Technology is quickly becoming a part of day-to-day business processes. As a systems development company, we are being approached by more and more organisations that want to take their processes to the next level, searching for more streamlined processes, better communication and a simpler way to report. Digital transformation is on everybody’s agenda.
From beginning to end, system development can be a large task. For companies undergoing a digital transformation it is important to understand the full process, timelines and roles involved. This enables us to work together in partnership and deliver a project that fulfils your requirements, as and when you need them.
At Zinc, we operate within a tried and tested process. It’s helped us deliver exceptional work to many happy clients.
We start with conversation. We’ll invite you to our office, or come to visit you, in order to identify what your requirements are and ensure we’re all on the same page. We’ll need to know what you are hoping the system will function like, the problem it is solving for you, and the results you’re hoping to see.
Once we’ve defined the objectives, scope, purpose, and deliverables, we’ll put together a project team. This ensures that we assign the best people for the job to your project, incorporating any specialist knowledge that will be needed. An average team includes a Project Manager for your day-to-day communication, developers and QA beneath them to complete the tasks required, and a Sponsor to supply resources and act as an escalation point. This team will then supply you with logs that will document the project as it progresses. This will ensure we keep track of the actions taken, the risks that could arise, and the lessons learned along the way.
To make sure that your project will be delivered on time, and that we have all the resources we need to do this, we’ll lay out a project plan and a risk plan. These help us to manage expectations, time, costs and ensure we foresee anything that might become an issue. We’ll also lay out the communication plan to define the updates that you’ll get. This stage is designed to cover every eventuality and make an allowance that will still result in a product delivery at the end.
The end result is a fully planned, week-by week strategy that keeps both our customers and our team informed about what’s going to happen when.
The execution phase is where all the planning comes into action. We work to an agile development methodology, which means that we plan in two week blocks known as ‘sprints’. This enables us to manage the project closely, addressing any scheduling issues and deviating from the risks. This also enables us to be flexible when it comes to adding different or new functionality, able to add this in with a view to how it may affect the project as a whole. Each sprint is prefaced with a sizing meeting and concluded with a review that helps us determine if we’re behind schedule or have encountered any issues in this sprint. We keep track of the sprint progress with a daily standup meeting and ongoing change management if required.
During this time, we also complete QA testing, adding any fixes into our next sprint. Once this is all complete, we undergo a full end of stage review to summarise the actions and project.
The final stage in the product life cycle, closure ensures that the project is formally closed and offers a reporting process to ascertain successes. We do this with a project closure report to summarize everything that’s been done, alongside a benefit and objective review which can be over a series of months to collect enough data. We’ll ask for formal acceptance from our customer, and then hand the project over to our Service Desk in the event that the client needs any further support moving forward.
The project development process is detailed and technical for a reason. By necessity, it brings together a customer and developers, both with different needs and timelines who need coordination and consistent reviewing. With the right management of both of these parties comes a well-developed product that fulfills the specification. Throughout the entire process is communication, agility and improvement.
If you’re interested in elevating your business processes with an application, speak to the Zinc team. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
In the world of technology and development, there are two camps: Open Source & Closed Source. Closed source is development and coding that’s usually made behind closed doors, hidden from the outside to prohibit anybody else viewing or using the code for their own personal gain. Open source is code that’s publicly available for anybody to see, add to and learn from.
There are pros and cons for both types. The value of well-written code is, and should be, high. Traditionally companies made their money from selling software, so it made sense to hide what made them unique and keep those benefits for themselves. Nevertheless, open source technology has revolutionised the world of technology by making it a collaborative, accessible place.
In its infancy, the idea of open source wasn’t welcomed into the online world. Microsoft’s former CEO, Steve Ballmer, called Linux a ‘malignant cancer’ and suggested it infringed on the company’s intellectual property. Under new leadership, Microsoft is now the world’s biggest open source contributor and paid $7.5billion to acquire GitHub, one of the most popular places for open source resources, last year.
This U-turn is industry-wide. The programmes you might be using on a daily basis are open source. Linux alone is the power behind the backend of the internet, powerful supercomputers, your own mobile phone and AI applications. WordPress, another open source platform, runs millions of websites online. Firefox is the second most popular browser in the world.
The world of business is shifting. It’s no longer about protecting the assets that have been developed entirely in-house, but using the resources of millions of collaborators to create a product or platform that works in the best way possible.
Zinc have used open-source software as a part of our development for each one of our four proprietary systems; Admin247, Sygnal, Synapse and Synergy. Although we have a team of talented in-house developers, we recognised that limiting our options to a small team instead of learning and benefiting from the millions of online developers wasn’t a smart move. As a team who have built our organisation around the concepts of innovation, entrepreneurship and excellence in development, we knew that open source was the way to go.
Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source survey has shown that these ideas are quickly becoming the norm. Their study found that 99% of IT leaders thought that open source software was at least ‘somewhat important’ to their enterprise IT strategy. Whether they know it or not, the biggest names in tech are using open source in some way, shape, or form.
The true beauty in open source is the freedom it offers. As a business, the idea of being able to give our customers the functionality they need without dedicating hundreds of hours of development time is a win-win situation. We start with open-source, and use our developers to make sure it works in tandem with our existing systems and client needs.
If you’re interested in talking technology with a team that understands how to deliver a product that will work for you, get in touch with Zinc. We can’t wait to hear from you.
At Zinc, we work within an Agile development framework. This, in a nutshell, means that we work in an incremental approach on several different elements of a project simultaneously to ensure efficiency. There’s a lot more to Agile and the way it works, but one of the primary ways that we manage projects and people in this framework is through standups.
Agile has a few different ways of catching up with a team. It’s vital in the agile environment that everybody has an insight into the project; who is doing what, if there are any obstacles, and whether another team’s work will be impacting yours that day. Scrums and stand-ups are both ways to do this. A scrum is a meeting that must adhere to a set structure. It’s run by a scrum-master who ensures everybody observes the rules. It’s a 15 minute long time-boxed event where only the development team speak; it’s not time for the product owner or stakeholders to say their piece. A scrum is based on analysing the progression towards the sprint goal and identifying anything that would impede the project. It works to three questions:
What did I do yesterday that helped the development team meet the sprint goal?
What will I do today to help the development team meet the sprint goal?
Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the development team from meeting the sprint goal?
A stand-up is a very similar process to a scrum, but has some important differences that ensure it’s considered a different process. At Zinc, we’re working on several different agile projects at a time. In order to ensure that we can cover everything that we need, we chose to choose a stand-up instead of a scrum. A stand-up works in a similar way, but is less constrained by rules.
A stand-up still happens every day, and but allows every member of the team to say their piece. We choose to follow the three question format, but allow for longer than the 15 minute total time limit, and include other members of the team aside from the development team. That’s because here at Zinc, our developers work closely with Product and Project Managers, Engineers and Analysts. It’s important that everybody working on a product has the chance to understand its progress and discuss the impediments it could be facing.
Each member of the team will stand, go through each project they’re working on to align everybody with what’s happened in the last day, and the progress made. We work as closely as we can to the principles of communication, preemptive action and efficiency.
If you’re looking for a development team that work to an agile framework and ensure effective, efficient product development, speak to Zinc. We’d love to be a part of the next step for your business.
In this day and age, technology is becoming a part of business in a way that couldn’t have been predicted 25 years ago. Woven into our daily lives, technology has become the way we shop, the way we travel, and the way we communicate.
As a technology company, we know that businesses in every industry should be considering technology as a way to step up their offering. We’ve helped those in a range of industries, but in our work within the following sectors has shown us that there are untapped possibilities. For those working within these industries, it’s time to be amongst the first to take true advantage of the opportunities technology can bring.
The world of healthtech has been developing with velocity in recent years. We’ve worked with both the NHS and private healthcare providers on portals, but we’re excited to see the disruptive innovation emerging. The private sector especially is seeing smarter ways to talk to a doctor, get a prescription and manage your health with technology. Because of this, the NHS is falling behind. Although the report ‘Preparing The Healthcare Workforce To Deliver The Digital Future’ proclaims optimistic plans to embrace artificial intelligence, digital medicine and robotics, this needs to follow through. It follows a succession of reports from previous years that reiterate the importance of these emerging technologies in providing the best and most efficient care to service users. Where private healthcare accelerates, our public system needs the support and momentum to catch up.
In the world of local authorities, efficiency is key. With limited funds, any time saved or process streamlined is money saved. This is where technology can become an integral part of the way that local governments work. There are endless possibilities when it comes to automation, which can help with revenues and benefits. There have even been experiments with the Internet of Things, which can be a great tool in Housing Association properties to manage their maintenance and usage. In general, the level of data and analytics that could become available to local authorities using an innovative technology solution would quickly become one of the most vital insights available. This is just the beginning. With all this focus on internal communication, technology could also make the channel of communication between local authorities and those they truly work for – the public – far more open.
We’ve been working within security technology for years. Of all the industries, this is one that we’ve seen grow from strength to strength, and the one that we see so much potential for progress within. Every security organisation from the military to retail asset management deserves a system that protects and enables those working within it. This doesn’t mean losing the valuable ‘boots on the ground’ approach. It means equipping those workers with better tools for a more efficient way to work. There are still great strides that can be taken within the security industry regarding AI. The possibilities of facial recognition, threat detection, incident management and data analytics that this brings could revolutionise the sector.
The time and investment in emerging smart technologies in these industries would deliver a return on investment and contribute significantly to the progress of the sector. Digital transformation should be your future.
If you’re an industry leader looking to be the first to make an important step with your organisation, talk to the Zinc Digital technology team. We’d love to be a part of your revolution.
A Project Manager is one of the most integral parts of the Technology team here at Zinc. We’re often developing a number of platforms and portals at the same time, and our Project Manager is the person responsible for keeping everything on track. They’ll be the go-between for the clients and their development team, there from the initial meeting where we work out what you’re looking for from your product, writing up the technical specification and delivering it to the developers, and then monitoring the progress to keep things on schedule.
We asked one of our Project Managers to talk us through an average workday
I like to get up early to get a headstart on the day. I’ll get up and get ready for work, then I’ll quickly check my emails to make sure that nothing urgent has come in overnight. Because we work with offshore developers it’s not unusual to get updates or questions through in the night, so I like to make sure that everything is going smoothly.
By 9am, I’m in the office and the workday has officially started. I always start with my inbox, sorting through the emails that have accumulated overnight and sorting these into priority levels. If there is anything that needs working on with the development team, I’ll make sure to jump on these first before their workday ends.
On this day, there was a meeting for the whole of the Systems Team to discuss the progress we’ve been making on our system upgrades as well as some new policies and processes. We met with the Technology department and directors to look at the plans for our future and how we were achieving them.
Our team does a daily stand-up to go over our aims and priorities for the day. This helps us focus and evaluate priorities in a fast paced work environment. Following this, I sat down with another Project Manager who wanted to discuss a project with me. We reviewed what had already been completed, discussed the options moving forward and whether we could add further value to the product.
There’s a call at 11 with a new client, so I spent a few minutes ahead of time to prepare for the call. I looked over the emails we’ve exchanged to date and realigned myself with what they’re looking for. When they call, I demonstrated our Synapse platform for them and talked through their requirements from us so that I can pass this on to our Technical Architects.
A key client needs an additional development on an existing project, so I meet with Paul (COO) to work out how we can work it into their project taking into account timelines, the impact on other projects, contractor options and stakeholder management.
I meet with one of our Product Engineers to discuss the roadmap for our Synapse product.
Time for a quick lunch break before my call with our Development team later!
Each Friday I have a weekly retrospective with the Developers to review the progress made and confirm the plans for the next sprint. This is before the offshore office closes at 15:00 UK Time.
We’ve launched a new live guarding feature to one of our clients, so I spend some time creating acceptance criteria in Gherkin language. This is a list of actions and outcomes that the client is looking for so that when developers receive their specification, they know exactly what’s required. This ensures that when the product gets to the testing stage, we’ll know what the intended requirements are. Gherkin is a way of writing that provides a structured document that works alongside our reporting software to keep everything in one place.
I take a trip to a nearby client to see how they’re getting on with their platform and review the engagement that they’ve had on it over the last month.
Once I’m back from my client visit, I’ll revisit my email list from earlier and send some answers to clients who have been in touch through the day.
Each Friday I get the Project Team together to discuss the key projects and goals for the upcoming week. This enables me to forsee any scheduling issues or client conversations I need to have, as well as making sure my team have all the resources they need to get everything done.
There’s a new prospect in the pipeline, so I have a phone call with them and create an initial proposal document for them with a suggested product based on their needs. This will be sent over to them to approve or discuss with me next week.
I finish preparing for Monday’s tasks, send my final emails to clients and set off for home! If it’s a Friday, the Team might be over at the pub so I’ll be able to join them!
Our Projects and Products team work long and hard to make sure that the solutions that Zinc produce are high quality. If you’d like a chat with the team, get in touch here!
As IBM Chairman Thomas John Watson Jr said, ‘good design is good business’. At Zinc, we’re firm believers in this philosophy. The design of your brand, site and communications are a reflection of your company as a whole, sending a message to potential customers whether you like it or not. Whether that message is positive or negative often comes down to good design.
There are a lot of ‘golden rules’ when it comes to design. With creativity there’s no right or wrong, but at Zinc we work to our own version of best practice. For us, that means:
Familiarity is your friend on a site. A patchwork site with lots of different colours, fonts, flows and styles will confuse visitors. In terms of design and User Experience, make it clear and clean. Use the same icons, a consistent colour scheme, and make sure that the way things work from page to page are similar. There are some design conventions – a logo in the top left, social media in the header or footer, a search bar at the top right – that should always be stuck to on sites – the same goes for application design. Keep things where they’re expected to be so that nobody is frustrated by looking for what they need, and can focus on your service.
We’re not talking Live Chat. When a customer is on the site, it’s a good idea to keep them up to date with what’s happening around them – it’s just good design. Progress bars on long forms, highlights on things they could have missed and thank you pages where they’re needed is all a way to keep your site visitor from being annoyed and lost onsite. When it comes to functionality, make sure that it’s clear what is required at all times.
Space and layout
White space is every designer’s favourite thing. Space can be used in a lot of different ways; to display imagery, to focus or direct attention, and to guide a user to interact in a certain way. At its simplest, it gives the elements on the page room to breathe. Don’t crowd the important bits with unnecessary information and be sure to balance your elements consistently.
Images bring a lot to your site. They bring explanation, action, realism and personality as well as design benefits. Nevertheless, it’s got to be done right. Make sure to use high quality images that look good on any screen size. It’s also best to choose images that are human-focused and natural – they’re far more engaging than a cold stock image. For devices, images need to make the most of the small space they have available.
The stories that can be told with colour are endless. Through a change in shade, your brand can come across corporate, relaxed, emotive or creative. It’s not just about whether the colour is nice – it’s about whether it reflects your identity, ties in with your logo, complements the rest of the site and does the job you need it to do. Choose it carefully and use it well.
Talk to our design team today to talk about a beautiful new design for your website.
Developing an app is a path that many businesses are going down in today’s modern age. It brings with it some incredible opportunities to engage your user base, improve their experience with you and expand your offering. Nevertheless, it can be a time-consuming process. You need to make sure that the app you create is planned to be as effective as possible, from design to implementation.
There are two major players in the world of app development: Android and iOS. There isn’t a simple answer to the question – there are a lot of factors that will come into the decision.
Your target market needs to be one of the first solid pieces of research you do in preparation for your app. You need to make sure the right people can find your app if they need it. Location should be your first consideration. Android is the most used OS in the world, but the concentrations of users are in Asia, Africa and South America. If you’re looking for the most used OS in the UK or US, it’s iOS. Therefore, you need to be considering if you want that worldwide appeal or a local approach. Additionally, if a tablet app is part of your strategy, you should be thinking strongly about iOS. Apple’s domination of the tablet market should be enough to know that this is the best place to build a successful app designed for tablets.
Though you might think that an app platform would have the same features for developers, there are some small but important differences that are important to consider. Android offers more developmental freedom, with free reign to the internal workings of the OS that allows you to apply more creativity to the end product. iOS only allows access to a certain amount of features, so advanced functionality can be difficult.
In development, you need to be aware of when the platform releases an updated version. You’ll need to think about compatibility and how many people will be able to use the app you’re developing on their phone There are many outdated versions of Android still in use, with a surprisingly low percentage of people who are using an up-to-date OS. This could mean that more than 65% of worldwide users wouldn’t be able to use an app developed for the most recent version. Alternatively, Apple tends to be scheduled and strict about the version that their devices are on. There’s an almost mandatory update prompt that ensures that the vast majority of iPhone users are on the latest version, allowing you to focus on catering for the newer versions instead of worrying about an abandoned user base.
It’s not unusual to simply say ‘why not both’ when presented with this question. If you’re hoping for a wide reach and budget isn’t an issue, this is certainly an option. Nevertheless, for most projects, it’s a good idea to launch in the place your audience are first, and then consider expanding if you see a market on the other platform. Otherwise you’re likely to waste time and money on a platform that won’t work for you.
You should be carefully considering all of the above when making your decision. An app needs to be available where your audience is looking for it if there is any hope of success – nobody is getting a new phone purely to download an app they’ll find useful. They’ll simply search for your competitor.
Zinc have completed app development apps for both Android and iOS for clients who have faced this decision. With the expertise of our team and your own understanding of your market, the decision often becomes very clear. If you’re interested in learning more, talk to our tech team today.
The world of Technology and Projects can be a confusing one. Our process takes a whole team, all with different technical specialisms that speak a different language.
For our clients, we like to make sure you know what’s going on with your project. That’s why our team is in consistent contact with you, keeping you updated with where the development is and what’s coming next.
Agile is a development methodology that we make use of here at Zinc. It enables us to break the project into phases which are completed step-by-step and allow for a flexible project. It helps keep our products to a timeline of fast delivery and ongoing releases.
Development is the building blocks of every technical project. It’s the part of the project when our team are working with coders to create every part of the end product. It’s the most lengthy part of a project, because every part is being built and tailored to you.
Our project team plan out the entirety of your project using a Gantt Chart. It’s a way to lay out planned actions and the week they’re scheduled to be able to view at a glance the timeline that’s expected; when things will be done and ready for release.
The live environment is the product that is launched and in use. Whenever you use your product, you’re using it in a live environment.
The Pilot or Dev environment is a place to test out new functionality or developments without the risk of causing issues to a live product. It is where we can safely make sure that any bugs are ironed out and that our QA and UAT processes are complete before launch.
A phase is a part of Agile development. They are used to split a large project into different areas that are easier to manage and deliver, or to plan future developments in the product.
In order to send something to development, our projects team need to write a technical specification. This is a document that lays out exactly what’s required and how it should be built to make it work the way you need it to.
QA stands for Quality Assurance. It’s our internal testing process in which our Testing team go through the app with a fine tooth comb to make sure that every button and page is doing what it should.
Scope is what our team believe as being deliverable during the project timeline or phase. If a new feature is in-scope, it can be delivered in the current phase. If not, then we’d suggest adding a new phase of development.
UAT is User Acceptance Testing. This is a second stage of testing, although can often happen alongside QA. It’s when we send the product to a specific group of people for a small launch, in order to make sure it’s not only functional but fit for purpose.
Another development methodology, Waterfall doesn’t use phases. Instead, a full product is completed before any launch. This is used for smaller projects, or products that need to have every functionality completed ahead of launch.
Technology makes our world go around today. We use it to get around, to stay connected, to entertain ourselves and to earn our salaries – yet we don’t realise the innovation and advances that have taken place in the last twenty years that have provided this to us.
At Zinc, to say we love technology is an understatement. Our Tech team can talk development for hours and argue about the best way to evolve a product but the thing we love most is the inspiration and innovation that has gone into the technology we see every day. It’s what keeps us at the top of our game when we plan, develop and launch our technology projects.
The household names we use each day are stories of determination and innovative thinking that everybody in Tech should all know and learn from.
Arguably the biggest streaming service in the world, Netflix has had an immeasurable impact on the world. There’s the obvious: the fact that millions no longer sit down in front of live television every evening, and then there’s the ripples of mainstream TV networks who have been forced to step up their game to compete, creating a golden age of TV. The key to this success was their dedication to disruption and innovation. From launch, Netflix created themselves a value that nobody else was meeting by replacing VCRs before anybody else had realised there was a better solution in DVDs. Most importantly, however, they put their website at the centre of the entire idea before streaming was even a concept. By creating a seamless, personalised site that was a key part of the process, the move to an entirely online solution was easy for customers. It enabled Netflix to become the first to do online streaming well, with users in mind.
In 1995, Amazon was a bookseller. It did one thing, and it did it well – a focus on service and speed. Then, in the next twenty years it has become one of the only names to know in ecommerce, selling everything from the books it laid its foundation on to food, cosmetics and clothes. So, how did they do it? Diversification. Amazon is always on the pulse of what’s about to be important, and isn’t afraid to try and fail. Its own music offering, Amazon MP3, was replaced with Amazon Music Services before it had the chance to become obsolete, the fire phone was launched and scrapped within a year and a half. With constant introspection, analysis and testing, Amazon has been able to drive continuous reach and relevance. With endless new markets and options, they’re likely to be a staple of the ecommerce world and more for years to come.
Some would say that Tesla are innovative because they brought electric cars to the automotive industry. This isn’t the case. Electric cars were already on the market before Tesla existed, but they were a shadow of the product that they are today. They couldn’t exceed 50 miles or 40mph on their less-than-powerful batteries, they took hours to charge, and, of almost equal important, they looked ugly. All in all, electric cars weren’t getting the investment from manufacturers because they didn’t want them to become a desirable option. Tesla took a product that was treated like a compromise and made it not only desirable, but aspirational. This was through significant investment in the technology, addressing the pain points of the users and exceeding the expectations they had. Add in the personality that the company displays, the moral high ground that it occupies as an eco-friendly alternative, and a sleek design – you have an innovative take on a product that nobody wanted twenty years ago.
As a company with an extensive technology department, Zinc Digital have designed, developed and launched a number of apps, portals and websites that included a substantial amount of bespoke functionality. As part of this, we perform extensive testing to ensure everything works the way it’s designed to.
One of the most important forms of testing is UAT (User Acceptance Testing). UAT is the practice of testing the product as an end user, not as a developer. It’s not unusual for individual features and functions to have their own testing, but there can be issues associated with integrating the new piece of software that aren’t immediately apparent. This is where UAT needs to come in.
UAT is the practice of testing the product as an end user, not as a developer. It’s not unusual for individual features and functions to have their own testing, but there can be issues associated with integrating the new piece of software that aren’t immediately apparent. This is where UAT needs to come in. It’s no longer all about functions – it’s about the experience as a whole. Not only are your testers ensuring that everything works the way it should, but they’re making sure that your future users will be able to open the app, take any route and still be able to achieve the intended outcome of the app.
This is an integral part of app development that often gets overlooked or rushed. Without UAT, developers are delivering an app that can’t survive in the real world as it hasn’t ever been tested the way it would be after launch.
If you deliver your app without proper testing, your user base immediately becomes your UAT team. This is a quick way to a very public testing period in which your bugs and UX are picked apart in a public setting. Before long, you have a reputation for a difficult to use app, even if it’s a small part of the functionality that’s causing an issue.
Ideally, your UAT tester won’t have had much interaction with the product. By employing the services of a good UA Tester, you’ll not only be able to find bugs and functionality issues, but make sure that the product you’ve created fits the brief before launch, saving the time and resource you might need in the future to correct any issues. The result is a happier client, a happier end user, and a lift of pressure on your team who will no longer have to perform live fixes with feedback from dissatisfied clients.
The benefits of UAT significantly outweigh the investments. It has been found to save almost 30% of the total project time when the time taken is accounted for, improving your ROI and most importantly, your end product.
Good UAT is a combination of both software performance and human behaviour analysis. It’s ensuring that your technology is able to interact with your intended audience in a realistic way. With good quality software, your user base will naturally grow alongside your reputation. In the end, everybody wins.
Zinc is proud to be amongst the first to have our software platforms available on the new G-Cloud 10 Framework. We have a long history of providing government bodies, local authorities, the NHS and public sector organisations with the leading technology solutions and supported by a high quality service, which is paramount for their service delivery.
G-Cloud is a government initiative, incorporating hosting, software and support providers in a place where trusted suppliers can be compared and reviewed. The providers using the G-Cloud framework must fulfil a series of strict criteria in order to be awarded accreditation. This is a comprehensive set of standards that ensure the quality of the service provided remains high. They must comply with the G-Cloud 10 terms and conditions, the government technology code of practice and the digital-by-default service standard, as well as ensuring that they retain a high level of security and an affordable price point that enables public bodies to use it.
Since its initial launch in 2012, G-Cloud has undertaken regular relaunches. Each supplier must re-apply in order to continue to offer their services on the G-Cloud platform, ensuring that there is a consistently updated database of high-quality suppliers able to offer flexible solutions, ensuring that Government organisations get the best platform for them.
Zinc provides two services to G-Cloud 10 – our enterprise-level Content Management platform, Admin247, and our flagship product, Synapse, our actionable insight platform for incident reporting, intelligence gathering and communications. These products have been supporting government bodies and major UK brands with tailored functionality for years, and we’re delighted to have been awarded the accreditation once again.
Being one of the few organisations included on the G-Cloud 10 Framework highlights Zinc as an organisation trusted by government and public bodies, as well as the the thousands of users that use it on a daily basis.
As a company that not only designs and builds websites, apps and portals for businesses, but has also developed our own flagship project in the form of Synapse, Technology is an integral part of everything we do here at Zinc Digital.
We’ve been a part of some incredible digital transformations, helping bring companies into the technological age. We’re often a part of the process right from the beginning, when a company has nothing more than a concept. We answer questions and offer support at every stage to help our client achieve the best possible product for them.
There’s one golden rule when it comes to technology. Often, our meetings begin with the question: ‘what are you hoping to achieve with this development’. The answers tend to be insular: better marketing possibilities, a way to gain customer insights, a way to showcase and sell products more efficiently. These are all great benefits of technology development, but they’ve got one problem.
It’s a shocking thing to hear at times. Nevertheless, it’s something that can truly revolutionise a product from being all about the business to being all about the consumer – and that’s what creates something successful. Some say it’s obvious, but time and time again there are businesses who release apps that are made to benefit them, when their focus should be elsewhere.
The best developers in the world and the most efficient project plan won’t help if your product isn’t considering the end user at every point. There’s no gain in your business spending time and money developing a system that won’t solve a point of pain. Therefore, instead of focusing on whether you can develop something to outdo a competitor or become the first business to take an innovative step, create something that will make an impact to the people who will make or break the product. Happy customers tell their friends, their social networks and use the product regularly enough that you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits you were originally hoping for, whilst creating something that will bring you more return every time.
The best technology benefits everybody, from the creator to the user. Why not come to Zinc with your ideas, and we’ll help you build them into something incredible.
In business, innovation is the name of the game. Being the hundredth person to become part of something doesn’t make the same impact as being amongst the first. That’s why we love being a part of the technical transformation – working with companies to create something that will help them be a part of the future.
In almost every business, there is room for technical innovation. There are processes and functions that could be digitised in a way that would revolutionise the way that you work. In many cases, this can come in the form of an app.
Developing an app allows you to be a part of the most important change in the technology industry at the minute: the Internet of Things. Technology is becoming increasingly mobile, and your business could be developing alongside it.
There are a lot of reasons to begin developing an app – could this be yours?
As a business, your primary objective should be to provide your customers with what they need. Providing a service of value is the best way to ensure loyal, happy customers who always come back to you. An app adds value through ease of use, digitising a process such as collecting loyalty points, ordering products, or sending information. The result is happy customers, more downloads and more conversions. Internally, value can be added alongside the speed and efficiency that apps offer.
The modern user has a short attention span, so the more visible you can be to them, the better. An app allows you to be always accessible, in the event that a user needs to use your services. What’s more, a presence on their mobile device will make you a familiar name to your audience, ensuring that you’ll be a recognisable and trusted name to them. There are 2.53 billion smartphone users in the world – why aren’t you making sure that your business is operating where they are.
With an app that’s built well and targeted accurately, you can make an enormous improvement on the engagement your business has. By being on a device, you’re already in a more social position. Mobile apps offer a more confirmed lead, as your user has already had to download the app itself. Following that, they’re more likely to take the actions you’re hoping for, as the layout of a mobile app enables you to drive targeted action far more effectively. If this is social sharing, the ability to swap quickly to a social network such as Facebook or Instagram will help you get a far better return than traditional desktop sites.
The digital age has brought something truly valuable to companies: the ability to connect with your customers in a way that wasn’t possible before. With an app developed to your specifications, you’ll be able to gain the insights you need – how it’s being used, what’s being underused, the regions it’s doing well in. All of this can be collected and used to fuel your future decisions.
The world is mobile – so why isn’t your business? Talk to our technology team today about your needs and we’ll be happy to help.
GDPR is the new standard in Data Protection. When it comes into effect on 25th May 2018, every business in the EU will need to comply with a new set of guidelines that control and protect the data that’s used and collected on a daily basis.
One of the most important obligations you have as an organisation is the requirement to gain consent from your users. The critical words that have been added to this obligation are ‘unambiguous’ and ‘affirmative’ – this means that it is no longer acceptable for inaction or automation to be counted as consent. Your users need to actively opt in, with the ability to see exactly what they are agreeing to and how they can retract their consent if they change their mind.
This is one of the many rights of the individual that have been clarified and expanded to offer a higher level of protection under GDPR. Each addition gives your users the ability to control their data in a new way, which in turn gives you and your business an obligation to comply with this.
Beforehand, individuals could request access to their information but it was often made difficult by organisations. Now, it must be provided for free and in a commonly used formats. What’s more, if the request has been raised online, the data you provide must also be given in a digital format.
If you have collected inaccurate or missing data regarding a user, that individual has the right to have it corrected or completed. This is especially necessary if the data is misleading in any way. You may receive a request for rectification verbally or in writing, and must offer a response. If you believe the information is not inaccurate, you can refuse to rectify. Include evidence and point them towards the ICO if they would like to escalate the issue.
Often also referred to as the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’, this is not a new concept in Data Protection. Nevertheless, with GDPR the rules regarding this course of action have developed to make things easier on the user. Individuals can request complete erasure of the data that you hold on them in the event that it is no longer necessary for the original purpose, or if they want to retract consent. You are permitted to refuse a request for erasure in certain, very special, circumstances. This could be if you are complying with a legal obligation, operating as an official authority or in the public interest.
In some cases, there will be a legitimate need to retain the data you are collecting. In these cases, a user will have their requests for erasure rejected, but as an organisation you may still need to change the way you handle their data. This is restricted processing, in which you are permitted to store the data that you have, but not use it.
With this right, your users have the capability to transfer the data you hold to another IT environment, such as another provider of your service.
Individuals have the right to object to their data being processed for the purposes of scientific or historical research, for direct marketing, and by an official authority.
Zinc is a digital agency that offers support and services while implementing a gap analysis or internal review. We cannot advise on your individual needs, and do not accept responsibility for any non-compliance
To talk about how we can help action the points raised in a gap analysis or internal review, call us today.
Every business within the EU needs to be preparing for the new GDPR. The 25th May 2018 deadline is nearing, and from that day your business is at risk of substantial consequences if it is found to be non-compliant.
If you’re researching GDPR, it’s likely that you’re already aware of many of the obligations that your company has. Nevertheless, to begin with your company will need to undergo a gap analysis that can tell you where you need to improve.
Alongside your gap analysis, there are a few things that almost every business uses in their day-to-day running that could cause problems with compliance with GDPR.
Check What’s Being Collected – make sure that the data that you are collecting isn’t personally identifiable by the GDPR’s regulations. This means that analytics shouldn’t be collecting usernames in your page URLs, phone numbers in form completions or email addresses.
Turn on IP Anonymisation – the GDPR considers an IP address as Personally Identifiable Information. Therefore, you should make sure to protect this by turning on IP address anonymisation. We will be implementing this as standard for any clients who we set up Google Analytics for. If youd like any help with this, please get in touch with our support team.
Almost every website has a form for customers to use to get in touch. Previously, entering your details into a form like this would likely sign you up to a mailing list and potentially even lead to your details being passed along. Now, your forms need to be transparent regarding the data they are collecting.
Consent – Affirmative consent is one of the most important new additions to the regulations. Your forms need to have a checkbox in which the user agrees to their data being stored, and to being contacted as a result of the form. You’ll need to be clear about why you’re collecting the data, and what you’ll be doing with it.
An SSL Certificate is already an important addition to any site that handles data, but with the new GDPR obligations it is now vital. Although it’s not required to be fully compliant, an SSL will encrypt any data that your site transmits to ensure that it cannot be intercepted. In the event of an audit, having an SSL will show that you are making every effort to protect your users.
When purchasing an SSL, you need to be aware of the difference between the low-cost and premium SSL certificates. There are number of providers online that offer SSLs at a reduced price. The majority of SSL certificates use the same SHA-2 and 2018-bit encryption; the main difference between these SSLs and the ones provided by premium organisations such as Zinc is the level of warranty available. In the event that your end user loses money as a result of an SSL failure, your provider will reimburse them. Low-cost SSL providers offer a far smaller warranty, putting your company in the position that they may have to compensate a user for their losses in this instance. Zinc Digital offer Thawte SSL Certificates that offer a minimum warranty of $500,000.
The information needs to be updated to provide the facts about:
This information should all be known to you through your standard GDPR preparations, and could even help you to discover gaps in your strategy that could lead to sanctions in an audit.
Zinc Digital are undergoing a Gap Analysis to highlight the improvements we should be making on our protection regulations. We advise that all organisations take this step as their first point of action. We can then assist you in implementing the changes you will need to make as a result of this.
We can help your business with:
Call us today to discuss your gap analysis and begin your journey to GDPR compliance.
IoT, better known as the Internet of Things, is something that’s a part of your daily life – whether you know it or not. If you use your TV to stream shows, your phone to control your thermostat, or your fitness tracker to tell you how active you are, you’re using the internet of things.
Put simply, the Internet of Things is the inclusion of connectivity into a device that wouldn’t ordinarily have any intelligence. It’s more than wifi capability – the true potential lies with sensors. Rolls Royce engines use a sensor to send information about how they’re operating, enabling engineers to know when a problem is developing before it becomes an issue. John Deere collects data on the time, methods, and locations of crop harvests to better understand the way that farmers work. These businesses have taken the concept of IoT and turned it into a way to set their organisation apart from others.
IoT in the workplace isn’t just about having a connected workforce – it’s about incorporating emerging technologies into your business to keep your organisation at the forefront of its industry.
Many of the benefits to your business that IoT brings can be simply summarised into one phrase: ‘it will work far more efficiently’. If you use or make equipment, there’s potential to reduce maintenance costs, avoid unexpected failures, and (). If you sell products, you’ll be able to manage inventory, Your staff will be more connected and more efficient. All in all, your business will have the ability to work more productively, for less cost.
With the power of the internet behind you, you could have a direct connection to your product. You’ll be able to see exactly how it’s being used, which functionalities it’s lacking, and engage with your customers constantly. This is how companies develop products that fit their target market’s needs, whether that’s smart TVs with the most in-demand services or healthcare providers that can help monitor symptoms.
The data that you could gain from this understanding should inform the decisions you make going forward. There’s clear, statistical information regarding staff requirements, machine efficiency and potential opportunities that can help you keep your organisation profitable, productive, and developing. It’s the level of insight that most businesses can only dream of.
When it comes to the Internet of Things, you aren’t limited to what you think is possible, or even needed. It’s time to think bigger. Adding intelligence to the items you use on a daily basis could revolutionise the way you work, and transform your company into an entirely new way of working. The data you collect could become a catalyst for a shift in the way you do business, or be valuable to an audience you never anticipated.
The Internet of Things brings with it an entirely new way to look at your organisation. The world around us is growing smarter, and it’s the companies that are ahead of the curve that truly thrive in this environment.
Zinc Digital are, first and foremost, innovators. We work with organisations and authorities across the country to bring technology solutions that will bring your business into the age of smart working. Get in touch and tell us about your business today.
25th May 2018 is a date that needs to be in the calendar of every business, large and small, in the UK and EU. This is when the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into effect. After this date, companies that aren’t complying with the new regulations could be subject to significant sanctions. For a full overview of GDPR and what it might mean for you, please see our Understanding GDPR page.
The new requirements are complex, but they have one overarching goal: to improve the way that data is handled by corporations by protecting individuals. Part of this protection is adding clarity to the definitions of ‘personal data’ and ‘sensitive personal data’. As a business owner, you need to be aware of the new definitions, and what they mean to the way that you will be handling data.
Under the regulations, personal data is protected. Within personal data is a subcategory of sensitive personal data which must have further measures applied in order to comply.
According to the ICO, Personal Data is ‘any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified in particular by reference to an identifier’. Put simply, this is any information which could potentially lead to an individual being found, either physically or digitally. This could be:
However it also includes indirect identifiers such as:
The ICO defines Sensitive Personal Data as a ‘special categories of personal data’. This is the data that could not only lead to identification, but deals with data that is of a discrete nature or could potentially place the individual in a compromising situation.
One you understand the nature of the data that you or your business handles, you’ll need to know your responsibilities regarding it. This depends on whether you are a controller or processor.
To determine if you’re a controller or processor, you’ll need to answer two questions:
If you’ve answered yes to these, you’re a controller. This means that you’re responsible for implementing the measures that will protect the data you’re in control of. On the other hand, a processor is a business or entity that collects or processes data on behalf of others, without control over it.
For example, a doctor’s surgery or bank would be a controller as they collect the data for their own reasons, but a payroll company or a Digital Agency such as Zinc is a processor as they are acting on behalf of another.
Once you know what your business is classified as, you’ll be able to understand your obligations and get a gap analysis. Zinc Digital cannot offer advice regarding your GDPR compliance, but we can help you implement the suggestions recommended in a third party or internal gap analysis.
To discuss your gap analysis, get in touch with us today.
Zinc Digital has spent years working within the Healthcare industry, providing websites, secure portals, service apps and staff intranets to organisations across the country. We pride ourselves on offering the most innovative solutions available – and that’s why we’re amongst the first in the country to move everything into the new Health & Social Care Network (HSCN).
HSCN, or the Health and Social Care Network, was implemented to replace the N3 system. It’s solves some of the issues that were associated with the previous offering, which was becoming outdated and inflexible.
With the new HSCN, the possibilities in terms of healthcare technologies are endless. There is now the capability for a range of connectivity solutions, including mobile connectivity. The difference that this will make to clinicians will be significant. At the moment, service providers who work in the community must wait until they can access the network to share data. This can lead to delays in updating important patient care information, which in turn can slow down response times and action.
Communication between organisations will also be greatly improved. The HSCN will connect doctors, pharmacists, and social care workers to the same system, without the restrictive services previously imposed by the N3. Whereas the N3 Network was a single supplier network, the HSCN is a set of connectivity, service management and security requirements.
In order to offer this to our clients, Zinc has complied with the guidelines set out by the HSCN to become a provider of platforms hosted securely through Carelink’s cloud infrastructure, which has which has direct connectivity into both HSCN and the Internet, in order to protect service users and staff.
The Healthcare industry is one that has specific needs and requirements. Zinc Digital have over 14 years of experience meeting and surpassing these requirements to offer our clients only the best. To discuss your healthcare business requirements, or to talk about a new project, get in touch with us today.
In the digital age, data is king. Every business runs on the data it uses; when making business decisions, advertising to their users or developing new technologies. Until recently, the data laws that protected the general public were from 1998 – a time before data giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon were collecting the wealth of information on their users on a daily basis.
The EU recognised the need to bring in a new set of regulations to replace the Data Protection Directive (1998) that would recognise the way that data was being used in the modern day, and rectify the problems arising from its misuse. An example is the recent Cambridge Analytica story in which the information from millions of Facebook profiles was gathered and used to interfere with major political events such as the 2016 US Election and the EU Referendum. By implementing these laws, the EU hopes to not only protect the general public from the misuse of their data, but to have a clear set of consistent guidelines for every organisation or individual within the EU.
It’s for this reason that on 25th May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into force across Europe. It will build on the data protection framework already put in place by the Data Protection Directive, adjusting some of the existing regulations, adding a considerable amount of new requirements for organisations and defining new rights for the individual.
GDPR is a complex set of regulations with many facets, but there are some key aspects that every business should know:
The data your business collects should be only collected with the express, unambiguous consent of the party. Inaction, assumed consent, or pre-ticked boxes will no longer count as consent.
Whenever possible, your firm should appoint a Data Protection Officer to manage and monitor your data governance. In some cases, this is mandatory; if you’re a public authority, regularly monitor individuals as a company or frequently process sensitive data such as criminal convictions or information regarding health, religious belief or sexual orientation. For other organisations, it’s not a compulsory part of compliance, but remains a prudent decision.
New systems should be designed with data protection in mind, and conduct a data protection impact assessment to ascertain if action should be taken. This can be performed internally or through a third party company. Zinc Digital do not offer an analysis service, but can assist with the implementation of necessary actions following your assessment.
Data that will be transferred out of the EU must still be given an appropriate level of protection – this includes personal data transferred under the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement.
Every organisation should know what personal data they handle, and the related data flow.
Your users now have rights that you should be aware of; the right to be forgotten, the right to data portability, the right to erasure and recitication. They also have the right to request the reasoning behind your data collection, as well as any automated decisions. For more information on Data Subject Rights,
If you process any data, which the majority of businesses do, you need a legal basis for this. There are six legal reasons for this
Your company must have sufficient data security controls to protect data. It’s a requirement to report a breach to the ICO or relevant authority within 72 hours, and to the data subject if the breach puts them at risk of having their rights or freedoms compromised.
The principles of the GDPR must be upheld; organisations must ensure that data subjects have control over the protection of their data through transparency, lawfulness, purpose and confidentiality.
The new obligations that will be asked of organisations apply to every business, no matter the size. Previously, small companies were at a lower risk of consequences. Now that the rules are standardised, the ramifications of breaching the GDPR are also standard. Businesses could be subject to a fine of up to 4% of their global annual turnover, or £20,000,000 – whichever is larger. The financial impact of infringing the GDPR could be devastating to a small business. Companies have a responsibility not only to comply with these regulations, but to demonstrate this compliance by documenting their policies and procedures. As standard, your business should be preparing itself to present evidence of compliance in the event of an audit.
For consumers, there are equally important things to consider. Every internet user will have new and comprehensive rights that will change the way the sites they visit interact with them.
The right to be informed – as a user, an organisation must be honest with you about how your data is being used. The information must be concise, simple and free to access, and easily understandable.
The right of access – individuals can receive confirmation that their data is being processed as well as access to the personal data
The right to rectification – if the personal data is inaccurate, users have the right to request that it is corrected both in the organisation’s records, and those of any third parties that the data has been shared with.
The right to erasure – an individual can have their personal or sensitive data erased in the event that they retract consent, or if is is no longer necessary for the original purpose.
The right to restrict processing – In some circumstances, such as a legal requirement to retain data or an objection denied for legitimate interests, organisations must instead restrict processing.
The right to data portability – Users can gain access to and reuse their personal data as they wish, including moving, copying or transferring the data to another environment. This must be provided securely, and in a usable format.
The right to object – individuals can object to their data being processed for scientific or historical research, for direct marketing, and by an official authority.
Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling – in the event that an automation leads a significant effect on the user, the individual has the right to object to the action, gain human assistance and gain an explanation for the decision.
Zinc Digital is a digital agency that is working with organisations to help achieve GDPR compliance. Whilst we won’t advise you on your own specific GDPR requirements, we can assist you in implementing the actions advised in a third party or internal gap analysis.
Agile is an approach to project management that challenges the traditional ‘Waterfall’ Method of development.
With Waterfall, the stages of design are followed sequentially. Each stage must be complete before moving onto the next stage. This means that any changes in the brief will require the entire project to return to the first stages of project management for specification and planning before any action can be taken. This takes time, wastes resources, and can result in a project that doesn’t deliver the client’s needs.
Agile offers something slightly different. The vital stages of project management are still followed, but are broken into smaller sub-projects. Each stage of the project follows the same process, but on a smaller scale which allows for a more focused workforce and a more flexible way of working.
In the technology industry, speed is everything. Innovation is a race, and the most efficient developers invariably win. Agile Development allows you to release each stage of development as soon as it’s ready, with newer functionalities added at a later date. This enables your project to be the first on the market, at the forefront of innovation instead of becoming one of many.
The technological landscape of 2018 is incredibly fast moving. A novel idea at the beginning of a project might be obsolete by the end, so it’s important to have the flexibility provided by Agile to account for changes. With Waterfall, last minute changes will cause expensive delays. The Agile Methodology allows for adaptation without the need to send the entire project back to the first stages of development/
Agile Methodology requires consistent communication with the client. Your project manager will receive feedback from the client frequently, which enables you to create a product that you know fits their brief and their needs.
Not every customer has a firm idea of what they want or need at the time they create their brief. The product they want at the early stages may not incorporate emerging technologies or the new ideas that have arisen in the time it takes to develop it. With the flexibility of Agile comes the assurance that the end product will still be fit for purpose, at a preferable time frame.
The Agile methodology has begun to exceed project management. It’s becoming a part of company culture in which speed, flexibility and communication are key.
Put simply, Agile methodology enables our company to deliver a product that suits our client’s needs implicitly. This could be to a time frame, functionality requirement, or a changing brief.
To discuss your technology needs, contact Zinc Digital today.
2017 was a great year for the world of technology – we’ve seen some incredible advancements across many industries. At Zinc, we believe that the best way to be able to predict the future is to be a part of the innovation. It’s been an eventful year for us here – here are some of the things we’ve learned.
Siri or Cortana has been a part of our lives for years, but in the last twelve months there have been more sales of virtual assistants than ever before. With the Amazon Echo and Alexa leading the market, 2018 is already set to be a year of incredible advancement in this area. Designs will begin to incorporate AI as standard, humanising the machinery around us.
When it comes to businesses, these virtual assistants are already making themselves invaluable. Consumers will begin to expect the same level of intelligence from businesses as they can access at home. Financial services already use virtual assistants to offer wealth management advice, with Gartner predicting that these chatbots will handle 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020. For technology-based products or services, customer support, configurations, and the management of millions of systems could all become an entirely virtual area.
It’s not just our phones that are smart now; everything from our watches to our refrigerators can connect to the internet. Businesses now have the opportunity to monitor their products in an entirely different way. Devices can report on their own environment, such as temperature, usage, and location, providing vital data.
With this information, productivity can be increased whilst cutting costs substantially. Shelves can re-order stock when they’re running low, windows know when they need cleaning, and machines can self-diagnose issues, which leaves your employees to focus on more important tasks. 2018 will surely see our daily lives connecting in increasingly innovative ways.
For as long as the internet has been a part of daily life, our every interaction has contributed to the wealth of data that’s collated about how we use the net. By 2018, it’s no longer news that this data is incredibly valuable.
Collecting information will only become a higher priority, and will be used to fuel innovation. It’s now possible to collect data through AI on how we search and what users need in order to to predict their future wants. The possibilities on the horizon regarding predictive algorithms and machine learning are incredibly exciting.
Nevertheless, the way we use data in 2018 is going to change. The oncoming regulation change, GDPR, is going to force businesses across Europe to adapt and alter everything they do with the data they collect.
Blockchain gained its renown as the system supporting Bitcoin. It is, at its core, an electronic ledger that efficiently shares information between both open and private networks. Every action is documented in an unchangeable record that is linked to a specific participant. Updates are by consensus of all participants, and cannot be erased, making a secure chain of information. This technology can be used for financial transactions, but can be adapted to transfer any digital data securely.
Currently, Blockchain makes it essentially impossible to forge a transaction or scam a customer. It’s the most secure way to send information today. It is for this reason that it’s already becoming a staple in the FinTech world – MasterCard is launching a service to increase the speed of international transactions, and JP Morgan uses one the largest blockchain payment networks to date.
Blockchain offers an opportunity to businesses in all industries. Everything from FinTech to healthcare, to local authorities, could benefit from this development.
As a company, we’re already in some exciting discussions that are on the forefront of some of 2018’s newest developments. We can’t wait to see what’s in store this year.
For innovative technology ideas that could transform your company, from apps to AI, get in touch with us today.
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