In a digital world, technology never sleeps. Operating systems and processes from the past are no longer fit to support today's digital transformation. Conscious about this, our client, the Belgian branch of a large European bank, reached out to AE to help with a full technical re-write of its online banking platform. The project was part of their broader international transformation programme and required aninitial version to run in production within 10 months time. Needless to say … a challenging deadline.
A few weeks ago, the much-discussed General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR for short) went into effect. It’s a directive with far-reaching consequences for companies that process personal information of EU citizens or are located within the EU. You’ve probably noticed it yourself by the sheer amount of emails asking for approval to keep using your contact information.
AE helps its customers become and stay GDPR compliant and treat this regulation both as leverage and as an opportunity instead as just another legal compliance project. In this post we’ll cut through the fog around GDPR and provide answers to some commonly asked questions. We’ll also tackle the impact of the GDPR on companies and their business processes.
A few weeks ago we attended the Connected Insurance Summit in London. In the heart of London City, we encountered a modest gathering of 200 guests varying from insurance companies over services providers to insurTech vendors.
Our intentions were ambitious. On one hand we were excited to be inspired by the vibes and implementations of the insurTech companies present. On the other hand, we were looking forward to gain insights on the vision and initiatives of the leading European insurance companies towards their digital transformation
The missions we captured were slightly disjunct and often lacked consistency and co-thinking.
Early June, the Money2020 circus landed in Amsterdam. One should take this literally since “circus” was the major theme for this year’s European edition of the Greatest FinTech Show on Earth, as the organizers themselves tend to call this event.
With stellar speakers and panels on 8 different stages for 3 days long and a buzzing expo hall with over 250 start-ups, scale-ups and mature corporates presenting their services, wrapping up the take-aways is a challenge.
Let me share the 5 quotes that resonated the most to me.
KBC is one of the largest bank-insurers in Belgium for both private individuals and medium-sized businesses. In order to strengthen their market position, and evolve towards a data-driven organisation, the bank wants to maximize the value from the available data.
With the evolution towards a data-driven organisation, the intensive use of commercial data and data analysis has developed into a strategic core-competency for KBC. Together with their business partners, they are building multiple new quality data layers (Commercial data, Risk data, etc.) which contain accurate and consistent data, are based on unambiguous definitions, comply with the new GDPR legislation and can be unlocked at the right moment, in the right form and via the right channel. These new Data Layers are developed on a Big Data platform with specific tools and technologies.The bank recruited the help of AE in order to convert the data that they are gathering into useful and practical insights for the internal services. The ultimate objectivel is to ensure a personalised approach for end-users of KBC.
Our client is a financial services provider belonging to a leading international bank insurer, operating in the Belgian market. Recently, the bank made a conscious decision to focus on a new, unique customer experience. We were requested to guide this change towards customer centricity. In concrete terms, a pioneering project was started up in one of the most active market segments of that service provider: that of home loans.
A few weeks ago, the FINOVATE EUROPE 2018 was held in London, a major event for everyone who wants to stay abreast of the main challenges, new business models and innovative technologies in the financial sector.
Our colleagues Patrick Van den Broeck and Frederick Beernaert traveled to London to scout out the latest trends and new technologies for us, and love to share their findings.
In today’s world, change is omnipresent in and around companies. They are forced to simplify or improve business processes in order to maintain their competitive position and to promote customer centricity. A company in full transformation needs to pay sufficient attention to change management. If there is a sudden reorganisation and a new way of working is to be implemented, it is hardly surprising that employees will jam on the brakes. In this blog post, we will share our best practices for change management outlining a real example of a similar situation at one of our customers in the financial sector.
AE and Ericsson engage in a partnership to bring the 5G capabilities to their customers.
5G is the next evolution of mobile connectivity. We started out with 2G, which allowed people to have massive mobile communication. With its successor 3G, we saw the introduction of mobile broadband and feature phones. With 4G these became smartphones and we saw mobile data traffic increase. And finally, in the next step with 5G, both consumers and industry will be served with solutions ranging from massive low-cost, low-energy applications, to high end, ultra-reliable applications.
Companies are currently in the middle of a major digital transformation. Being able to quickly respond to new customer needs and expectations is crucial. Consequently, project teams are being organised differently. For example, more and more SCRUM teams are being put together to provide software more agilely. However, a question I’ve been asked by customers repeatedly concerns the place that architecture must be given within this story. My opinion is that a minimum of architecture is always necessary. Just enough, just in time. In this blog post, I want to illustrate a technique, based on a previous project, that lets you gain a helicopter view with a minimum amount of enterprise architecture, which is something that is unarguably adding value for a company that is going through a complex transformation.
Imagine, you are working with an enthusiastic team to make your product skyrocket. Each iteration you are adding a few features and information to complete your product. But suddenly, you notice a drop in conversion rates. Your customers are raising a bunch of support questions, are not converting anymore and give you poor usability grades. You are left confused. Although you gave your customers more tools and information to fulfill their tasks, their performance declines. Indeed, you are diagnosed with featuritis.
A previous series of blog posts on Marketing Analytics offered an extensive overview of the available analytical techniques for marketing and their added value. Some examples of these techniques included market basket analysis, customer segmentation and churn prediction. A conclusion reached in these blog posts was that data analytics are the ideal extension to traditional marketing: based on data, we gain insights into (potential) customers and their behaviour, so that we can target them in an even more personalised manner.
The first of a two-part blog post zooms in on an important category of marketing analytics: Geospatial analytics or Geographic analysis. What can geographic analysis signify for your business? What is the added value of using this analysis? In a second blog post, we will explain the more technical aspects, show you how you can start up this analysis with the help of the open-source software R (the R Project for Statistical Computing) and provide a complete step-by-step plan of our own workflow.
According to Wikipedia, Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. It's a very important usability practice, since it gives you direct input on how real users use your system. It allows you to discover bottlenecks in your design you overlooked yourself, and hands you specific guidelines to improve your system instantly. This blogpost will show you that usability testing isn't something new: people have been testing their products on their users for quite some time. In addition, we will demonstrate how to conduct such a usability test in practice.
Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, IoT, etc. are hot topics in our environment. To learn more, we visited the ABISS (Advanced Business & Industrial Software Summit) trade fair held on Thursday 5 October at the XPO in Kortrijk. Throughout the day, the questions at the back of our minds were: “What can AE signify for these companies?” and “What does AE still have to learn to become relevant to these companies?” Finding answers to these questions requires further thought but before that, here is our report of this extremely interesting day!
The annual conference of the Business Architecture Guild - a BAR professional association known for the BIZBOK® Guide - took place in Brussels this year. We visited the event and learned about the importance of BAR, or Business Architecture. BAR is a relatively new discipline, which is still in search of uniformity and recognition. What is Business Architecture exactly and how is it implemented in practice? What is the added value of BAR and how can you convince the C-level management of this? We gathered different opinions during the conference and examined the best practices.
The gigantic technological evolution of the latest years provided us with a lot of cool gadgets. These gadgets are not only fun to play with, they have underused potential to become the answers to huge challenges our society faces. 1 of these challenges is the communication between deaf and hearing people. During our Hackathon, we developed a platform to unite them.
It's an eternal clash that comes to mind when building information models: should we allow attributes in our conceptual information models? Should we plead for simplicity, or is a complex model based on the stakeholder a better choice? This blog post aims to bring clarity to the discussion, before the clash results in a total loss.
Curious on how you can integrate interactive Visio diagrams in your Power BI reports? Check out this blog post for a detailed walk-through. To top it off, we'll also include the brand new what-if-analysis feature in the mix.
When it comes to logging execution information in Integration Services, there are multiple options available. Do you take matters in your own hands and build your own custom logging framework? Or do you let the catalog take care of things?
Can't decide? Check out our guidelines and tips on logging in your SSIS packages and projects.
These last couple of months have been extraordinary for me. I’ve gone through a lot of interesting experiences with customers and my book on value creation is generating a lot of enthusiasm among colleagues and friends. It makes me so happy that people are taking inspiration from my personal journey and that companies are reconsidering their practices to create better value for their customers.
In this blog I want to shortly summarize my personal invitation to all of you, to become a sparkle of transformation for value creation at your own company.
If you would like to hear more, do join me at the AE Keynote: Value Creation in the Digital Age on May 16 in Ghent.
This blog focuses on the role of the business analyst within a data migration project. In our experience, this role is often underestimated within the migration context and that is why we want to take this opportunity to highlight some best practices. We will illustrate these best practices using one of our current migration projects: the migration as part of the Atrias project.
IoT is hot! IoT is a business enabler offering enormous value potential! IoT will soon become a trillion dollar market! IoT startups are disrupting entire industries! Act now or be disrupted!
At bpost, a large Belgian enterprise and our country's prime postal operator, we applied value creation thoughts and techniques to spark and ignite the creation of a digital platform to participate in the logistics sharing economy.
In an attempt to show one of our customers a better way to connect a legacy Postgres system to a large data set, a team of AE experts turned the discussion into an internal competition. Contenders Phoenix and Cassandra already lost the challenge, as you can read in Part I. In Part II we'll explore whether Drill or Impala can rise to the occasion.
In a big data world, data-driven decisions and Internet of Things, Analytics is often needed to acquire data insights. However, when data scientists forget to use visualizations to communicate or explore information they are missing out on a valuable tool.
Have you ever been thinking about API design guidelines for your APIs? Are all your APIs behaving the same way or are your API consumers struggling to find out how your APIs work?
Recently, one of our customers introduced an old-fashioned data solution: an error-prone ETL-flow coded in C to move flat files to Postgres. We wanted to demonstrate how this could be done with technologies such as Drill, Cassandra, Phoenix, Impala, ... The constraint we have to cope with is that the data ultimately should be consumable by Postgres using a Foreign Data Wrapper.
Piece of cake, right? Wrong!
I’m not telling you something new if I say the demands on IT from business are ever increasing. Certainly the last few years, business is looking more and more towards IT as a big part of the solution to their business problems.
The European Union has evolved over the past few years with regards to its energy policy, impacting the energy market and all energy players within it. These players have to face challenges, discover opportunities and continue to evolve within a competitive (unified) market.
In this article, we take a closer look at the challenges TSOs specifically have to tackle.
Last month I organized an explorative Lego Serious Play session at our offices. The goal was to get to know the technique and to learn more about the pros and cons of where the practice can be applied. Read on to find how it went about.
Over the past 10 years businesses learned about the value of QA and testing in general. Today every company has its own QA department that is making sure their software runs correctly. But the cost for these departments has become extremely high.
Will this trend continue or can we find new approaches to QA that are less expensive?
"The internet of things. A network of dedicated physical objects that contain embedded technology to sense or interact with their internal state or external environment." - Gartner
What exactly is that 'Internet of Things'? Is it all dreams and science fiction? Or are we imagineering a near future?
The API Billionaires Club is about to welcome Trillionaire members. But how should you deal with it?
The amount of API traffic increases every day. But it’s no longer just the known players such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Salesforce (the API Billionaires Club) that will produce the related massive amount of data. Cisco estimates that by 2020 37 billion smart ‘things’ will be capable to connect with an API. The Internet of Things is here! But how should API-providers handle all these clients?
In consultancy we often talk about the difference between having an educated opinion on the one hand and getting your opinion accepted on the other. In short, it’s the difference between ‘being right’ and others saying that you are and taking positive action because of it. When you know how to convince the person on the other side of the table of your opinion, you’ll find that it will positively affect the deployment of your hard skills.
At AE, Vincent Guelinckx is one of the strongest proponents of the development of a wide range of soft skills, not in the least because these skills form the basis of real, value-based consultancy.
Quite possibly the most important reason for an organization to purchase package software is to lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of its existing IT setup. On paper, this indeed seems like a win-win situation between customer and software vendor: in exchange for a (extra) maintenance fee, the vendor provides support and upgrades to the customer. But is COTS really the best way to go?
During a recent project innovation sprint at a customer, we decided to tackle our customer’s data warehouse documentation problem. It was hard to get proper insight in the data streams at hand due to various data sources, changing standards and legacy code. Take for example a random field: in which reports is it being used, to which source can it be tracked, which transformations have been applied, etc?
Since our aim was to thoroughly reshape the infrastructure, we decided to add this kind of information because it would allow us to better gauge the impact of our modifications. During the innovation sprint, we developed a system that builds said info and makes it possible to query.
For utilities, the foundation of the energy marketplace is changing. Increasingly, business models and operational approaches of the past are being stretched to their limits and a tipping point has been reached.
What does this mean for energy providers looking to remain successful in the future?
On April 14, 2016, the General Data Protection Regulation (EU 2016/679) was formally accepted by the European Parliament. In the summer of 2018, this new regulation will replace all national data protection laws and regulations.
Have you ever had brainstorm workshops that didn’t really have any workable output? Or did you ever feel that some people didn’t bring the input you expected them to?
A project portfolio is more than just an inventory of individual projects. Organizations can apply the principles of ‘value driven transformation’ to obtain a better mix of investments as their business and application landscapes evolve.
So you need to connect an application to an external system. Developers and IT architects know how to cover the technical side, with for example SOAP web services, REST APIs, or stored procedures. But there is more to integration than just a choice in technology. You also face a functional challenge: the relevant functionalities of multiple applications must seamlessly fit into each other.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve walked you through some details about story mapping, a very powerful technique to elaborate a concept in a co-creative way. Here's a quick recap of what we discussed.
The final step in the story mapping process is the prioritization of user stories on your story map. By way of this exercise, you can determine which features should be included in the first version of your product to hit the market, the Minimum Viable Product.
Every business model is under constant pressure. Pressure by customers, to provide an even better service. Pressure by competitors, searching for their differentiator to challenge your product. And, especially nowadays, pressure in a world where digital is the new normal.
We live in a talent economy and now more than ever, companies are realizing that with great people comes great business success. With the rise of 'Great Place to Work' contests and the popularity of LinkedIn, HR departments have gained significant strategic importance over the past few decades. Companies have recognized that when they have a well-balanced and happy employee base, this reflects in every other part of the business.
So you’ve mastered the technique of User Story Mapping. Or you’ve read the book by Jeff Patton. Or you’re excited to get started because of our series of blog posts… Whatever the case may be, we’ve got a little extra for you: a walk through the jungle of storymapping tools.
Ok, so you’re about to start your first story mapping workshop with a fresh group of participants. You’ve prepared everything down to a T: from slide deck and sticky notes to shiny sets of ballpoint pens on the tables.
Together with a large organization, we’re building a platform that presents company data to its data scientists so they can use it to develop innovative applications.
At AE, we’re very proud to be among the Best Workplaces in Belgium and to be one of the recipients of a Great Place to Work award. To celebrate us winning this award for the sixth straight year, we want to present you with some background on the makeup of our organization, as it is a key facilitator of our people’s happiness at work.
Personalizing services and marketing is not just hip and trendy, it can effectively result in lots of added value for your clients and prospects. But implementing a proper personalization strategy does not come without its challenges.
Say you’re an IT-professional working for a company that sells services, among which a punch-ticket for psychological advice by phone. You’re charged with realizing a first step in personalizing the consumer journey.
Many companies are facing the challenge to identify and deliver more personalized services to their customers and are trying to evolve from an inside out perspective to an outside in approach. Making this switch takes time and reflection.
In most application landscapes services tend to pop up like mushrooms, with little to no attention being devoted to decent service design or decent service-oriented architecture (SOA). Frankly put, this means you’re doing it wrong.
In our ever faster digital world, time to market is an increasingly important factor in any IT project. A shorter time to market is crucial to stay ahead of the competition. However, this is not possible without an agile and qualitative IT environment. This is where Quality Assurance comes into play.
Every month at AE, we organize an AE Codecamp for our colleagues' children and their friends. It's a great way for the next generation to experience the possibilities of science and technology in a playful manner.
For finance companies that often execute international payments and transactions, it’s worth looking at Blockchain, a technology that simplifies the payment and transaction process significantly.
One of the major shifts that I see happening in the digital transformation journey is the shift in thinking from applications to platforms.
Organizations often possess a lot of data that’s being stored in unstructured formats. Most of the time, this involves data that people were able to enter as free text, such as e-mails, call center logs, presentations, manuals etc. In these instances, analytics can help to access the value hidden within this data.
If you pay little to no attention to business analysis, you'll often find yourself making the wrong assumptions during the solutions phase of a project.
A common issue encountered on projects is that the project goals have not been clearly defined. A Benefit Map is a powerful visual to provide solace.
The world around us is moving at an ever faster pace and disrupting forces for your market are lurking around the corner.
Why does Value Driven Transformation form the biggest challenge for Utilities in Belgium over the next few years? Because every party involved is facing a transformation, spurred by the enormous changes the market is about to face.
The energy market in Belgium is about to experience an important change. The creation of a federal clearing House, Atrias, and the introduction of a new market communication standard (MIG6.0) are bringing a lot of new concepts and challenges for every market party. Luckily, change always heralds new opportunities.
Having a solid, clear strategy is vital if you want to keep your business armed for the future. But having a strategy is just the first step, because it won’t lead anywhere if it’s not supported or properly executed by the people in your organization. That’s where Value Driven Transformation comes in.
The weekend is great for catching up on some reading backlog. Missed a blog post? Don’t worry. We’re here to help you out. Customer experience is an essential part in creating and operating a successful business or offering. Whether you’re providing services to external clients or support colleagues in other business units, a customer-centric approach helps you provide true value.
This is the last post in a series of three about the added value of Analytics in Marketing. The first post, by my colleague Bram Vanschoenwinkel, gave an overview of a number of Analytics techniques tailored to a better understanding of your customers and their specific needs. Jessica Ruelens discussed Customer Segmentation & Profiling and a specific case for a company that sells professional training seminars in a second post. I will conclude this series with a discussion about Churn Prediction and a specific case of a bank.
Have you ever wondered how your customers are behaving on a grand scale? Do you know which customers are most valuable to you and which customers represent an undiscovered opportunity? You might have a general idea about the behaviour of your customers - having observed their behaviour in the past - but are you sure your observations are supported by the facts or the data?
In my last blog post I talked about the strategic and competitive advantages that can be delivered by Business Analytics but that a lot of companies are still struggling to apply Analytics and actually gain these advantages. This post is the first in a series of three where the added value of Analytics in Marketing will be discussed.
In the early days of Enterprise Architecture, the focus was merely on frameworks and methodologies. Later on, the discussion changed more to processes. To really have a high impact, it is my conviction that Enterprise Architecture should focus on business value.
I love to help companies shape their future architecture. Become customer-centric. Exploit digital technology. Integrate multiple channels. Help them provide consistent and ‘lovable’ customer experiences. To do this, we also need to reinvent our organisations and design them as living systems.
Summer is great for catching up on some reading backlog. Missed a blog post? Don’t worry! We’re here to help you out. These past months our front end engineering community has been very active in implementing web technologies across our customer base. Want to get started with the latest web technologies in your project?
This blog post is part 2 of our hackathon idea. It covers the technical setup we used to get the prototype up and running during the two-day hackathon at AE. You can read about the concept idea in part 1.
On the 4th and 5th of June, AE organized a hackathon for all interested employees. We were invited to gather a team and work out our own idea based on the theme "Think customer, explore the future". Our team: 4 developers and 1 analyst. This blog post describes our idea and how we implemented this in under 36 hours.
With temperatures soaring (or in some areas storms approaching), it is an excellent time to close the windows, boot the laptop and brush up on your information management skills. This blog post is a basic tutorial on how to create proper authentication items with oAuth to connect to Twitter, use Talend to process the tweets and store them in a native form using MongoDB. It uses some fun technologies and can help you explore the value in data science and information management using your own data.
Making your web applications Search Engine Friendly has always been important for scoring high in search engine results. More and more of those front end applications are evolving towards SPA's (Single Page App) which are inherently difficult to crawl, thereby potentially impacting your search ranking. However, the dilemma between a focus on UX or SEO is a fallacy. In this post we’ll have a look at how you can both offer a dynamic, fast and user-friendly web application and still keep search engine crawlers happy.
Microservices are all the rage right now. It's an architectural style which promises fast delivery and robust, scalable systems. Some people say it's SOA 2.0. For a thorough introduction, I recommend reading this article by James Lewis and Martin Fowler. You could say that microservices are the love child of Continuous Delivery and DDD. Unfortunately, someone made a mistake when registering the baby. They got the name wrong.
Recently, I participated in an agile business requirements training given by my colleague Thomas De Vries and Patrick Steyaert. One very interesting technique that they highlighted is story mapping. In this post, I will explain how to apply this technique and highlight the advantages compared to traditional techniques for eliciting requirements.
Business and IT speak a different language. This is a challenge for many organizations as it hinders communication about requirements in IT projects. An often suggested way to deal with this problem is to use the simple and fixed format of user stories to express requirements (as a..., I can... so that ...) and I fully agree on this. However, as a business analyst, I notice a lot of confusion among business people when it comes to the definition of a user story. I often hear that user stories are too technical for them. In this blog post I provide 4 tips to write user stories that express business requirements making sense from a business point of view.
There are a lot of buzzwords around Information Management these days. Carlo Wouters helps you get a clear view on the value of your data and its untapped potential in these 5 Questions and the June 10th AE Foyer.
Do you know what your application is doing? Is it happily crunching along or is it slowly getting consumed in a blazing ball of fire? In the age of services, not every application has a UI to show you the screen of death. How is your application being used? Are you missing opportunities or is traffic so slow that it's best to shut it down before you get your cloud bill?
In a previous post we talked about client side and server side web architecture. We showed the difference between the two approaches and concluded that client side web architecture offers a lot of benefits. Now it's time to get our hands dirty and put theory into practice. In this post we’ll compare both approaches using a real application.
Let's admit it: when it comes to interacting with the web, we’re all a little spoiled. We’re used to websites like Facebook, Pinterest and Evernote. We all own a smartphone with fancy-looking apps. Yet when we create web applications, we often forget our users are no different. They expect a rich interaction and a fast, dynamic user interface. Providing this kind of interaction can be crucial to your business. This is where you win or lose the hearts of your customers.
With the introduction of the HTC Dream in 2008 as the first android-based smartphone, mobile app developers were confronted with a tough choice. iOS or Android. Today there is even more variety in platform specific development platforms. From iOS and the different Google dev kits to Windows Phone Tools and everything in between. This fragmentation puts both business and developers in a difficult spot.
In a deregulated utilities market, like Belgium, the customer is the main concern for suppliers in the value chain. Suppliers really need their customers' consumption of gas, electricity and preferably some other products as well. This enables them to create loyalty, increase brand awareness and provide an added value experience to their customer. So yes, suppliers are focusing more and more on their customers.
Web applications are powerful tools to provide new and always-accessible services to your customers and employees. Their popularity has made front-end engineering a highly dynamic and exciting playing field. Businesses, employees and customers are exposed to a lot of new web technologies, rich user interfaces and services though it’s not always easy to see how it can impact and really help your business activities.
In this post I want to share my experiences in the support of the governance process that is responsible for keeping the level of customization for a standard package solution under control. How do we approach this? It's easy to boldly say upfront that you rather adapt your way of working than to customize the software you bought. This post is all about sticking to that decision even when the going gets tough.
What is a project? In its most simple definition it means implementing a change in a controlled way so that the investor doesn't need to take a leap in the dark. The word 'controlled' and 'change' are key in this simple definition. In this post, I’ll focus on our approach to define the way in which the business needs to change its way of working and how we leveraged our corporate process model to do so.
One thing we've learned from the first phase of the iHRM program is that a complete waterfall approach with one delivery moment, followed by an extended user acceptance period is not the silver bullet. For the second phase of the program, the scope is wider and the number of project teams is higher. In this blog post, I'll share some insights on how to effectively manage scope while going for an iterative and incremental development plan.
Previously I've pleaded for simple architectural designs that are easily understood by all stakeholders. This way the idea gets the support it needs. As a project evolves into the ICT design and development phase, both idea and design will need to be made more tangible. This is especially true when it comes to making it all work together. The purpose stays the same: to avoid ambiguity. The means? Keep it again as simple as possible by focusing on what really matters.
I'm an architect. As most architects, I like to design things and conceptualize ideas. But a common pitfall for us architects is that we design things that are very clear for... other architects. Other audiences are often left puzzled or confused. This is commonly referred to as the ivory tower phenomenon. I'm also a result driven pragmatist; I love to realize ideas. To make something happen, you first need to convince the stakeholder or sponsor that provides the budget to realize your idea. In this post I'd like to share my experience in architectural models that have proven to work for me.
This post is the first in a series of six that will take you through the bpost iHRM (integrated human resource management) program. With this series we want to provide some context on the program itself and highlight our contributions and approach on business architecture and project scoping.
We are creating customer journeys on the fly these days. It is the revelation in process modeling and customer understanding. By combining the outside-in process of the customer with his emotions we are able to steer our organization towards the customer-centric culture, and foster loyal customers. But in our quest for the outside-in enterprise, one must not forget why we are mapping a journey in particular. Forrester states there are 6 possible goals for every customer journey map.
Does the term "rewrite" scare the bejeezus out of you? Good. It should. A rewrite is not something to be taken lightly and should be your very last resort. There are less painful routes you can take, but what if there really is no valid alternative to "The Big R"?
According to wikipedia, the amount of unstructured data might account for more than 70%-80% of all data in organisations. Because everyone wants to find hidden treasures in these mountains of information, new tools for processing, analyzing and visualizing data are being developed continually.
Building a profitable enterprise no longer depends on finding the right product and setting the right price. We live in the age of the customer, who is well informed through the capabilities of the internet. Customer Experience has become an important element in doing good business. Companies will have to reinvent themselves in order to fully understand and serve their customers, employees and partners. Time to get started on building amazing experiences, aided by digital tools. We spoke with Kenny Follet, one of the speakers at AE's latest AE Foyer "Embrace your customer, get digital!"
“How do you feel about that?” It’s a question associated more with clients staring at their psychotherapist’s office ceiling than with enterprise platforms, mobile applications and their customers. Not surprisingly so; applications are often seen as embodiments of reason and logic. Their performance has objective targets and their functionalities have thoroughly analysed and well-documented requirements.
Do you recognize the following situation? You are involved in a project and, based on a slide deck or analysis document, you need to decide on the way to go. After reading the content, you don’t feel like you’ve fully grasped it and you don’t feel comfortable at all to take a decision. In this article, I’d like to share 3 practical tips to increase the value of any change/requirements document, enabling faster and more confident decision taking for stakeholders.
A Q&A with Brigitte Narmon, lead of the AE Utilities Community, about the challenges of the Belgian energy sector and how AE prepares for this (r)evolution?
Last year in May, we launched our new AE Blog. We want to thank our 4.000+ readers who spent on average two and a half minutes on our blog per session. Of course this wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of our authors, the AE employees who created over 50 posts for you to read. A big 'thank you' to them as well.
HTML5 Introduces a variety of new possibilities for the web. One of those is the ability to make a website available offline. Adding these features to web sites bridges the gap between the native and web world. A comparison between web and native development is outside the scope of this post.
So we have analysed the customer's journey, looking not only at the different steps our customer goes through, but also how he feels along the way. We've also checked the different touch points the customer interacts with and identified gaps or points for improvement. Useful techniques that help us better serve the customer. But one question is left untouched: does the customer care?
A few weeks ago I participated in a hackathon organised by AE. We began friday morning and by saturday night we had to present our idea and demo our product. Our team consisted of four awesome technical wizards: @thomaux, @glenndejaeger, @piether and Alex Wauters. As you might guess, I was the analyst.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about organizing a hackathon as a great way to discover, support or highlight new and innovative ideas in your company. Valerie also wrote about her experiences at AE’s first hackathon. In the coming weeks, you’ll get to know some of the teams and their projects a bit better. They’ll share their experiences, design choices and technical implementation. Today we want to show you how our colleagues at AE spent their 48 hours and what their major takeaways were.
It’s Monday morning and the daily scrum just took place. An analyst got the task to dig into a problem. He eagerly starts working on it at his desk, digging deep into the issue trying to make it crystal clear. Doing everything he can; creating diagrams, modeling, drawing, … Putting in time and effort. The analyst goes to the developer’s desk to discuss the fruits of his labor. While going through the entire stack of documents, he figures out that all he needed were some quick sketches on a the back of beer coaster. So where did he go wrong?
The experience of two restaurant visits from last month stuck with me. In the first one jackhammers were constantly interrupting our conversation because they were rebuilding the place. In the second one, I was sitting on a terrace, in a beautiful late-summer sun. One of those restaurants however will never see me again. Guess which one?
Last month, AE organized its first hackathon. For two days, seven teams worked feverishly towards the realisation of their idea. At stake was a €2000 reward for the winning team. Despite the simplicity of this concept, a hackathon is not just a game. Moreover, it proved to be an efficient way to leverage innovation, creativity and knowledge sharing.
In my previous post and related article, I explained how I believe customer journeys can be used to guide strategic investments. Customer journeys can help you find out where and how your organisation can improve the long term customer experience. Armed with that knowledge, you can then define the required change projects.
AngularJS is one of the most popular, complete and advanced HTML frameworks of the moment. Recently, the first Angular conference in Europe – ng-europe – took place in Paris. My colleague Thomas Anciaux and I attended it and in this post I will highlight the most important takeaways.
A while ago, I published an article in the IRM UK newsletter on business process modelling. In the article, I explain the value of and relation between different kinds of process models. I also propose to use customer journeys to guide strategic choices and investments in process (and other) improvements. In this post, I briefly summarise the key messages of the article and elaborate on how to use customer journeys as a guide for your strategic investments.
My colleague Glenn Dejaeger and I recently visited the Fronteers 2014 conference. It was the first time we attended, but it surely will not be the last. The organization was impeccable, the venue wonderful and the talks interesting. Although there wasn't an overall theme, there were some recurring topics, which I have listed in this post.
Why doesn’t my product sell online Tom? I’ve done everything by the book! I created a nice shop; I’ve added a lot of fancy pictures and good descriptions. People can pay online via Paypal and credit card and shipping is done in a jiffy. Amount sold last month: zero, nada, nothing, not even a pennie. Please Tom, what am I doing wrong?
In the last 5 years of my career as an enterprise architect, whenever the word "integration" came up, discussions started about the choice of an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), FTP or web services, SOAP or REST, XML or JSON, etc.
In short, when involved in discussions about "integration", one most likely finds himself drowning in a multitude of technical acronyms and technological standards.
I compare the technological side of integration to the "Dr. Jekyll" personality : it is the side well-known to everyone, stable, under control and increasingly complying to uniform standards.
In the end, Application Lifecycle Management helps you to transform business ideas in an efficient and predictable way. You, as an IT department, will be able to deliver what the business needs. Moreover, you will be able to do this on time and within the estimated budget. The ALM maturity assessment discussed in my previous post results in a clear overview of the current maturity level (per discipline) and a phased plan to increase the maturity of you ALM processes. In this post we will discuss the possible benefits of executing an ALM maturity increase plan (by using a concrete customer case).
In my previous post I have shown a number of possible pain patterns that you can experience if the maturity of your ALM processes is not adequate. In this post we will discuss a method that can be used to assess these processes and increase the ALM maturity in the areas where this is needed.
The actual goal of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) is to transform a business idea into working software as efficiently as possible. The requirements need to be aligned with development to build applications that drive business objectives.
Your ALM processes should be managed as actual business processes because they create the predictability that the business is requesting.
In reality they are still considered to be an IT internal concern.
Do you recognize any of the following pain patterns?
You've probably already heard of Scrum, the popular agile software development framework. While the basics aren't difficult, a lot of people seem to fail implementing it. In this post I'll sum up 10 things you should do if you want your Scrum project to fail miserably.
I have frequently started working on products where there was little up-to-date documentation. You usually only notice it as you go. You might find that one part of the analysis does not describe the latest changes. As you find more and more inconsistencies, you will not be able to trust any of the documentation, even though some of it might still be ok. So why does this happen?
How does documentation become out of date and what can be done to prevent it?
Ultimately, society as a whole and business in particular are all about relationships. Then, success - or in the more personal area, happiness - is measured by how well one can establish and maintain personal and long-lasting relationships.
Within the traditional business context, the primary relationship is usually seen to be that of a company with its customers. But let's turn this around:
The primary business relationship is that of a person with a company of his choice.
Undoubtedly you already heard about the strategic and competitive advantages Business Analytics can deliver by bringing you wisdom and insights derived from your company data.
“Analytics is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”
But is this really the case? Is Analytics really worthwhile talking about? And more importantly, how can companies go from just talking about it to actually and successfully doing it?
You work six months on your ‘perfect’ site. You spend a lot of money on good designers, make it look nice on a smartphone. And then the big day comes, houston, we have liftoff! For it is just after three months later that you realize your site just sits there in a corner wheepin’ because google won’t put it on number one. I too learned it the hard way, and went on a secret mission to make my site score better in Google. Here are 7 quick-wins I’ve encountered on my mission to take over the world (with my tiny fancy site)…
In the context of AE's migration to Office 365, we have been studying legal impact of moving to the cloud. Since a lot of our customers are in the same situation, I wanted to share our findings with all of you via this blog.
Although it is a common assumption that the Patriot Act gives the US unlimited access to your data, the actual impact of the Patriot Act is negligible.
Last week I attended the AE Foyer of Matthias Pyck, "From server virtualization to hybrid cloud". Matthias Pyck is one of the pioneers in the Belgium Cloud scene. This blog takes you through the story of Matthias. Showing you a way to the Cloud.
A few weeks ago Gartner gave an insight of what we can expect in Infrastructure & Operations (I&O):
"By 2017, 50% of I&O teams will be eliminated or have major budget reductions because they are viewed as outdated, high-cost, legacy support organizations."
The conclusion / warning for the I&O teams was:
"Improve or Perish"
Why should you be making this distinction?
If you are not making it, you probably recognize some of these issues:
- you are redescribing your product over and over again for every new project
- there is no documentation of your product as a whole, in stead pieces are described depending on what was relevant for the project
- It is hard to find existing documentation as it is organized per project in stead of per product
In my 3rd blog on customer centricity, I look at the impact of your customer centric strategy on technology. Since your customer is becoming more and more digital, a customer centric strategy cannot be realized without considering technology. And as customer centric business models are build on dynamic ecosytems connecting different partners, you will not be able to operate without technology.
In fact, business and technology should be considered at the same time and in an integrated way. There is no such thing as business and technology anymore, there is only business. But technology is at the heart of your business model.
In a previous blog I wrote about moving from an organisation centric to a customer centric strategy. In this blog I expand somewhat more on this theme by considering the impact on your business model.
Today’s organisations are typically designed according to a traditional linear value chain of marketing, sales, delivery and support. But if we really want to put the customer central stage, we have to look differently at our organisation model. And turn it around. Make it a dynamic network driven by the needs of our customers.
Back home after an inspiring and entertaining EA & BPM conference (EACBPM). There was way too much going on to wrap it up in a short blog post, but here are some themes that stuck with me after the talks and informal discussions.
Value proposition & strategy
An important part of enterprise and business architecture and business process management is about making the connection with corporate strategy and an enterprise’s value proposition. It will not surprise you that customer experience is playing an important role here. Thinking outside-in, stepping into the customer’s shoes and looking at his process instead of ours is a first step.
In today’s business landscape, almost every company is facing the challenge to move from organisation centric to customer centric, putting the customer at the heart of all activities. In this blog, I explain some of the key changes that I see happening today.
Looking from the outside: start from ‘real’ customer needs
Understanding your customers’ needs and desires and how they interact with your business is key in building long-lasting customer relationships. The major mind shift here is to start from what the customer really needs, instead of what you ‘think’ the customer needs.
A few weeks ago I attended the very first installment of Techorama, a new conference for developers hosted in Mechelen, Belgium. This post will walk you through my experiences of the conference and will highlight the most important takeaways from the various talks I attended.
The conference had tracks on ALM, Mobile, Web, Cloud, Language & Tools, Sharepoint & SQL and best-of Build 2014. I mostly attended the Web and ALM tracks since they are most relevant for my current work, but I dabbled in the other tracks here and there. I expected this conference to be heavily Microsoft-oriented but it turned out that there were a lot of non-Microsoft specific talks. As a matter of fact, it would have been entirely possible to schedule your conference without attending a single Microsoft-specific talk. Most of the talks I attended were high-quality presentations. The booth hall had some entertaining side tracks and there was a lot of swag up for grabs. The food was delicious (warm meals instead of the usual sandwiches!). Overall there was a very good vibe during these two days.
You might be a developer like me. You might also wander around in the deep and dark layers of relational database systems. You might've been face to face with this thing some call a composite index.
Why are you talking in this denigrating tone?
Because in the fairly limited experience I have, I have seen some grave cases of index abuse. Of them, badly designed composite indexes - or multi-column indexes - were always the most aggravating ones.
Always inspiring, a seminar by Chris Potts. So I was keen on joining this evening’s EA Café about linking enterprise architecture to enterprise investment. If you haven’t read his books or participated in one of his workshops, I strongly encourage you to do so. Here are some things and questions that stuck with me today.
- Do you want to make your projects succesful, or your portfolio? If your portfolio is managed well, it gives you enough probability of success to ensure running a healthy business, yet allows for enough risk to prevent you from standing still.
Business cases are a valuable instrument, but in practice they are not always applied correctly. They are often ‘misused’ in an attempt to get budgets allocated or to win projects. During a most interesting evening with our Business Analysis community, many colleagues presented real-life examples of how business cases are typically used by our customers. It was fascinating to see how the same patterns kept returning again and again.
What’s wrong with business cases?
Someone mentioned that: "You can always calculate your profit with a business case". As a result, business cases become more of a sales instrument for projects instead of a management instrument to evaluate and follow up on investments. And that is a shame, because business cases are extremely useful when applied correctly.
There is a question that often returns: How do we know which analysis techniques we need to apply? There are of course several considerations to be made.
You can for example consider the nature of the system or the composition of the team. One good place to start is to take a look at the stakeholders of your analysis. Whom are you making it for?
Despite agile and lean being more popular than ever, 200 page analysis documents are still very much a reality. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t write this type of documentation but if I would have to choose one major reason it is that nobody actually likes to read these documents. Here are some other good reasons not to.
It is hard for anyone to remain consistent throughout a long plain text. Inconsistencies already start creeping in while you’re working on the first version. Then updates are made by you or even more risky, by other people. (If you don’t believe me, just take a look at all the inconsistencies in the Harry Potter series.)
Enterprise architecture, on its own delivers no value. As illustrated in my blog on outside-in architecture, the final goal of enterprise architecture is to design structures that create business value.
Therefore enterprise architects operate on the link between strategy and execution, connecting the investment chain with the operational value chain. To be able to improve the structure of enterprises, enterprise architects have to collaborate with business executives, investment portfolio managers, project teams and operational people as illustrated in the following picture:
In this blog I want to share my insights on how I see these collaborations happening in practice. Be aware that I will explain the collaborations top down, which in practice will often not be the case. In my experience, I mostly jump in at the project level to create early value and continue my journey from there on.
In response to my previous blog someone drew my attention to an article published a year ago by Ron Tolido: “De Dood van Requirements” (the death of requirements). The author foresees a brighter future if we stop thinking in terms of requirements, a future where ict and business collaborate in such a way that there is no longer a need to specify requirements.
It is a compelling vision. Traditionally, requirement elicitation and management consumed an inordinate amount of time and effort. So instead of just trying to speed things up, elimination seems a valid cure.
As an enterprise architect, I ask myself continuously the question how I can contribute to the creation of business value for the enterprise. How can we design or improve structures that enable the enterprise to create more value?
The basic model
If we look at an enterprise from a very high level, the basic model of an enterprise is to turn the money of investors in business value for customers, in collaboration with partners in the supply chain.
If we want to take the word ‘enterprise’ in our job titles seriously, I believe we should change our mental model from an inside-out oriented perspective to an outside-in oriented perspective. How can we connect the investment value chain with the operational value chain to create more value for the customer?
Ever since user stories were introduced to the world they have been compared to use cases. There has been a small war between the agilists promoting user stories and the “mainstream analysts” holding on to their use cases. But is all this rivalry really necessary?
When comparing use cases and user stories, they turn out to be different in every way:
- Use cases can be used as permanent documentation, User stories are thrown away at the end of the iteration
- Use cases are at the level of what the user is trying to achieve with the system, User stories are small enough to plan into an iteration and to iteratively and incrementally deliver value
- Use cases are a base for high level preliminary estimations, User stories are a base for development estimates
So to me they simply serve different purposes
In every requirements management effort there is a moment when the seemingly inevitable question comes up: “Are we talking about business requirements or IT requirements”. Other taxonomies are in use - the BABOK lists 5 levels- , this specific question seems to be triggered by whom should own and validate which requirements.
I will not discuss the role issue but I will demonstrate a clear distinction between business requirements and IT requirements. The answer boils down to dependencies.
In this post I will summarize some of the main principles of Jez Humble and David Farley’s great book on Continuous Delivery and share my experiences of applying them on software projects I’ve been involved in. First, I’d like to share a story to give this discussion some context.
Joe is a software developer. It’s a regular Friday afternoon, 15 PM. Before heading home, Joe has to start this thing called a “weekly build”. Joe makes sure everyone on the team has checked in their changes to the source control system.
Joe starts the fully-automated build at the click of a button. The current build process takes some time, so he grabs a coffee. Five minutes later Joe returns to his computer, only to be shocked by what his monitor is displaying:
The twentieth BAEA Café was once again very inspiring. Koen Knaepen, known from the COSTA model, talked about how your approach to modelling may help or impede business architecture from improving an enterprise. Tom Graves (twitter, blog, Café slides) moved enterprise architecture’s focus away from IT and towards people. This blog contains some take aways from this seminar.
Keep it simple
Plenty architecture models and frameworks try to capture as much as possible from reality. As a consequence, they become far too complex. In the end, only the creators understand these models. First and foremost however, a model should serve to create a common understanding, help communication and inspire. Hence, keep it simple.