Destination BC in Whistler, Canada, allows potential visitors to “test drive” its slopes with 360-degree virtual reality videos taken from cameras affixed to skiers’ helmets. Hundreds of hotels, including Atlantis in Dubai, now offer virtual tours, and the hospitality startup Amadeus is developing a VR booking technology where prospective travelers can preview the view from their hotel or airplane seat in advance. All of these experiences allow potential customers to try before they buy, and are a signal that brands are betting that VR taste tests will translate into actually spending on R & R.

VR also allows brands to do more storytelling. VR is often touted for its ability to get viewers to empathize with what they’ve seen to a greater degree than is possible in video or print. This is why tourism boards from Wales to Singapore have launched innovation funds and VR documentary series to tell their stories in ways that strike an emotional chord.

“As a charity, we want to inspire people about the amazing wildlife that we have here,” Gina Gavigan of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales told the BBC. “There’s no better way to do that than VR.”

3. Integrating home life with travel life

Best Western’s deployment of Amazon Alexa smart devices is just the tip of the device-berg, if you will. As everyday objects from smartphones and wallets, to speakers, fitness trackers, and vehicles get smarter, consumers will expect brands to predict their preferences based on their personal data footprint.

Take, for example, the things connected devices already know about most consumers. For the 17.5 percent of the U.S. population with smart thermostats, why wouldn’t a hotel room adjust to their preference? For those with streaming video services, why wouldn’t an airline’s in-flight system know what movies they haven’t yet watched? And why wouldn’t a travel booking site’s Messenger chatbot be able to update an existing reservation with a saved payment method without ever putting the customer on hold to involve an agent?

For business travelers, the expectations are even higher. The rental car company Hertz has been successful in the past decade partly because it has relentlessly eliminated points of friction using data. It was among the first to offer self-checkout kiosks and 24/7 customer support using digital channels. In the future, brands will need to do all this and more just to keep up.

The future is connected

Today, AI, VR, and IoT in hospitality are all converging. More connected devices means more data. That means AI algorithms are trained on better datasets and can perform more functions. And a greater understanding of guests’ interests, desires, and experiences means more interactive and engaging VR experiences before, en-route, and at their destination.

As customer expectations rise, technology offers an answer. The challenge for hospitality brands is investing in the right systems before it’s too late.

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The First 100 Days of the New CISO By JC Gaillard

ciso 100 days

There is some form of management reality beyond the “100 days” journalistic cliché: How does an incoming executive make an impact in a new role? What are the real timeframes to look at, and what can be expected and over what horizon? What are the key issues that should raise a red flag during the first few months in a new senior position? and those which can be ignored?

Those are the themes we have been exploring on the Corix Partners blog since November 2017 around the specific role of the incoming CISO.

Of course, each and everyone’s own path to success will ultimately depend on the specific context of their arrival — from their own previous experience at this level of responsibilities to the firm’s security management maturity. We believe, however, that this series of articles will prove helpful in guiding most CISOs through their first steps in a new organisation and provide them with a useful roadmap about making an impact in their new job.

Our experience drives us to split the new CISO’s roadmap into 3 different time horizons which can be roughly encapsulated into a 6-days / 6-weeks / 6-month paradigm. These three milestones represent good opportunities for the incoming CISO to focus on what truly matters at each step— and to highlight what they should not yet be concerned about.

It is key – in our opinion – for any new CISO to hit the ground running so your first six days should be dedicated to start engaging actively with your direct management and with your staff. As much as possible, you must meet with them face-to-face to start building a stronger personal bond. Make use of those first interactions to understand how reporting lines work in your new organization (upwards, downwards and sideways across matrix models), to position the challenge ahead and to identify key preexisting roadblocks. The only thing that should worry you at this point should be the inability to properly schedule those key first meetings because stakeholders don’t have time for you. Now would also be a good time to get the finance question straight: Do you have a budget allocated and how is it managed? Without appropriate resources, you won’t be able to achieve much.

Your first six weeks should be the natural continuity of the first six days. Only by meeting as many relevant stakeholders as possible will you be able to accurately assess the situation you are inheriting of as a CISO. Key at this stage is to listen, listen and listen instead of coming up with ready-made solutions, or focusing only on the burning fires. Travel if you must and take time to gather your thoughts, then start drafting a strategic framework — ameliorative directions, time-frames, and high-level costs — to address your findings, in relation to the objectives and challenges identified during your first week. Your main objective around this time should be to get your strategic framework validated with your boss, but you should be fully prepared if your plan is properly costed, rooted in tangible field observations and the expectations of key stakeholders. Lack of engagement from your management beyond merely tactical and technical topics and a general lack of interest from stakeholders for a truly transformative agenda should raise red flags.

Once validated, the next step must consist of executing your strategic framework and it will start with the formal setting up of an appropriate governance and operating model, as well as getting as many senior team members and stakeholders on board as you can. You should now be getting ready to implement what is very likely to be a mid- to long-term plan, and you must resist being pushed or drawn into tactical firefighting. Focus on infusing a sense of clarity among all stakeholders, both about timing and objectives.

As it turns out, your sixth month in the job should correspond approximately to your first 100 (working) days, and it is a good time to start looking back on your journey while recognizing that you are really only getting started.

While a 100 days framework is a useful model to think about getting up to speed in your new role, you must keep in mind that any lasting change in an organization’s InfoSec practices is likely to require steady work over a period of several years.

So while this series of articles should help you hit the ground running, always keep in mind that, if your objectives are rooted in delivering lasting change around cybersecurity, you are in for a marathon, not a sprint.

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