How to improve your digital front door with WebOps

Online shopping and ecommerce have become more important over the last two years. According to the Office for National Statistics, Internet sales accounted for 27.1% of all retail activity in the UK at the start of 2022. 

During the first four months of the pandemic, more than 85,000 companies implemented new online stores or joined ecommerce platforms in the UK, based on research by Growth Intelligence. Consumers were pushed to ecommerce, which went up from 81% to 95% in Europe according to a 2020 survey by McKinsey.

All this activity led to more companies building and launching sites to interact with their customers. However, these digital experiences need to be kept up to date over time, which can be harder than getting started in the first place. 

For instance, website updates involve both technical requirements and new content posting. Security updates, changes to site plug-ins and new digital services would all require developer and IT team support, while changing brand assets or adding more content might fall under the remit of the marketing team. However, all those changes will come in at the same time, making the process more complicated.

WebOps and Collaboration

The biggest challenge around managing web operations is the number of potential stakeholders involved. Aside from developers responsible for creating any code that runs those digital services on the site, there are the IT operations staff responsible for running the systems involved. There is the marketing team, responsible for the content and assets on the site, and there is the brand team that looks at the design and delivery side.

Each one of these roles will have a hand in the success of a site over time, and they will be responsible for business goals that the site is used for. However, much of the time, these teams will work in their own silos rather than together.

Website Operations – or WebOps – is about breaking down those boundaries that exist around website management. WebOps establishes joint processes and goals so that marketing, developers and IT operations staff work more effectively. It is based on the principles of DevOps and having more collaboration, rather than stakeholders working to their goals in separate silos. WebOps works by putting all website project work in context of that bigger business goal. 

This can involve getting over some of the pre-conceptions that teams have of each other. For example, marketing departments today are driven by technology rather than solely by advertizing. 

Rather than being solely about creative work like brand and positioning, marketing teams today have to build and track customer journeys, deploy personalization tools, and automate customer relationships. These activities rely on online interactions to track engagement and preferences, which then inform the unique next steps in a customer’s journey with the brand. 

Similarly, content marketing activities involve deploying the right assets to customers depending on their browsing habits and preferences using automation.

On the IT and software sides, solving potential problems around customer actions demands creativity too. New launches for the business will rely on integrating software and creative assets into novel, innovative experiences that perform well and are available under stress. 

Delivering these kinds of projects effectively involves planning ahead and understanding workload across the whole team, rather than looking at individuals or specific departments alone. All of these tasks involve processes and timelines, which can be shared and made more visible to everyone.

This visibility can make a big difference to WebOps teams, as it helps everyone understand their responsibilities and priorities in context. For instance, it can be all too easy to assume that tasks are simple, or can be accomplished in timeframes that are not realistic. 

For example, marketing may assume that updating a website is the same as accepting an update to an application on their desktop, while IT operations teams may think brand refreshes are simply about new logos. The work required on both the IT and the marketing sides is often more involved and more complex than it is given credit for.

All sides in this have more in common than they might think. WebOps approaches can help define the goals that all the stakeholders have around website developments. This involves looking at the overall business goals that the organization has, and then how each team contributes to those aims. 

For instance, IT teams will see how brand updates can make a difference to company performance and customer acquisition goals, while the marketing department will find out exactly how much work goes into updating all the sites that a company may operate for security.

Making it easier to serve content

This recognition of what really goes on across teams or departments is an essential building block for more collaboration. Once teams understand the pressures they are under as part of delivering an overall goal, it is easier to make changes so that everyone pulls in the same direction. This makes work around website projects easier for everyone.

Similarly, you can break down some of the silos that exist around how sites are implemented and maintained. Rather than relying on developers to manage content updates, you can decouple your content management system (CMS) from the web front-end systems. This means that marketing teams can launch new content and iterate on their campaigns as soon as they’re ready. That agility is what drives results, as it allows marketers to quickly respond to market opportunities and serve customers with experiences that resonate. 

Using headless content management systems alongside your website platform like Drupal or WordPress means that marketers can implement their updates faster, rather than having to break into developer workflows to get changes made. This can also make it easier for them to review the effect that those content changes might have, rather than relying on back and forth between different teams, which slows down the whole process.

The aim for WebOps

WebOps is about removing the barriers between teams that exist around website development. Rather than compartmentalising teams and their goals, WebOps ensures everyone involved understands what their work builds towards. It presents a unified approach to how websites are managed across technical, brand and experience parameters.

This understanding is essential to keep up with the demands that customers have for a better digital experience. 

Company websites are the digital front door for more businesses than ever before, so simplifying the process to host, update and manage those sites is essential. With WebOps, all companies can improve their internal processes and deliver results faster.

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7 essential online security and digital tasks you should do before 2021 ends

Keeping your digital world safe and secure is vital, everyone knows that. But it also takes time, and when life is hectic, jobs to do, places to go, people to see, it's easy to put off even the most important security tasks off until 'later' – whenever that might be.

It's OK. It's the same for most us. But it's never too late to get started, and there's a real payback for your efforts. While you may already have your antivirus and VPN installed, a few more minutes spent on even just one or two of these tasks can save you money, speed up your devices, protect you from cyber-scammers… and that's just the start.

Illustration of a login screen on a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Change your passwords

It's a hassle to set up, remember and manage your passwords, so precisely no-one at all wants to change them regularly. Even if it is good security practice.

Occasional updates are better than none at all, though, so why not change a few passwords right now? If nothing else, just choose the accounts that would cause you the most damage if they were hacked – your bank, PayPal, Amazon, email – and give them a brand new login.

And remember… if you’re tempted to use something like ‘password123’, then that’s definitely not improving your security situation. Use the Memorable Password Generator to create secure but also readable passwords.

And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of passwords you have to remember, then our guide to the best password managers is well worth a read.

2. Uninstall surplus apps

It's easily done. You see an app, it looks great, you install it to try later, but never get around to it. Not a problem if you've only one, but there more you add, the more your device gets weighed down by all this surplus junk. And that equally goes for apps that you used to use on a regular basis and no longer have the need for.

Take the time to browse all your apps and think about when you last used them or whether you really need them any more. If you can't think of a good reason to keep something, just uninstall it..

If you're unsure, then as long as it's not performing some useful background function (backup, security), uninstall it anyway. If you realize you need the app later, you can always reinstall it.

Windows 10 Uninstall Applications screen

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Review your finances

It's easy to sign up for apps and web services, but there's a down side: it's even easier to forget you've done that, and carry on paying for something you no longer use.

Visit your app store of choice, scroll down the Subscriptions list and make sure you recognize and need everything you see. If there's something you no longer use, cancel it; if there are payments you don't understand, investigate them.

Do the same at PayPal, if you've got an account, and with your bank, credit cards and anywhere else you might make payments. It's your money – make sure you're not handing it out without getting something useful in return.

4. Check renewal dates

Cheap VPNs, antivirus companies, web hosts and others often try to tempt you into buying with ultra-cheap signup deals. Which is great at the time, but the costs might double (or more) on renewal.

Do you have any long-term subscriptions to apps or web services where that might apply, and the renewal date is coming up? If so, and even if you think you know approximately when the renewal might be, remember many companies take renewal payments a few days before your term is up. You might remember that you bought a service in February, but if it was February 3, you might have to cancel at the end of January.

If you're unsure about any of these long-term subscriptions, sign into your web account and check. If you know you want to renew, turn off any Auto-Renew setting, or check how to cancel (some services require that you contact them).

If you're unsure, check the latest VPN deals (or whatever) to see if switching to another provider's introductory deal might be a better plan.

Avast Cleanup running on an Android device

(Image credit: Avast)

5. Clean up your system

Every time you install, use or remove apps, your device is busily creating new files and folders. Some might get removed later, but others won't, and that means your device just gets more and more cluttered over time.

This isn't the disaster that speedup tools claim, and you won't magically turbo-charge your hardware just by emptying your Recycle Bin. But all these leftovers can slow you down, so it's worth taking a little time to clean up your device.

Look at your Downloads and Documents folders, for instance. Sort them by date, and look at the oldest. Delete anything you're sure you don't need. Of the rest, is there anything you won't use regularly? Think whether it might be better off backed up to the cloud, or local storage. 

On Windows, use Disk Cleanup to clear away temporary files (launch Explorer, click a drive, select Drive Tools > Optimize.) Other devices have their own maintenance tools, and there are plenty of free apps (try CCleaner) that go a little further.

6. Browse app settings

No matter how carefully you set up your device and app security, there's scope for problems later. Maybe you turn off a firewall or some other key setting, then forget to enable it later. Perhaps another device user turns off that feature by mistake. App updates might sometimes change settings (or introduce new ones) without telling you, and you haven't noticed.

Take the time to browse your device, antivirus and VPN settings and make sure they're set up to suit your needs. If you remember setting the VPN kill switch on, for instance, is that still the case? Is your antivirus configured properly? If you have cloud backup, is it protecting everything you expect?

Go and browse all the backed-up files, make sure it has the most up-to-date versions, and isn't missing anything important.

PayPal web dashboard

(Image credit: PayPal)

7. Visit your account dashboards

Open a new account with a VPN, security company, web store or anywhere else, and you're usually directed to a web dashboard with various admin-type details. But if you just want to download the app, manage the product or shop in the store, then probably you'll do exactly that instead, and never revisit the dashboard again.

Trouble is, that could mean you're missing out. What if there's some brand-new feature you could really use? Or a feature you're currently using, which is about to get pulled? Has there been a price change? Maybe your details have changed since you signed up, and the website has an email address you no longer use?

Log into a few of your web accounts, and just look at the dashboards. Often they'll have notifications for changes you really need to know. 

If you don't see anything, look at any 'Personal Details' page: is everything correct? What about your subscriptions, are they all as you expected? Look at the Settings page: does the site have any useful functionality you're not using, such as two-factor authentication to make it more secure? Who knows what money-saving or privacy-boosting features might be waiting for you, just a click or two away.

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Thousands of UK SMBs are not yet compliant with incoming digital tax rules

Thousands of UK small businesses are still not prepared for important digital tax changes set to come into force within the next few months, a study has found.

The UK government has ruled that by April 2022 over one million small businesses will need to comply with incoming digital tax legislation, called Making Tax Digital (MTD). The changes — which require digital tax records uploaded online — apply to any business with less than £85,000 turnover.

Except there’s a problem: Intuit has conducted a survey and found that around 300,000 businesses are not yet compliant. 

Falling behind

The company, which makes the QuickBooks tax software suite, found nearly half (41%) of those it surveyed have been delaying making the necessary changes to comply with MTD, most likely because of the extensive paperwork. 

According to Intuit, most small business owners spend four hours per month worrying about VAT returns and some can spend up to seven hours per month. 

“Tax returns are a necessary fact of life for most small businesses, but that doesn’t mean they are enjoyable. With many experiencing sleepless nights around filing their returns, it’s understandable that many are avoiding thinking about upcoming VAT legislation,” noted Pauline Green, Head of Product Compliance & Programs at QuickBooks. 

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. Using digital software for VAT can actually reduce stress by automating the process, therefore minimising the time spent, improving efficiency and ensuring returns are accurate. Software also provides real-time insights into finances, helping to build better habits and financial awareness. If they prioritise becoming MTD compliant, small businesses will start to experience these benefits and eliminate tax worries – allowing them to focus on building a successful business.” 

Intuit has also worked with University of Bath Professor Bas Verplanken to create a free guide for alleviating some of the stress that stems from taxes, with a focus on simple changes that can make a big difference, freeing up time for other activities. 

As Verplanken says, “Successful habits form when you frequently and regularly conduct a task and protect against forgetfulness, procrastination, and even fear by making your tasks part of your daily or weekly routines. Building and adhering to these habits can minimise small businesses’ worries about their VAT returns and put them in full control of their business.” 

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Cyber Polygon 2021: Towards Secure Development of Digital Ecosystems

Cybersecurity is one of the most important topics on the global agenda, boosted by the pandemic. As the global digitalisation is further accelerating, the world is becoming ever more interconnected. Digital ecosystems are being created all around us: countries, corporations and individuals are taking advantage of the rapid spread of the Internet and smart devices. In this context, a single vulnerable link is enough to bring down the entire system, just like the domino effect.

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