Even though automated teller machines (ATMs) have been around for decades and offer an expanding set of financial services, many bank customers prefer to stand in a teller line and talk to a person. While that preference is understandable, it represents a big problem for Diebold customers in the finance industry that are eager to shrink branch size and costs.
“All of our customers are engaged in branch transformation projects aimed at transforming their branch networks to be more cost-effective while better promoting their products and services,” says Devon Watson, Vice President of New Business & Solution Incubation for Diebold. Diebold is one of the largest global manufacturers of ATMs and provides associated self-service software and services in addition to physical and electronic security solutions. Diebold is based in North Canton, Ohio, employs 16,000 people, and sells its products in more than 90 countries.
Diebold wanted to help customers with their branch transformation efforts by introducing new user interfaces and terminal form factors specifically for the branch environment. Many banks have already moved ATMs into the branch so that bank staff is nearby to help customers and drive adoption, but Diebold knew that it could do more to remove the barriers that kept some consumers from migrating to self-service.
“Diebold has always been known for innovation, and we’ve been at the forefront of user experience research,” Watson says. “Our consumer studies tell us that users prefer self-service, but sometimes need help adopting. We wanted to give branch personnel better insight into self-service transactions so that they could both monitor operations, such as cash levels and device health, and help customers use more complex transactions. This is critical for financial institutions that seek to drive more transactions into self-service channels.” Branch personnel could not stand over customers’ shoulders and watch them; they needed remote insight into the consumer’s ATM experience.
Whatever solution that Diebold came up with, it wanted to get it to market quickly, as the branch transformation area is quickly evolving. Diebold was also eager to market new solutions in other global markets, including key developing regions in Latin America and Europe but did not want to burden customers with heavy IT infrastructure requirements.
Diebold came up with a number of branch transformation solutions, one of which is Diebold Conductor. Conductor is an application that runs on the Windows 8 operating system and gives branch personnel real-time insight into ATM transactions. The ATM runs a small piece of agent software that communicates terminal and user session information to Conductor, which is a highly visual, touch-enabled app.
Handheld Insight into ATM Health and Usage
Conductor shows a branch manager or other bank employees a stylized picture of each ATM in the branch along with a quick-glance green, yellow, or red health indicator. The employee can tap on individual ATM images and see the status of specific subsystems in the ATM such as cash dispenser, receipt printer, and check acceptor. Branch personnel can create alerts for notifications that they care about, such as low cash or low receipt paper.
When the ATM is in use, the branch manager can see the customer’s name and the amount of time that he or she has been at the terminal and engaged in a particular transaction. Branch personnel can set a notification to alert them if a customer has been using the terminal for an unusually long period of time, which could indicate that they are stuck at some point in the transaction and need help. There’s also a button on the ATM that customers can discretely push to ask for help.
Branch personnel can walk over to the ATM and help the customer through the transaction and use the face-to-face encounter as an opportunity to teach the customer how to use other ATM functions. Knowing which customer is at an ATM also gives branch personnel the opportunity to personally greet high-value customers.
Developed and Hosted in the Cloud
Diebold developed Conductor, and hosts it, in Microsoft Azure, a public cloud environment that provides virtual compute, networking, storage, and high-level platform services for developing and hosting applications in Microsoft datacenters. “We needed Conductor to be mobile, so the branch manager could use it while wandering the branch, and we wanted the app to be as lightweight as possible, requiring as little software as possible to be downloaded on the various endpoints,” Watson says. “The best way to achieve both objectives was to host it in Azure.”
The Diebold research and development organization has long used Microsoft software, such as Microsoft Visual Studio development system, so Azure was a logical extension of the tools and processes that developers already knew. “Our goal in the New Business and Solution Incubation group is to be very agile in bringing new concepts to market,” says Richard Harris, Vice President of New Technology & Incubation at Diebold. “That’s hard to do if you have to set up new infrastructure every time you start a project or create a pilot program. Using an Azure-hosted development model was a great way to speed up the development cycle. There was very little friction in transitioning our staff to Azure, because our Microsoft .NET-trained developers could continue to use Visual Studio.”
Creating Conductor took two Diebold developers just two months. A few key customers then reviewed the app and provided feedback. Diebold launched the beta app for pilot availability in June 2014.
Conductor consists of a software agent that runs on the ATM and collects session data and feeds it to Azure. This data includes device health and status, ATM cash levels, user identity, and where the user is in the transaction. This information is fed into web services that run in Azure Websites, where Conductor applies rules about transaction length and other information. If transaction length exceeds the set timeframe and action is required from branch personnel, the app backend uses Azure Notification Hubs to send a push notification to the employee tablet or smartphone. The app uses Azure SQL Database to store all the data coming from the terminal agent.
On-Premises or Hybrid Cloud Deployment Options
Customers can run Conductor in the Azure datacenter closest to them, in their own datacenters, or in both using a hybrid cloud model. Larger banks may choose, or be required, to run some Conductor components on their own servers while still taking advantage of Azure services such as Azure Notification Hubs to facilitate communication between their servers and the tablets in the branch.
By creating Conductor in Azure, Diebold was able to complete the product within three months and can similarly accelerate future development projects. By hosting Conductor in Azure, Diebold relieves both its own organization and its customers of heavy infrastructure requirements and can more easily market the product globally. Conductor gives financial institutions a way to migrate more consumers to ATMs and transform their branch models.
Introduce New Services Faster
“We want to be able to roll out new services as quickly as possible to global customers, and the best way to do that is with a cloud-enabled development and hosting model,” Watson says. “By developing Conductor in Microsoft Azure, we were able to get it from concept to pilot very quickly—in about three months—and position it for equally quick adoption, both of which are critical in the competitive branch transformation market.” Diebold was relieved of the time and expense of setting up development, test, and production server infrastructures, which was readily available in Azure.
It also eliminated the need to build and maintain a push notification infrastructure, which can be complex and time consuming. “The use cases for Conductor place a heavy reliance on real-time notification to keep branch personnel aware of status and session alerts on their terminals,” Harris says. “Azure Notification Hub provided the key ingredient of a single source for cross-platform notification management.”
Since launching Conductor, Diebold has begun other development projects in Azure. “Azure is a speed-to-market enabler and our development platform of choice going forward,” Watson says.
Expand Business Globally with Lower Costs
Diebold is using Azure to simplify customer deployment, IT operations, and regulatory issues, and expects that these changes will help the company to expand its business to new corners of the globe. “Hosting new services in Azure gives us a very efficient way to expand in different markets with PCI-compliant datacenters that all function the same way,” Watson says, referring to the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard, an information security standard for organizations that handle credit and debit cardholder data.
Diebold enjoys improved competitive advantage because of its ability to focus on delivering innovative ATM services rather than on managing infrastructure. “Neither we nor our customers have to deploy a massive server infrastructure to run Azure-hosted products, which accelerates adoption,” Watson says.
Help Banks Cost-Effectively Transform Branches
Conductor gives financial institutions an easy, low-cost way to migrate customers out of teller lines to in-bank ATMs and eventually to out-of-bank ATMs. “Many branch transformation initiatives are ’heavy lifts,’ involving significant time and cost,” Watson says. “Conductor gives banks something that’s ‘bite-sized,’ with a low barrier of entry that lets them immediately get going with a helpful branch transformation tool.”
The financial institution gets better visibility into terminal health and status and can proactively assist customers and identify customer engagement opportunities. The consumer gets personalized help from tellers when they need it, yielding smoother transactions and opportunities to learn new ATM services.
“Reducing teller traffic is the linchpin of everything in a bank’s branch model—physical branch size, staffing requirements, and operational costs,” Watson says. “Conductor has the potential to help financial institutions shrink teller traffic by 50 percent, which is huge for our customers.”
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