The Lightweight Heavyweight
Web 2.0 applications often thrive on being lightweight and with cost effective scalability solutions. As these types of characteristics allow for greater adaptability, faster speed to market and generally a rapid return on investment through a reduction in cost and time spent developing the application. Perfect examples of this include IMDb, which started off as nothing more than a single list of female actors and (with a little help from Amazon) grew much more than just an Internet Movie Database, or even imgur which (according to mediaite.com) only a year after its foundation was serving almost 20 million page views per month.
This is all fine and well for a simple application put together in a teenager’s bedroom that needs to see the light of day. But how does an organisation with an established product, customer base, expectant shareholders, security needs and expectations go about applying this “lightweight” web 2.0 pattern? Well in the case of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) the answer is simple. It doesn’t.
Whilst perhaps being the most innovative Australian bank in terms of bringing web2.0 to its customers with the new payment system entitled Kaching (think old school cash register). The CBA has put a great deal of time and money in, to ensure that they had a suitable infrastructure to “modernise its legacy core banking systems and introduce new features”; $580 million over 4 years in fact according to the article over at ZDNet.com. Whilst this doesn’t adhere to a lightweight model, the CBA have certainly gone to a great distance to ensure that scalability is not an issue. Further to this, they’ve gone to some lengths to ensure that the features of the Kaching system are not hindered by hardware limitations. As NFC is a core feature of this system and currently not incorporated in any iDevice, the CBA created the iCarte as an interim solution.
The success of the Kaching app is pretty impressive as far as I can tell, just 2 months after launch it had been downloaded over 110,000 times. Again, this was not merely left to chance or only through network effects and word of mouth. As seen above, a full scale TV campaign was created, direct download links from within their existing applications as well as banner advertising are examples of the lengths the CBA have gone to try and ensure the success of the application. So why would the CBA go to such lengths? Because the information that this type of application provides the CBA with, is worth far more than any credit card interest rate or account keeping/transaction fees. Knowing your spending patterns, allows them to target products directly at you and the merchants you deal with. As Michael Harte (CBA Chief Information Officer) is quoted as saying in an interview with CIO, “Information about money has become almost as important as money itself”.