Our cover story this month reveals how Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Stripe in Southeast Asia, and her team are driving financial inclusion across the region and supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first

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This month’s cover story reveals how Stripe’s payments platform is driving financial inclusion across Asia.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Opportunities for innovation and growth via the adoption of new technologies are everywhere. However, organisations are faced with a bewildering array of choices to help them transform and choosing the best option to drive positive disruption is a tough call. We take a look at some of these fascinating journeys…

Read the latest issue here!

Stripe: increasing the GDP of the internet

Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Stripe
Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Stripe

This month’s cover story explores the genesis of fast-growing payments platform Stripe. Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, leads a team driving financial inclusion across the region, supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first.

“We’re building products and the financial infrastructure to help our users go cross-border, beyond their domestic boundaries, to widen their markets and drive efficiencies within their financial services infrastructure. With Stripe under the hood, businesses  are able to focus on what they do best without wasting time researching, purchasing, integrating, and maintaining dozens of payment technology point solutions because Stripe is a platform that offers all of them, and is already integrated.”

IAG: tech procurement linked to purpose

We speak with IAG’s CPO & VMO Claire Ledder, who reveals the transformative approach to technology procurement being deployed by an Australian market leader home to several leading insurance brands. “We’re now able to tackle sourcing and contracting with an end-to-end approach capable of measuring the value delivered.”

IAG’s CPO & VMO Claire Ledder
Portrait Photography

U.S. Department of State: facilitating diplomacy with tech

Todd Cheng Director of IT Customer Service at the U.S. Department of State, talks about the ever-evolving relationship between technology and diplomacy. “We’ve been through the process of updating the IT model at State to a new, more customer centric version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).” By his calculations, these changes have benefited the organisation by reducing network disruption by some 400,000 hours of diplomacy every month.

Afni

Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding explains how breaking down the traditional and perceived barriers between security and the boardroom can transparently position cyber effectiveness as a critical enabler of improved business outcomes.

Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding
Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding

Also in this issue, we hear from Zoom on the future of work and report again from London Tech Week where an expert panel gave advice for businesses on anticipating and preparing for cyber risk against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story reveals the cycles of transformation, being led by CDO Lucho Torres, which are driving the disruptive digital journey at Peru’s second largest financial services group

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This month’s cover story reveals reveals the cycles of transformation driving the disruptive digital journey at Scotiabank Peru, the country’s second largest financial services group.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

A customer-centric vision is often an important factor in the journey towards a digital transformation where a commitment to continuous improvement can bring scalability and lasting growth. Interface taps the brains behind some of the biggest tech successes happening across the globe today…

Read the latest issue here!

Scotiabank Peru

Lucho Torres, SVP & Chief Digital Officer at Scotiabank Peru is on a mission to leverage the trust in a global banking leader founded in 1832 and lead a transformation to create “the most relevant, simple and fast digital bank for consumers and businesses” across Peru. “The challenge was to build a digital bank with scalability and sustainability. We have created a customer-centric value proposition by building and taking to the market our own digital platforms and financial products to deliver personalised and intuitive customer experiences.”

IBM

We speak with IBM’s AI & Data guru Jean-Philippe Desbiolles who gives us a fascinating overview of his book AI Will be What you Make of It: The 10 Golden Rules of Artificial Intelligence. “I am passionate about the fact that at IBM we are transforming businesses by leveraging technologies in a broad sense of the word. And one of those key technologies is Artificial Intelligence.” Listen to our podcast with Jean-Philippe here or you can watch it below…

Digital Transformation in healthcare, education and telecomms

Also in this issue, Michael Haenelt, CIO at the Weed Army Community Hospital tells us the story of the development of a state-of-the-art medical facility at Ft Irwin, in California’s remote Mojave Desert, where a commitment to digital transformation is at the beating heart of the organisation.

Elsewhere, Michelle Murphy, superintendent of the Rim of the World Unified School District, reflects on 34 years in education and the way technology has driven change; talk with Tecnotree CEO Padma Ravichander about how the global provider of IT solutions for telcos is empowering digital communities; and hear the story of a unique challenge to digitise the self-sufficient City of Medicine Hat in Canada.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our cover story reveals a massive procurement transformation programme at Zendesk

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Procurement transformation is the hot topic this month as we speak to Rendi Miller, VP of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at Zendesk. Miller is a procurement evangelist and transformational leader who is clearly energised as she delivers meaningful change to the function at Zendesk.

“What I’ve always enjoyed about procurement is the visibility into what the entire company is buying, from Marketing creative services to IT and Engineering technology to office furniture and everything in between.”

“Procurement has insight to trends before they become mainstream that gives us the ability to research new partners, technologies and solutions to start addressing the needs of the business early on. Being in procurement offers an awareness to nearly every aspect of the company.”

Read the latest issue here!

According to Miller, trust is absolutely critical to success because without that, “there is no reliability, there’s no confidence and there’s no relationship”, says Miller. “That’s something I emphasise with my team. Trust must be earned, but trust is also given. I empower them to be the leaders that I’ve hired them to be…”

Elsewhere, we sit down with Procurement Excellence Lead at Antofagasta Minerals, Christophe Le Flech, to discuss the state of procurement in the South America mining industry, and the work he’s doing to make a difference. We also talk to Convex Insurance’s Head of Procurement & Tactical Change, Vivek Pai… and discuss diversity in the workplace with Silvia Simon, LATAM Procurement Senior Manager at Mercedes-Benz Brazil. Plus, we look at 10 ways to optimise your digital procurement scouting approach with ProcureTech.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

It sounds like a strange parallel to draw, but when it comes to the implementation of a digital transformation project – specifically the automation of business processes – Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) and their senior counterparts could learn a lot from the Great Britain Cycling Team.

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Digital transformation, big data and Artificial Intelligence and like phrases used before them, ‘automation’ has grown to become quite the buzzword in the world of business. In fact, there’s now so much talk about the use of technology to ‘streamline operations’, that automation is almost an unattainable panacea in the eyes of many – even in the tech sector where organisations should perhaps know better.

Yes, at an enterprise level, there are some corporate giants thinking big and really nailing it. Likewise, there are some vast organisations with dedicated project teams and six or seven-figure budgets, that become so shackled with scope creep that their automation aspirations remain nothing more than pipedreams.

There are also smaller – and often nimbler – businesses that would be ideally placed to implement automation-led initiatives large and small, but they simply don’t know where to start. Their CTO may have an articulate vision and the ‘toolkit’ to achieve it, but the all-important buy-in from the wider management team – if not the rest of the organisation – doesn’t exist.

It’s certainly a mixed bag, but it needn’t be such a minefield. This narrative will be ‘preaching to the converted’, for many CTOs. So what’s the answer and what will finally stop holding digital transformation projects back?

The aggregation of marginal gains

Organisations embarking, from scratch, on a quest for greater automation, need to stop worrying about moving mountains from day one. Instead of focusing on the entirety of what’s possible, there is arguably more value in breaking the job down into actionable and achievable component parts.

In this respect, much can be learned from Sir Dave Brailsford, head of British cycling, who took the long-suffering team from winning only one gold medal in 76 years, to seven at the 2008 Beijing Olympics – an achievement mirrored in London four years later.

Aware that aiming for gold felt like a daunting and perhaps even impossible plight, he applied the theory of marginal gains to the sport. In other words, he deconstructed everything to create a checklist of micro tasks and concentrated on improving each element by just 1% to secure a significant aggregated performance increase. The mentality centred on progression, not perfection.

Likening this to automation in business may seem like a stretch, but the same principle applies. The possibilities that automation can unlock are almost endless, so to cover everything will probably never be feasible. But by making individual systems and processes more ‘joined up’ with digital transformation – as well as quicker and slicker to execute, with an eye on best practice throughout – means even 1% efficiency gains will soon add up.

digital transformation and the GB cycling team

Removing digital silos

Some businesses may have far to travel on their automation journey, whereas others may have already made a start by ‘thinking digitally’. 

This is something at least, because the digitisation of processes represents an important step. But what happens if these tools and technologies continue to exist on ‘digital islands’, with varying degrees of customisation and few – if any – ‘bridges’ between them to enable the data to do what it needs to. If someone must pull all the strings to make multiple products work together – with a questionable degree of effectiveness – there remains much to do.

The key to automation is to define the process that will spontaneously enable widget A to press buzzer B that activates application C and produces data point D – and so on – digital transformation!

Everything needs to work together, much like a team. And it’s OK to start small. 

In simplistic terms, a business may decide to outsource its mailing so it’s saving time – and money – that would otherwise be spent licking stamps! This soon outweighs the cost involved. 

But automation can be far more sophisticated too, of course. An email marketing platform can talk intuitively to a CRM tool as a sales pipeline advances, for example, before auto-updating a billing engine when a deal converts and triggering a conversion report to better understand ROI. 

Without this automation, people involved in any one part of the process would still have confidence the data existed in there. However, the time otherwise required to uncover it, and then manually push it through the system, could mean the insight soon becomes obsolete and the associated opportunity is consequently lost. The real-time nature of the intel is where the value lies – much like the of-the-moment performance of the GB Cycling Team – hence the beauty of triangulating these multiple elements to create a truly integrated eco-system.

Is Digital Transformation only for big players?

In saying all this, one of the most important points to perhaps note is that automation shouldn’t be feared. Digital transformation is not necessarily a complex process that lies only within the reach of gigantic corporations with equally large budgets. Yes, data volume makes an investment in automation easier to justify. And a degree of technical competence is needed to orchestrate the integration of tools that lead to a super-slick outcome. But it needn’t cost the earth. For senior professionals who have perhaps worn the t-shirt a couple of times over, it’s better to communicate that – making it relatively easy to move forward as a result.

Secondly, automation is not trying to rid people of their jobs and replace them with ‘robots’ – a fear that seemingly shows no sign of fading. On the contrary, at a time when employees are becoming increasingly discerning about their workplace fulfilment levels, it can liberate them from burdensome, administration-centric tasks, and free up their time to focus on activities that make better use of their skills – boosting both productivity and engagement as a result.

Thirdly, the benefits associated with automation aren’t isolated solely to staff motivation and workplace efficiencies. Automation – or certainly, an automation-savvy mindset – can become the lifeblood of a firm’s scale-up strategy, which empowers the business to grow at speed, with a constant eye on cost control and service levels too. In the current economic climate, this agility – not to mention bottom line protection – has arguably never been so important.

by Terry Daniell, Operations Director at Trenches Law

Read more of our insightful articles from Interface magazine.

Google, BT and DCMS among over 1,000 organisations offering free mentorship to independent organisations through Digital Boost

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Digital Boost, a new platform connecting organisations with digital skills founded by serial entrepreneur Sherry Coutu CBE, has today set out a bold ambition to digitally upskill 500,000 women from female-led organisations by January 2022, with 200,000 of those from BAME backgrounds. This comes as recent research revealed that 97% of charities feel insecure about their command of digital skills, while a survey conducted by BT and Small Business Britain found that 63% of small businesses lack confidence in future-proofing their business.

Digital Boost helps small organisations access digital skills through unlimited free one-to-one mentorships delivered by volunteers at some of the world’s most respected organisations including Google, DCMS, Visa, BT and The Big Lottery. Digital Boost is also working with its partners to offer specialised workshops and access to short online courses to its learners. 

Since its launch in June 2020, Digital Boost has mentored more than 2,000 small businesses and charities. It currently has 1,600 partners listed on the platform and has successfully delivered multiple one-to-one mentoring sessions. 

Sherry Coutu CBE, founder of Digital Boost, said, “We’re proud to work alongside our valued partners to mentor at least 1 million people who work for small businesses and charities by 31st January 2022, of which 20% will identify themselves as BAME and 50% will identify themselves as female. With our enhanced digital platform that offers unlimited mentoring support as well as commercial partnerships for potential corporates, we believe we can significantly boost the revenues of female-led businesses”.

As a beneficiary of multiple mentoring sessions, Amanda Mann, founder of Mann’s Cookies, said: “Mine is a Covid-19 business. I couldn’t imagine I would have so much fun and meet such amazing people but I didn’t have any business experience so I am so grateful I found Digital Boost. They were brilliant on our mentoring calls and they were great at helping me get to grips with the mechanics of business, showing me how to deliver great customer service and sharing tips on keeping up my social media presence.”

Three years on from Open Banking launched in the UK, let’s look at what we’ve done and where we can go from here…

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Earlier this year, UK Open Banking celebrated three years. Since 13 January 2018, regulated third-party providers have been able to integrate with bank APIs to access customers’ financial data, in an effort to break down the barriers standing in the way of seamless data sharing. 


The overarching goal of this new regime was to give consumers and businesses greater visibility and control over their finances, with technology at the forefront of this mission. Specifically, the pioneering Open Banking initiative was created to enable financial technology (fintech) providers to bring innovative new propositions to the SME and consumer market. 


By extension, the users of Open Banking would benefit from products that were better suited to their unique financial situation, enabling them to compare available products in order to find the best deals on the market. 
So, as we reflect on three years of Open Banking, the question is: how much progress has been made, and what’s in store for the future?


Increasing collaboration through innovation 


The introduction of a new requirement for all UK-regulated banks to allow customers to share their financial data with authorised third-party providers introduced a new era of collaboration within a previously segregated market. 

Joined by one overarching mission – namely, to drive innovation and deliver the best possible customer experience – large banks and fintech startups began forming valuable partnerships. Thanks to more efficient data sharing, incumbents, for instance, have been able to integrate propositions developed by fintechs into their own platforms, in an effort to better meet the evolving needs of the customer. 


The benefits to the customer are evident: a more interconnected and open financial ecosystem, which enables them to browse available products and access the right services for their needs. 

Since its inception, Open Banking has served to shift the power to the customer and increase competition within the sector. By utilising new apps and digital platforms, banking customers now have access to a fuller and clearer view of their finances. This allows individuals to budget more effectively, switch products more easily, and generally make more informed decisions. 


Increasing uptake


Since the initiative was launched in 2018, Open Banking adoption among UK consumers and businesses has surged. While generating awareness about its benefits has been a slow process (a recent PwC study found that only 18% of consumers were aware of what Open Banking means for them), the COVID-19 pandemic has driven Open Banking usage. 


Today, over two million users utilise Open Banking-enabled applications and services. This number has doubled since January 2020, with the pandemic likely having a strong influence on the rate of uptake. 


As disruption took hold and personal finances took a hit, many people turned towards online banking and money management apps, in search of tech solutions that could bolster their financial confidence. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, almost one in five (17%) of UK adults have started using an online banking service to help with their money management goals, with this figure rising to 45% among 25-34-year-olds. 


Without the advent of Open Banking, the accessibility and value of such solutions would be questionable. After all, many of these fintech solutions use Open Banking to connect directly to users’ bank accounts to provide a more tailored service. 


At the same time, it has also enabled financial services providers to obtain an accurate and up-to-date view of an individual’s financial situation, as well as their past and present behaviours, in order to deliver more personalised guidance. 

How will Open Banking develop?

Open Banking today generally covers personal and business current accounts, credit cards and online e-money accounts. In the future, the concept will extend to cover all financial markets – from pensions to investments and insurance. 

Now that we have built the underlying infrastructure, it will become easier to build on top of this. More complicated use-cases of Open Banking will begin to develop, with competition from non-traditional players such as fintechs and challenger banks stepping in to provide a range of new services – particularly within industries that previously strayed away from large scale digital transformation.  

As the ability to let information flow between applications continues to improve, new products and iterations of existing offerings will be built, integrated and modified at a much greater speed than before. We will shift away from a closed banking system to one that encourages new aggregators, service partners, and payment providers to add value to existing businesses models, and in doing so, create a range of new customer-centred financial services. 

Examples of innovations that we are already seeing include services that provide personalised advice to banking customers looking to improve their credit score, and applications that enable employees to save directly from their salary. 

We’ve come a long way in the Open Banking revolution, giving consumers and businesses greater control over their financial lives and the ability to choose products and services that work best for them. As we progress further towards Open Finance, this initiative will give customers greater influence over a wider range of their financial data, and offer access to enriched financial services. 

Ammar Akhtar is the co-founder and CEO of Yobota, a London-based technology company. Founded in 2016, Yobota has built a fast, flexible, cloud-native core banking platform, which allows clients to create and run innovative financial products. You can follow Yobota on LinkedIn and Twitter

Our exclusive cover story this month centres on Venkat Gopalan, Chief Technology, Data & Digital Officer for Belcorp.

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Welcome to another packed issue of Interface Magazine!

Our exclusive cover story this month centres on Venkat Gopalan, Chief Technology, Data & Digital Officer for Belcorp.

Read the latest issue here!

A business that’s fully and passionately dedicated to ¨promote beauty to achieve personal fulfilment¨, Belcorp is creating something new for itself that’s not a cultural reset, per se, but a cultural reboot. The message behind this Latin American beauty corporation, which operates across 14 countries, remains the same – but it’s now better, stronger, even more deeply ingrained in each and every fiber of the business. What is, on the face of it, a digital transformation for Belcorp has actually been a full people-centric makeover from the inside-out – it just happens to have been driven by technology. With his hand on the tiller is Venkat Gopalan, Chief Technology, Data & Digital Officer for Belcorp, who stepped in 18 months ago to help push the digital plan, resulting in a hard press on the fast-forward button for the company’s development.

Elsewhere, we catch up with Lori Snyder CIO, Information Systems & Technology at the State of Nebraska for the Department of Health and Human Services, to see how the state is using digital strategies to battle COVID-19. Plus, we have exclusive interviews with former Apprentice winner Mark Wright, Director of Climb Online and James Shanahan, CEO Revolut Singapore. We also list 5 essential tips to building an intelligent workplace.

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

Almost two thirds received additional funding to accelerate initiatives…

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Coeus Consulting, an award-winning independent IT advisory, today announced findings from its annual CIO and IT Leadership Survey 2021. The survey of senior IT leaders explored how they have had to urgently prioritise and accelerate programmes during the pandemic over the past 12 months. 

Remarkably, over half (53%) claimed they were able to implement a strategic shift of their entire business operations to digital and almost three quarters (68%) of respondents either strongly, or generally agreed, that acceleration helped them to digitalise more of their operations. 

Half of organisations were still amid their digital journeys or in the planning stages when they had to re-prioritise and pause non-urgent initiatives to focus on operational continuity during the pandemic. In fact, 70 per cent of organisations surveyed prioritised end user solutions (EUS) such as remote working, 52 per cent prioritised operational stability, closely followed by cost optimisation (50%).  

 “The proficiency that businesses have demonstrated in their prioritisation and acceleration of critical initiatives is a huge triumph. Being able to re-direct resources and cutting down their time to market in digitalising the organisation is no easy feat, particularly in the throes of a global pandemic” said Ben Barry, Director, Coeus Consulting.  

Despite this, the speed at which organisations were forced to adapt meant that short term and tactical business decisions had to be made, with over three-quarters (78%) of respondents stating they had implemented ‘quick fix’ solutions.                              

“Businesses will need to revisit these over the coming months to build on these capabilities with more permanent solutions for the future and ensure that all changes made in response to the pandemic are assessed to identify any tactical risks accepted and create a plan to mitigate, update or accept all of them” Barry continued.  

As a result of deploying ‘quick-fix’ solutions, organisations were confronted with operational, as well as strategic difficulties including agreeing priority changes, implementing the solution and post implementation, each of which encompassed numerous challenges.  

  • Challenges in agreeing the priorities for 2020 included security, which was key for over half of the respondents. This was followed by governance constraints (44%), business risk aversion (37%), employee reluctance/education (32%) and board level resistance (22%). 
  • Fifty per cent of respondents cited cost of implementation as the biggest challenge, followed by delivery of bandwidth (42%), integration difficulties (41%) and lack of skills and expertise (37%). 
  • Post implementation challenges included respondents experiencing negative process impacts (53%) and increased operating costs (45%). Customer and user perceptions were also adversely affected for almost 40 per cent as organisations tackled uncertainty and their own internal changes.  

These factors were likely exacerbated by the fact that business and IT leaders had to make these decisions rapidly and in a short time frame, having to balance risk with maintaining operational continuity.  

Additionally, 82 per cent agreed that business and IT leadership played a key role in improving ways of working and minimising disruption across the business. Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of respondents stated that IT leaders were crucial in accelerating large scale deployments in EUS and about a third prioritised initiatives in improving customer experience, increasing revenues and developing or changing products.  

Almost two-thirds of organisations noted they had received additional funding to help accelerate priority projects, but a large majority of those surveyed (63%) agreed that re-scoping, undoing projects, renegotiating and stalling contracts, as well as redeploying resources, will likely cause ongoing business impacts, and we would expect the cost of doing so to be significantly high.  

Despite challenges with costs, the IT budget expectations show that CIOs across all sectors are expecting their budgets to remain untouched (28.6%) or increase (22.1%) as businesses recognise that IT is a critical part of delivery in all sectors. 

Barry concluded – “As we move forward, organisations must reflect on these implementations, challenges and the role of IT as they look to establish a more permanent shift to a new hybrid workforce in the future. 

IT Leaders and their teams have had a great opportunity to show their value and will continue to drive the strategic agenda in 2021 and beyond. This increased visibility and the business’ dependence on IT has given them an opportunity to demonstrate that IT leads in terms of business transformation, and should be funded accordingly.” 

You can view the full report here

Connected technology is of critical importance in this process, and is likely to be one of the key economic drivers going forward.

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Although we have bid a grateful farewell to 2020, the disruption and uncertainty we experienced are spilling over into 2021. If there is one thing that we learnt last year, however, it’s that we need to accelerate the pace of transformative change. Connected technology is of critical importance in this process, and is likely to be one of the key economic drivers going forward.

The digital and physical world continue to converge

2020 symbolises a turning point of adaptation to digital interactions in everyday life, be it working from home, ordering groceries or online schooling. Consumers in 2021 and beyond expect to experience a seamless blend of intertwined in-person and online interactions along the customer journey. 

In the manufacturing world, we can expect the rapid growth of AI, IoT and other industrial automation technology, especially since human resources become less accessible and reliable.

Technology’s place in the boardroom 

In 2020, technology proved to be a competitive advantage for some companies and a threat to the survival of others. In particular, the failure to have a genuine eCommerce presence cost many companies dearly. As a result of this, the lines between technology strategy and corporate strategy are beginning to blur. In order to survive and thrive, organisations need to assess their current tech capabilities and expand on future possibilities. 

Data-driven decision making 

To prepare for current changes and an unknown future, corporate and technology strategists need to have access to accurate data to analyse, identify trends, reduce wastage and inform their strategies. 

The first step in this process is accurate data collection. This is enabled by Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and networks that are able to report on virtually anything, 24/7. The next step is the ability to analyse this data. Again, technology platforms with advanced analytics capabilities, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are making meaningful analytics a possibility. By using tools such as cloud-based dashboards, organisations have the ability to:

– Identify internal and external strategic forces

– Inform decisions

– Monitor outcomes

– Develop strategies continuously and dynamically 

Information technology accessed by everyone, but trusts no-one

Cloud-first, cloud-only 

One of the first steps in digital transformation is modernising legacy enterprise systems and migrating them to the cloud. The adoption of cloud-based applications became particularly important in 2021, with a large proportion of the office-based workforce operating from home. In order to continue with business as usual, employees needed access to critical software and collaborative working. In 2021, organisations will adopt a cloud-first mentality when it comes to building or upgrading technology infrastructure.\

Zero trust is a must

In an increasingly digital world, cybersecurity is high up on the list of organisational risks. Zero trust security (which involves security measures that require everything to be verified) is shaping cybersecurity initiatives. In a zero trust architecture, there is no inherent trust, and every access request should be validated based on:


– User identity

– Device

– Location

– Any other variables that provide context to each connection 

Access to data, applications and workloads is provided based on the principle of least privilege. 

For most companies, the creation of a zero trust architecture will require third-party assistance from digital transformation experts in IoT spheres.

Supply chains move to the front office 

Supply chains were once seen as ‘behind-the-scenes’ necessities. When COVID-19 hit, it quickly became evident that even the most resilient and agile supply chains were only as strong as the weakest links. 

A recent survey of supply chain professionals found that 97% of respondents said that their organisations experienced disruptions related to COVID-19. The same survey found that 73% of respondents are now planning major shifts in the way they approach procurement and supply chain management.

In 2021, more and more organisations are realising that the way they conduct their supply chains can actually become a competitive differentiator. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are increasingly looking for more streamlined supply chains, fast, contactless delivery and greater traceability. In addition, organisations are realising the value of data extracted through the supply chain network. 

There is a growing trend to fit products with IoT-enabled sensors that provide 24/7 asset visibility from the source to the hands of the consumer. The ability to capture larger volumes of real-time data allows supply chain operators to mine this data for operational insights. 

In addition, the use of drones, condition monitoring, robots and image recognition are making physical supply chains more effective, efficient and safer. 

Contactless customer service

Delivery and shipping 

Born out of customer desire to minimise physical contact, contactless delivery options will continue to develop in 2021. Contactless delivery is made possible by artificial intelligence-based applications and robotics. 

Telemedicine 

To minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure in the healthcare sector, practices have started implementing more telehealth offerings. These include:

– Remote/video consultations

– A.I-based diagnostics

– No-contact medication delivery

Autonomous vehicles 

Autonomous driving technology is set to make significant progress during 2021, with major manufacturers such as Honda and Ford announcing plans to mass-produce autonomous vehicles and launch autonomous driving ridesharing services.

Zero food waste

Food security came to light in the midst of supply and demand challenges brought about by the coronavirus in 2020. In 2021, reducing food waste is moving higher up the agenda. 

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that more than 30% of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year. Smart technology can be used to reduce food waste, increase food security, and assist with better distribution of food resources worldwide. For example, automated, sensor-based inventory management and replenishment ensures that the correct quantities of food are ordered at the right time, completed without human intervention and inaccuracies. 

Blockchain

And, finally, no series of predictions would be complete without a quick comment on blockchain technology. For the most part, the application of blockchain tech is overshadowed by its “poster boy” application—Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. However, as we move into a smarter age, the process accountability distributed ledger technology guarantees will ensure that 2021 will see greater transparency on ordering, delivery and workstream management, along with a host of tradable asset ledgers coming online. All of which will improve efficiency across operating lines and help cut waste. 

Technology and transformation 2.0.2.1 

These trends predicted for 2021 are connected by the thread of digitalisation and connected technology. The need for this transformation was accelerated by the ‘new normal’ necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, which set the world on a course towards powerful new digital capabilities. Daunting as this may seem, having the right technology partners on board helps organisations take advantage of the critical technology trends of today.

Two-thirds of accounting departments still process invoices manually: only 15% are fully paperless

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Despite the increasing need to process invoices remotely as more employees are urged to work from home, the majority of companies are still lagging behind in automation implementation. Accounts payable departments are still largely processing invoices manually, according to a survey of accounting and finance professionals released today by Ephesoft, Inc.


The survey gathered responses from 200 accounting and finance professionals from 26 countries. Key findings include:

Distributing or processing paper documents


Businesses are shifting to automation of their processes – especially for high-value, high-volume documents such as invoices. However, the survey results indicate that companies are slow to change when it comes to digitally transforming invoice processing and other financial documents. 

●       Only 15% of respondents said that their organisation is fully paperless, which means the majority of businesses (85%) are not. 

●       Of those who are not, just slightly over 50% are actively pursuing a paperless environment.

●       One-third (33%) of companies are predominantly paper-heavy, still far from intelligent automation.

With an average cost to process per invoice at about £11, a lack of automation is likely to keep company growth limited, leaving room for a significant increase in productivity. Modern automation has been proven to cut costs significantly, often by 80% or more, which can be reinvested in other areas.

Current technologies

When asked whether their businesses currently have document management, workflow, AP automation, RPA or artificial intelligence technologies in place, a majority of companies report having some type of document management and workflow tools system in place, but AI applications are still under-utilised. Here’s the breakdown, further showing a lack of current automation tools:

●       Less than one-third (30%) employ accounts payable automation.

●       Only 12% utilise RPA tools and just slightly less (11%) report using AI.

While these findings are understandable and relatable, Ephesoft predicts that new AI-powered low-code/no-code, cloud technology, which is evolving at a rapid pace, will remove barriers to entry into AI.

The AI Journey


When the question was posed, “What is your organisation’s location on the AI journey?” responses were split, with 42% saying they were in the planning stage and 40% saying they were not planning on implementing AI tools at all. 

We can conclude from the data that AI has still not been widely adopted, but many organisations have plans to invest in it. 

“This survey confirms that the accounting profession has lagged in adoption of newer technologies such as AI/ML, cloud and low-code/no-code architecture likely impacted by traditionally long implementation cycles and complex integrations,” said Naren Goel, chief financial officer, Ephesoft. “The accounts payable space is an ideal example where manual steps like entering invoices into an ERP system can greatly impact efficiency, so it’s exciting that we are finally starting to see innovation in this space with point solutions that are up and running in hours, eliminate manual tasks and allow accounting professionals to focus on higher value-add functions.”

The survey on digital transformation, AI, technology and automation was conducted on Nov. 5, 2020, by Accounting Today on behalf of Ephesoft. Responses are from 200 accounting and finance professionals from 26 countries, including CEOs, CFOs Partners, CIOs, CTOs, CPAs, accountants, controllers, auditors and consultants in a variety of industries, including banks, energy, government, healthcare, technology, accounting services, airlines, auto, education, large global consultancies and many others.

Industry experts say that INSTANDA’s no code platform and ADROSONIC’s insurance domain expertise will empower insurers with the agility to price risk in ways that meet the client’s needs in a changing post-Covid-19 world.

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In a significant development to accelerate the ongoing digital transformation in the insurance industry, INSTANDA, a UK-based SaaS Insurance software platform has entered a partnership with ADROSONIC, a digital consulting firm. Industry experts say that INSTANDA’s no code platform and ADROSONIC’s insurance domain expertise will empower insurers with the agility to price risk in ways that meet the client’s needs in a changing post-Covid-19 world.


Delighted over the tie-up, Tim Hardcastle, the CEO & Founder of INSTANDA, said: “Partnerships play a key role in the insurance industry, not merely for the growth and expansion of the business involved, but also for the transformation of the industry. The new partnership with ADROSONIC is exciting as it provides capability to new markets in North America, India, Middle East as well as Europe.”

Mayank, CEO & MD, ADROSONIC, said that the tie-up would provide insurers with innovative digital product and customer propositions for new markets as well as liberate insurers from inflexible legacy tech and from high-risk, high-cost and multi-year change programs.

“Given the paradigm shift that the market is undergoing, partnership models need to demonstrate not just agility and flexibility but to do so with high quality execution. ADROSONIC and INSTANDA have an outstanding track record of delivery so I am excited at what we can offer insurers to realise their ambitions and bring new ideas to market.” Hardcastle added.

“An unprecedented event like Covid-19 has left a sudden yet profound impact on the Insurance Industry and their IT Systems, as they are now subject to rigorous scrutiny following the rapid shifting of entire workplaces online that was forced due to the pandemic,” Mayank said. 

“As the key decision-makers respond to the new market demands and opportunities, they are starting to question the limitations of their existing processes and legacy systems, they also had to reassess the cost base turning to a more cost-effective and agile platform which enables them to provide quicker and more responsive service to their customers and clients. In such a scenario, INSTANDA’s no code platform coupled with ADROSONIC’s domain expertise along with a wide range of digital accelerators including RPA, Data Analytics, & CRM are key in liberating insurers from inflexible legacy technologies.   

These accelerators will power transformation across organisations looking at improving their ROI by dramatically reduced product launch times, underwriting and distribution costs and an unrivalled customer experience,” he concluded.



INSTANDA works with the leading carriers, MGAs and brokers in UK, Europe, North America, LATAM, Africa, Middle East and Australia. INSTANDA is the Insurance Industry’s first no-code business platform and allows insurers to break into new markets as well as overcome the drawbacks of legacy IT systems and embrace the benefits of digital transformation.

James McLeod, EMEA Director, Faethm, the article looks at how AI and automation have come to be perceived as a threat to human employability much more than any other revolution-driving technology

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Technology, AI and societal change are the two major hallmarks of industrial revolutions. It would be remiss to discuss the first industrial revolution, for example, without reference to steam power and the migration of the workforce from the country to the city, or the third industrial revolution without reference to the internet and rapid globalisation. 

AI

Today, as AI/automation and the decentralisation of labour push the world toward the fourth industrial revolution, a core characteristic of these changes has become clear: an acceleration in the speed at which specific skills rise and fall in demand. Over the past 100 years or more, the length of these cycles has dropped from decades to just a matter of years, creating one of the biggest employability challenges for businesses and individuals alike moving forward. 

To stay abreast of change, companies must fundamentally change the way in which they look at skills, training and career development. This isn’t just another story about technology and AI creating as many jobs as it invalidates, but rather a need to consider how existing roles will evolve and how people in at-risk jobs can easily transition into roles where they continue to add value on top of technology:

–          What needs to happen? Career development must no longer be seen as horizontal (i.e.  whereby individual workers refine a particular set of specific skills over the course of their careers and/or lives). Instead, careers must also follow a lateral trajectory, expanding not just upward, but outward into new skill areas.

–          How can this be achieved? Each role will have a set of transferable and non-transferable skills. By identifying which skills sit across different roles, employers can corridor existing employees into new roles lessening the need to search for brand new talent. 

–          Why should employers do this? Trying to keep abreast of demand for new skills by constantly hiring new talent is a costly and unsustainable strategy. Moreover, by looking at how individual processes translate to value can help eliminate bloated processes and release capacity, making roles not only more relevant, but more efficient.  

By James McLeod, EMEA Director, Faethm

The ‘Financial Sector, Threat Landscape 2020’ report revealed five top security challenges that the financial sector are currently facing, the risks of future threats, and how to spot these risks before it is too late. Here, CPOstrategy takes a closer look…

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We are no stranger to the notion of cyber security, but one industry that suffers the most from cyber security threats is the financial secretary. Key security measures within the sector have evolved dramatically with the likes of key codes, two factor authentication, voice ID, behavioural analysis, one-time passcodes, protective messaging and digital fingerprinting. 

1. Ransomware

Amazingly, the term “ransomware” was only added to the dictionary three years ago. In that time however, ransomware has increased dramatically in terms of the frequency of incidents and the range of methods used to conduct them. Let it be known that the attackers are extremely sophisticated. Once they have your data, who’s to say that your data will be given back or decrypted even if you pay up. Worse still what’s stopping them coming back to attack you again?  The report found that once an attack is made, the bad actor will sell the details on to their associates to go after the victim again after deployment, because the payload can still be there, activated and deactivated.

2. Internal Threats

The report takes a look at the Verizon, 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) where it shows that ‘employees’ mistakes account for roughly the same number of breaches as external parties who are actively attacking’ the organisation. Now isn’t that terrifying? Misdelivery within the company, by which information has inadvertently been sent to the wrong person, stands tall as one of the most common issues when it comes to the notion of insider threats. Next time you forward an email or send one to the wrong person/recipient, click on the wrong mailing list, that’s a misdelivery. In the interests of fairness, misdelivery is almost always accidental and non-malicious, but the effects can be devastating. Especially if sensitive data is inadvertently shared to the wrong recipient.

3) App Developments

There’s an app for that. There really is. Apps in the investment and finance space have grown substantially in 2020 which is of course a good thing, as the ability to invest online is quick and easy, and accessible to all. But, with demand comes rushed development. Many of these apps were developed quickly and quite frankly are not ready for cyber-attacks. So that means no two-factor authentication, no protection from appropriate regulations, are not patched or maintained properly, and do not have contingency plans in place to mitigate the effects of a cyber-attack. What that means then is personal information of app users is relatively easy to steal and sell. This can be done by creating duplicate fraudulent apps to trick the user. On these duplicate apps, the imagery and language of the genuine app is mirrored. Once the personal information is supplied, all the money involved  (real and virtual) is up for grabs. And so begins the circle of ransomware life.  

4) Third-Party Risks

Few organisations work on their own. Quite rightly too. Think about third parties that they use. Vendors, partners, email providers, service providers, web hosting companies, law firms, data management companies, subcontractors. The list goes on. They are all essential to business operations and a lot of these third parties share IT systems and even sensitive information through legal teams so it goes without saying that third parties may very well be an open backdoor into your financial systems for attackers to infiltrate.

5) COVID-19

Yep, even cyber crime has been affected by COVID. It is that unavoidable. Cyber criminals are continuing to target the financial sector even during the pandemic. There has been quite the spike in cyber attacks on banks, financial organisations and the third parties connected to them. Going back to simpler times before COVID-19, if an attacker wanted to sabotage a company or steal data, they would target the business itself. They’d aim their sights at the website, the social accounts, the logins and all their vulnerabilities. In response, organisations had counter measures in place. But now, you just need to target a single remote worker and the house of cards comes tumbling down.

With virtually all companies looking at AI, what are some of the key risks they need to consider before implementation?

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Today virtually all companies are forced to innovate and many are excited about AI. Yet since implementation cuts across organisational boundaries, shifting to an AI-driven strategy requires new thinking about managing risks, both internally and externally. This blog will cover “the seven sins of enterprise AI strategies”, which are governance issues at the board and executive levels that block companies from moving ahead with AI. by By Jeremy Barnes, Element AI

1- Disowning the AI strategy

This is probably the most important sin. In this case, a CEO and board will say that AI is a priority, but delegate it to a different department or an innovation lab. However, success is not based on whether or not a company uses an innovation lab—it’s whether they are truly invested in it. The bottom line is that the CEO and board need to actively lead an AI strategy.

2- Ignoring the unknowns

This happens when companies say they believe in AI, but don’t reach a level of proficiency where it’s possible to identify, characterise and model the threats that emerge with new advances. Even if it is decided not to go all-in on AI innovation, it’s still important that there is a hypothesis for how to address AI within a company and an early warning system so the decision can be re-evaluated early enough to act.  Being a fast follower requires as much organizational preparation and lead time as leadership.

3- Not enabling the culture

The ability to implement AI is about an experimentation mindset. That and an openness to failure need to be adopted across the company. Organisations need to keep in mind that AI doesn’t respect organisational boundaries. Most companies want high-impact, low-risk solutions that could simply lead to optimising, rather than advancing new value streams. It is hard to accept increased risk in exchange for impact but it will come as part of the continuous cultural enablement of an experimental mindset.

4- Starting with the solution

This is the most common sin. It’s important to be able to understand the specific problems you’re trying to solve, because AI is unlikely to be a solution for all of them, and especially not blindly implementing a horizontal AI platform. Have the conversation at board level to ensure that an overarching AI strategy, and not simply quick-fix solutions, is the priority.

5- Lose risk, keep reward

As mentioned in the third sin, it is natural for companies to want to implement AI without any risk. But there is no reward without risk. A vendor motivated to decrease risk will also decrease innovation and ultimately impact by making successes small and failures non-existent. AI creates differentiation only for companies that are willing to learn from both their successes and their failures. A company that doesn’t effectively balance risk in AI will ultimately increase its risk of disruption.

6- Vintage accounting

Attempting to fit AI into traditional financial governance structures causes problems. It doesn’t fit nicely into budget categories and it’s hard to value the output. The link between what you put in and what you get out can be less tangible or predictable, which often makes it harder to square with existing plans or structures. Model the rate of return on AI activities and all data-related activities. This demands that these activities affect profit (not just loss) and assets (not just liabilities).

7- Treating data as a commodity

The final sin concerns data and its treatment as a commodity. Data is fundamental to AI. If data is poorly handled, it can lead to negative impacts on decision-making. Data should be treated as an asset. The stronger, deeper and more accurate the dataset, the better models that you can train and more intelligent insights you can generate. But, at the same time, when personally identifiable information is stored about customers, it can be stolen, risking heavy penalties in some jurisdictions. You need to build towards data from a use case rather than invest blindly in data centralisation projects. So, now you know what not to do. Here are some of the simple things that you can do to move ahead. First, talk to your board about how long it will take to become an AI innovator, modelling it out, rather than simply discussing it conceptually.

Second, prepare for change and put in place monitoring. AI shifts all the time, so you’ll want to regularly check in to adjust and pivot your strategy. It’s important to develop a basic skill set so you can redo planning exercises with your board. Third, model out risks in both action and inaction. But don’t model them in a traditional approach, which is to push risk down to different business units and then compensate those units for reducing risk rather than managing trade-offs. Instead, view those trade-offs in terms of risks and rewards, and start to think about how you are accounting for the assets and liabilities of AI. Ultimately, you want to start to model what is the actual rate of return for all these activities that you are doing. Then benchmark it against what you see in other companies from across the industry, and that will give you a good picture of the current situation and where to go.

With a rise in immersive training and workouts on demand, connectedness matter most…

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In what is almost a redundant statement, due to the very obvious nature of it, technology has taken over every facet of the modern world. From the way we eat (ordering a takeaway or watching a YouTube cooking tutorial) to the way we purchase the very clothes on our backs (via H&M, Zalando etc.), technology is right there as an enabler. In fact, in 2020, global retail sales are projected to amount to around $26.tn dollars, with an estimated 1.9bn people worldwide purchasing goods (including food) or services online.

Go back just one year to 2019, and e-retail sales surpassed $3.5tn worldwide.  The fact of the matter is, technology has made this possible and it will continue to drive these numbers to almost unimaginable levels. The really fascinating thing about this however, particularly in a year beset by lockdowns and restricted movement outdoors, is how many of these transactions were made from home and how much of that $3.5tn has been spent in the palm of our hands? 

In all the talk of global markets and industry being disrupted and revolutionised by technology we often focus on those trillion dollar ones because they are the traditional ‘big hitter’ industries. Over the past decade however, one industry sector has seen incredible growth all over the world and technology (to no surprise) has seen that growth take on a whole new level. In 2019, the global fitness and health club industry exceeded $96bn. There are more than 201,000 health and fitness clubs worldwide and more than 174mn global members. It’s clear to see; the health and fitness space is not to be sniffed at. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, ways in which technology has redefined the fitness industry is through on-demand services. Like everything else in our lives, we want it and we want it now. But for Jean-Michel Fournier, CEO of Les Mills Media, it’s important to remember what people want with their fitness experiences before getting lost on working out how to provide that to them through technology.

“We are more and more connected,” he says from his home gym in San Francisco. “Connection in fitness is very important. Being able to be part of a community and believing in something bigger than you is way more motivating than exercising by yourself and not being able to share what you achieve or what you’re doing. It’s about trying to connect with people who have the same objective, or same experience or someone who can advise you. So that community is very important and with technology now you’re able to be engaged and supported by your community, anywhere, anytime.” 

That sense of a shared community, through health and fitness, defines the very core of Les Mills. Headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, Les Mills is on a mission to create a fitter planet not by making people work out but by helping people fall in love with fitness so that they want to work out. 

Les Mills provides workouts that are licensed by 19,500 partners in 100 countries around the world and has a tribe of 135,000 certified instructors to deliver the likes of BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT and GRIT workouts to millions of members. With the future of fitness merging between physical and digital, the company has led the charge in delivering immersive training and workouts on demand. This is where Fournier, a fitness fanatic and a student of Silicon Valley, looks to continuously drive engagement with members and it starts with that sense of connectedness and love affair with fitness.

“Actually, I don’t really care about technology. Technology for me is an enabler. Technology’s here to help improve the life of our community,” he laughs. “It’s really my very first company where I’ve seen how we help people to live a better life. To feel better when they wake up in the morning, and do the exercise and fall in love with our classes, where people are doing body pump and body combat on a daily basis and they share their pictures, their achievements through the community. It’s so exciting when I see that and that’s what feeds me, honestly.”

The health and fitness space is notoriously costly and often seen as a luxury, pricing people out entirely. So surely technology and on demand services would simply follow suit?  Fournier recognises this, recalling the unfortunate passing of his father over the past few years and how that had made him rethink the role of technology in fitness. “Before my father passed away, he told me that he wished he could go back and be in shape and feel proud of his physical fitness,” he says. “That really impacted me. It made me ask one question; how can we help people get better access to fitness services. The answer is through technology.”

Fournier believes that technology is the key to democratising fitness services, making it truly available to everyone. Les Mills offers all of its fitness programs and workouts, together with advice and FAQs, through a simple and easy to use mobile and tablet app. This app will capture all kinds of data from its members and their activity and feed it back to them in a way that is personalised to each user. While we are competitive by our very nature and we do crave the shared community that Fournier speaks of, we all have our own personal goals and our own achievements that we strive for. But how can an app provide personalised experiences for well over a million users all over the world? The answer is, again, technology. Specifically Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. 

“The technology allows us to think about things that are perhaps within our subconscious that impact our exercise,” says Fournier. “When are we most motivated to exercise? How does our sleeping habits impact our performance? At what point during a day am I going to get the best results? These are all things that AI and Machine Learning will allow us to think about and understand better. It’s really opening everyone’s eyes and making that process of falling in love with fitness that little bit more seamless.” 

Machine Learning, while not a new concept, is still in its infancy in terms of global implementation. Fournier believes that we are “at the beginning of a tsunami” when it comes to Machine Learning and that when it does become a norm, personalisation will come naturally. He compares the concept of personalisation in fitness to that of other streaming on-demand services like Netflix. Personalisation in those platforms can only stretch as far as presenting films that you like based on your activity, or personal lists you create. In fitness, the variables are so sparse and unique to each individual that a “one service to many” approach simply will not work. 

“Technology in the fitness spaces creates a sense of accountability with both the community and the coaches” says Fournier. “You are starting to see more and more coaching platforms out there and we are doing some experimentation with this at Les Mills, where people have a coach in their pocket. Now they are connected with the coach and the coach is going to communicate directly and check on your performance. They look at the data and see that you’ve done the workout and congratulate you for it. Then you feel good about it.”

Fournier admits that it also works both ways, thanks to those extremely different variables; “Say you haven’t done it, the coach can ask you why. It’s because you’re tired, or you’ve hurt yourself. The coach can then work with you to adapt the workout. So that’s going to create this accountability and technology is going to help to create this connection between your data and your community. There’s going to be this golden triangle of information here.”

The benefits of technology are clear to see; the personalisation of the user experience comes directly from it, so Les Mills should just go ahead and throw all of its eggs into the technology basket right? Wrong. Les Mills, since the very beginning back in 1968, is a business built on the foundations of family and community. Right from the top with Phillip Mills himself, to his wife Jackie and children Diana and Les Mills Jr, there is a culture that looks at fitness services and exercises and marries that with technology that can spread that culture all over the world. The technology will never drive the business, the community will. This in itself brings an interesting challenge to the table, yes Les Mills wants to serve the world and help each and every one of us, but it’s also a business and a business will also be driven by revenue and bottom line results through innovation. “So how do you innovate? You need to be sure you have a good understanding of the mission,” says Fournier. “At the end of the day if there are people out there fleeting the next best tech thing in fitness and they’re being more successful, good for them. At the end of the day the mission for Les Mills is not to conquer the world, or to be a dominant company. At the end of the day, we are here to really help people.” 

Les Mills is driven by people, for people. That is abundantly clear. Personalisation is one challenge that the company faces and for the most part succeeds in, but what about the actual user experience? How easy is it for someone to log in to the CMS, search through the copious amounts of workouts and then stream those workouts in a truly seamless experience? Les Mills, like many businesses right now, works to provide an omnichannel experience for users so they can indeed access it anytime and anywhere. But omnichannel is a word that has fallen into the trappings of many other keywords in technology right now. How does the company look to move away from simply following a trend and offer a true omnichannel experience? 

“It’s hard,” laughs Fournier. “Not everybody has an internet connection at 100 or 200 megabytes. Not everyone has the same bandwidth and capabilities to stream. These days there are a number of successful platforms out in the world, which makes it easier. Having streaming capabilities and adding a strong architecture while working with the best CMS platform out there is critical. Around four years ago, coinciding with when I came into the business, we laid down a very strong and robust platform that can support millions of recurrences and millions of subscribers, to be sure we can provide the quality that our users need regardless of their situation.”

The lines between health and fitness and digital are increasingly blurring and reaching a point as to where we may not be able to think about exercise and fitness without a livestream, at home experience. As with any technological shift, there is also a generational shift running alongside it. It isn’t simply a case of older generations of gym users and fitness professionals suddenly pivoting to digital or being alienated as the world around them becomes an increasingly digital one. As we have seen in many other industries, it is not that black and white and it comes as no surprise that this is something that Les Mills understands more than most. 

“If someone wants to enjoy our content on an app, they can. If they want to enjoy our content in a live streaming class, they can. If they want to enjoy our content in a live class with a real instructor they can do it as well,” says Fournier. “At the end of the day we are a content provider. What we do is create amazing fitness choreography linked to music and we do so in a way that is truly accessible to all and for all.” 

In 2020, the world was forced to stand still as it became gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. With lockdowns and restrictions put in place to protect the lives of people the world over, this closed a lot of doors for the likes of restaurants, retail stores and yes; gyms and fitness centres. One could be forgiven for thinking that Les Mills, pioneers in the streaming on demand space for fitness, were well prepared for this and suffered minimal impact from this. “Our customers are those fitness clubs and the community centres that provide Les Mills classes to their communities,” reflects Fournier. “So we were hurt there. Everybody moved to digital, which was great and thanks to the great work we did in previous years in building a robust platform we were able to absorb the millions of recurrences into our platform and keep the right level of stability.” 

For Les Mills, it has always been about the community and when that community is forced to stay indoors and to stay away from the physical connectedness, the focus changes slightly. Connected community has always been a cornerstone of Les Mills, but in these difficult times the company changed tact and became much more connected to its community than ever before. “I’m very proud of the Les Mills team because we really focused on what was important. The focus was really on responding to the customer needs,” beams Fournier. 

“People wanted more connection, so we generated some live streaming classes. They wanted to talk with their instructors live, so we did a lot of live Q&As that were pretty amazing.”

Fournier points to one example where the Program Director, Glen Ostergaard, presented a live streaming class to over 25,000 people worldwide. Just a few short years ago, this would have been unprecedented even for Les Mills and yet here it was, leading one of the largest live streaming fitness classes in the world and exceeding all expectations. 

Elsewhere, in the absence of being present in classes and under the watchful eye of a trainer, Les Mills needed to think about how it could leverage the 140,000+ fitness instructors around the world and enable them to connect with the people. “These people aren’t just the faces you see on our apps and workouts, they are the community who run the classes in centres and in gyms,” says Fournier. “They understand fitness, they understand health and wellness and they are a part of the whole community so we started to connect and to create a networking effect, connecting the expert to the community that has a need. It has been quite amazing to see this level of engagement and communication with instructors and seeing how they can exercise better.” 

Right, the future and what it will look like for many remains uncertain. The last year has taught us to rethink our perceptions of how industries can and should operate and has forced a lot of businesses to rethink their operations. In some cases, this has created great opportunities and change for good. For fitness and exercise, which as we know was already going through it’s own evolution prior to 2020, this evolution and convergence of fitness and technology will continue at an incredible pace. As we talk of new norms, what does that actually mean for Les Mills? Can it ever go back to what it was before? “Some people enjoy exercising from home. Some people are enjoying working out more outdoors and hiking or going to the park and doing their exercise routines there. And you will always have people missing their fitness club,” says Fournier. “Human nature will always go back to convenience and people will want to go back to the convenience of a fitness club or a class.”

“I firmly believe that club operators need to evolve and they need to focus on their members.There are an increasing amount of members who are outside the club as we’ve discussed. You see the evolution right now, more and more are embracing digital, creating some challenges and motivating people to exercise outside of the club. It’s a pretty big shift and one that’s going to continue, so we have to continue to look at our offering and how we can continue to serve our community in the best way possible.”

ServiceNow research highlights opportunities for organisations to boost productivity as today’s new pace of working creates the perfect environment for innovation

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Legacy technology is causing UK businesses additional concerns during lockdown, according to new research by ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW), the leading digital workflow company that makes work, work better for people. Prior to the announcement of a second national lockdown, both C-Level leaders and employees had low confidence that they would be able to adapt to another major business disruption.

The Work Survey gathered opinions from 900 C-suite leaders and 8,100 employees across 11 countries, including 100 C-level executives and 1,000 office workers in the UK. It found that, despite 96% of UK leaders and 87% of UK employees stating that their company transitioned to new ways of working faster than they thought possible during the initial lockdown, many departments would not be able to implement new digital processes within a month in the event of another major disruption, such as the one we are facing now. Only a minority of UK leaders believe that customer service (37%), finance (38%) and IT (39%) could introduce new workflows within 30 days.

This challenge is exacerbated because most businesses still have a digital disadvantage, with 98% of UK C-level leaders admitting to still using offline processes. These include:

“Organisations innovated rapidly, and initial sprints enabled them to react to the immediate COVID-19 challenges,” said Chris Pope, ServiceNow’s VP Innovation. “Some decisions made were knee-jerk and rapid, but at what cost? There may be good short-term gains, but are they ‘match fit’ for our new ways of working? For organisations still struggling to integrate and implement a fully integrated workflow system, the future of work will not arrive, and soon they’ll fall behind.”

Worker safety is paramount

The survey also showed there are doubts when it comes to workplace safety from both UK leaders and UK employees. 

Almost a third (31%) of UK leaders and 51% of UK employees are concerned their company will prioritise business continuity over safety. In addition, over a quarter (26%) of UK leaders and 40% of UK employees agree that their company will not take all the necessary steps to keep employees safe when returning to work in the office.

“The critical challenge for UK organisations will be balancing the immediate need for business continuity with the personal needs of their employees,” said Pope. “2020 has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Many have seen restrictions over the past several months, which look set to continue through the winter. Businesses need to lead with compassion and combine empathy with meaningful action to help their employees navigate the months to come. In this distributed working environment, how organisations handle the moments that matter, from when a hire joins to when they leave, not only determines talent retention but will also contribute to overall business continuity and success.”

Business leaders split on return to office preferences

UK business leaders are also divided on how to keep their company most productive. While 49% want to maintain new ways of operating once the crisis subsides, 51% are keen to return to business as closely as it was prior to COVID-19, indicating a divide in approach.

Despite 57% of UK employees feeling they now have a better work-life balance, both UK leaders (99%) and UK employees (80%) have concerns about how remote work will impact their business moving forward.

The research indicates that leaders are prioritising speed of business while staff care about the human side of working. In terms of the largest challenges posed by remote work, UK leaders are most concerned about extended timelines for new releases or innovations (48%). Conversely, UK employees see reduced collaboration (48%) as their largest worry.

More information about The Work Survey can be found by accessing the survey findings slide deck and infographic.

Survey Methodology

Wakefield Research fielded an online quantitative survey in September 2020 to 900 C‑level executives and 8,100 office professionals (employees) from companies of 500 or more employees in the following countries: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. While Wakefield surveyed across industries, the findings highlight meaningful differences from employees in the following five key industries: financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications, and public sector.

We catch up with digital strategist Dr Paul J Bailo, who reveals the third part of his digital transformation masterclass…

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I believe that our final chat within the Digital Transformation Trilogy is based around culture…

The first of our trilogy into what constitutes a successful digital transformation centred around leadership and this was followed by planning. But the glue to keeping this all together is the culture. And culture’s very hard to define for a lot of people, but it’s really the essence of what your organization is about.

It’s truly understanding what your value systems are. When we think of who we are and what we believe we bring to an organization – our beliefs, our religions, our upbringing and what mom and dad taught us – we bring in our feelings of how we see the world. These are basic perceptions, deep, embedded thoughts in our minds, shared beliefs, and even unconscious feelings, right? Who we are and what we are as human beings have developed through where we lived, what zip code we lived in, our friends, our family, religion and background. And these are the values we bring into an organization, which are fundamental to this idea of culture. So, you’re mixing all these different values in order to drive a digital culture, in order to set the right mindsets and behaviors that could be shared with all the members of the organization.

When we talk about digital culture, it’s usually about organizational change and transformation…

Historically, organizations talked about siloed use of digital, but now we’re talking about how every department needs to be digital. When you start talking about keeping everything in a small group and collaborating, we’re saying, “No, digital is everywhere in every aspect of the business.” These are traditionally very hard things for organizations to develop in their culture. And it’s rooted in this idea and belief of who this organization is and what they stand for. And this digital culture needs to be reinforced on a daily basis from the executive leadership down to the frontline people. The culture is the foundation for the business’ success in digital. It’s this stable environment in which organizations behave and hold everyone accountable. I think of culture almost like baseball in a sense.

Baseball? How so?

So, baseball is a set of rules and every player knows that these are the rules. There’s a first base man, second base person and third base person. There are rules and regulations on how you behave in the game of baseball, so when people, the players go out in the field, everyone knows what to do. With our digital culture we need to know the norms that we believe in, and the values we hold true, and the actions we expect. These actions have rituals and behaviors and routine processes that are digital, and there’s a digital culture, which basically serves their structure. These structures are a digital structure of org charts, and products, and mission statements that build the digital culture, in order for organizations to be very successful in the execution of digital initiatives. It’s this idea of the digital culture driving the actions, the mindsets, and driving the mindset at the root of the cultural change that must exist, in order for organizations to be successful in this current world that we’re living and the constant change.

The focus of digital is not just about the actions alone, it’s about the actions and the change that must happen in our heart, minds, and souls in these organizations that are transforming to be digital. It’s who we are and what we stand for, and consistently reminding ourselves and the employees, and the team members, and the shareholders of what we stand for in this digital culture. It is the mindset and behaviors that we agree to. and police, to hold everyone accountable. Understand that by doing this in our culture, they will reap the benefits of this digital change and digital landscape by agreeing that this is how we’re going to support each other in our overall digital culture: the values, the behaviors, how we talk to each other, how we behave with each other, how we execute as a team together.

What are the tangible benefits to this cultural approach?

It’s through minimal disparity and a sharing of the high risk of failure. Support is built into the culture. Taking a massive risk is built into the digital culture. It is extremely hard to change the culture because you’re truly trying to rewire people’s minds. And in legacy organizations, most people hate change, so you have to think about the power structure in this idea of digital culture, and this idea that decisions need to be made quickly, efficiently, very fluidly, and to constantly evolve in this idea of continuous improvement, which means that the culture will be evolving with it also. It’s the values and beliefs that the organization hold as one. It also is the emotional piece. It’s truly, how do you want to work? Is this a place that you want to belong to? Are your personal values aligned with the digital values of this organization? What are the values, right? The values that this organization holds true in this digital arena, are a critical part of the culture, absolutely critical.

Digital is forefront and the lifeblood of these organizations that must have a digital culture in order to survive. There’s no way companies are going to survive –  banks, financial institutions, insurance companies – if they continue to behave in the way they’re behaving. Clients will not come to them, and will leave them in droves, if they are not bleeding edge digital organizations that have a culture pushing the envelope in transformation and change. Even the idea or ideas of decision-making, in a digital arena, are fast and furious. It’s not this big, long, legacy type of committee, in order to say these are now the decisions. It’s fast and furious in order to keep up with the marketplace. It’s the idea of strategy on a continuous, unending basis. It’s the idea that digital will change the way organizations conduct business.

It’s seeing the power shift within an organization?

Right! This digital culture is driven by the outcomes. And it’s this idea of digital culture which causes this power shift in the organization. And this is very egotistical, right? This idea of digital culture is a power grab for some people. It’s a mindset rewiring. It’s a behavioral rewiring. It’s an adjustment of values and behaviors. It’s a way of policing each other in a way that might make some people very uncomfortable. When we’re thinking about this, it’s this idea of culture which is one of the core pillars of a digital organization, and looking at these digital organizations in order to be much more efficient and effective in this brutal environment we’re currently in. It’s also building relationships, understanding that the idea of digital culture is a never-ending learning environment.

Apple doesn’t have the best products or the best services, but they react to the market extremely quickly. They react to it because they have a culture of learning, both on the soft skills and the hard skills. They understand the challenges of digital technology very quickly because their culture supports this idea of never-ending learning. A true digital culture within the organization is a learning institution. A digital culture in an organization is an organization that takes care of its employees and upskills them. It identifies the skills that employees need to be competitive, identifies the skills that organizations need in order to drive cultural digital change.

When we talk about digital culture, we’re discussing a massive shift in the way organizations think and behave as well as the organizational structure, the power structure, and executive mindset change. It’s really this idea that digital skills are required in every level of leadership, that training is necessary and the best practices of digital are required.

The new issue features exclusive content from Marsh UK, HPE, and Rim of the World Unified School District…

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Welcome to the latest issue of Interface Magazine!

This week’s cover star is Alistair Fraser the CEO of UK Corporate at Marsh who has given us an exclusive insight into the massive transformational change at the insurance brokerage, that seeks to help enterprises survive and thrive during a global pandemic…

Read the latest issue here!

The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic and social impacts are driving significant shifts in global political risk — introducing new dynamics and accelerating existing geopolitical megatrends, such as trade protectionism and the transition to a multipolar world order.

“We segment our service delivery to clients based on their size and needs around risk and insurance,” explains Fraser, from Marsh’s Bristol office. “Our role is to advise our clients on their insurance and risk requirements so that they can manage risk in a more controlled way, helping them to protect their business, roll out new products and services, and continue to thrive.”

Elsewhere, we speak to Erik Vogel, Global Vice President, Customer Experience at HPE to see how the global, edge-to-cloud Platform-as-a-Service company is transforming the customer journey with GreenLake to provide an ‘everything-as-a-service’ offering…

Plus, we have the third and final instalment of digital strategist Paul Bailo’s Digital Transformation masterclass, and an exclusive with Mads Fosselius, CEO and Founder, Dixa who reveals the secrets to succeeding in this ‘new world’. And we speak to Michelle Murphy, Superintendent of Rim of The World Unified School District, who explores how a digitalisation of the classroom begins and ends with the success of the student in mind.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

A new study from Business Fibre reveals the best cities to be a tech student around the world

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A new index by Business Fibre has analysed 34 of the world’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) capital cities to find 2020’s best cities to be a tech student. The index has analysed each city according to metrics such as the number of universities offering technology and engineering courses, total tech companies and employees in each city, the monthly living cost and the top cities investing in tech-related research. See the index here

The top 10 cities to be a tech student

To find the world’s top cities to study technology, we have ranked each city according to a series of metrics to find the overall winners for those looking to start their career in technology. 

The metrics explored include budget spent on tech-related research, the number of people employed in professional, scientific and technical sectors, tech companies, monthly living costs as well as the number of top universities offering technology and engineering courses.

Introducing the top 10 cities to be a tech student…

  1. London, UK
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Jerusalem, Israel
  4. Bern, Switzerland
  5. Seoul, Korea
  6. Stockholm, Sweden
  7. Paris, France
  8. Canberra, Australia
  9. Rome, Italy
  10. Tokyo, Japan

Top cities contributing to tech research

Exploring Technology research spend, the study also finds the top cities who are consistently investing in technology research. This has been calculated by looking at the % of the total GDP spent on research.

RankCityResearch Spend (% of total GDP)
1Jerusalem, Israel4.8
2Seoul, Korea4.3
3Bern, Switzerland3.4
4Stockholm, Sweden3.4
5Tokyo, Japan3.2
6Berlin, Germany3.1
7Copenhagen, Denmark3.1
8Vienna, Austria3
9Helsinki, Finland2.7
10Brussels, Belgium2.7

The highest-ranking city is Jerusalem, which ranks high across all metrics and is the 3rd best city for tech students overall. The top three cities for tech-related research also include Seoul, spending 4.3% of the GDP, followed by Bern at 3.4. All three cities also rank high for the best universities and overall top cities for tech students. 

Top 10 universities to study technology worldwide

Based on the top 10 cities to be a tech student, we wanted to find the best universities in each city for aspiring students. To find the best universities BusinessFibre looked at metrics such as the total number of students, faculty staff and the number of international students. This alongside each universities global subject ranking for Engineering and Technology make up the top 10 tech universities in the world. The monthly cost of living has also been included so that students can be sure they’re studying at the best overall tech university.  

RankUniversityWorldwide ranking (Engineering and Tech 2020)City
1Imperial College London7London, UK
2Technical University of Munich25Berlin, Germany
3Technion – Israel Institute of Technology179Jerusalem, Israel
4ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology4Bern, Switzerland
5Seoul National University22Seoul, Korea
6KTH Royal Institute of Technology30Stockholm, Sweden
7Ecole Polytechnique57Paris, France
8The Australian National University71Canberra, Australia
9Sapienza University of Rome127Rome, Italy
10The University of Tokyo21Tokyo, Japan

Comment from Ian Wright: “With technology arguably being the fastest growing and most profitable industry in the world, we wanted to find the best cities in the world to be a tech student as well as the top cities funding technology-related research.  

It’s clear from the research that London, Berlin and Jerusalem are the best cities for students, while Seoul and Bern join Jerusalem at the top for investing in technology-related research. 

For those who don’t want to spend a ton of money on their education, Seoul National University is a great option that offers a lower living cost while still having a good global university ranking.”

While the virus has presented many challenges, it has also opened up opportunities for increased industry security and customer relationships. Agnė Selemonaitė, Deputy CEO at ConnectPay, explains.

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1. Increased industry security

Banks and other financial institutions have been a major target for scammers since the beginning of the pandemic; in fact, cyberattacks between February and April alone spiked an astonishing 238%. The increased volume of threats has encouraged companies to face the situation head-on and implement new safeguards.

“Putting more safeguards in place will benefit market players long after the crisis has blown over, as market players will be better equipped to deal with the constantly evolving digital threats,” says Selemonaitė.

2. Growth of digital payments market

Alongside the World Health Organization encouraging us to go cashless, the crisis has stimulated the growing amount of e-payments. Selemonaitė notes Sweden’s example: amidst the uncertainty, Sweden’s central bank signed an agreement to gain access to EU TIPS platform, which will act as the basis for the country’s own platform for instant payments.

“Sweden’s approach shows that in order to be in a better spot to satisfy increasing demand for faster, more convenient services – you need to be proactive,” Selemonaitė explains. “We follow this approach too; having realised our clients’ needs for greater options amidst quarantine, we integrated more payment methods into our Merchant API.”

3. Accelerating digital banking development

As banks had to severely limit their working hours during the lockdown, digital banking picked up the slack to accommodate the financial needs of people working from home. “As the new wave of customers sieged the system, faster development of banking services took precedence,” says  Selemonaitė. In the US alone, over 45% of people have changed the way they bank amidst the crisis, and according to a European customer survey by McKinsey, there has been a 20% increase in digital engagement.

4. Enhanced customer experience

The aforementioned McKinsey survey showed that people who are highly satisfied with their digital banking experience are two-and-a-half times more likely to open new accounts with their existing bank than those who are just just satisfied. The aftermath of COVID-19 is expected to continue down the path of developing simplified UX to attract and retain clientele.

“Although requiring meticulous work, constant UX evaluation can greatly benefit product credibility and client retention, for instance, our first UX update led to doubling our monthly conversions,” says Selemonaitė. “It is likely that we will see a more customer-focused approach in the post-crisis industry too.”

5. A catalyst for fintech companies

The ’08 financial crisis gave a boost for the fintech industry, as, at the time, people were losing trust in the system, and in legacy financial institutions. In the aftermath, some entrepreneurs parted ways with the concept of traditional banking, aiming to present the market with a more technologically sophisticated solution.

“This time, the crisis could have an even greater impact for fintechs, as well as regtechs, as they rely on solutions fintechs can develop,” adds Selemonaitė. “Unfavourable circumstances drive the need to innovate across interconnected sectors.”

Marius Galdikas, CEO of ConnectPay, explains the role of digital finance during a pandemic, and how it has changed society forever…

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Could you tell us a little about your background?

I originally come from the field of technology. I’m a physicist,  and I’ve always marveled at engineering and technology – digital technology, specifically. Through the years, I shifted into products and then into fintech, which was very exciting to me, because fintech is about people and technology. It’s about good people that understand regulation, understand business and understand technology. I am now the CEO of ConnectPay.

Data shows that cyberattacks on financial institutions spiked enormously between February and April this year – why is that?

I think the main reason it happened is actually at the core of the pandemic; the pandemic means people are locked up at home, so you end up with many more users of digital financial services than there usually are. Cash is unusable at this time, when you’re locked up, so you have a lot of new customers in digital finance – some of them are tech savvy and others are not. There’s a lot of people that never used digital financial services, and now they must. So you have this influx of customers into the market, that’s number one. Number two, governments reacted and we had these stimulus programs released, which means there’s a lot of funds being distributed through different programs. And many of those funds are meant for relieving the consequences of joblessness.

So you have a lot of new funds moving around and, because all of it is happening in the digital finance area, I think that stirred up the whole fraudster community. Fraudsters are working hard, now, to try and use the situation to steal funds from people, which results in  information security threats and cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are means of achieving the goals for fraudsters.

How has cyber security adapted to combat this issue?

It’s a very big challenge to tackle. Number one is, all of the financial services providers that already operate online, they have their assets online, they have the required technology and so on. Could that have been changed so fast? No. Information security requires a lot of work and insight, and it’s a lengthy process to deploy specific tools to combat that. So I don’t think much has changed, but I think a realisation came that fraud prevention is now a very important area.

As well as increased security, what have been some of the digital baking trends since the emergence of COVID-19? How have people changed the way they handle money?

The stride towards a cashless society has obviously been accelerated, forcefully. Some countries and some companies will do better than others, but I think majority of the change is yet to come, because the pandemic will result in economic hardship and economic hardship will result in changes, in innovation, just like we had in the 2008 crisis. That gave birth to Bitcoin crowdfunding, sharing economies – all of that was an outcome of financial crisis, and I think we will see something come up that we cannot even imagine right now. What is the driver for those changes? Previously in 2008, there was a huge loss in trust towards financial institutions. The financial sector was the reason behind the crash, and so trust was lost, and all of these instruments – crowdfunding, sharing economy, blockchain technology – were targeted specifically at, “Hey, we don’t trust financial institutions anymore; what can we do to exclude them from the economy altogether?”

So what will happen now, I think, will be the same, depending on the size of the downturn. I’ve been hearing that in the Western and European developed markets, countries have been hit very hard, financially, by the pandemic. This will continue; there will be financial problems. It’s different because, previously, everybody lost jobs and salaries went down. Now, there’s a different aspect to what the hardship will be like, and it will result in something new.

What are your thoughts on a cashless society? Do you think it’s inevitable or are there barriers? And if it does happen, how far away do you think it is?

I do think it’s inevitable. I think the entire world is going towards a cashless society at different speeds; for example, the Nordic countries are the biggest cashless societies in the world, whereas the UK is probably five years behind them. In the US, cash is still very important –people love cash in the States – so they’re about 10 years probably behind the Nordics. However, the direction is the same. It’s all going towards cashless. The reasons for it is obviously internet penetration and mobile phone penetration – those are the key factors towards how fast will we get to cashless society, country-by-country. But also, what we need to understand is that cashless society also sort of puts a strain on the society as a general, because elderly people might be excluded from this market or might have trouble or problems adapting to the cashless environment. However, sometime, we will all be there.

The push towards the cashless society is driven by two things: one is the new consumer. These are new people, the new generation, and exchanging funds should be as simple as messaging or using social media. So one driver is this new generation that drives the digital economy and the cashlessness, because they live in the digital world. The other part is the actual financial institutions that drive the cashless society, but their reasoning is different – it’s efficiency. They want to cut costs. They don’t want to have physical retail locations. Nobody wants to transport or count cash. There’s fraud issues related to cash, so the financial institutions are driving it from another perspective.

Do you think it’s safe to say that digital banking is no longer a luxury, but a necessity?

Absolutely. We see that the world is much more fragile than we thought. We are all forced to go online, work from home, access our financial instruments from home, shop online, get government funding and stimulus online without going anywhere, and so on. It is a necessity, it is definitely not a luxury and everybody will have to adapt to that. I just hope it becomes less painful for everybody to transition, and that people don’t lose out on their money through fraud.

We spoke to Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, about the transformative power of both technology and company culture…

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What led to you launching your business, Cloud9 Insight?

I started Cloud9 about 10 years ago, and it was an opportunity to support small businesses to deploy CRM in the cloud for the first time, because I saw a trend of more and more clients moving to the cloud. There’s an opportunity to help clients with making the most of their data in the SME space, plus they’re able to use Microsoft technology to get more insights – hence the name Cloud9 Insight. At the time, most of my competitors were still looking to sell on premises-software, but I saw a gap in the market.

Historically, what I’d seen with enterprise clients I had worked with, is that CRM projects had been at least a year long, and often you’d question whether the business had moved on since the definition stage of the project, and if it was still fit for purpose. I think projects these days need to be a lot more agile to support clients with business transformation; for me, working with cloud technology allows that agility.

There’s a quote on your website where you say you have a love of change and disruption – what does that mean to you, as a tech leader and expert?

I think it comes naturally to me. I’m moderately dyslexic, and some say that dyslexics are quite creative people. I find it hard to read anything without having a pen and paper in my hand, because I always got lots of ideas, and I think part of the reason that entrepreneurs have often been so successful as dyslexics is that we often think differently. If you look at tackling problems the same way they’ve always been tackled before, then you’ll probably come up with the same answers – but if you can address things differently, then maybe you might come up with a better opportunity.

When I started my business, I moved almost immediately to the Alps; I hadn’t worked in the Microsoft channel, and I had no preconceptions about what did a Microsoft partner selling CRM did. That meant my business model turned out very different to a lot of others. I also recruit a lot of young people into my business – which is why I’ve set up an apprenticeship programme, called Vantage Academy – and having them involved in the business has helped maintain that creative, disruptive model.

So is company culture very important to you?

Definitely. I used to work at IBM, and it was quite normal to travel around different offices around the country, visit your clients and just pop in and hot desk. Depending on which office you went to, some people were a bit more chatty and you got to hear a little bit more about what they’re doing. But what I noticed about my business, as it was growing, was it was becoming departmentalized and siloed in the same way that many of my clients complain about. I didn’t want that; I don’t want the salespeople not working with the support people, or projects people, and so on. There’s so much opportunity to learn when you have conversations with colleagues across different parts of the organisation, and I really wanted to make sure that we worked as a team.

I know you’re a big advocate for diversity in the workplace, and in the general realm of technology – what are some of the benefits diversity can bring?

First of all, organisations need to make sure that the demographics of who they employ reflects the demographics of who you’re selling to, because it’s difficult to understand them otherwise. Certainly in a B2C market, having representation across age groups in your workforce is really important. What I’ve found is that what really motivates the older generation is the ability to be a mentor and a leader to those that don’t yet have the experience. They want to give back.

As for younger people, they have energy, ambition and hunger to pass on to across the workplace, allowing great things to happen, and I think it increases the performance of my overall team. Diversity could also be gender; certainly in many sectors like tech and oil and gas, it is heavily biased towards males, and a lot of my staff do tell me that it’s nice to have a more balanced workplace.

I’m a lot more people centric than maybe a lot of my peers might be; I like to embrace the people and the value of people in businesses, both within my clients and within my own team. That’s really important to me.

You wrote a piece about how working from home is changing attitudes to work, specifically citing children gatecrashing video calls and how that represents how the life part of work-life balance can no longer just be hidden away – with technology supporting people really successfully to work from home, will things ever go back to ‘normal’?

I think there’s no going back to ‘normal’, for sure. The old way is not going to exist at all. There’s two types of businesses: those who are probably kidding themselves and just about surviving, and those who are probably a lot more agile and forward-thinking, who are going to look at the trends that have been happening, jump onto those trends and allow a lot more flexibility around people working from home.

The other great thing about this mobility of the workforce, is that maybe your team don’t even have to be in the vicinity of your office – maybe not even the vicinity of the UK. Maybe we can tap into where the best talent is.

How do you think female entrepreneurship can be encouraged in tech, and other STEM industries?

I love that question. One of the exciting things about me being able to set up an apprenticeship business is I’m definitely going to use my voice and position to be a great advocate for younger females to come into the tech sector. I think there might be a perception that you need to have technical skills, but having great leadership skills, having creative skills are also very important and greatly valued in the sector. It’s just trying to open the younger generation’s mind, especially for young females, as to the skills that they have inherently, in great abundance, how are they valued, and how can they use those skills to make a difference.

And for me, technology is a great enabler of change and making a difference. I’d like to see schools working more with younger people to help them feel confident about working with technology. When I hire people that are fresh out of school, I’m absolutely dismayed by how few skills they have in using technology. That crosses all genders, but it’s really sad to see the percentage of females attending degree courses that are highly attended by males. However, when you look overseas at places like Poland, they have a much greater balance, so I think we have a lot to learn about what is it that overseas countries are doing that we’re not. I suspect that starts at a young age in school, and if we could create more entrepreneurs, then our economy will be much more successful.

So it’s about encouraging STEM topics in schools, full stop, not just for girls but all genders, in order to fill that skills gap.

Yes, absolutely. I think that if there’s more integration between businesses and their involvement in schools, and that opportunities to learn entrepreneurship and problem-solving using technology exist, that might open their eyes.

Full article:

deVere Group reports that enquiries for Vault, its global money app and card service, has experienced a jump in enquiries of 67% in Quarter 3.

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Growing demand for green, paperless banking and fears over post-Brexit rule changes have triggered a “monumental surge” in enquiries for money and challenger bank apps, reveals one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.

deVere Group reports that enquiries for Vault, its global money app and card service, has experienced a jump in enquiries of 67% in Quarter 3. 

The cutting-edge app allows users to deposit, store, transfer and exchange money in most major currencies.   The deVere Vault Prepaid Mastercard®️ can be used online, in-store and at any ATM location across the globe where Mastercard®️ is accepted.

Nigel Green, CEO and founder of deVere Group, which launched Vault in 2017, comments: “The monumental quarter-on-quarter surge for banking-style apps is, we believe, attributable to two main drivers.

“First, individuals and companies are increasingly embracing and expecting green, paperless banking. 

“This is partly fuelled by the pressing need for us all to drastically reduce waste and better protect the environment – something the pandemic and issues such as raging wildfires has collectively focused minds on – but also because a paperless system is, typically, a more convenient and efficient one.

“Traditional banks have a long way to go to catch-up with tech-driven challenger banks and fintech [financial technology] firms, which are intrinsically much greener and are leading the charge to a paperless future.”

He continues: “The other major point driving engagement with e-money apps in Europe specifically is that many of the UK’s banks are set to abandon their customers, by closing their accounts and stopping use of their services across Europe within weeks unless they have a valid UK address.

“Under post-Brexit rules, it becomes illegal for UK banks to service customers living in the EU without applying for new banking licences.

“This will cause significant disruption for many individuals, families, businesses and other organisations. 

“As such, people are flocking to firms that already operate under pan-European rules.”

The massive jump in enquiries, says Mr Green, underscores that “fintech is the future of finance” – not only for clients’ convenience and efficiency but also, in a large part, because it is more environmentally sustainable.

The deVere CEO concludes: “For Millennials and Gen Z clients especially there’s been a radical shift toward ‘less stuff, more impact’ in banking and financial services.

“And this is just the beginning of this global and far-reaching trend.”

Nell Walker talks to James Shanahan, CEO Revolut Singapore, regarding a new dawn of digital banking

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“By re-conceiving the infrastructure of a bank, the way that a bank delivers its services, you can take an order of magnitude off the cost and you can bring a level of experience to the customer that’s not hamstrung by old tech, by old thinking, by siloed approaches…” James Shanahan, CEO of Revolut Singapore

We spoke to Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, about the transformative power of both technology and company culture

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Interface Magazine hooks up with Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, who reveals the transformative power of both technology and company culture…

What led to you launching your business, Cloud9 Insight?

I started Cloud9 about 10 years ago, and it was an opportunity to support small businesses to deploy CRM in the cloud for the first time, because I saw a trend of more and more clients moving to the cloud. There’s an opportunity to help clients with making the most of their data in the SME space, plus they’re able to use Microsoft technology to get more insights – hence the name Cloud9 Insight. At the time, most of my competitors were still looking to sell on premises-software, but I saw a gap in the market.

Historically, what I’d seen with enterprise clients I had worked with, is that CRM projects had been at least a year long, and often you’d question whether the business had moved on since the definition stage of the project, and if it was still fit for purpose. I think projects these days need to be a lot more agile to support clients with business transformation; for me, working with cloud technology allows that agility.

There’s a quote on your website where you say you have a love of change and disruption – what does that mean to you, as a tech leader and expert?

I think it comes naturally to me. I’m moderately dyslexic, and some say that dyslexics are quite creative people. I find it hard to read anything without having a pen and paper in my hand, because I always got lots of ideas, and I think part of the reason that entrepreneurs have often been so successful as dyslexics is that we often think differently. If you look at tackling problems the same way they’ve always been tackled before, then you’ll probably come up with the same answers – but if you can address things differently, then maybe you might come up with a better opportunity.

When I started my business, I moved almost immediately to the Alps; I hadn’t worked in the Microsoft channel, and I had no preconceptions about what did a Microsoft partner selling CRM did. That meant my business model turned out very different to a lot of others. I also recruit a lot of young people into my business – which is why I’ve set up an apprenticeship programme, called Vantage Academy – and having them involved in the business has helped maintain that creative, disruptive model.

So, is company culture very important to you?

Definitely. I used to work at IBM, and it was quite normal to travel around different offices around the country, visit your clients and just pop in and hot desk. Depending on which office you went to, some people were a bit more chatty and you got to hear a little bit more about what they’re doing. But what I noticed about my business, as it was growing, was it was becoming departmentalized and siloed in the same way that many of my clients complain about. I didn’t want that; I don’t want the salespeople not working with the support people, or projects people, and so on. There’s so much opportunity to learn when you have conversations with colleagues across different parts of the organisation, and I really wanted to make sure that we worked as a team.

I know you’re a big advocate for diversity in the workplace, and in the general realm of technology – what are some of the benefits diversity can bring?

First of all, organisations need to make sure that the demographics of who they employ reflects the demographics of who you’re selling to, because it’s difficult to understand them otherwise. Certainly in a B2C market, having representation across age groups in your workforce is really important. What I’ve found is that what really motivates the older generation is the ability to be a mentor and a leader to those that don’t yet have the experience. They want to give back.

As for younger people, they have energy, ambition and hunger to pass on to across the workplace, allowing great things to happen, and I think it increases the performance of my overall team. Diversity could also be gender; certainly in many sectors like tech and oil and gas, it is heavily biased towards males, and a lot of my staff do tell me that it’s nice to have a more balanced workplace.

I’m a lot more people centric than maybe a lot of my peers might be; I like to embrace the people and the value of people in businesses, both within my clients and within my own team. That’s really important to me.

You wrote a piece about how working from home is changing attitudes to work, specifically citing children gatecrashing video calls and how that represents how the life part of work-life balance can no longer just be hidden away – with technology supporting people really successfully to work from home, will things ever go back to ‘normal’?

I think there’s no going back to ‘normal’, for sure. The old way is not going to exist at all. There’s two types of businesses: those who are probably kidding themselves and just about surviving, and those who are probably a lot more agile and forward-thinking, who are going to look at the trends that have been happening, jump onto those trends and allow a lot more flexibility around people working from home.

The other great thing about this mobility of the workforce, is that maybe your team don’t even have to be in the vicinity of your office – maybe not even the vicinity of the UK. Maybe we can tap into where the best talent is.

How do you think female entrepreneurship can be encouraged in tech, and other STEM industries?

I love that question. One of the exciting things about me being able to set up an apprenticeship business is I’m definitely going to use my voice and position to be a great advocate for younger females to come into the tech sector. I think there might be a perception that you need to have technical skills, but having great leadership skills, having creative skills are also very important and greatly valued in the sector. It’s just trying to open the younger generation’s mind, especially for young females, as to the skills that they have inherently, in great abundance, how are they valued, and how can they use those skills to make a difference.

And for me, technology is a great enabler of change and making a difference. I’d like to see schools working more with younger people to help them feel confident about working with technology. When I hire people that are fresh out of school, I’m absolutely dismayed by how few skills they have in using technology. That crosses all genders, but it’s really sad to see the percentage of females attending degree courses that are highly attended by males. However, when you look overseas at places like Poland, they have a much greater balance, so I think we have a lot to learn about what is it that overseas countries are doing that we’re not. I suspect that starts at a young age in school, and if we could create more entrepreneurs, then our economy will be much more successful.

So it’s about encouraging STEM topics in schools, full stop, not just for girls but all genders, in order to fill that skills gap.

Yes, absolutely. I think that if there’s more integration between businesses and their involvement in schools, and that opportunities to learn entrepreneurship and problem-solving using technology exist, that might open their eyes.

Sarah Doherty, Product Marketing Manager at iland discusses how a cloud-based infrastructure can accelerate IT initiatives.

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There’s no doubt about it, we are living in a cloud enhanced world. No matter what is happening in life, whether it’s uploading pictures of the family, keeping track of friends on social media, or working remotely, the fact remains that the cloud is a part of our everyday lives in one way or another.

So why are organisations so hesitant to adopt a cloud infrastructure? From speaking with customers, the reason extends across infrastructure, business as well as, let’s face it, an overall new way of thinking about what is the best way to mitigate risk.

When we talk to business leaders, the idea of moving from a CAPEX model to an OPEX model is appealing for pretty much everything but IT. They still look at IT assets and think about budget cycles and performance/capacity per the pound or dollar. This can put them into situations where they are purchasing hardware on three to five-year cycles, subsequently discovering after two years that the hardware they have invested in isn’t doing what it needs to do. However, at that point, the business is committed.

They may be locked into a certain vendor or platform and the pain of moving seems overwhelming or they may have concerns about moving to the cloud in general. In a nutshell, this approach is not compatible with the flexibility and scalability that many businesses need in their toolkit.

The tangible business benefits of using a cloud-based infrastructure have been heavily publicised of late, with the onset of COVID-19 necessitating a quick and efficient move to the cloud, in order to keep businesses moving. However, implementing a cloud strategy to future-proof an organisation can, not only have top-line operational benefits such as data security, business continuity, resilience, scalability, and accessibility – it can facilitate wider digital transformation strategies.

This will prove crucial to maximising business efficiency and time-to-market of these initiatives, in the event of another worldwide event where physical access to a building is not possible. After all, an organisation’s end users have become accustomed to receiving a faultless service – even during a global pandemic – and would have expected businesses to have learnt their lessons from COVID-19.

Organisations wanting to implement a range of IT initiatives have unarguably accelerated cloud adoption. However, when choosing a cloud partner, they normally express the following concerns around adaptability to the cloud, which cloud providers need to tackle head-on.

Security and Compliance

While it may not be the first thing that springs to mind for IT professionals looking to quickly enact digital transformation strategies, such as building applications that will streamline internal business processes, security practices must adapt as data moves to the cloud. While assets are normally well-locked down, it is easy to accidentally create vulnerabilities in the cloud since customers are responsible for setting many security controls around their apps and data.

All clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles. Therefore, knowing those practices up-front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later. Working with the right cloud partner to plan and then execute a cloud strategy will not only eliminate headaches now and later but will also help to grow the business for the future.

It goes without saying that vulnerabilities must also be addressed as soon as possible. Cybercriminals are currently stepping up their attacks to take advantage of remote employees. Phishing attacks are at an all-time high on small and large businesses, as well as public resources like hospitals and healthcare providers. Therefore, businesses must assign responsibility to an individual or group of individuals to look after the organisation’s data from the onset, especially during the migration period.

There is no time like the present to reinforce an organisation’s IT security and compliance guidelines, many of which include the relevance of when employees travel or occasionally work from home. This includes a refresher on password policies and how to identify and report phishing attempts. It’s important to help employees with securing their home networks, and all the other policies and guidelines they would typically follow at work to protect the company and customer data. This might also be an excellent time to train employees on document and data retention best practices. 

Cloud Expertise and Management

Most IT teams are running at full throttle as it is, and the idea of learning entirely new jobs, alongside current tasks, can be daunting. Furthermore, IT managers may be wondering how to firstly move their teams to the cloud, and subsequently get them up to speed quickly and manage projects in the long run, minimising business disruption as much as possible.

A good first step is to implement a robust cloud migration strategy. This will help communicate a clear vision and change management plans to all employees within the organisation, including IT teams at the coalface, demonstrating how the move to the cloud will really help the business, and prove ultimately beneficial in the long-run. For example, key drivers are the need for greater availability, the desire to move from CAPEX to OPEX and the need for greater scalability as the company grows.

Furthermore, the progression from traditional server-based infrastructure to virtualisation and then to cloud involves several mental leaps. The cloud requires an adjustment of mindset and an ability to accept ways of doing things differently. However, this is the only efficient way to take wider business and IT strategies forward. Organisations should start their move with non-mission-critical applications, which are typically the easiest to migrate. The transition of refactoring some applications to function as cloud-native or distributed applications can take more time.

It goes without saying that organisations choosing a managed service provider to manage their cloud migration and ongoing support should lean on their partner as much as possible, especially in the first few months, to help teams get up to speed with new processes and workflows.

It’s all about short term pain for long-term gain.

Cost Control

Understanding all the factors that contribute to billing before an organisation makes the move to the cloud is a must, since cost management changes can lead to problems if they are not understood. 

Cloud services are generally billed once a month or follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model. However, users must factor in hidden fees, such as data transfer costs, and additional support and training. These budget surprises can pose a challenge if not addressed proactively.

Organisations should choose the cloud partner that doesn’t spring any surprising extra fees; the best providers should have simple, easy-to-understand invoicing portals and support, where businesses have complete visibility of all costs in one place. This is increasingly crucial as businesses scale their cloud offering up and down – sometimes on a month-by-month basis – with differing costs to reflect this. When scaling in such a way, organisations need to be made aware of how these changes will be billed – i.e. immediately or on monthly terms. Not addressing the finer points of billing can unnerve an organisation who are not familiar with cloud models, or a SaaS approach.

It is important to look past the challenges and focus on the true advantages. The cloud provides a great opportunity to modernise IT infrastructure and gain operational efficiency through cloud-native design practices.

All clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles. Therefore, knowing those practices up-front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later. Working with the right cloud partner to plan and then execute cloud strategies will not only eliminate headaches now and later but will also help businesses to grow in the future through planned digital transformation initiatives that can be executed without the constraints of legacy hardware.

Gobeyond Partners and Webhelp surveyed 500 respondents at director level and above across a range of industries about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.

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New research from Gobeyond Partners, the consulting firm focused on customer journey transformation, and Webhelp, Europe’s leading provider of outsourced customer engagement services, has today revealed that over 60% of business leaders are re-evaluating how much they will be investing in change and transformation since COVID-19, yet only a third of survey respondents are committing to a higher spend in this area.  

Gobeyond Partners and Webhelp surveyed 500 respondents at director level and above across a range of industries about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. By combining Webhelp’s expertise in customer engagement with Gobeyond Partners’ customer journey design and transformation capabilities, the two organisations were able to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 across a number of key areas and offer recommendations to businesses as they start to plan towards a post pandemic world. When it comes to the issue of transformation, the research highlights the value of an intelligent use of rightsourcing* which will be crucial for businesses to establish the most cost effective and relevant solutions to support the flexibility and speed needed during this transition period. 

Change and transformation are two of a number of data points highlighted in the joint research and accompanying report by Gobeyond Partners and Webhelp which explores how consumers arenow demanding more human experiences, even in digital environments, and why organisations must balance agility and adaptability against a clear focus on maximising value from investment in transformation.

Mark Palmer, CEO of Gobeyond Partners comments on the findings: “As the urgency for change and transformation intensifies in our new reality, it raises some pivotal questions. How different willservice look and feel in the future? How will businesses and their operations need to adapt? And how can employers engage and support their colleagues to deliver on new customer promises? The engineering of an authentic human experience in the digital world will need a delicate balance, and companies will need to work hard to create service transformation that satisfies both these needs. This may expose a lack of capability and flexibility inherent in many organisations, due to a lack of investment. For brands to survive, leaders can no longer pay lip service to digital transformation and digital must be fully integrated into the overall operating model.”

Other key findings from the joint research include:

  • 70% of businesses have seen a direct impact to their bottom line as a result of COVID-19, with more than half being negatively affected. 
  • These financial impacts are expected to last, with more than 80% of respondents believing they will be financially impacted for six months or more and 50% expecting their finances to be affected for more than a year. 
  • Companies that have been affected negatively by COVID-19 are twice as likely to expect cuts to their transformation budgets after the pandemic has subsided.

Craig Gibson, Chief Growth Officer at Webhelp Group continues: “Overall whilst budgets may reduce, spend on individual change and transformation programmes should not be reduced commensurately. Instead, the entire change portfolio should be reviewed and reprioritised. Now is the time to focus on and invest in a critical, clear and concise set of priorities, which the whole organisation can communicate and contribute to. This will ensure that the most critical agenda items will accelerate, without depleting vital cash reserves.”

One of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and tech wealth organizations is to launch a first-of–its-kind onboarding verification app amid “soaring global demand” for fintech solutions.

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deVere Group’s pioneering Ident Me app provides a secure identity verification system – as an alternative to traditional customer onboarding – and a notary services function when required, which is a first for the international financial services and fintech sector.

Of the launch of this new service, the founder and CEO of deVere Group, Nigel Green, comments: “We’re in an exciting new world. In recent months, the future has happened faster. There have been major shifts in the way we live, work, and manage our finances.

“Much of this is being driven by digital technologies, and our financial lives are no exception.

“There’s soaring global demand for fintech [financial technology] and it’s clear it is going to become an increasingly dominant part of our lives moving forward.

“Indeed, fintech is already the ‘new normal’ as we increasingly insist on immediate, on-the-go, 24/7 access to, use and management of our money. We demand personalised, on-demand services and lower costs.”

He continues: “Against this backdrop of growing demand, we decided that we needed to make the set-up process of onboarding to use our fintech apps as quick, easy and secure as possible.

“Ident Me is a hassle-free, simple and safe way for clients to provide identity verification for themselves via a KYC (Know Your Client) form.”  

KYC is a financial services standard.

The Ident Me app consists of an easy three-step process.

First, proof of identity. This is done by taking pictures of the front and back of your ID card or passport.

Second, the capture of documents. This is undertaken by taking a picture of a document with your address on it, for example, a utility bill or rental agreement.

Third, the liveness test. A live selfie you take will get verified against your ID/Passport photo.

Once this has been approved, clients will soon be able to have access to and enjoy the benefits of deVere’s suite of fintech apps.

deVere is one of the very few financial advisory organisations that has been actively and consistently pushing into fintech and is now widely regarded as one of the leaders in the sector.

Currently, the organisation’s apps include deVere Vault, a global e-money currency app and multi-currency prepaid card; deVere Crypto, a cryptocurrency app to store, transfer and exchange major cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin; deVere Core, an app that allows clients to monitor their investments in real-time, on-the-go, keeping them informed with news and events that impact investor returns; and deVere Catalyst, a low-cost investment and savings app that offers best-in-class globally diversified funds.

The deVere CEO concludes: “We believe that everyone should have access to and reap the benefits of cutting-edge fintech.

“Ident Me, the first-of–its-kind onboarding verification app, helps further democratise financial technology.

“Fintech is meeting growing demand for on-the-go service, it is speeding up the advance of global financial inclusion which helps social advancement around the world, plus costs are lowered and the client experience is enhanced.”

Digital transformation is laid bare with an insightful trilogy of podcasts from Dr. Paul J. Bailo…

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“I don’t see how any organisation in this current world could survive without a true digital leadership model.” Dr Paul J. Bailo, Executive – Digital Strategy, Data & Innovation

Dr Paul J. Bailo, a digital thought leader par excellence, takes us through the importance of leadership to a successful digital transformation programme

Over half [55%] of SMEs believe that their competitors have a better digital presence than they do, according to new research by leading creative agency, Sparkloop.

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The research, which questioned 500 decision makers from SMEs across the UK on how much time, budget and resource they have invested into their digital brand presence, also revealed that despite believing their competitors had a better brand presence, 45% of respondents had not reviewed the performance of their website in over 18 months. 

In addition, 25% of respondents advised that they rarely, or only annually, make changes to improve the performance of their website to engage potential customers. 

When questioned on the level of investment SMEs made into their digital brand, 46.3% advised they invested under £2,000, 53.7% invested £2,500 plus and 10.9% invested £10,000 plus.

However, a quarter [25.8%] of SMEs haven’t invested in their website and wider digital brand presence in over 2 years. 

Other key take outs from the research include:

  • Only 31% of SMEs believe that they have a stronger digital brand presence than their competitors.
  • 44.3% of SMEs have developed their website using ‘off the shelf’ platforms like Wix, Square Space or WordPress, with 31.6% opting for creative and technical input from an external agency. 
  • A staggering 62.3% of SMEs have not taken advantage of tech features, like chatbots, blogs and feedback to increase stakeholder engagement or improve the performance of their website. 

This new research comes as the majority of UK SMEs are forced to review and pivot their existing growth strategy following the impact of the current situation. 

Gayle Carpenter, Creative Director of Sparkloop, confirmed: “This latest research is incredibly telling and effectively demonstrates that SMEs UK wide do not place enough value into both creating and maintaining a strong brand and digital presence, which could be damaging to their business. 

Currently, SMEs are facing the significant challenge of survival following recent events. Those with the strongest brands, an engaging website and integrated digital presence will instil confidence and drive growth, both during and following this time of uncertainty.

For business owners looking to use this time to disrupt and develop, it doesn’t necessarily mean investing tens of thousands into your website and wider digital presence, but it does mean evaluating your brand by ensuring it represents your business and attracts the right target audiences. This is consistently overlooked by the majority of SMEs, as demonstrated by the research, but could be fundamental to future growth and success as we return to some form of business as usual.”

Established in 2004, Sparkloop has successfully delivered bespoke design and communication strategies for brands and businesses across the UK and overseas, with long-standing clients including Red Bull and HomeServe. 

Founded by design and branding specialist, Gayle Carpenter, the firm is headquartered in Camden, London, with a South West regional office based in Bath, Somerset. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the agency has launched its Virtual ‘Spark-Up Sessions’ initiative, designed to help businesses quickly solve problems and identify achievable outcomes when establishing a clear and effective digital brand presence.

To find out more about this latest research, download a copy of Sparkloop’s SME Digital Brand Presence Report 2020 at www.sparkloop.com.

Chief Information Officer Philip Clayson is putting digital agility at the heart of the company’s strategic transformation plans for the future, following the recent acquisition of SSE Energy Services by OVO Energy.

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OVO Energy was founded in 2009 and redesigned the energy experience to be fair, effortless, green and simple for all customers. Following the acquisition of SSE Energy Services, today OVO Energy and its Retail partners serve nearly 5 million customers, all striving to deliver more affordable clean energy for everyone.

SSE Energy Services has been supplying power to millions of UK homes for decades. The technology infrastructure within the company had been built and maintained with dependability and assurance at its core.

Clayson is now empowering the 1,000 strong IT team to adopt a learn-fast, fail-fast culture and mindset, while at the same time maintaining the performance and quality of their outputs. Key to achieving this has been extending the company’s partnership with Expleo. Through the adoption of Expleo’ automated testing solutions, SSE Energy Services can now bring new products to market faster, without sacrificing quality.

With customers’ digital engagement increasing and the introduction of smart metering within homes, SSE Energy Services knew it had to focus on digital agility and innovative product offerings.

In order to accelerate this direction, SSE Energy Services appointed Philip Clayson as CIO in August 2019, bringing experience of driving fast-paced digital transformation for companies including News Corporation, BT and TalkTalk.

Clayson said: “With increasing numbers of new digital enabled products to deliver to market, at an accelerated pace, we needed to leverage technology and expertise to help us drive up our competitive advantage and increase our agility.”

SSE Energy Services formed a strategic partnership with Expleo, a leading technology and engineering consultancy. As the two companies previously worked closely together, SSE Energy Services had trust in Expleo’s expertise to help with a key part of the programme. This would help SSE Energy Services maintain performance and quality, but crucially boost agility, shortening product and system releases from several weeks to just a couple of days, by providing a pioneering approach to automation. 

Automation first

Expleo was in an excellent position to advise the company on how to best move to a framework that automated the entire testing lifecycle for all of its complex and integrated retail systems. 

Julie Heneghan, Client Director at Expleo, said: “Many companies use automation on low-risk, fringe applications and as a result deliver limited value to their organisation. However, our in-depth understanding of SSE Energy Services’ systems meant it was clear to us that an automation-first approach would deliver the biggest possible impact in terms of value.”

To help achieve the transformation, the relationship moved from a standard services delivery model, to a strategic and innovation-led partnership, with SSE Energy Services entrusting Expleo to deliver best-in-class testing and assurance that would reduce the cost and frequency of system defects.

Expleo helps SSE Energy Services to enable mass testing of the software deployed to customers for smart metering. This includes testing the smart meter itself before it’s installed into customers’ homes, to testing the app on the in-home display which helps customers see how much energy they are using.

“Now, instead of a traditional services supplier model, SSE Energy Services works in partnership with us to map out the future IT change roadmap safely in the knowledge that Expleo automatically delivers the quality assurance they need without any effort on their part.” says Heneghan.

Innovation to the fore

To best deliver the benefits of automation and other improvement initiatives in the future, SSE Energy Services and Expleo have created a joint innovation board with dedicated funds to formalise the creation of new ideas and concepts and ultimately put them into practice.

Combining the best of technology and engineering, Expleo is a digital partner for the future for energy and electric vehicle companies. As energy and mobility markets converge, Expleo provides clients with end-to-end expertise in the design, development and implementation of a seamless customer experience. Its track record of delivery in smart energy billing solutions, battery charging technology, electric vehicles and the wider smart grid puts it in a unique position to help its clients innovate for the future.

“Innovation is at the heart of what we do at Expleo,” says Stephen Magennis, Managing Director of Expleo’ s Technology business in the UK. “But for us, it’s about making incremental changes, on a continuous basis, to drive bigger overall gain. This also allows us to monitor and measure each innovation and work out what it’s actually achieved for our client’s business, so we can take a swift decision on whether to keep it or move onto something else that could potentially have even greater impact.”

SSE Energy Services has continuous insight into the progress of testing and innovation through Expleo’s Quality Intelligence Platform (QIP), part of its innovative AI and analytics offering. It monitors execution and results, demonstrating release on release productivity and efficiency gains by aggregating the data into a dashboard, giving a real-time and predictive view of progress, quality and velocity.

Tom Little, SSE Energy Services IT Delivery Manager, who played a leading role in the technical transformation, says: ‘’We want to get our solutions to market quickly, but we can’t sacrifice quality. There are critical journeys where customers rely on us to deliver every single day. Our automation-first approach and partnership with Expleo has helped us to deliver quality to our customers.”

Exceeding expectations

In applying the new automation tooling, SSE Energy Services is already seeing compounded benefits. These include smoke-testing new environments in near-real-time and a reduction in manual test effort of up to 65 per cent. “This enables the SSE Energy Services technology team previously involved in this area to have more time to focus on new initiatives for the company to accelerate the pace of change”, says Clayson.

The direct result for SSE Energy Services is that new customer offerings can be pushed through faster – helping it set the pace in the market. In fact, the speed of output is now 2-3 days, rather than 2-3 weeks or months with an overall cost saving of 60 per cent.

Technology + people + culture = pace

Having the right technological tools is a vital part of any digital transformation. But in order for the investment to be a success, there needed to be an internal shift within SSE Energy Services toward a highly engaged, learn-fast fail-fast culture and mindset.

To this end, SSE Energy Services invested  in upskilling staff, including introducing formal accreditation in delivery management techniques such as Agile as well as technological disciplines to increase agility from the bottom up. Expleo aided this programme by providing Scrum Master training to key SSE Energy Services team members, including project managers and product owners.

Industry leading digital transformation for growth

With the acceleration of digital and agility at SSE Energy Services, it is now much more nimble when it comes to dealing with change. This proved crucial with the unexpected arrival of Covid-19. The fact that both internal and external partner teams were able to quickly pivot to operating virtually, with no impact on services, demonstrates that its transformational journey has brought additional benefit to SSE Energy Services and ultimately its customers.

“Our digital transformation means that IT is now an engine for growth and competitive advantage. It enables SSE Energy Services to swiftly respond to change. The team and our partners including Expleo should be proud of being part of what must be the biggest digital transformation the sector has seen due to Covid-19.” says Clayson.

The company’s successful digital transformation, underpinned by its pioneering adoption of automation in partnership with Expleo, means that it is continuing to set the pace of change in the industry.

Dan Jelfs Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Mobica, discusses how we are on the cusp of a connected digital revolution, making technology more pervasive and a key driver of strategic change to businesses and models

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Tell us about your career journey and your experience

I’ve worked in the global technology industry for about 25 years now. I landed in it so by accident, more than design, straight out of university. I’m not an engineer by trade. I went through Business School at university and my first role was at AT&T.  I worked a lot in mobile communications and wireless networking in the 1990s. What I found very fascinating, and enjoyed was the way that technology changed people’s lives, usually in a positive way. I also liked the globallness of the industry and the opportunity to work with so many bright minds with different perspectives from around the world. I think fairly early on in my career, I realised I had a passion for innovation and that the large corporate culture that I was in wasn’t going to satisfy that.

I made quite a radical decision around the early noughties to leave a large corporate and move to a venture capital funded startup. It was really looking at the evolving mobile data services market, and what sort of content services could generate viable business models. I really spun through a number of other startup type businesses during the noughties and then joined a software services business in 2009.

I’ve really been doing software consultants and software services now for about 10 years. The reason I made that change is because the mobile devices world which I’ve been very focused on up until then, was to open source with the launch of operating systems like Google’s Android, most prominently in the battery. At a structural change within the mobile communications market that would drive demand for software services within that, I thought it’d be a very interesting journey to go on.

I’ve also got a huge passion for British technology companies. I think there’s not enough British technology success stories within the global technology market. So I joined Mobica about 18 months ago as a vehicle to try and do my bit to change that.

How does that make you the right person to bring about change?

What we move into now is a world of everything being connected and data science and artificial intelligence applications off the back of those things being connected. So I have that core experience around connected software, and then I’m able to help C-levels in companies in other industries that aren’t familiar with connectedness and digital, and bring all that experience to bear to help them on their transformation.

How has the technology conversation changed?

10-15 years ago, I thought the technology industry was far more discrete and defined. And in fact, some industries and many companies really didn’t need to dip any more than their toe into it. I think we’re on the cusp of a revolution now where everything’s connected, and through that the things that are connected we’ll be able to acquire artificial intelligence over time.

I just don’t think there’s any industry or there’s any company within an industry that has been  great at embracing that now.  I think that’s the fundamental difference for me. There were the technology industries that were more disruptive and defined.  Now it’s totally pervasive and it’s a driver of strategic change to businesses and business models and industries. You just, you can’t avoid it, wherever you’re working.

How has the traditional
customer changed?

There are more customers that are, as a legacy, not so technically proficient and need support to really understand the potential for strategic change the technology is bringing and how to implement that within their business.

Where does Mobica fit into this
technology conversation?

We support customers in two areas, either modernization or transformation in  relation to enabling technologies.

Modernization is probably not quite as strategic in context of the transformation piece. Now, a good example would be cloud applications which are quite a trend. In recent years, we’re really moving apps to the cloud. We help companies deal with the technical challenges that this new type of technology brings to the transformation. Part of the work we do is where there’s a combination of new technology that facilitates a fundamental redesign of the business model, and potentially of the structure of the company too. We help them think about the way to design that transformational change/

How do you define transformation?

In the transformation paradigm when you talk about strategic design, you look at what your brand might be in a digital environment or what the business model might be. Often the scenario is that companies are moving from tech non/digital to digital for revenue generation. That can fundamentally change the way they address the customers, the way the brand reaches out. So in many ways, the starting point for me is strategic design and non technical. The outcome of a strategic design process, though, becomes a very technical software engineering implementation.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes I can end up in a conversation and maybe the executives of the company aren’t quite sure, from a business case point of view, when to pull the trigger on a digital transformation… There’s an internal discussion that happens; maybe it’s in two quarters’. 12 months’ two years’ time. I think you could be kind of wrong. If you look at the end destination, you may as well just start into digital straightaway, don’t delay. But I think some internal wrestling around understanding the return on investment is sometimes apparent.

I also think about the cultural change within the technology environment, or the engineering environment of the company.  I’m seeing the needs change from very established businesses whose technology hasn’t changed much over a couple of decades to suddenly needing speed, digital and agile. Culturally, from a software engineering point of view, like a Silicon Valley startup, that’s not easy in that it’s quite a barrier to affect change.

How do you go about changing mindsets and enabling a cultural change within a business?

We bring a lot of our learnings from the way we work with companies around the world, anonymized into the discussion to help realise that even though they don’t think they’re on the same page, they’re on a cliff edge. The future is digital, we were able to see some success stories of some really positive digital transformations as well, that you could point to that are often powerful in terms of changing the minds of executives as well.

How important is it to look outside your own industry?

It’s fundamental and there are enough of those kinds of stories in different industries to use already. It’s very helpful within that discussion to point to some very successful digital innovation stories.

It’s important to also look at where things haven’t worked to look at the failures and look at the mishaps as well, as much as you look at these case studies in the success stories.

Is tech replacing people?

Effecting that cultural change with the state in relation to the status quo is just too difficult, will take too long and costs too much. What we need to do is sort of start over and I’ve seen some companies create what are essentially new legal entities and new ventures, and build from the ground up. I’ve seen other companies create digital innovation and disruption units alongside their existing organisational structure and start to see that digital DNA move into the company, but from within what’s exists today.

I’ve also seen others who strategically partner with software services firms to bring that digital agile culture into the mix of their overall software, software engineering and technology capability to drive and effect change in the established culture and established engineering.

How has the supplier relationship changed?

We’re in a process ourselves of moving from a tactical partner to a strategic partner increasingly, and our strategic partners. The different dimension is the buyer is two or three levels higher in the organisation and therefore, either in or close to the C-suite, that they’re looking for long term collaboration and the souls of strategic challenge to their business.

What makes Mobica a partner of choice?

Within our engineering team, we create the space in terms of time invested into internal innovation projects that are really aligned around strategic technology bets that we make in regards to what’s going to be important in the future. If we do that correctly, that keeps us ahead of the curve.

Technology buzzwords?

I talked about strategic design earlier. It’s really that design and planning thing it’s really looking at, where are you and where are you trying to get to and what’s important on that journey. There’s always careful thought and planning before you scale out engineering projects.

Marketplaces change so much that it’s not going to be a straight line, so how do you account for things that aren’t going to go according to plan?

We propose an agile development process and you’re constantly iterating and constantly changing. Whilst you know the general direction of where you want to get to but you don’t necessarily take a stroll along together. So it allows for bends in the road and iterations to design as we go through.

Talk to me about the dynamic between incumbents and start-up companies?

I think enough large established companies have suffered and gone by the wayside. They’ve been cannibalised by a startup coming from nowhere. For everyone to be aware of these larger organisations, they need to create an innovation strategy of their own.

Ideally, you know, if anyone’s going to cannibalise their existing business models, they’d prefer that it was them. So I think there’s a lot more effort and thought put into that and less destruction caused by startups. It doesn’t stop the startups being acquired by some of these companies to complement their digital transformations.

What advice would you give in order to succeed?

Don’t underestimate the value of strategic design before you head out on the engineering journey that follows good design.

Welcome to another packed issue of Interface Magazine!

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This month’s cover exclusive features Dan Jelfs, Senior Vice President of global sales at Mobica, who discusses how we are on the cusp of a connected digital revolution, making technology more pervasive and a key driver of strategic change to businesses and models. 

Read the latest issue here!

“In the transformation paradigm when you talk about strategic design, you look at what your brand might be in a digital environment or what the business model might,” he tells us. “Often the scenario is that companies are moving from tech non/digital to digital for revenue generation. That can fundamentally change the way they address the customers, the way the brand reaches out. So, in many ways, the starting point for me is strategic design and non-technical…”

“Sometimes I can end up in a conversation where maybe the executives of the company aren’t quite sure, from a business case point of view, when to pull the trigger on a digital transformation… But often, when you look at the end destination, you may as well just start into digital straightaway, don’t delay.”

Elsewhere, SSE Energy Services reveals how its pioneering adoption of automation is underpinning an industry-leading transformation that is setting the pace of change in the energy sector. Plus, we have exclusive insights from business leaders at Union Bank, Radius Networks, DeKalb County and Sij Group. And we outline 5 industries predicted for growth post-Covid…

Enjoy the issue!

Paul Bailo, PhD, MBA with a clinical degree in social work is a graduate professor at Columbia University and an executive working on combining digital transformation, digital strategy and data analytics into one powerful solution.

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How would you describe your work?

I like to say 90% of my job is saying no in a very nice way (ha ha) so organisations really get to the point very quickly and understand new models in this digital world. Because what has worked in the past, will not necessarily work in the future. It is a completely different paradigm with organisations in the financial world. And in the insurance world and in the government, and in fintech and banking. They all need to actually start thinking differently. My world is really like a Venn diagram, where I have my academic Columbia University educational world, where I’m pushing really hard trying to build a future data scientist. And my executive world, where I’m trying to educate executives and help them with their corporations and companies to be more effective.

How would you describe a digital transformation?

I think we first have to define digital for a company. And I think digital really is that heart of why a company exists, and what really matters. And it’s really not about the company, but it’s how you perceive the client you’re working for. And how do you make that customer experience greater in a very transformational stage. Looking at that customer journey, and how you make the person’s life easier, simpler and better. Because I think when you start talking about digital and digital transformation, I think everyone has a different definition of it. Neither are they right, neither are they wrong. I think it really comes down to the customer, and how you use digital. And when I say digital, I mean digital data, innovation, transformation, pushing forward in order to help organisations make unbelievable customer experiences, which then makes a happy customer, which then allows the organisation to build a loyalty bond with that customer and then drive revenue. My fundamental belief is, feelings drive actions, actions drive productivity, productivity will drive revenue. And if you don’t have a happy customer then the whole system falls apart. How do you look at data digital transformation to make your customers’ lives a hundred times better?

The customer journey has become a massive buzzword in recent years and certainly influences many digital transformations…

Oh yeah. Andrew, you make a really good point. It’s all about the competition, but it’s all about the new people, your new customers. I mean you have millennials, and young people and they are transforming every industry on earth. They’re not putting up with things that maybe you and I would put up with. The minute they don’t like something, they’re gone. One extra click, one extra step. And also, if the companies aren’t loyal in making their lives easier for them, they’re gone. When you look at the data, millennials hate banks and insurance companies. It’s terrible. They would rather bank at Google, Yahoo or Facebook to have a greater allegiance to the tech companies than the traditional banking corporations. When you look at the data, these large monolithic companies aren’t really engaging in the digital arena with these digital natives. Their customer base is dying off rapidly. And the only way you’re really going to get them back is to really understand that customer and how you make their lives easier.

So legacy institutions need to start being less risk averse?

Yeah, definitely. You’re better off making a wrong move than no move. Right? You’re going to have to start thinking about it. I think you really have to start thinking about this idea of a digital leader. And the first idea is that a digital leader is a human being. And how do you make someone’s life easier and better? But now I think you have to make sure these organisations have a culture that’s really supporting this idea of digital transformation throughout the enterprise. Sometimes you may have the will and you want to have the skill. So if you have the will you could always buy the skill or get the skill, to understand the version of a digital leader and what is it going to take to mastermind this cultural transformation. Or you have the skill, and don’t have the will. And that’s what I see a lot of, where people just don’t want to do this. Because the world is tough and most people don’t want to change. And we’re talking about a fundamental paradigm shift in the thinking of how most organisations behave. If you take banks, imagine you grew up in a bank, you spent 20 years at a bank and now you’re saying why are you even building a branch? This morning, I went to the bank four times today, I never even left my office. I don’t think this idea of a bank and branches exists today. You don’t need branches to do what you need to do. And these are fundamental paradigm shifts that have to occur in the world. And millennials, mobile technology, 5G… I mean the world is shifting drastically. And the underlying business models don’t hold true anymore. The things my parents told me to do, or not do, are exactly the opposite of what people do today. My mom would say, “Hey Paul, don’t go into a stranger’s car.” And what do we do now, we use Uber and Lyft and we go into strangers’ cars. “Don’t stay at a strangers house.” What do we do now, you have Air B&B. The models have shifted drastically.

How important is the customer journey and trust?

Make it easy for the customer, and then behave in a proper manner, and then actually build the trust and be transparent. Look, you don’t have to be all things to all customers. And if you can’t do what you want them to do, the fair answer is we don’t do that. It’s just simple, just don’t do it. If you’re looking for an electrician and you’re a plumber, don’t try to be an electrician. You’re just going to get yourself electrocuted. It doesn’t pay.

Talk to me a little about your ideal digital leader…

When you start thinking about digital transformation, it’s about having the right digital leader, and having a digital leader who’s actually human. You have to understand human behaviour and embrace that, and then make a bridge between human behaviour and the digital world, that’s the first thing. The digital leader has to be this visionary. You can’t just have these ideas of where you want an organisation to be, you want them to be able to share. And grab people in the organisation to share this vision, and this belief and get people excited about it. To actually feel and taste this vision of digital. And then you have to walk the talk. You can’t just be saying, “Here’s the vision, let’s go do this.” You have to show people, and you have to define it for the organisations. And what does it really mean for people in the organisation to be a digital organisation. American Express had this model and behaviours of what they wanted for an executive and this was transcended down to every person. This is what it looks like, this is the behaviour. This is what the digital leader has to do in order to transform and get a company ready for digital transformation. And when we talk about transformation, it’s really rooted in this idea of change.

And change is really one of the hardest things in the world do…

But the funny this about digital transformation/change, is we change every minute, every day. Change is a constant in our lives, but we sort of deflect it, and we’re afraid of it, as opposed to embracing it. Obviously within leadership you have to be a change agent and understand that this is not going to be easy, and don’t sugarcoat it. You have to be with the people, understand the people and hear them out. Make sure you have their heart, minds, and souls, and then build that plan, build that vision. Share in that. Talk the talk, walk the talk. And then really inspire people and make sure that you’re holding hands and walking forward together in the dark. The simple task of harnessing this brain power, and then winding people up and letting them go is so important. Why are you hiring really good people if you’re not going to really trust them and let them do their thing.

Leadership is so important isn’t it?

Yeah, you have to be bold and get a person who sees the company differently and who has the experience as a digital leader and understands human behaviour, innovation, technology and the customer experience. And that could lead and change the organization. You have to be a change agent. If you’ve been in the company 20 years, you’re going to think a certain way. And that’s the same way you always have. You have to radically change the way you’re thinking, and deal with the fact that this will not be easy. And be clear in terms of what you want. The DNA of digital has to be part of everyone’s mindset in order to make this work. Digital’s in the corner right there. And then you have technology in the corner over there. And then you have marketing over there. They all have to be digital. They all have to be under one roof and playing the same game. And having the right objectives is integral and identifying what those objectives are. Is it the enhancement of the customer experience? Is it digital transformation business processes? Is it the simplification of a service management system? Is it the optimisation of infrastructure? Is it the insights and the analytics that will drive competitive advantage? You really have to focus in on what you’re trying to do. You can’t just paint with a broad brush; you have to have these identifiable objectives attached to your long-term vision in order to transform these organisations. The elephant in the room here, is of course, the technology… You really want to make sure you have the right technology in order to enable this transformation. And what I’ve see a lot of times, is that people are selecting the wrong technology stack. I think a lot of it has to do with the fear of change and the fear of failing. Failure is critical piece that you have to embrace. Because you will fail, you’re going to have problems, this stuff’s not easy. The quicker you can embrace this, the quicker you can get over it, and move the organisation forward.

Interface Magazine talks to Vladimir Arshinov, IT Director at steel producer SIJ Group regarding the company’s massive digital transformation

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Going into 2017, SIJ Group (Slovenian Steel Group) – Slovenia’s biggest steel producer and one of the largest manufacturers of stainless and special steels in Europe had typical IT structure with semi-independent IT departments on each plant. And like many modern enterprises, SIJ was at work drafting a strategy to transform its operations, systems and processes into a more unified structure in a bid to improve productivity, safety and the all-important bottom line.

Vladimir Arshinov is SIJ’s IT Director and his initial focus in 2017 was trained on the digital transformation of SIJ’s IT department to a more transparent organization with a clear workflow. Previously, IT was a department of innovation with each individual plant having its own independent function, none of which connected with each other, often across varying geographies. “This meant that lots of efforts were wasted solving the same issues with different solutions,” Arshinov reveals.

At the end of 2017, SIJ established a Project Management Office. PMBOK was selected as a master methodology and the Head of PMO received PMP certification and developed internal regulation documents, rules and methodology. After finalizing the initial establishment phase, hiring project managers and the organization of the operational work, SIJ came to the conclusion that to raise the scope and complexity of the projects program, they needed a tool. The MS Project Management Server was duly selected and implemented allowing SIJ to simplify observation of the progress of projects and control, while ultimately reducing duration. Project team meetings were almost eliminated, and the distribution, control and execution of project tasks, were assigned to the project team members who managed and controlled projects including budget consumption. Each project member would then be measured for effectiveness.

Turning the IT department into a leaner function was a massive first step for SIJ as it needed a firm foundation upon which all future innovation could sit. And so, the next step in SIJ’s internal IT transformation was aimed at the most sensitive and critical area: software development. As with many metallurgical companies SIJ had a bulk of different IT systems, which were supplied or developed in the past and had to be either permanently supported, or, due to the business requirements, changed. One concern with the legacy system was the reliance on locally based productive software developer engineers developing new solutions and then, after, supporting them, resulting in a massive drop in development speed, as development and the subsequent support increased. This situation was causing overloading, burnout and frustration, triggering a desire to change something; sometimes resulting in employer change. However, SIJ IT considers people as its major asset and were determined to break the vicious circle of “one system – one person – forever”.

“What we did from an organizational point of view was to unify all geographically distributed developers from 4 different companies into the several virtual groups in each department,” Arshinov explains. “Each group has a Team Leader role, who assigns tasks to the group members and controls the execution of each individual task.”

Development at SIJ is now organised according to an agile approach using scrum boards and Microsoft Project Server to control all the time sheets of the people involved in the projects, plus their schedules and budgets. SIJ uses Microsoft Azure DevOps Server for unified storage of inter-company source code and Change Request Scrum board monitoring and control. Process and technical solutions now allow SIJ to involve external software development partners into the development process while controlling their activities, deliverables and costs. Developers can now use the Azure DevOps Server with the scrum board and are now able to register change requests in their system by themselves, where they see the progress of all individual change requests coming through the process with the integration of the IT Director informing the exchange and updating the status of the task development. 

In October 2019 SIJ revamped and migrated its Corporate Business Intelligence system to a new MicroStategy platform. The project took six months and provided SIJ with an extensive corporate Business Intelligence system with more than 180 different dashboards covering production, finance, sales, procurement, HR, Legal and investment functional areas. The overwhelming majority of the data now uploads automatically and the business intelligence tool has created a unified reporting system across the group utilizing the same source of data in order to integrate it. “There was huge involvement of the business customers with Oracle BI and this year, we moved to this new platform,” Arshinov explains. “The front end of the system was changed (from Oracle BI) to MicroStrategy for usability and a unified interface. Now, SIJ has a system that looks the same no matter the device it’s accessed from. This project allows us to organize and develop the team that tests the trial usage and develops the processes of the PMO (Project Management Office) inside the IT function.”

The BI System contains the entire spectrum of corporate data and allows SIJ to move quickly and transparently when taking a management decision, while reducing the number of mistakes, misunderstandings and time-consuming meetings.

The next system to be unified across the group was the Salesforce CRM system, which is now fully integrated. Then, an Oracle supplier portal followed, which opened the possibility of organizing tenders, thus massively simplifying the purchasing process. Oracle Innovation Management is another successful implementation, which, although a relatively small project, has had a big influence on the business transformation and innovation through increased flexibility. “It is also used to motivate people to suggest improvements and new innovative ideas,” he says.

So, what have been the major successes, according to Arshinov, following the ongoing digital transformation at SIJ? “The main difference between now and then was that each individual company was living alone, and I see now that the IT function in this case is unifying the people and allowing them to speak in a single language. It doesn’t matter if it’s a steel center or a big plant,” he explains. Costs have been dramatically reduced too, outsourcing being a prime example. In 2016, SIJ was spending more than 70% annual budget for operational external services. For 2020, that part of budget reduced to 40%. Meanwhile, the capital investments part of the budget has grown from 4% in 2016 to 56% in 2020.

The implementation of a Supply Chain Planning system (from Quintiq) incorporating the Oracle Business Suite, has improved the delivery, safety and performance of SIJ’s plants. “We improved Delivery Performance OTIFF (on time and in full) of a stainless steel plant by 12.8% in six months,” he enthuses. “And we shortened the production cycle by 15,4% from ordering to shipping, which is a brilliant result within six months of going live.”

In SIJ Matal Ravne has replaced the melt shop technology system and entire plant manufacturing execution system to replace the obsolete legacy system – which had zero planning functionality – with PSI Metals. “First of all, we’re increasing the level of understanding and the knowledge of the internal IT team, while dramatically decreasing project cost by involving internal specialists into the supplier team. That allows us to save several hundred thousand Euros of project budget and it’s a win-win situation for the supplier as well. First of all, the supplier is receiving our team, which knows the production and the limitations and has extensive inside knowledge. At the end of the day, the commercial value, in this case, is the cheaper price. Cheaper than anybody else is able to receive.”

Another and no less important project for Sij Metal Ravne is the joint development work with Comtrade Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). Laboratories in metallurgy companies are complicated and highly demanding environments with unique processes required for quality control of all products and this solution covers and improves core laboratory processes and will be highly integrated with the PSI manufacturing execution system from one side and Oracle ERP on the other.

Through this massive digital transformation, SIJ has also managed to increase quality control through sophisticated AI, which has massively impacted its operations. The acquisition of scrap metal, a major influence on SIJ’s bottom line, can now be influenced through advanced detection systems that can detect impurities, thus representing huge savings when it comes to procurement. “The conservative saving is €1.4m,” he says.

The digital transformation at SIJ is touching every aspect of the company’s growth and is certainly an ongoing journey rather than a destination. “We are not an IT company, that’s understood,” Arshinov says. “But we are supporting services inside the business, and of course our main concern will always be supporting the production of steel. But we’re not there yet.”

Leveraging Radius Networks location technology for curbside pickup, in-store order delivery, and payments.

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Technology has and always will be used to solve problems. At the very basic level, technology is developed and used to make things simpler. Just look at our day to day lives and the way that technology has, for the most part, made our experiences simpler and this has changed the way we as consumers engage with retailers and restaurateurs. We now expect and outright demand that the businesses we enter and purchase food and items from offer the same level of seamlessness that we experience in our own homes. The interesting thing however, is that this isn’t necessarily a new challenge for restaurants and retail stores; these businesses have been looking to enable the most seamless and effective customer service since the very beginning. The only real thing that’s changed is the tools that they have at their disposal. 

“At the end of the day, I think this goes for business philosophy in general, you really need to understand the problems that your customers have, and then solve them,” explains Marc Wallace, CEO and Cofounder of Radius Networks, a location technology service provider. “In our case, customers are businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, retailers or casinos; so we are targeting very specific problems. In most cases, those problems are taking wasted time out of the equation.”

Picture the traditional, and maybe even stereotypical, restaurant environment, where a food order is ready to go to the table and the service staff has to locate and identify the corresponding table to that order. In some instances, more than most, they may even walk throughout the entire restaurant before arriving at the right table with the right customer. Through wireless-enabled location technology, Radius Networks has transformed the customer experience by allowing businesses to track customers, improve profit margins and ultimately increase customer retention. 

Customers have, and will always, vote with their feet, and in order to retain those customers, businesses need to be able to remove the pain points. As Wallace noted, wasted time is one of the single biggest pain points in customer service. Radius Networks offers location-based curbside pickup, in-store and table service solutions, as well as mobile payment technology to remove not only the one pain point, but multiple pain points. “We’re addressing other key problems, such as payments. When you dine-in at a restaurant and are in a hurry to leave, trying to get your server’s attention to pay for your bill can be frustrating for the customer. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth at the end of their dining experience,” says Wallace. 

“We’ve developed solutions for making payments remotely without contacting the server. The server is notified when the bill is paid, and they can focus their attention on real problems that other customers have instead of shuttling credit cards back and forth.”

At the time of writing, the world has been gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, a truly unprecedented event that has completely devastated lives and economies all over the world. It has also completely ripped up the rulebook when it comes to food and retail, with lockdown restrictions forcing businesses to either close down entirely, or pivot to delivery services. Radius Networks’ FlyBuy curbside pickup solution was actually launched over 12 months ago, but it has fast become a key technology offering that is solving an unforeseen problem. By automating the curbside delivery service for customers, FlyBuy provides a turnkey, end-to-end solution that uses the customer’s location for a faster, easier order pickup experience. “There was already a pre-existing return on investment (ROI) with FlyBuy because we were reducing the wait times for customers when ordering for pickup, which results in more frequent visits” says Wallace. “Throughout this pandemic, curbside delivery has become the only channel that people can do, so the importance of it has risen dramatically. It was once within a business’s top ten things it needed to consider, and has now risen to the very top of their to-do list.” 

Radius Networks is currently offering a free version of both its FlyBuy curbside and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) software for restaurants, retailers, and non-profits during the COVID-19 crisis.

By its very definition, location tracking technology appears to be very intrusive. It is tracking locations and using that data to inform decision making, after all, and naturally that can cause a little fear and a hesitation. Wallace acknowledges these concerns and understands them wholeheartedly. “We had a decision to make early on in the company whether we were going to harvest data and use it for marketing purposes or whether we were going to be a privacy-centric company and focus on providing a solution,” he says. “We chose to be a privacy-centric company, mostly because all of us as individuals wanted that for ourselves.”

“When it comes to us as a location company, are very transparent with our customers and our businesses, so that they can be transparent with their consumer customers about what we’re doing with their location data, what we’re using it for, and how long we’re keeping it.”

This transparency is built into the very DNA of the company. FlyBuy will only ever use the location data to alert restaurant/retail staff that a customer is on the way and onsite to pick up their order, and only after the customer has opted-in to sharing that information. After a period of time has passed, they will then delete that data entirely. Its policy dictates that it does not, and will never, share that data with any third party, giving customers peace of mind that their data is safe and used only as agreed when they opt-in. Wallace believes that, while the reluctance and fear is understandable, consumers have access to services’ policies and can ‘do some homework’ in order to allay them. “I think, given the amount of options we are given today, customers can no longer just assume every location company is tracking or doing something devious with their information. They need to be aware when they approve location usage and when they don’t,” he says. “If they can be sure that sharing their location brings value to them, whether it be to have a car service come to their exact location, or their groceries meet them at their car immediately upon arriving in the pickup zone, they will happily share their location. Once they have established a level of trust in the people that are requesting location permissions, and see the benefits it brings to their lives, there is no problem.”

Radius Networks was founded in 2011, and for the best part of a decade, it has grown from strength to strength as a business, working with the likes of McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Coca-Cola, as well as being recognized in the INC 500, the Deloitte Fast 500, and the CIO Magazine’s Most Promising Digital Experience Solution Provider. But none of these successes would have been made possible, without a solid and sound foundation within the business. “I’ve been told by people ‘wow you guys got really lucky.’ Luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. Our mission is to solve problems for businesses, and right now businesses need our help more than ever. There were a lot of really difficult times over the years where we worked hard and earned the right to stay in the game, and we are once-again earning it right now,” says Wallace. 

“Take FlyBuy as an example. I’ve been asked as to whether I thought this piece of technology that we developed over the last few years would ever be as important as it is right now. Yes. Yes I did, and so did everyone else on our team, and that’s key to our success as a company. Every single person at Radius Networks is engaged and believes in what we do.”

In these times of crisis, the spotlight has shifted significantly onto those business fundamentals and Wallace is extremely proud of the business he has built and the people within it. “The business principles that we’ve been practicing over the last few years have paid off. We are a strong company with sound fundamentals and sound financials. We haven’t over extended ourselves, either from an investment perspective or from an expenses perspective and that’s paying off for us now,” he says. 

“It is tough in the current environment to point to positives, because you almost feel ashamed to do so. I think we’ve done a lot as a company to help others; we’ve given our product away for free to hundreds of small businesses, thousands of locations, with no obligation, and it’s a testament to the work we have done to get to this point. A lot of companies are doing a lot of good work to help each other right now and they can do so because they are built on solid foundations.” 

Those foundations start from the very top. Wallace is a key advocate in communication. Much like Radius Networks communicates in an open and transparent way with its customers, the same rules apply from within. He admits that the pandemic has, ironically, made that communication better in some aspects, but it has always been a key part of what makes Radius Networks tick. “We’re talking to our customers all the time. My team is the best team in the world. They’re working in overdrive right now, communicating at such a high level, and listening to customer needs, because their needs have changed dramatically,” he says. 

“As the CEO, I try to have frequent hands-on-deck tag-ups with everybody to give them an update and try to be as transparent as possible about the status of the business and what’s happening. I do this so they can feel comfortable that they have a job today, and they’ll have a job tomorrow. We work together to come up with our team goals, and stay aligned and upfront about everything that may come up along the way.” 

Listening to the customer is key. That much is no secret. But when it comes to technology, listening to customers is absolutely essential when ensuring that what you’re offering is what the customers need and what they want. Wallace’s role as the CEO is not to sit at the top of the business and leave it to everyone else. He is very much active and engaged at every level to ensure that everything Radius Networks is doing is driven by the customer. Wallace is proud of the culture within his business and often finds himself sitting on a call with a major customer and beaming at how well his team listens and understands the customer’s needs and how Radius can successfully address them. “I’m so proud that we, as a team, have a culture that takes so much pride in their work,” he says. “Our people have always been solid employees, pre pandemic, but they have become absolute rockstars today.”

The world as we know it has changed forever and we cannot begin to predict what this new world will look like post pandemic. One thing is for certain, communication, and the way in which businesses engage with their customers, will never be the same again. Radius Networks has enjoyed success after success over the past ten years, and as we all experience great uncertainty, the goal for Wallace is to continue providing valuable location technology for many years to come. The key to succeeding, regardless of such uncertainty, remains the same for Wallace and his team. “Persistence,” he says. “It’s about persisting through the bad times, just like the good times, and trusting your business fundamentals and experience. Being transparent with employees and having a good team around you is key.”

Mercedes aren’t just luxury vehicle engineers, they’re innovators. This should hardly be surprising given the fact that Karl Benz, back…

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Mercedes aren’t just luxury vehicle engineers, they’re innovators. This should hardly be surprising given the fact that Karl Benz, back in 1886, was patented with the rights to the development of the first ever car, a three-wheel vehicle, titled Motorwagen.

A leading car brand in the automotive industry, the German manufacturer, Mercedes, have mastered the art of luxury engineering. It’s unsurprising that this brand, originally from Stuttgart, are the creators of some of the most premium models of vehicles we’ve been graced with.

After Benz’s successes over the years, they have certainly been on the frontline of technological innovation which allowed them to perform better than their competitors. If you’ve had your Mercedes A Class for example in for a service, you’re probably aware of the main features these beasts have to offer. However, in this article, we take a look at ways the German manufacturer has kept a distance between themselves in and other automotive companies in the industry, maintaining the title of tech leaders.

Popularly known as the G-Class, the Gelandewagen is a SUV like never before. Initially built as a military vehicle back in the late 70s, it has become synonymous with the affluent members of society throughout the world. Sharp edges and a bold frame sit outside the natural smooth ergonomic design of Mercedes-Benz. However, there is no denying that this is a fan favourite —the six-wheel model even became popular with the Pope. Meanwhile, the 300 SL model, recognisable from a movie series featuring a certain Mr Bond, was the car that helped bring Benz back after the Second World War.

Without a doubt the most iconic vehicle in the Mercedes lock up, despite astounding capabilities on the race track and an exterior design which makes it look like it belongs on the winding roads of the French Riviera accompanying a Stella Artois advert, it wasn’t that that made the car so memorable. Gullwing doors, opening up as opposed to out, were a first — but, despite what one may think, this wasn’t a style choice. In fact, the shape of the car’s chassis prevented conventional doors being included.

When Imagination Becomes Real Life

The F200 model was initially introduced as a concept prototype with a wide range of technological augmentations. Helping form the basis of the design used in the S-Class and the CL-Class, the F200 imagination, interestingly, didn’t include side mirrors or your standard rear-view. Instead of these features that aid visibility, the F200 included four cameras mounted in the corners of the roof, and one additional camera fixed to the rear bumper.

Output from the cameras was fed to a digital screen where the mirror would typically be located. Despite the fact cars in 2019 are still using mirrors, quite remarkably, the F200 started a revolution that would see parking cameras included in the vast majority of vehicles. Meanwhile, ambience was high up on the list of priorities of the F200, with an industry first lector-transparent glass roof, which, with the touch of a button, would morph from see-through to opaque.

Anti-lock Brakes

The concept of the anti-lock brakes was originally created by Gabriel Voisin in 1929, which prevents wheels from locking. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s when a joint venture between Bosch and Mercedes saw the system introduced into production vehicles. Now, ABS, which helps the driver maintain control of the vehicle, is a standard feature on every vehicle following the introduction by Mercedes. The safety in vehicles was rapidly enhanced as a result.

Creation of the Airbag

It’s hard to believe that airbags weren’t always a necessary feature of cars. Back in 1981, after more than a decade of development and testing, undoubtedly the world’s most crucial safety feature was finally introduced. Becoming a common feature in all Mercedes vehicles as of 1992, two years before the passenger side airbag was introduced, there is no denying that the airbag has transformed automotive health and safety.

Implementation of Touch-Sensitive Controls

A concept which has completely revolutionised motoring is ease of use,

Ease of use is an increasingly important aspect of motoring, for example consider cruise control and how this has drastically enhanced the everyday driving experience. Back in 2017, Mercedes unveiled the tech features available on their next generation E-Class, one of which being an innovative system which lets the driver control the infotainment system from the steering-wheel using finger swipes. Not only is the system effortless and considerably safer than the alternatives, it was also an industry first when Mercedes rolled it out.

It is undeniable that Mercedes are an industry leader in the automotive industry. From innovation in safety to amusement, Mercedes have truly thought of it all. One step ahead of their competitors, we can’t wait to see what other advancements they have under their sleeve.

Sources

https://www.mercedesbenzcary.com/innovation.html#
https://itstillruns.com/history-abs-brakes-5042665.html
https://www.mercedes-benz-downtowncalgary.ca/2018/04/12/top-5-mercedes-benz-innovations/
https://www.mercedes-benz.co.uk/passengercars/mercedes-benz-cars/models/gle/suv/explore/contentgallery%contentpager%contentgallery%contentpager%highlight%contentpager%contentgallery%contentpager%contentgallery%contentpager%contentpager%contentgallery%contentgallery%7Csafetyandassistance.module.html
https://www.motor1.com/news/239542/concept-we-forgot-mercedes-f200/
https://www.motor1.com/news/237183/mercedes-five-high-tech-features/
https://www.loebermotors.com/blog/interior-technology-features-2017-mercedes-benz-e-class-debut/

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing an unprecedented increase in home working, which requires remote access for tools and communications to conduct our daily jobs. This disruption is putting IT infrastructures at risk, while validating much of the industry’s investment in business continuity, resilience, scalability, accessibility, data protection and security.

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With a global at-home workforce now entirely in place, what can IT professionals and CIOs do to ensure their private and public clouds can keep up and remain safe? And what steps and tests should they take to support a protracted change in the way we work?  According to a recent Gartner survey, more than 74 percent of CFOs and business finance leaders expect at least five percent of their workforce will never return to their usual office workspace — becoming permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends. 

Even in the face of a global pandemic, we continue to promote a culture that requires easy and instant access to our tools, information and each other over cloud collaboration tools like Slack, Google Drive, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, as well as in-house applications.   

This demand on IT requires private, public and hybrid clouds to have the agility, scalability and security to support entire workforces no matter where they are. IT leaders who have planned for this worst-case scenario are ready to scale at a moment’s notice.  Likewise, they’ve already considered the impact on licensing, vulnerability and added traffic from employees working at home over personal devices and unsecured networks.  

IT professionals who support an at-home workforce need to understand the difference between employees “running” applications and “accessing” applications. When technology is set up and configured correctly, it should be easy to access. That’s the whole idea of SaaS and cloud. The challenge is, how do you administer it? How do you run it?   

Organisations that maintain private clouds onsite, which might not be accessible during stay-at-home orders, need a plan to make repairs physically — like swapping hard drives, replacing switches or cables — when their employees are home.  

Likewise, whether at home or work, the end-user experience should be the same. If all apps and tools are optimal in an office environment, how do you make those adjustments ahead of time, so remote employees still have the same access and capabilities as if they’re working in the office? And how do you maintain your security and IT compliance obligations?    

Where and how to start? 

The easiest advice might be to avoid trying to boil the ocean all at once. If your applications and data aren’t on the cloud already, it’s possible to mobilise secure VPNs and encrypt applications for mobile devices. If you’re on the cloud already, you’re several steps ahead of others. But you still need to work with your cloud service provider to review your workloads, applications, and data requirements.  

At the same time you’re focusing on accessibility, remember to address your vulnerabilities. Right now, cybercriminals are stepping up their attacks to take advantage of remote employees. Phishing attacks are at an all-time high on small and large businesses, as well as public resources like hospitals and healthcare providers. 

Now’s the time to reinforce your organisation’s IT security and compliance guidelines, many of which include the relevance of when employees travel or occasionally work from home. This includes a refresher on password policies and how to identify and report phishing attempts. Help employees with securing their home networks, and all the other policies and guidelines they would typically follow at work to protect your company and customer data. This might also be an excellent time to train employees on document and data retention best practices. 

COVID-19 will create additional security threats as attackers attempt to take advantage of employees spending more time online while at home and working in unfamiliar circumstances. Some of the biggest threats associated with the pandemic include phishing emails, spear phishing attachments, cybercriminals masquerading fake VPNs, remote meeting software and mobile apps. 

Above all, you must have the same level of resilience and redundancy plans in place for home working as you do for onsite, even if you are 100 percent in the cloud. It is important to recognise that the same problems that happen on a day-to-day basis when you’re in the office can also occur when the office is vacant. 

Prepare for the new normal 

Going forward, all businesses should plan for an eventuality like COVID-19 happening again. This means understanding data security, business continuity, resilience, scalability, accessibility and so much more. For example, you may not need extra capacity and compute power now; but you need to know that within minutes you can get to that number. And, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of organisations have internal-only networks to manage power supply, fans, cooling and switches. What if you can’t get into the building? 

Futureproof and understand the boundaries between personal and company devices and assets. Understand what you need to put into place to protect your business and your employees.    

And finally, companies that are leveraging cloud services need to communicate frequently with their providers to address future needs and concerns. Make sure you know what they can do ahead of time to keep your remote workforce operating. Hopefully, these circumstances will be short-term, and life will return to some normality soon, but my advice is to always plan for every eventuality and what may now be the new normal. 

Traditional banks will fall even further behind in market share and customer experience due to the global coronavirus pandemic, warns the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organizations.

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The comments from Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group, follow research that the use of financial apps is up by 72 per cent since mid-March.

Mr Green observes: “The pandemic has accelerated those trends that were already shaping business. These include greater inclusion of tech into our every day lives.

“Coronavirus has ushered in a new world, with digitalization and new technologies fuelling the changes. This can be seen by demand soaring for video-calling platforms such as Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime and Zoom amongst others, as more people than ever work remotely.  

“It’s also underscored by the increasing use of fintech apps which allow users immediate, on-the-go, 24/7 access to, use, and management of their money.”

He continues: “There’s a historical precedent for what’s happening now.

“Banks and other traditional financial services providers were, in most cases, spectacularly caught off guard by the 2008-2009 financial crash.
 
“As they found their way into a new world with a new regulatory landscape and new customer expectations, business and tech developments were way down their to-do list. They were in survival mode.

“This is when agile, tech-driven challenger banks and fintech firms swooped in to fill the void left between what traditional financial services companies, especially the traditional banks, were offering and what customers were expecting, especially in terms of customer experience.”

Mr Green goes on to add: “The fintech firms, which offer mobile banking, savings and investment apps, and peer-to-peer lending, amongst other services, now have a decade of development, experience and expertise over many traditional banks.

“As even more people are now embracing fintech due to Covid-19-triggered social distancing, isolation and lockdowns, and as the apps are growing in popularity due to their convenience, increased security, and as people become ever-more tech-savvy, it’s likely that ‘bricks and mortar’ banks will fall even further behind in market share and customer experience.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “Coronavirus is going to further disrupt the wider banking sector. It will act as another catalyst for people to seek fintech alternatives to access, manage, use, save and invest their money across the world.”

Carlo D’Alanno, Executive Creative Director at Rufus Leonard explores how the integration of your brand and your people with your technology is the secret to delivering meaningful and game-changing disruption.

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What makes a truly transformational and disruptive idea? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, these ideas understand and respond to new behaviours while leveraging new or underutilised technology. And secondly, they often come from ambitious organisations who understand how to integrate the right people and skills to stretch a vision and deliver on a single, motivating purpose or mission.

In short, game-changing ideas create real-world impact for people and businesses. And this happens when creativity and technology come together. After all, companies that harness technology to deliver their promise grow 4X faster than their competitors.

Carlo D’Alanno, Executive Creative Director at Rufus Leonard explores how the integration of your brand and your people with your technology is the secret to delivering meaningful and game-changing disruption.

Your brand is your difference

Brands that dominate have a credible offering delivered in a way that others can’t (or don’t think of first). Think Nike+ turning a footwear brand into a premium fitness provider. Zipcar proving the sharing economy can work with real stuff. Or Kickstarter connecting bedroom entrepreneurs with investment. Find your distinct position and build around a mission that your people can buy into and your customer experience can deliver on.

It’s about identifying and investing in hero moments along the journey – specifically where your brand could credibly provide a unique experience – which will create a memorable experience for your customers. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Threads – customer journey mapping and digital ecosystem design at its best

The idea: Personal, luxury fashion shopping through Instagram and WhatsApp/WeChat.

The stretch: For a sector that’s build around appearances, Threads have understood that so many customers now engage with brands via social and avoid retail spaces when in ‘research mode’. They have taken a seemingly vital channel out of the mix.

The transformation: Pioneers in chat-commerce, they’ve built a platform where someone sees an item on social, starts a chat with an adviser and completes the purchase in the app. This means integration into social platforms, and retailer/manufacturer inventories, as well as secure payment technologies.

The impact: With an average transaction value of $2.5k per-spend, and a recent funding round of $20m, they have become a significant partner in the fashion retail mix.

Squarespace – democratising a previously closed world

The idea: A website-building tool for anyone with a computer and an idea.

The stretch: They democratised the previously closed world of website creation, giving the tools to the people with the business idea, but not the design and code skills.

The transformation: Building code into templates transformed the way sites can be built without the need for training or expertise. Complete with a user interface that champions their own principles of simplicity, and accessibility. It’s a rare thing – a beautiful piece of software.

The impact: 2m+ subscribers, valued at $1.7bn, hosting circa 350k websites with 22% market share (self-editing and publishing plus hosting). These big numbers speak to their success in growing a previously untapped niche: entrepreneurs and small-scale start-ups looking for a cost-effective and beautiful route to market.

R2 Data Labs – from manufacturing to a data analytics powerhouse 

The idea: A data innovation catalyst inside Rolls Royce.

The stretch: Improving the way customers operate by delivering untapped value and insight from aggregating a myriad of data sources.

The transformation: Utilising new technology in Machine Learning and AI, they’ve moved the company from a product-based to a service-based model. Working in partnership with other Rolls Royce business units using manufacturing and design to build a virtual environment for experimentation that will give customers unparalleled insight and the ability to understand their data in new visual ways.

The impact: These data analytical capabilities improve efficiency, productivity and risk management. New data insight is impacting the ways Roll Royce design and manufacture their products and has opened up new revenue stream in aftersales care. R2 Data Labs is building data innovation communities through skill sharing, accelerator programmes and partnerships.

Creating a culture of shared creative leadership

To embed game-changing thinking into your organisation, it’s important to nurture the integration of passion and profession, encouraging your people to be the driving force behind shaping your business. So ask yourself and your employees these questions:

  • Passion: how might we help people find the ‘one thing’ that motivates their work?
  • Purpose: how might we identify the common goal that brings individual passions together?
  • Flow: how might we create a way of working and environment that lets a team get immersed and motivated and, be supportive and honest?
  • Risk Taking: how might we make it possible, and acceptable, to stretch our clients outside of their comfort zone?

Your key takeout

How you answer these questions will be unique to your business, culture and sector. The common thread that all successfully, strategic and creative brands share is a willingness to integrate and delegate. To bring together people with diverse talents, passions, backgrounds and skillsets and to support them to solve the company’s biggest problems for themselves. 

The end of the Wild West of digital advertising is nigh: data is the new black gold, and advertising has been mining it recklessly. That can’t go on.

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While the glory days of data harvesting were great for ad-tech, they were less great for advertising. Data-breaches, Cambridge Analytica, and “stalker ads” that overuse targeting have all helped to undermine consumers’ trust. Back in April 2019, Kantar’s ‘Dimension’ study showed 54% of UK consumers objected to being targeted based on their past online activity (a figure I suspect their 2020 iteration of the report will demonstrate has gone up, given consumers’ growing awareness of the implications of online targeting), 70% of consumers said they see the same ads over and over again and only 11% said they actually enjoy advertising. Wow. Those findings, and many others like them since, underline the crisis of trust digital advertising is facing.

Private – Keep Out

There is a complacent view held by some in the ad-industry, that privacy concerns can be ignored as “this year’s storm in a teacup”. Pay lip-service to the law, and carry-on as before.
But that’s of course missing the point – long-term trust erosion – and hiding the real cost to the industry.

I agree that most of the public don’t care deeply about privacy. Joe Public is unlikely to switch off Facebook or use the Tor browser. But that doesn’t mean they’re happy.
People don’t like feeling powerless or taken advantage of. Today, that’s exactly how they feel, and they’re becoming more vocal – with those voices starting to carry weight. In Ipsos-Mori’s survey last month (commissioned by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and Sciencewise, and forming the basis of the UK Government’s official Review of Online Targeting), almost all participants felt that change was required to the way in which online targeting, in particular, currently operates, with many saying that they were sufficiently concerned about aspects of the process, or about the potential harms that could occur, that they remained unsure whether the benefits outweigh the harms.

But it’s not all bad…

That said, the same study revealed that the majority of people also felt that if steps could be taken to resolve these concerns, they would likely advocate that overall online targeting makes a positive contribution to society. So, there we have it – a window of opportunity, a second chance for adtech, for advertising as a whole, and for brands willing to make integrity a core part of how they advertise specifically, and operate more broadly.

Remember, that same Kantar study also demonstrated the power of targeting when it
is done right, with 44% of respondents saying they do enjoy ads that are directly relevant, 45% agreeing that the ads tailored to them are more interesting than other ads, and 61%
saying they prefer to see ads relevant to their interests. It is not relevant ads that people dislike — it’s the surreptitious targeting. So as an industry, we need to change the model from treating people as “targets”, to treating them as partners.

Time for a reset

First off, we have to begin with a commitment to genuine transparency about what customer data is held and how it is used. The bombardment of consent checkboxes may help to provide legal cover, but it is harmful to the deeper purpose of building trust and a brand-customer relationship. Asking “what is legal?” is the wrong approach. Instead, we should start with respect for the customer, and put them at the centre of engagement design. Other parts of the B2C world of course already understand that the customer is at the centre of everything – creative agencies being one obvious example. That understanding and acceptance now needs to extend to the infrastructure of advertising.

Policy change and tech advancement must go hand in hand
Positive change here requires both policy and technical development. We do need new tools. Tools for users to easily manage their profile data — to make it easy for them to both block and allow data-use, without fighting through a swarm of in-human checkboxes.

Part of that will be establishing standards for users (via their browsers and phones), publishers (via the SSPs), and brands (via the DSPs, and their own data) to work together.
The key piece will be making it easy for users to setup an enforceable data policy that reflects their attitudes. A data policy would say what you reveal, and how and to whom. A good tool would make it easy for people to manage that, and stay informed and in control without spending much time at all. That will in turn need a data ecosystem, where data can be used without losing privacy.

Enabling personalization, gaining trust

With a better data ecosystem, there is still untapped and valuable data — for example the CRM and other customer-history data that brands hold — which could be brought in.

For the public, a trustworthy data ecosystem would unlock many benefits. Consumers find personalization useful. Whilst they are somewhat concerned about their privacy, as Gartner’s study showed, 62% of consumers said personalized attention is important when it helps them get a better deal, and nearly half said they valued it for saving time and making the purchase process easier. Findings which pretty much match those from the Ipsos study last month.

The end of the Wild West could ultimately be good for the industry. If brands are fair and transparent when they connect with the public – through all touchpoints, online ads included – there is certainly an opportunity to build more valuable engagement.

After all, the Wild West of gunslingers was not nearly as productive as the modern California that today makes movies about gunslingers.

By Daniel Winterstein, CTO & co-founder at Good-Loop

As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been…

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As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been more costly than envisaged, according to new research from Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

However, the research reveals that cloud migration (72%) remains the top transformational priority for most organisations, ahead of process automation (45%), big data analytics (40%), and artificial intelligence/machine learning (31%). This is a further indication that organisations see cloud as a core component to effectively enabling these next-generation technologies.

The From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report, which surveyed 200 UK IT decision makers, cites reduced cost (61%), improved speed of delivery (57%), and increased IT security (52%) as the main reasons for organisations to move to the cloud. However, 90% of respondents admitted that cloud migration had been delayed in their organisation due to one or more unforeseen factors. Issues such as cost (39%), workload and application re-architecting (38%), security concerns (37%), and skills shortages (35%) all point to a process that is more complicated than expected.

“Cloud adoption is a critical foundational step towards opening up real transformative opportunities offered by cloud-native technologies and emerging digital platforms and services. While some forward-thinking organisations are able to keep their eye on the goal, the complexity of the migration and application modernisation process tends to introduce delays and cost-implications that slow down progress,” said Wasif Afghan, head of Cloud and Platform at Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

A more complex and costly migration than expected

On average, those businesses asked had migrated 45% of their workloads and applications to the cloud. However, this did correlate to organisation size as organisations with more than 5,000 employees have further to go, with less than a third (31%) of workloads and applications migrated. This could be the result of having larger, more complicated systems.

Nearly half (43%) of respondents found security to be one of the greatest challenges they had faced during their migration. A lack of internal skills (34%), gaining budget approval (32%), and progressing legacy migration solutions (32%) were other significant challenges organisations had faced.

In fact, half of respondents found their organisation had to ‘rearchitect’ more workloads and optimise them for the cloud than they had expected. Further, only just over a quarter (27%) found that labour/logistical costs have decreased – a key driver for moving to the cloud in the first place.

“Every migration journey is unique in both its destination and starting point. While some organisations are either ‘born in the cloud’ or can gather the resources to transform in a relatively short space of time, the majority will have a much slower, more complex path. Many larger organisations that have been established for a long time will have heritage IT systems and traditional processes that can’t simply be lifted and shifted to the cloud straight away due to commercial or technical reasons, meaning a hybrid IT approach is often required. Many organisations haven’t yet fully explored how they can make hybrid work for them, combining the benefits of newer cloud services whilst operating and optimising their heritage IT estate,” said Afghan.

A platform for innovation

Despite some of the challenges outlined in the report, the majority (86%) of respondents agree that the benefits of cloud are compelling enough to outweigh its downsides. For more than three-quarters (76%) of organisations, moving to the cloud has driven an improvement in IT service levels, while two-thirds (67%) report that cloud has proven more secure than on-premise.

Overall, three-quarters of organisations claimed to be satisfied with their cloud migrations.  However, only 16% were ‘extremely satisfied’ – indicating that most organisations have not yet seen the full benefits or transformative potential of their cloud investments. In addition, 42% of respondents currently believe that cloud had ‘overpromised and underdelivered’.

“It’s no longer enough to think of cloud as simply a way to benefit from initial cost savings or just another place to store applications and data. Today, the move to cloud is driving a spirit of innovation right across the enterprise, paving the way for advanced digital services to be rolled out in a highly accessible, faster and more cost-effective way – whether that’s AI, RPA, complex data analytics or machine learning. Only through the alignment of IT and lines of business leadership – in terms of goals, vision, direction and mindset – can organisations fully unleash the potential of cloud to address their key business objectives, whether that is improving business agility, delivering an enhanced customer experience or enhancing business efficiencies.” said Afghan.

The ‘From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report can be download here https://go.capita-it.com/cloud-research-report.

Airport chaos, banking glitches, cancelled surgeries, data loss; the potential consequences of IT faults are well known, far-reaching and the…

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Airport chaos, banking glitches, cancelled surgeries, data loss; the potential consequences of IT faults are well known, far-reaching and the subject of frequent headlines. Still, fewer than half of the UK’s SMEs are prepared to cope adequately in the event of IT disruption. This is according to the latest research* commissioned by full-service IT consultancy ILUX.

The survey, which canvassed the opinions of over 500 UK-based SMEs, revealed that just two fifths (42%) of those polled had an IT disaster recovery plan in place. This is despite the fact that a significant proportion (24%) had already experienced damage or loss due to an IT fault.

Of the proportion who have experienced damage and / or loss:

•          43% experienced the loss of important data

•          40% experienced a drop in staff productivity

•          29% suffered a loss of sales / transactions

•          24% experienced data breach / GDPR implications.

Data loss can potentially have very serious consequences for companies, especially if the loss involves personal data protected under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)[1], as was the case for almost a quarter of respondents. Failure to comply with GDPR can lead to significant financial penalties, as the recent heavy fines issued to airline British Airways and hotel chain Marriot bear out.

James Tilbury, Founder of ILUX, comments: “Although a significant proportion of UK SMEs have experienced serious problems as a result of IT disruption, it seems that the majority are still failing to take adequate steps to prevent or mitigate faults.

“This suggests that preparing for the risk of IT disruption is still treated as more of an afterthought than an essential aspect of business planning by the majority of SMEs. I would urge caution to any firms thinking in this way. Businesses today tend to be critically reliant on technology to power their everyday processes and keep operations running smoothly, securely and efficiently. Not only that, the right technology-driven processes can also set them apart, delivering innovation, improved customer experiences, a competitive edge – and ultimately growth.”

These findings are explored in more detail in the ILUX Whitepaper “Business Worries Keeping You Up At Night?” which can be downloaded here https://www.ilux.co.uk/just-relax.

For more information about ILUX, visit www.ilux.co.uk

When Malta-based construction and property enterprise Vassallo Group embarked on a company-wide digital transformation, it looked to CIO Carlo Aquilina…

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When Malta-based construction and property enterprise Vassallo Group embarked on a company-wide digital transformation, it looked to CIO Carlo Aquilina to build the entire infrastructure, operations and innovations at the group…

Walk through the streets of the beautiful island of Malta and you will not be able to escape the work of the Vassallo Group. Property, hospitality, education and healthcare, the Maltese construction and property company completely reshaped Malta following the devastation caused by the Second World War. Indeed, Vassallo Group embarked on a mission to ‘rebuild the nation’ to its former glory and beyond.

Building on its strengths, the Group carries a legacy that is over 70 years old, and over the years has diversified its operations that have brought about expansion and investment. Today, Vassallo Group, stands at the forefront of several different sectors in the local market that include property and construction, furniture and interiors, elderly and disability care, catering, hospitality, architecture and education. The Vassallo Group is a large, complex enterprise and represents a unique challenge to its IT function, which provides technological solutions and support to all of the companies and their users.

Vassallo Group talks to Interface Magazine

Carlo Aquilina was approached to take on the role of CIO at Vassallo in 2015, having spent a while building up an IT team at a manufacturing enterprise. “When I started in manufacturing, IT needed lots of work. We started from scratch. We built up the whole IT department and the whole team. When Vassallo approached me, they offered me that challenge again as they really lacked IT. It was a real challenge, but I built my team and we started on what needed to be done.”

Vassallo Group previously had a shareholding in an IT company and this sister company was providing IT, but the level of support was not sufficient for their local clients, thus Aquilina was asked to build the IT function that would serve the 1,900-plus employees and its extensive client base. “When I joined, I was tasked with the project: to start from scratch. I gave the board of directors a number of options. Should we go on premise, should we go with another hosting company, should we go hybrid, should we go cloud? The main ambition was very simple and I was given six months to come up with a solution where we gave our clients, our clients, meaning our users basically, a brand new environment with zero downtime. It was all firefighting in that first year.”

Vassallo went 100% cloud with Microsoft Azure, which Aquilina believed to be the best short-term, and long-term solution. “We’re a Maltese company. We’re not an IT focused company. IT is here to provide service to the business. Our business is not IT. We’re not a gaming company. All of our products are Microsoft, and so it was an obvious choice to move to Azure.” Vassallo agreed to go 100% to the cloud, having drawn a blank against the large capital expenditure associated with on-premise. “With cloud, you don’t invest in anything and everything is top of the range. Of course, it also helps to be paying operational costs and not capital costs. That was the way forward and then they (the board) embraced it. There was a number of partners who approached us to do this, to help us with this migration. I chose CyberSift, which was a start-up, actually.” An advantage to working with a start-up is that they’re not encumbered by a large kind backend and can move audaciously and quickly and this was certainly an appeal to Aquilina and his team. “I knew one of the technicians; a brilliant engineer and that helped. Plus, the price we were given was also from a start-up perspective.”

Vassallo Group. A Maltese institution

CyberSift viewed the chance to work with Vassallo with similar relish and the then start-up provided a specific engineer to be onsite with the IT team at Vassallo for the full duration of the migration. “Whatever I was asking, I was getting,” Aquilina explains. “‘Okay, we’ll do it for you, but you’ll have to promote us, after.’ Now I’m promoting them. So, we had engineers working for us and I didn’t need to grow my team. In fact, we’re a very small team.”

The key thing Aquilina and his team built in that crucial first year was ‘trust’. “I had the trust of the board of directors because every time they asked me something, I satisfied their request. So, there was trust. At the end of the day, it’s a family-owned company. Trust is very important.”

Aquilina and his team were given six months to deliver the project and took 2-3 three months to design and implement the infrastructure. The following three months, they contacted suppliers, before moving the software. “If it’s on premise or on cloud, there was remote access. It was teamwork, everyone pulling the same rope. Whenever one of the suppliers told us, ‘Listen, we’re not available this week. Let’s do it next week. We’ll slot in someone else. We’ll set meetings. We’ll explain what we are doing.’ All they needed to know is that we were moving from server A to server B. They did it for us because it was their software, their app, their solution.”

With any large-scale technological transformation there are challenges although Vassallo seemed to evade many of the pitfalls through great organisation. “I don’t think we had actually the biggest challenges because it was all planned out. We used to meet every day with the engineer who used to work for us and my team. It was a case of ‘What happened yesterday, what happened today, what is going to happen tomorrow and why? Are we on track? Yes. If not, why? What can we do?’ We worked late at night so that we could achieve it. It was all based on trust and teamwork. It was a case of open-heart surgery because the business wanted to work. The business kept on working even though we were doing open-heart surgery. We had that support from everyone. Everyone understood that this needed to be done. We had support from everyone, from all the partners, from Microsoft, everyone.”

Even though digital transformation involves technical infrastructure, software, servers and cloud, people are still integral to a successful outcome. “Yes, they are extremely important,” Aquilina explains. “There are the users, the customers and the IT team. We are a very small team and that really helped, because a huge team would require lots more organisation and more hand holding. It was me who was both sponsoring and managing the project. I had the lead engineer who was doing the actual work, remotely. They had an assistant administrator who was assisting. People are so important.”

Vassallo Group holds an annual internal awards and in 2016, the IT department was awarded ‘Best Customer Focused Department’ even though it had been, in Aquilina’s terms, firefighting. We were there constantly, anytime, any day of the week. The team and I were presented with this trophy, which proved my theory that the company had move to something much more stable.”

Now Vassallo Group is reaping the benefits of this transformation. “IT-wise, we are working on a business intelligence project. Now we have the infrastructure ready and a solid base or foundation, I want to give something back to the business. We implemented an ERP solution, which Finance, Logistics and Operations are using. I don’t want the directors to go into board meetings with huge amount of papers. I want them to go in with just a laptop. The data is live. We’ve already done that for one of the companies and it’s working. You can connect to the TV to project live data. That is business intelligence. We’re working on the other companies too. Now that they know what they can get, everybody’s bombarding us with requests. Of course, we’re taking our time and that is ongoing.”

From BI, Aquilina wants to harness the power of AI in board meetings. “I want to give them the facility to project live data, but I also want to give them the facility to change the data accordingly. They will see the results with AI.” Recruitment could be a big beneficiary of these initiatives too. “What if we employ 100 people? AI will work out the costs, work out the benefits of employing that many people. Then you can take an educated decision. ‘Should we employ 100 or 200? Let’s put in 200 more employees. What’s the cost?’ AI will work out the costs as well as the benefits. That’s all in progress. However, these are very sensitive tools that we need to use and if the tool gives you the wrong information, then you will make the wrong decision. I explained this to the board and they gave me the time needed to do it properly. We have to be very meticulous. They understood and told me, ‘Whenever you’re comfortable, we can start using.’ The CIO has to have 100% trust from the board of directors, because if there’s no trust, they keep on asking, ‘But why and how?’ That is the way forward.”

Providing technological infrastructure, new software and cyber security for such a large company means that Aquilina’s hands are certainly full. “We support about 1,900 employees and 500 users. I can afford to have a relatively small team because we have a solid base, and a solid infrastructure. I have a wonderful team. I recruited everyone from outside the business. I didn’t find anyone here, so they all respect me. We’re all friends at the end of the day, although I am their manager. We talk about anything and I help when needed. So, there’s trust from them and the senior management, which I believe is extremely important. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been…

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As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been more costly than envisaged, according to new research from Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

However, the research reveals that cloud migration (72%) remains the top transformational priority for most organisations, ahead of process automation (45%), big data analytics (40%), and artificial intelligence/machine learning (31%). This is a further indication that organisations see cloud as a core component to effectively enabling these next-generation technologies.

The From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report, which surveyed 200 UK IT decision makers, cites reduced cost (61%), improved speed of delivery (57%), and increased IT security (52%) as the main reasons for organisations to move to the cloud. However, 90% of respondents admitted that cloud migration had been delayed in their organisation due to one or more unforeseen factors. Issues such as cost (39%), workload and application re-architecting (38%), security concerns (37%), and skills shortages (35%) all point to a process that is more complicated than expected.

“Cloud adoption is a critical foundational step towards opening up real transformative opportunities offered by cloud-native technologies and emerging digital platforms and services. While some forward-thinking organisations are able to keep their eye on the goal, the complexity of the migration and application modernisation process tends to introduce delays and cost-implications that slow down progress,” said Wasif Afghan, head of Cloud and Platform at Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

A more complex and costly migration than expected

On average, those businesses asked had migrated 45% of their workloads and applications to the cloud. However, this did correlate to organisation size as organisations with more than 5,000 employees have further to go, with less than a third (31%) of workloads and applications migrated. This could be the result of having larger, more complicated systems.

Nearly half (43%) of respondents found security to be one of the greatest challenges they had faced during their migration. A lack of internal skills (34%), gaining budget approval (32%), and progressing legacy migration solutions (32%) were other significant challenges organisations had faced.

In fact, half of respondents found their organisation had to ‘rearchitect’ more workloads and optimise them for the cloud than they had expected. Further, only just over a quarter (27%) found that labour/logistical costs have decreased – a key driver for moving to the cloud in the first place.

“Every migration journey is unique in both its destination and starting point. While some organisations are either ‘born in the cloud’ or can gather the resources to transform in a relatively short space of time, the majority will have a much slower, more complex path. Many larger organisations that have been established for a long time will have heritage IT systems and traditional processes that can’t simply be lifted and shifted to the cloud straight away due to commercial or technical reasons, meaning a hybrid IT approach is often required. Many organisations haven’t yet fully explored how they can make hybrid work for them, combining the benefits of newer cloud services whilst operating and optimising their heritage IT estate,” said Afghan.

A platform for innovation

Despite some of the challenges outlined in the report, the majority (86%) of respondents agree that the benefits of cloud are compelling enough to outweigh its downsides. For more than three-quarters (76%) of organisations, moving to the cloud has driven an improvement in IT service levels, while two-thirds (67%) report that cloud has proven more secure than on-premise.

Overall, three-quarters of organisations claimed to be satisfied with their cloud migrations.  However, only 16% were ‘extremely satisfied’ – indicating that most organisations have not yet seen the full benefits or transformative potential of their cloud investments. In addition, 42% of respondents currently believe that cloud had ‘overpromised and underdelivered’.

“It’s no longer enough to think of cloud as simply a way to benefit from initial cost savings or just another place to store applications and data. Today, the move to cloud is driving a spirit of innovation right across the enterprise, paving the way for advanced digital services to be rolled out in a highly accessible, faster and more cost-effective way – whether that’s AI, RPA, complex data analytics or machine learning. Only through the alignment of IT and lines of business leadership – in terms of goals, vision, direction and mindset – can organisations fully unleash the potential of cloud to address their key business objectives, whether that is improving business agility, delivering an enhanced customer experience or enhancing business efficiencies.” said Afghan.

The ‘From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report can be download here https://go.capita-it.com/cloud-research-report.

Mike Dargan, Group CIO of UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager discusses how UBS is shifting its digital strategy and…

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Mike Dargan, Group CIO of UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager discusses how UBS is shifting its digital strategy and transforming itself into a truly digital bank through agile transformation, engineering culture and how this is changing the way UBS is delivering technology for its clients.

Can you tell me a little bit about what’s been going on within UBS’s technology division when it comes to that shifting of team culture?

At UBS, the focus on the culture of our technology team has been something that’s really been huge. We see culture as the platform on which we ultimately do everything else. If we have the right culture, we can deliver on strategy, we can innovate, we can execute. We can therefore deliver great products and services for our stakeholders, and therefore for our clients. Like any platform culture needs to be tweaked, maintained.

What kind of challenges come from cultural shifts? No two people will respond the same way to any form of change, so how do you factor that into this transformation?


In some ways I wouldn’t call it a transformation. I think culture is something that is precious. The culture at UBS is good and special, but I think we’d always look to evolve a culture. So what we’ve done over the last couple of years is we’ve stepped up the focus on our engineers. So we’ve designed programs to raise that profile within firm. We’ve developed a technical career track. We’ve given them much more responsibility.

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How does that approach tie into a wider vision of UBS becoming something of an engineering powerhouse?

We’ve launched a Distinguished Engineer Program. It has three levels, distinguished engineers, distinguished fellows, and then certified engineers, which really lets engineers progress along a technical career path, if you like, rather than a managerial one.

It also recognizes technical achievements with things like badges. In the first 24 hours of launch we were really overwhelmed by the demands. We had 600 people register on the first day, and things like that show us that there is massive demand by our engineering talent and that they want to focus on building things and solving problems.

Technology at UBS is critically important. It’s a very large part of UBS overall. Now the core of UBS is and will continue to be banking, but I think banking will transform more and more to be digital interaction, technology enabled, et cetera. So the importance and power of what the engineers do directly and in the background will become more and more important.

What does agile mean to you, and what kind of things are you doing to take this agile approach?

In some ways, I dislike the word, but in some ways, I love the word. So we need to, as an organization move more and more to being agile. But what does that mean? We want to have expedited delivery done in combination with our partners and really having teams of engineers sit with business product owners and really drive things together. So they need to sit together under a shared vision for that product, understand the same challenges and opportunities and then build the best possible solution for our clients.

Now, we’re doing that in different ways. In the investment bank we’ve got hybrid pods, which is a model that puts co-development with business and technology together. And really, I mean I think the way this has been launched is pretty cool. So it does away with the concept of us in tech and them in the business, but it’s really about shared ownership to deliver products. It’s working. Teams are happier, outcomes are better, new products are emerging faster and driven improvements are happening effectively all the time.

In the digital factories, which we have across the globe, these are really well established across a lot of industries, but we’re seeing a lot of success with the adoption of this model in wealth management. And the proof point is,  we’ve done almost a hundred thousand releases to prod through this year, which is over 10% more than last year. So we are getting more done, better, faster, cheaper.

Group CIO, UBS, Mike Dargan

I understand that UBS took part in a hackathon event, can tell me what exactly a hackathon is?


The hackathon here at UBS had a little over 600 global participants as people coming together over a very short time period, focusing on the solution, bringing the solution together, spinning up a solution overall. Now these are done in different industries, different environments. They can be done for hiring, they can be done for just cracking up a solution. But these are something that I think is a really cool way to get people focused, involved, and bring that culture, if you like, almost back to the day to day.

How are you working to empower your workforce and prepare for the future workforce of UBS?

the most important piece around a culture is how it evolves and how people learn and adapt. Now that I think it’s important almost at any age. Empowerment I think is increasingly important.

We are due to see a lot of change powered by technology within banking overall. I mean, we’re seeing it in all areas. The banking landscape is evolving fast and we need to make sure that our digital strategy enables us to stay competitive.

I think the onus for every individual, for every leader, for every participant is evolving and learning. So I think there are many aspects where the industry will change. There are many aspects we know about, there are many aspects we don’t know about. There will be new technologies and/or ways to use those technologies. So I think it’s also, you know, not to get too buzzwordy, but being very nimble and flexible is the most important.

On a personal and professional level, how do you continuously challenge yourself and challenge your way of thinking so that you stay ahead of the changes in the market?

I’m lucky and privileged that I get to meet many people. I get to listen to many people and learn from many people, both within UBS and in the broader market. So I think recently we’ve been obviously hiring a number of people who have brought in new perspectives and expertise. There’s a whole bunch of people within UBS who I think day to day bring in that expertise from what they do, and what they do day to day, as well as market participants that we meet

What do you think is the key to achieving success in a transformation?

I think there’s really two parts. The first is be curious. Find out what you can learn, what you can experience, what you can do or you can question about how you operate and how others operate and how you can bring that into what you do. And the second, and I give this advice a lot, is to understand how do you continue to be a better version of yourself? Not someone else, but yourself. Challenge yourself to question how you can continually self-improve the person you are, and the one you want to be.

Read the latest issue here! Our cover story this month features an exclusive interview with Jon Davis, CTO of Village…

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Read the latest issue here!

Our cover story this month features an exclusive interview with Jon Davis, CTO of Village Hotel Club, who reveals how a digital transformation future-proofs a technology infrastructure. Village Hotels is currently undergoing a major digital transformation journey in order to better serve the modern guest and offer a digital ready experience like no other. Village Hotel Club operates 30 hotels across the UK and by its own admission, its hotels are “much more than a bed for the night – they are a place to meet, socialise, work and get fit” – a clear sign that the business understands that the guest experience has changed massively.

We also have a revealing interview with Bill Barry, Vice President of Procurement and Sourcing at Access, one of the fastest growing paper and digital document services and storage providers in the world. Barry, upon joining the company in 2018, was tasked with a vision of building out a best-in-class sourcing and procurement function, developing and implementing the policies and procedures in order to achieve that vision.

Elsewhere, we catch up with UBS CIO Mike Dargan and Carlo Aquilina, CIO of Maltese construction giant Vassallo Group. Plus, we list all the top events and conferences from around the world and highlight five top tech innovators to look out for in 2020.

Enjoy the issue!

Peltarion, leading AI innovator and creator of an operational deep learning platform, today announced the findings of a survey of…

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Peltarion, leading AI innovator and creator of an operational deep learning platform, today announced the findings of a survey of AI decision-makers examining what they see as the impact of the skills shortage, and suggestions on how to overcome it. The research, ‘AI Decision-Makers Report: The human factor behind deep learning’, presents the findings of a survey of 350 IT leaders in the UK and Nordics with direct responsibility for shepherding AI at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

The report finds that many AI decision-makers are concerned about the business impact of the deep learning skills shortage. 84% of respondents said their company leaders worry about the business risks of not investing in deep learning, with 83% saying that a lack of deep learning skills is already impacting their ability to compete in the market. These companies are exclusively focusing on recruiting data scientists (71% of AI decision-makers are actively recruiting to plug the deep learning skills gap), and this is already impacting their ability to progress with AI projects:

  • Almost half (49%) say the skills shortage is causing delays to projects
  • 44% believe the need for specialist skills is a major barrier to further investment in deep learning
  • However, almost half (45%) say they are struggling to hire because they don’t have a mature AI program already in place

“This report shows that companies can’t afford to wait for data science talent to come to them to progress their AI projects. The fact is, many organisations are already starting to lose their competitive edge by waiting for specialised data scientists. The current approach, which relies on hiring an isolated team of data scientists to work on deep learning projects, is delaying projects and putting strain on the talent companies do have,” explains Luka Crnkovic-Friis, Co-Founder and CEO at Peltarion. “In order to solve the deep learning skills gap, we need to make use of transferrable talent that can be found right under companies’ noses. Deep learning will only reach its true potential if we get more people from different areas of the business using it, taking pressure off data scientists and allowing projects to progress.” 

Less than half (48%) of respondents said they currently employ data scientists who can create deep learning models, compared to 94% that have data scientists who can create other machine learning models. This shortage is having a direct impact on teams: 93% of AI decision-makers say their data scientists are over-worked to some extent because they believe there is no one else who can share the workload. However, with the right tools, others can make a serious impact on AI projects.

“Organisations need to move projects forward by bringing on existing domain experts and investing in tools that will help them input into AI projects. This will reduce the strain on data scientists and lower deep learning’s barrier to entry,” concludes Crnkovic-Friis. “We need to make deep learning more affordable and accessible to all by reducing its complexity. By operationalising deep learning to make it more scalable, affordable and understandable, organisations can put themselves on the fast track and use deep learning to optimise processes, create new products and add direct value to the business.” 

By Nick Gold, Managing Director at Speakers Corner Companies undergoing digital transformation need to map out the path. Responsibility for…

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By Nick Gold, Managing Director at Speakers Corner

Companies undergoing digital transformation need to map out the path. Responsibility for driving digital transformation across the enterprise lies with the C-suite. The CEO, chief marketing officer (CMO), chief human resources officer (CHRO) and chief operations officer (COO), among others, must work together to make the transformation happen. However, this can be difficult to achieve as certain members of the C-Suite are more proficient with technology than others. This article will look at how to overcome resistance/challenges at a senior level to any digital transformation strategy.

I find the interesting aspect of the rapid development in technology is that it has little to do with ‘digital’ but it is instead fundamentally driving businesses away from linear based workflows to neural programs where all parts are interconnected.

The challenge for any business embarking on a digital transformation project is moving away from a business culture where siloed work streams could deliver their parts of the project at specific points in a pre-ordained project plan.  This would be mapped out using project management techniques such as the use of visual Gantt charts which gave clarity over the breakdown of every item required for delivery within a transformational project with the business owner and/or team members expected to deliver this portion of the plan at specific times. 

Digital transformation has taken this well-worn methodology and crumpled it into a ball and created change where nothing can be done in isolation and every action has consequences on all areas of business.  The result of consumers becoming ever closer to brands and brands striving for authenticity and purpose to deliver to their consumers means production, sales, marketing, technology, finance, human resources and any other function within a business all need to deliver with ‘joined up thinking’ or in real terms, the same focus and goals.

As such, companies have realised that their processes, their products and even the reason for their entire existence needs to change in order to survive this revolution. However, the C-suite are struggling to adapt because this isn’t a clearly defined problem and there isn’t a historical precedent to follow.

So, what does this mean for those C-Suite executives who had their fiefdom, where they, with their teams controlled and implemented the strategy in order to deliver the objectives of their sphere which would feed into the wider business objectives?

In days of old, a business problem would have been identified and a decision would be made to implement a technological solution.  With the recommendation approved, the C suite, usually the Chief Technology Officer, would be tasked to deliver the project.  This suited all the C suite members as it meant that the expertise of each member of the executive were clear and there was a clear delineation between their roles and responsibilities.

Now any change or decision has consequences that affects other areas of the business and similar change in other areas of the business affects them.  The fourth revolution has bought the historical business divisions closer together, technology has meant that when discussing strategy or plans, the decision makers need to understand the effect across all areas of the business. 

Every business needs to operate as a single collective, it could be said they need to operate with a start-up mentality, with entrepreneurial spirit where the focus is the end goal not immersed in the process to achieve it. 

The business needs to have that drive where everyone is focussed on the overall strategy and interested in delivering it together for the benefit of the business, not for the benefit of their specific expertise.   

The C-Suite need to understand this doesn’t mean they need to know the answers or become far reaching experts in areas they have limited to no knowledge of.  They have to have their personal goals aligned with the right questions and be open minded to understand their responsibility as leaders is to create the environment where the people within the business can deliver for the success of the business not for the betterment of the division they are part of.

This moves the discussion at a C Suite level away from a technological based discussion, away from a place where there might be reticence due to an individual’s relationship with technology to either be part of the discussion or even worse, not commit to their viewpoints as they defer to other who they view as experts.  It moves the transformation away from digital to strategic.

But digital transformation is nothing to do with the build and delivery of the systems, it is nothing to do with the evolution of the business processes to work with the new transformed business, but it is everything to do with the strategic path that the company needs to take in this new era.

The fourth industrial revolution, where change is happening at an ever increasing pace, requires the C Suite to have a clear understanding of critical milestones from a business perspective, with diversity of business views based on expertise and experience, to ensure large scale digital transformation programs stay on track to deliver the requirements to deliver the survival, growth and success of their business. 

Now in its eighth year, the Tech Trailblazers Awards, the first independent and dedicated awards program for enterprise information technology…

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Now in its eighth year, the Tech Trailblazers Awards, the first independent and dedicated awards program for enterprise information technology startups, has revealed its shortlist of the most innovative entrants and concepts in enterprise technology. The shortlists, selected by the Tech Trailblazers’ panel of leading IT industry experts, are now open to public vote to add to the opinions of the judging panel and help determine the winners in all categories.

To view the shortlists, and vote for your favourites, please visit http://www.techtrailblazers.com/shortlist before 23.59 Pacific Time on Friday, 14th February 2020.

Tech Trailblazers Awards comprises the best startups across a wide range of enterprise tech categories including:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Big Data
  • Blockchain
  • Cloud
  • Container
  • FinTech
  • IoT
  • Mobile
  • Security
  • Storage
  • Firestarter Award
  • Female Tech Trailblazer of the Year Award
  • Male Tech Trailblazer of the Year Award

Rose Ross, founder of the Tech Trailblazers Awards, said “Each year the judges are faced with the increasingly difficult challenge of selecting shortlists in a wide range of tech categories from some of the most innovative enterprise tech startups from around the world. Huge thanks to our judges who, once again, have taken on this difficult task. The Tech

Tech Nation, the UK network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs, today reveals the 30 companies joining its prestigious Upscale programme for…

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Tech Nation, the UK network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs, today reveals the 30 companies joining its prestigious Upscale programme for the UK’s most exciting and fastest growing scaleup tech companies. 

Now in its fifth year, the Upscale 5.0 cohort reflects the maturity of the tech landscape in the UK with considerable growth in key company statistics. Most of the companies on the programme have already raised a Series A round, and the average raise has increased from £4.2m in 2017, to £7.2m in 2020. Average revenues have also increased by 64% from £1.1m to £1.8m over three years, while the average number of employees when joining the cohort has grown by 48% from 31 to 46. 

Some of the biggest success stories of UK tech, such as Monzo, Bulb, Improbable and Bloom & Wild, have been through the programme, and the 30 new companies represent the next generation of digital household names. 

This cohort reflects just a small part of the UK tech scaleup ecosystem – in total, there are almost 5,000 UK tech scaleups which add £17.2bn to the UK economy and employs almost 200,000 people. UK scaleups outperformed their peers in 2019, with companies raising £10.1bn, more than France (£3.8bn) and Germany (£5.4bn) combined, and are spread right across the UK.  

The Upscale programme is designed to support the UK’s leading scaleups by tackling the leadership challenge in UK tech. A recent report by Zenger/Folkman found that management and leadership skills are lacking in just over half of all leadership teams, and organisations that invest in developing leaders are 2.4 times more likely to hit their performance targets and almost double their profits. 

Upscale sessions include addressing how to scale yourself as a leader, and how to scale internationally. The programme aims to create a peer-to-peer network of companies on their scaleup journey, and includes sessions led by tech entrepreneurs from some of the UK’s most successful companies, including Nilan Peiris, the VP of Growth at Transferwise and Will McInnes the CMO at Brandwatch. Companies are selected through a judging process of tech entrepreneurs and established VCs, including Anthony Fletcher, CEO of Graze and Cherry Freeman, CEO, Lovecrafts as well as entrepreneurs who have gone through the programme themselves, such as Aron Gelbard, CEO of London-based Bloom & Wild. 

30% of companies joining the programme are from outside of London, and are based in: Manchester, Cardiff, Cambridge, Leeds, Brighton, Belfast and Newcastle. Companies hail from all different tech sub-sectors – showing the depth and breadth of technology in the UK today. 17% of companies on the programme this year are in the healthtech sector, 17% are in SaaS and 17% are in E-commerce. Cloud computing, fintech, legaltech, AI, edtech, proptech, tech for good and adtech are also represented on the programme. While E-commerce and SaaS are evidently still pivotal to UK tech, the makeup of the programme also represents the rise of companies applying technology to societal issues, including healthtech, which has seen an increase in scaling companies of over 473% over the last decade in the UK.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of UK IT companies believe their customers are less happy in January than any other month,…

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Nearly a quarter (24%) of UK IT companies believe their customers are less happy in January than any other month, according to new research.

The survey, by quality assurance and improvement platform, EvaluAgent, also found that 24% of IT businesses reported their lowest levels of customer service in January. 

This reflected the responses from tech sector customer service employees themselves, with 43% confessing that their standard of service tends to drop around the New Year and into January.

Worryingly, the survey also revealed that 39% of customers have come to expect the customer service they receive from companies to drop throughout December and January. This annual slump in customer satisfaction can be directly linked to employee engagement, which also falls in January.

According to the report, 35% of IT businesses find their customer service employees are unhappiest in January, while more than two fifths (43%) believe employees are at their least engaged.

While 75% of customer service employees said they struggled to stay motivated throughout the year, 40% admitted to January being their least productive month, pointing to a huge opportunity for businesses to increase employee motivation and customer service levels.

When asked whether they thought their business could do more to increase staff motivation during January, 91% of those surveyed agreed. This shows there’s scope for employee engagement and motivation to be dramatically improved during this crucial period, in turn driving higher-quality customer service.

Jaime Scott, CEO and co-founder of EvaluAgent, commented: “It’s very clear from the research that employee engagement takes a severe hit throughout January.

“This can have a really damaging impact on employee performance and explains the low levels of customer satisfaction reported by both businesses and their customers.

“With so many customers now having come to expect poor customer service levels in January, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to break the mold and properly motivate teams, improving customer service and gaining an advantage over their competitors.”

For more information or to read the full report on beating the winter blues, visit https://www.evaluagent.com/resources/winter-blues-employee-engagement-report

It’s clear that technology is evolving across every business, allowing companies to become more productive and efficient. Computer systems, such…

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It’s clear that technology is evolving across every business, allowing companies to become more productive and efficient.

Computer systems, such as CRMs and warehouse management systems, can help you plan out your workload as efficiently as possible to increase productivity of staff, while analytics allow you to judge what updates are needed and when.

Bodysuits

It was announced in 2017 that line workers in the plant would pilot exoskeleton suits — wearable technology that can help support a worker’s arms while they undergo tasks above their heads. Ford’s Michigan plant is also using innovative technological developments to help its workforce. These suits can also be adjusted to support different weights, depending on the wearer’s needs.

While such suits were more likely to appear on the big screen in movies such as Iron Man just a few years ago, the creation is having positive feedback from its users in the real life world.

Printing techniques

In any manufacturing company, human error can be extremely costly. That’s where 3D printing can come into play. While it’s still early days for the technology, digital printing has the potential to have a massive impact on practicality. It’s expected that this invention will transform nearly every industry as it changes how manufacturers will do business and will impact material costs, the traditional assembly line and product pricing strategies.

They are particularly handy as automated printers, like those used by Voodoo Manufacturing, don’t need to be manned anymore and can continue working 24 hours a day. The use of robotics isn’t aimed at replacing humans, but more so making employees’ jobs easier.

Drones

Drones can impact a company massively, saving almost 12 hours on each inspection and reducing the time it takes to check the equipment from 12 hours to 12 minutes. Not only can drones provide a quick and thorough inspection, but they eliminate the health and safety risk of someone needing to scale up to 150 feet to look at gantries. They have started to use drones to help perform risky inspections on the factory’s equipment in it’s Dagenham engine plant. The company is benefitting massively,

Another advantage of drones is that they are particularly good at providing the company with video and still footage that can be stored to allow the plant to compare its findings over a period of time to monitor any changes or patterns that are noticeable. This has become an indispensable tool for the factory, with the drones greatly improving productivity and efficiency.

What does the future have in store?

The process of quality control can’t be too reliable, as faulty parts may well be produced in a batch and slip through after the checks. That’s why the ever-improving embedded metrology will continue to help manufacturers produce a better product. This quick and convenient solution is a lot more accurate and requires little human interference.

This process can traditionally be a very time-consuming and expensive project. There would be randomly selected machine-made parts that would be individually tested, and if they passed the test, the batch it came from would be validated.

To summarise, it’s anticipated that this human aspect can be removed completely, with technology helping to provide a fully integrated and fully automated form of quality control. While some of the public are concerned that jobs will be lost as it keeps progressing, it can only be a good thing for manufacturing companies as it continues to help improve productivity and efficiency. It will be interesting to see what we welcome to factories next! Technology is continuing to amaze us in all walks of life.

The automotive industry is no different, either, taking advantage of new inventions. It’s not only our cars that are benefitting from technological advances, though — the manufacturing industry is, too. Lookers, who offer a variety of cars such as the used Ford C Max, are an example of this too!

New research suggests the UK is at risk of widespread ‘digital amnesia’, as it revealed 23 per cent of UK…

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New research suggests the UK is at risk of widespread ‘digital amnesia’, as it revealed 23 per cent of UK employees don’t know their own mobile phone number.

The research1 by CRM specialist Capsule found more than two thirds (69 per cent) of workers don’t know their partner’s number off by heart, whilst 63 per cent don’t know their best friend’s birthday, and 73 per cent don’t know their booked holiday dates without using tech to check.

Dependence on modern technology to carry out everyday tasks in employees’ personal lives was further highlighted in the survey, with two thirds (64 per cent) saying they rely on tech for directions, 45 per cent for shopping, 39 per cent to access transport, and 38 per cent for times and dates of events. 

“In an increasingly digital age, many people are using technology to store and access information instead of memorising it,” said Duncan Stockdill, Capsule CEO.

“Those surveyed admitted that they reach for their devices to carry out simple, basic tasks, such as maths calculations and spelling. 

“As technology has become more connected, accessible and easy-to-use, we have become progressively more reliant on it to help organise our lives and remember for us – giving rise to ‘digital amnesia’.  Essentially, we are storing more information and memories in the ‘cloud’, not our brains.

“With this in mind, it’s essential to trust the software you use and ensure it keeps your data secure like enabling two step login and using strong, unique passwords. We know passwords are easily forgotten though – around eight per cent of our users reset their password each month. Tools like 1password are useful as they’ll remember them all for you.”

According to the survey, almost one in three (31 per cent) workers describe themselves as disorganised – and 29 per cent said this has negatively impacted their performance at work, such as missing deadlines and arriving late to meetings.

One in four (24 per cent) have been late for appointments in the past 12 months, 23 per cent have missed birthdays, 21 per cent have forgotten to pay bills, and 15 per cent double booked or missed social events, respectively. 

The link between technology and being organised was clear from the research, with two-thirds (64 per cent) of all respondents saying they use technology, such as online calendars, digital to-do lists and reminders, to keep their lives in order. 

Stockdill added: “There has been a significant shift in how we function and operate, and the gulf between the past and the future is set to become more pronounced as technology becomes even more advanced.

“Reliance on tech is showing no signs of slowing down and the business world needs to adapt to these changes in order to stay ahead of the curve and help their employees reach their full potential. 

“Companies should consider taking steps to ensure that their employees have the tools they need to support well-organised and effective working practices.”

Capsule is a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software platform.  The system helps businesses stay organised, in control of their sales process and build strong customer relationships through its simple but powerful integrated solution.  

1Research conducted among 2,000 permanently employed respondents

By Luca Ravazzolo, Product Manager, InterSystems The last year has seen a gradual evolution of DevOps as the approach has…

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By Luca Ravazzolo, Product Manager, InterSystems

The last year has seen a gradual evolution of DevOps as the approach has matured and continued to be adopted more widely. Since its introduction, DevOps has changed mindsets, encouraging organisations to be more agile and making concepts like continuous integration and continuous delivery more commonplace. A major reason for the popularity of DevOps is that it allows organisations to capture all processes in an auditable and replicable way. Further to this, it adapts quickly, resulting in a low cost of change, and allows businesses to add cross-functionality collaborations and results in working at a much higher speed.

Thanks to a similar evolution in the cloud world, more intelligent tools are becoming available, allowing developers to follow up DevOps processes with more discipline and efficiency. This has led to the next iteration of DevOps: DevSecOps.

What is DevSecOps?

The issue of security is one aspect of DevOps that, until recently, has been largely overlooked, often due to the underlying pressure for the rapid creation of solutions and for these to be deployed quickly. Consequently, this has meant that security hasn’t always been a priority as including this at development stage hinders speed. Instead, security tended to be retrofitted after a build – an approach that makes the process more difficult. As developers and organisations have begun to realise that this isn’t the most security-conscious or optimal way of going about it, we are now seeing some integrate security into DevOps from the outset. This approach means developers can alleviate any security issues at the time of development.

Implementing DevSecOps

Currently, DevOps breaks down any barriers between developers and operations teams, but adding security into the picture requires there to be greater collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the organisation. For DevSecOps to be successful, developers and organisations must embrace a collaborative culture and recognise that they require input from other individuals within the business with different expertise. This requires organisations to adopt the right mindset in which they realise the transformative power of security in the development of solutions and collaborate with other departments. Traditionally, developers have been focused purely on logic and algorithms, for example, and security is an afterthought. So, if they are to embrace a DevSecOps approach, it is crucial to involve security experts from the beginning and for the different parties to collaborate on the development of solutions. By doing so it will be possible for enterprises to create secure, stable and resilient solutions which will be hugely beneficial for both the organisation and end-users.

Further to this, DevSecOps requires continual security reviews covering everything from compliance monitoring for PCI and GDPR to determining what the process is if security senses a threat. Therefore, organisations should establish a review process from the moment they think about architecting a new solution. Then they should also determine processes for the ongoing monitoring and management of security as the code progresses through every stage, from the developer desk to the building of the solution and the testing of it. It’s also critical that developers receive adequate training to ensure they are aware of security throughout the development journey.

What’s next for DevOps?

While what the future may hold for DevOps isn’t clear at this time, there are two prominent schools of thought:

Firstly, it is thought there could one day be NoOps. This is the idea that solutions will feature everything they are required to from the outset, such as code standards, security, libraries and legislation protocols, and that things will be completely automated, therefore requiring people to just monitor and raise questions as they verify the software. Technically, as everything would be automated within the software provisioning pipeline, there would be no need for manual, human-based operations. This could potentially guarantee a higher level of security and resilience as everything would meet a particular standard.

The second prediction is that instead of DevOps disappearing altogether, different types of Ops may be developed. This could lead to the emergence of MLOps to form a machine learning-driven operation that would be able to certify the standards that organisations want software to be written with and even flag issues with it.

As demonstrated by the introduction of DevSecOps, the evolution of DevOps is underway. In time, this is likely to mean that DevOps will begin to encompass new technologies and multiple aspects of building a new solution. Eventually, this will lead to all of the requirements of development being brought together and an increase in collaboration across departments. Ultimately, the end result will be new solutions that meet the required standards and security from the outset.  

Withers tech, working with experienced VC legal teams in France, Germany and Switzerland, has carried out the first analysis of…

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Withers tech, working with experienced VC legal teams in France, Germany and Switzerland, has carried out the first analysis of how venture capital deals are structured across Europe. The survey has identified that with more similarities than differences in deal structures between the jurisdictions, investors should have confidence about embarking on cross-border transactions.

Withers tech worked with Schnittker Möllmann Partners (SMP) in Germany, Viguié Schmidt & Associés in France and Wenger & Vieli in Switzerland to analyse active Series A deal terms used in each jurisdiction. The research identified 53 separate terms, which can be condensed into 14 key deal terms covering the categories of economiccontrol, and reps, warranties and remedies.

These three categories centre around future financing; exits and IPO to control terms like founders’ vesting, founders’ non-compete/solicitation; veto-rights; and control over the group of shareholders across the four jurisdictions. Any differences in these areas can often be accounted for by the different systems of Civil (France, Germany and Switzerland) and Common law jurisdictions (UK), which still remain key considerations.

James Shaw, head of Withers tech, comments: “The most significant message this survey sends is that we all speak largely the same language when it comes to transactions and legal documentation, so investors should have confidence in deploying capital across borders, particularly in these tech-savvy jurisdictions.”

“Of course, care and expert advice is still required though, as the difference between Common and Civil law approaches to deals can cause issues. In particular, governance structures in the UK are likely to differ from other European practices, including the structure and authority of different functions on company’s boards.”

“We decided to undertake this review due to the growing volume of cross-border tech VC deals within Europe. In addition, given the large volume of overseas capital looking to invest in European tech start-ups, we also felt it would be useful to explain the nuances of these four key jurisdictions to help overseas investors better understand the risks in each jurisdiction. Our next aim is to expand this review into other tech-active European jurisdictions.”

A copy of the report, including discussion of the 14 key deal terms found across all four jurisdictions, can be found here and all 53 deal terms are set out here.

By Alistair Laycock, Custom Solutions Director at Haulmont ‘Digital transformation’ has an obvious appeal. Invest in a technological solution that…

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By Alistair Laycock, Custom Solutions Director at Haulmont

‘Digital transformation’ has an obvious appeal. Invest in a technological solution that has the potential to streamline your business’s operations, reduce costs, and ultimately widen profit margins. What’s more, when your competitors are undergoing such a transformation, the pressure to invest in a solution to avoid being left behind is significant. 

However, more so than the technology, and even the choice of technology partner, the main priority for business leaders looking to undergo a successful digital transformation can be found internally. In a word, it’s culture. 

Many continue to invest in one-off, off the shelf solutions without putting technology at the heart of their business; a company whose board is open to consider and push technological change will be the one that separates itself from the pack.

People, partners and pilots

While throwing caution to the wind is the right approach, you needn’t strip out your legacy systems overnight. Before the implementation of new technology comes selecting the technology partner to deliver on the vision, and the right choice is paramount to achieving a successful digital transformation. 

When choosing a tech vendor to deliver a digital transformation project, ensure that your business’s cultures are aligned. Their ambition, communication style, attention to detail and proactivity are all key indicators, and it’s paramount that you ensure that your team can work smoothly with theirs. In the worst-case scenarios, miscommunication on deliverables and expectations leads to an increase in costs and a poor end product, undermining your original objectives.

Do also plan for the future. The right technology partner will offer more than one solution, with alternatives proactively proposed in the long-term. Propose that you begin by investing in a small project first. A pilot project – that is still bespoke and easier to develop – allows your potential technology partner to prove they understand your objectives and can quickly develop an appropriate solution. Critically, it also allows you to test the profitability of the solution and whether its success can be replicated at a greater scale.

A successful pilot project provides the basis to scale operations, including the replacement of legacy systems, safer in the knowledge that the new solutions will pay dividends. The final step is to work with your partner to carefully and methodically plan the implementation of these new systems.

Becoming a technology-first company

Once you’re settled with your partner, it’s paramount that you maintain the same risk tolerance that led you to this position; technology is a continuous solution, not a one-off investment. With new technologies come potential new customers – each with their own needs – and various new data points from which you can derive greater insight. To fully take advantage of this, be sure to invest in your staff. Look to retrain existing staff or employ a network of universally tech-skilled staff who are able to work in tandem with your technology partner, assess your own internal technology, and make suggestions on what other technological improvements would best serve the business moving forward. 

When it comes to recruitment, don’t be afraid to invest in youth. A recent report* suggests that 73% of B2B tech buying committee members are millennials, while under-35s make up 40% of those making the final decisions on technology purchases.

Analysing the data is key in ensuring continuous success; it’ll tell you what to automate, what to cull, and where there’s scope for growth. Getting this right will ensure reduced costs and increased growth and revenue.

Tangible impact

At Haulmont, we’ve worked with various partners to assist in a range of digital transformation projects. The Keyholding Company, providers of keyholding and alarm response services, is a prime example of embracing change and thriving as a result. Answer-times have reduced drastically, their entire service has been streamlined, and in the last year alone costs of sales are down 10%, while business growth is up by 15%.

The company has evolved from its specialism in security and is now a technology company first, with 98% of its 500,000 jobs each year handled by automation; previously, a human used to touch every job. As a partner, we’ve become an extension of the business, but it’s something that wouldn’t have been possible without the forward-thinking and risk tolerant approach adopted at the outset. 

The right technology is important. The right technology partner is important. But the success of a project is at risk if the teams delivering on objectives are not on the same page. A willingness to embrace change must trickle down from the top if a digital transformation is to be truly transformative.

*https://www.lenati.com/blog/2019/09/on-their-terms-millennials-shift-the-b2b-buying-journey/

*https://www.lenati.com/blog/2019/09/on-their-terms-millennials-shift-the-b2b-buying-journey/

Retailers know how important the customer experience is – and this can’t be forgotten around the busiest shopping period of…

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Retailers know how important the customer experience is – and this can’t be forgotten around the busiest shopping period of the year. In fact, in 2018 UK shoppers spent £4.75 billion in Boxing Day sales and £1.4 billion on the last Saturday before Christmas, known as ‘Super Saturday.’ With research showing that improving the customer experience and investing in new ways to engage customers is critical to the ongoing success of retailers, the retailers who are able to create a seamless, convenient experience for customers will have the upper hand. To do this effectively, they’ll need to bring together physical and digital while offering an amazing product selection that’s readily available and can be delivered fast.

Philip Hall, Managing Director Europe at CommerceHub, shares his top three tips to give retailers an advantage during this year’s peak shopping season.

1. Embrace the Physical and Digital for More Consumer Convenience

With the adoption of cloud-based software and smart mobile devices, retailers’ ability to connect their physical and digital presence has become significantly easier, as shown by the rise of click and collect and more return options. Every consumer has a different purchasing pattern – which is largely driven by convenience – meaning that retailers need to focus on having the right products in the right places.

Because convenience plays a large role in customer satisfaction, retailers need to take action. According to a recent survey, 68% of consumers said they preferred click and collect when making purchases. When consumers elect to pick up their purchases in-store, retailers are not only able to reduce their shipping costs, but also to sell even more product, as 85% of these consumers tend to make additional purchases once they come in-store to retrieve their orders – something that could easily feed into holiday sale buzz.

2. Put an End to Cancelled and Out of Stock Messages 

“Right time, right place” in today’s consumer speak actually means “right here, right now,” – something that is only becoming more ingrained in retailers’ strategies. It’s not uncommon for consumers to have experienced the frustration of hopping online to purchase the perfect gift and getting hit with the “out of stock” message – a challenge that typically ends in an abandoned cart and searching for the product elsewhere.

Retailers stand to miss out on nearly $1 trillion in sales because they don’t have what customers want to buy. And while this problem stirs agitation and causes stress for consumers, it is something that retailers can easily avoid with the right approach. By tapping into virtual inventory enabled through drop shipping and executing on proper resource planning and logistics execution, retailers could potentially have no sell outs at all, enabling them to keep customers happy and maintain their brand promise. And some retailers are already recognising the potential, with research from CommerceHub showing that 46% of retailers value the fast shipping and delivery of drop shipping and over a third acknowledging the better customer experience drop shipping will bring.

3. Meet and Exceed Delivery Expectations

A final key to success as we enter the UK’s busiest shopping period will be perfecting shipping and delivery. Gone are the days when getting packages a week or longer after an order is placed is acceptable. New and improving technology is giving retailers the ability to strategically expand product ranges, fulfil orders faster than ever before and track deliveries to better meet customer needs and expectations. By implementing these advanced back-end processes, communications between retailers and fulfilment/shipping centres have never been more seamless.

Technology is also giving retailers more visibility into fulfilment processes, which is enabling them to create routine efficiencies and capture data to drive their businesses forward year after year. What’s more, these insights can help drive real-time decision making, allowing retailers to keep consumers aware of the status of their orders and stay ahead of delays in ways that couldn’t be managed before, which supports retailers’ growing need to stay ahead of customer expectations.  

Conclusion

Retailers need to ensure that the customer, and their satisfaction, is at the core of every strategy – especially in the coming months when the sales potential is so high. Whether it is a newly implemented or enhanced approach, a retailer’s ability to carry out a seamless crossover between physical and digital retail, minimise out-of-stock cancels and meet and exceed delivery expectations is essential to their success. And with this success comes happy customers, who in turn, will only be coming back for more.

By Joonas Jantunen, CEO Cloudia Middle East & Africa, Cloudia. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Lew Platt, once famously said: “If HP knew…

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By Joonas Jantunen, CEO Cloudia Middle East & Africa, Cloudia.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Lew Platt, once famously said: “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

Managing knowledge, or knowing what you know, and being able to apply it to core decision-making is key to business success now and in the future. In procurement, knowledge management already has the potential to drive productivity gains across the business. And emerging technologies like AI and RPA look set to play an outsized role.

What do we mean by knowledge management?

Every day, every moment, organisations and their operating environments are creating, using and sharing, huge amounts of information, or knowledge. Knowledge management, most simply put, refers to the process of collecting, maintaining and managing everything that a company ‘knows,’ in all its forms. But knowledge management is also about using that knowledge to help leaders make more informed decisions. In this article, we are considering knowledge management in this wider sense.

In any organisation, knowledge is power but only when it is well managed and usefully applied. In procurement, knowledge becomes power when it’s effectively managed for the purpose of driving decision-making. That means, identifying what information is critical to operations, analysing it, then sharing the findings with key decision-makers across the company.

What does this mean in practice for procurement?

In procurement today, knowledge management typically begins with process automation, aimed at reducing routine administrative work and freeing up procurement people to focus on innovation and productivity. Automation also equips organisations with the capacity to adapt and take advantage of new technologies as they develop. 

The vast majority of data management applications currently available focus on storing and presenting historical data – telling us ‘what happened’. Naturally, it’s important to know about past events to aid future management strategy, but all too often the data analysis and interpretation itself is left entirely to humans, with our limited capacity for processing large amounts of information. Also, it’s not possible to effectively exploit even the most basic historical data in practice unless the organisation’s procurement systems and processes have been digitised, and an adequate amount of historical data accumulated.

Emerging technologies assist knowledge management in multiple ways

When artificial intelligence (AI) is mentioned, often the first thing that comes to mind is robots making decisions on our behalf or undertaking roles previously performed by humans. Indeed, it has been predicted that robots are likely to replace many service-sector jobs, among other things. However, it’s worth remembering that predictions are based on assumptions of what might happen in terms of advances in AI and it’s challenging to predict the pace at which these advances would take place.  

In the short term, the situation looks less exciting. At the moment, the most significant strength of AI is its ability to handle huge amounts of data from various sources and to establish links among different factors. Another remarkable aspect of AI is the speed at which it is able to identify and produce text, sound and image. As it stands, AI is best suited for optimising existing processes and behavioural models on which an organisation already has plenty of high-quality data.  

AI helps manage, cultivate and discover procurement knowledge

AI and its various applications, especially robotic process automation (RPA), can significantly speed up data collection and assembly. In addition to the information that’s entered into the system and generated during the daily procurement activities, RPA is also able to cultivate new information. Useful information can be gathered about various relevant factors, such as the market, operating environments, pricing, currency fluctuations, any changes to contracts or suppliers, as well as other operators or events within the same business sector.

With the help of automation, the data can be assembled, categorised according to context, and merged and stored without human interference.  As a result, the process of data discovery will be significantly quicker and more straightforward. Technology can also be harnessed to keep different levels of management up-to-date with the latest information regarding, for example, various organisational units, or changes to contracts or consignments. As a result, management will always have access to real-time knowledge of any breaches of contract or disruptions in the supply chain. 

Diagnostic analytics explains why something happened

The next level of knowledge management is reached when technology is exploited to help understand the causes of events and certain behaviours. Diagnostic analytics examines data or content to answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’. When there is a better understanding of what happened, information can be used to find and detect a variety of recurring formulas and patterns, which help control and redirect operations more accurately.

For example, if the same suppliers always succeed or fail to fulfil the terms and conditions of specific product categories, the valuable information provided by diagnostic analytics can help target investment toward the most reliable suppliers. Similarly, understanding the changes in supply and demand, under certain conditions in different product categories, will help schedule the procurement process more efficiently. Diverse procurement procedures and market fluctuations have an impact on the price level of bids, but by analysing trends and past events, it is possible to get both the procedure and the timing right.

Predictive analytics explains whats going to happen

Any organisation wishing to succeed needs to have foresight. Predictive analytics is a level up from analysing the past, as the focus is on developing and automating forecasts and probabilities based on current events. Those in charge of procurement can use the knowledge to predict and prepare for various outcomes and direct their actions accordingly. 

Once the analytics has discovered why something happened, it will be able to draw conclusions and predictions about what is going to happen next. As an example, it’s possible to predict that when certain changes occur on the market, certain suppliers will perform better (or worse) in relation to certain contractual terms, or if the price or availability of a certain product category is projected to reduce.

Prescriptive analytics explains what should be happening

A high level of procurement knowledge management is achieved when technology can be employed to tell what should be done next. AI and its various applications can efficiently simulate human behaviour and learn to make draft measures and proposals based on predictions. Even the decision-making process can be fully automated with the help of various approval stages.

Based on facts and probability-weighted projections, the system can give recommendations to management about different areas of procurement. For example, it might be advised to avoid certain suppliers at certain times of the year due to projected shortages in supply, or to order extra goods in advance to prevent stock from being exhausted.

Choose an experienced and competent partner

AI is a very useful tool for optimising performance and streamlining processes where the cost of human error can be high. In order to make the best use of technology in procurement knowledge management, it’s essential to be able to identify and collect the type of data that matters most to your organisation. Since the projections and recommendations are based on existing data, the sooner the process of data collection and storage in your organisation commences, the better.

John Rossman, managing partner at Rosman Partners, explores the concept of digital transformation and his book Think Like Amazon. With…

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John Rossman, managing partner at Rosman Partners, explores the concept of digital transformation and his book Think Like Amazon. With companies constantly referring to the Amazon effect, John calls upon his time working with Amazon to lay out 50 and a half ideas that businesses and organizations should consider as they look to transform their operations, embrace innovation, and enter the next era of business. By Dale Benton

Talk us through your career and your work with Amazon  

In the 2000s, I had the opportunity to be a leader at Amazon. I got to launch the Marketplace business at Amazon so that’s third-party selling at Amazon.com. Today that’s 58% of all units shipped and sold are through that platform. And then I also ran the enterprise business where we ran other large retailers’ e-commerce infrastructure for them. That included target.com, ToysRUs, Marks & Spencer in the UK, and a number of other great brands.  I left Amazon in late 2005 and got into consulting, where I started to see the impact of all the strategies and tools and approaches we took at Amazon to get the types of results we did. I started to use those with my clients. Several years after I left, one of my clients at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came to me and said, “John, I’ve seen how you put the little anecdotes and manoeuvres from Amazon into our business. It’s very impactful. I think you ought to write a book about it.” That’s what really started me down the path of writing the books. So, today I do a number of keynote speaking and advisory work where I work with leadership teams over a long period of time as an advisor to their team, and help others figure out their digital strategy. That’s been my career arc.

We hear about the Amazon effect, but you’ve been on the inside of that, can you give us your perspective?   

I mean I was there from early 2002 through to late 2005. It was a fascinating period at Amazon because that’s really when we started to develop the strategy of Amazon really being two types of businesses. One is a retailer, and the other is a platform company, and a platform company builds core capabilities that both Amazon and the retailer could use as well as third parties. So, we started to get super clear and work through our leadership principles, our approaches for how to operate as a platform company. It completely changed the way that I think about problem solving and about situations, and opportunities. I didn’t develop all of these techniques. I just paid attention in class, and it was really then through my repeated practice of inserting them into my client’s business at the appropriate point with the appropriate approach that really inspired me to write, Think Like Amazon, 50 and A Half Ideas To Become A Digital Leader. That was really my inspiration for the book; to pass on to others what all the little moves are that you can take from Amazon and put them into your business to help make change happen.  

What does it mean to digitally transform? You’ve described it in your book as an introduction to mission impossible  

I think part of the essence of being digital or digital transformation, is there are lots of good definitions. There’s no one right one. I believe that being digital is really the combination of two, what sounded like athletic attributes, but they’re really organisational attributes, which are speed and agility. So, if you think of what speed is, speed is about being able to do a repetitive motion extremely efficiently and extremely predictably. That’s really operational excellence, right? So on the one hand, being digital is about operational excellence in the relentless pursuit for driving out inefficiencies in the business, and for perfecting the customer experience. The other attribute of a digital organisation is agility, and agility is really the ability to both sense and make change happen, right? And that’s both small change and big change. So really, that’s the ability for an organisation to innovate within itself, right? So, it’s really that combination of speed and agility, operational excellence and systematic innovation that really makes a digital company. A lot of what I work with teams on, and speak to audiences about relates to being deliberate, right? In both your operational excellence and your innovation.  Every leader would say that being innovative is critical to the success of their company going forward, but 95% actually don’t have a systematic approach for how that happens. It happens on an accidental or one-by-one basis. So much of the framing of this book and the ideas from Amazon are how to be planful and systematic in both your operational excellence and your innovation.

Is there a challenge of balancing the need to perform while transforming?  

This isn’t about pausing what you’re doing now, but it really does set the basis. In fact, the first idea in the book is reset your clocks. Your journeys will not be a short or straight line. If I think about what’s the understated secret of Amazon’s success? Right? It’s a 25-year-old company now. There were the first 15 years of; it was struggling to survive and to make a name and a brand. It’s really just the past 10 years that this vortex of an organisation has come into being. So patience is, I think, an underlying and underappreciated skill set of leadership and management and boards. Amazon has forestalled and pushed out profitability in order to build the infrastructure, and to do these experiments, and to build their business, they’ve pushed out profitability. I think it is that addiction to quarterly profit results that creates the challenges in both being able to reinvent your business and deliver those quarterly results. Sometimes part of the journey is about reshaping how you’re taking profits and investing it into the business. You do have to invest in the business if you truly want to transform, and it’s not a predictable path, and it is certainly a long path. So, it’s almost irreconcilable to say, “I want to have fast transformation results,” right? Those things are almost irreconcilable. It’s oxymoronic in nature.  

Is there still inherent risk averseness towards technology?  

I think it’s actually because the technology is becoming simpler and easier to operate. Because the obvious need to innovate is becoming higher and everything, what’s being pushed to the forefront is a company’s capability of managing change. This gets to a big essence of the book, and in particular idea nine is called making the elephant dance: portfolio strategy and governance for innovation. It gets back to that observation which is most companies don’t have a deliberate systematic approach for innovation. This idea is just about one aspect of that systematic approach for innovation, which is about a portfolio strategy.  A portfolio strategy just helps to understand and outline where are your investments going, and what type of risk versus return are you expecting across those. What most companies are good at is low risk, low reward types of projects and investments, right? Basically, if we execute well, we should have a return, but these are things that are not game changing types of endeavours. What most companies are not good at is the high risk, high reward types of investments, and this is really where you need to think big but bet small. You need to make these types of high risk, high reward investments as nimble and small and hypothesis-driven as possible.  But just simply having a portfolio understanding of your investments is one key element for really understanding how am I making deliberate change in the organisation. And as your question tees up, technology is rarely the key challenge. The key challenge is in how we envision the future, how we run change initiatives in our organization, not just the technology component but the business model component, and the organizational change components to it, and the ecosystem and stakeholder management component to that. And those tend to be the things that get in the way of innovation.

With transformation comes a rebuilding of existing cultures and mindsets, what challenges does this present? 

Idea number three is called move forward to get back to day one: change the culture of status quo. It really is about the essential awakening that leaders need, which is: are we playing offense? Are we about creating the future or are we about defence, and maintaining the status quo? Bezos frames this up by his quick little saying around we are a day one company. In one of his recent shareholder letters, he talks about what’s it mean to be a day one company versus a day two company?  If you are a day two company, meaning you’re probably healthy, you’ve been around for a while, but you’re struggling with innovation and reinventing yourself, and you see some competitive threats coming from non-traditional competitors. He gives some advice relative to creating a day one culture, and some of that advice is about don’t manage through proxy.  Proxy is those abstraction mechanisms that we put in place to help manage the business. Things like surveys and abstracted metrics. The key way to get away from that is understand the exact customer experience, have transactional metrics, and set a high bar relative to the perfect order, the perfect customer experience versus looking at it in an aggregate, and really about making sure that you’re dedicating time to work in the future.  As a leadership team, we probably need to be more deliberate about working in the future. It’s amazing because people are not systematic about it. People and leaders hesitate to put time into actually working in the future. So, many of the ideas are about, ‘Whoa, what are the things I do to actually work in the future?’  

What advice would you give to a company embarking on a digital transformation?

At the end of the day, it’s really about not the organisation transforming around me, but it’s about, well, what am I personally willing to do differently? What am I willing to learn? How am I willing to take on new practices, spend my time differently, prioritise my business results and my schedule, and my hiring practices too? What are you willing to do differently? What changes are you willing to take out of this and make happen as part of your personal habits?

Becki Hyde, Practice Lead, Agile Practice Leadership Enablement and Sean Olszewski, Practice Lead for Agile Practice Leadership Enablement, Pivotal Software…

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Becki Hyde, Practice Lead, Agile Practice Leadership Enablement and Sean Olszewski, Practice Lead for Agile Practice Leadership Enablement, Pivotal Software

The benefits of a successful digital transformation project will manifest across entire organisational structures: teams make and act upon decisions faster than they have in the past, products and services are being delivered to users faster, employee morale is on the rise, operational costs are decreasing, and legacy systems are being upgraded or retired far quicker than many in the business can keep pace with. However, once change gets into full swing, it’s typical to see some employees begin to question their roles in the company, or whether they want to remain at the company at all. Things are changing fast—technologies, processes, expectations—and that can make for a difficult adjustment. Understanding why employees feel the way they do is crucial–not just to keep great people, but as a gauge to understand if the business is transforming in the right way.

There are different types of people within an organisation that are at risk of becoming alienated or otherwise unhappy during transformation periods. Here are some traits to look out for and some advice for keeping those people not just around, but also happy.

  1. Frustrated converts

The frustrated convert gets exposure to a new way of working and is then forced to go back to the old way – to what is often perceived as cumbersome process, wasted time, dead ends, and a lack of autonomy. These blockers often occur due to senior leadership being bought into an effort but failing to cascade the intent and importance of this to middle management. Because of this breakdown in communication, middle management doesn’t allow individual contributors the flexibility they need to deliver effectively, creating frustration and ultimately causing them to leave.

To prevent turnover of otherwise engaged and excited employees, work toward support for the change at all levels of your organisation and provide air cover until that is achieved. Having one or two key allies at the manager, director, and vice president levels goes a long way toward preventing converts from ever becoming frustrated. By knowing they have direct leadership support, employees will be able to weather the challenges of introducing change for much longer than if they feel they are doing it alone.

  1. High achievers

High achievers are employees who thrive in an agile environment, becoming so effective at what they do that they begin to be courted by other companies, or seek promotion opportunities elsewhere. Time and time again, we see this issue come up as companies undergo change, and the strongest way to combat it is to have a strong, protected culture of learning, with a fair and competitive compensation structure.

But supporting high achievers isn’t just about salary and benefits. The most engaged and motivated participants in change can become disengaged if they aren’t given opportunities that align to their interests and professional development – and have a measurable impact on the business. After seeing success on their teams, some employees naturally want to spread the principles and practices they’ve become so passionate about. This gives them an opportunity to grow professionally, and to have a larger positive influence on company culture.

  1. Opt-outs

When people are asked to change the way they work, some will self-select out. This is especially likely in companies where employees stay in roles long-term and develop well-understood processes over years of experience. Opt-outs don’t like or aren’t convinced of how effective this new way of working will be. It’s not uncommon for people to have seen many attempts at changing their enterprise and are therefore sceptical of further change.

As you introduce change, think ahead to how you can support these potential opt-outs. Opt-outs are normally better suited for work which isn’t related to the company’s digital transformation efforts, therefore change may in fact represent an opportunity to become involved in other areas of the business. They can however prove to be effective advisors in their area of expertise, or perhaps there are other teams in the company that could benefit from their experience and knowledge. Regardless, if you don’t consider these employees’ concerns and manage their transitions, they can poison others who are interested – but nervous about the change.

  1. Graduates

Some of your best team members will get promoted, perhaps onto a different team or into a new business unit. On the surface this is good news, however, if people leave early, or several leave in quick succession, the team leading the change may struggle to maintain maturity and momentum in their absence.

Because it is important to keep teams intact until there are people ready to backfill leadership roles, start succession-planning early — even down to the individual team level. While you can encourage people to stay in place for a period of time by providing them with interesting work and fair compensation, preparing for the future early ensures your efforts won’t stall out. When you are ready for people to move on, consider planning for graduates to seed new teams in pairs or small groups, so that they can support one another and have greater influence on others.

Final thoughts

While high turnover feels alarming, it can be a good sign. It’s evidence that you’re effecting change. Instead of feeling powerless, proactively preparing for and guiding changes in staffing can keep your transformation on track. While you may not prevent people from leaving, you can learn valuable lessons from the reasons they leave, which you can then leverage into actionable insights that help you on your journey.

Jay Weintraub, founder and CEO of InsureTech Connect explores the digital transformation of insurance, and what makes InsureTech Connect the…

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Jay Weintraub, founder and CEO of InsureTech Connect explores the digital transformation of insurance, and what makes InsureTech Connect the largest, most focused and relevant gathering of insurance industry executives, entrepreneurs and investors in the world. By Dale Benton

Walk us through your career journey and how you find yourself as Founder and CEO of InsureTech Connect?

In 2008, I launched an event series for a subset of the Internet advertising space, and it was there that I first got exposed to the world of insurance. Towards the end of 2015, I met Caribou Honig, who was a fintech VC in search of an InsureTech conference, and that meeting could have gone really poorly or really well, and I’m happy to say that it went really, really well.

What is InsureTech Connect?

We are the world’s largest event that discusses the digital transformation happening in the world of insurance. Insurance is one of these remarkable worlds. It’s worth trillions of dollars in annual premiums, it connects our lives, it enables us to do everything that we do at this moment and yet it’s something that is sort of invisible and behind the scenes. In the last four years, the world of insurance has seen, this groundswell of activity by entrepreneurs who are looking at this big world and saying, ‘Wait a second, why does it work the way that it does? There has to be a better way.” It is these entrepreneurs, the investors that fund them and the global incumbent insurance companies that all gather at InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas.

As technology has become more advanced, how are the conversations surrounding tech, different today than they were say, 10 years ago?

It’s amazing how much the conversation has remained the same, it’s the channels that are different. When we think about customer acquisition, there are certainly going to be broad shifts in how companies acquire customers as the access to channels. We must remember, the core of having a great product that appeals to people may change, but it’s the core of having something worth telling that really hasn’t changed.

Is there a challenge in understanding, and defining, what digital and digital transformation means to business?

It’s both a challenge and opportunity and it is what makes being in InsureTech such a fun place to be because is it talking about product lines. How do we use insurance in a new way? How do we take a classic product, break it into a way that is better and necessary but also helps consumers? Digital transformation is going to depend on what product line you’re in, what part of the value chain you’re in and what technologies you think can actually help you serve your customers better. There’s an immense amount of parallel transformation taking place.

What do you feel are some of the key barriers faced by insurance, in embracing innovation?

I would love for the answer to be technology. If we think about in the early 2000s when e-commerce was becoming a thing and people knew that they wanted to buy online, it still took 15 years before it became mainstream, and that was a technology issue. It was because mobile phones weren’t computers, there wasn’t connectivity, the cloud computing didn’t exist, so the ubiquity of what could be done wasn’t actually there. Today, we have consumers that want things and we have technology that gets it to them. It’s a fundamental culture change in a lot of cases, and insurance has been more incremental in nature. It’s an industry that is hundreds of years old and thinks in terms of hundreds of years versus any short-term trend.

How do companies stay on top of the new consumer demands so as not to fall behind competitors?

We have a couple of assumptions. We are assuming that over time, if it can be sold online, it will be. We assume over time that everything will be sold and written directly. The challenge for any business is, what is that time horizon? Personal lines are vastly consumed both directly and digitally, but commercial lines will one day be far more direct than they are. It’s why small commercial concerns are such a hotbed of innovation.

You think about the next generation of small business owner, it’s going to be somebody that has grown up with a phone, and so when they look to purchase their insurance, they’re going to want to start digitally versus maybe how the previous generation turned to an individual. When we’re looking at insurance, it’s about locating the pain point? Is the product going to be sold digitally no matter what? Or is it something that is still going to be sold through an individual, most likely with an advisor. How do you enable that advisor to do their job better?

How difficult is it to balance, move forward and embrace this next generation without turning your back on the existing previous generations?

I don’t think it’s a pure split. I think everybody wants to speak on the phone at a certain time, and I would say that there’s an ever-growing comfort with people who are happy to speak on the phone or not speak on the phone. We look at Facebook, right? It went from being students only, to almost getting a backlash for it becoming the playground of the parents and grandparents, and it shows the comfort of people engaging with a mobile phone as a device for consuming and inputting information.

I think about chatbots and other forms of conversational AI, and it’s a case of understanding how it helps you to make the experience better versus looking at it as just a, ‘Oh the young kids, they want to engage with their phone.’ We have to say, what does it help us do better, faster, and at scale? We have to look at these things for very specific performance enhancers and then always have an escalation process knowing that if there’s a certain level of complexity, if there’s a certain level of frustration, if there’s nuance, then there’s a trigger for people to always speak to a human. People can be guilty of looking at tech as the box that everything fits into. It’s like a hammer in search of a nail. Well let’s make it a box for everything, and we see it ultimately leads to poor outcomes.

How do you work to ensure that InsureTech Connect is relevant to the discussions of today in a time of never-ending disruption?

What is our role? Our role is to convene. When we think about the goal of insurance, both to enable people to live and take risks and to get people back to a pre-loss state faster, our hope is to always keep an eye on what’s happening and look at how we reduce the coverage gaps and say, what is actually making a difference? Who is actually making a difference? How do we make sure they get enough time on stage? And more importantly, how do we enable the attendees, via technology, to connect with each other so that start-ups meet an investor they might not have?

What can organisations, and the industry as a whole, be doing now to open the door to the next generation of skilled workers that’ll be able to continue to innovate and continue to operate in these new and exciting times?

It’s one of those great questions that has horrible answers because the businesses operate at scale. It’s about repeatable process and it’s about having the data and then acting. What we’re talking about now is, no one knows the data. We wouldn’t have guessed 5 years ago that having somebody who was really good with a mobile phone and understood Instagram could be a person that is immensely valuable to the largest organisations, and yet today, you think about some of these competencies… People are saying, ‘Oh, we want you to know how to use social because having our 10,000 employees engaged in social is actually one of the best ways for us to get seen and get noticed.’ But a lot of these skill sets we have are not obvious until they’re obvious.

The best thing is to look at the younger generation and at how they engage. Study them as consumers first, as this is how they consume and then look to understand what that means, every five or 10 years. The hardest part is we can oftentimes see where the future’s heading, but we don’t know how long it’s going to take. There’s a real discipline that says, how do we separate out some of these new skill sets, new future activities, how do we stay on top of it, without trying to either shift the entire organisation or treat it as something that is not that important today.

What would you say is key to remaining successful in this time of opportunity and challenge?

Never underestimate the power of relationships, because it’s the people who are ultimately the ones that are creating the next thing and the closer you are to the creators, the closer you are to the ecosystem itself. I think it is also being calm; you have to be calm and stop listening to the noise as much. We think about the companies that have dramatically changed our lives. I think about some of the big tech companies: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple. There are thousands upon thousands of start-ups that are doing interesting things, but the number of them that are going to ultimately change the way we do business are slow in their growth, in a way, before they fully change us.

Be a little patient and learn about ecosystems and make sure that you have at least someone or a team that is comfortable with these new platforms, so that when one of them becomes dominant like Facebook or Apple there’s at least some embedded knowledge about how these things work. Listen, but don’t overreact. Be patient. There’s usually always time, even though it doesn’t feel like it in the get-go.

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Ian Moyse, EMEA Sales Director at Natterbox Limited outlines one of the most important skill sets in the modern age:…

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Ian Moyse, EMEA Sales Director at Natterbox Limited outlines one of the most important skill sets in the modern age: the need for acceptance and receptiveness of innovation and digitisation. The ability to be agile as a technology professional… By Dale Benton

How important is it to stay on top of, and to understand, both the speed of change and the increasing demands on modern technology?

One of the skill sets, and not just in sales or working in the tech sector, but across a lot of roles today, is the capability to be agile. Humans have this propensity to change and adapt. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today, right? But you’ve got to be willing to do that. A valuable skill today is acceptance and receptiveness and the ability to change, and change again, and again. We’re seeing less and less of doing the same thing day in, day out, for 30 years or so.

So, what exactly is Natterbox?

Natterbox has built, from the ground up, a cloud telephony system, which was called VoIP. The real unique thing is we’ve built the system fully inside Salesforce. We’re the most integrated telephony platform for the Salesforce platforms, whether it is service cloud, sales cloud, force.com etc., on the planet. You could say it’s a niche market, but it’s a very big niche market, enabling customers who have invested in Salesforce to also put their telephony in the cloud, and put the two together. It’s using data that you have about customers, whether it’s opportunities, cases, support, tickets, to improve and transform both your customer and your agent’s experience with telephony. To do things that you couldn’t do with old technology, and old telephony systems. Simple example, if you phone in and you had a ticket with a customer yesterday and they didn’t call you back, how transformational would it be if when you phoned them, if the phone system dynamically recognised your number, had looked you up in their system and went, “Hi Ian, thanks for calling this morning. We detect, we didn’t call you back on that ticket yesterday, if that’s what you’re calling about, press one, and we will escalate you to the right person quickly. Two, for our normal menu.”

We’re using live relevant data about the customer to personalize and transform their experience over the phone. Exactly like you’ve seen on websites for years, where you go to a website, it remembers who you are from a cookie, and starts to personalize your experience and treat you differently. We believe you should be doing that on the phone, and that’s the capability we give to customers.

Can you explore the technology that sits at the very heart of that?

We’ve seen some players try and do this by buying components, underlying components in, but we wanted to own the stack because if you’re going to do this stuff, it’s obviously important to you.You can’t do this stuff and do half a job, it’s got to be extremely resilient, because you’re setting the customer expectation, you’re setting the bar high and you’d better deliver. We architected this ourselves, and we chose Salesforce purely because we wanted to be the master of one and do it well. We decided we are going to do this to the extreme we believe the market needs. 

Everything behind this has to use efficient, speedy cloud systems, because it’s real time. You have a conversation, you have an electronic voice, you want it to sound as human as possible, and it needs to be instantaneous. The customer isn’t going to wait two or three seconds as you would on websites. Our expectations are set high. It is extremely complex under the covers, but one of our goals we achieved was to make it easier for customers, to hide all the complexity in the back end, and give them an interface where they can configure this, and manage it very quickly themselves. So if they want to make a change, it’s real time. Make the change and it’s live across your whole phone system.

Data is key to what you do, but how do you ensure that data is governed?

If you look at the press today, in the past number of weeks, at the point we’re speaking now, we have seen some of the impact of data breaches like we’ve never seen before. The consequence used to be, A, we wouldn’t always necessarily hear about the story and B, the impact and cost of that business was reduced; it didn’t get much news. It was, “there’s been a breach”. If you heard about it, great, but it has diminished quite quickly. Today we live in a different world. The rules have changed.

We’ve seen these large businesses now, they’re getting fines in the hundreds of millions. So the penalty should have been there before. I don’t think the threats are getting worse. They’re getting different, but the threats have been there for years. If you’ve got data, it is an incredibly valuable asset. When I speak at schools, it’s always interesting. A question that’s come up a few times is, “Facebook and these, how do they make money?” Because they see these platforms, that they recognize cost money to build and run. “How do they make money?” The money isn’t in the membership fees, it isn’t in the logins. It’s in the data they get, what they know about us, how they can market to us and sell us… We’re their commodity, we’re their product.

With technology continuously evolving, how can companies like Natterbox be ready for the next wave of digital transformation?

What I say to people is, what is your business? What is the product or service you sell? What’s the dynamic of your customer? Now if you’re a hairdresser cutting hair, you physically have to cut hair. So unless some incredible robot comes along in the future, that’s going to continue. It’s understanding what your business is, and what the persona of your customers are and how are they wanting to interact with you? It depends on generation as well. Millennials have been born into a world where social media has always been there, and all this tech we’re seeing, and Amazon, and apps on your phone for ordering is taken for granted. I would argue, however, all of us that haven’t come from that generation have probably been dragged into it anyway, and we take it for granted as well.

Our expectation bars have been set to a peaked level. The problem for any business that isn’t in that born in the cloud model, is that the customer expects the same of you, because someone else has raised the bar. And that’s why we’ve seen the likes of Blockbuster Video fall foul of Netflix and Amazon’s LoveFilm as was. There’s nothing wrong with Blockbuster, we’re hiring a video. But someone came along and presented a faster, quicker, slicker, more flexible model. It changed the dynamic of how the customer engaged or bought that product or service.

If you’re in a market that can be transformed, or you’ve got someone coming into it, you need to start now. You need to be the ones doing it, not waiting for someone else to transform you, and then you’re on the defensive. It’s harder for you as a legacy business to transform than it is for a newcomer. A new business will buy everything in the cloud. They’ll buy all the new technology, and apply processes that fit the new world that we’re now in, and the new buyer dynamic, and the new customer persona, and the new tech world we live in. Because they can.

If you’re in a business, forget what you do today. Go in a room with the people who understand the history of your business, or the dynamic of your market. Whiteboard, spend a couple of hours with some coffee and donuts, and just chat through. If we were starting this company again today, what would we do? Imagine that your company does not exist. You have all left and gone to a start-up. You’re going to start a competitor. What would you do? You would not build what you built historically.

The reason you did that is because it was the world you were in at the time you built it. So there’s nothing wrong with what you did. It’s the nature of the beast. But today, you would do it differently. And that’s how your mindset needs to start. Then you work backwards to, “Okay, so how do we get there? What, what’s the easy win? Is there anything of these 20 ideas we’ve come up with, where we can start to … This year we could do three of them?” That’ll be hard in itself. Right? But we can start to move along the journey of trying to move towards that. Because we’ve all agreed if we started the business today, that’s what we’d do to beat our own company. If you can think of it, someone else can as well, and someone else can do it, and they can potentially do it quite quickly.

By Alistair Sergeant, CEO, Purple Consultancy Businesses are increasingly having to create and modify their organisational capabilities to adapt and keep…

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By Alistair Sergeant, CEO, Purple Consultancy

Businesses are increasingly having to create and modify their organisational capabilities to adapt and keep up with the ever changing and evolving digital technology which surrounds them. 

For many, their digital projects are failing; the speed of digital transformation is alienating the essential human interaction and cultural change required to make the projects a success.

Bring back the humans

According to the latest statistics, 88% of digital transformation projects fail and there is a reason for that.

The speed of digital change is something that no business can ignore but most try relentlessly and largely unsuccessfully to keep up with. We are surrounded with disruptive business models coming to market with new technology rapidly changing and it is easy to get so wrapped up by technology that we forget to consider that without the human element, the transformation process will fail. 

This rapid change has resulted in a serious skills gap from a business and technology prospective for most UK organisations. As a result, both large corporations and SMEs UK wide are not as agile as they should be, not only affecting growth, but also impacting customer experience and employee engagement.

We know that (most) cars, no matter how technologically advanced they are, need a human to drive them and this is just the same when implementing digital change in your business.

Meaningful change starts with people, not technology. Your team needs to adapt to keep up with the pace by making changes to the way they have worked in the past but none of this can work successfully unless we encourage a chance in culture.

The role of the leader

To implement an effective digital transformation strategy, leadership is not only vital but critical for success. In so many cases, those implementing the strategy haven’t taken the time to understand what needs to be changed, what the strategy should aim to deliver and when, and more importantly how to correctly communicate change with staff or other company stakeholders.

It’s time to remove the digital-first approach as this method requires your entire team to buy in to it and almost forces them into a corner. To work on a new team culture in the business, which encourages your staff to embrace the changes and understand the reason for the changes, takes time. As a digital leader you need to guide and support your employees, encourage them and give them time to grow with the transformation process. 

Understanding how they work, how they think and playing to their strengths is time consuming but will ultimately help to grow your successful ‘human-first’ approach.

Get to know your customers

Customers are human too. They are not just numbers on a sheet. It is vital you get to know them, get to the bottom of what they like, what they want and also what they don’t want. You are aiming to promote a human-centric approach so that you give them the solutions they actually want and not what you assume they want. 

You can maximise the success of your product or brand by taking the time to get to know who your target market is and allowing them to see that there are humans behind the brand who actually care about what they want and are prepared to talk to them and listen to them. 

No matter how advanced technology is becoming, in certain situations there is simply no replacement for the human touch. Empathy plays a large part in positive company and team growth as well as social skills, the power of persuasion and negotiation, and these are all done better by humans and is what your customers will relate to.

Be patient

Building a system within your business, where humans and technology can work together with more of a balance, is where successful digital transformation will be most successful. One can’t work without the other but in your quest to beat off the competition, don’t overlook the heart of your business, which is the human element and ensure you invest as much in them as the technology you use. Take time to let a new company culture evolve and ensure that your employees understand the new structure and most importantly your vision as you are the ‘human’ who is implanting the change.

Welcome to a packed August issue of Interface Magazine! This month’s exclusive cover story is with a telecommunications giant. We…

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Welcome to a packed August issue of Interface Magazine!

This month’s exclusive cover story is with a telecommunications giant. We caught up with Verizon Consumer Group’s Executive Director of Sales Experience John Walker to discuss the telco’s transformation of its customer journey…

Read the latest issue!

The largest wireless provider in the US, Verizon, with its 4G LTE network, covers approximately 98% of the States. The company has transformed its customer journey, while boosting revenue in the process, in an omni-channel offering that has reshaped its sales strategy.

Verizon Consumer Group’s Executive Director of Sales Experience across those channels is John Walker and it’s his job to examine the shopping path and the process of shopping in a bid to provide a greater experience for both the customer and the sales team. “We’re moving on,” Walker explains, “from having a channel-focused distribution strategy to a customer-journey focused one. It’s a big change…”

We also speak to Neil Williams, Director of IT and Digital Transformation at the University of Derby, who has overseen massive changes at this progressive tech powerhouse. Plus, we have an exclusive interview with Frank Konieczny, CTO at the US Air Force and Borislav Tadic, Vice President BMS & Transformation DRC at Deutsche Telekom.

All the best tech events and conferences are also listed, as are the Top 5 companies deploying blockchain.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

By Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you…

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By Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino,

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.” Steve Jobs

Every brand aspires to get close to its customers to understand what makes them tick. Those that succeed invariably deliver better experiences that inspire long-term loyalty. Today, the world’s biggest brands know us so well they’re able to personalise their marketing to match our individual tastes and behaviours. When Netflix recommends you try Better Call Saul, it’s because it knows you binge-watched Breaking Bad. The personal approach works; whether it’s a Netflix notification or a ‘programmatic playlist’ from Spotify, targeted recommendations – informed by deep learning and vast data – hugely influence the content we stream. Steve Jobs was right: successful brands get so close to their customers, they can tell them what they need long before they know they need it. And we all keep coming back.

However, not all brands are as fortunate as the digital disruptors. How do you get close to your customer when your brand isn’t an online service that’s routinely capturing user data? If you’re marketing a physical entity – a food, a toy, a designer handbag or a male grooming kit – how do you even know who your customers are (let alone what they need) when complex supply chains inevitably separate you from your end-user? How can you add brand value when you can’t build a direct relationship with your customer or lay the foundation for long-term engagement? The answer is: you can. In fact, as Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino, examines, with the advent of simple, affordable technology, you can do it quickly, easily, and cost-effectively. 

New opportunities

A convergence of factors is creating new opportunities for marketers to transform the way they manage their brands through the consumer lifecycle. The availability of personalised barcodes combined with the ability of smartphones to read them, has reinvented consumer behaviours, with shoppers increasingly scanning product barcodes to discover more about the brands they buy. However, until recently, the absence of standardised coding meant that brands needed to create proprietary apps to deliver their value-added features, relying on customers’ willingness to download ‘yet another app’ in a world of app fatigue. The introduction of GS1 Digital Link barcodes, which provide a standards-based structure for barcoding data, has removed this need for product-specific apps. It’s opened up the potential for marketing innovation – such as digitally activated campaigns that can transform a product into an owned media channel – enhancing the brand experience and building stronger connections with customers. This key development has been assisted by the emergence of advanced coding and marking systems that are helping brands include more information on every product, allowing them to personalise customer experiences at speed and scale.

With customer intimacy considered a key driver of commercial success, personalised coding and marking can help brands achieve the Holy Grail of getting closer to their customers. What’s more, it provides a platform for value-added innovation that builds engagement, trust, and long-term brand loyalty. The potential applications are exciting and wide-ranging. 

Internet of Products

Digital innovation is not limited to online brands – practically every product can form part of a connected and accessible online ecosystem. An internet of products. In its simplest form, personalised barcoding can provide a gateway to online content – user manuals, product details, blogs, communities, and customer support – that enhances the brand experience. However, beyond the basics, the opportunities for compelling customer engagement go much further. Leading brands are using QR codes to trigger anything from loyalty schemes and competitions to gamification and immersive brand experiences. Progressive brands are using barcodes to create innovative gifting solutions – allowing customers to record personal video messages to accompany their presents, giving their loved ones a more memorable experience.

The potential for innovation is significant – and the rewards are too. For example, in Germany, Coca-Cola used barcoding on cans and bottles to engage directly with consumers, with a simple scan connecting customers with ‘in the moment’ mobile experiences. The digitally activated campaign allowed Coca-Cola to transform its products into an owned media channel, captivating customers with personalised content, incentives, and competitions that generated unprecedented brand engagement. The campaign has subsequently been rolled out across 28 markets in Europe and North America.

Provenance and authenticity

Serialisation, first introduced to safeguard the medicines supply chain against the plague of counterfeit drugs, is now being widely applied across many industries – allowing brand owners and customers to track and trace products and determine their authenticity. This is a significant value-add in sectors like food, where discerning consumers are increasingly interested in the provenance of produce, and the journey foods make from farm to fork. With carbon footprint and other environmental issues now a key influence on consumer purchases, traceability is a major value-add across most commercial industries. 

The value of data

Barcode innovation undoubtedly provides considerable value for consumers. With research showing that customer experience is the most competitive battleground in consumer markets, qualities such as transparency, social responsibility, and open engagement are all crucial ingredients in a trusted brand experience where personalised barcoding can help. But the value exchange isn’t all one way: marketers benefit too.

Direct link barcodes provide a mechanism to capture a rich seam of real-time data that can help brands understand – and respond to – customers’ needs. Simple information such as user profiles, geo-location, purchase history, dates, and times can be leveraged to build a dynamic picture of individual customers, helping to inform a wide range of services and communications. This data can provide a powerful marketing platform – an organic and automated CRM – to target customers and personalise communications based on identifiable preferences and behaviours. Marketers can understand customers’ buying cycles to trigger timely and relevant alerts. They can upsell products and accessories, nudge customers when warranties expire, or past purchases are getting old and tired. And just like Netflix, they can recommend new products that customers will love – long before they know they need them.

Cracking the code

The emergence of GS1 Direct Link barcodes – and the smart technologies that support them – is transforming the retail experience, helping consumers find out more about the products they buy and bringing brands much closer to customers. As the High Street battles tough economic conditions and the rise of digital disruptors, the successful brands of tomorrow will be those that exploit the creative opportunity of personalised barcoding and deploy advanced coding and marking systems that make the magic happen.

It’s time to crack the code.

By Sander Van de Rijdt of PlanRadar The recent Maze Group report outlines that if the UK’s 237,000 adults’ nurses…

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By Sander Van de Rijdt of PlanRadar

The recent Maze Group report outlines that if the UK’s 237,000 adults’ nurses in acute, elderly and general care were to work in innovative productivity-enhancing hospitals, they would gain back a total of 25 million hours of time back every year. This equates to adding 13,500 full-time nurses to the NHS workforce. This is due to the current hospital facilities hindering optimum productivity. The report outlines four in 10 public sector workers stated that they were unproductive for more than two hours every working week because of their workplace environment

The NHS is a recurrent issue in the UK, shown by its centrality to the Brexit campaigns and the current conservative leadership election.  However, the NHS is facing severe staff shortages, and resources to fund public services are scarce. Tax rises to boost budgets are politically unattractive, but due to the UK’s increasingly ageing population, there is an urgent need to find a solution.

One new solution now being discussed is innovative productivity. 

At the moment, more than 95% of data on a building site is lost or not even recorded, meaning contractors are building new facilities from scratch, over and over again. New construction technology means going forward structures will be created by a standardised set of components that incorporate significant amounts of feedback from end users into the next iteration of the design. New digital blueprints can lead the construction process by ensuring collaborative access to current plans, documents, appointments, and contacts for the whole of a project team, as well as providing sight of far more of the supply chain, manufacturing process and on-site requirements from the outset. Subsequently this means going forward hospitals can be manufactured following the same interactive blueprints. The standardization of hospitals should enable trained health care workers to perform effectively in any new facility.

PlanRadar co-founder, Sander Van de Rijdt, believes the tech revolution finally happening in construction means ideas about how structures and buildings are built will be different in the future, designed instead around the user and optimised for how people use their spaces and environments. This revolution will change how our public services are delivered and tap into the hours of unlocked productivity in UK hospitals.

PlanRadar is designed to tackle productivity issues. Their users already realising time savings of seven working hours per week on average, which is roughly around 18% of their working time and leads to reduced costs of up to 70%. It’s one of the new construction technologies that will be pivotal in building the next wave of innovative productivity-enhancing hospitals and improving the future delivery of the NHS.

Alan Gibson, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Alteryx It’s no secret that data and analytics play a key part in…

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Alan Gibson, Senior Vice President, EMEA at Alteryx

It’s no secret that data and analytics play a key part in every organisation’s digital transformation efforts. Data science has become a rapidly progressing field thanks to the crucial role it plays in understanding big data.

Although data has become a real game-changer harnessing it is not always straightforward and many global corporations are struggling to leverage their data assets. These strategies generate an overabundance of data – and even more questions, requiring more analytics than most can possibly imagine. They also require continuous analytic breakthroughs in order to achieve a true digital transformation.

This pressure to exploit data in new ways and the increased emphasis on digital transformation is also causing a tremendous amount of strain on organisations’ analytics teams. Although many are investing heavily in data technologies to transform their organisations, quick access to information and insights can be impossible – and many are still failing at putting this data in the hands of the business people who must make use of the insights.

A key tactic for improving data access and providing insights involves bringing the two elements of data and data science together. For many organisations unifying these in order to drive digital transformation continues to be a challenge. Every vertical and department has a need for ingesting disparate content and performing complex analytic processes against it to drive value from the massive accumulation of ’dark data’ stored by organisations. Unlocking the value of such data through data analytics is key to guiding leaders make more informed decisions.

One of the principal ways in which organisations can unify data and data science is by changing the status quo and developing an analytics culture across the business. Analytic teams serve as the backbone to digital transformations, but more often than not we find that analytic teams are starting from an insufficient position, attempting to innovate with legacy holdovers of analytics processes, technology and team alignments. Holding on to these relics are the biggest barriers to analytic alignment and innovation.

Leaders focussed on digital transformation should targe both cultural and technology strategies that help to create an analytics competency to fuel digital innovation. This is no small task. With data skills in short supply and demand for data-related roles set to continue to rise within the next four to five years, this is either exciting or intimidating depending on what side of the analytic effectiveness spectrum you’re sitting!

Linking up data insight to people with vital business knowledge is paramount to organisations wanting to make the most of data analytics. Not only will it enable the organisation to understand data analytics at every level it will also create an army of ’citizen data scientists’. Uniting departments that otherwise would have been siloed while generating more insightful and valuable analyses. Empowering these burgeoning citizen data scientists is a unique opportunity for organisations to compete in today’s digital economy. These individuals are eager to learn and develop new skills to improve their personal development and contribute to the business, but they can only be harnessed with the right enablement, support and self-service tools. What’s more, according to a survey conducted by Forbes Insights in collaboration with EY organisations which have an analytics strategy central to their overall business strategy are approximately five times more likely to achieve revenue growth and operating margin greater than 15 per cent, as compared to organisations lacking an analytics vision.

With the hyper-focus on digital transformation, it’s important to keep it in perspective. It isn’t always about new ‘things’, it’s about new value. Harnessing the networking effect of data, people and technologies paves the way to creating a sustainable cycle of analytic innovation that drives digital transformation.

ENDS

Alteryx offers an end-to-end analytics platform that empowers data analysts and scientists alike to break data barriers, deliver insights, and experience the thrill of getting to the answer faster. Organisations all over the world rely on Alteryx daily to deliver actionable insights.

By Amyn Jaffer, Head of Intelligent Automation, Ultima Most businesses now recognise they will need to embrace intelligent automation to…

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By Amyn Jaffer, Head of Intelligent Automation, Ultima

Most businesses now recognise they will need to embrace intelligent automation to gain competitive advantage. From improving business processes and customer experience, to using ‘cobots’ to work alongside their workforce, AI offers companies huge scope to improve their business efficiency and drive innovation.

Yet, while many companies are excited about the potential of this new technology, the very concept of AI often evokes fear of the unknown for others – especially for businesses that, understandably, don’t know where to start on their Intelligent Automation journey. As with most daunting tasks, the best approach is to take incremental steps.

RPA: a good place to start

An ideal first step on the road to digital transformation is the introduction of RPA (robotic process automation), which uses robots to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks that previously required humans to perform them. These tasks can include queries, calculations and maintenance of records and transactions.

As well as being relatively simple to implement, using software robots is both affordable and effective; and the potential benefits are impressive.

As an example, RPA can be used by HR teams to ensure each company department has the same information about every employee without the typical challenges of running multiple system records and repetitive re-entry of information. It can also be used for absence management and for processing applications, saving time for your employees to focus on more strategic work. As a second phase, organisations can then make HR information more accessible by implementing chatbots.

Any large-scale activities or groups of repetitive tasks that draw on or feed information into multiple systems are also candidates for intelligent automation. In practice, this could mean using cognitive services such as text and sentiment analysis to process and respond to natural language text within formats such as emails, documents and live webchats. The aim is to extract data from these sources without the need for human intervention.

One training provider which takes up to 400,000 first line calls annually is using speechbots to answer calls and leverage RPA to verify the caller. This has resulted in reduced operational expenditure in the call centre by 50% and increased efficiency.

Similarly, cognitive services can also be used to improve business efficiency through visual recognition. One company is using this technology to tag information in photographs – a task that would take hundreds of man-hours to do, but just seconds with cognitive services.

At Ultima, we have been using RPA technology to automate our own back-end operations and we’ve seen productivity rise by a factor of two since implementing the technology across five processes. For example, we automated our forecasting and planning tasks. Software robots collate real-time sales and marketing information and process all the information they collect during the day to produce detailed forecasts and business intelligence for the next morning. Usually this took eight to ten hours per day of staff time. As a result, the business has improved business intelligence to plan with, and staff have more time to spend on customer service and strategic thinking. 

The next level

Taking care of mundane tasks, RPA frees companies to explore more complex AI-based automation – using visual and cognitive intelligence that draws information from multiple sources and interprets it to deliver improved business intelligence.

By automatically collecting and sifting through vast amounts of data and then training robots to make sense of the data by asking the data pertinent questions, businesses can start to solve the problems that have been keeping them up at night. For example, analysing customer data to establish insights into how different things affect their purchasing decisions can give real business benefits and drive innovations in how a business might supply and market its goods.

However, before taking this next step, it’s important for any organisation to look practically at their infrastructure, workforce and security, and consider what might need to change to enable their businesses to be set on a positive path to digital transformation.

Ready for the future

Ultimately, we’re all likely to have a ‘virtual worker’ by our sides helping us to do our jobs, cutting out mundane, repetitive tasks and freeing us up to be more creative and focus on business goals and innovation. To reach this stage the right foundations need to be in place, and the adoption of RPA is the best place to start.

Automated machines will collate vast amounts of data and AI systems will understand it. By coupling two different systems – one capable of automatically collecting vast amounts of data, the other that can intelligently make sense of that information – individuals and businesses will become more powerful. Take a deep breath, jump in and get ready to realis

Welcome to the June issue of Interface Magazine! Read the latest issue now! This month’s cover features Gary Steen, TalkTalk’s…

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Welcome to the June issue of Interface Magazine!

Read the latest issue now!

This month’s cover features Gary Steen, TalkTalk’s Managing Director of Technology, Change, and Security, Gary Steen regarding the telco’s commitment to thinking, and acting, differently in a highly competitive marketplace…

TalkTalk is an established telecommunications company that fosters a youthful, pioneering spirit. “I like to think of TalkTalk as a mature start-up,” says Managing Director of Technology, Change and Security, Gary Steen. “We are mature in terms of being in the FTSE 250, with over four million customers, relying on our services every day through our essential, critical national infrastructure. But that said, I definitely think we start our day thinking as a start-up would. What can we do differently? How do we beat the competition? How do we attract great talent? We’ve got to come at this in a different way if we are going to succeed in the marketplace. We are mature, but we think like a start-up.”

Elsewhere we speak to Natalia Graves, VP Head of Procurement at Veeam Software who reveals the secrets to a successful procurement transformation. Graves was tasked with looking at the automating, simplifying, and accelerating of Veeam’s procurement and travel processes and systems around them, including evaluating and rolling out a company-wide source-to-pay platform. “It has been an incredible journey,” she tells us from her office in Boston, Massachusetts. We also feature exclusive interviews with PTI Consulting and cloud specialists CSI.

Plus, we reveal 5 of the biggest AI companies in fintech and list the best events and conferences around.

Enjoy the issue!

Kevin Davies

Digital transformation is making it easier for procurement organisations to “do more with less,” according to newly-released Procurement Key Issues research from  The Hackett…

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Digital transformation is making it easier for procurement organisations to “do more with less,” according to newly-released Procurement Key Issues research from  The Hackett Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: HCKT). But there is still significant need for procurement to address its critical development priorities for 2019, including: improving analytical capabilities, aligning skills and talent with business needs, leveraging supplier relationships, enhancing agility, and achieving true customer-centricity.

Digital transformation is beginning to have a significant impact on procurement organisations, The Hackett Group’s research found, with 30-40 percent saying it has had a high impact in achieving enterprise objectives, enhancing performance, optimising the service delivery model, and addressing roles, skills profiles, and needs. Over the next two to three years, procurement organisations expect the impact of digital transformation to dramatically increase, with key areas like robotic process automation and advanced analytics seeing particularly high adoption growth rates (2.3x and 60 percent, respectively). Broad adoption of e-procurement technologies is also expected to grow by nearly 2x.

Procurement expects its budget to grow at a much slower pace this year than in 2018 (1.3 percent, versus 2.7 percent last year). Procurement staffing shows a similar trend, with 0.9 percent growth expected, versus 2.8 percent in 2018. With revenue growth expected to increase from 5 percent in 2018 to 5.7 percent for 2019, this creates significant productivity and efficiency gaps that procurement organizations must overcome.

A complimentary version of the research is available for download, following registration, at this link:http://go.poweredbyhackett.com/keyissuespro1902sm. Note – The full research piece includes 7 charts containing more than 60 complete metrics.

Procurement has aggressive plans to increase its use of digital tools and procurement-specific technologies over the next two years, the research found. Procurement will invest heavily in cloud-based business applications along with several data management technologies: data visualization (where adoption rates will rise by 24 percent), master data management (57 percent adoption growth), and advanced analytics (60 percent adoption growth). Spend optimization analytics and dashboarding adoption rates are expected to grow by 61 percent. Broad-based adoption of e-procurement technology is expected to grow by nearly 2x.

Use of mobile computing and robotic process automation (RPA) are also expected to rise dramatically, indicating a focus on more efficient, agile processes across the procurement lifecycle. RPA sees the highest adoption growth rate among digital technologies, at 2.3x. While RPA is primarily being used for procure-to-pay processes at present, there are a range of other procurement areas that can benefit from automation of repetitive work, including updating of vendor master files and electronic auction setup.

Procurement-specific technologies are expected to become far more broadly adopted over the next two years, with nearly universal adoption of e-procurement, spend optimization analytics, and supplier relationship management systems, and just slightly lower adoption rates for e-invoicing and contract lifecycle management. This represents a major shift toward customer-centricity, designed to enable organizations to simplify and streamline processes, and improve agility.

The research found that procurement’s 2019 actual transformation focus is poorly aligned with what should be its critical development priorities; i.e. areas identified as of critical importance, but with very limited ability to address. Among those, development of analytical capabilities is a transformation focus for about half of procurement organisations. Modernising application platforms is another top transformation focus, and is a key way to achieve simplification due to the complexity of many legacy environments. Consolidating multiple legacy systems is also a critical step towards to improving data management and analytics.

But of the other critical development areas, less than a third of all procurement organizations have a major initiative in place to improve skills and talent with business needs, and even fewer said they intend to work on agility or focus on improving customer-centricity and supplier relationship management capabilities.

Procurement is also focused on its role enabling the enterprise in 2019, with an array of priorities that include elevating their role as a trusted advisor, continuing to reduce purchase costs, improving stakeholder satisfaction, and enhancing agility.

“Procurement organizations are clearly making investments in digital transformation and are seeing real benefits. The focus on improving analytics for 2019 is particularly encouraging. But the laundry list of critical areas where they have very limited ability to make improvements is very disconcerting,” said The Hackett Group Principal & Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader Chris Sawchuk. “Despite the fact that procurement knows what it needs to do, it’s simply not fully translating into an effective plan of action. Procurement must become fully dedicated to advancing its capabilities in analytics, customer-centricity, agility and more, while also investing in the right talent to help lead those changes.”

According to The Hackett Group Research Director Laura Gibbons, “Failing to address the five critical development areas poses a significant risk. For example, we see skills & talent as a particularly critical risk factor. Procurement has begun to truly invest in digital transformation, but if it doesn’t have the right people in place, digital tools could end up being misused or wasted. You need the right people, with the right skills in place, to take full advantage of what digital transformation can offer.”

This same issue holds true in several other of these critical development areas,” explained Gibbons. “Agility is critical if procurement is to be able to respond to market changes. Without a focus on customer-centricity, procurement can miss significant opportunities for improving efficiency, simply because they don’t effectively know what the business needs. And without supplier relationship management, opportunities for innovation can be missed.”

Sawchuk explained that the potential impact of digital transformation in procurement is powerful. “Advanced analytics can enable companies to become less reactive and more predictive, more quickly and accurately identifying and avoiding risks. It can drive dashboards where anyone can log in and get real-time data.  Dynamic discounting is another area that can be very challenging for many companies, but can be easily enabled by digital transformation.”

“Smart automation can reduce operating costs, and eliminate transactional work, freeing up staff time for more value-added efforts,” said Sawchuk. “Even if procurement can simply focus on a larger percentage of the spend base, the value is very significant.  And digital tools can streamline and improve the experience of internal customers and suppliers.”

The Hackett Group’s 2019 Procurement Key Issues research, “2019 CPO Agenda: Building Next-Generation Capabilities,” is based on results gathered from about 150 executives in the US and abroad, most at large companies with annual revenue of $1 billion or greater.

Neill Hart, Head of Productivity and Programs at Computer Systems Integration (CSI), speaks exclusively to The Digital Insight about how…

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Neill Hart, Head of Productivity and Programs at Computer Systems Integration (CSI), speaks exclusively to The Digital Insight about how the company has moved beyond simple systems integration and helps customers find and exploit a ‘perpetual edge’ in technology innovation and digital transformation. Click here to listen to the full podcast!

“As Head of Productivity and Programs at CSI and the head of enablement, I am the middle ground between strategy and execution. We take the company strategy, which is very much centred on digital transformation, and using utility or cloud computing, we take it to the market in a way that makes sense for our client base.

Companies will have three or four desired outcomes; grow the business, save money, innovate faster and to protect (data, reputation etc.). Traditionally it’s to save money. On-premise data centres require capex investment, you have to buy equipment, run it in a data centre and pay for electricity and power, operations etc. The offer of cloud or utility computing is that use what you need and only pay for what you use. You don’t pay a lot to the water company if you don’t turn the taps on. That’s the dream of utility computing or cloud computing is that you break away from the capex investment. It’s inflexible. If you run out of capacity with an on-premise data centre, you have to buy some more equipment and that takes weeks or months to arrive. With cloud, if you need some more you pay for more…” 

It’s no secret that data and analytics play a key part in every organisation’s digital transformation efforts. Data science has…

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It’s no secret that data and analytics play a key part in every organisation’s digital transformation efforts. Data science has become a rapidly progressing field thanks to the crucial role it plays in understanding big data.

Although data has become a real game-changer harnessing it is not always straightforward and many global corporations are struggling to leverage their data assets. These strategies generate an overabundance of data – and even more questions, requiring more analytics than most can possibly imagine. They also require continuous analytic breakthroughs in order to achieve a true digital transformation.

This pressure to exploit data in new ways and the increased emphasis on digital transformation is also causing a tremendous amount of strain on organisations’ analytics teams. Although many are investing heavily in data technologies to transform their organisations, quick access to information and insights can be impossible – and many are still failing at putting this data in the hands of the business people who must make use of the insights.

A key tactic for improving data access and providing insights involves bringing the two elements of data and data science together. For many organisations unifying these in order to drive digital transformation continues to be a challenge. Every vertical and department has a need for ingesting disparate content and performing complex analytic processes against it to drive value from the massive accumulation of ’dark data’ stored by organisations. Unlocking the value of such data through data analytics is key to guiding leaders make more informed decisions.

One of the principal ways in which organisations can unify data and data science is by changing the status quo and developing an analytics culture across the business. Analytic teams serve as the backbone to digital transformations, but more often than not we find that analytic teams are starting from an insufficient position, attempting to innovate with legacy holdovers of analytics processes, technology and team alignments. Holding on to these relics are the biggest barriers to analytic alignment and innovation.

Leaders focussed on digital transformation should target  both cultural and technology strategies that help to create an analytics competency to fuel digital innovation. This is no small task. With data skills in short supply and demand for data-related roles set to continue to rise within the next four to five years, this is either exciting or intimidating depending on what side of the analytic effectiveness spectrum you’re sitting!

Linking up data insight to people with vital business knowledge is paramount to organisations wanting to make the most of data analytics. Not only will it enable the organisation to understand data analytics at every level it will also create an army of ’citizen data scientists’. Uniting departments that otherwise would have been siloed while generating more insightful and valuable analyses. Empowering these burgeoning citizen data scientists is a unique opportunity for organisations to compete in today’s digital economy. These individuals are eager to learn and develop new skills to improve their personal development and contribute to the business, but they can only be harnessed with the right enablement, support and self-service tools. What’s more, according to a survey conducted by Forbes Insights in collaboration with EY organisations which have an analytics strategy central to their overall business strategy are approximately five times more likely to achieve revenue growth and operating margin greater than 15 per cent, as compared to organisations lacking an analytics vision.

With the hyper-focus on digital transformation, it’s important to keep it in perspective. It isn’t always about new ‘things’, it’s about new value. Harnessing the networking effect of data, people and technologies paves the way to creating a sustainable cycle of analytic innovation that drives digital transformation.

Welcome to the May issue of Interface magazine! Our cover story this month features FWD Philippines’ CTO Rogelio ‘Nooky’ Umali,…

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Welcome to the May issue of Interface magazine!

Our cover story this month features FWD Philippines’ CTO Rogelio ‘Nooky’ Umali, who gives us the lowdown on disrupting the life insurance sector. Umali and his team put the customer experience at the very centre of its innovations: “We ensured that every single leg of a customer’s journey was assessed and then identified which parts were the real pain points. The solutions were then focused on resolving these pain points.”

Elsewhere, we feature Ed Clark, Chief Information Officer at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, the guys behind innovative EV chargers Andersen EV, Cranford Group’s Rachel McElroy and ‘CIO of the Year’ Vennard Wright…

Read the latest issue here!

Digital skills shortages blight UK jobs market for 20 years A lack of technical expertise has fuelled skills shortages across…

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Digital skills shortages blight UK jobs market for 20 years

A lack of technical expertise has fuelled skills shortages across the UK for the last two decades. That is according to comparative analysis of the professional jobs market by The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.

According to a 1999 report from University College London, almost half (47%) of all ‘skill-shortage vacancies’ that year could be attributed to a lack of technical expertise. For ‘associate professional and technical’ roles, the need for ‘advanced IT’ skills was responsible for 31% of vacancies, while a lack of ‘other technical and practical skills’ were responsible for a further 49% of all open roles.      

A separate report published the same year by Computer Weekly revealed that C++ developers were the most in-demand professionals with Java the second most sought-after skill in the IT recruitment market.

Today, research from The Edge Foundation suggests that around half of all employers (51%) have been forced to leave a role open because there are no suitable candidates available, and that tech job vacancies are costing the UK economy £63 billion a year. LinkedIn data indicates that cloud and distributed computing is the most valued skill among employers, with user interface design, SEO/SEM marketing and mobile development also featuring in the top 10.  

Commenting on the analysis, Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, said:

“While the specific skills that employers are seeking have changed dramatically over the past two decades, the fact that talent gaps continue to be aligned with technical competencies suggests that we need to do more to boost Britain’s digital capabilities.

“Our members have long reported shortages of talent across the IT and digital fields. For this reason, it is crucial that we ensure that we retain access to the STEM professionals that businesses need in the short term – through maintaining access to global talent and retaining our flexible labour market. However, perhaps more importantly, we must pipeline the calibre and volume of skills we need for the future so that we break free from this perpetual skills shortage. As this data indicates, for the past 20 years we have been playing catch-up – and we must break the cycle if individual businesses, and the wider UK economy, are to fulfil their full potential.”

Technology is becoming a tool for expanding human senses and abilities. This requires intelligent and immersive interfaces. Will voice, gesture…

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Technology is becoming a tool for expanding human senses and abilities. This requires intelligent and immersive interfaces. Will voice, gesture and thought control soon replace keyboards and touchscreens?

Reply’s study, conducted with the trend platform SONAR, examines trend-setting concepts for interfaces between humans and computers – Human-Machine Interfaces – which are now becoming real possibilities for communication between humans and machines. For companies, there is significant potential for more personalised and emotional customer interaction as well as new possibilities for the visualisation and analysis of information.

Voice assistance

20 million people worldwide already use voice assistants daily to search for information, make purchases or play music. Also, in the corporate environment, voice assistants enable a completely new way of using technology and automate many tasks. The smart assistants perform entire tasks, record things or make calls without any human intervention. This increases productivity and leaves employees with more time for challenging tasks. Through voice interfaces devices can be controlled using voice input, and smart software agents will be able to perform an increasing number of services in the future. What’s more, electronic in-ear devices, so-called hearables, can be used for a wide range of applications, from wireless data transmission to communication services.

Extended Reality (XR)

The technologies combined under XR enable barrier-free interaction between man and machine and eliminate geographical distances. They revolutionise people interaction with the environment: Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality support consumer decision, reduce costs, increase efficiency and a more productive environment. Other emerging trends include gesture control and 3D displays, which create a virtual three-dimensional image of an object and offer interactive possibilities. Smart glasses, which provide the wearer with additional information about what they are seeing, are also among the XR trends.

Full Immersion

Full immersion technologies allow the direct exchange of information between man and machine. Advances in fully immersive technologies and neurosciences show that a world in which people are fully connected to computers is coming. Scientific research in medicine is leading the way into a future in which the human brain can control computers with mere thoughts and exchange ideas via headsets or brain implants. Companies are already working on neurally controlled interfaces. They offer direct communication channels between a networked brain and external devices. Another trend technologies are in the area of augmented bodies, which aim to strengthen the human body and its performance using things such as implants or electronic tattoos.

Furthermore, the study also identifies four visions that could soon become reality:

  • Sending thoughts: ideas, feelings and memories to be shared directly with other people.
  • Human enhancement: by directly connecting the brain with computers, AI-controlled assistants and the Internet, know-how can be downloaded into the brain or expanded with super-intelligent AI systems.
  • Neural healthcare: immersive technologies may enable people to recover from diseases that are still incurable today, such as Parkinson’s or paralysis.
  • Virtual copies: by connecting to computers, a person’s thoughts, memories and feelings can be stored as data and, one day, may even make a complete virtual copy of the brain possible.

“Communication between man and machine is one of the most exciting topics of our time. Technologies at the interface between us and intelligent systems will enable a paradigm shift in all areas of life in the near future. The resulting new products and services will offer completely new solutions for telling stories and visualising information. The three trends identified by SONAR and the four visions provide companies with guidance on their journey towards digital transformation,” says Filippo Rizzante, CTO Reply.

The Human Machine Interfaces report is part of a series published on the following topics AI, Retail Revolution and Consumer-IoT.

To read the full study, please click here.

Coeus Consulting, an award-winning independent IT consultancy, has announced new research revealing that although the fate of many organisations depends…

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Coeus Consulting, an award-winning independent IT consultancy, has announced new research revealing that although the fate of many organisations depends on their ability to implement strategic change and to adopt disruptive technologies, a reported lack of business and IT alignment, coupled with a corporate fear of risk, means they risk losing out on crucial revenues and market share.

Just 21% of those surveyed stated they seek to implement new technology as soon as possible, with some of the main barriers to adoption being: fear of disruption to core business (30%), lack of budget to adopt new technology (21%), and poorly planned adoption strategies (19%).

“While it is reassuring that organisations are at least attempting to keep up with disruptive technologies, it is somewhat concerning that they are not doing more. Monitoring advancements is the first step on the road, but only three in ten organisations make technology decisions in the boardroom. With technology now playing a vital role in every industry, organisations need to increase their understanding of technology and be prepared to take more calculated risks in order to reap the benefits and execute successful strategic change”, Keith Thomas, Head of IT Strategy Practice, Coeus Consulting commented.

Successful implementation rates are low among respondents which could explain these fears, with only seven percent noting that all of their organisation’s strategic IT change projects have met initial objectives over the past two years. The good news is that, of those from organisations that have a test and learn culture, and also set objective success or failure criteria for initiatives in advance, almost sixty percent report that their organisation investigates or adopts a different approach when initiatives don’t meet objective success criteria. “Organisations are blinkered to the market and must be willing to tread the fine line between adopting technologies quickly and rushing the process by investing in the wrong technology, otherwise they risk being overtaken by their competitors and will see declining revenues”, commented Ben Barry, Director, Coeus Consulting.

Aligned and informed organisational leadership is clearly an issue within organisations where at least some strategic IT change projects have not met initial objectives, with just over seventy percent admitting one of: business plans changing, senior management not buying into the change, or not taking enough risks as a reason for failure. “This is disconcerting, if those at board level are failing to see the benefits of strategic IT change, then implementation, adoption and deployment of new technologies is destined to fail. Businesses need to ensure board-level understanding of the importance of IT, as well as building stronger strategic IT change capabilities”, added Thomas.

“Consumer demand for new and improved offerings, paired with demand for digitalisation from the business, means that organisations not only need to increase the speed at which they are doing things, but must also match, or stay ahead of the offerings from disruptive and agile competitors”, Thomas noted.

Seeking to discover how organisations view the next wave of disruptive technology, almost a third (29%) of respondents believe artificial intelligence represents the most significant innovation set to impact their industry in the next two years, with data and analytics (18%) next in line. Despite their predictions on the next generation of technology, only 38% of respondents say they operate with dedicated teams monitoring the latest advancements. This suggests sixty percent of organisations could be operating with little knowledge of innovations taking place outside their four walls.

Despite the current economic climate, funding seems to be a secondary issue. Last years’ research found that just over six in ten (62%) of respondents predicted an increase in the size of their budget for the coming year. In actual fact, only 50% of respondents from the survey this year reported an increase.

However, just over 50% of respondents reported that digital services are being funded from the IT budget in their company, and additional funding is also allocated from elsewhere. Indeed, approaching six in ten (57%) are anticipating an increase in their budget for the financial year 2019 to 2020. This indicates that business leaders appreciate the need for IT in their current and future operations to the point of allocating funding, but not always to the point of consistently aligning with their IT counterparts.

Increasing operational efficiency (49%), customer satisfaction (32%) and increasing revenues/sales (31%) top the list of drivers of strategic IT change projects, demonstrating the expectations around the business value of IT change are not being effectively driven.

Businesses need to recognise the consequences that slowing IT spend, and ultimately, stagnating progress, could have on their business prospects. Taking unnecessary risks could lead to the downfall of an organisation, but in reality, spending on technology and taking a fail-fast, calculated approach to IT risk is now a necessity.

To view the full report visit: http://coeusconsulting-co-uk-3969064.hs-sites.com/insights/coeus-survey-2019