🗂 Link: Experimenting with the UK’s first till-free grocery store

Take-up was as we had expected – at peak times better than we’d expected – and it’s clear that not all our customers are ready for a totally till-free store. Some customers preferred to pay with cash and card, which sometimes meant they were queuing to use the helpdesk, particularly at peak times of day. This is why we’ve added a manned till and two self-checkouts back into the store so those looking to pay by cash and card can do so quickly and conveniently. We want to be the most inclusive retailer where people love to work and shop, so it’s really important to us that our customers can pay how they want to…. We’ll take the learnings from this experiment to develop our technology even further to help make shopping easier and more convenient for all our customers.

Source: Experimenting with the UK’s first till-free grocery store

🗂 Link: Digital banks on track to treble customers in next year but profits remain elusive

.As they mature, digital startups are now turning their attention from customer acquisition to becoming profitable. With no branch networks and legacy IT systems, digital challengers have a substantially lower cost-to-serve than incumbents of £20-£50 per account compared to £170. Meanwhile, deposit balances for challengers have increased from £70 to £350 per customer. However, this is still dwarfed by the £9000 average for incumbents.However, the majority of new entrants are still not profitable, with the average digital bank losing £9 per customer

Source: Digital banks on track to treble customers in next year but profits remain elusive

How Sainsbury’s uses AWS

On Sainsbury’s move and use of AWS, serverless, and DevOps:

“Our relationship with AWS really kicked off at the point we decided to take our groceries online business and rebuild it in the cloud. This was effectively taking a WebSphere e-commerce monolith with an Oracle RAC database, and moving it, and modularising it, and putting it into AWS,” Sainsbury’s CIO Phil Jordan told the audience.

“That movement of RAC to RDS and that big database migration was all done using AWS services, and now we have a fully fledged cloud-native-ish service that runs groceries online across all of our business. Today, we run about 80 per cent of our groceries online with EC2, and 20 per cent is serverless.”

In total, the company migrated more than 7TB of data into the cloud. As a result, or so Jordan claimed, the mart spends 30 per cent less on infrastructure, and regularly sees a 70-80 per cent improvement in performance of interactions on the website and batch processing. So far, there’s been no “major” outages, said the CIO, without defining “major”.

Moving to the cloud has also helped Sainsbury’s into the warm infinity-looped embrace of DevOps. The company has moved from five to six releases per year to multiple releases per day, said the CIO.

Source: Holy high street, Sainsbury’s! Have you forgotten Bezos’ bunch are the competition?

Check out their talk, scrub in to about 24:10.

Related, the Sainsbury’s tech blog is pretty good.

And, from elsewhere and unrelated to Sainsbury’s, some clearer notion that “serverless” forces an event-driven architecture:

So why can’t we just write an event-driven system for our corporate infrastructure? Our world, is event-driven, and generally, we reduce the complexity of our systems by just defining events. “When there’s an access to the FTP service of upload … do this …”, “When there’s an access on a column on a database … do this “. In an IoT world, with billions of disparate devices, it is the only way to go. And if we are to create truly citizen-focused systems, we need to define the events which trigger. How many organisations could crisply define the operation of their infrastructure and all the interactions that happen?

Rather than just defining a server running Exchange, we could have some code which triggers on “When Bob logs-in open up his mail box”, or “When Alice changes the marks for her students, send an update to the exams office”. This is a world where the complexity of servers moves us towards “The Cloud” as a computation resource. In this way we write rules based on events and enact them in the Cloud. There’s no concept of running Exchange or Web servers.

Fix your boring, but immediate problems first

When GDS started in 2011, mobile apps were that day’s special on the fad menu. Ministers all wanted their own. Top officials thought they sounded like a great idea. Delighted suppliers queued up to offer their services to government. We’ll talk about apps in more detail later. For now, all you need to know is that GDS blocked 99% of requests for them. Government wasn’t ready for apps, because the people asking for them didn’t really know what they were for. They just sounded good. The blogpost explaining the apps policy, written by Tom Loosemore in 2013, quickly became the digital team’s most widely read post. 16 We have seen too many chief executives and department heads proudly explain their organisation’s pioneering work on artificial intelligence, say, while in the same breath conceding their back office systems can’t reliably pay employees on time. Or running pilots with connected devices while thousands of their customers still post them cheques. This is not to say that preparing for the future isn’t right and good. Responsible leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon. The successful leaders are those who can do this while remaining mindful their view will be ruined if they step in something disgusting lying on the floor.

from “Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery (Perspectives)” by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore

See more…

Link: Lessons from the UK Government’s Digital Transformation Journey

It’s probably OK:

In any organisation that’s been around for a while, ways of doing things build up and often disconnect from the reasons they were put in place. Things are cited as “rules” which are really just norms. We had to get really good at working out the difference, and on pushing back on some of those rules to get to the core principles.

Get involved with the backend people:

I know of one government project where the digital team couldn’t even add one extra textbox to their address fields, something users were complaining about, because the backend IT teams were too busy to make the change.

Working with the end user changes staff for the better:

I’ve talked to a lot of teams in large organisations who have taken all the right steps in moving to agile but are still having trouble motivating their teams, and the missing piece is almost always being exposed directly to your users. Whether they’re end customers, or internal users, there’s nothing like seeing people use your products to motivate the team to make them better.

Original source: Lessons from the UK Government’s Digital Transformation Journey

Link: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman review – the travails of being an MP | Books | The Guardian

Sounds like a (rightly) sympathetic, interesting take on being a representative.
Original source: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman review – the travails of being an MP | Books | The Guardian

Link: Amazon takes aim at U.K. insurance market | Digital Insurance

‘Amazon has “all the tools to succeed” and is a bigger threat than Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which also made a play for the U.K. price-comparison industry a few years ago’

For the change or die files.
Original source: Amazon takes aim at U.K. insurance market | Digital Insurance

Link: Do you need a corporate vision in government IT?

“In an organisation like a local authority this is especially tough as they are such disparate entities. Think about it, in what strange universe does it make sense for a single organisation to collect taxes, deliver social care, pick up bins and operate transport? None of these and many of the other services councils deliver have much to do with each other, apart from the coincidence of local delivery… Coming up with a single vision or operating model for such an organisation is pretty tricky therefore, which makes it less likely that transformation teams are going to get one. So, without a clear destination, what should they be doing?… I think the key is to think of councils – and other similar organisations – as groups of individual businesses, rather than a single cohesive organisation.”
Original source: Do you need a corporate vision in government IT?

Link: Understanding legacy technology in government

Defining and dealing with legacy IT, from a UK government perspective:

“Most organisations have an overarching IT strategy in line with their business strategy but some are taking an alternate approach to legacy. A common tactic is to migrate the business away from legacy in small parts, rather than all at once.”
Original source: Understanding legacy technology in government

Link: Making public policy in the digital age – digital HKS

When you can put our releases weekly, how do you channel the feedback to government policy and laws? We’re used to policy being static, and slow. But with a small batch approach, you could experiment and change policy, just like you can the software.

It’ll likely be a long, long time before that happens, but it’d be a lot cooler if it did.
Original source: Making public policy in the digital age – digital HKS

Link: Amazon is coming for the insurance industry – should we be worried?

“While UK insurers are investing in tech and providing digital services, the majority are light years behind Amazon,” noted Davies. “If insurers are not careful, they may be pushed out of having a direct relationship with customers and be relegated to the role of a price-driven risk carrier at the back end (assuming Amazon doesn’t want to hold the risk too).”
Original source: Amazon is coming for the insurance industry – should we be worried?

Link: Info Commissioner tears into Google’s ‘call us journalists’ trial defence

‘This argument enraged the ICO, which said in the submission: “The concept of ‘journalism’ presupposes a process by which content is published to an audience pursuant to the taking of human editorial decisions as to the substantive nature and extent of that content.”… In plain English, humans (mostly) don’t decide what appears in search results so calling Google’s activities “journalism” is just plain wrong, according to the commissioner.’
Original source: Info Commissioner tears into Google’s ‘call us journalists’ trial defence

Link: Will UK lose global business and tech leader status post-Brexit?

‘James Governor, Analyst at RedMonk said: “Brexit will be the biggest systemic shock to British business in the more than 70 years. The scale of change will require an unprecedented investment in IT, with in-house application development becoming more important than ever to deal with complexity.”’
Original source: Will UK lose global business and tech leader status post-Brexit?

Link: Brexit could see UK lose status as global business leader

“The study also suggests that software might be the solution to these upcoming problems. Almost all (93 per cent) of CIOs and 84 per cent of ITDMs have said that the ability to create their own software is essential for preparing an organisation for the effects of Brexit.”
Original source: Brexit could see UK lose status as global business leader

Link: Is the future of wealth management going to be robo-advisers?

Estimate of the market-size for companies like Wealthfront: “whilst in the UK robo-advisers currently only cover less than £1 billion assets under management, the US robo-advisory market handled $19 billion AUM in 2014 (a growth of 65% from the previous eight months).”

Source: Is the future of wealth management going to be robo-advisers?