Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Financial Advisors and Social Media

A lot of financial advisors are using Social Media to interact with their customers and engage them. But as pointed out on this link, there are certain SEC regulatory constraints that financial advisors should be wary about while using social media.

First, all disclosures (earnings, operations, etc.) should be made available to all parties at the same time. We cannot share information only on social media and not through other channels.
The second challenge is around handling negative comments on social media sites. How to officially respond? Can anyone put comments on the Facebook page?
The third important facet is that of the customers privacy. If an advisor responds to a customers question on twitter or facebook and inadvertently discloses some kind of financial information about the customer, then it could be considered as a violation of privacy by SEC.

Also from a regulatory perspective, it could be required to store all communication and retain them for future. There are a number of players in the market that provide services for achieving all social media interactions. E.g.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How to get geographical location from IP address?

There are a lot of free services available that would enable you to roughly get the geographical address of your ISP provider from your IP address. To get the exact street address, it would be required to contact the ISP provider and get further details.

There is a popular IP address mapping software used by enterprises called Quova, that has been renamed to Neustar IP Intelligence now. More information can be found at this link.

IP geo-location software can be used to detect fraud and target advertising. Almost all online e-commerce stores use such services or products. 

Street address normalization for MDM solutions

Quite often we need to verify street addresses or normalize them to check for duplicate customers. The following article gives a good overview of the various techniques we can use for this problem context.


There are also a lot of commercial and open source software for address verification and geo-coding. For e.g.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ruminating on "Headless" concepts

Today afternoon, within a span of 2 hours, I have heard the term 'headless' being put ahead of multiple words. For e.g. headless system, headless app, headless service and finally headless UI testing !

A headless system is essentially a system with no monitor and IO components (mouse, keyboard, etc.).
A headless app is an application that does not have a UI to interact with - analogous to background demon threads, etc. A headless service only has backend logic and no frontend UI.

So essentially the team headless is used to address the concept of not having any user interface. So what does headless UI testing mean?
Check out PhantomJS - a headless testing Webkit that makes this possible. A good article summarizing this concept is available here

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Importance of Geocoding for business

Geocoding is the process of finding out the geographical coordinates (latitude/longitude) from street address, post code, etc. A lot of organizations are interested in geocoding their customer addresses, because it enables them to serve the customer better. For e.g.
  • A healthcare provider can use the geocoding information of its customers, to help them locate the nearest physician or pharmacy. 
  • An insurance firm can use geocoding information to find out the actual physical location of an insured property and determine the underwriting risk for floods, earthquakes, etc.
  • E-commerce sites usually have a find-a-nearby-store option that enables customers to find out the nearest store to pick up their goods from, based on their GPS coordinates. 
Thus geocoding can help a business in answering many questions that would help it drive growth. For e.g.
  • What geographical area to most of our customers come from?
  • Are there geographical areas where we have not penetrated? If yes, Why?
  • Is our sales force aligned with our customer territories? 

Householding and Hierarchy Management

Found this rather interesting article on householding concepts in MDM. Many organizations struggle to define business rules to identify customers belonging to a same home or household.


Another interesting read is this blog post on how "http://www.muckety.com" is using hierarchy management to link VIPs/actors together. The graphs on muckety.com are interactive and worth a perusal if you are a hollywood buff :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ruminating on Digital Transformation Initiatives

A lot of organizations are embarking on multi-year, multi-million dollar value, digital transformation initiatives.
Many large organizations grew by M&A and this has resulted in multiple brands and disparate web properties with inconsistent user experience. Consolidation of the various web domains/properties and brands is the primary business driver behind digital initiatives. The philosophy of having "One Face to the Customer" is at play here.

For e.g. an insurance firm may have different LOBs across life, auto & property and retirement. In large organizations, each LOB operates as a separate entity and have their own IT teams. In such cases, creating a shared services team for digital initiatives makes sense.

Each LOB could have their own web presence and different corporate branding. Many a times, end customers do not realize that the different products/policies that they have bought belong to the same insurance firm. The customers are always routed to different websites and have separate logins for each site.

For the insurance firm's perspective, there is no 360-degree view of the customer. This severely limits their ability to service customers and aggressively cross-sell or up-sell to them.  To resolve this business challenge, organizations should embrace a paradigm shift in their thought process - from being product/policy centric to being customer centric. From an IT perspective, this could entail creating a Customer Hub (MDM) and having a consolidated customer self-service portal that would serve as a single window for servicing all of the customer policies or products.

Having a customer MDM solution would also enable organizations to run better analytics around demographic information and past customer behaviour. This in turn, would help in delivering a more personalized user experience and fine grained marketing.

Another important driver for digital transformations is the need to support multi-channel delivery. Today content delivery to end users on mobiles, tablets are considered as table-stakes. Defining and executing an effective mobile strategy is of paramount importance in any digital initiative.

Organizations are also actively looking at leveraging Social Media and Gamification techniques to engage better with customers. It's also important to choose a powerful Content Management tool that would enable faster go-to-market for digital content changes; controlled and owned by business, rather than IT.