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Jon Hogg

Why Not-For-Profits Need to Ensure Applications are Cross-Platform
Why Not-For-Profits Need to Ensure Applications are Cross-Platform 1000 667 Jon Hogg

It takes considerable resource to build, test and launch an application – people, time and money. Most not-for-profits don’t have these resources in abundance. So if you’re going to build an application, why wouldn’t you launch an application that works across all devices and platforms; and even works when there is no internet access?

Keep your users happy and engaged

It’s a no-brainer. But you would be surprised how many applications are launched that give a poor user experience on one platform, but an amazing one on another. To reach your entire audience you need to ensure your application gives a consistent user experience regardless of whether it’s an Android, i-Phone or a Windows device. That’s what we mean when we talk about cross-platform.

As a charity or public-sector organisation, you will want your application to engage in a meaningful way with your target audience regardless of the device they are using. You need to be clear on the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’ of your application before any coding begins. A good development company will work with you to scope this out.

Offline connectivity

A really thorough development company will use technology that ensures your application not only works across platforms, but also works when users are ‘occasionally connected’. This means they may not be online 100{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of the time. For example you may have a staff member or volunteer using the application in an area where there is no internet connection. Ensuring your application has offline and online functionality means no data will be lost when the application is used without connectivity, as the data can be synced later when the user has internet access.

To generate maximum return on your IT investment and to ensure you are giving your target audience a seamless user-experience, you need to ensure your application is truly cross-platform.

You can read about a recent cross-platform application we developed for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Or, if you’re ready to see how a cross-platform app could benefit your organisation, talk to us today.

Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry
Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry 150 150 Jon Hogg

Today’s customer has certain expectations about how they will interact with businesses and organisations. Naturally, this extends to the insurance industry – covering both commercial and domestic markets. This consumer expects to be able to get the information they need, whenever and wherever they want – and in a way that makes sense to them. This isn’t something particularly ground breaking, the importance of customer/user experience is well known – we’ve even blogged about it before – Could a poor user experience be damaging your business?

It may surprise you to learn then that certain industries, insurance amongst them, have been slow on the uptake with things like customer portals. The insurance industry is also one that could gain far more than others from implementing customer portals. Giving customers instant and easy access to contracts, schedules, T’s&C’s, and other useful information, such as their risk profile, makes their life easier, and also saves the insurers valuable time and money as well. In an industry where new business is hard to come by, and customer loyalty is a top priority, the importance of this is easy to see.

Carefree Customer Communication

Communication is key to any business, and it’s the least customers will expect. Plus points for the customer portal here then. With information centrally stored and easy to access, 24 hours a day, there can be no more confusion about who is sending what to whom, and if something has got lost in the post or a Junk mailbox.

It also means it is far easier for insurers to update documents and information, without having to resend everything to customers. Update the centrally stored file, and voila. The whole process just became simpler and far more efficient – not to mention the time and money savings to be had as well.

Tailor Made Customer Experience

We talked briefly about the importance of customer experience, and linked to our blog as well. Customer portals are an extremely simple way to improve this. Let me explain, the customer portal is an environment over which the insurer has complete control. I.e. they can decide how it looks and what messages are displayed to what customers. This will ring especially true for those of you in marketing – getting the right message to the right people is the biggest battle.

It also means insurers can adapt the portal to the feedback that they get from customers. Do they want more information on latest offerings? Or would they like more visibility on their risk profiles and how they can be improved? All of it is possible within a customer portal.

Happy Customers = Loyal Customers

Customers value businesses that give them the opportunity to interact the way they would like to. This means giving them easy access to any information they may need or may be relevant to them. If they have to fight against a poorly designed website, or have to phone a helpline to receive a simple document, the experience quickly becomes frustrating. Frustrated customers are far less likely to renew.

Many of these points are quite simple, and may seem obvious, but they are far too often overlooked. In an increasingly crowded industry, where customer loyalty is becoming more and more important, insurers cannot overlook the value to be gained from something as simple as a well-designed customer portal.

If you’d like to know more about our work in the Insurance industry – click here.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free consultation about implementing a customer portal for your business, talk to us today.

Why Xamarin is Perfect for Cross-Platform App Development
Why Xamarin is Perfect for Cross-Platform App Development 150 150 Jon Hogg

With mobile usage overtaking desktop in 2016, mobile apps aren’t going away anytime soon. What can be tricky though is deciding what platform to develop your app in. Android generally has a larger market share, but can you afford to alienate all your iOS users, or even Windows Phone users?

Cross-platform development is nothing new, but there aren’t a plethora of tools that allow you to do it well. This is where Xamarin comes in. Xamarin allows developers, using .NET and C# languages, to write shared code for apps so that they can work equally well on Android, iOS or Windows. The mantra of Xamarin is write-once-run-anywhere, which is what makes it a firm favourite with developers.

How does Xamarin actually help?

Xamarin allows developers to use .NET/C# languages, to develop across the three platforms we mentioned earlier. There are a number of benefits to this. Not least of all because instead of having to know 3 separate developer languages (Java for Android, Objective-C and Swift for iOS or C# for Windows Phone), they can stick with .NET and C#. This means that the quality of coding for your app is going to be much higher.

It also means significant savings in both manpower and money. The brilliant thing about Xamarin is that it allows developers to share the application logic between platforms. On average about 75{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of the logic will be shared across the various platforms using Xamarin Native and up to 95{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} using Xamarin Forms. Writing fully native would mean having to write two or three separate versions of this – taking far more time, delaying the development cycle and inevitably driving the costs higher.

Why you should be choosing Xamarin

You may think that Xamarin must be a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation. But you’d be wrong. Xamarin stands apart from its competitors because of its ability to take advantage of the native features and functionality of the respective platforms; in fact, Xamarin Native provides direct wrappers for all the native APIs on the target platforms, which means you lose zero functionality.

User experience (UX) is central to making sure people use your app and enjoy it, and having apps that feel native is key to this. You can tell when an app has been poorly designed (we’ve all downloaded a few), but Xamarin doesn’t have that problem. By embracing the unique features of each platform the apps have their own distinct features, making them feel like true native apps.

It is not just design though. Xamarin apps have access to a comprehensive range of functionality from the underlying platform and device, including platform-specific capabilities like iBeacon and Android Fragments. Xamarin apps are also compiled for native performance, with platform-specific hardware acceleration. In addition to this there are many open source libraries available for Xamarin to allow developers to implement common App functionality such as offline storage, network connectivity, authentication to name but a few.

Xamarin really does allow you to have your cake and eat it. If you’re looking to develop a mobile application and want to appeal to users on all platforms there really is no better choice. Sharing upwards of 75{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of the base code without compromising on native design and performance means you can have three almost-native apps for a shade of the development time and cost.

Click here if you’d like to know more about cross-platform app development.

Or for a free consultation, talk to us today. We’d love to hear from you.

Why Insurers Should Be Thinking About Business Intelligence
Why Insurers Should Be Thinking About Business Intelligence 150 150 Jon Hogg

When we think of Business Intelligence (BI) it is very easy to think of product focused business models. Dashboards and reports based on production figures, supply chains and sales numbers. But the benefits of BI are not limited to product-centric industries, the insurance industry is perfectly placed to gain huge advantages from implementing BI. After all, insurance companies are businesses like any other and at their core are seeking to reduce costs, increase revenue and boost profitability.

Becoming More Efficient With Business Intelligence

Using BI tools to get better insights and get ahead of competitors, can be critical in such a hotly contested industry. BI tools allow your staff to make better decisions, with the right data, driving efficiency improvements and therefore, boosting profitability.

If you think about it in terms of risk management – a concept central to the industry – the benefits are obvious. A Risk Management department that has access to up-to-date, detailed and accurate 360-degree risk profiles are far better placed to make better decisions regarding levels of risk.

It is also important to consider the value of BI in terms of regulation and compliance. Insurance has a significant level of regulation and compliance becomes much easier to monitor when you have the right tools for the job. Giving your staff the right data, in the right format at the right time means they can make decisions to keep you above board and in business.

Using Business Intelligence to Improve Customer Experience

Just as BI can make a real difference to how your company manages risk profiles, it can do the same for your clients. Customer portals are nothing new in the insurance industry, and the era of self-service is going nowhere. What insurance companies are not doing though, is allowing clients to access BI around their own risk profiles.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the user (good practice, by the way), it’s very easy to see just how useful this would be for clients. Being able to log into a client portal and see your risk profile, in real-time, means they are better placed to manage their own risk. This is good news for them, they’re at lower risk now, and great news for the insurance company as the chances of a pay-out are reduced significantly.

In an industry so hotly contested, improving customer experience and inspiring brand loyalty can be the difference you need, and BI could be the answer.

If you’d like to know more about how BI could improve your business, talk to us today. We’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to know more about our Business Intelligence services, click here.

How GDPR Can Drive Your Digital Transformation Plans
How GDPR Can Drive Your Digital Transformation Plans 150 150 Jon Hogg

By now you know that GDPR is coming in less than 12 months, and with it the eye-watering fines for those organisations found to be in breach of it. If not, our blog ‘What is GDPR?’ should help.

Let’s start off by saying GDPR is non-negotiable. It will impact organisations of every shape and size as every organisation uses data to a lesser or greater extent. When organisations can embrace GDPR, and what’s required to ready themselves, rather than fear it, they can use GDPR to their advantage.

How does GDPR link to Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of an organisation embracing new technology to make itself and its processes more efficient. It will not be news to any of you that plans and initiatives run far better when they have a goal or target in mind. Here’s the crux: use the upcoming GDPR regulation as an organisational objective, and tie your digital transformation directly to that.

If you’d like to know more, read our blog ‘What is a Digital Transformation?’

Let’s go into a bit more detail. There are several talking points in GDPR (we won’t go into them all here), one of which is data availability. I.e. a customer or user can request to see what data your organisation holds on them. All organisations have a duty to provide this. The thought of having to collate data about one individual that could potentially exist across four or five disparate systems is probably nightmare inducing. Here’s where Digital Transformation comes in. A robust digital strategy will include plans for system integration and getting a single-view of data. An organisation who has well integrated systems that communicate readily, and has eradicated data siloes is far better placed to deal with these requests – as a result of their Digital Transformation work.

Why GDPR should drive your Digital Transformation

GDPR is, quite naturally, a scary proposition for many, and for others, a boring tick-box exercise. It doesn’t have to be either. Instead try to think of it as an opportunity to get ahead of the game, and ahead of your competitors. The right blend of technology and improvements in business processes is critical to regulatory (GDPR) and Digital Transformation success.

Fully automated and transparent processes will help you improve data availability, integrity and security – all of which are central to being GDPR compliant. Using that objective (becoming GDPR compliant) as a catalyst to update old and clunky systems or processes will give your organisation the upper-hand over competitors at the same time as improving your user and customer experience – win-wins all round.

GDPR is definitely coming, and the punitive fines will definitely be eye-watering – but it doesn’t have to be scary. Think of it as a golden opportunity to kickstart those Digital Transformation plans that have taken a back burner.

If you’re ready to use GDPR as a catalyst for your Digital Transformation plans, talk to us today.

Key Considerations for Data Flow Mapping
Key Considerations for Data Flow Mapping 150 150 Jon Hogg

Your Data Flow Map will be entirely unique to your organisation so it is hard to give a fool proof method for doing it. That being said, there are some key things you need to think about along the way, and we’ll look at those now.

You can read out blog about How Data Flow Mapping Can Get You Compliant with GDPR here.

The key elements of Data Flow Mapping

The key elements of what you will be looking for will focus around what the data is, what format it is kept it, how it is transferred and where it is stored.

  • For data think; name, email, address, health data, criminal records, location data, bank details etc.
  • For format think; Paper copies, USB drives, databases
  • For transfers think; post, telephone, email, social media, internal, file share services such as Dropbox etc.
  • For locations think; on site (in the office), in the cloud, or with a third party.

Getting the most out of Data Flow Mapping

Now you know what it is you’re looking for, and how to assess it, how do you go about finding these things out? We have listed some questions below, along with some techniques and methods you can apply to help get the most out of it.

Asking yourself the following will help get you moving;

  • How is Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected? By phone, email, online forms, paper forms etc.
  • Who is responsible for collecting it?
  • Where and how is that data stored?
  • Who has access to where the data is stored? (Hint: if it is paper copies stored on site, think about who has keys or even just access to that room)
  • Is the information shared with anyone? Partners or third parties for example.
  • Do any of the systems information is stored on transfer it to any other systems? If so, you’ll need to make sure these are included in your map as well.

There are a few different ways and settings in which to ask these questions as well. Our favourite, and probably the most productive is workshops. Setting out some time to sit down and focus on this means you can achieve quite a lot. Key things to think about here is to involve the right people – i.e. you want people that have access to the data and an understanding of at least part of its journey through the organisation.

Other techniques you can think about; start by inspecting existing documents and plot where they sit on the map. Try questionnaires to your staff to see how their daily tasks interact with the data, and maybe consider observing work in the office or wherever you’re based to see how the path of data is affected and interacted with day-to-day.

Data Flow Mapping should be seen as one of the earlier stages of becoming compliant with GDPR. After all, how do you know what needs to change if you’re not sure what the current situation is? It may seem obvious to say it, but this process will highlight any strengths and weaknesses and the short and long-term actions you may need to take to address them.

GDPR is coming, and will impact every organisation. With less than a year to go its important that people get a handle on their data, or risk the ICO’s wrath. If you’d like to know more about how Data Flow Mapping can help you become GDPR compliant, talk to us today.

How Data Flow Mapping Can Get You Compliant With GDPR
How Data Flow Mapping Can Get You Compliant With GDPR 150 150 Jon Hogg

Data Flow Mapping is the process of documenting the flow of information from one physical location to another. It enables you to track data from its entry point into your organisation, right through to its exit point – and everywhere in between. Getting a handle on how, where and why data moves through your organisation is central to complying with GDPR. Let me explain why.

Risk is one of the critical themes of GDPR. It is mentioned over 60 times in the regulation. With such a keen focus on risk, you need to be able to properly risk assess your data, your systems and your processes. Until data flows have been assessed and mapped they cannot be effectively secured against known risks – which will lead to data breaches and large fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). With fines due to be reaching up to 20 million Euros, or 4{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of turnover (whichever is higher), you really cannot afford to take this lightly.

For an over of GDPR, read our blog: What is GDPR?

So how will Data Flow Mapping help your business comply with GDPR?

Data Flow Mapping will do a number of things that will help you to get compliant with GDPR. Not least of all because, should the worst happen and a data breach occurs, being able to show the ICO evidence that you have done things like Data Flow Mapping to reduce those critical risk levels will mean lower fines and less harsh sanctions.

Data Flow Mapping will also:

  • Produce a data inventory of your organisation’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Create a picture of your data’s origins, paths, exit points, access points and storage locations.
  • Improve your data lifecycle management.

Once completed, it will become clear where the risk points are, and how you can reduce them. For example, you’ll be able to discover if a department has access to data that it shouldn’t, or whether you are holding on to data for too long if it doesn’t have a clear exit path. As we have already said, reducing these risks is what becoming GDPR compliant is all about.

Later this week we’ll be talking in more detail about Data Flow Mapping, how to get the most out of it, and the best approaches to use with it. Keep your eyes peeled.

GDPR is coming, and will impact every organisation. With less than a year to go its important that people get a handle on their data, or risk the ICO’s wrath. If you’d like to know more about how Data Flow Mapping can help you become GDPR compliant, talk to us today.

Free Power BI Interactive Demo Available Now
Free Power BI Interactive Demo Available Now 150 150 Jon Hogg

Experience the interactive power of data visualisation – see the full picture in one pane.

We’ve been pushing the value of data visualisation tools for a little while now – and that’s because we mean it, there are huge benefits to be gained from them. We’ve done blogs on what ‘Business Intelligence’ software actually is, and how data visualisation enables organisations to get the full view – transforming the way they work. But now it’s your turn to see the value for yourselves – first hand.

Why you should try Microsoft Power BI

You can access the free demo here.

Microsoft Power BI can connect to hundreds of data sources, simplify that data, and present it in meaningful and insightful ways. No more collating spreadsheets from different departments that don’t quite match up. Use Power BI instead to produce visually engaging reports and share them with your organisation, whether that’s other staff members or even customers.

Once published you can share these reports on the web and they can be accessed from mobile devices. Give everyone who needs it a better view of your organisation. Empower your users, colleagues and customers with relevant data.

Experience the power of data visualisation

Getting up close and personal with Microsoft Power BI really is the best way to experience it. Our free demo comes pre-loaded with real company data so you don’t have to worry about that. This means you can jump straight into the digital dashboards.

Play around with the different visualisation options available, zoom into maps to pinpoint geographical data, click on charts to drill deeper into specific data sets, and look at different ways of analysing data trends. There are so many options in Power BI and our free demo gives you the chance to see the value for yourself.

Download the free demo today

If you’d like more information on our data visualisation services, click here.

Alternatively, if you’re ready to realise the potential of data visualisation for your organisation, talk to us today, we’d love to hear from you.

Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat
Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat 150 150 Jon Hogg

When companies think of the insider threat, their thoughts will usually go to people inside the firewall who are the cause of data breaches or security lapses. This can be either intentional or accidental, and both should be of equal concern and can be equally damaging.

Most companies, especially those concerned with the insider threat will have measures in place to try to mitigate and minimise these risks. Ensuring employee’s update passwords, store USB drives securely and have a good understanding of system security.

The insider threat from legacy technology is however, too often overlooked.

The risk of legacy systems

With companies, especially insurers, spending so much on their technology it is perhaps understandable that they are reluctant to maintain this investment through updates and replacements year on year. When you know replacing a system is going to be extremely costly it becomes a much less attractive proposition. This is a dangerous trap though.

With each year that the system ages, it is another year out-of-date with current security threats, both internal and external. As systems and technologies evolve, so do the threats to those systems and many of the systems that companies rely on are simply not up to the task.

The growing skills gap

As systems age and get more out of date every year, so do the skills available within the company. Increasingly, companies are finding that those who implemented the systems, and maintained them are approaching retiring age or have left the company already. This leaves a worrying skills gap – companies are relying on aged systems that no one has the skills to upgrade or maintain.

It is a tough sell to convince new employee’s to learn and take on out-of-date code and technology as well, meaning the solutions are rather limited.

The risks here a real. You can spend millions of pounds securing your network but if it relies on an out-of-date system that is not being properly updated and maintained because no one knows how, access points will undoubtedly appear.

How to minimise the risk of legacy systems

A data security audit

This will give you an idea of where your data is stored, and how securely, and whether any legacy systems are affecting this. This is particularly crucial in the run up to GDPR going live next year.

Health check or IT audit

If you want to fully understand the vulnerabilities of your systems, then a health check is a relatively low cost way of doing so. This will also provide you with appropriate next steps to remedy any glaring issues.

Business Process Mapping (BPM)

This will help to identify any weaknesses or inefficiencies in your wider processes. Eliminating these helps to reduce the risk of legacy systems by keeping things as simple as possible, where there is less chance for things to go wrong.

If legacy systems continue to remain in place, with no checking and little to no maintenance, they present as much of an insider threat as rogue or careless employees do. The insurance industry, as do others, need to take note and start to properly assess the extent of the problems they face.

For more information on managing your legacy systems, ring for a free consultation on 020 7127 4558.

Alternatively, talk to us today, we’d love to hear from you.

5 Top Tips for Better Digital Dashboards
5 Top Tips for Better Digital Dashboards 150 150 Jon Hogg

Business Intelligence (BI) and the benefits it can bring to your business has been well covered. If you need to catch up, our last few blogs have been all about ‘BI’ and the things it can do for organisations. Now we’re turning our attention to the actual design of your dashboards. It’s all very well having them, but you want them to be engaging, and tell the right stories.

It can be easy when building a dashboard to get distracted and feel like you should have every type of graph showing every bit of data all on the same page. Unfortunately this can often have the opposite of the desired effect and make your data harder to read. The idea here is that your dashboard makes it clear, concise and easy to understand.

Lets see how you can best do that.

1 – Who’s your audience?

It’s important to ask yourself firstly who the dashboard is for. This may seem too simple to be worth mentioning, but it is often easy to forget. As with most aspects of business, to be the most effective you can, you need to target the right audience.

Some good examples to think about here; is this for the sales team looking at the sales pipeline, or is it actually for the leadership team checking top-level KPI’s? If you include the same information on both dashboards you’re wasting space and will end up confusing the picture. Keep it simple, keep it concise.

2 – Group data where you need it

One of the key elements of UI/UX design is that things are where people expect them to be. The same principle applies in dashboards. Put data where it makes sense for it to be – group it together logically. If you have a stack of financial data, don’t space it between graphs that monitor server down time for example. Again, you’re trying to make the picture clearer, not more muddy.

Worth considering here is that people’s eyes will naturally be drawn to the top-left hand corner. This makes it a good place to stick your most important piece of data. You can always move your logo somewhere else.

3 – Less is sometimes more

Cluttering your dashboards with every type of graph you can think of isn’t a good thing. Nor is including every single metric that may be of use. Decide what your most important (emphasis on most here) metrics are, and make room for them only.

In tools such as Power BI you can drill down further into these graphs anyway – so even if data isn’t immediately available on the first screen, you will be able to find it on subsequent screens.

Some other presentation tips for you:

  • Don’t go mad on the colour schemes – keep it simple
  • Red and green are obvious choices for positive and negative performance
  • Try to keep the number of metrics below 12 per dashboard
  • Choose the right charts – pie charts are god for comparing sections of a whole, and scatter charts are better for analysing performance and identifying outliers.

4 – Make it responsive to different devices

Making your dashboards easier for your users to access and make sense of is the recurring theme here. The point of BI is that you can access the full view of your data anywhere, anytime. So accessing it on any device is crucial. Your BI software should respond and resize to whichever size screen your users are logging on from.

Tools like Microsoft’s Power BI are HTML5 compliant and provide access on any device, adapting to the screen size and reordering your dashboard correctly. If people need data on the go, out in the field, then this is something you definitely need to consider.

5 – How up to date does it need to be?

Be honest with yourself here. The idea of having real-time data displayed is very attractive and initially you may think you want all your dashboards to be real-time or near real-time. However, getting hold of real-time data and processing it can be a lot of wasted effort if you only really need weekly or bi-weekly updates. Even daily updates would be a big drop. This could save you bags of time and money.

You may decide that some dashboards need to be real-time, and some only need weekly updates. This is perfectly achievable, and is the right approach to take. This is a good step to making your dashboards more relevant.

If you’d like to find out more about the benefits Power BI could bring to your organisation, explore our Business Intelligence Services.

Or for a free consultation, talk to us today.