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IS USER EXPERIENCE SLOWING DOWN OR SPEEDING UP DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION?

Vincent Bieri, Chief Product Evangelist & Co-Founder, Nexthink

 

Ok, so we know about digital transformation. Whether it’s creating a competitive advantage, stimulating new sources of revenue or optimising costs, there’s no getting around the endless march of progress. An entire company’s value chain can be swept along with the effective implementation of digital technologies.

 

But where do employees feature in all this?

 

Vincent Bieri

With lots of changes in working methods, organisation and tools, is constant digital transformation really working for employees? On the surface, it is. Everything suggests that digital tools, in the broad sense – connectivity, mobility, video conferencing, intranets, the latest collaborative applications – make employees more efficient while providing greater ease of use. But there’s a catch. Digital transformation can only deliver on its promise if digital tools work 24/7 and employees adopt and use them optimally. And that’s another story.

 

What the IT department measures is not what the user feels 

A slow laptop start-up, Skype crashing repeatedly, Outlook not functioning correctly – these are all events which IT management is not always aware of despite them disrupting users and directly affecting productivity. Why? Because IT management mainly uses service level agreements (SLAs) to measure the quality of the services they deliver to the business. An SLA can show the state of business systems to be good (applications, network, servers), while not necessarily being indicative of the actual user experience. Network dashboards might display a 99.9% uptime while a user can at the same time, notice a slowdown in their inbox that has nothing to do with a network problem.

 

In other words, IT teams only see the tip of the iceberg. Problems are only discovered after issues are reported to the support service, which they not always are. Any attempt by users to resolve the problem themselves affects productivity. Once contacted, it may still take hours for the service desk to solve the issue. All these delays result in lost time – Robert Half estimates that up to 22 minutes of employee productivity are lost a day to IT issues.

 

The employee has become a consumer

To make matters worse, the profile of IT users has changed. More autonomous and more demanding, today’s employee is above all a consumer. They make full use of digital technology in their day-to-day life to get their shopping delivered, book a ticket for a show or do their banking, and they expect a similar experience when they use the digital tools available to them in their professional environment.

 

This phenomenon is even more pronounced among the young talents of Generation Y. More than ever, employees are the internal customers of IT management who must be understood and provided with tailored services and digital tools. A standardised approach to IT is no longer appropriate because there are almost as many IT experiences as there are employees. Each employee has their own expectations and preferences according to the requirements of their job, their work habits, and even their personality. The time has come to tailor IT services according to the needs of differing users.

 

The importance of the human factor

Ironically, while IT management is introducing transformation initiatives to improve business functions, the side-effects of these changes are undermining users’ ability to manage their IT. If new IT resources do not function as expected, or are difficult to use, employee frustration can grow quickly. Furthermore, some tools might not be adopted as intended by management, or not utilised correctly.

This matters because your people can have a marked impact on the success or failure of your digital transformation projects.

 

In light of this, what can IT management do to ensure that employees are supporters of digital transformation projects, and not the major obstacle to its implementation?

 

Placing user experience at the heart of the IT value chain

For Nexthink, measuring the user experience is based on two strands: firstly, measuring the workstation’s technical health (boot time, latency, memory used, position compliance score) and secondly, measuring users’ perception. As we have discussed, SLAs provide a solid way measuring and responding to technical matters, but are inadequate when trying to qualify the second category. To truly have a 360-degree view of the quality of user experience in an organisation, we must also analyse in terms of XLAs: ‘Experience Level Agreements.’

 

All too often we forget that behind each workstation is a person whose feelings and motivation set a company culture which can have a huge impact on the success of your business and your ability to retain valuable employees. Take the example of a print job that suddenly takes ten minutes rather than thirty seconds. From a purely objective point of view, this increased response time may seem alarming. But for the user, it is also a frustrating distraction

 

In order to collect subjective data from users about how employees are utilising technology in their work life, employers must deploy simple feedback and engagement tools similar to ideas seen in the B2C sphere.

 

It’s all a question of timing

Engaging employees starts with unobtrusively giving them the right information at the right time.

A common example that combines the focus on XLAs and SLAs is a pop-up message that informs the user that an issue with their workstation has been detected. From this the user can be asked if they agree to the IT department implementing a fix which will require a computer restart. The user can choose whether the time is right or not. As another example, imagine that a user has had more than 5 consecutive Skype for Business crashes in the last 24 hours. Once the incident is resolved, the IT team can trigger a pop-up on the user’s workstation to ask them to check that everything is in order. This type of interaction has two advantages. Firstly, the IT department confirms that the actions taken have indeed produced the desired effect by asking the user directly. Secondly, as the interaction is quick and in the right context, the probability of a response from the user is much higher. Bingo, the employee is ‘engaged’!

 

 

Engagement: the cornerstone of success in digital transformation

Interacting with users at the right time and in the right context accelerates the take-up of new tools introduced by digital transformation. It is one thing to roll out new software, it is quite another to make sure they are being used to their full potential. Digital Transformation is only transformative if employees use the upgraded resources. Achieving this is about adequate support and teaching best practice. It is also making them aware when a specific behaviour or misuse risks affecting the performance of a service, such as using Skype through a VPN.

 

It’s time for IT management to put user experience at the centre of its value chain, just as brands have made full use of digital technology to put the end consumer at the heart of theirs. Engaging employees helps to create the conditions for a quality digital experience which increases productivity and employee satisfaction. Management solutions for the digital experience, help support the company’s digital transformation trajectory and position IT management as a contributor to business growth.

 

 

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Technology

BEFORE THE INK IS DRY: CORRECTING BIOMETRIC SPOOFING MYTHS

Eric Setterberg, System Design Engineer at Fingerprints

Biometric authentication is highly robust, and the latest solutions offer considerably greater security than their authentication predecessors: PINs and passwords.

But as biometrics moves into new areas such as payments and access control, privacy and security concerns are rising. Biometrics has long been subject to scrutiny, with many elaborate examples of people working to trick biometric sensors to crack devices in the media and online.

To ensure the continued adoption of biometrics, it is important to shine a light on the reality of biometric spoofing.

 

The Evolution of Biometric Solutions…

The first use of fingerprints as forensic evidence was in an Argentinean court case in the late 1800s. With the technology still in its infancy, this was done manually and by eye, comparing latent residual prints lifted from crime scenes to charts of inked fingerprints obtained from the suspects at arrest.

A few decades later, the FBI began collecting fingerprints of criminals and civilians. They also introduced the automated comparison of fingerprints by computers in the 1970s. These “traditional representations” have now been standardized by ISO and ANSI.

… and their Spoofs

The earliest and simplest of these matching devices were easy to spoof. Really, all you needed was a photocopy or a good image of a fingerprint to make a successful spoof.

But as biometrics moved to more advanced technology, the game for biometric ‘spoofers’ has changed and the task of crafting fake fingerprints is considerably more difficult.

The biggest boost for biometric security, however, came with its introduction into mobile phones.

 

How Mobile Changed the Game

Before the widespread integration of fingerprint sensors in smartphones, the technology underwent significant evolution. No operator wanted to use large biometric sensors in modern phone designs. Sensors had to become much smaller to reach the perfect price and design point for the mobile world, but this meant needing to capture data from a smaller surface area of the finger.

To maintain the security of these smaller sensors, algorithms evolved significantly in order to utilize a greater amount of data per unit area. These mobile-driven hardware and software changes resulted in the optimized image capture of modern touch sensors.

As a result, tricking these systems now requires a considerably higher level of detail to be reproduced correctly for a match to be successful, far beyond rudimentary gummi bear spoofs and photocopies

 

Setting the Perfect Spoofing Scenario

Compromising fingerprint authentication via spoofing can still be done, even with all the technological advancements. However, it now requires considerable care, skill, money, and time. And to start, a good latent print…

To retrieve a latent print that’s high quality enough to work, you either need a willing volunteer to lend you their finger, or the commitment to stalk a victim until a viable fingerprint can be retrieved. Even with a decent latent print, modern spoofs then require advanced photoshop skills and/or a lab to successfully convert latent prints into effective moulds.

So – what about those articles boasting how easily they have hacked the latest smartphone device’s fingerprint sensor?

In fact, there are only two instances of fingerprint spoofing seen in the media nowadays: proof of concept and cooperative spoofs. Lay enthusiasts and media go through the effort of setting up a lab to create spoofs with latent fingerprints either from themselves or cooperative volunteers. Even the most successful of these take months of work, a highly skilled team, and the perfect scenario of circumstances.

Put simply, the effort required for spoofing modern fingerprint sensors cannot be applied at any scale. Each biometric spoof needs to go through the same laborious process and clinical conditions. So, if you can bring together a willing group of spoofing enthusiasts, tricking a biometric device could earn you fifteen minutes of fame on the internet, but it is likely to be conducive to a successful criminal business plan…

 

A “How” Without a “Why”

Spoofing biometrics remains technically possible, and there will always be those up to the challenge of trying to hack the latest technology. But the reality is that modern biometric solutions require more time, skill, and frankly, luck, to successfully spoof than ever before. Not to mention that tireless R&D work is continuously strengthening spoofing resistance. And, as use cases start to combine multiple biometric authenticators, such as combining fingerprints with face or iris to perform an authentication, spoofing will only become more complex.

By comparison, hacking PINs and passwords is considerably simpler and more scalable, making it far more lucrative. And, criminals generally take the path of least resistance.

For the average consumer, greater use of biometric authentication is not only a means of simplifying authentication, but dramatically improving the security of their devices, applications, and personal data. With PINs and passwords still the most common authentication method outside of mobile, it is imperative that the true security and advanced nature of modern biometric authentication solutions are understood.

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Finance

ARE WE AT THE TIPPING POINT FOR GLOBAL BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARD ADOPTION?

By Vince Graziani, CEO of IDEX Biometrics ASA

 

Following the coronavirus outbreak, consumers are ready to go cashless more than ever before. With many businesses discouraging the use of cash because of hygiene questions that surround handling money, contactless payments are front of mind to avoid touching pin pads.

But in an increasingly cashless ecosystem, there is a growing threat of card fraud from the lack of authentication. So we have reached the point where contactless payments need to be made more secure in order to ensure transactions are hygienic, convenient and free from the risk of fraud.

To resolve this, it’s time for biometric smart cards to reach the market on a global scale. By integrating fingerprint sensor technology into a payment smart card, it can provide convenience and greater security to prepare for the cashless economy. The user can pay for transactions by authenticating their finger on their own card and without having to touch a pin pad or sharing their card with the retailer.

 

Consumers want biometric smart cards in their wallets now

We know that consumers are ready and willing to embrace biometric payment cards. Thanks to scan-to un-lock functions on smartphones and finger or face scanning at passport control, consumers are already familiar with biometric technology in their everyday lives. The acceptance of that technology in a payment card is no lower. In particular, IDEX research revealed that 41% of consumers would be willing to adopt a fingerprint biometric payment card.

However, banks and card issuers aren’t responding to that demand with the speed that consumers need. As early as 2018, tech magazine Wired announced that biometric payment cards were ready to hit our wallets. But following more than 15 years of research and development, and a number of biometric payment card trials around the globe, we still don’t have biometric fingerprint payment cards in our hands.

So why haven’t banks responded to consumer demands and embraced global adoption of biometric cards?

 

Jumping the global adoption hurdles

Well, according to analysis from Goode Intelligence, there are several hurdles to overcome before biometric payment cards can be shipped to users in their millions – including cost and scheme certification.

Despite being hailed as the future-tech solution to end our use of cash and cards, mobile payments haven’t reached anywhere near the expected level of public adoption in the UK. As of 2019, only around 19% of the UK population used mobile payments. Of course, the fact that Apple, giants in the payment app space, launched a physical credit card  last year, and that Google is set to follow suit is further proof of the customer demand for bank cards over mobile payments.

Therefore, it’s clear that the majority of the population still prefer the ease and familiarity of contactless cards. In fact, IDEX research found that six-in-ten (60%) UK consumers would not give up their debit card in favour of mobile payments, so it’s crucial that banks continue to evolve smart bank cards for the next generation of payments.

 

Breaking down the cost barrier

Of course, cost caused by the manufacturing complexity of biometric payment cards has long been seen as the main barrier to mass adoption. Initially, the cost of the card was considered so prohibitive that a charge would have to be passed on to the end-user. But now this barrier looks set to come down. Thanks to new low-cost sensor technology combined with an enhanced biometric-system-on-chip ASIC, the cost of materials required to build a biometric smartcard, has been drastically reduced.

If card issuers embrace the new fingerprint system technology, it will lead to an improvement in manufacturing processes and yields. The sensor technology will substantially reduce the overall time to market and ultimately reduce costs to the bank and the end-user. Therefore, this development will help manufacturers to overcome the barriers preventing mass adoption of biometric smart cards.

 

Towards global adoption

We’re now at the tipping point. Consumers today are demanding greater security and hygiene in their payment process. They want biometric payment cards now to make sure their payments fit the bill in this new world.

Many of the barriers to global adoption are no longer the concerns they once were.  With the obstacles overcome, the adoption of biometric payments cards is likely to start ramping up in 2021. Banks and smartcard providers should now adopt biometric payment cards on a global scale, to prepare for payments of the future.

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