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by Matt Manning

IEI works with some of the world’s most successful company and executive information services. Our in-house research teams work on our customers’ projects via custom applications and we embed as many rules as we can into this software in order to prevent errors.

Some examples of the ways we embed rules include:

  • Preventing the submission of an alpha character in a numeric field and vice versa.
  • Alerting operators when they enter values that are not of the proper character length.
  • Not allowing certain text strings to be entered (e.g., if a research source is not allowed and a URL from that source is entered then a ‘validation’ routine rejects the value).

This approach to embedded rules can be used when designing the functionality of information services as well. Generally, this involves automated enforcement of the ‘terms of use’ and subscription agreements, but other types of routines can be triggered by particular usage patterns.

For instance:

  • If a user shares their UN/PW (evidenced by two concurrent log-ins from devices with different machine addresses) their account’s access status can be set to ‘off,’ requiring the subscriber to call the service to un-lock it.
  • Downloading a suspiciously large amount of information in a short period of time can trigger an alert or suspension.
  • If product usage is low prior to a subscription renewal period, then the customer retention team can be alerted to schedule training sessions to spur usage.

The most significant difference between rules enforced in a commercial product and those used by in-house workers is that external customers need to be handled with a firm but gentle touch. Scolding a customer for an inadvertent mistake can easily affect subscription renewal rates, so the messaging accompanying the functionality has to be positive. Internal communications with staff users of applications, however, can be more basic and direct.

But while the ‘messaging’ aspects of these applications (alerts, recommendations, etc.) do vary significantly, the software mechanics of using embedded rules to make business processes more efficient are virtually identical. So whether it’s a matter of protecting your data’s integrity or improving your renewal rates, automated rule enforcement plays a critically important role in the design of all modern business processes.

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posted by Shyamali Ghosh on August 27, 2019

by Matt Manning

Every project manager has conducted a “post-mortem” after their big product has launched or their information service redesign has rolled out to their customers. Nits are picked, fingers may be pointed and, on occasion, heads can roll. In these days of pervasive predictive analytics, though, can we realistically prevent major process errors from occurring so post-mortems are not needed in the first place?

The idea is a simple one: Assign a small team to break what you are building before someone else finds the vulnerability. It’s similar to what ‘white-hat’ hackers do. The team anticipates and mitigates negative process outcomes in-house before enterprising customers discover the problems themselves.

The types of problems discoverable via a pre-mortem include:

  • Back-door ways to circumvent access permissions so the 1-week free trial subscriber can’t download the entire database on day one.
  • Search engine optimization fails that hide the fact that high-quality content is available on your service.
  • Advanced searches that yield no results and don’t offer a way out of the dead-end.

Once discovered, problems like these can be tested and resolved before they are made public. For instance, adding a “Do you mean X?” mechanism to refine a search, giving the users the chance to make a custom data request, or suggesting coverage of a particular subject area can steer users to useful content and improve customer satisfaction even when a search result is unsuccessful.

So when it comes to the performance of your new or improved information service, maybe conducting your own ‘pre-mortem’ before you launch is a better alternative than the traditional post-mortem. The job you save may be your own!

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posted by Shyamali Ghosh on February 24, 2019