JCommerce as a fintech service provider
Polish banks are seen globally as a role model in the use of modern technologies and innovative solutions. For over 8 years JCommerce has provided software development solutions for ING Bank, one of the largest banks in Europe.
The digital revolution has dramatically transformed the functioning of the financial sector throughout the world. Thanks to close collaboration between the financial and IT industries, there has been rapid development in fintech (financial technology) services.
JCommerce has been cooperating in this field with ING Bank on the Polish market for years now. We present the challenges which the fintech services market brings and a perspective on the future of banking in more detail, together with a representative of ING Bank – Tomasz Chmielewski.
Fintech – Financial Technology Changing the Banking Sector!
The world of startups and the sharing economy
The era of classical globalization of the 1990s was a matter of concern for its opponents due to the growing dominance of international corporations. The Internet and digital technology have done much to change this situation. Today, every company can have worldwide reach. Corporations must therefore compete not only among themselves but also with startup unicorns (tech startups which have reached a value of at least $1 billion) and a huge number of small, local projects, which take their clients and profits.
But the problems don’t end there. Thanks to universal access to the Internet, many services which were previously monopolized by large institutions with vast resources can now be successfully provided by the community of users. Crowdfunding makes it possible to raise funds for any selected project, where funds are provided by those who are interested in the project. So young entrepreneurs, who are potential clients of banks (though often with poor credit ratings), are able to access alternative sources of financing for their projects.
Thanks to digital technology, we are also better equipped to cope with common threats posed by on-line services. The risks associated with loans given out based on the social lending model can be successfully solved with the help of the mechanism traditionally used for sharing files on P2P networks. In practice, one borrower receives funds provided by many lenders, so that financial risk – even in cases in which the recovery of funds is problematic – is spread out and thus relatively low. In addition, intermediary services may use different kinds of security, allowing for the verification and identification of potential cheats and assisting in risk estimation based on data from public sources (such as a register of debtors).
What does this mean for financial markets? Using fintech applications, it is not only possible to obtain funding, but also to exchange currency (not to mention the possibility of allocating funds and conducting transactions using digital currency) and to invest. And all this outside the traditional business circulation – and often without the tax burden as well.
The digital revolution is not only a question of new tools. It is also a huge change in the business operations of traditional companies and institutions, which need to come to terms with a completely new model of services and competition from players to whom regulations or tax do not apply. The Americans have calculated that for each car rented according to the C2C model, as many as 13 fewer new cars are sold, meaning less profit for producers and salesmen, subsequent job losses in the automotive industry and lower tax revenues. Banks are also affected by such issues. In the era of universal online banking and aggressive competition, supported by modern technology, it is already apparent that operating a traditional network of branches is no longer the way forward. And that also means a reduction in the workforce.
Polish banks are a global leader in innovation
It is also clear, however, that banks have no intention of giving up so easily. While the digitization of the Polish economy is progressing rather reluctantly, and is more associated with spectacular failures such as unsuccessful attempts to computerize public institutions or the failure of systems which support the counting of votes in local elections, the situation in terms of the banking industry is quite the opposite. Polish banks are perceived worldwide as role models when it comes to the use of technology and innovative solutions. Not only that, but such innovative solutions are created in Poland and are tested in Poland on millions of customers, and later transferred to foreign markets.
We asked Tomasz Chmielewski, a manager in the Next Generation of Banking program at ING Bank Śląski, about digitalization and his vision for the future of banking.
JCommerce SA: As a manager in the Next Generation of Banking program, you work on innovative solutions for the banking industry. What exactly is worked on in such projects?
Tomasz Chmielewski: In our program, we build a new generation of banking – as the name says. This means not only creating web and mobile applications using new technology, but also a change of approach to creating such solutions. The ‘My ING’ system was created and is being developed in cooperation with business processes, IT and User Experience specialists. Functionality, the way it is used and the visual elements of the front layer of the application at the design stage are the result of broad consultation with selected groups of customers. Hundreds of hours of research have assured us that the end result of our work is customer-friendly, understandable and intuitive.
The development of this kind of application also requires the creation of many new modules in the banking system and the modification of existing ones. This allows us to take advantage of new technologies and optimize processes, so that the means of communication with the customer, the data communicated to him and the presentation of it, were specifically adapted to his needs and were universal across all channels of communication with the bank.
Mobile applications for electronic banking are highly popular in Poland, and as for electronic payments, contactless payments, and payments by smartphone, Poles use these solutions readily and often, eclipsing even those from Western societies. But tough competition means that “gadgets” alone won’t attract customers. What is the strategy of digitization of the banks and what can a big bank base its competitive advantage on, in terms of technology?
Tomasz Chmielewski: In the case of ING Bank Śląski we have been heading towards full digitization for years now. We are not just a bank with traditional branches, but one that is seen as modern and innovative. Our web and mobile applications have long been among the most popular on the Polish market.
We are open to all kinds of cutting-edge developments, both in customer service processes, the choice of IT technology, and in work methodology. We work with many suppliers, not just buying ready-made solutions, but above all co-creating them, combining workgroups comprised of specialists from the banking and IT sectors. Our priority is long-term cooperation, because only then can partners get to know the specifics of the business and respond effectively to the current challenges. Here I also have JCommerce in mind, as their specialists have been participating in the development of our solutions for over 8 years now.
In the first phase of creating solutions, we use models and prototypes of solutions. Just like ‘fintechs’, we are not afraid to introduce new technologies and implement functionalities which we have not previously used, keeping in mind the quality and security of our applications. We learn by building our products on strong foundations, but develop them iteratively, placing great emphasis on the repeatability of the production process, which allows for conclusions to be drawn in retrospect and thus continuous optimization.
We also take advantage of the fact that we are part of the ING Group. That means we can use solutions developed in other countries in which the group operates, and share our own. Such cooperation is not only the invaluable exchange of knowledge and experience, but also reduces costs due to the sharing of certain modules, data processing engines, or even entire applications.
Big data, data analysis and reporting, and data mining are hot topics right now. How are they used in the banking industry?
Tomasz Chmielewski: By creating a database of customer activity and analyzing the way they navigate – for example on a web application – we can draw conclusions and optimize our processes. This enables the preparation of personalized offers for customers, the development of a more transparent service model, and finally more effective advice for our customers.
It’s a vast amount of knowledge which we are still learning to make optimal use of. The reporting of these data sets online, in place of monthly summaries which are often received late, allows for a faster response to change and means that we can be highly proactive in our activities.
At the same time, the more we know about the client, the more we can support him. The ‘My ING’ application gives users a new perspective on their products and the expenses which they generate. They can be analyzed both in a daily, monthly or annual summary, and according to category. In turn, the newly introduced Financial Trainer solution plays the role of a friendly adviser. There would be no such solutions without the possibility to obtain large amounts of data and use it skillfully.
Electronic banking is also unfortunately the dream target of cybercriminals. How are banks coping with the threat?
The fight against cybercrime is nothing new in banking. Since the inception of web applications, security is unquestionably a key aspect taken into account in the process of creation. While hackers are creating new tools that allow them to attack banking systems or customers’ computers, we cooperate with specialized suppliers to run tools and systems to counter such threats. Banks and other organizations cooperate with each other in detecting this type of hazard and trying to prevent it.
When creating an online banking application and mobile apps, we take care of safety at every stage of production. Tools are used to control the code which has been created in terms of its accuracy and lack of susceptibility to various kinds of attacks. The application is subjected to a variety of tests, using both automated tools and manual activities undertaken by IT security experts.
Another element of the fight against cybercrime is the continuous analysis of customer activities, which aims to capture abnormal behavior, or gives rise to the suspicion of fraud. Online monitoring can prevent the vast majority of adverse events and makes customers feel secure.
The education and awareness of clients as to the risks that they may encounter when using the Internet is another important aspect. For example, in cases of data phishing, as vital as effective safeguards and tools are, the responsible and proper behavior of users is just as important.
Along with the increasing use of Internet technology in our daily lives, we will modernize the mechanisms to counter attacks and fraud, so that the applications that we provide to users are both user-friendly and secure.
Digitalization is a huge challenge, but is also a great opportunity for both innovative fintech initiatives and for banks, if they are able to take advantage of it. So who does the future belong to? Fintech startups certainly have the potential to revolutionize the market, but the advantage of large financial corporations is the economies of scale – both in terms of access to resources, and constantly refined technology.
We will most probably see a synergy effect, because startups are still in need of funding, and banks have the means to benefit from new technologies, and so can afford to take over these more promising fintech companies. The digital banking revolution can currently be observed, so it is probably just the start of a very interesting story in which AI computers are the heroes, and it’s a real opportunity to shake up the market – and not only in terms of financial services.
2017 in the offshore and nearshore IT outsourcing models
For several years now, JCommerce has been successfully providing services in the nearshore IT outsourcing model and is definitely eager for more. In 2017 these activities are going to intensify.
With the help of European Union grants, the company will expand its business on the US market and will strengthen its activities in Europe. In 2017 JCommerce will take part in the most prominent industry events like Web Summit, Slush, Mobile World Congress, UC Expo and E3.
The constant development of the company, its wide range of services, know-how and some of the best developers in the world are key company values, which bring visible success. In 2014 JCommerce noted a 58% increase in export revenue, and subsequently a 25% increase in 2015.
Skanska about Cooperation with JCommerce – Interview with Péter Béres
530,000 m2 of office space completed, 170,000 m2 under construction and 320,000 m2 planned, according to data from 2015 for Central and Eastern Europe. This makes a total of over one million square meters of existing and planned offices spread over several cities. Managing such a rich portfolio must be a huge challenge?
Indeed, we realized that without a sophisticated controlling application it is not feasible to prepare high quality timeliness forecasts, as we are not only dealing with huge areas in terms of square meters, but the hundreds of assumptions behind every project. In our business we need to look a minimum of 5 years ahead in every forecasting period for each project, preparing several scenarios with different assumptions and combining such project scenarios in different project plan versions, resulting in huge complex calculations which are almost impossible to follow in Excel. Shifting forecasting into such an application clearly saved time without compromising on quality.
How did cooperation between Skanska and JCommerce come about?
Our cooperation started off with a project to optimize the ERP Microsoft Dynamics AX system in the Polish branch of the company, Skanska Property Poland. The system which was previously in use within the company no longer met expectations, and so, in 2012, JCommerce specialists became involved in the development of the system and its adaptation to the needs of the company. After this initial modernization of the system, JCommerce also proposed the creation of a Web application using .Net technology, which has enabled our users to enter and view data without licensing restrictions to access. This solution was highly popular, and from there new ideas came up for additional modules, such as Rent Roll, a list of lease agreements, and Gain on Sales Calculation, which is a tool for recording the profits associated with these projects.
The system implemented at the Polish division of our organization by JCommerce was presented in such form during the CEE Commercial Property Development meeting, and received wide acclaim. The decision was therefore taken to extend its operation to other markets in the region and integrate it with our internal Korab II system. JCommerce specialists have also assumed responsibility for those stages of the project.
What is Korab II?
Korab II is our own ERP system, which Skanska uses in the CEE (Central / Eastern Europe) countries. Its integration with the solution created by JCommerce enables the flow of data between systems, both in terms of vocabulary data, such as country names or service codes, and financial data. Changes made in one system will be automatically updated in the other.
What were the main problems which you wanted to solve?
Before the implementation of the system we had huge issues with the consistency of the data: the lack of a unified data structure, different units, different currencies and different formulas for calculating the same parameters, depending on the methodology in use in that country. In individual countries, the same parameters or indicators often differed greatly from one another, due to legal, tax, or economic differences. As a result, the company had problems with standardizing indicators that are vital for development project management, such as the market value of the project, the value of land, costs, inflation, or lease profitability.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that data was entered into a number of different systems simultaneously, and was therefore often different – errors came up, and we sorely lacked a singular database for analytical processes. The preparation of reports was highly onerous under such conditions.
Can you give us the main advantages of the system and the benefits which have resulted from its implementation?
The system records all leases, rents, discounts, and annual profits, using the data warehouse. With a significantly improved speed of data entry, users do not have to enter data in different databases; we have direct access to current information and transparent reports. With the web application data being available in all locations at the same time, information is consistent and orderly, without errors resulting from incorrect data entry. Scalability is also a considerable advantage, as is the ease of adaptation to the increased needs of our company, thanks to the technologies used as well as licensing models.
Are you able to name any key performance indicators which you have managed to improve by implementing the system? Can you give us any specific numbers?
I can’t talk about financial KPIs, but can confirm that we have already reduced the reporting consolidation process by one day, which we can “give back” to the operating countries so they now have an extra day before the deadline of their reporting process. It results in better quality that can be seen in the number of questions that need to be asked and the number of revisions that any of the countries need to submit. We foresee that the forthcoming new modules which connect the application directly with HFM, the consolidation tool used by Skanska worldwide, will result in a similar saving of one extra day in 2017.
Skanska and JCommerce continue to work together on the development of the system. What is the current priority?
At this point we are working on the addition of other data grids which we would like to process and analyze; and we plan to extend the range of functionality of the system, for example the Land Valuation tool which analyzes changes in the reported book value of land compared to market value. We also plan to connect up our new CRM system and are considering storing some external market data.
What is the future of the system?
The system has been presented in all of Skanska’s business regions, meaning Scandinavia, the UK, and the United States, and there is a desire to roll out the system in all locations. This is obviously another big challenge that requires the adaptation of the system to local conditions, such as different accounting systems, or changing the metric system to the imperial system in the United Kingdom and the United States. But before that happens, we want to tidy up all processes and implement all planned functionalities in the system currently operating in the CEE region, using it as something of a pilot study.
The Future of New Technologies
During the inauguration lecture of our hackathon, you said that over the next 20 years the world will change more than it did over the previous 200 years. If so, then for sure a lot of professions that we know today will disappear. So which do you think will carry on or will develop anew? Which profession is the best choice, for ourselves or our children?
First, you need to have an open mind, there is no point deluding oneself that common patterns will work in the future. I think everything will change ever faster. Perhaps those young people who have come here today to take part in the workshops and competition represent the last generation for whom driving will be a common skill. For the next generation it might just be a hobby like horseback riding for us, and most people will have cars which will drive themselves to the destination point. And that means you have to be very open to change. The most valuable professions, the most prospective, will be all the jobs that are associated with data – that’s for sure. So the job of a statistician, an analyst, but also an engineer. There will also be some professions which are strictly related to the humanities, such as a psychologist, who will lend us an ear, or the arts, so the professions which either cannot be or which we will not want to be computerized.
So then which jobs will become obsolete?
All those in which humans had to learn some rules and now apply them, such as, for example, primary care physician, lawyer and translator. These are professions in which computers have now taken over from humans. How many of us are treated by Dr. Google? In the future, instead of blindly pestering Google, we will have a computer equipped with artificial intelligence, which actually studied medicine which means that it learned on real cases – what the symptoms are, what the causes are, what happens to a person during illness, and how to treat it. And such a computer, just as it plays chess today, will someday be able to diagnose patients – perhaps even more effectively than a human doctor.
So apart from programmers, not many of us can sleep soundly?
Not necessarily, because on the other hand, there are also jobs that can be computerized, but have not been. Some time ago I worked on a project for a garbage truck that gets around without a garbage man or a driver. And indeed several such garbage trucks were produced. It was a pretty good prototype, actually went round in the morning without human involvement, and the computer and sensors controlled the mechanical arm which gathered up the trash, and the garbage truck continued on. But in the end the project was abandoned. The arm didn’t always manage to pick up the trash, or the garbage bins were not always in the right place, or someone had forgotten to put them out, or they were hidden somewhere. Probably it could have been figured out, but in the end it was definitely cheaper to just hire people to do the job. And it is quite distinctive. Once upon a time in fantasy books or science-fiction movies, it was machines or robots that twisted the screws and did the worst jobs, and people functioned as managers. But now it turns out that it is often quite the opposite. In shopping centers, logistics centers and loading bays, the computer tells the worker where to go, and a man with a speaker in his ear hears: six steps to the left, two steps to the right, the third shelf, raise your hands … These roles can be completely reversed.
It’s a bit like in the Matrix…
It could turn out in one of many ways, as computers are very good at making decisions and, increasingly often, we let them. For example, in the recent high-profile case of driverless cars, which from time to time will have to decide, for example, whether to kill a passenger or a pedestrian who forced his way onto the road.
So the most important roles will be played by the programmers, right?
Well, not quite. Because artificial intelligence is not programmed. At least not in the sense that there are sets of rules that we have input, and now the machine must abide by them. No. It works like this: at the beginning we put some data into the machine. Information, figures, some content. For example, a model of artificial intelligence, which was asked to write an essay, had previously learned the content from Wikipedia. As it read, it received the command: contribute your opinion. There were no rules which would have regulated this process in advance.
Well, but if we do not implement rules at the start, we may completely lose control of the process. As with the example of the bot which was supposed to learn how to interact with Twitter users. The result was that it turned into a racist Hitler-lover, a ‘hater’ to all around, and had to be switched off … And this driverless car which we talked about, based purely on data, would probably sacrifice the person who was older, in worse physical condition, or of less importance to society. Because such is the logic of data. But it is socially unacceptable.
I think that it will. Because data changes the way of thinking, the paradigm is changing. Today we have your beliefs, your views, so in science we have hypotheses. After they have been constructed we set out to verify them, we draw some conclusions and get to work. In this model which I am talking about, there is no initial hypothesis. Only data – text, a number, a picture. Then there’s the model, meaning that we have learned something from the data, first came the abstraction, then the generalization, we have some rules, but the rules are derived from the data. And only with these rules are we able to draw any conclusions. And because there is so much data, everything is somehow connected to each other, this model turns out to be not so terrible. We can tell it: learn from this data, then verify it using different data. And then something arises, which was missing in the approach based on one’s belief system: it conflicts with empirical evidence. This way I can very easily judge whether I was right or not.
I don’t know if you know, but it has been estimated that as many as 70-90% of scientific papers, especially in the field of medicine, are falsified. The conclusions drawn are simply untrue. Why? Because someone had their hypothesis, perhaps even somehow reached it objectively, for example, he had a group of patients, he found something noteworthy. On this basis, he developed a hypothesis, then generalized it to all of us. But without the support of the data. Because really the result came first, and the data was adjusted to fit later. Because the data can easily be juggled, if we already have our conclusions before we even start.
Okay. But people have a tendency to impose rules. Just as medicine has bioethics, which prohibits certain tests and treatments, purely because of convictions, there may be a need for such regulation in computer science, the creation of infoethics …
I don’t know what it would look like, but it would be very interesting. Perhaps it will turn out this way, but at this stage, however, it is still science fiction.
Well, yes, because we are talking about artificial intelligence, which is also still just science fiction. But now let’s focus on something that is more real. The analysis of Big Data. Is it ethical to analyze all the data on network activity, payments, GPS positions? Theoretically we are able to connect all this data to a particular person, say, a Social Security number and know almost everything about him, even the most personal, intimate details.
That’s true. And it actually happened some time ago. There’s a book, Dataclysm, or data cataclysm, about how much computers know about us. The book was written by an American who ran an online dating site. It’s a specific kind of site where you can lie about certain issues, but you can’t, for example, lie about your preferences, because you want to meet a person who you find interesting, not the opposite. So there are aspects of your privacy which you have to tell the truth about, and yet these are things that you wouldn’t want to read about yourself in the paper. It’s amazing how much people are willing to tell you about themselves after all. The analysis of such data allows us to build a complete profile. As being off-line is slowly becoming a kind of luxury, so privacy is already a luxury nowadays.
That’s why we’re starting to see regulations come into effect. The European Union ratified the ‘right to be forgotten’ last year – so these are the first steps to giving us back the rights to our data.
That’s true. But on the other hand, we know that the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese and others are also listening to and recording all the telephone calls in the world, all emails, anything you have ever said or written. There are people who analyze and archive it for some reason. The technology already allows it – the storage and processing of data is now so cheap that governments are able to do it. Being anonymous is really a luxury, but it seems to me that people don’t really want it. They are able to put a lot about themselves out there online. It’s true that if we want to enjoy the benefits of the Internet, we need to share data. The system needs to know about us. And that’s okay. However, in using our data, we must take into account the benefits and drawbacks. We sell our data for tangible benefits. And the problem lies in the fact that in reality we sell data for below its true value. Or even for a song.
Okay. We’ve gone off topic a bit. Since there are so many unknowns and so many threats, what decisions about the future can we make to minimize this risk, even a little? Even if only in a professional sense, where to start?
The key word is data. There’s more and more and there’s going to be more still. We generate it, devices generate it, and soon we will process it on an even greater, unprecedented scale. So, people who deal with this data, plus those who have an open mind, will be increasingly indispensable. Anyway, for now there is a lack of them, good professionals are always lacking in these developing fields. In a year’s time they’ll be lacking even more, and in two years more still.
But won’t it be another ‘golden direction’? Twenty years ago, parents dreamed that their children would become doctors or lawyers. Nowadays management is most fashionable. And everybody has a tertiary degree. And now they have nowhere to work. Isn’t it going to be the same all over again? What if a machine ends up taking the place of this analyst?
That’s true. After twenty years it might actually turn out that these professions related to information technology which we know today will no longer exist. Today, however, universities are not able to turn out as many graduates as the labor market needs. Information technology today is changing the world and drives development in its entirety. It changes the scientific approach; it affects all areas of the economy and human activity. Twenty years is not all that short-term a perspective. It seems to me that during these next twenty years, the outlook in terms of IT specialists won’t worsen. And what comes next? After that, we simply don’t know, nobody can predict what will happen.
Business Intelligence solutions in healthcare sector
JCommerce is providing services for GE Healthcare in the area of development and maintenance of Business Intelligence system.
GE Healthcare is a worldwide provider of innovative technologies and services that set new standards of medical care. JCommerce is responsible for the development and maintenance of the client’s Business Intelligence platform. The team of QlikView developers works as an extension of a client onsite development team (team extension model). An expansion of the team to include Qlik Sense developers is also planned in the future.
Customer Communication Management (CCM) – What is It?
The image of CCM has changed in the modern era. Electronic channels of communication are now hugely important, as many companies have moved away from snail mail as the main channel of communication with customers. Depending on the organization, between 50% and 95% of documents nowadays are delivered electronically. The primary reason for this change was, of course, massive savings on postage. For many companies electronic communication means cheap communication. Apart from cost optimization, on the other side of the coin is the matter of increasing revenues, here marketing is playing an important role. Well, in terms of correspondence we talk about direct contact with the customer, and modern marketing must support this area, just as with other areas in which the client comes into contact with the brand. Traditional correspondence may be of great importance in such cases.
All contact with clients is part of the marketing campaign
The marketing paradigm has changed. The existing perception of the customer through the sales funnel (AIDA) is a thing of the past. We have to recognize the importance of customer loyalty and the needs and potential of the client as a prosumer. This means that contact with the customer must be carefully planned so as to support its involvement at every stage of its relationship with the brand. But this is easy to say, harder to do. Customers are inundated with an avalanche of information and avoid ads, or are merely indifferent. It is increasingly difficult to get their attention. What tools we should use to build engagement?
Crossmedia, multichannel, omnichannel
Modern CCM no longer focuses only on the end result: an invoice, a statement, a policy, a ticket. Such a document, from a marketing point of view, is a very valuable communication channel, which can be used to present additional offers (cross-selling / up-selling). On the other hand, there is no reason that the customer should be deprived of all the benefits offered by modern data management systems, such as personalized messages, based on demographic data or the transaction history of a customer. In CCM systems such capabilities have been detected, that in reality have always been there, and so data, enabling deep customization and easy handling of multiple channels.
Use each piece of information
If we want to arouse the interest of the recipient, we should get the message across in a way that he will respond to, by adapting the content, phrases, and graphics. Messages should take into account factors such as the interest of the client, the previous activity, the value for the company, and the relationship with the customer. In its simplest form we apply customer segmentation. Such a process should not be strictly limited to rigid divisions of a base – each campaign can have a different target group. Immediately, it will recognize a segment and match the campaign, which leads to the creation of individualized and engaging documents. We can successfully use the data collected through CRM or ERP. But are systems used in the organization the only source of information? Of course not. We can also draw from public statistical data, we can even use the weather – it all depends on the creativity of marketers. For example, if in a particular city a billboard and in-store campaign is launched, we can standardize the rest of the communication addressed to clients in this area, which will bring about a synergy effect. CCM allows us to use the extensive logic of creating documents. Due to personalization we will gain a response rate anywhere from 2 to 10 times better, depending on the industry.
Be where your client is
CCM systems provide the ability to support multiple communication channels: SMS, email, post, social networking, and customer portals. Data is processed in packages, on-demand or interactively. We send messages in the way that the client prefers to receive them. If we base our actions on previous dealings with the client and have studied his reaction, it may even turn out to be unnecessary to send him a request to complete a survey regarding his preferences. Let’s learn about customer preferences ourselves. Let’s accumulate information which will allow us to adopt a more customer-friendly approach. Choosing the optimal communication channel not only increases the response rate, but at the same time increases the cost-effectiveness of communication.
A marketing campaign is a series of interactions
An engaging campaign should have several stages. A single display is not enough, but on the other hand you can not overdo the intensity. The campaign should be planned, its course carefully charted, adjusted during its period of operation, and with a mix of different channels of communication. Process automation supported by the CCM allows for the simultaneous operation and control of complex processes across multiple campaigns. In fact, CCM systems are primarily efficient systems of mass information processing.
CCM within the organisation
A CCM system is a tool that is best suited to a large, dynamic organization. Other systems in use within the company should be integrated to maximised the potential of the data which is processed. This approach lets you correlate information sent to the client, independently from various departments. The structuring of all channels facilitates a greater level of control over the content of communication and any changes to it.
We achieve another significant advantage with the implementation of CCM – namely, we get the opportunity to build a consistent brand image. A consistent form, the properly used label, the appropriate vocabulary. Even if we give business users the freedom to create content in documents, the key elements for us related to the visual identification of a firm remain uneditable.
The effects of CCM systems are not only found in letters sent by post, but also smartphones and interfaces of customer service portals. The connecting and the processing of data collected and presented in different places are growing in importance. Customers are no longer anonymous, as companies allow each one to feel special. So a valued customer, if he considers the product to be valuable, will pass on his recommendation and thus will be an ambassador for the brand.
IT services for the Norwegian Media and Broadcasting sector
For the last year JCommerce software developers have been working for the Media and Broadcasting sector in Norway providing IT services.
JCommerce IT services has included the creation a custom .NET application, enabling production companies to deliver media (movies and series) digitally, in their own format, to the broadcasters in the format they require. Due to the performance requirements associated with the encoding and processing of multiple versions of video content, data is stored using Azure Storage services.
Thanks to JCommerce, the entire process is faster and much cheaper than before.
Trust is The Rock on which Outsourcing is Built
There’s nothing strange about that. Outsourcing is, after all, inherently risky. One should realize, however, that the risks are no greater than in the case of any other type of business. And just as with any other kind of transaction – this risk can be estimated, and also minimized.
Trust, but verify
If you want to minimize the risks related to cooperation in terms of outsourcing IT services, it will be necessary to conduct a preliminary analysis, both in terms of location and the qualifications of potential business partners. In business, trust must result from calculation, not from naivety or a lack of proper knowledge.
Location: the choice of location for an IT services provider is undoubtedly crucial. The qualifications of potential employees are diametrically opposed if we take location into account – for example, in a recent HackerRank report the most valued programmers were from China, Russia and Poland, leaving professionals from countries such as Germany (14th place) the US (28th place), and the UK (29th place) far behind. Also important are factors such as the economic, legal and political stability of the region or country, cultural and legal differences, and access to experts. Most published recent reports indicate that the most attractive, and therefore also the safest, European outsourcing centers are located in Central Europe, namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Business partner: as in any situation in which we are obliged to choose a company (regardless of whether it is a toothpaste manufacturer, or a business partner), we should pay attention primarily to the brand’s tradition, the period it has been operating, and existing customers. If we decide to outsource services abroad, a good way to reduce risk is to find a company with an established position on the local market, and thus a “good brand”. Such a company should have extensive experience in the provision of the kind of services we are looking for, meaning tradition that also results from the period it has been operating in the industry (however, in the case of IT, you need to remember that this period of time will be much shorter than in traditional industries). We should also check recommendations from the company’s customers, especially those who have similar requirements to our company.
Not convinced? Negotiate
Confidence in a business partner is above all gained, or lost, during negotiations. If you haven’t yet built a degree of trust in the other company – negotiate and find out more. It’s a simple rule, but very effective. In fact, at this stage the key is to get to know the organizational culture and the way the company operates. Perhaps not all your requirements will be met, but by negotiating you’ll find out if the outsourcing company which you are considering has the required experience, or asks the right questions, or if it can properly value its services and has a realistic approach to the project. It may turn out that the company simply wants to “catch the customer” at any price, artificially lowering the costs, or setting deadlines which are impossible to achieve. An offer which seems “too good to be true” should always at least raise some suspicions. Unrealistic deadlines cannot be kept, and reduced costs often get you work experience kids, or people of limited experience, who will not be able to ensure the quality you require.
You can recognize a trustworthy outsourcing partner by the following signs:
- Such a partner wants to get to know your business, your goals and the business environment, in order to determine whether cooperation will be effective and how best to help you. Let the partner get to know you.
- Knowledge, business experience, the people who work at the company, and also customers create a good business and are something to be proud of. Trustworthy firms are open and transparent, and don’t try to hide anything. Ask as many questions as possible and pay attention to the answers.
- Such a partner has the requisite experience to ask the right questions, which will also help you to formulate expectations and goals. Before using their services, speak with company representatives and specialists. Together you can check how, if at all, you are able to help each other.
- The growth of your business is also a means of growth for the outsourcing partner. If a company operates with this rule in mind, their employees will work for you with the same commitment as if you employed them directly.
- The outsourcing partner will help you set goals and priorities. On that basis you can create an agreement for cooperation, to ensure that the interests of both sides are protected.
A well-written contract, which protects your interests, is absolutely essential. Apart from the price and the date of completion, it should include specific instructions pertaining to what is to be done and what the control indicators are, and evaluate the work processes at various stages. But that’s not all. Before signing you need to find out what the chances are of actually enforcing the provisions of the contract. Check the legal culture in the country in which you plan to sign the contract. For example, in the European Union certain legal norms and forms of activity are imposed from above, so outsourcing to a country within the EU already gives some insight as to whether you will have the opportunity to assert your rights before an independent court which will take your argument into account.
If you have already analyzed the pros and cons, and also checked your potential outsourcing partner, but you still have doubts, it may be helpful to remember what Ernest Hemingway wrote: „The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”.
Poland Rules 2016’s IT reports!
For several years now, our country has been one of the most attractive markets for foreign direct investment and a leader in terms of the number of new jobs created. According to Ernst & Young analysts, this year Poland is 5th in Europe in this respect, after economic powerhouses such as Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands. What are the reasons behind the level of investor interest in Poland? The high competence of Polish specialists is probably the driving force.
Polish developers are slowly becoming the Polish economy’s most valuable brand. HackerRank compared the programming competences of specialists from 50 countries around the world and ranked the Poles as high as 3rd place, after only the Chinese and the Russians, but leaving the Germans, Britons and even Americans far behind. Moreover, when competences in terms of particular specializations were compared, Polish Java programmers took 1st place!
Small wonder, then, that international business service centers are popping up like mushrooms in Poland – in the A.T. Kearney Global Services Location Index ranking, Poland is the most popular location for such centers in Europe. Due to its low cost, high professional competences and the favorable business environment, Poland is also an IT services outsourcing power, and has been recognized as the most attractive location for nearshore outsourcing in Europe according to the Raconteur report.
All reports available here: