The SEC Takes Stock of Its Web & Mobile StrategiesBy Samuel Greengard Print
Web and mobile modernization pays big dividends for the SEC, which was coping with growing traffic volumes on its Website and limitations on its infrastructure.
Staying current with Web and mobile trends is a challenge for any organization. For the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, charged with overseeing and enforcing federal securities laws and regulations, it's a mammoth task.
A few years ago, the agency, which manages upward of 21 million filings for publicly traded companies, was coping with rapidly growing volumes of traffic on its Website and limitations on its infrastructure. It was a very big problem. The SEC gets about 18 million page views per day, including investors researching publicly traded companies and individuals looking for information about financial investment professionals.
"We experience consistently high demand for content at the site, but we also experience substantial surges in traffic when there's an initial public offering [IPO] or major earnings report," notes Laura Kurup, who heads up the SEC's Web modernization effort. "We also have growing demand for mobile access."
Embarking on Modernization
In October 2012, the SEC embarked on a major Web and mobile modernization initiative. In the past, the agency hosted its servers using its own physical infrastructure at SEC.gov. But it had reached the limits of what it could do without huge investments in hardware and software.
So, working with IT consulting and integration firm Accenture, it migrated to Amazon Web Services and the Akamai Content Delivery Network in order to introduce a more agile and flexible IT framework. It also focused on making the site compatible with mobile Web browsers on smartphones and tablets.
"We wanted to improve the user experience and make it more intuitive and more mobile-friendly," Kurup explains. "The idea was to make content available on any device and create a system that allows our non-technical staff to publish material without involving developers." The agency has about 50 non-technical staff members who push content onto the site.
Meanwhile, Kurup and her team worked to optimize search results so that site visitors could find the content they were seeking faster and more easily by using Google and Bing, as well as site-specific search tools.
Improving Site Functionality
The SEC also worked to improve other functionality on the site. For example, it made sure that the current 1.3 million RSS feed, email and social feed subscribers could also receive information on their mobile devices. "We wanted to make sure we could push out the information on the channel they desire," Kurup says.
She added that the initiative added powerful analytics capabilities. Today, "We are able to access data about usage patterns and behavior, analyze it and incorporate it into the decision-making process," Kurup says.
Most significantly, the modernization project has helped advance the agency's mission. From 2013 to 2015, the SEC doubled its traffic to 6.7 billion page views per year. It also boosted its ability to publish datasets from about 200 megabytes per quarter to several terabytes. Last year, for example, users downloaded over 1,500 terabytes of data from the SEC.
"Focus groups and actual users have responded very favorably to the upgrades and improvements," Kurup reports. "We're now looking at offering more machine-readable formats and adding APIs to make even more data available.
"We have taken a giant step forward by making it easier for people to get the information they need when they need it."
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