Perficient Digital Transformation Blog


Dorothy in the Land of Big Data

Big Data is one of the enabling technologies for companies to digitally transform either their operations and/or customer  interactions.  However the open source world can be complicated, especially in the red hot Big Data arena. There are a myriad of technologies; some compete with one another, others overlap, some are complementary, and worse of all, some technologies both compete and are complementaryVenn Diagram (e.g. Cassandra can stand alone or run on top of Hadoop, thus it competes, and it is complementary.)

Like a Venn diagram, both Spark and MapReduce can coexist, but a number of their use cases do overlap. (Read more about Spark vs. Hadoop here). On Monday IBM, announced that it was throwing its weight behind Spark (see my blog post here) with little mention of Hadoop. It is easy to see how companies can one can feel like Dorothy in the Land of Oz. However, following a few simple recommendations a company can make good decisions in this seeming fantastical world (view my blog post here).

There is more good news. In this new digital, Big Data ecosystem the technology is pretty pluggable and is becoming more interchangeable. If the focus is on business value that data and analytics can bring to a company undergoing a digital transformation, then a good pragmatic business decision today will result in a good return on your technology investment.

API Security: Common Threats and Considerations


Common API Threats: spoofing, tampering, repudiation, denial of service, unauthorized access, confidentiality violation

API Security Considerations: 

Identification – Know Your Consumer
The common approach to implementing this is using API keys, which are nothing but randomly generated values that will vary for each consumer.

Authentication – is Consumer Authentic

User-Password over SSl/TSL: the API consumer will be providing a user password to ensure their authenticity.

OAuth – Additional Security by providing token-based access, and the token can have attributes like expiration, which means
any user can perform certain activity for certain period of time and then later on they need to renew or get a new token
depending on what strategy is being implemented.

SAML – Another mechanism for Authentication. Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an XML standard for injecting
Assertions. Typically, the identity provider will validate the user’s identity and insert appropriate assertions to describe things like what application, resource users have access, roles etc.

OpenID is another solution that gives funcationality similar to OAuth and SAML

Authorization – Is consumer authorized to perform a certain action?

Apart from these basic things, one might also want to consider following:

Json Attack: Since most of the API accept or return JSON response, the response can be intercepted in middle. We can have API Gateway taking care of this for all request responses.

Data Protection : Depending on the information being sent or received, we might need to encrypt certain data elements or mask data so that it will be difficult to guess or figure out what they are and what they really mean. For example, PHI or PCI information.

The Human Element of the Digital Transformation

shutterstock_210974194Technology is affording us the ability to do more with less every single day. In fact, as consumers, we’re able to do more with less, every single day, from anywhere.  In an highly electronic world, e-commerce companies are harkening us back to the old “Name That Tune” game show, priding themselves on how few clicks it will take us to complete transactions for goods and services from anywhere at any time.

Such is the root of the Digital Transformation, a term that is gripping not just IT sectors but the e-commerce world as we know it. Trends analyst Altimeter defines digital transformation as “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touch point in the customer experience life cycle.” This has led companies to rethink and reengineer their approach to mobile technology, cloud storage, customer personalization, and more.  The importance of IT and Marketing leadership working together has never been more important.

This sounds amazing, and frankly, it is (we’ve come a long way since my first Palm Pilot III in 1997!).  As technical as it is, though, there is a huge human element to digital transformations.  The end customer is the obvious focus here, as he or she must be aware of any new offering, buying channel, or service that a digital company may create.

However, the group that gets overlooked most often are the e-commerce company’s internal employees who must support these new offerings.  The marketing execs may create awesome new ways of reaching their customers, and the IT execs may build ground breaking technology to engage consumers, but if the internal structures and employees aren’t ready and prepared to support the new models, the resulting train wreck will put the company in a position far worse than if nothing had been changed at all.  In these days where customer loyalty is fickle because options abound, can you afford to not be able to efficiently fulfill orders or provide first class customer service?

Have you seen the commercial where the family creates an internet company in the garage and simply can’t keep up when orders start pouring in?  That may be an oversimplified example for Fortune 100 or even Fortunate 5000 companies, but the reality is that an unprepared workforce and inadequate internal structures can cause the best ideas to grind the organization to a painful halt.

The moral to the story is that it’s absolutely critical to have a focus on your internal organization when introducing digital transformation activities in the organization.  You’re asking employees to think, act and perform differently, and that doesn’t happen on its own.  You even may change reporting and/or compensation structures.  None of these changes are small and should not be underestimated.  Change is hard, and human nature’s natural tendency is to resist change.

Frankly, the people side of the digital transformation is not nearly as sexy as a slick new mobile app or even a beautiful new high definition website, but having your employees bought in, aware, and trained, or said another way, ready, willing and able to support the new environment, may be the difference between initiative success and failure, and in a worst case scenario, between company life or death.

Customer obsession: The next wave of competitive advantage


Last week, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Kyle McNabb, VP of Research Strategy at Forrester. He spoke about how empowered customers have given rise to a new era. “The device is not the problem, the problem is what we can do with the device,” he said.

McNabb continued to tell the audience about how the connected consumer is impacting the way we do business. Here are my notes from the session:

 by Record TV (1)

Early adoption is becoming cheaper and easier

Ten years ago, early adoption meant you were willing to spend $2-5,000 on a plasma TV. You were willing to invest your hard earned money knowing that it might not work out, but it might be fun for a while.

Now that early adopter cost is negligible. The cost of innovation and the cost of consumers to adopt it has erroded to zero. That is what is changing the fundamental dynamics of how we engage with brands.
“Technology is impacting every piece of our lives.”

This isn’t about technology. This is about people and how we are changing.

Forrester has 20 years of history about how people are changing.
This is what’s keeping CIOs and CMOs up at night:
  • 53% of consumers agree that price is more important than brand.
  • 74% of B2B buyers start their research online
  • 41% of showroomers end up buying at another retailer
  • 35% of US adults are interested in digital wallets
  • 14% of US adults track their fitness

Customer-obsession is the next wave of competitive advantage.

Read the rest of this post »

Top Three Reasons I’m Excited About the Forrester Digital Webinar

DT_Pardot_Landing_Page_Final_6_540In just a few more days, we will host Nigel Fenwick, Vice President and Principal Analyst Digital Strategy at Forrester. We’ve been collaborating for a few months on the topics we will address and the format.  Nigel walked us through some of his answers to our questions today, and I’m pretty excited about the webinar.

Here are my top three reasons why I think this discussion will be great:

  1. Nigel and Forrester have had the chance to interact with a lot of different companies regarding digital transformation and digital strategy. He will come prepared with some great examples of what other companies are doing.
  2. Nigel provides an easy to understand framework in talking about digital maturity and how you can figure out where your organization stands
  3. There are concrete steps you can to start your own digital transformation and both he and Perficient will point those out
  4. Bonus: Who doesn’t love an English accent?

Communications – They’re Important, Too!


How often are communications an afterthought, or a box you have to check, on your projects?  Your project’s success may be more dependent on them than you think!

In my recent blogs, I’ve been focusing on the importance of answering and communicating a project’s “why” factor.  I firmly believe that this is the single most important element for an effective Change Management program and ultimately project success.

There’s more to Change Management, though, than just the why.  Two other extremely important components are the “what” (communications) and the “how” (enablement).  Let’s dive into the “what” for a few minutes.

When we think about project communications, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a project’s Communication Plan.  This is the most used and revisited deliverable in the Change Management arsenal.  Proficient change managers literally live in this document.  The Communication Plan captures what communications and key messages need to be delivered to whom, when, and how.  It also lays out the steps to creating each communication artifact, whether it be an email, a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, or something else even more creative.  (Those things don’t create themselves, do they?  Nor do we get them exactly right the first time.)

Effective communication plans are iterative.  The reason Change Managers spend so much time in them is because the projects themselves are dynamic.  Projects are constantly changing (scope, timelines, issues and workaround, etc.), and as Change Managers, we must react to quickly and appropriately prepare our users for what is actually to come and when it is coming, which may be slightly or very different from what we believed at the outset of the project.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of the answers at the beginning of the project?  In over twenty years of consulting, I’ve yet to find that project.

Related to this, a common mistake projects make is not having a dedicated resource that is able to focus on theses dynamic Change activities.  I frequently see projects that leverage the project manager for the Change Management tasks.  Unfortunately, these activities are often relegated to a few communications to the masses.  While I won’t digress and talk about the likelihood of omitting the “why” and the downstream effects in this scenario, project managers often don’t have the time (or often the right skillsets, especially the technically-inclined project managers) to focus on the dynamic nature of the Change activities.  Project technical or process issues will arise and take priority (and the PM’s time) over the change-related activities.  For right or wrong, it happens.

The tough part about this is that when communications do not get the full attention they deserve, the Change Management activities suffer as a whole.  When Change activities are cut, then users suffer, and at the end of the day, adoption and engagement is much lower than desired.  When we don’t get the adoption and engagement, not only that we desire but are banking on from a business case perspective (our projected returns are usually assuming people actually use the new system or process), the overall project’s success is in jeopardy.

At the end of the day, we’ll spend the most Change Management project time on communications-related activities.  Isn’t it worth getting them right?

What Are Your Most Pressing Digital Transformation Questions?

Next week, we will have special guest Nigel Fenwick, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Digital Business Strategy, Forrester Research, included in a live broadcast round table webinar with Perficient’s David Stallsmith, Director, Customer Experience and Digital Transformation and Michael Porter, Managing Principal, Strategic Advisers.

The three will discuss the nuances between success and failure of digital transformation, and how to think about and align your transformation initiative with your company vision. They will also discuss some of the most pressing questions we’ve been getting in the field such as:

  • Why do we need to rethink and realign to craft a vision that works for your company?DT_Pardot_Landing_Page_Final_6_540
  • What are the models used to benchmark where you are on your journey?
  • How are successful companies aligning executive vision with business and IT roles?
  • How do I make the business case for digital transformation?
  • When do we combine Combining tactical projects with the digital transformation strategic vision?
  • How do we uncover and manage the technology infrastructure?

Register for this informational webinar on 6/18/2015 by filling out the form below.  In addition, if you have any special questions you want to have answered, enter them as comments below. We will address as many questions as we can throughout the live event.

Twitter please improve user experience

Billionaire venture investor and Twitter shareholder Chris Sacca recently wrote a much deliberated post and open letter to Twitter entitled What Twitter Can Be. His reason for writing this long letter was, “Twitter can be so much more than it is today.”

An excerpt from his writings follows:

Hundreds of millions of new users will join and stay active on Twitter, hundreds of millions of inactive users will return to Twitter, and hundreds of millions more will use Twitter from the outside if Twitter can:

  • Make Tweets effortless to enjoy,
  • Make it easier for all to participate, and
  • Make each of us on Twitter feel heard and valuable.

Accomplishing this isn’t hard and there are obvious, concrete steps to fix it all. Done right, countless users new and old will find Twitter indispensable, use Twitter more, see great ads, buy lots of stuff, and make the company much more money along the way.

The entire letter can be boiled down to, Twitter improve your user’s experience. This has long been a goal of the systems we build at Perficient and we have a great user experience team to help our technologists build applications to delight users.

I agree with Chris Sacca. Twitter, like many companies, should strive to improve their user’s experience and value their user’s feedback. There should be no controversy here.

Posted in News

It’s All About the Why

RunnerHow many times have you put off doing something that you should do because there was no sense of urgency, and you thought you’d just get to it later?  If you’re like me, it happens all the time.  If we take a deeper look into why we don’t take action on those things, it’s because they’re not a priority for us.  They don’t carry the immediate value than other options might, and thus, we make the trade-off decisions to do one and not the other.

For me, one of those trade-off decisions has been taking a CPR class.  I’ve always known I should do it, but I haven’t gotten around to it.  While I totally understand the value in being CPR trained, even certified, it’s practicality for me just hasn’t been there.  Until recently.

A good friend of mine (Paul) was on a training run during a group workout about six weeks ago.  All of a sudden, Paul, who was in great shape, simply collapsed.  His heart quit working, and for six minutes, he had no oxygen being pumped through his body, including to his brain.  Paul was super fortunate that another runner was right behind him, saw the whole thing, and quickly began administering CPR.  This CPR saved his life, and I’m happy to report that Paul is on his way towards a full recovery.

Now there’s value.  Now I know the “why” on why I should go to a CPR class as soon as I possibly can.  I’m bought in.  Completely.

For many of our projects, the desired results may not be as dramatic as saving someone’s life.  However, the goal of end-user buy-in is completely the same.  As a Change Management practitioner, if I can get someone to understand why we’re doing the project, what’s in it for them (why they should care) and ultimately buy-in to the solution we’re implementing, then much of the adoption battle has already been won.  Those individuals who buy-in to the concepts are much more likely to read the emails the project team sends, attend information demos, actively participate in training, and because they’re interested, will retain the concepts, knowledge and capabilities we’re conveying that will make the project and everyone involved with it successful.  That success will drive the project’s Return on Investment (ROI), and that is value.

Digital Leadership Turns into Better Business Performance

We’ve been talking about how digital transformation is essential to success in the future. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and Redhat recently published a study that shows digital leaders are more likely to be successful than followers or laggards.  Here are a few key points from the study:

  • Digital leaders are more likely to have revenue growth over 10%
  • Profit margins for digital leaders are greater than the average
  • Leading companies will have a CEO who understands digital opportunities and threats, a CIO who is a master at digital, and digitally proficient leaders at many levels of the company
  • Digital leaders will have a clearly defined strategy and vision

In the study, digital followers and laggards were only confident in their digital skills and knowledge 19% and 5% respectively, compared to 67% of the leaders who were extremely confident in their skills and knowledge.  When asked about barriers to developing their digital business, 57% of laggards cited lack of digital leadership as a cause, which was the most cited reason by laggards.

For those companies who want to improve their digital leadership, the authors identify the following actions for CIOs:

  • Create a digital advisory board made up of internal and external experts to advise the executive team.
  • Learn to paint a picture of the digital future and use real examples
  • Embed IT staff in the lines of business to increase two-way learning
  • Create a common lexicon to increase understanding and improve communications
  • Partner closely with key business leaders
  • Establish formal and informal learning forums
  • Embrace a coaching framework across the organization
  • Identify and bring in outside experts to address specific trends for various parts of the business

A good way to start improving your digital leadership is to attend the upcoming webinar Rethink and Realign for Digital Transformation Success. While not tied to the study I talked about, this webinar will provide insights into many of the areas identified above.

You can get the full report on the site.