IBM MQ v8.x End of Support Options

Are you still running IBM MQ v8.0.x (or alternately, an even earlier build)?  

IBM has announced as of April 30th, 2020 it will end of support for IBM MQ v8.0.x. If you are still using that version it’s recommended that you upgrade to v9.1 to avoid any potential security issues that may occur in earlier, unsupported versions of MQ. 

MQ v9.1 Highlights: 

  • IBM MQ Console
  • The administrative REST API
  • The messaging REST API
  • Improvements in error logging 
  • Connectivity to Salesforce with IBM MQ Bridge to Salesforce
  • Connectivity to Blockchain 

What are your plans for IBM MQ?

I plan to upgrade:

It’s never too late to start planning your upgrade and upgrading to IBM MQ’s newest v9.1 is a great option. There are great new features that help you manage costs better, improve efficiency, and manageability. 

Take a closer look here at some of the enhancements.  

If you are still considering your plans, now’s a great time to speak with our SME Integration Upgrade Team. Reach out to us today to set up a free Discovery Session or contact us directly for any questions

I would like to continue to use v8.0.x (or earlier versions):

It’s ok if you’re not ready for the newest version of MQ just yet. However, it’s important to remember that without support you may not be protected against avoidable security risks and additional support costs. IBM does offer Extended Premium support but be prepared, that option will be very expensive. 

Alternatively, as an IBM Business Partner TxMQ offers expert support options. As a business partner, we have highly specialized skills in IBM software. We can help guide you through issues that may arise at a fraction of the cost with the added benefit of flexibility in services. Check out more on TxMQ’s Extended Support Page. (https://www.txmq.com/end-life-software-support/)

I will support it internally: 

If you have an amazing internal team inhouse, odds are they don’t have much time to spare. Putting the gravity of a big project on your internal team can cut into their productivity. For many organizations, this will limit a team’s ability to focus on innovation and improving customer experience. This will make your competitors happy but your customers and clients definitely won’t be. 

Utilizing a trusted partner like TxMQ can help cut costs and give back some time to your internal team to focus on improvements and not just break/fix maintenance. Reach out to our team and learn how we can help maintain your existing legacy applications and platforms so your star team can focus on innovation again. Reach out and ask how we can help today. 

I don’t know, I still need help!

Reach out to TxMQ today and schedule a free Discovery Session to learn what your best options are! TxMQ.com/Contact/

Enhancing the Customer Experience

Enhancing the Customer Experience With AI

Even as artificial intelligence-based technologies continue to permeate more and more aspects of our lives, I’ve noticed a stubborn tendency among the banking old guard to focus on improving operational efficiencies rather than enhancing the customer experience. That may make sense on paper, but it’s ultimately bad for long-term user satisfaction.

It’s easy to realize efficiency gains in the call center by automating customer support with AI. It’s far harder to understand what customers really want out of their experience and then use AI to drive towards that. AI offers multiple vectors of possible change, from identifying patterns in otherwise noisy data, to uncovering more appropriate, relevant means of evaluating creditworthiness. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what these technologies can offer.

Yet in a world of unintended consequences, it is important that we don’t just innovate for innovation’s sake. Too much technology and we lose the personal touch that we know remains critical for any business. What’s important to understand is that AI is more than just chatbots. In fact, AI can have a positive impact across nearly every aspect of the customer experience. To demonstrate that, I’ve laid out just four of the diverse ways that AI can enhance the banking customer experience.

1 – Conversational Banking

Conversational banking is the closest of these technologies to the popular conception of a chatbot. But let’s be clear: these aren’t your parents’ chatbots. Advances in AI, in particular natural language processing, have empowered businesses to take a lot of boring or routine conversations off the phone and into the online realm. Customers don’t even have to do anything special to communicate with these systems because they handle a variety of natural speech patterns and can even work with syntax they’ve never seen before and still find the answer to customers’ questions. That’s a win-win because customers get the experience of talking to a live person without the pain of having to wait on hold, and banks can save money on call centers while improving the user experience.

2 – Lowering Default Risk

The only thing worse than waiting for an answer is being rejected for credit cards and loan applications. At many banks, this process is still overseen by individuals, and it can take days for customers to get a response. But not only is the process slow, it’s also not particularly accurate either — especially because banks mostly rely on an applicant’s credit score to determine their approval. 

Thankfully, AI developers have created far more accurate solutions that take into account factors such as the amount of equity their customers hold, their job stability, and their debt-to-income ratio. Training these algorithms on large bodies of data, they’ve created programs that approve or deny candidates more quickly and accurately than traditional methods. Having embraced the use of these algorithms from the beginning, many alternative lenders have seen a higher rate of approval for business and consumer loans than traditional banks — an advantage that both they and their customers enjoy. Traditional banks must follow suit.

3 – Improving Security

Biometric security methods don’t just make it harder for criminals to access phones, they actually improve the customer experience over passwords and passphrases by promoting ease of access. Between the ubiquitous smartphone thumbprint reader and increasingly common face-recognition feature sets, customers have clearly embraced the quickness and ease of using biometrics to unlock their phone, make payments, and access other sensitive accounts in place of using hard-to-remember passcodes and other phrases. And they expect that ease of access from their banks, too.

What makes today’s biometrics possible, of course, are advanced AI-based algorithms that take in data from cameras or other sensors, identify key face or fingerprint points, and then compare them against user-provided scans to make an accurate (usually 98% or higher) prediction about whether the user attempting to gain access is the owner of the phone or account. With biometrics being clearly the superior option for both security and customer experience, banks have plenty of incentives to offer biometric authentication wherever they can.

4 – Identifying Fraud

Perhaps AI’s biggest benefit, from a business perspective, is its ability to predict future behavior based on past behavior. Feed a well-trained AI algorithm real-time data, and it can predict with far greater-than-human accuracy the likely outcome. That capability makes it invaluable for banks, which often have to make quick decisions about large sums of money.

Accurately identifying fraud is extremely important to both banks and their customers, and not just for catching cases of credit card fraud or stolen identity. You also don’t want a system that’s too sensitive. (We all have that friend — maybe we are that friend — whose bank uses an overly-aggressive fraud detection algorithm.) By using AI to analyze past instances of confirmed fraud, banks can uncover patterns that help them determine the likelihood of a current transaction being fraudulent. This means avoiding devastating cases of theft, on the one hand, and annoying credit lockdown situations on the other.

Smarter. Better. Faster.

There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence will continue to revolutionize the way customers interact with banks and businesses, and as the 2020s progress, we can expect that rate of innovation to only accelerate. To continue to compete in an ecosystem that is being radically transformed before our eyes, banks must stop playing catch-up when it comes to AI. They must seize this opportunity to modernize their IT infrastructures, not just to ensure that they can power today’s innovative solutions, but also to ensure they’re at the leading edge of whatever innovations tomorrow’s AI researchers develop.

Open Banking in the US

Open Banking in the US?

Can government intervention in banking actually encourage innovation rather than restrict it? That’s the question the U.K. government set out to answer with the implementation of its Open Banking directive.

This policy, which requires the country’s nine biggest banks to make customers’ financial data accessible by authorized third-party service providers, came into effect in January of 2018. Now, more than two years later, we’ve seen the results of this experiment first-hand, and the feedback has been quite positive overall. Furthermore, that success across the pond has given many U.S. banking leaders the confidence to start thinking about what similar regulation would look like here.

As a technologist who spends his days helping businesses modernize their IT infrastructures, I think this embrace (albeit cautious) of open banking is an extremely positive development. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that open platforms can have in an industry, for customers and providers alike. That’s why I think it’s so important that business leaders at traditional banks understand just what open banking is. Because once they do, they’ll agree that open banking, whether it’s through government regulation or through their own action, is just what traditional banks need to stay competitive in our increasingly digital age.

What is open banking?

Let’s start with defining open banking. In short, it is the practice of opening up consumer financial data through APIs. A bank that embraces the open banking model will create APIs that define how a program can reliably and securely access its customers’ data.  In addition, there are opportunities outside the scope of this article to also monetize said APIs. Creating entirely net new revenue streams.

By creating these specifications, open banking simplifies the process of building third-party apps that need access to consumer data. In fact, you’ve probably been the beneficiary of open banking if you’ve ever used apps such as Mint, Wealthfront, Venmo or TurboTax. Even if you’re wary of just handing over your bank account credentials to a third party, you probably have no problem with checking a box that allows only select data, like transactions, to be shared to authorized and properly vetted apps. And that, in a nutshell, is the power of open banking: it engenders the kind of trust that startup or niche third-party digital service providers need in order to gain traction.

What is the U.K. model?

What I’ve just given is the technical definition of open banking. But open banking is also a political, or more specifically a regulatory, concept. In the U.K., the Second Payment Services Directive (“PSD2” for short) requires the country’s largest banks, including HSBC, Barclay’s and Lloyd’s, to make certain customer data accessible through APIs. Some of the goals of the directive are to increase competition, counteract monopoly-like effects, and make banks work harder to get (and please and retain) customers.

Those are laudable and important goals for maintaining a robust liberal economic system, but perhaps the most salient aspect of the directive for British citizens will be how it encourages innovation in banking. The idea is that by lowering the barrier to entry for fintech startups, PSD2 will lead to the creation of new startups and products that benefit consumers.

Why should banks embrace open banking?

If open banking is so good for startups and other non-banks, what incentive do major banks in the U.S. have to implement open banking? Aren’t they just enabling their competition and digging their own graves?

The answer is “not really,” but before we get into that I should note that customers are already starting to expect open banking-like features from their banks. They want it to be easy and secure to set up Apple Pay or integrate their transaction data into Mint or TurboTax. Banks must keep up with consumer expectations if they want to retain customers.

Additionally, most of these apps don’t really represent competition for banks; in fact, these services tend to be complementary or adjacent to traditional banking services. If a bank’s core business is stowing customers’ money and giving out loans, then it has little to fear from a personal finance or tax app using its customers’ data. All sharing data can do in that case is make their customers more responsible with their money.

The security benefits of open banking shouldn’t be downplayed, either. Defining exactly how apps can gain access to just the data they need will reduce the practice of customers handing over their account credentials to get the digital services they want. That represents a huge reduction in risk for banks with comparatively little investment on their part.

Bringing Banking into the 21st century

Finally, let’s not forget that U.S. banks are already dabbling in open banking voluntarily — at least selectively. That suggests banking leaders must already agree to some extent that opening up data drives innovation. And innovation is something the banking industry could definitely use a dose of. While fintech startups have made splashes specializing in making just one aspect of the consumer financial experience better, banks have attempted to expand their services into every little corner of the banking-adjacent market. What that results in is bloated organizations and unprofitable units siphoning resources from making banking better.

Banks should be using their resources to develop better APIs and deeper data analytics to help them make better loan decisions or catch fraud — not trying to get into the mobile app business. It’s unlikely that big banks will ever become “lean” organizations, but embracing open banking can at last allow banks to offload non-core work and get back to the fundamental services that make them profitable.

 

Can We Make Zelle Cool?

Let’s face it: people like using cool technology. They want the latest iPhone, the hottest games and the newest social platform. One can argue the relative merits of this obsession, or the need for the brightest and shiniest object, but the reality remains: everyone wants the latest, most up-to-date products and apps. Anyone who remembers moving from Myspace to Facebook knows this reality. And one of today’s “cool” apps is Venmo, the person-to-person payments app that boasts over 40 million users, 50 percent of them being millennials. That’s a big problem for Zelle®?, but it doesn’t have to be.

Digital payments platforms—the person-to-person kind—aren’t especially new. PayPal and Square have been around for more than 10 years, Stripe is newer, but still well established, and long-forgotten startups like Brodia and Qpass existed even before then. But somehow Venmo, a PayPal subsidiary after a recent acquisition, managed to become so hip that the company name actually became a verb. Think of it as the fun, cool little brother of the PayPal behemoth. Unfortunately, they were so successful that traditional financial institutions started wondering why they were being shut out of the incredibly lucrative mobile peer-to-peer payments market. That’s how we ended up with Zelle, which was launched in 2017 with the express purpose of beating Venmo at its own game.

At face value, Zelle checks off all the boxes. It was built for a specific task and does pretty much everything it’s supposed to do. But where it has succeeded on the technical side, it’s still coming up short where it really matters: user adoption. Chalk it up to any number of factors, from security concerns to Venmo’s massive head start, but the reality is an inescapable one: Venmo is cool and Zelle isn’t. Venmo is what millennials use while their parents use Zelle, or so the perception goes. That may not matter to C-level executives at banks, whose aspirations run far beyond what is cool, but it’s a huge determinant of success or failure in the marketplace.

The good news for Zelle is that this problem can be fixed. The bad news is that it’s going to take some heavy lifting to change consumer opinion and drive adoption by people who see Zelle in the same way that seventh graders see the assistant principal at the school dance. Even if he has the best moves in the room, he’ll always be a square.

It might be tempting to see this as a marketing problem, but if Zelle is going to gain market traction—and silence the naysayers—it’s going to need to make some technical changes to make it better, and more useful, than Venmo.

First, some low-hanging fruit. Venmo explicitly prohibits money transfers for the purchase of goods or services unless one is a Venmo verified merchant. It is meant for person-to-person payments. For Zelle, this is a massive opportunity to gain adoption where Venmo fears to tread. And because it’s backed by banks, they have the data and the AI capabilities to pull it off with much less risk than an independent player—even one as large as Venmo.

It could also be argued that if one can’t win on the cool factor—and cool is so intangible as to be ethereal—can a company really make a cool app? No, coolness flows from something as a result of its utility. Yet, one can win in other ways.

Be Friendly. For starters, apps need to be open and inviting. Big banks have a sometimes well-earned reputation for being fiercely competitive and protective of their turf. Millennials—or to be more broad, consumers under age 35—want openness, not interoperability. Though it’s an advantage, systems and tools that are perceived as playing nicely with other ecosystems are unnecessary. Big banks making the news for increased difficulty for consumers trying to set up Venmo is not the way to win favor with the target customers. Adopting Open Banking is.

Be open. Give consumers a choice. The banks that combined forces to create Zelle are all but forcing their customers to use it. With more banks in the queue to have Zelle as their primary P2P payments tool, more people will become Zelle users by default, not by choice. As a marketing strategy, this won’t work. Yes, adoption will grow, but customer satisfaction will drop. If the end game is a broader use of the bank and all of its products and services, Zelle is but one tool among many, not the end all, be all. Banks would do well to focus on the war to gain customers, not the battle to win users.

Simplify. When in doubt, software engineers and designers should focus on this one point. Although under-35-year-olds are known to be capable of understanding and learning technology easily, this doesn’t mean that they want to spend hours working through the app interface. When designing the app, remember that less is more. Simplify, eliminate options and remember KISS.

Integrate. Better yet, integrate with social media. Yes, Zelle has tried to copy this element of Venmo’s success, but somehow it feels awkward. Social media integration needs to be a priority, and it needs to be done well, something that Zelle still seems to be missing.

In the person-to-person payments discussion, there are many factors to consider. In the end though, this is just a skirmish in the broader contest for consumer-banking relationships. By forcing users to adopt, and adapt to, Zelle, banks are taking away agency from the consumers. This will inevitably result in Zelle never becoming the “cool” payments app. Banks need to consider that larger picture in this conversation, and that goes far beyond what app is victorious in the battle for what’s cool. This is not likely to be a winner take all situation, rather a gradual war of attrition, with many winners, and more losers.

Banks would do well to remember this.

Chuck Fried is president and chief executive of TxMQ. Prior to TxMQ, Chuck founded multiple businesses in the IT and other technology services spaces. Before that, he served in IT leadership roles in both the public and private sectors. In 2020, he was named an IBM Champion, affirming his commitment to IBM products, offerings and solutions.

 

IBM MQ Organize Your Team For An Upgrade

TxMQ Work Smarter Webinar Series

Organizing Your Team For an IBM MQ Large-Scale Upgrade

Presented by TxMQ

Featuring John Carr Sr. Solutions Architect at TxMQ

IBM MQ is the most important part of your business you rarely notice until there’s an issue.
It’s a great tool to keep your business running smoothly and give your customers the service they expect. At TxMQ we know Middleware and we are very passionate about IBM MQ. So much so, that we have dedicated a part of our practice to keeping your MQ up and running the way it should be, reliable and secure.
At TxMQ we are proud to present our second installment in our Webinar Series dedicated to IBM MQ. For Part 2, in continuation of our IBM MQ Upgrade Best Practices theme, we will outline how to organize your team for a large-scale upgrade. (If you missed Part 1 you can catch up here.)
Economies of scale aren’t limited to the cloud. As an MQ administrator, you most likely manage a large, diverse MQ network using traditional commodity or virtual servers on-prem. On top of that, you’re challenged with upgrading to MQ 9.x with limited resources.
How should you approach your upgrade in such economies of scale?
This session walks you through the challenges (from server management, to security, to deployment) and gives food-for-thought on how to organize yourself and your team. The discussion is hosted by industry expert and Sr. Solutions Architect with TxMQ, John Carr.
Below you can view the complete recording as well as the associated slide deck. Enjoy, and don’t forget to give us some feedback. We would love to hear any suggestions you have or subjects you would like to see covered in future webinars. Let us know here.
If you would like to talk further or need some help with your MQ, reach out to us here and let us know how we can help.

IBM MQ Upgrade Best Practices

Work Smart with IBM MQ Webinar Series

Presented by TxMQ

IBM MQ is an important part of keeping your business running smoothly and giving your customers the service they expect. At TxMQ we know Middleware and we are very passionate about IBM MQ. So much so, that we have dedicated a part of our practice to keeping your MQ up and running the way it should be, reliable and secure.
At TxMQ we are proud to present our new Webinar Series dedicated to IBM MQ. For our first installment, we decided to cover a paramount topic: “IBM MQ Upgrade Best Practices”.
To ensure reliability and mitigate downtime it’s important to utilize the best version of MQ for your operation and to know how to make the transition to the next version when the time is right. This has always been an important subject with many of our customers, so please enjoy our first installment in this series outlining best practices for upgrading your IBM MQ. The discussion is hosted by industry expert and Sr. Consultant with TxMQ, John Carr.
Below you can view the complete recording as well as the associated slide deck, with additional bonus content not in the original presentation to help you in your MQ upgrade preparations. Enjoy, and don’t forget to give us some feedback. We would love to hear any suggestions you have or subjects you would like to see covered in future webinars. Let us know here.
If you would like to talk further or need some help with your MQ, reach out to us here and let us know how we can help.

Webinar

[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.19.18″]
Your request will be re-directed to our active webinar.
[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

What is a Blockchain? Infographic

So, what is a blockchain?

Before we dive into the What is a Blockchain? infographic, let me first explain why I created it. Or, you can simply scroll down to the infographic and bypass my incredible words of wisdom. Words of wisdom that have surely never been typed before…anywhere, ever.
I frequently take on new tasks, both personally and professionally, blatantly involving pieces and/or processes that are outside of my current skillset.
Why would anyone do this? Because I want to cram as much information into my brain as humanly possible before I can’t cram it in anymore.
What if you suddenly became incapable of learning? Wouldn’t you miss the option to be able to do so? I know that I would.

If you’re able to learn something new and/or grow your skillset, why in the world would you choose not to?

I think we can all agree that at times learning a subject or a process is a breeze, other times, not so much.
The point I’m really getting at here, is that with no prior experience in the solutions industry, I’ve had to work through the challenges of learning a plethora of products and services that I was completely ignorant to less than a year ago. Without diving into my feelings too much here, I can tell you there have been headaches, tears, and even points where I was fairly certain that my brain was so crowded and overworked that it just up and left the building.
However, after the chaos has settled from the information warriors battling their way into the crevices of my brain, the satisfaction of the new knowledge and how it applies elsewhere is indescribable. That satisfaction holds especially true for me in the solutions industry.

Our industry is packed with relevant, exciting, world-changing information that spans across nearly every other industry, and I feel so lucky to play even a tiny part in that.

I created this blockchain infographic to better understand what a blockchain is, while reading Chuck’s post: How much do you know about blockchain and is it just hype?
I find it easy to dive into a good book and paint an entire world of characters in my mind; but nothing helps me grasp intangible objects quite like a visual. So, if you’re struggling with the concept of blockchain, my goal is that this visual will help you in the same way that it did for me.

What is a Blockchain? Blockchain explained in an infographic. Prefer a PDF? Grab it here