Tag Archives: financial

Financial firms, vendors push self-service software delivery

The heavily regulated financial industry requires more help with software delivery than any other. In particular, self-service software delivery appeals to firms that frequently revise codebases to accommodate policy changes and other forces.

“People don’t like writing [help desk] tickets. And, often, engineers don’t want to interact with other people at all,” said Niko Kurtti, a production engineer at Ottawa-based e-commerce platform vendor Shopify, who was half-joking at the recent QCon conference in New York City. “It’s just easier to have the machine take care of it.”

A handful of companies have stepped up to address this issue. Atomist has added self-service features to its Software Delivery Machine (SDM), with its API for Software that manages the different parts of the DevOps pipeline.

“It’s more like self-service with guardrails,” said Rod Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Atomist, based in San Francisco. “They want things to be easy and quick, but also regulated.”

Atomist adheres to the policies companies uniquely apply to their system. So, for example, if Atomist wants to add a security scan for errant open source code, rather than update each microservice by hand, Atomist makes the change once and replicates it across all the system’s services. The self-service software aspect of Atomist helps developers and DevOps teams consistently create projects and avoid IT help desk tickets — or tickets with other departments in the organization — to test or add new features.

Another entry into the self-service space is LaunchDarkly, based in Oakland, Calif., which sells a management platform for developers and operations teams to control the feature lifecycle from conception to delivery. The company’s software integrates release management into the development process and focuses on delivery. It puts all the potential features into the release and allows developers to flip a switch on features and functions for different end users. This lets a common code set deliver different functions and test different code simultaneously, rather than multiple different releases and code branches.

Rod Johnson, CEO, AtomistRod Johnson

Other examples of companies that sell similar products include startups Netsil, which focuses on monitoring Kubernetes and Docker-based microservices apps; Mobincube, which primarily targets mobile app development; and Bonitasoft, which comes out of the business process management and workflow engine world.

Some enterprises, though, choose to skip this product class and roll out their own self-service software delivery options, with scripts and integration with native tools.

Pulumi doesn’t necessarily aim to compete directly in the automation space, but it does want to standardize cloud app development and shares the idea of defining things like configuration in code, rather than YAML. Also, CloudBees and the Jenkins community have a complementary service, Jenkins X, which integrates Kubernetes with Jenkins.

Atomist addresses software delivery as a per-organization or per-team concern, rather than per project, which enables customers to apply consistent policies and governance. It provides a consistent model to automate tasks that matter to software teams, such as project creation and dependency updates.

CI/CD evolves with code automation and containers

Atomist is applying programming language concepts to add a new kind of automation and predictability to software delivery.
Mik KerstenCEO, Tasktop Technologies

With SDM, Atomist is creating a programmable pipeline that bridges a gap between coding languages and delivery pipelines, which some view as the next big innovation to follow CI/CD.

“Atomist is applying programming language concepts to add a new kind of automation and predictability to software delivery,” said Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies, a DevOps toolmaker based in Vancouver, B.C.

To date, the worlds of application code and CI/CD have been disconnected and based on completely different technologies and paradigms. Atomist’s programmable domain models span the application to deployment, so DevOps shops can use and code automations and directly interact with events in the pipeline through Slack, Kersten noted.

The ability to code automations is particularly attractive, said one software architect for a New York investment bank, who declined to be identified. “That would save our developers and DevOps [teams] lots of time and effort,” he said.

Atomist pledged SDM’s support for Docker and Kubernetes at the DockerCon 2018 conference in San Francisco last month. With this support, any Atomist user’s SDM would respond to code change events from the Atomist platform, automatically build new Docker containers as required and deploy them into the right Kubernetes environments based on that user’s unique software delivery needs established via their own policies.

“The actual management of containers within the software delivery process has been lacking in the market so far,” said Edwin Yuen, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. “By integrating Dockerized apps and K8s into their SDM, as well as ChatOps and other tools, Atomist is looking to help operationalize container deployments, which is the next area of focus, as container applications go into broader adoption.”

How a first-time teacher brought new energy to education in rural Morocco |

Teaching wasn’t really on my to-do list. My ambition was to be a financial manager once I graduated from university, but instead I followed my father’s path into teaching. And in my country, Morocco, that means consigning yourself to an isolated region for the first few years of your career. No electricity, no drinkable water, and in winter you might have to cross rivers just to get to school.

Unlike many educators around the world, one of my challenges wasn’t to integrate technology into a modern urban classroom – it was to make it work in a rural environment, where students, their parents and their siblings have never so much as touched a PC or used the internet. But even in this situation, or maybe because of it, I started to change my mind about my career. I began to like my new job. Those innocent eyes waiting for me every morning pushed me into giving everything I have to improve education for children in rural places.

As a teacher and messenger of knowledge, situated in hard conditions, I had two choices: surrender to the reality, or choose the path of innovative educators. Click To Tweet

My classroom didn’t have electricity. The internet and mobile signals in the area were weak, and I had to walk a five-mile round trip, six days per week, over the mountains to get to the school. Still, I believed in the power of information and communication through technology, and I tried hard to surpass any technical or logistical problems, just to take my students to another climate of learning and bring my classroom to life. Where to start?

 

With most students here passing their time after school (and even at dawn) herding and guarding sheep, looking for water or helping their families at shelters, school just wasn’t the biggest priority. To figure out how to reduce absence, I needed to know more about it.

First, I used Microsoft Excel as a master tool to collect and analyze absence data, with clear definitions of when dropouts were happening. I asked for the absence data archive from the principal director and combined it with what I recorded every school day. From the results I concluded the highest rate of absence was on Fridays, which coincided with the most popular day for student to play, meet friends and step out of their routine life. It was all happening at the souk, an atmospheric and vibrant marketplace full of food and furniture, toys, candy, old comic books and other goods. In trying to think of something bigger, something more exciting and more attractive to get the students to their teacher, I decided to visit the souk myself and make a plan.

I bought a second laptop and additional batteries, so I wouldn’t have to worry about losing power in the class. It was a little hard at the beginning, carry two laptops in my bag for a 5-mile round trip to get to the school, but after some weeks I got used to it.

Each Friday, a raffle would be waiting for my students at the classroom. During recess, we’d organize a draw, and the winner would have the chance to use the laptop and choose between watching cartoons, playing an educational video games, or writing on Microsoft Word.

At the beginning, I thought my students would choose to play games or watch videos when they had their chance, but I was wrong. Most of them preferred to explore Word and they became so excited when they typed in their names and some words and paragraphs.

Giving my students the opportunity to use the PC and freely connect with technology had a powerful impact on combating the absence phenomenon. My students now prefer coming to school and they’re starting to convince their parents and siblings about the importance of school and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). More recently, we’ve been holding a “Friday Surprise” each week, where students can express themselves and develop their skills by creating handmade decorations, using the laptop to look for creative ideas, to draw, or do other things that improve communication, collaboration, presentation, creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking.

There are some other educational issues we see in the multi-grade classroom. Some multi-grade teachers may teach two grades in the same class, while others may teach three or four grades. I’m teaching six grades. The students in these grades are usually of the same age but may differ in their abilities, which means:

  • Planning can be time consuming.
  • Teachers may be frustrated due to their geographical isolation.
  • Physical conditions may be unattractive. Some classrooms are very small and overcrowded.
  • Few materials are available for multi-grade teaching.

To take this challenge on, I thought about how being a teacher in a rural area didn’t prevent me from increasing my knowledge, or developing my professional and personal skills. I tried to use the internet to get away from the isolation and be a part of the community of innovative educators. After learning about new methods and experiences all over the planet, I decided to let my students choose, by themselves, to come to school, even on special days, rather than imposing it on them. With ICT, I would rather make them eager to build knowledge. I encouraged them to try new things and never be afraid of change. That why using ICT has had a positive impact not only in my classroom, but on the whole school environment.

For me, the weak infrastructure, the absence of digital tools and unawareness of how important education is are no excuse – we can still create and think of innovative ways to make our students love coming to school.

To meet the varied needs of multi-grade students, teachers need in-depth knowledge of child development and learning and a larger repertoire of instructional strategies than most single-grade teachers possess. They must be able to design open-ended, divergent learning experiences accessible to students functioning at different levels. They must know when and how to use homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping and how to design cooperative group tasks. They must be proficient in assessing, evaluating, and recording student progress using qualitative methods.

Multi-grade teachers must be able to facilitate positive group interaction and to teach social skills and independent learning skills to individual students. They must know how to plan and work cooperatively with colleagues, as team teaching is commonly combined with multi-grade organization. Finally, they must be able to explain multi-grade practices to parents and other community members, building understanding and support for their use.

The wealth of digital tools makes it easy to create your own educational materials, and there are many advantages in doing so. As a teacher, the learning for your students is strengthened by your voice and pedagogy. The students can study at their own pace and learn at their level. These are some of my strategies:

  • Consider students’ needs and their knowledge differentiation, by presenting my own lesson plan.
  • Make the explanation more attractive for my students.
  • Effectively manage the lesson’s time.
  • Develop game-based learning.
  • Improve real-world problem solving and collaboration

Microsoft technologies helped me perform my tasks more quickly and efficiently. Specifically:

  1. Planning: Microsoft offers planning templates that you can customize to your requirement. You can update and reuse these when you teach the lessons again.
  2. Record keeping: By maintaining electronic documents you can quickly access and update information, making it easier to share and cross reference.
  3. Assessing: With Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint you can design assessments with automated marking.
  4. Coordinating and communicating: E-mail is a useful option to communicate. Microsoft Outlook offers the option of a shared calendar, which makes coordination efficient. You can use a blog or webpage that parents visit for updates.
  5. Collaborating: Shared workspaces or collaboration tools, such as SharePoint, Skype, Skype for Business, and Office 365 make it easier to collaborate on documents and hold virtual meetings.

For me, as a primary school teacher, my love for this noble job has grown far beyond what I ever expected. I have learned that the teacher doesn’t just light up minds, but hearts as well. I learned that teaching is art and love before it’s a job. I learned that education has no borders.

Top image: Bayla Khalid attending Education Exchange 2018 in Singapore, where he met educators from around the world.

To learn more about Microsoft Education and our tools and technology that help foster inclusion and support personalizing learning for every student, click here.

Many challenges ahead following Avaya bankruptcy proceedings

Avaya has exited bankruptcy court with the financial footing it needs to compete in the unified communications and contact-center markets. The next step is to regain the customer trust that eroded over the last year as the company fought to remove business-crushing debt.

Avaya exited federal bankruptcy court last week with roughly half the debt that had forced the company to reorganize its business under Chapter 11. The lower debt obligation resulting from the Avaya bankruptcy settlement produced a healthier company, with more than $300 million in cash on its balance sheet.

Besides the stronger finances, Avaya has a new management team led by former COO Jim Chirico, who took over for CEO Kevin Kennedy when he retired Oct. 1. Also, the company has a new board of directors to help guide it against its many competitors — the largest of which include Cisco, Microsoft and Huawei.

The positives, however, only let Avaya back into the market. Succeeding will depend on making prospective customers aware of the product innovations that got little attention while the company battled creditors in court.

“Very few of their customers, much less their prospective customers, heard the [marketing] messages,” said Drew Kraus, analyst at Gartner.

Additionally, Avaya has to reverse a tarnished reputation. In the years heading to bankruptcy, the company tackled declining revenue by cutting spending, which led to the loss of experienced managers in sales and professional and customer services, Kraus said. As a result, Avaya’s relationship with customers deteriorated “pretty badly.”

“Good technology with crappy service gets you nowhere,” Krauss said.

Addressing shortcomings following Avaya bankruptcy proceedings

Avaya has made changes to correct its sins of the past. For example, the company has carved the United States into smaller regions, so sales teams can respond faster to leads, said Jim Geary, the general manager for sales and service for Avaya in the Americas. The company has also added 10 to 15 consultants charged with helping businesses respond to market disruptions caused by a more digital world.

“It’s not necessarily about the Avaya products and solutions, but it’s really to the deep dives into what customers are trying to solve,” Geary said.

A survey conducted this year of companies using Avaya UC products found the vendor has “stopped the bleeding, and that customers are generally satisfied,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst for Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

Companies sticking with Avaya UC products are doing so because of Breeze, the vendor’s application development platform, Lazar said. Breeze lets developers customize communication applications, so they’re more useful to an organization. On the contact-center side, Avaya has made inroads with companies through another customization platform, called Oceana.

“Their [Oceana] platform competes well against Genesys and Cisco in the contact-center space, and they have an opportunity to grow, especially internationally,” Lazar said.

UC challenges following Avaya bankruptcy settlement

Avaya’s ability to increases its share of the UC market, however, will be harder. “I don’t see them growing their customer base in UC in the mid- to large enterprise [market], given how that is dominated now by Cisco and Microsoft,” Lazar said.

A growing UC market segment where Avaya lacks a competitive product is cloud-based UC as a service (UCaaS), which is increasingly popular with small and medium-sized businesses, analysts said. In October, Synergy Research Group, based in Reno, Nev., reported that the UCaaS market was on track to increase 29% this year to more than $1.6 billion.

Avaya, however, isn’t ignoring UCaaS and plans to announce products for the market at its ENGAGE customer conference at the end of January, Geary said. “Look for us to be very active in that space in the coming quarters.”

Sibos 2017

The financial services industry banks on the Microsoft Cloud for digital transformation

Financial services organizations are at a transformational tipping point. Faced with fierce market pressures – nimble disruptors, complex regulations, digital native customers – technology transformation in the industry is essential, and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive edge. Firms leading the charge into this new era are transforming customer experiences, fostering a new culture of work, optimizing operations and driving product innovation, and they are using Microsoft cloud, AI and blockchain technologies in their journey to become digital leaders of the future. TD Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui and Credito Agricola are among the organizations that have embraced this digital transformation happening in every part of the world.

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The financial services industry banks on the Microsoft Cloud for digital transformation – The Official Microsoft Blog

Financial services organizations are at a transformational tipping point. Faced with fierce market pressures – nimble disruptors, complex regulations, digital native customers – technology transformation in the industry is essential, and it’s increasingly becoming a competitive edge. Firms leading the charge into this new era are transforming customer experiences, fostering a new culture of work, optimizing operations and driving product innovation, and they are using Microsoft cloud, AI and blockchain technologies in their journey to become digital leaders of the future. TD Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui and Credito Agricola are among the organizations that have embraced this digital transformation happening in every part of the world.

Next week at Sibos, the premier financial services industry event, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, myself and others from Microsoft will speak alongside other innovative business leaders driving transformation. Here are some of the scenarios and solutions Microsoft customers and partners are implementing along their journey:

Fostering a new culture of work

Fostering a digital culture is a paradigm shift, one which financial institutions must embark. Jumpstarting this culture shift means designing a workplace where every work style can thrive – one that harnesses digital intelligence to improve experiences, unleashes creativity and enables mobility while keeping organizations, people and information secure. With modern tools, employees from the first line to the back office can do their best work.

State Bank of India, a 200-year-old institution, is working with Microsoft to create a modern workplace for its 263,000 employees across 23,423 branches servicing more than 500 million customer accounts, including some in the most remote locations of the country. SBI has adopted Office 365 to enhance communication and collaboration among its workforce, and believes that Microsoft is delivering the best productivity experience for its employees while ensuring the highest standards of security, compliance and adherence to regulatory requirements.

Emirates NBD is creating more creative and collaborative workspaces for their employees, and has selected Office 365 as well as Surface Hub to deliver on their digital transformation efforts.

Transforming customer experiences

Customer expectations have changed and will continue to evolve at the speed of technology. The imperative for financial services firms is to engage customers in a way that is natural, tailored and delightful at every turn. The most innovative firms will create experiences that harness data from customers to derive actionable insights and deliver greater market success.

TD Bank is known for legendary customer service and aims to match their marquee in-person experience through digital wherever customers may be – at home, at work or on-the-go. With more than 12 million digitally active customers and expectations evolving at the speed of technology, TD has turned to Microsoft Azure and data platform services to help deliver on their promise of legendary service at every touchpoint.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is transforming their employee workstyles and enhancing their customer experience with the Microsoft Cloud. In addition to building a secure and highly productive office environment utilizing Azure and Office 365, SMBC has also introduced an interactive automatic response system for customer service, powered by the Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and AI services.

Optimizing operations

Shifting line-of-business applications and other capabilities to the cloud is a foundational step along the digital transformation journey that enables banks to save big and reinvest dollars in more innovative, value-add banking services. It also enables firms to be more agile like their industry disruptor counterparts.

UBS is using Azure to power its risk management platform, technology that requires enormous computing power, to run millions of calculations daily on demand. The result — speeding calculation time by 100 percent, saving 40 percent in infrastructure costs, gaining nearly infinite scale within minutes — means the firm can have more working capital on hand and employees can make quicker, more informed decisions for their clients.

Société Générale is using Azure’s high-performance computing capabilities to power the credit value adjustment (CVA) intraday calculation, a critical front-office function, enabling cost-effective, almost limitless on-demand computing power.

Driving product innovation

Driving product and business model innovation allows organizations to harness data as a strategic asset, shifting from hindsight to foresight, automating manual processes, delivering personalization to customers, and innovating with new business models, services, products and experiences to differentiate and capture emerging opportunities.

Crédito Agricola considers open banking as a future standard for the financial services industry. The bank’s digital strategy on open banking seeks to leverage the cloud to provide seamless and frictionless interactions that delight their customers, while complying with regulation. Credito Agricola is using Microsoft Azure to deliver open banking capabilities like API management gateway, security and identity, as well as analytics and insights, with plans to extend their core banking services to third-party service providers.

Microsoft is collaborating with The Monetary Authority of Singapore and The Association of Banks in Singapore to support Project Ubin 2, using Azure to explore the use of blockchain for the clearing and settlement of payments and securities, a key milestone in Singapore’s ambition of becoming a Smart Financial Center.

For the financial services industry, a firm’s deliberate and strategic move to the cloud hinges on security, privacy and regulatory compliance. Microsoft is committed to earning the trust of our financial services customers. We engage with regulators in key markets to share information about our services, the related controls and our approach to enabling customer compliance. We also take input from leading banks and insurers across the globe on an ongoing basis to improve our offerings to help meet regulatory requirements. We do all of this to continue building our customers’ trust in cloud technology.

It’s incredible and humbling to be on this transformational journey with so many ambitious digital leaders. Come visit us at booth No. C46 if you’re in Toronto or follow our stories at our press site. You can also join my session at the Innotribe, “Creating Space for Innovation,” on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and see Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provide the Sibos closing plenary on Thursday, Oct. 19. Satya’s plenary will also be livestreamed here.

TTW

Tags: financial services, Sibos

NotPetya ransomware impact costs Maersk hundreds of millions

The NotPetya ransomware is once again being blamed for a major financial cost due to disruptions to a global shipping business.

According to a financial report for AP Moller-Maersk, a shipping and logistics conglomerate based in Denmark, the NotPetya ransomware attacks from June adversely affected Maersk Line, the conglomerate’s global container division and the largest operating unit.

Søren Skou, CEO of AP Moller-Maersk, said the NotPetya ransomware impact led to business volumes being “negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July and as a consequence, our Q3 results will be impacted.”

The financial guidance for Moller-Maersk stated the majority of the ransomware impact came in July and is estimated to cost the company between $200 and $300 million in revenue.

Growing ransomware impact

Moller-Maersk is the latest company to admit to the extensive ransomware impact on business operations. Many companies around the globe were affected because the NotPetya ransomware acted more like a wiper, destroying data and locking systems so businesses could not recover normally.

FedEx said the sophisticated NotPetya ransomware disruption lasted weeks and forced its TNT division to rely on manual processes.

Merck did not specifically point to NotPetya — instead blaming an undisclosed cyberattack occurring on the same day the NotPetya ransomware attacks began — but said it was still “in the process of restoring its manufacturing operations” as of the end of July 2017, one month after the NotPetya attack.

Merck said it had to alter its financial outlook because of the ransomware costs, but did not know the full extent of the costs.