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The Segment of Me

shutterstock_249068644Not too long ago I was clearly targeted in an email campaign and banner ads as a 40-something, suburban mom with kids that was preparing for “back-to-school.” I was offered some pretty good deals on sneakers, backpacks and organizational products for my home.

Unfortunately, this retailer couldn’t have been more wrong. I am 40-something, single, live in an urban zip code and have 0 children. They placed me smack dab into the wrong demographic profile. I didn’t feel that this retailer “knew” me.

This experience made me wonder how they were analyzing, segmenting and personalizing the information they had on me. The #1 goal of personalization is to identify a person’s attributes from their purchase intent, understand online behavior and specific profile demographics; then customize that experience by presenting only the most relevant content and provide the right calls–to-action. This retailer clearly had some information right, but missed the mark on others.

The challenge is that they likely couldn’t sift through the data and make it actionable intelligence, because quite simply there is a lot of data! As a frequent shopper of this retailer, they knew a lot about me, but they picked up on the wrong data …maybe a previous purchase of gifts for my best friend’s kids or maybe it was the gift bought for a charity event made them segment me differently.

Whatever happened, it made me think more about analytics, big data and the role it plays in personalizing content for me and as  the volumes of customer data increase, so does the critical nature of getting personalization right. On Thursday, Aug 20th, we will begin the discussion on big data, analytics and how it affects personalization in our next digital transformation webinar on analytics and personalization. Join the session by registering here: Leverage Customer Data to Deliver a Personalized Digital Experience.

The Benefits of Service-Oriented Architecture Approach for APIs

shutterstock_279561146_350Perficient’s integration practice is over 15 years old so we have been through the rise of proprietary integration brokers, the hype cycle of SOA, and the hyper growth of APIs and the rising popularity of microservices. These approaches and technologies are related with the common goal of systems interoperability and share a common lineage and evolution of technology and architecture.

SOA has been successful by bringing a focus to standards-based interoperability but often had cost overruns when approached with a heavy top-down methodology. APIs have popularized a more bottom-up approach to interoperability focused on a more lightweight and developer focused governance model and simple semantics. Microservices has introduced an architected way to package and deploy services using containers that scale easily with cloud computing including the popular API interface.

One could at a high level argue that these approaches to interoperability have different goals in that SOA is about reuse, APIs are about integration and microservices are about scale. But, the goals can be complementary across each style, for example it would be great if APIs are reusable with little redundancy and there is often need for SOA services to scale. Read the rest of this post »

Posted in News

Digital Strategy in a Competitive World

Daniel Rabbitt blogged on Competitive Strategy in A Digital Age over on our Oracle Blog.  He makes a lot of great points so it’s worth a read and that’s not just because he mentions my much more famous namesake, Harvard Professor Michael Porter.  Here’s a couple thought provoking quotes

Can leading players (in this case, market-leading companies) expect customer loyalty based on past results?

…..

When a major shift occurred in an industry, such as the decline of a former market leader, often the pundits looked to the five forces for perspective. But in an age when digital transformation impacts every aspect of our economy,

My first thought is that Daniel has it right.  You cannot rely on past results for customer loyalty.  You also will find it difficult to react at the speed of digital without putting in place your own plans to be agile and customer focused in todays marketplace.

Case in point, one client of ours is going through some significant disruption.  When analyzing that disruption and what they should be doing, one quote came to fore, “But our customers love us.  I speak on the phone to them all the time.”  What that misses is the fact that while many existing customers may love them, those that do not are already exiting without leaving a postcard.  New customers may not even find them because they do their research digitally before picking up the phone…… an area where this company has room for improvement.  My point is that without a digital baseline and a go to strategy, major shifts will impact you and they will impact you faster than you expect.

 

Don’t Underestimate The Power of Disruption

Today I received an email from Uber asking me to take an active part in Ubers now public fight with Mayor De Blasio of New York City.

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Anyone who knows Uber won’t be surprised at this and at the changes to the app they made for all NYC users.  There’s another trend you can see from a Bloomberg article, How Uber Took Over a City about Portland’s challenges with Uber.

Yet Uber was still Uber, and it began strangling Portland. It launched just to the north, in Vancouver, Wash. “Hey Portland,” Uber taunted on its blog. “We are just across the river.” Soon Uber started operating in several adjacent suburbs. “They basically forced their way into the market and surrounded us, then put the pressure on for us to do likewise,” Hales later told a conference of mayors.

The city told Uber that updating the taxi regulations could, finally, happen soon, but first the transportation department had to fix Portland’s pothole problem, which required finding millions of dollars in new revenue for the street maintenance budget. Around Thanksgiving, Uber was next in the queue. Uber wanted a firm time frame, which Alpert couldn’t give. “I kept telling them: ‘A little bit longer,’ ” Alpert says. “Strangely, at the last minute, when it was in sight, they were like, ‘Well, we’re done.’ ”

You should read the entire Bloomberg article. It’s a bit lengthy but fascinating in the specifics.  Think about this though.  Uber has proved to be one of the most disruptive companies in recent history. They, just like Airbnb, Amazon Business, and a host of other companies are cutting a wide swath through existing billion dollar businesses.  But their disruption lies not only in the new business model but in their ability to use social media and other digital tools to further their business.

In other words, for any single digital disruption, the disrupted should expect an onslaught like an oncoming freight train rather than a moped.  That’s the nature of disruption.  That makes it all the more important to become proactive in your digital strategy rather than reactive…….

 

 

 

API Security: Common Threats and Considerations

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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.

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

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 enterprisersproject.com site.

Digital Transformation without APIs and Data Costing Millions

A recent UK study sponsored by Apigee found that a digital transformation should include mobile apps, APIs and data analytics. And that companies “investing in these core digital technologies are eight times more likely to increase revenue from digital activity, this is when compared to those who are only developing apps.”

The report found that those who are only delivering apps saw an increased revenue median of about £266,000, in contrast, those who are investing in all the areas saw median returns of over £9,000,000.

Despite the majority of UK companies recognizing the value of developing API’s (75%), only 26% actually plan to deploy APIs in 2015 and not many more (35%) plan to incorporate big data analytics into their products, processes and services.

Not only is the use of the ‘digital trifecta’ providing an increase in revenue, it is also leading to an increased ability to innovate, with 41% compared to apps only 15% seeing an increase.

Perficient’s Digital Transformation webinars, whitepapers and blogs have focused on the holistic approach to a Digital Transformation including apps, APIs and data analytics backed by a deep understanding of the customer’s experience. This study enforces the need to take an all-inclusive approach to Digital Transformation.

Posted in News

8 Benefits of Microservices

shutterstock_90066292_croppedMicroservices are small, independent services that work together. In other words, these services are small, highly decoupled and focus on doing a small task at a time.

  • Follow the Single Responsibility Principle
  • Resilient/Flexible – failure in one service does not impact other services. If you have monolithic or bulky service errors in one service/module it can impact other modules/functionality.
  • High scalability – demanding services can be deployed in multiple servers to enhance performance and keep away from other services so that they don’t impact other services. Will be difficult to achieve same with single, large monolithic service.
  • Easy to enhance – less dependency and easy to change and test
  • Low impact on other services – being an independent service, this has less chance to impact other services
  • Easy to understand since they represent the small piece of functionality
  • Ease of deployment
  • Freedom to choose technology – allows you to choose technology that is best suited for a particular functionality

How to do API Versioning

1- URL based versioning

Easy and very common way to version api is to include version no in api url.
For e.g. http://myapi/v1.0.0 , http://myapi/v1.0.1

  • Easy to use and identify different version by looking URL.
  • Over time need to maintain various urls

2- Using query param

Another easy to use startegy for api versioning
For e.g. http://myapi?version=1.0.0

  • Same url for different api version
  • Need to add tranformation logic to route to particular version

3- Using custom HTTP header

Slight advantage over approach #2 since this will keep url short.

  • same url for different api version
  • Need to add tranformation logic to route to particular version

4- Using Accept HTTP Header

For e.g. Accept:application/v1.0.0+json , Aceept:application/v1.0.0+json

Slight advantage over approach #3 since no need to add new custom header.

  • Same url for different api version
  • Need to add tranformation logic to route to particular version

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Posted in api, Best Practices, Mobile, News