Cyber Monday

Big retailers have been planning ahead for up to 18 months for their share of approximately 2.6 billion dollars of revenue. Cyber Monday started in 2005 by Shop.org has become one of the biggest online traffic days of the year, Simon Puleo takes a look at the list of how some of our biggest customers have prepared.

‘Twas the night before Cyber Monday and all through the house

everyone was using touchscreens gone was the mouse.

While consumers checked their wish lists with care

in hopes that great savings soon would be there.

The children were watching screens in their beds

while visions of Pikachu danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her robe and I in my Cub’s hat

reviewed our bank accounts and decided that was that!’

Cyber Monday started in 2005 by Shop.org has become one of the biggest online traffic days of the year.  Black Friday may have started as early as 1951 and between the two shopping holidays generate over $70 BN!  Let’s take a look at the list of how some of our biggest customers have prepared:

1.)    Performance testing.  Did you know that our customers typically start performance testing for cyber-Monday in February, why would they start so early?  Customers are testing more than just peak load, they are testing that sites will render correctly across multiple configurations, bandwidths, devices, and sometimes in multiple regions of the world.  The goals of ecommerce is to enable as many shoppers as possible that includes my Dad on his iPad 2 on a rural carrier and my daughter on her Chromebook in an urban area.   Multiply that by thousands of users and you can see that unfortunately, retailers can’t hire enough of my relatives to help them out. What they do is use a combination of synthetic monitors and virtual users to simulate and assess how a website will perform when 10,000 of users are shopping at the same time.

BlackMon1

2.)    New Feature Testing.  Whether you consciously think about it or not you expect and gravitate towards websites that have the latest feature set and best user experience.  What does that mean?  Listing a photo and description is bare bones the best commerce websites not only have reviews, videos, links to social media and wish lists they may actually be responsive to your shopping habits, regional weather and personal interests.  They use big data sets to preclude what you are browsing for and offer you targeted deals too good to pass up!  While that is exciting, it also means that the complexity of code both rendering the browser and behind the scenes has grown exponentially over the years.  Ensuring that new features perform and old code works with legacy systems as well renders correctly over multiple devices is what functional and regression testing is all about.  While a team of testers may track multiple code changes they lean towards automation to ensure that code works on target configurations.

3.)    Offering Federated Access Management What? you’re thinking, user-login was solved ages ago. For sophisticated online retailers using Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, LinkedIn or other credentials to gain access is first a method to gain trust, second opens up the potential opportunity for more customers and finally a road to valuable personal data.  Regardless of which advantage a retailer may prioritize developing the ability to enable millions of Facebook users to easily login and check-out with a credit-card equates to new customers and a leg up over legacy competitors.  And, for added amount of trust and security retailers can couple multi-factor authentication at key points of the conversion process.   Simple user login and password for each shopping site is quickly becoming a relic of the past as users opt for convenience over management of many user names and passwords.

BlackMon2

These are some of the top methods and solutions that big retailers have implemented for 2016.  The best online commerce professionals know what they are up against and what is at stake for example:

  • In 2014 there were over 18,000 different Android devices on the market according to OpenSignal, that is an overwhelming amount of devices to ensure.
  • At a minimum retailers lose $5600 per minute their websites are down
  • The market is huge a recent estimate put the global amount of digital buyers at 1.6 Billion, that is nearly 1/5 of the world’s population.  Converting even .1% of that number is 160,000 users!
  • Users are fickle and will leave a website if delayed just a few seconds
  • Last year Cyber Monday accounted for $3 billion in revenue, this year we expect even more!

Retailers like Mueller in Germany realize that no “downtime” is critical to keeping both the online and virtual shelving stocked.  Their holistic approach to managing software testing and performance helps them implement new features while keeping existing systems up and running.   It is never too late to get started for this year or preparing for next, consider how Micro Focus has helped major US and European Online Retailers with performance testing, automated functional and regression testing, access management and advanced authentication.

#DevDay Report – so what does COBOL look like now?

David Lawrence reports back from the latest Micro Focus #DevDays and what COBOL looks like these days. With Partners like Astadia it seems like anything’s possible…..including Mobile Augmented Reality! Read on.

To most people, COBOL applications probably look like this:

dlpic1

and are thought to do nothing more than this:

DLpic2

These applications are likely to be COBOL-based. After all, COBOL is the application language for business. With over 240 billion (with a b) lines of code still in production, the fact is that COBOL is used in thousands, if not millions, of applications that have nothing to do with finance.

It’s called the COmmon Business Oriented Language for a reason. The reason is that it was designed to automate the processing of any business transaction, regardless of the nature of the business.

Did you realize that COBOL is also widely used by municipalities, utilities and transportation companies?

At our Nashville Micro Focus DevDay event on June 21, the audience was treated to a very interesting presentation by a major American railroad organization, where they showed us how their COBOL application inventory runs their daily operations (scheduling, rolling stock management, crews, train make up and dispatch).

Earlier in the month we heard from a client who was using COBOL applications to capture, monitor and analyze game and player statistics in the world of major league baseball.

Many attendees of our COBOL and mainframe app dev community events, DevDay, are managing crucial COBOL applications as the lifeblood of their business. From managing retailers’ stock control systems, to haulage and logistics organziations’ shipments and deliveries, from healthcare, pharma and food production organizations, to major financial service, insurance and wealth management systems.

Those applications contain decades of valuable business rules and logic. Imagine if there was a way to make use of all that knowledge, by say using it to more accurately render a street diagram.

You say “Yes, that’s nice, but I already have Google Maps.” All very well and good. But what if you are a utility company trying to locate a troublesome underground asset, such as a leaking valve or short circuited, overheating power cable?

Astadia has come up with a very interesting solution that combines wealth of intelligence built into the COBOL applications that are invariably the heart and brains of most large utilities or municipalities with modern GPS-enabled devices

DevDay Boston

I had a chance to see this first hand at DevDay Boston. DevDay is a traveling exposition that features the newest offerings from Micro Focus combined with real life experiences from customers.

Astadia, a Micro Focus partner and application modernization consultancy, visted our Boston DevDays and showed us their mobile augmented reality application which enhances street view data with additional information needed by field crews.

Steve Steuart, one of Astadia’s Senior Directors, visted our Boston DevDays, and introduced the attendees to ARGIS, their augmented reality solution that helps field engineers locate underground or otherwise hidden physical infrastructure asset such as power and water distribution equipment.

I watched as Steve explained and demonstrated ARGIS overlaying, in real time, the locations of manhole covers and drains in the vicinity of the Marriott onto a Google Maps image of the area surrounding the Marriott Hotel . .. Steve explained that ARGIS was using the GPS in the tablet and mining the intelligence from the COBOL application used by the Boston Department of Public works department to track the locations in real time, superimposed over the street view, the precise location of the network of pipes and valves supplying water to the area

Here’s a picture .. certainly worth a thousand words, wouldn’t you say?

Below you see how the Astadia‘s ARGIS Augmented Reality system sources the data of the local utility company’s COBOL application inventory to give clear visual indications of the locations of key field infrastructure components (e.g. pipes, valves, transformers) over a view of what the field engineer is actually seeing. Nice to have when you’re trying to work out where to dig, isn’t it?

Poc1

Very imaginative indeed, but at the heart of this new innovation, the important data and logic comes from, guess where? . . yes, it comes from a COBOL application. Micro Focus solutions help mine and reuse those crucial business rules locked up in our customers’ portfolio of proven, reliable COBOL applications. This will prolong their longevity and flow of value to the business. Why take all that risk and spend millions to replicate intelligence that already exists, but which has been hard to utilize effectively?

Afterwards, I spoke with Steve – Astadia’s senior director who remarked: “As long as Micro Focus continues to invest in COBOL, COBOL will continue to be relevant.”

Speaking afterwards with Micro Focus’ Director of COBOL Solutions, Ed Airey, he commented

“We are always thrilled to see how our partners and customers are taking advantage of the innovation possible in our COBOL technology to build applications that meet their needs in the digital age. Astadia’s ARGIS product is great. I’m not surprised to see how far they’ve been able to extend their application set in this way – Visual COBOL was designed with exactly that sort of innovation in mind. The only constant in IT is change, and with Micro Focus COBOL in their corner our customers are able to modernize much faster and more effectively than they realize”.

See real world applications and how they can be modernized at a Micro Focus DevDay near you. For more information on our COBOL Delivery and Mainframe Solutions, go here.

David Lawrence

Global Sales Enablement Specialist

DLblog

10 ways to boost COBOL application development

What would really make a difference to your working life as a developer? Faster coding? Better productivity? Easier ways for new developers to work with unfamiliar languages? Perhaps all of these. Here are 10 ways that Micro Focus Visual COBOL application development tool can really help make your job easier and faster, with fewer errors and much higher productivity.

What do COBOL developers want?

1.    Faster coding

If you want the job done quicker, you need the right appdev tools to make it happen. You can’t go wrong if your toolset is designed specifically to give the best COBOL experience. Combine them with Visual Studio and Eclipse to maintain, develop and modernize your COBOL apps. These two IDEs set the benchmark for software development. You’ll be more productive than you’ve ever known.

Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor
Editing code in Visual Studio, with Visual COBOL 2015 Editor

2.    Fewer coding errors

Compile errors often happen because of missing or incorrect punctuation, and misspellings. These kind of mistakes are far too easy to make, aren’t they? Background compilation makes it easier to avoid typos, as it immediately picks up on them so you can correct as you compile. Goodbye to hundreds of errors, hello to cleaner code.

Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency view
Eclipse enhanced error markers and copybook dependency

3.    Create modern user interfaces

Need to build an attractive, modern UI? It’s easy with COBOL. You can develop a .NET WPF or Java Swing application, and use the speedy design tools in Visual Studio and Eclipse. You can quickly deliver a new mobile application user interface using existing COBOL code, by working with HTML-5 design tools. Create your own here.

Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo
Create your own mobile service with our AirMiles Calculator demo

4.    Easier Object Oriented development

COBOL now has a rich set of Object Oriented (OO) extensions that are ideal for OO development and interfacing to your current procedural code. This means you can work in .NET or the Java Virtual Machine without having to write all your OO code in Java or C#. Learn more about OO programming with this infographic.

5.    Faster codebase search

Finding where to make a change in code can sometimes take ages. Developers get more done if they can search the codebase faster. As well as quick find and a regular expression search across your source files, you can benefit from context sensitive search, which tells you where a field is referenced or modified – all at the click of button. See how easy it is. Take our interactive screen test now to see COBOL development before and after, in Windows or Unix. Take screen test now

COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program
COBOL Source Information output from Visual Studio showing all occurrences of file IO usage within a program

6.    Speedier number crunching

You can now use COBOL inside the same popular toolset that so many developers use. This means Java or .NET developers will have a much easier time picking up COBOL. It can take just a matter of hours. After that, you’re likely to create some converts as others see how good the COBOL engine is at crunching reams of data.

7.    Predicts what you’re typing

When you’re dealing with many lines of code in your COBOL apps, it’s sometimes difficult to remember field names and sections – you could have hundreds to choose from. With an easy to use tool which predicts what you’ve started typing, it doesn’t matter if you can only remember part of a data name.

8.    Shorter lines of code

.NET and Java already include vast frameworks of code you can reuse in your own app, saving you time and trouble. Need to display a message box, perform date arithmetic or display a localized message? What might have taken pages of code before, you can now do in just a few lines.

9.    Evolves to keep up with the latest

COBOL is still around for a very good reason. Application development teams must bring apps bang up to date with industry standards and this can be done easily with the right application development tools. With rich OO extensions, and XML, SQL and Unicode features, your team will be able to adhere with minimal effort.

Modern COBOL development in Eclipse
Modern COBOL development in Eclipse

10.    Works with other languages

Visual Studio and Eclipse support dozens of different languages from open source to mainstays like C++, Java, VB.NET and C#. When you’re working in .NET or the JVM, you can debug COBOL and any other language simultaneously.

Boost your productivity today with a free trial

Can’t wait to make your life easier and boost COBOL application development? Take your free 30-day Micro Focus Visual COBOL trial. All you need to do is click the link below and complete the form. You can choose from 4 Visual COBOL product trials:

  • Visual COBOL for Visual Studio
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Windows®
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – SUSE
  • Visual COBOL for Eclipse – Red Hat

Download now and discover Visual COBOL’s easy-to-use developer toolset. Try now.

Hungry for more? See Reveal a more youthful side to your COBOL code – 12 ways to make it happen here

This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten….

Hang on though. The sky hasn’t fallen, the lights are still on, the world is still turning. Did googlemageddon really just happen? I assure you it did, although for me all Google algorithm changes are now reminiscent of the Y2K bug that was going to spark off WW3 and bring satellites out of orbit. So what exactly was it apart from a good excuse for the world’s press to sell us all another story of apocalyptic woe?

Hang on though. The sky hasn’t fallen, the lights are still on, the world is still turning. Did googlemageddon really just happen? I assure you it did, although for me all Google algorithm changes are now reminiscent of the Y2K bug that was going to spark off WW3 and bring satellites out of orbit. So what exactly was it apart from a good excuse for the world’s press to sell us all another story of apocalyptic woe?

Well the heart of Google’s business is providing consumers with fantastic search results. Little surprise Google change their algorithm hundreds of times a year in a war against the nefarious spammers and online racketeers who are out there to game their way up the organic ranking charts.

In a year that’s seen half the internet searches globally conducted on a mobile devices, it’s no surprise at all that Google took the decision to reward mobile friendly sites with a higher ranking. That’s basically all googlemageddon amounts to. Industry analysts are also keen to point out that Android Apps on the Google Play store will rise dramatically in rankings compared to Apple App-store competitors in a week that’s seen the launch of Project Fi. I won’t comment, all I know is stranger and much worse things have happened at sea.

So where can I buy SEO?

A sincere question I was genuinely asked. Search Engine Optimization is not something that can be done by an agency or bought. It’s a long term strategic approach to digital marketing that any modern business will have close to its heart. The following formula helped me explain it recently at Oracle’s #MME15 Event in Las Vegas:

factual fresh content that aligns your products & services with your prospects’ pains
PLUS
technically -helping Search Engines to find that content
PLUS
Social Media

This is the ‘content-reach-influence’ holy trilogy of digital marketing. Get it correct and you’ll be zooming along the information superhighway in the fast-lane of success. Keeping your nose out in front involves keeping content fresh and building up an influential following on Social Media who will promote your stuff. Maintaining peak performance is far from easy, Metrics and KPIs become like a speedometer. Keeping one eye on the rear view mirror teaches us lessons about what works and what doesn’t. Fresh data will keep your revenue engine oiled, but let’s spare a few thoughts for the IT mechanics who maintain the digital revenue machine you’ve built.

How does you team work with your IT department to help your website perform?

Here are 6 areas you are probably going to need your IT department to help with on the technical side of your SEO equation:

  1. A site that adapts to mobile ‘browsers’ – that’s what googlemageddon was all about. To see how your site behaves on the mainstream desktop and mobile browsers Silk Central is a fantastic tool. It checks cross browser compatibility and it’s yours for 15 days free – take a trial!
  2. A site that’s up 24-7 with whizzy response times. Google loves a site that loads quickly and performs well. If the crawler drops in and your site is struggling under load you’ve messed up. Ensure you’re monitoring your sites with a great tool like Silk Web Meter. A free version is available so you can start monitoring today!
  3. Load and performance test your site so you know it won’t fall over. A great cloud based like Silk Performer CloudBurst can simulate enormous loads from different geographies meaning you don’t even have to invest in the hardware and infrastructure to create a test environment yourselves.
  4. Think like code. That’s all a Google crawler is and when it drops onto your site to check your content it’s not going to fill out a form to get to it. Build your site well to ensure the registration page contains enough content alongside the Gate/Form to help the rank increase. Crawlers stop at gates so getting your requirements right up front is critical.
  5. Google crawlers can’t watch videos yet either – a transcript (also useful for people with hearing difficulties) helps SEO-wise.
  6. Lastly ensure your site is easy to ‘share’ with Social Media widgets. When influential readers do land – it will be easy for them to share the content and those all-important-back-links to your content. Loads of free tools like Linktally exist that can help monitor the inbound links from major social media channels. Take a measurement and watch it grow with Social success!

I am sure I have missed a whole bunch of technical areas out and would love to hear what they are. Never forget that Content is king and everything else you’re doing is supporting it! Let me know what I’ve missed on Twitter and I’ll write the follow up soon.

Mark-Plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director of Marketing Operations for Micro Focus & Borland Software. Mark’s often talking about Digital Marketing and why your website matters – you’ll find him on LinkedIn and Twitter flying a flag for Social Media.