We’re coming off an exciting week for WesTech. For those who were able to attend the Deliverability Summit, I hope you found the sessions valuable. Please be on the lookout for a follow-up survey this week. One of our biggest goals in the Learning & Development space is to better measure the value of our programs from your perspective and use that insight to continue to improve. We can’t do that without your feedback.
For those who weren’t able to attend the sessions, you can find them here. We’re proud of the way this came out. We heard from a few people that it really helped to drive home the importance of this topic, and we hope to see that your teams are able to apply their new knowledge to your deliverability efforts.
Now, here’s what’s happening with the rest of WesTech.
We’ve all done this. Sometimes you find an app that seems to be user-friendly, ties into your workflow nicely, and may even be free to use. And if it’s not free, you may even get your manager’s buy-in so that your team can use the tool. These are called “Shadow Apps,” which means they are not supported by IT and InfoSec at the company.
Although shadow apps can improve productivity and collaboration with little or no financial cost to your team or company, there are risks involved. Most importantly, you’re keeping the teams who work to keep our systems secure (within IT and InfoSec) in the dark. These applications may not have the right secure procedures in place, they may be blocked from our systems, or could alter the other systems we depend on. In some cases, we may already have this application on our systems or have an application that has the same capabilities, but require a bit of training.
We want to make sure you have the right systems in place to get your job done, so when you find a new application or have been using a tool that we did not provide, feel free to reach out to email@example.com. We’ll do the research (if we haven’t already) so you don’t have to.
Support has been focused on our continued evolution in both enhancements and purpose of the team. Here are the top initiatives we have for you.
INCREASED TRANSPARENCY | You should now be receiving monthly Support Summaries that offer a data-focused recap of the month. In addition to providing more visibility, we have worked to establish a consistent feedback loop with the Product teams. If you have any feedback or enhancement ideas, please continue to send them our way or reach out to me directly. As we continue to expand our vision and initiatives, receiving feedback is critical to our success and allows us to provide consistent and needed support.
UPDATED SLAs | We have made several adjustments to our existing SLAs and will send a document outlining all of our SLAs and the adjustments once completed. In the meantime, we’re pleased to let you know that we’ve decreased 6 of our existing SLAs, ensuring a quicker turnaround time for you. We’re also up and running with our Blueshift support and have now established the first of many Blueshift-centric categories. This is something we regularly keep watch of and will make further adjustments as we focus on our own in-house efficiencies.
It has been over a year since we switched our email security gateway to Mimecast, so we wanted to give a refresher on what Mimecast has been doing and highlight one of its key features.
On average, Mimecast analyzes over 50,000 email messages per day for spam, misleading links, and phishing attempts. The protection this service offers has been a gamechanger and has kept large volumes of unwanted emails from reaching users. Email security will always be a fight because, as defenses improve, so do attacks that attempt to circumvent them. Mimecast has allowed us to be proactive and prepared for anything new we may encounter.
One way that we have adapted our security to confront current and future risks is by instituting Mimecast’s URL Protection policy, which could affect the links you create with false positives.
This policy has been active since we implemented Mimecast, and has provided an extra layer of protection and visibility for incoming emails. URL Protection applies to all emails that were sent to an internal mailbox from an external source (for example, from gmail.com to 14west.us). If the message meets that mail flow criteria, Mimecast will automatically scan the message for hyperlinks as it comes through. It will then “hijack” all links within the message and redirect them to a Mimecast landing page for the user to investigate.
The purpose of this landing page is to explain to the user that the link leads to an external source and shows the exact URL that the link is pointing to. A common practice of phishing emails is to provide a link that appears to go somewhere legitimate, but it instead leads to a malicious website used to steal credentials or force a download with payloads attached.
Spoofing a hyperlink is very easy, as I was able to do here in about 30 seconds: www.google.com. If you notice in that link, despite it saying “www.google.com,” the link actually points to “https://bing.com.” Had this message been sent from an external source, Mimecast would’ve hijacked the message and showed that it was pointing somewhere different than the message stated. Once you have reviewed the link and determined that the destination is what you expected and safe to visit, you can then continue to the original link that was sent without the Mimecast landing URL appended to it. While Mimecast does hijack the link at first, nothing about the link is changed if you decide to continue past the landing page.
Since we have a high volume of messages being sent from third party services and other external sources, false positives are inevitable with this system. To combat these false positives, we have a separate URL Protection “whitelist” that we can add domains and URLs into. This whitelist currently features all of our internal domains as well as a large number of known subdomains. Other URLs can be added into this list for business purposes if needed. In the event that you have an internal URL being hijacked that is causing business disruption, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to create a ticket and it will be addressed quickly. We want URL Protection to function as much as possible, because unfortunately there are dangerous emails that will slip through the cracks of our filters. URL Protection gives that extra padding to ensure our users do not fall victim to these attacks and help increase awareness.
You can read more about URL Protection policy here.
If you have any questions about the URL Protection, or any other Mimecast policies, please contact the InfoSec team at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist.
The BI and L&D teams have been hard at work this past month launching our data literacy initiative called, Data: Drive with Confidence. We want everyone to understand data concepts and to have the confidence to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data.
As part of our awareness campaign, we have gone live with our first podcast series. Each episode digs into why data matters and how it can be instrumental for companies in the midst of digital transformation.
Each podcast is 15 minutes or less and perfect for in between meetings. If you haven’t gotten to listen in yet, you can start here.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HEAR NEXT? | We are taking suggestions for topics for our next podcast series to launch late summer. Provide suggestions and feedback here.
A QUICK NOTE | Data: Drive with Confidence podcast series is hosted on our new LMS platform, Evolve. If you have any questions about Evolve or have issues with access, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of the LMS experts will quickly assist you.
COMING SOON | On demand Data Literacy learning modules for all new hires and all current employees, interactive micro-learning opportunities, and on demand tools training.
Some of you already know about Michael Bresler’s latest initiative, Strategic Solutions & Automation. The goal of this team is to identify gaps and pain points, then turn them into opportunities to increase our value to your businesses.
For WesTech, we have found that there are certain ideas and areas to strategize that we may miss or have on the backlog. On many occasions, the answer could be intelligent automation (i.e. robotic process automation, chatbots, and/or business process automation), which is going to be a huge part of Michael’s work as he gathers more feedback on business processes and opportunities.
Working with Client Services, Michael will serve as a key listener to conversations with affiliates to truly understand pain points, and the solutions that could help their businesses. Michael will also be working in lockstep with Project Management as well as L&D to gather intel on the intake process, the strategy taken for projects, and to align with solutions needed in order to build our value.
GLOBAL PORTFOLIO SERVICES | The GPS team will continue to run under Michael, but the delivery and team lead will be Tori Longo as Product Owner. You can still depend on Lenny Kardelis as Track Record Analytics and Compliance Owner, Brian Buschling who is in charge of Track Record Support, and Morgan Cammack who handles Customer Success.
If you have any questions about Strategic Solutions & Automation make sure you reach out to Michael directly.
Thank you for those who were able to join at least one of the virtual sessions for our first ever Deliverability Summit last week. For those who didn’t, we have each session located in the Email Deliverability Workspace here. If you have any issues with access, please reach out to the L&D team here.
The presenters and teams involved in this event are strong thought leaders on the subject of Deliverability today, so we hope you found the sessions insightful and possibly even had a few aha moments that you can apply to your own business strategy.
For any questions or feedback on this summit, you can reach out to me directly.
With ThoughtSpot, you can now analyze mailing data down to the individual subscriber. This level of granularity allows us to ask questions of our data that were not possible to answer before, and all within seconds of asking.
If you are already in ThoughtSpot, you’ll notice that a pinboard called the Vendor Scorecard has recently been shared with you. This pinboard helps you evaluate new lead sources by highlighting engagement rates during subscribers first days on your list. The pinboard looks at the unique percent of engaged subscribers during their first seven days on file to their first thirty, so that you can decide early on if a source of names is going to be good for your business.
For more information, or if you are not a ThoughtSpot user, please reach out to BI at email@example.com and we’ll get you started.
Our goal is to be that reliable source that allows you to keep your business running and to continue to be that technical support that you can depend on. I understand and know that businesses are under incredible stress, now more than ever. And we’re committed to relieving some of that. We want to be great partners to you.
To do that we have to be on the same page. To help ensure that we are, our Business Partners have created a survey to help measure our progress when it comes to general alignment with your needs and delivering solutions that satisfy or exceed your expectations. The results are used to drive the development of our strategy, goals, and roadmaps. So although I know you’re tight on time, we want to remind you to click here to complete the survey. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
Now let’s get to the latest.
To help drive deliverability, improved customer relationships, and improved monetization, we’ve put together our first ever Deliverability Summit.
MONDAY, JUNE 22 – FRIDAY, JUNE 26
1 x 1-HOUR SESSION / DAY | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET
We’ll be working with our own internal teams as well as industry experts from SparkPost, Blueshift, and Email Ninjas. If you can’t make it or would like to refer back to the sessions, please note that they will be recorded.
In this month’s “Explain Like I’m 5,” the Info Sec team is covering the importance of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). While working in the publishing space – and especially tech – it’s crucial for you to understand how it affects us.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a new government regulation very similar to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation for the EU). While GDPR focuses heavily on the customer’s right to opt-in to any sort of solicitation or marketing, CCPA focuses on a consumer’s right to opt-out of it.
CCPA’s main tenets are the ability for a consumer to request “do not sell” of their information towards any scenario that the business currently engages in. Additionally, the consumer has the right to request how their information is being sold or monetized, how the data is stored and transferred (similar to GDPR), and a full report of what personally identifiable information (PII) a business holds on that consumer.
Similar to GDPR, the fines for CCPA can be quite heavy for those who violate. While GDPR has the general rule of up to four percent of gross revenue of the parent company for violations, CCPA’s violations can be more granular and equally as painful depending on the circumstance. CCPA fines can be up to $750 dollars per consumer, and up to $7500 per incident per person. This can quickly add up, depending on the number of incidents that are incurred.
Should we care about CCPA? Yes.
Is CCPA like GDPR? Yes, very similar. GDPR is about opting in, CCPA is about opting out. Both are about protection of privacy data.
Are the fines heavy? Absolutely.
What should we be concerned with as a business? Responsibly handling customer or employee PII (name, address phone number, email address) according to CCPA and GDPR guidelines.
Should we care about vendors who store information? Yes.
As we continue to work towards compliance, having a good understanding of the basics can go a long way. For additional details on CCPA, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Business Partners have developed two major resources that allow WesTech to keep our fingers on the pulse when it comes to supporting your companies.
CLIENT ADVISORY BOARD | We held our first CAB meeting last month where we were able to take the time to sit down (albeit virtually) and discuss the bigger strategic goals you have. Most importantly, we were able to start the process to learn the why behind your goals so that we can develop and streamline the support we provide. We came out of it with a long list of key action items and great ideas that we aim to get started with immediately, if not already.
In order to keep each other on track and committed, a major action item for WesTech is to develop breakout seasons for Data, Product, and Deliverability to clearly understand the clients’ why and how. These will involve microdiscussions and full transparency around what affiliates are trying to achieve which will help us prioritize. The ultimate goal: 100% alignment between WesTech and every affiliate. Looking forward to the next one and to keep this momentum going.
LAUNCH-READY INITIATIVE | When you are preparing for a sizable launch, we want to tap in the right resources (Support, IT, Advantage, Ecomm, Messaging, Deliverability, Fintech) to make sure they can proactively monitor performance of their systems and become hyper-aware of any issues that may arise. So far, we’ve tested this with most affiliates and we were able to fine tune the processes needed, and look forward to many more successful launches. If you have any questions on this process, please let me know.
For our latest Lytics Huddle, Craig Schinn, co-founder of Actable, Drew Lanenga from Lytics, and CI’s very own Chris Laun presented on data science and machine learning. The decisions marketers have to make in each of your highly-segmented campaigns are challenging to manage. Fortunately, you have a number of tools at your disposal to help reach the best customers and prospects at the right time. Watch the recording here.
WesTech was given an exciting opportunity yesterday to virtually host former NFL running back turned motivational speaker, Brian Mitchell, for an inspiring transformative talk. Never a group to shy away from hearing a different perspective on the qualities of hard work and dedication, we were happy to hear from Mr. Mitchell and found his presentation so insightful that we wanted to share the recording with you as well.
Click here to watch. If you have any issues with access, please reach out to Jenny Realo.
Mine is going to be a short and sweet update this month. This week has been a difficult one. On Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning we let go of a number of valued people including a member of our executive team, CIO Reid McLaughlin. It never feels good to let good people go, but we felt it was our responsibility to become more efficient to remain in line with the things we can’t control right now. And I truly feel that the adjustments made have enabled us to move closer to each of your businesses. Our roadmap to the improvement and modernization of our products and services remains intact.
Over the next several weeks, our executive committee is going to continue to work to ensure we are running a lean and effective operations outfit. In the process we’ll use one common denominator to determine where we focus our energy and resources and that is value – the value we can deliver to you, your people, and your customers. Along the way, we will be looking to you for your insight and communicating about these efforts here in On The Horizon each month. If you feel you have any questions or need additional insight on projects we have open with you, you can still depend on the Business Partners for this. But please know that my “door” is always open.
With that said, here’s the latest from around WesTech.
The Messaging Product (Message Central, Newshift) and Customer Intelligence (Lytics) teams are now working more closely together as one MarTech team. While the two teams continue to work more closely together, the CI team is taking what they learned from driving the adoption of Lytics and applying that towards our current efforts of onboarding users onto Blueshift.
BLUESHIFT ADOPTION | The state of this project is rapidly evolving with data integration, and we are working to provision all needed instances this month. From there, we expect the nature of our work to change as we stand up advanced features in the system and ease out of the affected businesses becoming de-listed with Spamhaus. Getting over these next few hurdles will allow us to move a lot faster, taking time to migrate and then to go back and optimize campaigns.
If you’re not sure if a question is ticket-worthy or you just need someone to talk you through a workflow, there just might be an office hour for that. The L&D team has set up dedicated time for WesTech-supported systems so that you can sign on and get the help you need.
For ease of access, the Zoom link is the same for each of the office hours listed below, so keep this handy for when you need to join.
For those who I haven’t been able to meet yet, the IRIS, Sign-up App, OPIUM, and Funnelcake teams have merged together into one cohesive unit – the PUMA team (Platform for User-centric Marketing Applications). Combining these teams will enable us to streamline the backend services we offer while sustaining legacy systems.
API FIRST | We’re building out an environment that improves efficiencies and speed using APIs you can easily plug into. The good news is that IRIS+ was built using this “API First” approach, and our first milestone to target completion of the Lead Gen MVP this quarter.
FUNNELCAKE | As you know, Funnelcake has performance issues, the root cause being Magento – the software the order form application was built on. Our strategy right now is to pull Magento out of the system and to build this product on high performance technology, delivering results in the fastest, most cost-effective way.
The InfoSec team wants to explain a few of the “more techy” concepts that you may hear a lot, but never fully understand. In this month’s “Explain Like I’m 5,” Paul goes into data encryption and why it is crucial to data privacy.
You’ve probably heard this at some point or another, Encrypt this, encrypt that, hash this hash that.
But what exactly does it mean and why should I know?
Let’s start with encryption.
Simply put, it’s taking a piece of data, running it through some sort of function/formula/algorithm and making that data unreadable to an outside party who shouldn’t have access to that data.
For example, if you assigned a number to each letter of the alphabet (i.e. A = 1, B =2, C=3) and want to write the word “DOG” but wanted to encrypt this word using your new numerical formula, it would turn into “4,15,7” ( D = 4, O = 15, G = 7). Now you can tell the recipient of your message that your “key” is just a sheet of paper with A-Z with their respective numbers assigned to it. Now only you and the recipient know how to read the messages. Although overly simplified, the basic points are the same for any encrypted message. You can “hide” all of your data in plain sight. It’s important to note that encryption provides privacy of your data, but it also allows the data to be returned to its original form when you have the “key.”
Hashing is very similar to encryption, the big difference being there is no key, and the data can never be returned back to its original form. It can never be “unhashed.” So why is this needed?
One key point about hashing is that, depending on the algorithm you are using, you should be able to create a unique hash for every single word or combination of words you choose. No two hashes should ever be alike, which can be very powerful to protecting our data. This is especially important when we are talking about sensitive data.
Take user passwords, for example. In the encryption scenario, if a system encrypted all of the passwords, an engineer or hacker could somehow steal the key and decrypt those passwords again. But if those passwords are hashed, you cannot decrypt them or regain the original passwords. This makes hashing very useful for protecting things that should never be touched (i.e. passwords, timestamps, digital signatures).
As we move deeper into our dependence on the digital world, everything we do will consist of some type of encryption or hashing. Our data should be encrypted most of the time, and the rest of the time hashed. This protects us and gives us peace of mind.
The Customer Intelligence team (now part of the MarTech team) wants to remind you that they offer Lytics 101 trainings that cover the basics of the CDP. Whether you’re new to the company, have been here for a while but need a refresh or just curious to learn how we can get a deeper understanding of our customers, this training is a great learning opportunity.
If you have any questions about Lytics, reach out to the CI team.
We developed a conversation that included a panel of marketing experts from Banyan Hill, The Oxford Group, and NewMarket Group to dissect recent successes they have found in the midst of a pandemic. Craig Schinn of Actable brought his expert knowledge on how to leverage tools like Lytics and Blueshift to add to your strategy. We were pleased to have Brian York joined to offer his insight and host the event.
At the beginning of Week 4 of quarantine, and I know I’m not alone when I say that March was really difficult, and April is looking the same. I mentioned last month that change is constant, but I didn’t expect something so abrupt as a pandemic.
We’re in a strange new world right now. Nate Hurd said it best when he spoke to my teams in last month’s Affiliate Spotlight. He said that this pandemic is the type of event that makes you take a step back and think about what really matters. What matters to me is your business. I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to invite myself onto as many calls and zooms as I can manage and consuming as much content as humanly possible. And every day I’m reporting back to the team.
Our team needs to see what’s happening in your business. And I really need to know from you whether we’re hitting the mark and supporting you in the ways you want and need to be supported. So here are the updates for this month. Any and all feedback is welcome.
You may have already heard a bit about this tool, but in the coming months, we hope to work more with you to improve tracking and receive better analysis on your campaigns. Trackmate was built to give marketers great insight into the performance of campaign funnels through improved tracking and analysis. To ensure Trackmate suits your needs, the team at Threefold wants to hear from all affiliate marketers. Click here to tell them what matters most to you!
–Brendan Tobin, UX Designer
Slack has quickly become an essential way to keep in touch with our teams as we adjust to remote working. I wanted to share this quick guide that includes best practices and tips to getting the most out of this application. If you have any issues with Slack or messaging your coworkers, please email us at email@example.com.
–Lance Sturgis, Application Integration Specialist
Last month we partnered with the experts at Red Hat to hold our inaugural Agora Hackathon deemed Ready Fire Hack, held at City Garage. This gave Developers and UX Designers from both WesTech and Threefold the rare opportunity to work together under the same roof to build out solutions to challenges specific to the Agora businesses.
Themes from the business problems focused on customer experience, compliance, and content engagement. We think it’s safe to say that the event was a major success, as each of the teams came up with incredible ideas that have real potential to become smart solutions for your businesses. But we had to choose one winner – the team who call themselves Your Form.
Your Form chose to focus on the issue that many of you have experienced – making long copy work on mobile. Working with The Oxford Group’s Brian Kehm, who happened to be at City Garage that day, they were able to better understand the workflow from an editorial perspective. Working with call center data, breaking up the content into digestible sections on a content management system, and fully understanding how to get the most value from the copy from a small screen were crucial to coming up with a solid plan… and winning the competition.
Elliot Sneeringer wrote up his takeaways for a recent WestWord post, which you can read about and watch a video of the event here.
At this point, we’ve all been able to settle into this routine of working from home, but it’s very important to remember that scammers are too. While we are busy worrying about where to find the next roll of toilet paper or how to keep our kids from killing each other, they are busy coming up with new ways to capitalize on this pandemic. As important as it is to keep our hands adequately cleaned, we must remain extra vigilant when it comes to coronavirus scams. Here are just a couple of methods that scammers have quickly started to use.
PHISHING SCAMS | This one involves a quiz. Just giving it a quick glance, it’s obvious that this isn’t something you want to click. These links could take you to a fake page to grab your credentials or could prompt a download to release malware – which is much worse. There are other ones out there that are doing things such as asking you to confirm you are not infected or showing you the latest active tracker map. As with all phishing scams, DO NOT CLICK ANY LINKS unless you are 100% sure you know where it came from. And even then, I would ask someone first.
TEXT MESSAGES | This is another easy one, which involves receiving random text messages that tell you how to get tested or information on the virus. These are generally malware-based and are more dangerous than the ones you see in the emails.
Other usual suspects include social media and phone calls. As with emails and text messages, if you receive links in social media messages, invites to pages tracking the virus, or information on the virus, you should stay away. Even if the message came from someone on your friends list, it could generally mean they were hacked as well. Make sure you reach out to that person to confirm first.
As always, if you ever have any questions or are not sure please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to help. Please stay safe and vigilant everyone!
-Paul Xu, VP Information Security
We’ve just finished up with a unique collaborative project with NewMarket Group to train their new call center representatives in Billings, Montana. In just three weeks, we were able to provide the needed materials and train their agents specific to NewMarket’s policies and procedures in addition to the usage of Advantage.
It was a solid team effort working with NewMarket Group, but we couldn’t have done it successfully without such a receptive group of people who work at the call center.
-Laura Appel, Senior Training Partner
On the Products end, we are now handling all Global Porfolio, BI (Tier 1), EPP (Tier 1), Funnelcake, and Blueshift tickets. We’ve introduced a dedicated triage to ensure consistent communication and customer experience for your businesses. We’re keeping up with Product teams by holding regular feedback meetings and delivering product reports. Working more closely with the Business Partners to coordinate regular touchpoints with you has also helped improve visibility to ensure we get your Product issues resolved as quickly as possible.
– Tony Browne, Director of Support