Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Be on cloud to kill Piracy

Cloud computing has been hot on the charts of IT organizations for quite some time now. Everybody is talking about the great potential of this technology.
Cloud Computing in brief
According to Gartner, cloud computing is
“A style of computing where massively scalable IT enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies”

Cloud computing is expected to reduce the CAPEX/OPEX costs as everything right from Server to Space, from pre-built applications to application development environment, from email to CRM is available on cloud. The key to reduced cost is the pricing model of pay as you use. Major players like Google, Microsoft, Amazon have some or other form of Cloud offering on their portfolio.
Apart from the obvious benefits, I feel Cloud computing can help cure a very deadly disease called "Piracy" which has infected and troubled the Organization for decades now. 

The loophole used for Piracy
Typically, the consumer applications are activated using a Key received after paying for the software. The issue is that somebody can get hold of the key, that’s it, a single license can be used by multiple people. Also there are hackers who I don’t know how but manage to publish multiple keys to activate soft wares.

How Cloud computing can help?
Its simple, the core application is to be hosted on a cloud. The user will have to install a thin client and have internet connection to access the Core application. In most of the cases, the thin client would be the web browser. For using the core application , one has to purchase a subscription. The concept of activation key would completely vanish. And so the chances of piracy based on activation key is greatly reduced.
Cloudy
Cloud based applications are not only immune to Piracy but also serve as a great customer satisfaction tool.
Because the application is cloud, the end user is saved from the hassle of application updates. The thin client would have new versions but not as frequent as the core application.
The limitation of accessing the application from the Desktop/laptop on which it is installed is eradicated as the only
There hurdle of getting to know how the user uses the software is crossed. The users do not welcome the idea of somebody peeping in their desktop. Also the software usually performing this activity is identified as Malware and removed by anti-virus.
What can go on Cloud
Anitvirus, Productivity softwares are best candidates for this approach. Infact, there a few organization providing this options…
There is a whole suite of products available from Microsoft which includes the well known Microsoft Office also.
Google is not far behind and it has everything on cloud

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reduce maintenance Enhance Customer Service - Indian Rail

Indian rail is the world's largest Rail network. It carries around 13 millions passengers a day. Check out this article for some more interesting facts about Indian Railways. But this post is not discuss the facts and figures of Great Indian Railway system. I am more interested in finding a solution to reduce the traffic on the Indian Railway’s online ticket booking site.

At this site, you can not only book tickets but also avail various service like Checking Ticket Status, Filing TDR, Cancel Tickets etc. I don't have the numbers but considering the kind of passengers ferried by the Rail system, there must be a considerable traffic coming to irctc.co.in to check the ticket status.

My idea is to reduce this traffic of people hitting the site to check the ticket status.

I am in IT and very well aware of the direct proportion between the traffic on site and the need of incremental infrastructure, cost and maintenance.
One way is to redirect the traffic to other site of Indian rail which serves the purpose. There is another option of checking status by sending an SMS. The details of the services available on SMS are here. But everybody might not use this option extensively as each SMS costs and the cost is more than the usual tariff.

So how do we go about it? The more viable option I feel is irctc sending an SMS alert on its own about the ticket status periodically for all the waiting and RAC tickets. This should for sure reduce the number of people logging in to check the ticket status. The SMS packs are available at a dead cheap price much much lower than the cost of increased OPEX and CAPEX due to increased traffic.

The period during which an SMS is sent could be once a week before 30 days of journey and increasing the frequency to an SMS everyday in the last week before the journey day. The SMS job could run once a day after mid-night when the resource utilization is less.

This will not only reduce the site traffic but also for sure save customers time, let customers plan alternative options incase the Rail ticket is not confirmed and thus ultimately will improve what everybody organization aims for, “The Customer Satisfaction”.
Got an idea on similar lines? You are welcome to post it here. Would be really great if this post becomes a small contributor for making journey in Indian Rail a “Great Rail Experience”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Life Span of Innovation

Since its launch in India, the telecom player TataDoCoMo has been a Market changer. The launch was bundled with the 1 Paisa/second tariff which changed the market dynamics by forcing all the Telecom players to match the tariff and thus start a price war. And now it has come up with another bunch of services. An ad of one such service gave the food for thought and the result is this post. The ad talks about talking to customer care directly instead of going through the various menu options.
Nope. I am not going to discuss the ad or the services offered by TataDoCoMo. No that's not the motive of this post. I am more interested in the idea behind this particular ad.
But if you ask a veteran who has been in the Customer service industry for more than a decade or so would say its the same old thing we used to have. Yeah, when the concept of call centre initially came up, the long tree structure of options was not there. But as the customer base grew, the number of calls landing up on the call centre grew and each call costs money. So the race started to find the ways to reduce the call traffic at the call centre.
The solution was to have automated system that could solve the very common queries of the customer. And if still needed, let the call pass on to a customer care agent. The automated system is called IVR ( Interactive Voice Response)
Awesome…that's what the industry shouted and everybody has some or other form of IVR in place. This system was one of the finest innovations which could reduce cost, solve customer queries in less time. It was a brilliant piece of technology.
But with time, the services increased and so the options in the IVR system. I have myself experienced the complex menus when calling Bank and Credit card support. At times you get lost. And the option to talk to somebody human is buried deep down somewhere.
This particular telco player is trying to make the customer care agent easily accessible by going back to the good old days.
The point I am trying to make is like everything else, innovation also starts to die as soon as its live. Its lifespan is further decreased if its caught by the disease which has the symptoms of being totally different from what it was meant to be. People tend to overdo the innovative idea and so it loses it charm. An example of this is the usage of Banner ads on websites. Over the period of time, the effectiveness has decreased significantly. Thanks to the overdose of distracting and irritating banners from desperate advertisers.
So does it mean that there is no point in being innovative, supporting innovation. Absolutely no, rather I want to emphasize and reiterate that Innovation is an on-going process and one has to be innovative all the time throughout the time. Isn't it in sync with the old saying “Change is the only thing constant”