Recent Posts

A day in the life of…a development intern

Author: Infomentum

Kicking off our new blog series, ‘A Day in the Life of…’ our summer interns, computer science students Pratik Jadhav and Hasan Rafiq, reveal a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an intern’s typical day.

I chose to study computer science because…

Pratik: My dad is in the IT business so it’s something I’ve been interested in from a young age. I love technology and I wanted to understand how everything works, and how to develop everything.

Hasan: Other members of my family are in IT so I always knew about it. At first, I was going to go into dentistry, but I tried it out and I couldn’t see myself looking into other people’s mouths for the rest of my life! So I knew then that I wanted to go into computer science.

The thing that most interests me in computer science is…

Pratik: Information security. It’s up and coming, and data protection is a massive issue in the market currently. I was really interested to learn more about Infomentum’s ISO certification, and to understand the policies they have to follow. I’ve heard about this at uni so it was interesting to see first-hand.

Hasan: Security as well! I also really like software development, like we’re doing during our internship here. I enjoy the creative elements of development, to come up with an idea and then conceptualise it. I’m really interested in working in development for a start-up in the future.

I decided to do an internship because…

Pratik: I wanted to understand what it feels like to work within a proper organisation in the technology business. I did an internship whilst I was at school, but it was for a food company working in their IT department. I was really looking for an internship at a company who has technology at the core.

Hasan: I’m in my first year at uni, and normally you wouldn’t do an internship until the second year. But I really wanted to check the industry and be sure development was the right area I want to go into. I like to test the waters before I go into something – dentistry being an example of that!

The project I’m working on is…

A day in the life of a development intern

Hasan: Pratik and I are working on a chatbot that provides information to anyone who is curious via Facebook Messenger. Basic information – not necessarily specific but generic information like address, links to a blog post etc. I’m working more on the blog subscription stuff, and Pratik is working on FAQs. With the blog subscriptions, people can specify when and what time of day they’d like to get alerts about a new blog post. If a new blog post comes out and the user hasn’t specified a time, they’ll get an alert from the bot the next time they log into Facebook.

Pratik: Exactly. It’s more to do with website information – so rather than the user having to search a website or search Google, the bot can respond with links to case studies, things like that. It’ll give the user all of the relevant information in one place rather than having to search for it. Using AI means that a member of staff doesn’t need to sit answering questions – the bot does it for them.

On a typical day…

Pratik: Usually we arrive and Amr (Gawish) takes us to the sprint board. Amr is our Project Manager for the chatbot, and has given us two week sprints. We have certain tasks to finish by the end of each sprint so that we can demo the product to the client for feedback and the next round of functionality. So, each day we talk about what we accomplished yesterday and any problems we had, and what we want to achieve today. He gives us advice on what he thinks we should work on next, and answers any questions we have.

Hasan: We plan our whole day at the sprint board, and then start working on the tasks allocated to us.

Pratik: We normally have an overall task which is split into smaller subtasks, so we’ll focus on those subtasks throughout the day. For instance, we had to get AI working with the Facebook chatbot and giving it small tasks – so instead of a person responding, the AI should. We had to get that integration working properly first. We’ll complete these subtasks and then expand them and add our own functionality.

Some surprising things I’ve learnt are…

Hasan: I knew nothing about agile before. I’d heard words like scrum, sprint etc, but I didn’t know anything about them. Lots of team members have sat with us to explain their role, so it’s been interesting to go around the business and understand what everyone does. I was also really surprised about the atmosphere in the Infomentum office – I wasn’t expecting it to be so open and friendly. It’s a different working environment than I thought it would be, in a good way!

Pratik: I’d heard of agile, but I’d never seen it in action. It’s good to see agile delivery first hand and see how it works in an organisation. I also enjoyed getting an insight on different roles in Infomentum and what they do day-to-day. We’ve heard about everything from pen testing, to marketing, to ISO.

If I wasn’t studying computer science, I’d study…

Hasan: I have no idea! Definitely not dentistry. I’d always liked computer science so I never thought about anything else.

Pratik: Medicine or economics. At school, I was very interested in becoming a doctor. But when I reached the last year of studying biology before uni, I realised I wasn’t very interested anymore, so I switched to economics. Then it was between economics and computer science, but since technology is always expanding, I was more interested in that.

My proudest achievement is…

Pratik: Not computer science related, but probably getting grade 7 on the piano! I still play the piano now.

When I leave the office…

Hasan: I play football quite a bit, and I also like video games. And sleep! I’m still adjusting to longer days than uni.

Pratik: I usually play cricket with some friends. I also help my younger brother with his work – he’s doing the 11+ at the moment. I have quite a long commute now, but I’d like to live in London in the future.

2020: the year of the employee?

Author: Infomentum

Author: Rachel Edwards

Workplaces are changing rapidly – often without us even noticing. And now that the first wave of digital disruption has already passed, employees are demanding more sophisticated experiences from the companies they work for. This means that, as businesses, we have a choice: change, or get left behind. One way of ensuring that we move with the times is to listen to the changing expectations of employees as we move towards the next big milestone: 2020.

That’s all very well, but how can we approach this change beyond digital whilst still keeping employees on side? To investigate the shifting digital scene, Infomentum carried out a survey with over 1000 office workers to try and gauge the reality behind employee expectations.

So, what do the employees of 2020 actually want?

The skiver vs. the flexible worker

Right now, 41% of employees want to work from home. But 62% of bosses won’t let this happen. Are these flexible workers skiving, or the people of the future? Who’s right in this situation: the employee or the employer? With the number of workers demanding flexible hours set to rise, the answers are not so straightforward.

Whilst there are fears that out-of-office work may lead to lower productivity, it actually appears that the reverse is true. By adopting cloud document management systems your business can promise better collaboration between departments, and greater flexibility throughout the workforce. Working from home need no longer be a hindrance, but perhaps your greatest asset. Because, let’s face it, the organisations that are agile enough to let their employees work remotely will see the greatest benefits, both physically and technologically. Our previous report into Generation C, the connected generation, illustrates these benefits – exploring why fewer distractions, and less stressful environments lead to happier employees and greater company success.

Have you upgraded?

It’s time to listen to the 91% of employees who believe that their employer will no longer be competitive by 2020. Yes, this might seem like just another scare story. But, guess what: the world has already changed and those non-upgraders are being left behind in the wake of this digital boom.

We’re now looking beyond digital for the workplaces of 2020. Employees want their organisations to harness the flexible working technologies available in order to boost business success. And, there will be merit behind this. Once tasks become increasingly automated, employees will be able to devote more time to strategic thinking and generating new ideas.

The secret success of Gen C employees

In 2020, the employers who embrace the forward looking attitudes of Gen C will be the most successful; it is these members of the ‘connected generation’ that are driving the pace of change. Their hardworking and increasingly flexible mind-sets will be your greatest asset – perhaps not such a secret, but still a truth easily forgotten. Attempts to enforce top-down controls will merely limit workforce motivation and who wants that? So, instead, it is time to listen to the demands of the 2020 workforce.

So there you have it: a snapshot of the changing expectations of your 2020 employees. Want to pinpoint the specific areas that will work for you as we all move beyond digital? We thought as much. Read more in the full report: ‘Beyond Digital: what’s next for businesses in 2020?’.

2020: what are your customers expecting?

Author: Infomentum

Author: Rachel Edwards

77% of users claim they leave a site immediately if they experience any difficulty. It’s a shocking stat. One that perfectly illustrates the need for business to continually improve and innovate to keep up with progressive consumer demands.

But I hear what you’re thinking. We've heard this before, but how do we know where consumers will go next? The truth is, nobody knows what 2020 holds. To gain insight into what the market is expecting, Infomentum carried out a survey with over 1000 office workers to look into their opinions, behaviours and expectations for 2020 as both a customer and an employee.

We’re all Generation C

In case you hadn't noticed, age demographics are over. In the age of Generation C, the connected generation, it’s all about linking people through their shared behaviour, interests and expectations. Back in 2014, when we carried out research into Gen C, 54% of respondents identified themselves as part of the connected generation. With the internet embedded in every area of our lives and digital technology booming fast, the Gen C demographic will only continue to grow.

So much, in fact, that the research predicts that by 2020, Generation C will be the dominant psychographic amongst both customers and the workforce. What are Gen C expecting from you?

Buying into 2020

In 2020, it’s not going to be enough that your website is mobile ready; mobile will mean more than just a smartphone. With hyper-connected consumers who are always on the move, they’ll expect an overhaul of the whole buying process.

The 2020 sales Your customers expect an overhaul of the buying process

With the rapid pace of technology advancements it’s not unfeasible that this type of sale could become a reality.

What does it mean for businesses?

We’ll come back to your website because, let’s face it, if your website isn't ready now then it’s time to start working quickly or risk being left behind in the digital boom. It’s not about jumping straight into the 2020 sale by buying into all of the latest technology with no roadmap. Businesses need a solid strategy, a vision and a set of goals to achieve this. Armed with this, you can assess the state of play in your business currently, identifying gaps between where you are now and where you want to be. Then, and only then, is it time to look at technology.

Read more on how you can prepare your business for 2020 in the full report: ‘Beyond Digital: what’s next for businesses in 2020?’.

Back to the future – this is 2020

Author: Infomentum

Author: Rachel Edwards

Digital transformation; it’s been the business buzzword of choice for the last 2 years or so. It’s proven to be one buzzword which has some meat behind it. Digital transformation is still a hot topic and has manifested in tangible success for many businesses and even charities like The Prince’s Trust.

Like all trends, digital transformation means different things to different people. And like all trends, it must eventually fade until ‘digital’ just becomes the norm of how we do business. But what comes next?

Beyond digital?

Technology is evolving at such a rapid race. It’s continually pushing the boundaries of what we ever thought possible in our wildest back to the future fantasies.

Noone can say for certain what the future holds. To try and understand what could be coming, it’s important to understand the state of play today. Infomentum surveyed 1000 office workers to find out their current opinions, attitudes and experiences as both employees and customers. By finding out what motivates people now, we can begin to consider how 2020 may look; and more importantly, how business can prepare.

Thriving or skiving?

Employees feel they’re thriving. They’re embracing new technologies, and using it to their advantage. 39% of office workers are actively using social media to communicate and collaborate. But even in 2016, many bosses still view social media as skiving. The same goes for expectations of working from home; employees want it, but many bosses are still not open to the idea.

Employers need to ensure that their staff can access the same information as the office anywhere in the world, to remove the ‘skiving’ label from remote working. Businesses that are agile enough to allow their staff to move without constraint, both physically and technologically, will see the greatest benefits.

Rise of the fickle consumer

Worried your website is sub-par today? You should be. 77% of users claimed they would leave a site immediately if they experienced any difficulty. And guess what? They’ve probably gone straight to your competitor.

As we move towards 2020, consumer expectations will pressure brands into behaving in a way that best suits them. The businesses that aren’t prepared for a fast pace of change will get left behind.

This is just a snapshot. Read the full story on the state of play today, and find out how your business can prep for 2020 in the full report: ‘Beyond Digital: what’s next for businesses in 2020?’.

Omnichannel: the key to retail success?

Author: Infomentum

Author: Vikram Setia

No industry has seen the effects of digital disruption hit hard quite as publicly as the retail sector.

Shock headlines detail the decline of footfall, with indignant images of boarded up stores and empty high streets. Pre-Christmas forecasts preached that the most successful holiday retailers would be those offering the optimum online shopping experience.

But aside from the scare-mongering surrounding physical stores, the key focus for retailers has remained steadfastly the same; how to offer the best customer experience? There are key challenges the industry can address today to keep up with changing consumer demand.

Business Mistelligence?

You have key decisions to make – from your store strategy, to new growth areas and how to engage online for loyalty – and you need to make an informed decision. You turn to your data to inform your decision, right? That’s not the case for many retailers who are struggling to gain insights from the masses of data available to them. Taking control of your data and having the power to display it in ways which are easily digestible allows you to turn your big data into rich data – information that has the power of context.

Lack of loyalty

We all have more information at our fingertips than was even imaginable 20 years ago. Great for consumers, who are more empowered than ever before. But for retailers, this makes for a fickle customer. Customer loyalty is at an all-time low, with their demands constantly increasing. Retailers offering added value to their customers above and beyond their competitors can take share from anyone who falls short.

The bricks-and-mortar story

It’s true that physical stores are seeing a downturn in the number of customers they serve – but there is no doubt the shop has a place for many retailers. Giving customers the maximum amount of convenience is key in our fast-paced, digital world. Retailers who are able to use digital technology to enhance the instore experience, and give the customer the impression that physical and digital have merged, are onto a compelling experience which will be hard to beat.

Much of this comes down to offering something the customer really wants. The consistent theme is the omnichannel experience.

The omnichannel enigma

You know the story as both a retailer and a consumer yourself; customers expect the same experience, no matter the channel. Now, more than ever, there is a plethora of channels for a customer to contact and interact with your brand. Retailers that can offer a holistic experience across every touchpoint of the customer’s journey will have the advantage.

The key is in removing silos. If each department and each employee has access to the same customer information, it will have a hugely positive reflection on the customer’s experience.

It’s time to stop the shock headlines and look at the challenges for the opportunities that they present. By addressing these challenges today, retailers can set themselves up for success tomorrow. Why now? Because today, your customer is demanding. Tomorrow, they will expect even more.

Subscribe to the Infomentum blog for updates on the impending launch of our latest research report which takes a look at how businesses need to prepare for 2020.

Search is your online sales assistant

Author: Infomentum

Author: Natalia Bazanova

Whether you have physical shops or not, your website is considered another shopfront, and customers will treat it that way. If you can't find something in a shop, you ask a sales assistant. But what about if you can’t find something on a businesses website? There's often no online shop assistant to ask for help. That's where your customers will turn to a powerful search function to find out what they need from you.

But what if your search function doesn’t return relevant results? Well, in short, your customers will go elsewhere. Most likely, straight to your competition.

Oracle’s WebCenter Sites gives the simplicity and flexibility to manage complex, yet visually attractive, responsive websites. By combining WebCenter Sites with the power of Solr open-source search engine, we are able to deliver fast and information rich websites for our customers.

The additional functionality that Solr brings to Sites is the ability to offer the ‘Google’ style search that customers of today have become so accustomed to.

Using the Solr integration, we are able to enhance our customer’s web search results with various filters and facets, enabling web users to more easily drill down to the most relevant areas to them. It allows multi-lingual support; a bonus for a global website like BAE Systems which is hosted in many languages worldwide.

The Prince's Trust's online course search The Prince's Trust's online course search

Solr’s geo-spatial search qualities also allow search results to incorporate location data. For The Prince’s Trust, this means their website is able to display relevant courses to website users depending on where in the UK they are based.

Surprisingly, many modern websites still cannot accommodate spelling mistakes, a basic expectation of many website users. Solr search engine makes spelling suggestions, as well as fuzzy matches, whereby the search function will offer suggestions such as ‘did you mean this…?’ to find the most relevant content quickly, even if there is no exact match for the keywords used.

Any changes to page content are immediately reflected in search results and the relevancy
of the result documents. This enables marketing teams to make updates without website users seeing any disconnect in the search results. They are able to dynamically build filters and facets.

The importance of search can often be overlooked when creating a website. Remember – if your website is your storefront, then search can be your sales assistant. Both The Prince’s Trust and BAE Systems are benefiting from this enriched search functionality; and so are their customers.

Branding ADF Applications

Author: Infomentum

Author: Nabil Makhout

Nabil presented his tips on branding ADF applications at UKOUG’s Apps 15 conference.

Every new application created with the WebCenter Portal framework and ADF comes with default styling that you extend from an out-of-the-box skin, like Skyros. But if every time we created an application with the default style, it would be a very boring and monotonous digital world. That’s where skinning comes in to brand your application to your company guidelines!

Why branding?

First of all, it promotes recognition of your brand and sets you apart from the competition. A brand is something you build over the years; customers know what to expect from your company when they recognise your brand. Strong brands build trust and customer satisfaction. Brands give potential clients a firm idea of what they are buying before they buy it, making the purchasing decision easier. Font-family, animations, colours, layouts and so many more factors contribute to building a brand. So branding has so many benefits for your company and your application. Now, let’s have a look how to do it.

Workflow to brand your application?

Use a build tool like gulp to automate part of your workflow. This helps you to stay focused on your code without needing to pay attention to the important, but repetitive, details. These tools allow you to write your code (hopefully) once, and reuse it throughout the development process. Build tools take care of minification, different versions for different environments, and while you are writing code you can get notifications that you have an error, etc. This is just scratching the surface. There is so many more things you can do with it. Have a look at gulpjs for more information.

You can also use SVG as icons. Personally, I like to use font-icons also known as glyphicons. Essentially, you combine SVGs into a font file and you can refer them in the CSS. The nice thing about this method is that you always have a JSON backup and the images are vector based. So you can make it bigger or smaller without losing quality! The annoying thing with a sprite is that you need to recalculate the background positions sometimes. Well, that’s history with your font-icons.

Dos and don’ts in development

- Do try dropping old versions of IE
- ADF comes with a lot of interactive components, so do try to stay away from js and do try to use best practices to get the solution you need
- Don’t use inline styles

I hope this helps other developers to brand your applications to your company’s style!

Strategy first, technology second

Author: Infomentum

Author: Rachel Edwards

I have a Google habit. It’s the curse (or blessing!) of growing up in the ‘digital age’ (but please, don’t call me a millennial). That’s to say that I rely on my smartphone to Google anything and everything. Admit it, you’re guilty too.

Scientists believe that this habit of ‘googling’ everything is actually making our attention spans shorter. It’s a common practise in this ‘digital’ era; throw technology at a problem and it will solve it. That works, right? When it comes to your business, the ‘Google’ effect is not the answer.

Don’t stumble in the dark

To thrive in the digital age, it’s not about having to bring every piece of new or exciting technology on board, and shoehorning it into a place in your organisation. It’s about carrying out your normal business functions and processes more effectively and efficiently. It’s about enabling your employees to better serve your customers.

Just bringing in any technology with no clear roadmap for how this will evolve with your organisation, and solve business problems, is fruitless. There are some scary stats out there telling us that two thirds of digital transformation initiatives fail. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Strategy first

What experience do you want your partners, suppliers, customers and employees to have? It’s not about the technology. It’s about how they feel when they’re using it; and you certainly don’t want that to be one of frustration or fatigue with the system. Rather than focusing on the technologies you think you need, or that you want, which is an operational move, take the strategic move first.

Consider how anyone interacting with your organisation behaves; whether it’s web, social media, telephone or any other channel. This will help you to identify the processes causing the biggest pain points. Once you understand the gripes in your current processes, you can pinpoint the key areas which could benefit from change.

Technology second

It’s all very well knowing where you need to change today. But how does that help you decide on what your technology stack looks like?

Understanding what you want your business of tomorrow to look like is key to ensuring the changes you make today enable your business to grow. It’s important to consider your culture; how will you manage the change internally and prepare your business to transform? Once you’ve got these details in tow, you’re well on the way to mapping the technologies to which will overhaul your creaking processes and bridge that gap to where you want your business to be.

This might not be something you can carry out alone; many businesses bring in outside agencies with the expertise in user journey mapping and technical architecture. It will certainly pay to consult the experts in the long run for the success of your transformation. They’ve been there, done it and learnt the lessons.

So, before you throw technology at your problem, take a step back to consider the bigger picture. Your business will thank you for it.

Download our whitepaper “Talking Transformation – a CEOs guide to dealing with Digital Disruption” for more information on how to move your digital initiatives forward.

Are you keeping pace? Three trends to address now.

Author: Infomentum

Author: Leigh Hopwood

How many blogs have you read that start with ‘the world is changing’? Guess what, the world has changed. Scientists in the States believe that we are currently going through a technology revolution that will have the same impact on our planet as the industrial revolution. And they think robots will become commonplace sooner than you think!

That’s all very well, but what is going on now that we need to be responding to in the coming months – if we aren’t already?!

1) Consumerisation

Maybe over used, but customers are driving change. Their expectations are growing. And organisations all over the world are putting their customers first – even Ryanair has realised the benefits of looking after customers. More than ever we need to be listening to customers. Of course, customers are people, like you and me. These days they are more informed than ever before, enabling them to be more opinionated, more creative and more demanding.

So if your customers are frustrated because they find it difficult to do business with you, they will not remain loyal. They will not just move on, but they will tell their friends… publicly, via Facebook and Twitter. What are you doing to meet the needs of your customers?

2) Multi-channel

Who invented the damn smart phone? Ok, so I love it really, but they have changed human behaviour. When you get on the tube, many commuters have their eyes glued to a screen. I’m even favouring putting my children in front of the TV than have them spend hours on a tablet.

The point is, the power and flexibility that mobility brings to people is immense. From being informed, communicating with friends and colleagues, to finding information quickly and conducting processes and transactions on the move.

For organisations looking to find or retain their competitive advantage, you need to be providing a dynamic, integrated and customer experience that is the same across all channels.

3) Cloud

The ‘Cloud’ has been around for a long time. However, now it is robust and more reliable. Ok, so you might hesitate to put your business critical applications on it – but customers and employees expect you to deliver services via the cloud.

The good news is that you don’t have to act like a Harrier Jump Jet and head straight for the cloud. You can take a more phased approach and migrate over time based on customer or employee needs, end of life support for technology, legacy replacement or change of requirements.

Taking a more hybrid approach enables you to take advantage of the best of both worlds, and gives you the opportunity to digitally transform business processes by simply adding a digital interface to your legacy systems.

Whatever your key IT projects are for 2016, I suspect many of them will hang on one of these key trends. And if they don’t – and you haven’t addressed the above yet – then it’s time to start planning your projects for the year ahead.

Who owns ‘digital’ in a business?

Author: Infomentum

Author: Leigh Hopwood

The marketer does. No, the IT department owns it. Wait, it belongs to everyone.

Who owns digital in your business? Before you answer that, maybe we should understand what we mean by ‘digital’?

Digital marketing is now a common marketing discipline. It combines social media, email, websites and portals. Originally used to listen and broadcast, digital channels are now used to support customer service, with social media and web chat being the fastest growing customer contact channel in the UK.

But ‘digital’ is even bigger than that.

Not only are digital solutions supporting customer self-service through portals and online interactions, but these solutions are enabling customers, partners and employees to access information, transact and collaborate globally. The result is streamlined processes, increased productivity and significant efficiency gains.

To achieve this level of benefit, the whole business needs to be behind a digital transformation programme. Ultimately, the CEO owns the strategic direction of the organisation and in order to realise modern competitive advantage and adopt a digital business model, then it is the Executive Board that will take responsibility for implementing this progressive approach.

Will the CEO turn to marketing or IT to deliver a digital business model?

That depends on the organisation. However, it is more likely that a steering committee combining the CMO, CTO and CIO will be tasked with creating a strategic solution, drawing on their communication, technical and information strengths.

For some organisations, they will employ a Chief Digital Officer to take responsibility for the successful migration to a digital business. It’s a role that is increasingly being seen on the Executive Team, but once an organisation has evolved, it is anticipated that this role will disperse.

What we do know is that each department in an organisation has a vested interest in the digital evolution of their business. Each department head should be influencing the digital strategy and ensuring their line of business is willing and able to support this inevitable change.

Follow infoMENTUM on Twitter