What does today’s CEO need to do to accelerate an organisation’s digital transformation journey?

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Digital transformation journeys are no one-size-suits-all. There is no singular way to welcome a new wave of technology into operations.

Since the turn of the century, digitalisation has had an increasingly influential impact on the way CEOs make decisions. Today’s world is full of disruption and potential risk. And with technology growing in complexity it can be challenging to lead such a revolution against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.

Embracing digital

According to KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, which draws on the perspectives of 1,325 global CEOs across 11 markets, 72% of CEOs agree they have an aggressive digital investment strategy intended to secure first-mover or fast-follower status.

Advancing digitalisation and connectivity across the business is tied (along with attracting and retaining talent) as the top operational priority to achieve growth over the next three years. This digital transformation focus could be driven as a result of increasingly flexible working conditions and greater focus on cybersecurity threats.

However, the prospect of recession is threatening to halt digital transformation in the short-term. KPMG research found that four out of five CEOs note their businesses are pausing or reducing their digital transformation strategies to prepare for the anticipated recession.

This is reinforced further when 70% say they need to be quicker to shift investment to digital opportunities and divest in those areas where they face digital obsolescence.

When a company’s digital transformation ambition is mismatched to its readiness, it is the CEO’s responsibility to close the gap. According to Deloitte, in order to do this successfully, the CEO must assess the current level of organisational readiness for change.

This covers four key pillars that are mixed together to work out an organisation’s overall readiness: leadership, culture, structure and capabilities.

How CEOs can close the gap

Leadership: CEOs need to ensure their c-suite and other key executives are motivated and equipped to execute the vision. CEOs interviewed by Deloitte in a recent study emphasised the importance of the leadership team supporting the transformation vision and having a positive attitude and willingness to transform.

Culture: A large potential barrier to readiness in the organisation is down to culture. Low cultural readiness takes the form of bureaucratic, reactive and risk-averse ways of working that are at against the collaborative, proactive learning mindset needed for ambitious transformation.

Structure: If a company hopes to operate differently, it could mean the need for organising in an alternative way. CEOs will often need to lead the reorganisation of teams, assignment of new roles, revision of incentives, strategies to collapse organisational hierarchies or layers to increase agility.

Capabilities: CEOs need to equip their organisation with four key capabilities to harness digital for a superior capacity for change. These are nimbleness, scalability, stability and optionality which are often enabled or supercharged by digital technologies which are critical factors for competing in an increasingly disrupted world.

For now, one of the CEOs most important roles when steering the ship through disruption is to be ahead of the latest trends and tackle change head-on. By embracing a new digital future that will provide the company with long-lasting benefits, it will help create a brighter and future-proofed firm for years to come even after the CEO is gone.

We speak to Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University and Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER to see how ESG and the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement…

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We speak to Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University and Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER to see how ESG and the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement…

Sara, how have you seen your role evolve as a procurement leader over the years as ESG and supplier diversity come into focus? 

Procurement leaders have gone from ‘cost cutters’ to ‘problem solvers’ within their organisations. Our core mandates used to be to drive cost savings and efficiency. We were hyper-focused on getting the most out of the organisation’s spend and supplier relationships. Those priorities haven’t gone away, especially in today’s inflationary environment, but the expectations of the procurement function are significantly higher and broader today. 

Procurement functions saved their companies during COVID and the confluence of disruptions that followed. We showed we are a strategic linchpin. We are now looked upon to drive value and impact and strategically guide our organisations to achieve broader goals, including diversity and environmental, social, governance (ESG). Internal stakeholders realised the benefits of procurement and sought help with advancing their department’s agendas or solving their challenges. We listen to their needs, allocate the right resources, and ultimately enable them and the overall organisation to be successful.  

I’ve been in procurement for over 20 years, and I can honestly say you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding and exciting career. Procurement professionals have a real opportunity to make a tangible difference within their organisations, communities, and the world through the way we source products and services. 

What is Harvard doing to have a positive impact on society? Can you share some examples, Sara?

Across the Harvard community, students, alumni, faculty, and staff are advancing scholarship and teaching on the world’s most significant challenges, and everyone wants to do their part to address inequities. Supplier diversity and inclusion have been a priority for Harvard for years, but we wanted to make even more of an impact and really invest in the growth and development of diverse businesses, especially as the pandemic highlighted inequities and disparities within our communities.

In 2021, we formed the Office for Economic Inclusion & Diversity (OEID), which is dedicated to reaching out to diverse suppliers, giving them opportunities, and providing them with tools, training, and resources to be successful. The office also encourages the use of underrepresented business enterprises (UBEs) in the purchasing of all goods, services, and construction at Harvard and standardises procurement practices with these businesses across the university. 

We’re proud of the work this office is doing. We’re actively training suppliers on Harvard’s policies and how they can work with us. We’re creating a central location for them to access bid and RFP opportunities. UBEs can also apply to be mentored by Harvard Business School students.

We’ve created a dashboard to track and analyse spend with diverse suppliers across all of Harvard’s schools and measure progress over time. Everything we’re doing is aimed at increasing spend with our existing diverse suppliers, as well as the number of diverse suppliers that work with Harvard, and helping these suppliers grow their businesses.

Jim, why is prioritizing ESG and supplier diversity important and what steps can companies take today to progress in their journey? 

Beyond being the right thing to do, investors, boards, regulators, customers, and employees now expect organisations to prioritise ESG and diversity initiatives and walk the talk. There’s also a clear business impact. Supplier diversity drives competitive bidding processes that lead to cost savings. Working with partners who are sustainable and have different ideas and perspectives fuels innovation and creates a competitive advantage. Sourcing from a sustainable and diverse supplier pool also reduces risk by broadening organisations’ access to multiple resources for various materials, products, and services. 

One of the most critical steps companies can take to progress on their ESG journey is to make it clear to suppliers that environmentalism is a priority for their organisation. They will attract suppliers with higher levels of ESG maturity and provide suppliers who are earlier on in their ESG journey with sustainability toolkits and training to help educate them on eco-friendly best practices and sustainability innovations.

This step avoids having to overhaul their supply chain to account for ESG. Strategically managing suppliers by leveraging third-party data, scorecards, and supplier audits are crucial for understanding the ESG risks that suppliers pose and minimizing disruptions by working with them to correct these issues. 

Successful supplier diversity programs start with a top-down culture shift. If a company’s culture isn’t diverse, inclusive, and supportive for all its stakeholders, they won’t be able to drive supplier diversity in a meaningful way. Supplier diversity strategy should map back to company goals and include an executive-level champion to sponsor the program internally and help bring in the resources they need.

Outside of leveraging technology to identify diverse suppliers and build a program, businesses can talk with people who have been in their shoes. They can collaborate with like-minded companies at industry events, engage in relevant LinkedIn groups, and connect with organisations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Once diverse suppliers are on board, organisations can create a supplier diversity policy that clearly outlines how many diverse suppliers need to be invited to bid for each event to ensure teams are executing on the strategy. Leading supplier diversity programs go beyond simply spending with diverse suppliers to providing mentorship and training them on how to respond to RFPs correctly, as well as creating environments where it’s easier for them to engage. 

Jim, what role does technology play in helping organisations achieve ESG and supplier diversity goals?

Technology is a key enabler of ESG and supplier diversity initiatives. One of the biggest obstacles to supplier diversity and ESG is a lack of reliable supplier data. Suppliers don’t always keep their information up to date in self-service portals. The data procurement teams have isn’t always enriched to the level they need, with insights on diversity status, certifications, and proof of ESG compliance.

Researching and assessing suppliers is tedious and time-consuming, which leads many organisations to skip the verification step. Without this information, organisations don’t have a true picture of the inclusivity and sustainability of their supplier network, which makes it impossible to identify the right partners to source from to meet their ESG and supplier diversity goals and make an impact.

Technology addresses this challenge by automatically collecting, enriching, validating, and integrating the supplier data needed to obtain this level of supply base visibility and make decisions that drive ESG and diversity. AI-powered tools are available to match buyers with specific diverse suppliers who also have the capabilities to help drive ESG objectives and meet broader procurement criteria.

Software that segments the supply base and helps visualise spending with small and diverse suppliers across a variety of classifications is critical for setting benchmarks and measuring progress and ROI. 

Jim and Sara, how do you expect the ESG and diversity conversation to shift and where should procurement leaders focus for the future?

Sara: I expect we’ll see the conversation shift to emphasise measurement. It’s not enough anymore to say you’re committed to ESG – you need to prove it and show demonstrable progress and ROI. Maintaining the momentum on ESG initiatives is hard. Technology is key for setting benchmarks and goals, ensuring accountability for hitting key milestones, and measuring progress and return in a credible way. 

Jim: In a declining economic environment, choices inevitably need to be made. I expect the conversation around ESG will center around where companies can focus to maintain progress on ESG initiatives as financial and economic pressures come to the forefront. While some companies may need to scale back in some areas to preserve cash and resources to navigate a downturn, I’d advise them to be careful about slowing ESG down too much as it will be much harder to catch up to current levels after the economy bounces back.

I’d argue that when ESG is done right it can be a strategic lever for navigating a down economy, saving organizations money and resources, driving innovation, and helping them achieve broader business objectives and resilience. 

Here are five of the biggest procurement events happening during 2023 that chief procurement officers won’t want to miss

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Procurement Futures 


London, UK  |  1-2 February 2023 

Held at the QEII Centre in central London, Procurement Futures is a new conference, launching in 2023. It promises delegates the chance to find out how to make supply chains more resilient, with thought-provoking and presentations and discussions designed to inform and inspire.

There is a flexible programme of content that can be tailored to attendees’ preferences, with networking opportunities throughout and a huge variety of sessions to attend and take part in.

This CIPS event has three streams of content: Insights, Ignite and Interact. Insights will showcase presentations and panel discussions from leaders, Ignite will consist of hands-on workshops to help delegates optimise their procurement strategies and Interact will be smaller groups taking part in interactive roundtables and debates.

Speakers across the two days will include Ross Grierson, Director of Procurement, Primark; Patrick Dunne, Director of Group Property, FM & Procurement (CPO), Sainsburys Plc; Rebecca Simpson, Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Balfour Beatty; and Nick Jenkinson, Chief Procurement Officer, Santander. In addition, delegates are ablew to book a one-to-one career workshop, where they’ll get advice on professional development from coaches covering a variety of specialisms. 

Tickets are £795 for CIPS member, £995 for a non-member and £2240 for a supplier/solution provider, and there is a discount of 30% for tickets purchased before 30 November 2022. 


3rd World Digital Procurement Summit 


Berlin, Germany  |  2-3 March 2023 

The third World Digital Procurement Summit is aimed at procurement directors, VPs, managers and other industry specialists. The two-day event will focus on accelerating procurement processes, adopting emerging technologies, finding the right talent, overcoming the barriers to progress and embarking on a journey of transformation. It’s a hybrid event, bringing together procurement experts from various industries, which will maximise knowledge exchange opportunities. The event organisers list five key learning points for delegates: 

  1. Exploring the latest advances in data and cognitive technologies to gain greater insights and improve procurement processes 
  1. Overhauling the procurement ecosystem with new technologies and strategies to drive business value 
  1. Sharing the best practices of monitoring and managing a range of risks to hedge against future disruptions 
  1. Developing capabilities and skillset required for the digital transformation of procurement 
  1. Defining ESG metrics of the procurement strategy to ensure business continuity 

Speakers will include Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director at TUI Group and Patrick Foelck, Head of Strategy and Transformation Procurement at Roche. 

Click here to check out a video from a previous event. Tickets cost €1495. 


Women in Procurement & Supply Chain 


Sydney, Australia  |  6-8 March 2023 

Returning for its 8th annual event, Women in Procurement & Supply Chain will deliver two days dedicated to leadership and the future of procurement. The event will feature a series of exclusive panel discussions and keynote addresses examining career development, overcoming imposter syndrome, working with confidence, developing an unbeatable talent pool, mentoring, diversity and inclusivity.

It will also address risk mitigation, digital disruption, ESG, sustainability, economic development, ethical sourcing, category management, cultural diversity, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships, procurement with purpose, and supply chain resilience. There are two pre-conference masterclass options on 6 March – that can be booked separately – covering either contract law or leadership skills. 

Some of the reasons to attend include: 

  • Discover the path to taking your procurement career to a new level while elevating your organisation with dedicated days on leadership and the future of procurement 
  • Learn best practice strategies to facedown supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce risk exposure 
  • Get ahead of the game with insights into the future of procurement and the impact of globalisation on modern supply chains 
  • Put yourself at the cutting edge of ESG and procurement with the latest updates and trends in procurement with purpose 

Speakers for the main two-day conference include Michelle Richard, Director of Procurement, Thales; Karina Davies, Chief Procurement Officer, icare NSW; and Kylie McKinlay, Procurement Partner – Property and Business, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Tickets start at $3,495 with discounts available until 25 November 2022. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Miami, USA  |  21-22 March 2023 

The Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise

With a focus on what makes CPOs tick, the Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise in keynote presentations and working groups.

Giving delegates the tools to stay on the cutting edge of procurement developments, there are also sessions aimed at those with responsibilities over governance, procurement capabilities and quantifying data. Unsurprisingly, sustainability will also be a key theme in 2023, and attendees will hear from a diverse range of sustainability leaders about how to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function. 

The agenda for Americas Procurement Congress 2023 will include: 

  • Sustainability of the future  
  • How to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function   
  • Harnessing the power of digital transformation  
  • Utilizing data as a driver of sustainable value, supply continuity and transparency   Agile procurement  
  • New approaches and skills that facilitate speed and agility   
  • Frictionless procurement  
  • Removing friction from the procurement process to support high-velocity sourcing   
  • Beyond Just in Time 
  • Designing future-fit supply networks for an age of chaos and conflict 

Tickets start at $3649. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Orlando, Florida  |  8–10 June 2023 

Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo 2022 addressed the most significant challenges that chief supply chain officers and supply chain leaders face as they mitigate risk and navigate uncertainty in an increasingly dynamic and challenging environment.  

At the conference, the top 5 sessions that CSCOs and supply chain leaders met on included: 

  • Signature Series: The Future of Supply Chain 
  • What the Pivot to Sustainable Profit Means for Procurement Leaders 
  • The Art of the New Age One Page Dashboard: Why Your Current Perfor-mance Measures May Be Doing More Harm Than Good 
  • Manage Supplier Risk With Technology 
  • Procurement Role Redesign: Stop Fitting Square Pegs Into Round Holes 

Tickets start at $4725. 

Here are five of the best procurement schools in Europe.

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As procurement becomes an increasingly vital and strategic function within many organisations, people are beginning to realise the full potential of turning it into a career for themselves.

This has subsequently led to many universities noticing the demand in the industry and offering courses which equip students with the relevant qualifications and skills needed to succeed in the supply chain space.

With this in mind, here’s five of the best procurement schools in Europe.


1. CIPS


Course: Various
Where: Across England

Run by Oxford College of Procurement and Supply, there are 10 Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply centres in England offering several different qualification levels to choose from. The courses are recognised throughout the world as harnessing leading edge thinking and professionalism across the procurement and supply chain management space.

CIPS offers courses such as level three, four, five and six in procurement and supply with each qualification created to reflect current, emerging and best practice in procurement and supply chain management. Classes focus on exploring legacy purchasing and supply methods as well as techniques and theory to the application in a business environment.

CIPS doesn’t just offer in-person studying as courses are designed to suit individual lifestyles with virtual classrooms, part-time and weekend options to choose from.


2. Politecnico di Milano


Course: MSc in Supply Chain and Procurement Management
Where: Milan, Italy

Politecnico di Milano offers an extensive portfolio of programmes

Renowned as being one of the best scientific and technological universities in the world, Politecnico di Milano offers an extensive portfolio of programmes in a variety of different spaces. Its supply chain master’s degree is a 12-month course aimed at equipping students with vital knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the industry.

The course also includes a number of practical activities in the programme such as lessons with international lectures, workshops on soft skills, company presentations, projects with companies, company visits and an international study tour in Rotterdam.

According to Politecnico di Milano, 86% of students were employed three months after graduation while 55% were also working abroad during the same period.

The course was ranked third in the TOP 2021 Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking (Global) and eighth in the QS Supply Chain Management Masters Rankings for 2023.


3. SKEMA Business School


Course: MSc Supply Chain Management and Purchasing
Where: Lille and Paris, France

France’s highly-rated supply chain and purchasing course has been designed with a progressive shift from theory to practice. The degree covers the entirety of supply chain activities from planning, purchasing, receiving, production, storage to delivery through nine compulsory and six elective courses.

The master’s degree provides soft skills in supply chain and purchasing management as well as going into future trends in digitalisation, AI, sustainability, ethics, globalisation, risk management and agility. The course’s primary goal is to find future leaders who are seeking to make a positive impact on the world of supply chain management and procurement.

The course is taught primarily in French and alternates weeks of classes with professionals at the forefront of their fields. There are also paid internships in the area of the student’s choice.


4. Audencia Business School


Course: MSc in Supply Chain and Purchasing Management
Where: Nantes, France

Created in 2009, Audencia Business School’s programme will cover topics such as procurement, global sourcing and supply chain strategies. Other topics to feature includes green logistics, Big Data, digital transformation, negotiation and commercial law. The course will provide expertise from industry insiders as business executives visit and share professional insights during the programme.

The school works closely with the corporate world and is recognised for its responsible management practices. Audencia is triple-accredited, highly ranked and internationally oriented and according to its website, 79% of course graduates are employed before graduation. The course is available as a one-year or two-year master’s programme.

In autumn 2024, the course is set to be renamed to the MSc in Responsible Procurement and Supply Chain Management.


5. Cranfield School of Management


Course: MSc in Procurement and Supply Chain Management
Where: Cranfield, United Kingdom

Cranfield School of Management provides students with specialist knowledge and skills in procurement needed to progress their careers

Cranfield’s Procurement and Supply Chain Management course has been co-designed with senior industry executives. This purchasing postgraduate course provides students with specialist knowledge and skills in procurement needed to progress their careers. Possessing one of the largest facilities in Europe, the course places considerable emphasis on how to overcome real-world challenges.

Students will gain an in-depth understanding of supply chain strategy and sustainability, procurement strategy, supplier selection and evaluation, negotiation and contact management. They will also be taught how to use data, models and software to solve problems and inform decisions, inventory and operations management and how to design effective supply chain operations.

Students will have the opportunity to attend a study tour and experience a different supply chain perspective elsewhere in Europe.

The course was ranked 11th in the world on the QS Supply Chain Management Masters Rankings for 2023.

Our exclusive cover story this month features Sangram Bhosale, CPO at Xcel Energy…

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Issue 38 of CPOstrategy is live!

Our exclusive cover story this month features Sangram Bhosale, Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Xcel Energy. Sangram Bhosale is a highly experienced CPO with an impressive track record of delivering procurement excellence within the energy sector for some of its biggest names. When the former TransAlta and Husky Energy CPO joined Xcel Energy as Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) in 2020, he wasted no time devising a procurement transformation plan to advance the function to the top quartile. One that would capacitate the rest of the organization to meet and overcome the many technical and tactical challenges to meet current and future needs.

Read the latest issue now!

Sangram Bhosale, CPO at Xcel Energy

What attracted Bhosale to Xcel Energy was its visionary leadership team and an opportunity to catalyze the profound shift in how energy is generated and consumed. “One of the things that I love, and a big part of why I joined Xcel Energy, is that we are a purpose-driven organization with a bold vision of being an industry leader in clean energy. The fast-evolving and innovation-driven utility industry also attracted me,” he tells us from his Denver office. “Today, utilities are no longer the stodgy beast of yesteryears where not much had changed for decades. New technology is being explored and adopted, with billions invested in grid expansion and strengthening to meet reliable, cleaner, and increased energy demand. To be at the forefront of and lead that clean energy transition aligns closely with my values and beliefs and makes my role at Xcel Energy very exciting.”

Elsewhere, we also feature exclusive interviews with Vice President of Procurement, Anna Barej, and Director, Procurement Center of Excellence, Shawn Calabrase from Best Buy, Alessandro Gaiati, CPO at Fedrigoni, Norian Wasch, Director Procurement at EuroFiber, David Latten, Head of Global Indirect Procurement at Logitech, as well as Heath Nunnemacher, VP Global Electronics Sourcing, TTI and Mark Brady, Global Supply Chain Director at McPherson’s. It’s a bumper issue!

Enjoy!

Expert analysis of the tech trends set to make waves this year

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Digital transformation is a continuing journey of change with no set final destination. This makes predicting tomorrow a challenge when no one has a crystal ball to hand.

After a difficult few years for most businesses following a disruptive pandemic and now battling a cost-of-living crisis, many enterprises are increasingly leveraging new types of technology to gain an edge in a disruptive world. 

With this in mind, here are what experts predict for the next 12 months…


1. Process Mining


Sam Attias, Director of Product Marketing at Celonis, expects to see a rise in the adoption of process mining as it evolves to incorporate automation capabilities. He says process mining has traditionally been “a data science done in isolation” which helps companies identify hidden inefficiencies by extracting data and visually representing it.

“It is now evolving to become more prescriptive than descriptive and will empower businesses to simulate new methods and processes in order to estimate success and error rates, as well as recommend actions before issues actually occur,” says Attias. “It will fix inefficiencies in real-time through automation and execution management.”


2. The evolution of social robots


Gabriel Aguiar Noury, Robotics Product Manager at Canonical, anticipates social robots to return this year. After companies such as Sony introduced robots like Poiq, Aguiar Noury believes it “sets the stage” for a new wave of social robots. 

“Powered by natural language generation models like GPT-3, robots can create new dialogue systems,” he says. “This will improve the robot’s interactivity with humans, allowing robots to answer any question. 

3d rendering cute artificial intelligence robot with empty note

“Social robots will also build narratives and rich personalities, making interaction with users more meaningful. GPT-3 also powers Dall-E, an image generator. Combined, these types of technologies will enable robots not only to tell but show dynamic stories.”


3. The rebirth of new data-powered business applications


In today’s fast-moving world, technology doesn’t sleep. Through the help of experts, we’ve compiled a need-to-know list of 23 predictions for 2023

Christian Kleinerman, Senior Vice President of Product at Snowflake, says there is the beginning of a “renaissance” in software development. He believes developers will bring their applications to central combined sources of data instead of the “traditional approach” of copying data into applications. 

“Every single application category, whether it’s horizontal or specific to an industry vertical, will be reinvented by the emergence of new data-powered applications,” affirms Kleinerman. “This rise of data-powered applications will represent massive opportunities for all different types of developers, whether they’re working on a brand-new idea for an application and a business based on that app, or they’re looking for how to expand their existing software operations.”


4. Application development will become a two-way conversation


Adrien Treuille, Head of Streamlit at Snowflake, believes application development will become a two-way conversation between producers and consumers. It is his belief that the advent of easy-to-use low-code or no-code platforms are already “simplifying the building” and sharing of interactive applications for tech-savvy and business users. 

“Based on that foundation, the next emerging shift will be a blurring of the lines between two previously distinct roles — the application producer and the consumer of that software.”

He adds that application development will become a collaborative workflow where consumers can weigh in on the work producers are doing in real-time. “Taking this one step further, we’re heading towards a future where app development platforms have mechanisms to gather app requirements from consumers before the producer has even started creating that software.”


5. The Metaverse


Paul Hardy, EMEA Innovation Officer at ServiceNow, says he expects business leaders to adopt technologies such as the metaverse in 2023. The aim of this is to help cultivate and maintain employee engagement as businesses continue working in hybrid environments, in an increasingly challenging macro environment.

“Given the current economic climate, adoption of the metaverse may be slow, but in the future, a network of 3D virtual worlds will be used to foster meaningful social connections, creating new experiences for employees and reinforcing positive culture within organisations,” he says. “Hybrid work has made employee engagement more challenging, as it can be difficult to communicate when employees are not together in the same room. 

“Leaders have begun to see the benefit of hosting traditional training and development sessions using VR and AI-enhanced coaching. In the next few years, we will see more workplaces go a step beyond this, for example, offering employees the chance to earn recognition in the form of tokens they can spend in the real or virtual world, gamifying the experience.”


6. The year of ESG?


Cathy Mauzaize, Vice President, EMEA South, at ServiceNow, believes 2023 could be the year that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is vital to every company’s strategy.

“Failure to engage appropriate investment in ESG strategies could plunge any organisation into a crisis,” she says. “Legislation must be respected and so must the expectations of employees, investors and your ecosystem of partners and customers.

“ESG is not just a tick box, one and done, it’s a new way of business that will see us through 2023 and beyond.”


7. Macro Trends and Redeploying Budgets for Efficiency


Ulrik Nehammer, President, EMEA at ServiceNow, says organisations are facing an incredibly complex and volatile macro environment. Nehammer explains as the world is gripped by soaring inflation, intelligent digital investments can be a huge deflationary force.

“Business leaders are already shifting investment focus to technologies that will deliver outcomes faster,” he says. “Going into 2023, technology will become increasingly central to business success – in fact, 95% of CEOs are already pursuing a digital-first strategy according to IDC’s CEO survey, as digital companies deliver revenue growth far faster than non-digital ones.”  


8. Organisations will have adopted a NaaS strategy


David Hughes, Aruba’s Chief Product and Technology Officer, believes that by the end of 2023, 20% of organisations will have adopted a network-as-a-service (NaaS) strategy.

“With tightening economic conditions, IT requires flexibility in how network infrastructure is acquired, deployed, and operated to enable network teams to deliver business outcomes rather than just managing devices,” he says. “Migration to a NaaS framework enables IT to accelerate network modernisation yet stay within budget, IT resource, and schedule constraints. 

“In addition, adopting a NaaS strategy will help organisations meet sustainability objectives since leading NaaS suppliers have adopted carbon-neutral and recycling manufacturing strategies.”


9. Think like a seasonal business


According to Patrick Bossman, Product Manager at MariaDB corporation, he anticipates 2023 to be the year that the ability to “scale out on command” is going to be at the fore of companies’ thoughts.

“Organisations will need the infrastructure in place to grow on command and scale back once demand lowers,” he says. “The winners in 2023 will be those who understand that all business is seasonal, and all companies need to be ready for fluctuating demand.”


10. Digital platforms need to adapt to avoid falling victim to subscription fatigue


Demed L’Her, Chief Technology Officer at DigitalRoute, suggests what the subscription market is going to look like in 2023 and how businesses can avoid falling victim to ‘subscription fatigue’.  L’Her says there has been a significant drop in demand since the pandemic.

“Insider’s latest research shows that as of August, nearly a third (30%) of people reported cancelling an online subscription service in the past six months,” he reveals. “This is largely due to the rising cost of living experienced globally that is leaving households with reduced budgets for luxuries like digital subscriptions. Despite this, the subscription market is far from dead, with most people retaining some despite tightened budgets. 

“However, considering the ongoing economic challenges, businesses need to consider adapting if they are to be retained by customers in the long term. The key to this is ensuring that the product adds value to the life of the customer.”


11. Waking up to browser security 


Jonathan Lee, Senior Product Manager at Menlo Security, points to the web browser being the biggest attack surface and suggests the industry is “waking up” to the fact of where people spend the most time.

“Vendors are now looking at ways to add security controls directly inside the browser,” explains Lee. “Traditionally, this was done either as a separate endpoint agent or at the network edge, using a firewall or secure web gateway. The big players, Google and Microsoft, are also in on the act, providing built-in controls inside Chrome and Edge to secure at a browser level rather than the network edge. 

“But browser attacks are increasing, with attackers exploiting new and old vulnerabilities, and developing new attack methods like HTML Smuggling. Remote browser isolation is becoming one of the key principles of Zero Trust security where no device or user – not even the browser – can be trusted.”


12. The year of quantum-readiness


Tim Callan, Chief Experience Officer at Sectigo, predicts that 2023 will be the year of quantum-readiness. He believes that as a result of the standardisation of new quantum-safe algorithms expected to be in place by 2024, this year will be a year of action for government bodies, technology vendors, and enterprise IT leaders to prepare for the deployment.

“In 2022, the US National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) selected a set of post-quantum algorithms for the industry to standardise on as we move toward our quantum-safe future,” says Callan.

“In 2023, standards bodies like the IETF and many others must work to incorporate these algorithms into their own guidelines to enable secure functional interoperability across broad sets of software, hardware, and digital services. Providers of these hardware, software, and service products must follow the relevant guidelines as they are developed and begin preparing their technology, manufacturing, delivery, and service models to accommodate updated standards and the new algorithms.” 


13. AI: fewer keywords, greater understanding


AI expert Dr Pieter Buteneers, Director of AI and Machine Learning at Sinch, expects artificial intelligence to continue to transition away from keywords and move towards an increased level of understanding.

“Language-agnostic AI, already existent within certain AI and chatbot platforms, will understand hundreds of languages — and even interchange them within a single search or conversation — because it’s not learning language like you or I would,” he says. “This advanced AI instead focuses on meaning, and attaches code to words accordingly, so language is more of a finishing touch than the crux of a conversation or search query. 

“Language-agnostic AI will power stronger search results — both from external (the internet) and internal (a company database) sources — and less robotic chatbot conversations, enabling companies to lean on automation to reduce resources and strain on staff and truly trust their AI.”


14. Rise in digital twin technology in the enterprise


John Hill, CEO and Founder of Silico, recognises the growing influence digital twin technology is having in the market. Hill predicts that in the next 20 years, there will be a digital twin of every complex enterprise in the world and anticipates the next generation of decision-makers will routinely use forward-looking simulations and scenario analytics to plan and optimise their business outcomes.

“Digital twin technology is one of the fastest-growing facets of industry 4.0 and while we’re still at the dawn of digital twin technology,” he explains. “Digital twins will have huge implications for unlocking our ability to plan and manage the complex organisations so crucial for our continued economic progress and underpin the next generation of Intelligent Enterprise Automation.”


15. Broader tech security


With an exponential amount of data at companies’ fingertips, Tricentis CEO, Kevin Thompson says the need for investment in secure solutions is paramount.

“The general public has become more aware of the access companies have to their personal data, leading to the impending end of third-party cookies, and other similar restrictions on data sharing,” he explains. “However, security issues still persist. The persisting influx of new data across channels and servers introduces greater risk of infiltration by bad actors, especially for enterprise software organisations that have applications in need of consistent testing and updates. The potential for damage increases as iterations are being made with the expanding attack surface. 

“Now, the reality is a matter of when, not if, your organisation will be the target of an attack. To combat this rising security concern, organisations will need to integrate security within the development process from the very beginning. Integrating security and compliance testing at the upfront will greatly reduce risk and prevent disruptions.”


16. Increased cyber resilience 


Michael Adams, CISO at Zoom, expects an increased focus on cyber resilience over the next 12 months. “While protecting organisations against cyber threats will always be a core focus area for security programs, we can expect an increased focus on cyber resilience, which expands beyond protection to include recovery and continuity in the event of a cyber incident,” explains Adams.

“It’s not only investing resources in protecting against cyber threats; it’s investing in the people, processes, and technology to mitigate impact and continue operations in the event of a cyber incident.” 


17. Ransomware threats


As data leaks become increasingly common place in the industry, companies face a very real threat of ransomware. Michal Salat, Threat Intelligence Director at Avast, believes the time is now for businesses to protect themselves or face recovery fees costing millions of dollars.

“Ransomware attacks themselves are already an individual’s and businesses’ nightmare. This year, we saw cybergangs threatening to publicly publish their targets’ data if a ransom isn’t paid, and we expect this trend to only grow in 2023,” says Salat. “This puts people’s personal memories at risk and poses a double risk for businesses. Both the loss of sensitive files, plus a data breach, can have severe consequences for their business and reputation.”


18. Intensified supply chain attacks 


Dirk Schrader, VP of security research at Netwrix, believes supply chain attacks are set to increase in the coming year. “Modern organisations rely on complex supply chains, including small and medium businesses (SMBs) and managed service providers (MSPs),” he says.

“Adversaries will increasingly target these suppliers rather than the larger enterprises knowing that they provide a path into multiple partners and customers. To address this threat, organisations of all sizes, while conducting a risk assessment, need to take into account the vulnerabilities of all third-party software or firmware.”


19. A greater need to manage volatility 


Paul Milloy, Business Consultant at Intradiem, stresses the importance of managing volatility in an ever-moving market. Milloy believes bosses can utilise data through automation to foresee potential problems before they become issues.

“No one likes surprises. Whilst Ben Franklin suggested nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, businesses will want to automate as many of their processes as possible to help manage volatility in 2023,” he explains. “Data breeds intelligence, and intelligence breeds insight. Managers can use the data available from workforce automation tools to help them manage peaks and troughs better to avoid unexpected resource bottlenecks.”


20. A human AI co-pilot will still be needed


Artem Kroupenev, VP of Strategy at Augury, predicts that within the next few years, every profession will be enhanced with hybrid intelligence, and have an AI co-pilot which will operate alongside human workers to deliver more accurate and nuanced work at a much faster pace. 

“These co-pilots are already being deployed with clear use cases in mind to support specific roles and operational needs, like AI-driven solutions that enable reliability engineers to ensure production uptime, safety and sustainability through predictive maintenance,” he says. “However, in 2023, we will see these co-pilots become more accurate, more trusted and more ingrained across the enterprise. 

“Executives will better understand the value of AI co-pilots to make critical business decisions, and as a key competitive differentiator, and will drive faster implementation across their operations. The AI co-pilot technology will be more widespread next year, and trust and acceptance will increase as people see the benefits unfold.”


21. Building the right workplace culture


Harnessing a positive workplace culture is no easy task but in 2023 with remote and hybrid working now the norm, it brings with it new challenges. Tony McCandless, Chief Technology Officer at SS&C Blue Prism, is well aware of the role organisational culture can play in any digital transformation journey.

Workers are the heart of an organisation, so without their buy in, no digital transformation initiative stands a chance of success,” explains McCandless. “Workers drive home business objectives, and when it comes to digital transformation, they are the ones using, implementing, and sometimes building automations. Curiosity, innovation, and the willingness to take risks are essential ingredients to transformative digitalisation. 

“Businesses are increasingly recognising that their workers play an instrumental role in determining whether digitalisation initiatives are successful. Fostering the right work environment will be a key focus point for the year ahead – not only to cultivate buy-in but also to improve talent retention and acquisition, as labor supply issues are predicted to continue into 2023 and beyond.”


22. Cloud cover to soften recession concerns


Amid a cost-of-living crisis and concerns over any potential recession as a result, Daniel Thomasson, VP of Engineering and R&D at Keysight Technologies, says more companies will shift data intensive tasks to the cloud to reduce infrastructure and operational costs.

“Moving applications to the cloud will also help organisations deliver greater data-driven customer experiences,” he affirms. “For example, advanced simulation and test data management capabilities such as real-time feature extraction and encryption will enable use of a secure cloud-based data mesh that will accelerate and deepen customer insights through new algorithms operating on a richer data set. In the year ahead, expect the cloud to be a surprising boom for companies as they navigate economic uncertainty.”


23. IoT devices to scale globally


Dr Raullen Chai, CEO and Co-Founder of IoTeX, recognises a growing trend in the usage of IoT devices worldwide and believes connectivity will increase significantly. 

“For decades, Big Tech has monopolised user data, but with the advent of Web3, we will see more and more businesses and smart device makers beginning to integrate blockchain for device connectivity as it enables people to also monetise their data in many different ways, including in marketing data pools, medical research pools and more,” he explains. “We will see a growth in decentralised applications that allow users to earn a modest additional revenue from everyday activities, such as walking, sleeping, riding a bike or taking the bus instead of driving, or driving safely in exchange for rewards. 

“Living healthy lifestyles will also become more popular via decentralised applications for smart devices, especially smart watches and other health wearables.”

The digital landscape is changing day by day. Ideas like the metaverse that once seemed a futuristic fantasy are now…

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The digital landscape is changing day by day. Ideas like the metaverse that once seemed a futuristic fantasy are now coming to fruition and embedding themselves into our daily lives. The thinking might be there, but is our technology really ready to go meta? Domains and hosting provider, Fasthosts, spoke to the experts to find out…

How the metaverse works

The metaverse is best defined as a virtual 3D universe which combines many virtual places. It allows users to meet, collaborate, play games and interact in virtual environments. It’s usually viewed and accessed from the outside as a mixture of virtual reality (VR), (think of someone in their front room wearing a headset and frantically waving nunchucks around) and augmented reality (AR), but it’s so much more than this…

These technologies are just the external entry points to the metaverse and provide the visuals which allow users to explore and interact with the environment within the metaverse. 

This is the ‘front-end’ if you like, which is also reinforced by artificial intelligence and 3D reconstruction. These additional technologies help to provide realistic objects in environments, computer-controlled actions and also avatars for games and other metaverse projects. 

So, what stands in the way of this fantastical 3D universe? Here are the six key challenges:

Technology

The most important piece of technology, on which the metaverse is based, is the blockchain. The blockchain is essentially a chain of blocks that contain specific information. They’re a combination of computers linked to each other instead of a central server which means that the whole network is decentralised. This provides the infrastructure for the development of metaverse projects, storage of data and also allows them the capability to be compatible with Web3. Web3 is an upgraded version of the internet which will allow integration of virtual and augmented reality into people’s everyday lives. 

Sounds like a lot, right? And it involves a great deal of tech that is alien to the vast majority of us. So, is technology a barrier to widespread metaverse adoption?

Jonothan Hunt, Senior Creative Technologist at Wunderman Thompson, says the tech just isn’t there. Yet.

“Technology’s readiness for the mass adoption of the metaverse depends on how you define the metaverse, but if we’re talking about the future vision that the big tech players are sharing, then not yet. The infrastructure that powers the internet and our devices isn’t ready for such experiences. The best we have right now in terms of shared/simulated spaces are generally very expensive and powered entirely in the cloud, such as big computers like the Nvidia Omniverse, cloud streaming, or games. These rely heavily on instancing and localised grouping. Consumer hardware, especially XR, is still not ready for casual daily use and still not really democratised.

“The technology for this will look like an evolution of the systems above, meaning more distributed infrastructure, better access and updated hardware. Web3 also presents a challenge in and of itself, and questions remain over to what extent big tech will adopt it going forward.”

Storage

Blockchain is the ‘back-end’, where the magic happens, if you will. It’s this that will be the key to the development and growth of the metaverse. There are a lot of elements that make up the blockchain and reinforce its benefits and uses such as storage capabilities, data security and smart contracts. 

Due to its decentralised nature, the blockchain has far more storage capacity than the centralised storage systems we have in place today. With data on the metaverse being stored in exabytes, the blockchain works by making use of unutilised hard disk space across the network, which avoids users within the metaverse running out of storage space worldwide. 

In terms that might be a bit more relatable, an exabyte is a billion gigabytes. That’s a huge amount of storage, and that doesn’t just exist in the cloud – it’s got to go somewhere – and physical storage servers mean land is taken up, and energy is used. Hunt says: “How long’s a piece of string? The whole of the metaverse will one day be housed in servers and data centres, but the amount or size needed to house all of this storage will be entirely dependent on just how mass adopted the metaverse becomes. Big corporations in the space are starting to build huge data centres – such as Meta purchasing a $1.1 billion campus in Toledo, Spain to house their new Meta lab and data centre – but the storage space is not the only concern. These energy-guzzlers need to stay cool! And what about people and brands who need reliable web hosting for events, gaming or even just meeting up with pals across the world, all that information – albeit virtual – still needs a place to go.

“The current rising cost of electricity worldwide could cause problems for the growth of data centres, and the housing of the metaverse as a whole. However, without knowing the true size of its adoption, it is extremely difficult to truly determine the needed usage. Could we one day see an entire island devoted to data centre storage? Purely for the purposes of holding the metaverse? It seems a little ‘1984’, but who knows?”

Identity

Although the blockchain provides instantaneous verification of transactions with identity through digital wallets, our physical form will be represented by avatars that visually reflect who we are, and how we want to be seen. 

The founder of Saxo Bank and the chairman of the Concordium Foundation, Lars Seier Christensen, argues, “I think that if you use an underlying blockchain-based solution where ID is required at the entry point, it is actually very simple and automatically available for relevant purposes. It is also very secure and transparent, in that it would link any transactions or interactions where ID is required to a trackable record on the blockchain.”

Once identity is established, it is true that it could potentially become easier to assess creditworthiness of parties for purchasing and borrowing in the metaverse due to the digital identity and storage of each individual’s data and transactions on the blockchain. However, although it sounds exciting, there must be considerations into how it could impact privacy, and how this amount of data will be recorded on the blockchain. 

Security

There are also huge security benefits to this set up. The decentralised blockchain helps to eradicate third-party involvement and data breaches, such as theft and file manipulation, thanks to its powerful data processing and use of validation nodes. Both of these are responsible for verifying and recording transactions on the blockchain. This will be reassuring to many, given the widespread concerns around data privacy and user protection in the metaverse.

To access the blockchain all we will need is an internet connection and a device, such as a laptop or smartphone, this is what makes it so great as it will be so readily available. However, to support the blockchain, we’re relying on a whole different set of technologies.  Akash Kayar, CEO of web3-focused software development company Leeway Hertz, had this to say on the readiness of the current technology available: “The metaverse is not yet completely mature in terms of development. Tech experts are researching strategies and

testing the various technologies to develop ideas that provide the world with more feasible and intriguing metaverse projects.

“Projects like Decentraland, Axie Infinity, and Sandbox are popular contemporary live metaverse projects. People behind these projects made perfect use of notable metaverse technologies, from blockchain and cryptos to NFTs.

“As envisioned by top tech futurists, many new technologies will empower the metaverse in the future, which will support the development of a range of prolific use cases that will improve the ability of the metaverse towards offering real-life functionalities. In a nutshell, the metaverse is expected to bring extreme opportunities for enterprises and common users. Hence, it will shape the digital future.”

Currency & Payments

Whilst it’s only considered legal tender in two countries, cryptocurrency is currently a reality and there is a strong likelihood that it will eventually be mass adopted. However, the metaverse is arguably not yet at the same maturity level, meaning cryptocurrency may have to wait before it can finally fully take off. 

Golden Bitcoin symbol and finance graph screen. Horizontal composition with copy space. Focused image.

There is no doubt that cryptocurrency and the metaverse will go hand-in-hand as the former will become the tender of the latter with many of the current metaverse platforms each wielding its native currency. For example Decentraland uses $MANA for payments and purchases. However, with the volatility of crypto currencies and the recent collapse of trading platform FTX indicating security lapses, we may not yet be ready for the switch to decentralised payments. 

Energy

Some of the world’s largest data centres can each contain many tens of thousands of IT devices which require more than 100 megawatts of power capacity – this is enough to power around 80,000 U.S. households (U.S. DOE 2020) and is equivalent to $1.35bn running cost per data centre with the cost of a megawatt hour averaging $150. 

According to Nitin Parekh of Hitachi Energy, the amount of power which takes to process Bitcoin is higher than you might expect: “Bitcoin consumes around 110 Terawatt Hours per year. This is around 0.5% of global electricity generation. This estimate considers combined computational power used to mine bitcoin and process transactions.” With this estimate, we can calculate that the annual energy cost of Bitcoin is around $16.5bn. 

However, some bigger corporations are slowly moving towards renewable energy to power their projects in this space, with Google signing close to $2bn worth of wind and solar investments in order to power its data centres in the future and become greener. Amazon has also followed in their footsteps and have become the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. 

They may have plenty of time yet to get their green processes in place, with Mark Zuckerberg recently predicting it will take nearly a decade for the metaverse to be created: “I don’t think it’s really going to be huge until the second half of this decade at the earliest.”

About Fasthosts

Fasthosts has been a leading technology provider since 1999, offering secure UK data centres, 24/7 support and a highly successful reseller channel. Fasthosts provides everything web professionals need to power and manage their online space, including domains, web hosting, business-class email, dedicated servers, and a next-generation cloud platform. For more information, head to www.fasthosts.co.uk

Todd Salmon, Executive Advisor for Strategic Services at GuidePoint Security, on the cybersecurity challenge of keeping up with the pace of the ever-changing digital world

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This month’s cover story explores how GuidePoint Security, an elite team of highly trained and certified experts, cut through cybersecurity chaos and confusion to put control back in customers’ hands.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface welcomes in 2023 with a need-to-know list of what we can expect from technology this year and how it can allow enterprises to gain a competitive edge in a disruptive and increasingly digital world. Faced with everything from process mining and AI to quantum-readiness and the metaverse we cut through the hype to bring you the facts.

Read the latest issue here!

GuidePoint Security: digital transformation in cybersecurity

“Cybersecurity is in such a reactive mode because of the sheer volume of risks and vulnerabilities an organisation faces,” says Todd Salmon, Executive Advisor for Strategic Services at GuidePoint Security. “We see a lot of copycats and repeat attacks happen, but at the end of the day it’s all about creating solutions to help combat those problems.”

GuidePoint’s elite team of highly trained and certified experts, cut through cybersecurity chaos and confusion to put control back in customers’ hands. Helping them make the smartest, most informed cyber risk decisions, and choose and integrate the best-fit solutions to build the most effective cybersecurity program, Salmon discusses the challenge of keeping up with the pace of the ever-changing digital world.

bp: a strategic reinvention

“We are investing in digital to drive process efficiency and improve insights; but also to develop our people with the skills we need for now, and the future at bp. This means we are playing to win while caring for our people through investing in their personal development,” says Head of Strategic Transformation Nick Hales.

“After setting the right foundations through various remediation and compliance initiatives, we embarked on our digital transformation journey,” adds Strategy & Transformation Manager Emmanouela Vlachantoni. “There was a clear opportunity to standardise and streamline our controls environment to reduce complexity and increase insight.”

Fairfax County: winning the IT war with cybersecurity

Meanwhile, across the pond, we learn how Fairfax County in the State of Virginia is reaping the rewards of a cybersecurity program enabling government services and keeping citizens safe. “My role is to educate our leadership to ensure they understand the business value of cybersecurity as it relates to government services. Being accountable for the security of their systems and data is a key factor in developing a successful cyber program,” explains CISO Michael Dent.

Also in this issue, we round up the key tech events and conferences across the globe and, with the help of the experts at Fasthosts, take a deep dive into the metaverse… Can virtual reality become our reality? Read on to find out.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

The latest issue of CPOstrategy is LIVE!

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This month’s cover story is an exclusive and compelling insight into the procurement strategy at Vodafone New Zealand.

This month’s cover story is an exclusive and compelling insight into the procurement strategy at Vodafone New Zealand.

“For me, the future of procurement is two things: digital and sustainability,” says Rajat Sarna, Chief Procurement Officer and these two themes are the thread that runs through everything he’s put into place since he took over the reins of the procurement function at Vodafone New Zealand in October 2020.

The role was a huge one to take on, too – the telco employs 2,000 people, serves 2.4m customers and is a $2bn revenue company. The scale of its operations is huge with customers consuming over 3 billion minutes, 4,500 terabytes of mobile data and 55,000 terabytes of fixed line data every month.  A key part of his mandate was to transform procurement into a market-leading operating partner to the business that would “ultimately improve the value that we deliver to our customers”.

Read the latest issue here!

Sarna went back to basics initially, thinking about what the future capability of Vodafone New Zealand would look like, and what its procurement operation needed to be to support this. He says: “It was very critical for me to have a purpose and it cannot just be better savings or improved cost position. That’s not purpose; purpose is: what are we doing in terms of how we align with the future of procurement?”

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with procurement strategists Lawrence Kane, a SIG Sourcing Supernova Hall of Fame member and Nirav Patel, CEO of Bristlecone. Plus, a ProcureTech exclusive and a guide to the best procurement events over the next 12 months and much, much more.

Enjoy!

Nick Hales, Head of Strategic Transformation and Emmanouela Vlachantoni, Strategy & Transformation Senior Manager, on the journey to reinvent business processes that are reimagining bp

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This month’s cover story reveals how bp’s Strategic Transformation leaders are on a journey to reinvent business processes that are reimagining the energy giant.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Our final issue of Interface for 2022 covers some of this year’s hot tech topics: digital transformation, cybersecurity, data & analytics, customer-centricity and more…

Read the latest issue here!

bp: a strategic reinvention

“We are investing in digital to drive process efficiency and improve insights; but also to develop our people with the skills we need for now, and the future. This means we are playing to win while caring for our people through investing in their personal development,” says Nick Hales.

“After setting the right foundations through various remediation and compliance initiatives, we embarked on our digital transformation journey,” adds Emmanouela Vlachantoni. “There was a clear opportunity to standardise and streamline our controls environment to reduce complexity and increase insight.”

Fairfax County: winning the IT war with cybersecurity

Meanwhile, across the pond, we learn how Fairfax County in the State of Virginia is reaping the rewards of a cybersecurity program enabling government services and keeping citizens safe. “My role is to educate our leadership to ensure they understand the business value of cybersecurity as it relates to government services. Being accountable for the security of their systems and data is a key factor in developing a successful cyber program,” explains CISO Michael Dent.

Piedmont Healthcare: data & analytics at the heart of growth

The power of data cannot be under-estimated… At Piedmont Healthcare Mark Jackson, Executive Director of Business Intelligence is building a data strategy driving speed to insight at scale. “Tool selection has played an important role in our ability to scale the BI program and deliver rapid insights in a dynamic environment.”

Also in this issue, CalArts CTO Allan Chen explains how an IT strategy based on coordination and collaboration is supporting six schools; Information Tech VP Fausto Sosa de la Fuente reveals the people-centric transformative IT process at construction industry giant CEMEX; and we take a look at the latest insights from McKinsey highlighting the lessons CEOs can learn from successful digital transformations.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

John MClure, CISO at Sinclair Group – a diversified media company and America’s leading provider of local sports and news – talks about the evolution of cybersecurity and the cultural shift placing it at the forefront of business change

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This month’s cover story explores how Sinclair Broadcast Group is embracing the evolution of cybersecurity and placing the role of the CISO at the forefront of business transformation.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Communication, secure and at speed, is a vital component of the transformation journey for both the modern enterprise and its relationship with stakeholders, be they customers or partners. Putting the right building blocks in place to deliver successful change management is at the heart of the inspiring stories in the latest issue of Interface.

Read the latest issue here!

Sinclair Broadcast Group: a cyber transformation

Our cover star John McClure progressed from a career in the military and work as a consultant in the intelligence industry to fight a new kind of foe… As CISO for Sinclair Broadcast Group, a diversified media company and America’s leading provider of local sports and news, he talks about the evolution of cybersecurity, the battle to meet the rising velocity and sophistication of cyber-attacks and the cultural shift of the role of CISO placing it at the forefront of business change.

“Sinclair is unique in terms of its different business units and how it operates. It’s my job as CISO leading our cyber team not to be an obstacle for the business; we’re here to help it move faster to keep up with market forces, and to move safely. We’re here to engineer solutions that work for the enterprise but also help us maintain a positive security posture.”

State of Florida: digital government services

We also hear from CIO Jamie Grant who is leading the State of Florida’s Digital Service (FL[DS]) on its charge to transform and modernise the way government is accessed and consumed. He is building a team of talented, goal-oriented and customer-obsessed individuals to drive a digital transformation with innovation at its heart. “Leadership is really about developing the team and investing in the people. And it turns out that when you get their backs, they appreciate it and then you can achieve anything.”

ResultsCX: putting people first

Jamie Vernon, SVP for IT & Infrastructure at AI-powered customer experience solution specialist ResultsCX, discusses what drives customer care in the 21st century, and the part technology has to play.

“We are the custodians of our customers’ customers,” says Vernon. “In this increasingly tenuous relationship with their customers, they trust us. My leadership takes that responsibility very seriously, and charges each of us with doing everything we can to provide a perfect call, or email, or chat, every time, thousands of times a minute, around the clock and around the calendar.”

Jamie Vernon, SVP for IT & Infrastructure at AI-powered customer experience solution specialist ResultsCX, discusses what drives customer care in the 21st century, and the part technology has to play.

“We are the custodians of our customers’ customers,” says Vernon. “In this increasingly tenuous relationship with their customers, they trust us. My leadership takes that responsibility very seriously, and charges each of us with doing everything we can to provide a perfect call, or email, or chat, every time, thousands of times a minute, around the clock and around the calendar.”

Also this month, Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Stripe in Southeast Asia, talks about how the fast-growing payments platform is driving financial inclusion across Asia and supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first, and we get expert advice for the modern CEO from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

The latest edition of CPOstrategy is live, featuring exclusive articles on Coupa, Just Eat Takeaways, Friesland Campina, DPW and ProcureTech

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This month’s exclusive cover story centres around the Coupa App Marketplace, the digital ecosystem transforming procurement functions the world over.

We speak to Nigel Pegg, Vice President and General Manager of the Coupa App Marketplace and CoupaLink to find out more about the roll-out one year on.

Read the latest issue now!

The evolution of procurement into a true strategic business enabler is fuelled by technological advances. The ability to dig deep into data with true visibility into an enterprise’s entire spend and supplier network has been provided through ever-evolving platforms, such as Coupa’s highly successful Business Spend Management (BSM) platform. In BSM, Coupa has created a digital ecosystem that brings suppliers, vendors, and partners together in the same room with a single ‘source of truth’. 

 
Elsewhere, we discuss how strategic procurement is the way forward at a rapidly growing enterprise, with John Butcher, Group Procurement Director Just Eat Takeaway.com. Plus, we grill Maximillian Tan, Director Business Procurement Asia at FrieslandCampina, one of the largest dairy companies in the world with a cooperative tradition going back 150 years, on how he is unlocking value at the enterprise.

We also have features on DPW and its NEXT100, the CIPS Awards 2022 and revisit the winners of ProcureTech100 2021.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

Our cover story this month reveals how Dr Roman Salasznyk, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, and his team are driving innovation at the IT services specialist to deliver digital solutions supporting federal agencies in their quest to drive mission-critical programs

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This month’s cover story charts how IT services specialist Booz Allen Hamilton is delivering digital solutions to support federal agencies in their quest to deliver mission-critical programs.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Technology is changing lives; from banking to transport and manufacturing to healthcare, the scaling of digital transformation journeys across global industry sectors is enabling and enhancing our lives… Harnessing the power of tech, to manage everything from the evolution of our supply chains to our response to medical emergencies like COVID-19, is changing the game.

Read the latest issue here!

Booz Allen Hamilton: innovation in public health

Our cover story this month reveals how IT services specialist Booz Allen Hamilton is delivering leading edge solutions to support federal agencies in their quest to deliver mission-critical programs.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to invest and provide leading-edge capabilities to support some of our client’s most pressing public health challenges across the federal government space,” says Salasznyk. “Technology must add value, solve a business problem, and deliver measurable improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.” That efficiency is driven by over 29,000 experts around the world driving digital journeys, developing analytics insights, engineering, and cybersecurity solutions while working shoulder-to-shoulder with clients to choose the right tech to realise their vision and transform.

Nuffield Health: digital transformation for a healthier tomorrow

Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest healthcare charity (independent of the NHS) operating 37 hospitals and 114 Fitness & Wellbeing Centres. IT leaders Jacqs Harper and David Ankers describe the organisation’s incredible digital transformation and how its people-first attitude runs deep. Nuffield’s beneficiary-centric approach means “driving experiences” to be optimal and best-in-class is paramount. “What was really compelling when I joined Nuffield was how much of a difference this business can make to the nation in terms of improving its health,” says Ankers. “And equally, how we as a team can make the lives of practitioners so much easier. There’s a huge amount of value IT can add.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Celonis on why process mining can help companies stop wasting money on tech they don’t need, and we present the latest analysis from consultancy giant McKinsey’s Technology Council highlighting the development, future uses and industry effects of advanced technologies across 14 key trends.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

CPOstrategy’s cover star this month is procurement transformation expert, and CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell…

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Right now, procurement excellence is blooming. Experts determined to create change are coming to the fore and aligning procurement with SaaS to bring an end to the do-it-yourself way of working that decimates technology budgets. Tropic is one such game-changer, providing the tools to navigate software procurement’s complexities for competitive advantage.

Read the latest issue here!

The CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic is David Campbell, a born entrepreneur. He grew up on a cattle ranch in California and has always had at least one side-hustle on the go. Even as a child, he was running some form of money-making venture at any one time – but he didn’t necessarily consider that entrepreneurial pursuits were his calling until later.

CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell
CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell

Campbell studied English at UC Berkeley, and on graduating assumed he’d go into the arts. He’s a lifelong musician and writer, and he moved to a cabin in the woods to write the ‘next great American novel’. This venture, while it didn’t have the exact results he had hoped for, planted the seed in his mind that perhaps entrepreneurialism was for him because he loved setting his own hours and vision, creating a strategy, and executing that…

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with supply chain and procurement leaders at the City of Edmonton and QSC, as well as the results of our first Sustainable Procurement Champions Index. We also have some exciting news from DPW too, ahead of its conference later this month.

Enjoy the issue!

Our cover story this month investigates how Fleur Twohig, Executive Vice President, leading Personalisation & Experimentation across Consumer Data & Engagement Platforms, and her team are executing Wells Fargo’s strategy to promote personalised customer engagement across all consumer banking channels

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This month’s cover story follows Wells Fargo’s journey to deliver personalised customer engagement across all its consumer banking channels.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Partnerships of all kinds are a key ingredient for organisations intent on achieving their goals… Whether that’s with customers, internal stakeholders or strategic allies across a crowded marketplace, Interface explores the route to success these relationships can help navigate.

Read the latest issue here!

Wells Fargo: customer-centric banking

Fleur Twohig, Wells Fargo

Our cover story this month investigates the strategy behind Wells Fargo’s ongoing drive to promote personalised customer engagement across all consumer banking channels.

Fleur Twohig, Executive Vice President, leading Personalisation & Experimentation across the bank’s Consumer Data & Engagement Platforms, explains her commitment to creating a holistic approach to engaging customers in personalised one-to-one conversations that support them on their financial journeys.

“We need to be there for everyone across the spectrum – for both the good and the challenging times. Reaching that goal is a key opportunity for Wells Fargo and I have the pleasure of partnering with our cross-functional teams to help determine the strategic path forward…”

IBM: consolidating growth to drive value

We hear from Kate Woolley, General Manager of IBM Ecosystem, who reveals how the tech leader is making it easier for partners and clients to do business with IBM and succeed. “Honing our corporate strategy around open hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) and connecting partners to the technical training resources they need to co-create and drive more wins, we are transforming the IBM Ecosystem to be a growth engine for the company and its partners.”

Kate Woolley, IBM
Kate Woolley, IBM

America Televisión: bringing audiences together across platforms

Jose Hernandez, Chief Digital Officer at America Televisión, explains how Peru’s leading TV network is aggregating services to bring audiences together for omni-channel opportunities across its platforms. “Time is the currency with which our audiences pay us, so we need to be constantly improving our offering both through content and user experiences.”

Portland Public Schools: levelling the playing field through technology

Derrick Brown and Don Wolf, tech leaders at Portland Public Schools, talk about modernising the classroom, dismantling systemic racism and the power of teamwork.

Also in this issue, we hear from Lenovo on how high-performance computing (HPC) is driving AI research and report again from London Tech Week where an expert panel examined how tech, fuelled by data, is playing a critical role in solving some of the world’s hardest hitting issues, ranging from supply chain disruptions through to cybersecurity fears.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

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

There is an urgent need for the digitalisation of the procurement function, according to a new report from leading smart sourcing solutions organisation Globality

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There is an urgent need for the digitalisation of the procurement function, according to a new report from ProcureTech and leading smart sourcing solutions organisation Globality.

The report, which can be read in full here, states that 9/10 of global procurement leaders are committed to the urgent transformation of their operations and processes to become more resilient, agile and future-proofed in these uncertain and volatile times.

The report, which surveyed 170 global procurement leaders, claims that innovative and emerging technologies are being harnessed in order to better arm CPOs as they face global inflation, COVID-19 and geo-political crises such as the war in Ukraine.

Those surveyed also cited the growing need to fully digitalise operating processes in order to improve efficiency and boost cost reduction, while enhancing agility, resilience and value. 90% expected operational transformations within the next three years.

The report covers:

  • Digitalisation drivers
  • Future procurement operating models
  • Digital work in the future
  • Procurement process digitalisation
  • Digital supplier management
  • Challenges to progress
  • Value of digital adoption
  • Change manifesto

“Everyone recognises this shift, 99% of companies plan to make changes to their operating model over the next three years,” says the Globality report. “In 2020 and 2021, change has been thrust upon us all. In 2022 and beyond companies are owning the shift. In our research, we have seen the procurement leaders outperform their peers through a focus on resilience and cost in the short term. However, to maintain this competitive advantage in the long term, they need to adopt a new digital-led operating model.”

That said, 81% cited a lack of organisational support with regards to digitalisation, indicating a need for further engagement at some enterprises. 68% say that digitalisation will continue to increase business self-service, while 50% of organisations aim to move to a business procurement-centric organisation, acting as advisors and business partners versus executing transactional processes.

Content Credits: Globality & ProcureTech

Designed By: CPOstrategy

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

This month’s cover story explores the customer-centric digital transformation journey of leading insurer AXA being led by UK & Ireland CIO Darrell Ryman

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Our cover story this month explores how leading insurer AXA‘s customer-centric digital transformation journey is refining the art of the possible to unite business with technology.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

The opportunity to leverage data & analytics to transform organisations seeking to sharpen their digital focus and better connect with internal and external stakeholders is at the forefront of a revolution in connectivity driving both operational efficiency and growth. In this issue we bring you some inspiring stories that reflect the impact today’s innovations are having on shaping the business journeys of tomorrow…

Read the latest issue here!

AXA

This month’s cover story explores the customer-centric digital transformation journey being led by AXA’s UK & Ireland CIO Darrell Ryman. “It’s both a challenge and an opportunity for the insurance industry,” he reflects. “Many of the legacy systems firms use are now outdated and based on the nine-to-five business operating model – they’re not designed for the modern digital experience.” Ryman’s IT team is driving that transformation pivot by focusing on three key pillars: developing a digital backbone, becoming a digital business and creating a digital ecosystem.

XGS

Today’s on demand transactions require custom logistics solutions. We discover how flooring supply chain specialist Xpress Global Systems (XGS) is combining existing data with employee experience to deliver technology solutions that form the core of the company’s humanised approach to digital transformation.

EY

Also in this issue, Ken Priyadarshi CT AI leader of EY Technology, explains how the leading professional services network is developing Digital Twins to deliver big-data and low-latency scenario planning models for financial services: “It’s time for the digital twin to become a mainstream tool for the C-suite and go beyond the traditional manufacturing or operational use-cases.”

Data management driving efficiency and growth

Elsewhere, we learn how specialist insurance broker Howden is achieving success in Asia by establishing a structured, data-driven, engagement and distribution strategy; and reveal the way America’s leading critical infrastructure damage prevention firm, Stake Center Locating, is future-proofing by transferring its expertise from legacy systems to the cloud.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our cover story examines how Microsoft is accelerating innovation for sustainable growth by providing specialised solutions supporting financial health for enterprises and their customers in the Azure cloud

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Our cover story this month reveals how Microsoft is supporting future-first financial services in the cloud.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Digital transformation can take many forms, powering the strategies to achieve goals across a diverse range of sectors from education and manufacturing to business development and health. In this issue we explore some of these compelling success stories.

Read the latest issue here!

Microsoft

Gracing this cover of Interface is Bill Livezey, Director of Financial Services for Intelligent Cloud at Microsoft. Bringing a quarter century of experience at the tech giant to his latest role, he explains how it is accelerating innovation for sustainable growth by providing specialised solutions supporting financial health for enterprises and their customers. A broad set of data models and tools in Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud work together and allows for its partners to join in quickly building differentiated experiences in an industry-compliant and secure public cloud.

Virtusa

Today’s businesses require change at a scale and speed that defies traditional ways of working. By delivering deep digital engineering and industry expertise through client-specific and integrated agile approaches, we learn how Virtusa, in conjunction with key partners like Pega, is driving digital transformation with the pace and passion of a startup delivered with expert execution on a global scale.

Bossard

Also in this issue, we hear from Bossard, a leading global provider of product solutions and services in industrial fastening and assembly technology. Chief Information Officer Georg Meyer reveals how IT is supporting its efforts to achieve ‘proven productivity’ while working towards its 200th anniversary strategy goals.

Digital Transformation supporting Sustainability

Elsewhere, we discover how the School District of Oconee County has transformed the lives of its teachers and students through the pursuit of digital transformation; and reveal the way SodaStream is leading the fight against plastic pollution, aligning its operational and digital goals with sustainable solutions and products that truly help to preserve our planet. 

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our cover story investigates how the latest cybersecurity technologies ensure the Commonwealth Bank and its customers are protected from cybercrime

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Our cover story this month charts how the Commonwealth Bank is strengthening its cybersecurity posture to protect 16 million customers

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Cybersecurity, and the need to share data safely and securely, goes beyond the day to day requirements of one organisation, it’s about enterprises at all levels collaborating to develop an ecosystem for the greater global good.

Read the latest issue here!

CommBank

Our cover star Memo Hayek, General Manager Group Cyber Transformation & Delivery at CommBank, is leading a team on such a journey while executing the technology transformation required to fortify cybersecurity for CommBank. Leveraging the latest cutting-edge technologies from partners including AWS and Palo Alto Networks – in demand as the global attack surface grows – Hayek is flying the flag for women in STEM careers and delivering the strategies to ensure the bank, its Australian community and the wider global economy are protected from cybercrime.

Philip Morris International

Also in this issue, we learn how Philip Morris International (PMI) is instigating a digital revolution in the travel retail sector, merging the physical and online worlds by implementing a number of CX-driven initiatives framed around PMI’s IQOS brand which is helping smokers to non-smoke products.

Valtech

We hear again from global business transformation agency Valtech on its efforts to embrace diversity across the length and breadth of its organisation to make it better able to provide solutions that touch all of society. Una Verhoeven, VP Global Technology, gives her perspective on the diversity debate and how that’s further supported in the technological evolution with the rise of composable architecture.

Digital Transformation

Elsewhere, we discover how biotech firm Debiopharm’s digital transformation journey is ushering in a new era for drug development and clinical trials. We also reveal the innovative global IT transformation plans of market-leading tile manufacturer Terreal.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Procurement transformation is at the heart of our chat with Tod Cooper, Director Procurement at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand

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This month’s exclusive cover story features Tod Cooper, Director Procurement at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand, who reveals all regarding the strategic restructure of the procurement function.

Read the latest issue here!

Procurement transformation is at the heart of our chat with Tod Cooper, Director Procurement at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand
Procurement transformation is at the heart of our chat with Tod Cooper, Director Procurement at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand

Most of us like to think that if we were presented with the chance to do something positive and societally significant for our country and its indigenous people, in particular, we would.

And that’s exactly the opportunity Tod Cooper, Director Procurement at the Department of Corrections in New Zealand, has grasped with both hands, with the department’s dedication to supporting Māori. 

Business transformation through leadership has been a major part of Cooper’s working life, preparing him for the challenges he’s faced at the Department of Corrections.

“It’s a big personal passion for me,” he says. “I’m not a guy who likes to sit still. Continuous improvement is a big thing. I’m always asking myself how we can make things better, looking at new ways of re-engineering, and getting good people around me who can enact my vision of things.

I’m a typical extrovert who’s easily distracted by the next thing, so it’s really important to have a good leadership team around me that understands the vision and can pull me back in.”

Elsewhere, we also speak with Dean Bennett, VP of Procurement, and Mike Cowling, VP of Global IT at BeiGene, about the benefits of a strong collaboration between procurement and technology, and what makes the company so special. Plus, we have an exclusive ‘provenance in the supply chain piece’ from IBM’s Blockchain Leader, Winston Yong.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods, Editorial Director

Our exclusive cover story this month explores how IAG Firemark Ventures is disrupting insurance to reimagine the customer journey today…

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Our exclusive cover story this month explores how IAG Firemark Ventures is disrupting insurance to reimagine the customer journey today

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Technology with the capacity to enhance customer journeys and evolve in line with our changing needs is the holy grail that the companies featured in this packed issue of Interface are on a quest to deliver…

Read the latest issue here!

Our cover star Scott Gunther, General Partner at IAG Firemark Ventures, embodies that pioneer spirit. Leading the investment arm of Australia and New Zealand’s largest insurer to think like a startup and drive innovation in the FinTech & InsurTech space, Gunther’s vision is being realised… “We not only provide staple financial services but the solutions that can make the world a safer place by reacting to everything from natural disasters to life-changing events.”

Trusted by 95% of Fortune 500 companies, Microsoft Azure is delivering transformative cloud journeys for organisations at all levels. Laurent Pierre Jr, General Manager for Azure Customer Experience Engineering Support (CXP), reveals how by creating a high trust environment, the speed at which you and your team can execute and perform becomes a force multiplier.

Keeping with the theme of transformative tech, BSI talk us through the innovation behind the extraordinary world of immersive auditing, outlining its advantages and the potential for a continuous wave of disruption set to provide deeper client value and change the dynamics of assurance forever.

Also in this issue, we hear from Lockton Re on how its global reinsurance business is benefiting from the deployment of smart solutions that leverage new technologies; speak with the CIO at the Office of Inspector General (a part of the US Department of Health & Human Services); discover advances in the digital approach to identity validation with Okta and get the lowdown from Vodafone on how blockchain has the potential to disrupt telcos.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our exclusive cover story this month takes a drive down the information superhighway with Auto Club Group and the Automobile…

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Our exclusive cover story this month takes a drive down the information superhighway with Auto Club Group and the Automobile Association of America.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

A customer centric approach to the creation and deployment of digital services is something that unites the business transformation journeys we explore in this issue of Interface.

Read the latest issue here!

Our cover story examines how one of the oldest organisations in the US – the Automobile Association of America (AAA) – and Auto Club Group, among its largest affiliates, are building trust in technology through cybersecurity to support more than 14 million members with a range of digital services. Chief Information Security Officer, Gopal Padinjaruveetil, explains: “Cybersecurity can be the brake in the information vehicle so a business doesn’t have to slow down, enabling it to accelerate change with confidence without putting the organisation, and its members, at risk.”

Elsewhere, we discover how insurance giant Generali is leveraging analytics and AI on a global scale for a structured approach to insurance services delivering long term security and peace of mind for its customers as a lifetime partner.

Delivering innovation on a global scale, SAP’s customer-centric business technology platform currently serves 91% of the organisations making up the Forbes Global 2000, while a staggering 70% of all global transactions touch an SAP system. We find out more…

Also in this issue, we hear from Insider on why Apple’s iOS15 update will impact ecommerce and data gathering; we get the lowdown from EY on the four key steps organisation should take to accelerate their digital transformation and learn from Pulsant how to identify and achieve your business transformation goals.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

IT heads say data leaks in the home will cause the biggest security headache over the next two years as…

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IT heads say data leaks in the home will cause the biggest security headache over the next two years as hybrid working arrangements see employees buying and installing their own technology, according to new research by Brother UK.

More than a third (34%) of the respondents cited the issue as their top concern as more decentralised purchasing decisions for devices such as laptops, printers and scanners are creating more data vulnerabilities. 

The research, which surveyed 500 IT leads working for UK businesses, found that just 13% expect employees to be in the office full time over the next two years.

Work to minimise security risks was signalled by almost a quarter (23%) of respondents anticipating that office technology would be centrally procured with employees purchasing home tech from approved supplier lists over the next two years, up from 19% that currently have this procurement model.

However, 11% of IT leads said they expect all office and home technology to be procured by employees on their own over the same period, compared to 5% that currently operate in this way, which could signal some additional challenges for security in the future.

Other top concerns included data security in the office (27%), network security for remote workers (13%) and accountability (12%).

Mike Mulholland, head of services and solutions at Brother UK, said: “The immediate challenge for IT leads in managing people working from home is ensuring that the technology connected to business systems is secure.

“This is part of a wider opportunity for the channel, as they help customers respond to new challenges from the workforce becoming more dispersed, by providing new solutions and services.

“But it’s important that suppliers consult with clients on balancing the efficiencies gained from decentralised procurement against the security and integration that’s more assured from centralised decision making.

“Helping customers to build lists of approved technology for employees to procure from may pay dividends in productivity and security benefits.

“It will also be important for IT vendors and partners to advise when managed services can offer the best outcomes for businesses. Managed print services, for example, gives IT managers full oversight of print fleets wherever they may be, enabling them to manage security settings, firmware updates, and diagnostics from afar.”

Overall, the research found security to be the top priority for IT heads. Almost two-thirds (63%) saw the issue to be as being ‘very important’ over the next two years, compared to 52% that said the same for productivity, 50% for cost-efficiency and 48% for sustainability. Nearly half (49%) associate security with business resilience, while two-thirds (66%) said they are currently working towards improving their IT security in order to underpin resilience.

Martin Riley, Bridewell Consulting’s Director of Managed Services, explains why a cyber security strategy can future proof your business and provide the platform for a successful digital transformation

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Regardless of sector, digital transformation has become a business necessity for organisations in 2021. Described as the most important trend in business today, 65% of the globe’s GDP is expected to be digitalised by the end of 2022. And with promised benefits including improved operational efficiency, agility and employee productivity, it’s no surprise that businesses are going digital.

However, while there’s no denying the importance of digital transformation, different levels of organisational maturity can lead to different approaches and this is particularly apparent when it comes to security. Many organisations often take a reactive approach, whereby business and technology transformation are the priority and security is only considered afterwards. However, the risks from putting security on the backburner can be numerous, including higher costs and extended timelines to retrofit crucial security fixes.

Martin Riley
Martin Riley

More mature companies have a different approach – one that puts security transformation first, ahead of digital transformation, to ensure the best possible future-proofed outcome. Their success is now providing a valuable proven blueprint for other firms to follow. So, to reap the benefits of this approach where should you start?

Shift your mindset

Before embarking on any transformation, it’s imperative to get your strategy right. Move away from thinking purely about digital transformation and cyber security as separate strategies and instead develop a cyber security transformation strategy. This will ensure that you can reduce risk and improve your cyber resilience, even as your attack surface grows.

It may be that security transformation becomes the driver of your digital transformation. For example, if you have identified vulnerabilities within your legacy IT infrastructure that necessitates a need to move critical data to the cloud.

Take critical national infrastructure as an example… The convergence of IT and Operational Technology (OT) as well as increased legislative requirements, such as the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Regulation, is driving a clear need for cyber security transformation. Organisations need to adapt to gain a holistic view of cyber security across physical OT and cloud systems before transformation can take place.

Understand your risks

Digitalising your business ultimately introduces new risks. For example, new digital channels can broaden your attack service, while poorly configured cloud-based infrastructure can pose easy targets for cyber attackers. There’s also risks from the internet of Things (IoT) which increases sensitive data proliferation (and by association, vulnerabilities), as well as authentication and access risks posed by remote working and connected supply chains. Before embarking on a transformation plan, you need to understand the security implications of any changes.

Assume zero-trust

In order to ensure that security is front of mind in your transformation you need to adopt a philosophy of a zero trust, where no individual or device is trusted. This involves verification by authenticating and authorising based on all available data points, utilising just-in-time and just-enough-access to limit user access and using analytics to drive threat detection. Not only does this help businesses to be prepared for cyber threats, but also articulates the value of security transformation to other departments.

Embed security from the outset

It can be tempting to simply keep investing in a growing number of security technology tools as and when your transformation takes place. However, all too often there is little integration, overlap and there are gaps in the coverage these tools offer. And while a well-configured set of security tools can provide coverage, many drive threat alerts that are false positives or benign positives, leading to fatigue and alert blindness. Instead, ensuring security is a critical part of the initial design of your transformation strategy.

Use security intelligence to your advantage

Move away from a focus on prevention to response and make security intrinsic throughout the business by implementing proactive measures such as Managed Detection and Response (MDR). By combining human analysis, artificial intelligence and automation to rapidly detect, analyse, investigate and actively respond to threats, MDR can encourage alignment of security transformation with digital transformation.

Cyber Technology Security Protection Monitoring Concept, Advanced Cloud Data Security System, Futuristic Technology Background, 3d Rendering

An adaptive and customisable security model, MDR can be deployed rapidly and cost-effectively as a fully outsourced service or via a hybrid SOC. It helps develop a reference security architecture that enables you to safeguard on-premise and legacy systems, cloud-based infrastructure applications and SaaS solutions, whilst also protecting and responding to new security and user identity threats as well as reducing cyber risk and the dwell time of breaches.

Engage third party support

Finally, don’t neglect to seek help from outside your organisation. By engaging a security architect early on in your project lifecycle, you can benefit from robust and detailed analysis and expertise to ensure the correct decisions are made, tracked and traced from beginning to end. They can also help you understand the interdependencies across your IT estate, identify risks and suggest best practice, as well as legal and regulatory obligations to ensure you continue to be able to withstand a range of cyber attacks throughout your transformation.

Reaping the rewards of cyber security transformation

Every business is on a digital transformation journey, regardless of size or objectives. However, as organisations transform, so do technology and cyber threats. Those that fail to adopt a more proactive and efficient system for mitigating risks and handling, responding, detecting and learning from cyber security attacks will find themselves falling behind and the security function unable to keep up.

Ultimately, cyber and digital security should be thought of as inseparable – and those that can plan and integrate both into their transformation projects from the very beginning will be in the strongest position to succeed and future-proof their business.

By implementing a robust cyber security transformation process and proactive security measures, such as MDR that can support secure digital transformation, you can reap the benefits of a stronger, structured system for managing, isolating and reducing threats and continue to pivot, transition and serve in the new digital economy without leaving security on the side-lines.

Bridewell Consulting

Bridewell Consulting is a specialist cyber security and data privacy consultancy. NCSC Certified and CREST accredited, it provides reliable, high-quality security and risk consulting services; helping its customers protect not just their data, but their reputation, customer trust and bottom line. Providing four core service areas: cyber security, data privacy, penetration testing/red team assessments and managed security services, Bridewell’s expert team of professionals possess specialist industry experience and proven capabilities. They can deliver effective cyber security and data privacy services across financial services, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, technology, retail, media, government, aviation and 24×7 critical services. As a vendor agnostic business, Bridewell is able to effectively and honestly engage with business executives and provide advice, guidance and services in a way that is most appropriate for each organisation, ensuring that proposed solutions are aligned with its clients’ strategy, business objectives and the wider IT architecture.

Learn more about emerging trends across the tech panorama in the latest issue of Interface

This month’s exclusive cover story focuses on how global digital agency Valtech is on a mission to inspire organisations to…

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This month’s exclusive cover story focuses on how global digital agency Valtech is on a mission to inspire organisations to embrace inclusivity, supporting everyone to succeed in tech…

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Technology and its ability to transform the human experience for all the stakeholders of any business, from customers to employees to partners, is the defining theme of this issue of Interface.

Read the latest issue here!

At the heart of this line of inquiry, our cover story reinforces why technology should be for everyone. Valtech, a global digital agency focused on business transformation, is on a mission to encourage organisations to embrace inclusivity, “inspiring everybody to have an authentic voice” by supporting women and people of all walks of life to succeed in tech-based careers. Our interviewee, Sheree Atcheson, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion, pledges: “We are trying to do something that leaves the world better than we found it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W25hWRdDMA

Elsewhere in this issue, we explore the rise of AI in banking and learn how solutions are being deployed by UnionBank of the Philippines. Dr. David Hardoon, Senior Advisor for Data & AI, explains how the bank is better leveraging data to drive financial inclusion with the delivery of services to the underserved and unbanked. We also speak with Alexandre Kozlov, Head of International IT at Kelly Services, and discover how the staffing giant is embracing business relevant IT with tech that puts people – clients, candidates and recruiters – first.

Also in this issue, we.CONECT tell us how they are using technology to bring people together for virtual live events; we explore AI’s influence on data centre management, and discover why security can future-proof your digital transformation journey.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our exclusive cover story this month, features global retail giant Carrefour, which is transforming its operations on a massive scale…

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Carrefour City Levallois Crise Sanitaire COVID 19 © Nicolas Gouhier

Welcome to a very special edition of Interface Magazine!

There are few enterprises with a heritage and scale enjoyed by Carrefour. The 63-year-old global grocery and retail giant is undergoing enormous change across its numerous territories and grocery formats, and not before time. Sitting, as it does, at a pivotal moment in its history, Carrefour is facing, and meeting, the challenges of size and legacy as it leverages tech and data to transform into a company ready for the challenges ahead. We caught up with Carrefour’s leadership team across its numerous territories and divisions to find out how it’s transforming its operations on a global scale…

Read the latest issue here!

Carrefour has embraced a widespread ongoing transformation, as the retail landscape experiences monumental shifts in behaviour. And the person Carrefour looked to, to deliver this incredible programme of change, was the then rather youthful 45-year-old Alexandre Bompard who joined the Group as Chairman and CEO in July 2017. Bompard has a proven track record in delivering change having been at the helm of French retail chain Fnac-Darty. Bompard’s “Carrefour 2022” transformation plan “embodies the goal of bringing eating well – healthy, fresh, organic, local food – to within everyone’s reach”, said Bompard upon its launch. “To become the world leader in the food transition for everyone”.

Elsewhere in this issue, we speak to Cesar Augusto Dos Santos, Director of IT and CIO of giant Brazilian Communication Service Provider Claro, regarding its digital transformation at scale, as the company enters an exciting new phase of its evolution. Plus, we have some fascinating and insightful content covering digital transformation, business goals versus business purpose and a guide to new working practices that could change your company overnight!

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods (Editor)

Featuring… Swisscom, State of New Jersey and Cementos Pacasmayo, plus much, much more…

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Welcome to another packed issue of Interface Magazine!

Following the success of an exciting B2C portal, we revisit the dynamic partnership between Swisscom and Accenture to find out more about the follow-up: a brand new B2B offering…

Read the latest issue here!

In June 2020, Interface Magazine published an in-depth feature on telco giant Swisscom’s new omni-channel platform – created in conjunction with Accenture – which transformed Swisscom’s B2C offering. Accenture delivered the framework for this digital omni-channel platform (DOCP) and, over time, Swisscom was able to run it independently. In the story, we mentioned that the company was also planning a B2B transformation. At the time, the plan was in its infancy.

Now – again, hand-in-hand with Accenture – Swisscom has launched this exciting new element of its business. We spoke with three people directly involved with this next step – Stephan Schneider, MD of Accenture; Anne-Thérèse Morel, Head of Capability Management at Swisscom Business Customers; and Matthias Piller, Solution Train Engineer at Swisscom – to gain a broader insight on what has changed since our last catch-up.

Elsewhere, we sit down with Luis Miguel Soto Valenzuela, CIO of Cementos Pacasmayo, to discuss the company’s digital and customer experience transformation, and its dedication to improving Peru. And we catch up with Poonam Soans, Chief Data Officer of the State of New Jersey, who explores how she is overseeing a data-driven revolution to better serve its citizens.

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Editor In Chief

We take a look at 5 apps that have underscored the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office, as identified in Okta 2021 Business at Work report.

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Many of us have adapted seamlessly to working from home over the last 12 months. Technology, and the way software organisations have stepped up to the plate to supply the tools we needed most, has been key to this. We take a look at 5 apps that have underscored the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office, as identified in Okta 2021 Business at Work report.

While it now feels utterly normal to join a professional video chat and see the inside of people’s home offices, kitchens, or sheds, the fact is that it’s only been normal for less than a year. Many people thrive on home working, although some did struggle with the shift, and numerous reports have explored the clear benefits of a more flexible working situation than most of us had pre-pandemic. 

One of the main reasons why many of us have adapted so seamlessly is the role technology has played, and the way software organisations stepped up to the plate to supply the tools we needed most. ‘A shakeup in our top apps underscores the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office’, states the Okta 2021 Business at Work report. 

As well as a rise in the use – and choice – of tools that enable us to better work with our colleagues, clients, and peers, remote workers have required additional protection that their employers would normally take responsibility for, hence the rise in security-related apps. Additionally, HR teams are busy investing in whatever will give them the best employee engagement, in order to ensure staff feel happy and supported at a time when they’re separated from their co-workers.

Interestingly, the Okta report shows that 90% of the fastest-growing apps are brand new to the top 10 – the first time in the report’s history. ‘Companies needed to enable remote work, which means supporting at-home workspaces and virtual collaboration, and these apps helped them do it. Also, for the first time, security tools claim four top spots in the fastest growing category, and an HR-centric tool appears for the first time since 2016’.

Microsoft 365

The real heavyweight app of 2020/21 was Microsoft 365, which is no surprise considering most office workers need to use at least one element of the app every day, and many of them haven’t invested in it for their personal computers. In the words of the Okta report, ‘Since our first report in 2015, Microsoft 265, Salesforce, and Google Workspace have held three of our top four spots. They may have rebranded once or twice, but they are embedded in our desktops and our work lives’.

AWS

Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing service that works on a pay-what-you-use basis – it’s not surprising, then, that it’s such a popular choice, particularly at a time when the way we work has changed so drastically. ‘We’ve seen some exciting changes in out top rank’, the report states. ‘Cloud platform AWS has risen steadily from sixth place five years ago to become this year’s second most popular app by number of customers’. 

‘The new second-place global rank for AWS is driven by its strong growth in EMEA and APAC, where it has seen over 25% growth since April 2020, compared to 16% growth in North America during the same time period’. 

Salesforce

A CRM platform and cloud computing service, Salesforce’s popularity has remained steadfastly near the top of the list. This is thanks, in part, to its usage in the US: ‘Salesforce and Zoom’s global ranks are underpinned by their popularity in North America’, the report states. In APAC and EMEA, Salesforce is several spots lower, but this hasn’t affected its appreciation elsewhere.

Google Workspace

Formerly known as G Suite, Google Workspace combines collaboration and productivity tools, and cloud computing. Its broad appeal has brought it to the top four spot, regardless of how it overlaps with other apps. ‘While companies may splurge on a few best-of-breed apps, we might expect they would tighten their belts where they see clear redundancy. However, 36% of Okta’s Microsoft 365 customers now also deploy Google Workspace, the largest jump in the past three years. Top collaboration tools have never been more important for productivity’.

Zoom

Zoom is no longer simply a name – it’s a verb. “Shall we Zoom later?” is the latest “Google it”, thanks to the video call app’s usability, stability, and business-friendly features like the ability to record meetings and set a photo of the Taj Mahal as your background. ‘Tools enabling collaboration, including Zoom, have jumped in the ranks’, the report states.

‘[It] had only joined the top apps by unique users for the first time in 2019, ended this current data period in sixth place. In our Businesses at Work (from Home) report in April, when we highlighted apps that had seen significant growth in numbers of corporate and personal users in March, Zoom was our fastest growing app by number of unique users. While unique users dipped a bit over summer, by the end of September they were reaching new highs, likely related to Zoom’s extensive efforts to support distance learning’.

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.

The new update gives all users tailored access to relevant market research and reports based on their role in their organisation

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Stravito, the knowledge management software for market research and insights, today announces a brand new product update called ‘Workspaces & Teams’, which streamlines knowledge sharing capability and improves accessibility for medium and large enterprises.

The new update gives all users tailored access to relevant market research and reports based on their role in their organisation. The update was implemented to prevent an ‘information overload’ from deterring workers and teams from utilising market research – something which can be a real problem for large enterprises who have vast amounts of data and insights available for different teams spread across business units, countries and product lines.

Workspaces & Teams also allows organisations to create separate Workspaces (for example, one for the B2C business unit and one for the B2B business unit) within their Stravito platform. This helps large enterprises give employees direct and easy access to relevant insights, while limiting improper use of the wrong insights, leading to time savings and improved decision-making across business units. 

Within each Workspace, organisations can also create Teams to further fine-tune access and relevancy of insights within their business unit, enabling enterprises to customise their experience and access to information in the platform.

In addition to improving user experience, Workspaces & Teams makes it easier for administrators to tailor confidentiality for sensitive research documents. 

Thor Olof Philogene, CEO of Stravito, commented“We are always looking for new ways to combine insights relevance and security to enhance customer engagement with our platform. This Workplace and Teams update is purpose-built for large organisations with distributed units and branches, but as the business landscape continues to change against the backdrop of the pandemic, we also see increased demand for this type of services to suit organisations of all sizes.”

The Workspaces & Teams update follows another recent development targeted towards enterprise customers: ISO 27001 certification. 

Stravito’s ISO 27001 certification recognises that the development and delivery of the Stravito SaaS are done in accordance with global information security best practices.

To receive the certification, an in-depth audit testing all security processes and frameworks was undertaken. This included incident management, risk management, employee management, secure software development, and the management of information from third parties – giving customers full peace of mind that their data and information is secure.

Notable aspects of Stravito’s security, which was commended, include its information security policy, which covers all aspects and employees of the organisation, an incident management process, which allows Stravito to triage and resolve any incidents promptly, a secure software development life cycle, ensuring they deliver secure and bug-free code, and a solid risk management framework, which is used to identify and mitigate risk throughout the organisation.

Marcus Södervall, head of Security at Stravito, commented“Receiving the ISO 27001 certification is a huge accomplishment for Stravito, reinforcing our commitment to implementing best-in-class security that truly protects our customers and their data.” 

“Not only does ISO 27001 test the maturity of Stravito’s processes, but it also embeds security into our company’s DNA, shining a light on the trusted and reliable platform we have built.”

By doubling down on essential capabilities for enterprises, like customisation and security, Stravito aims to continue its mission to simplify knowledge discovery for global organisations.

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

With 2025 deadlines looming for ambitious corporate public pledges around sustainability, this should be top of the business agenda for enterprises in 2021. However, are organisations acting fast enough?

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Worryingly, every five weeks that passes represents 1% of our decade. Aspirations of operating more sustainably at some point in the future are now becoming a much closer reality, which means organisations have targets that they need to meet over a relatively short time frame. This is especially true when it comes to ‘net zero’ emissions pledges – perhaps the most pressing climate concern the planet is facing. For example, by 2030, Unilever has committed to halving the greenhouse gas emissions of their products across the lifecycle, while Heineken has set an 80% target reduction. BP is facing an even bigger challenge as an energy company, leaning away from fossil fuels and committing to net zero carbon from their operations by 2050. Written by Mark Perera, CEO, Vizibl 

Therefore, with only a few years remaining until some of those deadlines, clearly now is the time for enterprises to take decisive action. 

Many organisations still don’t know how they’re going to achieve these targets. However, given the urgency of the issues, they’ve launched their efforts regardless, anticipating the discovery of further solutions along the way. 

Sustainability delivers more than just the environmental benefits 

Alongside the need to protect our planet, hitting these targets is actually key for the survival of some of these businesses. Strong sustainability performance pays dividends in opportunities for growth, increased returns on capital, and in managing threats to the business, with McKinsey finding that the value at stake from sustainability risks can be as high as 70% of EBITDA. 

Given that 50% of the Standard & Poor’s 500 will likely be replaced within the decade, companies must look beyond business as usual towards the strategies that will shore up their own survival – especially in our post-COVID environment where many will face stiff competition. With record private equity, a robust M&A market and the growth of many startups with billion-dollar valuations, not to mention the impact of the pandemic and an economic decline, there will be plenty of turbulence in the road ahead. 

We recently hosted a webinar around sustainability, which featured speakers from Unilever, Heineken and BP, where we discussed all of these issues and more. Interestingly, all three organisations were in agreement that consumer relevance will be key to organisational longevity and the ability to attract talent will also be central to business success. Consumers are very much driving the sustainability agenda, therefore setting and meeting sustainability targets will be key driver for business continuity. 

Enterprises are driving towards stakeholder capitalism 

This focus on doing right by consumer and employee values corresponds to a wider movement towards stakeholder capitalism. This drive advocates shifting away from a sole focus on maximising shareholder value towards a company strategy which creates value for all its stakeholders – from customers and employees, to suppliers, communities, and the environment. 

Along with making themselves accountable to a broader set of stakeholders, organisations should also be drawing from these stakeholders to meet sustainability targets. Likewise, leveraging from a wider ecosystem will also help to meet these goals; partnering for value to increase the bottom line will be a key procurement trend in 2021. 

Seeing as 80% of company emissions and up to 90% of their impact on biodiversity and natural resources originates in the supply chain, it is not surprising that companies are looking past internal operations when pursuing ambitious sustainability targets. Given also that 50-70% of company innovations originate externally, it makes sense to look beyond the boundaries of the organisation and to the broader ecosystems of suppliers to source new solutions. 

Working with a broader ecosystem of suppliers to foster innovation 

One great example of this kind of partnership is an initiative that BP is spearheading. As the company works towards net zero for its tech and IT estate, BP is moving away from high-power data infrastructure in favour of forging deep partnerships with cloud providers. The cloud providers also have net zero commitments of their own, which they can support using renewable energy sourced from BP. This partnership presents a win-win situation where both companies can hit their targets in tandem. 

What we are also seeing is that this is changing the role of procurement. Instead of being viewed as a function that ‘protects’ the company from its suppliers by continuously driving down costs, procurement is now looking to  collaboration and partnerships to find the innovation that will help the organisation continue to grow. 

And as procurement moves away from a single-minded focus on cost-cutting, it will facilitate relationships which in turn deliver on key business strategies like sustainability and growth. 

How procurement can drive initiatives to meet sustainability goals 

To this point, procurement has a great role to play in helping an organisation meet its sustainability targets, given that the function has historically been curious and hyper-diligent when it comes to costs. Moving forward, enterprises need to apply that same rigour when it comes to sustainability by asking searching questions about energy and water usage, emissions impact, and how we are affecting our communities both locally and on a global scale if we bring that level of curiosity and collaborative problem-solving into supply chains, we’ll have a big impact on business longevity and help to meet those lofty sustainability goals that are closer than we all feel comfortable with right now. 

Our exclusive cover story this month is an in-depth look behind the scenes at Cisco…

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Welcome to issue 20 of Interface Magazine!

Our exclusive cover story this month is an in-depth look behind the scenes at Cisco; the company that helps its clients adapt to an ever-changing world by providing the building blocks of a digital ecosystem that allows more agile and efficient communication alongside operational prowess. But what about Cisco itself?  What does transformation look like inside this Silicon Valley giant, and how does itsuccessfully harness data-driven, digital technologies to improve its own operations to boost growth and profitability?

Read the latest issue here!

We caught up with Dr. Christian Vogt, Cisco’s Chief Innovation Officer of Data & Analytics at his Silicon Valley office. Christian’s mission is to drive the adoption of digital, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence at Cisco, and to incubate and scale the capabilities needed to accomplish this, both inside his organization and across the company. Some of these technologies are developed by Cisco’s own engineers, while others are the result of partnering. To achieve the latter, Christian has established an open-innovation arm that partners closely with world-class startups and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley and beyond. “My goal is to make us a more data-driven, digitally enabled, and AI-powered company,” Christian explains. 

Elsewhere, we also meet up with Aviva Italy to see how a cloud-native ecosystem will help the company address the new paradigma of insurance. Plus, we look at the past, present and future of Open Banking and examine how CTOs could learn so much from the GB Cycling Team!

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

Research reveals that millennials would be willing to take a pay cut to work in a nicer office; and also consider quitting if their workplace is either outdated or inefficient…

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Today, smart buildings are becoming more dynamic and tailored to individual requirements, specifically within the office space. And with Gartner predicting that the greatest source of competitive advantage for 30% of organisations over the next few years will be their ability to creatively exploit the digital workplace, the pressure is on for businesses and building owners alike to invest in the latest technologies and techniques to provide even better user experiences. 

Employee Expectations

Research reveals that millennials would be willing to take a pay cut to work in a nicer office; and also consider quitting if their workplace is either outdated or inefficient. Employers need to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of employees in order to stay competitive when attracting and retaining talent.

To achieve this, workspaces are now becoming more ‘aware’ through an ecosystem that allows buildings to dynamically adjust to the requirements of users through the convergence of IT and Operational Technology (OT) such as building management systems, energy and space management. There is an expectation in place that facilities and building management firms will adapt to meet employee expectations; if not, then they will fall behind.

Collaboration and Productivity

Many companies are leading the way with shared office facilities and hot desks on a part-time or multi-lease basis. With desk layouts developed by algorithms, companies are responding to the demand for mobility and flexible consumption in the modern digital workspace. By configuring open and closed spaces through noise-absorbing fabrics and glass doors, buildings are providing the privacy of individual offices within an open plan setup, meaning that staff no longer need to be confined by physical walls.

Furthermore, data can be collected about user movements, machinery condition, energy usage and other activities within the building that can be used to optimise the user experience and enhance collaborative processes further. For example, mobile phone controlled AV screens, wafer-thin sensors that can detect occupancy and trigger the air conditioning system, ongoing measurement of internal environmental conditions including temperature, humidity and CO2, and indoor mapping and navigation platforms.

Sustainability

With 72% of office workers revealing that a sustainable environment is important to them, embracing this new movement has become a competitive necessity. Through clever environmental design which optimises space, consumption and resources, smart offices can reduce the overall environmental impact and save money and resources along the way. From autonomous energy systems that shut off heating and lighting when rooms are vacant to systems that monitor and optimise the use of water and electricity, these offices can identify their most wasteful aspects and also lessen the pressure on the national grid. 

Making the Business Case

Smart buildings in themselves are opening up new revenue streams. But the cost of IoT implementation may be perceived as a barrier to its adoption and development. Many smart offices are built from scratch so existing workplaces need to be retrofitted with technology. And although there is an upfront investment or cost to retrofit an existing building, once installed, additions such as optimised lighting make running these spaces much more cost-effective to the building owner.

The Role of the MSP

Managed Service Providers have a valuable potential role to play beyond providing Digital Communications and collaborative infrastructure including high speed internet lines, Wi-Fi and cloud based collaboration technology such as Microsoft Teams. The MSP can work with an emerging ecosystem of expert IoT infrastructure, device and applications companies to deploy IoT sensor devices, capture and flow data to cloud based applications for insight and action. The MSP can become the agent of new efficiency gains for buildings and their users, generating new income streams and increasing user satisfaction.

Conclusion

People are the largest investment of an organisation, and as new technologies evolve to make their lives easier and safer, it is important to look at which technologies, strategies and approaches will create the most positive, productive and efficient impact for your office and users. IoT technologies, effectively overlayed and combined with existing digital infrastructure and collaboration initiatives, potentially deliver new data insight to further improve and enhance the intelligent workspace and productivity. An ecosystem of expert IoT companies working with incumbent MSPs can be an effective design, deployment and management mechanism for tapping into the intelligent workspace opportunity.   

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

According to the latest ONS figures, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the physical retail sector has been mixed. Stores…

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According to the latest ONS figures, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the physical retail sector has been mixed. Stores selling hardware, paints and glass, for example, saw a 13% increase in the value of retail sales compared to last year. Others have been hit particularly hard – with clothes store sales down by more than a quarter (26%) in the same time frame.

The forthcoming wave of vaccinations promises to restore the UK’s economy to a more stable position. Nonetheless, we must consider the possibility that changes in consumer behaviour may linger even when lockdowns and social distancing are a thing of the past, as well as how different sub-sectors within the industry will be affected.

Let’s therefore look at two opposing, but equally possible scenarios on the road ahead.

Scenario A – Opening the floodgates

After months of being cooped up at home, customers flock to town centres, industrial parks and shopping centres to exercise their freedom to purchase goods in-person. Sales volumes increase, but supply chains become stretched due to spikes in product demand and store inventories become more difficult to effectively manage.

In addition, disruption to both the need and availability of workers in the months prior leaves stores understaffed, leading to long queues and disgruntled customers. Finally, customers who for months have been encouraged to go cashless are now making far more card and contactless payments, leaving some POS systems struggling with the uptick in data traffic and leading to more frustration for staff and customers alike.    

Scenario B – The high street ghost town

For many, shopping online during the pandemic switched from something people wanted to do to something people needed to do. As a result, those who were previously sceptical or unfamiliar with technology (or who simply preferred shopping in-person) had to familiarise themselves with the process. Of course, although many within this group may still be averse to e-commerce today, we must assume that at least some will use their newfound familiarity to continue shopping online in the post-Covid era.

In this scenario, customers new to e-commerce have been swayed by the user-friendliness, low prices and fast delivery on offer online. As a result, footfall on the high street struggles to recover to pre-pandemic levels, creating a tough environment for the small independent retailers who compete with the online giants.

Preparing for every outcome

While these two scenarios are diametrically opposed, the Internet of Things (IoT) could help address some of the issues described in both situations. Comprising a dynamic network of sensors, devices and equipment, the IoT makes it possible to view and interact with physical objects as easily as files and folders on a computer. In other words, the IoT creates a digital overlay that sits across the physical infrastructure of retail stores, effectively facilitating the agility of online shopping in a physical space.

It will require investment, but securing the future is a goal that pays dividends. Here we look at the solutions the IoT has to offer in these two scenarios.

Solution A – Unlocking efficiency at every stage of the supply chain

Preparing to mitigate the negative outcomes in this scenario requires retailers to take a hard look at the systems they have in place, identify areas in urgent need of greater efficiency, and implement new IoT tools to address them:

  • Real-time supply chain – inventory sensors and POS data are integrated into a direct communication system with supply chain partners, triggering automated manufacturing and production systems and adjusting stock delivery schedules accordingly.
  • Data-driven decisioning – capacity sensors linked to data analytics platforms not only track the number of customers in-store, but analyse seasonally-adjusted data relating to the length of time customers spend in the aisles and predict where and when staff will be needed.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) – from processing supplier deliveries to quarterly stock counts, RPA systems automate time-consuming tasks that happen behind the scenes, freeing up staff time for better workforce scheduling and more focus on customers.

Solution B – In-store customer experience unmatched by online retailers

Innovations such as live product tracking and same day delivery have recently tipped the customer experience race in online retailers’ favour. To attract new customers and retain their business, brick-and-mortar stores must emulate the dynamic, digital and personalised experience offered by their online counterparts:

  • Interactive digital displays & kiosks – positioned at the store entry, customers can benefit from an optimised in-store journey and a highly personalised experience by viewing commonly bought items, their location within the store and in-the-moment marketing offers based on purchase history.
  • Roaming POS – queuing is eliminated as tablets carried by staff process customer payments anywhere in the store. In addition, RFID scanners built into trolleys and baskets can total large volume purchases in real-time, without needing to take a single item out to scan.
  • Customer application integration – in-store geotargeting systems can link via Bluetooth to customer-facing smartphone applications to help locate specific items and provide other useful pieces of information, such as stock levels, current offers and the location of staff.

LTE & SD-WAN branch networking: laying the foundations for the future of physical retail

Regardless of which scenario becomes a reality, any subsequent IoT strategy must begin with a reliable, secure and agile network. The first step is cutting the cord with fixed broadband connectivity and setting up a private in-store network running on LTE. Also known as wireless WAN (WWAN), this solution offers retailers greater levels of flexibility thanks to out-of-the-box connectivity and unparalleled reliability through multiple network channel management.

The second foundational requirement for retail IoT is SD-WAN. With the sheer quantity of network applications running in most branches, cloud monitoring and troubleshooting features – including automated alerts – SD-WAN enables retailers to cost-effectively manage WAN conditions at widespread locations. Crucially, SD-WAN also allows secure VPNs to be established in a matter of minutes, providing robust protection for devices and sensitive information, such as customer payment data.

Survive and thrive in the future of retail

The past year has been an uphill struggle, not least for retailers contending with limited footfall in their physical stores. Investing in new technology may not be top of mind for all retail businesses in the immediate future. But for those who are able and willing to make small adjustments to innovate may find they are able to unlock efficiencies in their supply chain, improve their in-store experience and attract and retain new customers once lockdown restrictions start to ease.

74% of businesses are boosting their marketing and consumer research budgets this year, to better reach potential customers.

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74% of businesses are boosting their marketing and consumer research budgets this year, to better reach potential customers, according to new research from Stravito, a leading provider of knowledge management software for insights.

The research, which was conducted by independent polling company Censuswide, surveyed 200 business decision makers in large and medium sized UK companies in the last week of December 2020. 

It revealed that 76 per cent of business are set to overhaul their customer engagement strategy in response to the disruption and dispersal caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, suggesting that many companies are already anticipating 2021 to be the year that they ‘bounce-back’ from the difficult period caused by the crisis. 

Interestingly, 82 per cent of surveyed decision makers agreed that data-driven insights are a top priority for them in 2021, and a whopping 83 per cent agreed that improving communication and relationships with customers will be critical to their business growing this year.

Similarly, 72 per cent of business decision makers agreed that their company needs to improve its knowledge and research sharing capabilities in order to improve sales in 2021.

Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and co-founder of Stravito, commented:

“In this pandemic era, connecting to consumers on a ‘human level’ is more important than ever, and demonstrating empathy and understanding with customer concerns and needs is imperative.

“This process must start with comprehensive market and consumer research to help inform business strategy and understand exactly how consumer behaviour and expectations has adapted over the course of the very eventful last 12 months. With workforces still distributed, and remote working here to stay for the foreseeable future, it is essential that research and business insights are made available to all departments and workers in a given company, so that there is no misalignment in knowledge or customer acquisition strategies. Getting instant access to all available market research at the touch of a button will also go a long way to preventing knowledge silos developing between already distributed workforces and departments.”

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.

Significant Investment Growth of 200% over the Next 5 Years

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A new study from Juniper Research has found that network operator spend on MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) will grow from $2.7 billion in 2020 to $8.3 billion in 2025, as operators invest heavily in upgrading network capacities and infrastructure to support the increasing data generated by 5G networks.

5G Infrastructure Upgrades

The study also revealed that by 2025, the number of deployed MEC nodes will reach 2 million globally in 2025, up from 230,000 in 2020. These devices, which take the form of access points, base stations, and routers, will play a vital role in managing the vast quantities of data generated by connected vehicles, smart city systems and other emerging data-intensive services.

For more insights, download our free whitepaper: Edge Computing: 5G’s Secret Weapon?

Preparing for the 5G Future

The new report, Edge Computing: Use Cases, Innovation Opportunities & Market Forecasts 2020-2025, notes that this increase in investment is a result of network operators enhancing key network functions, by moving infrastructure used for processing data from core network locations, to base stations at the edge of their networks. It anticipates that the capabilities of 5G technologies, such as high throughput, low latencies and high device densities, will necessitate roll-outs of MEC nodes in urban areas.

The research identified smart cities as a key industry that will benefit from MEC node roll-outs, as operators and planning authorities identify how best to install 5G-compatible edge nodes. It suggests that these parties explore utilising existing city structures, such as street lighting and sidewalks, to mitigate issues of space limitation inherent to densely-populated areas. 

Consumers to Benefit from Operators’ Take-up of Edge

The research forecasts that over 920 million individuals will benefit from edge‑enhanced Internet connectivity by 2025; rising from 100 million individuals in 2020. Services, such as music streaming, digital TV services and cloud gaming, will be the biggest beneficiaries of the ultra-low latency provided by operators’ increasing roll-outs of MEC nodes over the next 5 years.

Edge Computing market research: https://www.juniperresearch.com/researchstore/operators-providers/edge-computing-research-report

Download the whitepaper: https://www.juniperresearch.com/document-library/white-papers/edge-computing-5gs-secret-weapon

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.”

By failing to involve more general staff, company leaders hinder DX progress

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While businesses are doubling down on digital transformation (DX), new research from Futurum Research found that organisational leaders are leaving many of their employees behind in the process. The study revealed that 94% of all employees want to be more involved in DX, and almost half (44%) of the general staff say they simply don’t know how to help. This not only disenfranchises some employees, but it can also slow the pace of DX success.

The global study, sponsored by Pegasystems (NASDAQ: PEGA), surveyed executives, technology leaders, and general employees from over 500 enterprises in North America and Europe on the role company culture plays in driving DX success.

As company leaders accelerate the pace of DX in the wake of the pandemic, the research revealed many employees are eager to be part of the solution. But despite this enthusiasm, only 10% of general staff strongly agree they know how to contribute to their company’s digital transformation efforts. Interestingly, there is also still confusion at the top: even 14% of CEOs report they don’t know how to get involved. 

The research also uncovered three additional insights on how leaders should infuse DX into the fabric of their business: 

  • Barriers to success must be addressed holistically: A majority of business decision makers (68%) believe improving customer experience is the most important DX driver, followed closely by automating existing processes (67%) and improving or updating processes (65%). While most agree on the ultimate goals, decision makers face a wider variety of roadblocks to reaching them, namely a lack of adequate skills (42%), partnerships (36%), and budget (36%). These holistic operational issues must be addressed – starting with training or hiring for these skills – to ensure DX success at scale.
  • Effective DX leadership drives top-down results: Who usually leads the DX charge? Only 18% of respondents believe it’s the CEO compared to 47% who identify the CTO or CIO. But when employees cite the CEO as the DX leader, employees report a more positive perception of DX, which can be helpful in building a stronger DX culture. For example, 67% of respondents from organizations with CEO-led DX expect to be ‘very effective’ in technology leadership compared to only 51% in CIO-lead organizations and 34% when the CTO leads. 
  • Digital transformation is a journey on which no one should be left behind: Leaders need to find ways to bring all employees on the DX journey so they feel vested in the outcome – even in the smallest of ways. Respondents cite helping to train others on new technology (50%), being open minded about using new tools (40%), and voicing positivity about DX (35%) as the top ways they believe they can help – which are all relatively achievable. Broader employee participation at any level helps the DX culture permeate through an organization so businesses can ultimately better serve their customers. 

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.

iland research reveals hidden pitfalls of hyperscale cloud and low confidence in key features of cloud services, while a lack of resources is holding back cloud migration projects for 83%

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ilanda leading VMware-based cloud services provider for application hosting, data protection and disaster recovery, today released the findings of its research into customer confidence in cloud services. It found that despite the increase in cloud adoption due to the pandemic, three quarters of organisations surveyed say hyperscaler IaaS instance types may not meet their cost and performance needs for mission-critical applications, while more than one in five are not satisfied with key features of cloud provision such as security, performance, availability and support. 

The research also found that a lack of migration resources is delaying or preventing cloud projects for more than 80% of organisations surveyed. 

The research: The Hidden Pitfalls of Working with Hyperscale Clouds was conducted among 501 senior IT executives, including CIOs, CISOs and CTOs, in the UK and US by independent research organisation, Opinion Matters, in June 2020. Participants were asked for their views on security, performance, compliance and their overall level of confidence in the cloud services they have invested in. 

Key research findings include:

  • 83% say lack of migration resources and/or time has delayed cloud migration. Among those, 12% say it has entirely prevented migration.
  • 75% say a T Shirt size or hyperscaler instance type does not meet all their performance and cost requirements.
  • 24% are not confident that hyperscale clouds can meet performance and availability requirements for specific applications.
  • 23% are not confident that production data is protected via backup or disaster recovery in the event of data loss with their cloud service provider.
  • 24% are not confident they can get the support they need from their cloud service provider.
  • 53% say security is the top factor in cloud supplier selection. 
  • 76% agree CSPs should assist or actively manage customer data compliance.

Commenting on the research findings, Researcher Charles Moore said: “While cloud adoption has seen a significant uptick due to the pandemic, the lack of migration resources for many customers has delayed or prevented deployment. Customers need to choose a cloud vendor that can fill the internal resource gaps that can hinder success.”

Justin Giardina, iland Chief Technology Officer, added: “The business benefits of moving to the cloud are indisputable, but with 83% of those surveyed saying that migration resources are necessary to achieve those benefits it’s clear that customers need to look beyond just the cloud platform and ensure their vendor can offer the supporting services that can reduce risk and improve time to value.”

“Hyperscale cloud services are missing the mark for a significant proportion of the organisations surveyed,” continues Giardina. “Having trust in critical cloud features is fundamental to realising its benefits, so with more than one in five respondents lacking confidence in aspects such as performance, availability, backup and support points to the hidden pitfalls of hyperscale clouds.” 

Security, management, visibility, and control are priority customer requirements for cloud solutions

The study also found that key requirements for cloud service provision include common or unified management across all services; this is a priority for 73% of those adopting multi-cloud solutions. Similarly, infrastructure visibility and control are must-have features for 71% of respondents. Many were looking to the future, with 89% saying it was important or critical that they can write to their CSP’s API for future software development and deployment.

Security is a primary criterion for cloud provider selection, with 53% saying it is the leading consideration and a further 43% saying it is a major factor. Three quarters of customers also want to see cloud service providers helping manage data compliance.

The survey found that the majority (74%) of respondents felt it was important that CSPs preserve their company’s existing networking environment when they move to the cloud. This reflects the current landscape, where many organisations are being forced to accelerate their cloud adoption programmes due to the pressures of supporting large-scale remote working. Giardina notes: “When organisations are being rapidly pushed out of their comfort zones and forced to shrink deployment schedules to the absolute minimum, being able to maintain the familiar networking environment in the cloud is an advantage that is appealing to under-pressure IT departments.” 

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

Data revealed as Tech Nation and Dealroom launch the Impact & Innovation database…

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New research from Tech Nation and Dealroom reveals that investment into UK impact startups increased 9.5x between 2014 and 2019. UK impact startups have raised €1.4B so far in 2020 with Cleantech and Climate tech companies raising the most capital of all UK impact startups. 

The biggest rounds for UK impact startups in 2020 include Octopus Energy, Arrival, Connexin (Hull), Tokamak Energy (Abingdon), Compass Pathways, Cera, Highview Power, FiveAI (Cambridge), The Meatless Farm Company (Leeds).

It comes as Tech Nation and Dealroom launch the  Impact and Innovation database, that catalogues 4,939 startups and scaleups, 7,472 funding rounds, and 232 exits of innovative companies addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. 

George Windsor, Head of Insights at Tech Nation, commented: “UK impact tech firms have come on leaps and bounds over the last six years – with nearly 10x more investment made into groundbreaking companies in 2020 than 2014. UK tech must continue to play a key part in tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges, including  climate change. This revolution is happening right across the country. Tech Nation is pleased to work with some of the leading companies in this space through our world-first Net Zero programme – ensuring that companies working in this sector can scale to have the greatest impact.”

The data also reveals that European startups are more impact-focussed than their global peers. €6B was invested into European impact startups in 2019, making up over 15% of all VC investment in the region. This research shows that what was once fringe investment and innovation activity is finding traction and proven success in Europe, becoming a core part of European innovation ecosystems.

Climate tech startups, which includes electric vehicles, have attracted the most investment within the Impact sub-sector, with European players emerging as global market leaders. European companies working to tackle climate change and its impacts have attracted €9.8B in VC investment in the last five years. 

Impact innovation startups are also fueling growth and job creation. Crucially, these startups are actively hiring, the Impact & Innovation database lists over 2,100 jobs in impact startups that are currently hiring in Europe – over 390 of these are in the UK. 

The Impact and Innovation platform will bring together startups, investors, non-profits, governments, and corporates in one open-access data-driven platform. The new mapping of the global impact and innovation ecosystem will facilitate data-driven policy and decision making, the sharing of cross-industry knowledge, and will foster the partnerships required to help next generation innovators succeed on the global stage.

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:

Ray Stanley, CIO and VP of Marian University, tells us how an IT strategy empowers the student to unlock their true potential.

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Our cover story this month is an exclusive look behind the scenes at Indianapolis’ Marian University to see how its unique technology strategy puts the student experience front and centre. Ray Stanley, CIO and VP of Marian University, tells us how an IT strategy empowers the student to unlock their true potential.

Read the latest issue here!

“In higher education, we have many different groups of customers. We have the staff, faculty and students and so being a driver of technology is critical,” explains Stanley. “But you also have to make sure that you’re listening to your entire customer base as a whole and that you’re understanding and aligning with the trends in higher education.”

“In higher education, the industry kind of forces you to go where it needs to go in its offerings,” Stanley explains. “You also cannot force technology and expect adoption. You’re not here to support a business to make a profit, your goal is to support the faculty to instruct a student for successful graduation and it’s a completely different mindset and a completely different model.”

Elsewhere, this month, we spoke to Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, about the transformative power of both technology and company culture. Marius Galdikas, CEO of ConnectPay, explains the role of digital finance during a pandemic, and how it has changed society forever. Plus, AgnėSelemonaitė, Deputy CEO at ConnectPay reveals five opportunities that COVID-19 has created for the digital banking sector…

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

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.”

…but just 15% think the Government encourages innovation, research from GovGrant reveals

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Just 15% of UK SMEs think the Government is creating an economic environment in which they are encouraged to innovate, according to new research by GovGrant, the R&D and IP specialists. This is despite the fact that over three quarters of these businesses consider innovation to be important for recovery from Covid-19, reaffirming the disconnect between businesses and the Government support schemes available. 

The survey collected the views of over 500 SME decision-makers across seven different sectors. The findings show that whilst 85% of respondents acknowledged the importance of innovation, just 26% felt their current activity was highly innovative. 

Luke Hamm, CEO, GovGrant, comments:

“Despite the Government’s R&D Roadmap outlining its commitment to R&D and innovation, our research shows the need for further support when it comes to recognising innovative activity. SMEs urgently need clarity and a common definition of innovation that transcends sectors, geography and generations if we’re going to plug the gap between the support that’s available and how SMEs make use of it. This is particularly true when it comes to IP.”

This might be the result of confusion around the definition of innovation, with respondents split across three different definitions – 42% of respondents said they viewed innovation as tiny and continual changes that happen daily, with the rest saying that it either happened rarely (but made a considerable impact) or occurred sporadically. This disconnect may well be the reason that many SMEs are failing to claim valuable tax credits for their R&D, with nearly a quarter stating they had never done so. 

GovGrant’s research also revealed that 43% of UK SMEs do not have anyone in charge of the commercialisation of intellectual property and innovation at Board level. As a result, only a quarter of respondents (24%) thought the main purpose of a patent was to add commercial value, and one fifth said they had no strategy in place to track their IP.  

Luke Hamm concludes:

Innovation has never been more important for creating a resilient and productive economy post Covid-19, especially with Brexit and the end of the transition period also fast approaching. We need to be taking intellectual property much more seriously. The Government must do more to improve awareness and accessibility of its support schemes, including the Patent Box, if SMEs are going to invest in their R&D and thrive. We urgently need to review the patent process and make it attractive on the global stage.”

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.”

Digital strategy is the cornerstone of any business – but how is it driven? Dr. Paul J. Bailo, Global Head of Strategy and Innovation at Infosys Digital, explores digital leadership.

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When it comes to digital leadership, people often become fixated on the software part of that – but you are somebody who believes that the human element is just as important.

Absolutely. I don’t see how any organisation in this current world could survive without a true digital leadership model, when digital is at the forefront of every business. With COVID-19 coming into play and people working from home, you really have to develop your digital talents in relation to digital leadership. How do you become part of an employee’s moral values? How do they hear your voice for leadership and guidance? And how do you do this without physically being next to that person? How do you actually lead in this world of digital without a physical person being there? In my experience, and my own research, one of the critical elements to being a real digital leader is to have vision.

How do I take these pieces of technology, people, and process and look towards the future, allowing us to get from point A to point B, while keeping us moving forward? Six months ago, some people were sort of thinking about digital, some organisations had digital in a box, some people had digital in the corner, and some people didn’t even have a Chief Digital Officer. Fast forward today, if you didn’t have a digital model when COVID-19 hit, you’re dead in the water. That kick in the butt is allowing businesses to see cracks and fractures in their leadership model, that they don’t have a digital leadership framework where they have a vision for digital, and that digital is everything.

What are the most important tools in a digital leader’s arsenal?

Creativity, and a great network. You have to have a big Rolodex; you have to have a big contact list in your phone. You have to have a great network of different people from different areas that you could call upon. You may need people in the artistic world, the academic world, the philosophical world. You may need high-end programmers. You need all these people at your beck and call and you need them to build these solid relationships in order to share the wealth of knowledge.

In my opinion, it doesn’t help a digital leader to network in the same area that they’re familiar with. They have to break out of their own shell and network and build deep relationships, working relationships, outside of their norm. A lot of people say, you’re in digital, so you’re going to go to the digital conference. That’s great; I love to go to the digital conferences, and I love to speak at them.

However, I also go to other conferences, which have nothing to do with digital or data. I’m interested in aerospace, so I go to aerospace conferences to see about what’s happening in the aviation space. I go to museums to see the world differently, where there might be something in that artwork that intrigues me, that gets my brain to be working and thinking about problems differently.

When we start talking about networking, digital leaders need to know that they have to expand their proficiency in networking. They need to look outside what they’re comfortable with.

The way a digital leader thinks is that the day something is successful is the day it’s antiquated, so you have to rewire your mind that it can always be better. And this is not new – this is how nature works, it’s called evolution. Everything is constantly changing for the better, depending on the environment, or depending on the conditions that we’re living in. So when you start thinking about the digital leadership, I don’t think it just comes naturally – it’s an art form. It’s something you have to work on, it’s something you have to rewire your brain for; you have to read about it, you have to be thinking about it, you have to be talking about it, and you have to collaborate with others.

What do you think are some of the pitfalls, or common mistakes people make, when it comes to successful digital leadership?

Great question. Number one is thinking you have the people’s support when you don’t; thinking you actually have the leadership and the inspiration of the people, when you don’t. Thinking that what you suggested works without testing it out and trying it first. Talking without substance or an understanding of the data, and having the ability to talk to people but not really having empathy for them. People are smart, and they want to know that you’re going to walk through fire with them.

The idea of leaders considering themselves to be in a position of power – those days are over. People don’t want that; they want a leader who’s at the front, who’s going to be with them day and night to make sure things work. They want someone to are for and love them, who has the vision, experience and knowledge to assess risks very quickly.

These qualities are not easily found; there’s a limited amount of people who can do this, but if you can communicate digital change and transformation in a way that really touches their hearts – in a way that people understand – they’re happier to take risks. I look for the pebbles in people’s shoes; a lot of people focus on the big pain points and miss the smaller ones, but as a digital leader, you need to understand. Then you can instil in them self-leadership, and show them that you’ll be there to pick them up if they take a risk and fail.

We’re hearing more and more about the advantages of failing, and that it should be seen as testing and progression.

I think we’ve all failed, right? Historically, everyone has failed, but many swept it under the rug because people weren’t rewarded for failing, and looked down upon it, but life is made for us to fail. If you have a newborn baby, as it develops, it starts to crawl. And then, eventually, it tries to stand up and immediately falls down. Then it says, wow, okay, I learned something: let me try this again. They keep trying.

This is who we are as humans. Failure is just part of how we learn; we’ve put a societal black cloud over it, but it’s how we were made. You don’t learn as much in your successes as your failures. So, in looking for a great digital leader, you want to make sure this person’s failed a lot and has been through everything, because that’s the person who sees around the corners.

What are the three most important attributes of a digital leader?

Number one, be human. Number two, have a vision that people can understand and believe in. Number three, be curious about data, technology, the world – be curious about many different things. It could shape your thinking in formulating the best digital transformation solution around.

This isn’t something you become overnight – for the best digital leaders, it’s who they are. They’re naturally curious, they already have vision, they gravitate towards technology and they love people. People have to really want to work with you, believe in you, trust you, and love you to do really great things.

Welcome to another packed issue of Interface Magazine! This month’s exclusive cover story follows the work of Chad Kalmes, Vice President Technical Operations at PagerDuty, to see how the SaaS digital operations management pioneer is supporting digital transformation across the sectors and around the globe…

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This month’s exclusive cover story follows the work of Chad Kalmes, Vice President Technical Operations at PagerDuty, to see how the SaaS digital operations management pioneer is supporting digital transformation across the sectors and around the globe…

Read the latest issue here!

PagerDuty is a real-time digital operations company whose platform supports a lot of critical real-time use cases for its customers by sitting at the heart of whatever technology ecosystem that particular customer is using. PagerDuty responds to signals and data from all the different software applications and systems in that environment and helps to proactively and intelligently understand when something is not working appropriately. The platform then helps customers to focus resources in a real-time manner to solve those problems, before they actually become issues or outages. The company is on a dramatic growth curve, with a raft of big-name clients such as Netflix, Peloton, DoorDash and Amex. “I joined PagerDuty about a little over two years ago to help them on that journey of maturing their processes, thinking through what needed to change to make them more successful, and getting them on that path toward public company readiness and ultimately the IPO last year,” he tells us.

Plus, we speak to Alessandro Crisci, Senior VP of IT for Amplifon Americas, who talks digital transformation and how an aging population is more digitally enabled than ever before…

Elsewhere, we catch up with digital guru Paul Bailo, to kick off a trilogy of digital transformation masterclasses. Plus, we list the top five opportunities that COVID-19 has created for the digital banking sector…

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

Part 2 of a digital transformation masterclass

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The critical piece to any digital transformation, is the planning phase – and it is truly the hardest”

Our Digital Transformation Trilogy continues with Dr Paul J. Bailo, a digital thought leader par excellence, taking us through the importance of planning to a successful digital transformation programme.

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!

Pat Lynes, Founder & CEO at S&S, explores how the concept of transformation has redefined the workforce economy

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Tell us about your background and your career journey prior to S&S…

It started off with telco recruitment, working with some of the big ISP brands in the UK when there was that Internet Service Provider explosion, so I worked with the EZ net board to help them build their capability to try and make a mark in the UK. Of course it did quite successfully, and then Sky bought them out and then that turned into a big integration point programme which I resourced. Fundamentally at the heart of it was always speaking to boards, finding opportunities and problems and then connecting groups of people to solve those problems but with a recruitment angle on it.

Where did S&S come into the equation? 

I was privileged to be headhunted to come over and work for a guy called Simon Fosse. There were four of us around the table. We wanted to do something fundamentally different in the market. We are a collection of senior knowledge workers and senior recruitment. So over a sort of six and a half year period, I grew that particular business, from scratch to an eight figure revenue business and we did really well. We work with boards and help people like Burberry become a digital first organisation, working alongside their CIO and putting in different project teams to deliver their digital programmes. And I love it. That’s exactly what I love doing and I think towards the back end of that

I started to fall out of love with traditional recruitment. I think that the actual model is getting disintermediated. What I was seeing in the market is what not a lot of people are talking about right now, which is this jobs revolution at the senior end of the market. 

So a lot of people talk about the gig economy, and the sort of low end of the gig economy. But there’s absolutely this explosion around this expert revolution, this interim revolution of executives and senior knowledge workers leaving the permanent world to trade via their IP and value and building a service around that and becoming independent experts. So I kind of saw a few things intersecting at once, which was this interim revolution of senior knowledge workers becoming independent experts coming into the market. That’s how I’ve always been successful in my career serving that market. 

The other thing was management consulting fatigue. So if you look at the traditional route to getting consulting advisory and then delivery of big programmes or big digital transformation probes, people traditionally went for the Big Four or the Big 10. And I think fundamentally now what we’re finding is a lot of people are starting to back off from using those channels for a number of reasons. So I kind of had this idea in my mind of what if I brought all of the experts I’ve used over the years into a community based approach to consulting and working with clients. Could it be a challenger service provider to some of the Big Four, the Big 10, larger consulting providers? So it really came from that spirit of uniting my network already into a services business to fundamentally help organisations transform. I’m pleased to say we’re just out of year three coming into year four. We’ve gone from strength to strength and we’ve really hit a tone in the market

What has changed over the course of your career? 

Earlier in my career, transformation was synonymous with a multi-year Big Bang approach. I think the thing that we see around the way that transformation is being perceived is that there’s a lot of fatigue about that kind of word these days. When I go into these big businesses, if you say the word transformation, you can just see the fatigue on their face, or they’ve been through so many different transformations. 

I think the word transformation is just overused. People might be putting the data centre into a cloud, they call it transformation. They might be doing a desktop refresh, they’re calling a transformation. I think the word transformation probably needs to be retired. But back in the decade of 2000 to 2010 transformations were big, multi-year things where benefits were not derived until  three or four years down the line. I saw a lot of businesses that would spend and invest so much money in those big initiatives for it not to work or to not deliver the intended benefits to the board. I think when you look at the decade that came after the first decade of this century, you only need to see the gradual shift in pace. One is the aggressive shift in customer preferences, the unforgiving landscape in business now. If you look at the shift from the first decade, if you said that Toys R Us or Blockbuster would be obsolete in the last decade, you’d have probably laughed. You’d have probably laughed if we said Thomas Cook would be obsolete at the end of the last decade. The other high profile casualty Carillion from a b2b perspective and more recently with Mothercare. I think the trend was absolutely more long term programmes and long term transformation. 

S&S was formed based on this shift, where businesses need to break that down into manageable chunks to keep the business invigorated and aligned and onpoint, where you can actually deliver the sum of a transformation every 90 days by incremental bits of value, that give business benefit to the board, the customers, the internal stakeholders, etc.

The other shift focuses on talent and the changing work in preferences. There was this big thing to build huge permanent workforces. I don’t get that anymore. I just don’t get why you want to own your talent. Is the word permanent? Should that be retired? What does permanent actually mean? I think the new generation coming through doesn’t want to be permanent. Millennials don’t want to be permanent. The generation after that are now starting to want to become executive gigs or you know, experts where they want to have a fractional relationship with their work, they want to do gigs and fluid gigs and go into organisations and not get caught up with the company political drag and just trade value and do the stuff that they love. So they’re starting to design work around what they love doing. Baby boomers are just realising that I don’t want to retire. I think this changing workforce, this changing opportunity, this changing landscape that’s going around from the industrial way of working to the future of work is really going to accelerate this decade. 

When I started, no one really designed anything around the customer. Now the companies that are winning are designing everything around the customer. You hear of great examples like giffgaff using the power of the crowd to get iterations and feedback on their products and services. So using the network effect to enhance and build their products and services right in the sweet spot of what the customer wants.

When I designed S&S I resigned from my former company and resigned as a board director. I spent three months interviewing my executive network, just asking about the current state of affairs and  looking to get a capability. What do you like? What don’t you like? What frustrates you? If you had a magic wand, what would be the ideal solution?  When I launched the business, the first products programme in a box that we were bringing to market was programme management in a box where we come and deliver the outcome – and we tested it first. My network said they didn’t really see themselves on that path – a commodity. I got the feedback,  tweaked it and then came back with ‘teams as a service’. Teams have interim experts designed around an outcome or a problem. So it’s a mission based team to be deployed into an organisation to help them have an innovation capability. Help them have an incumbent change capability, so they can constantly reinvent themselves, turn around a failing programme, align the board, etc.

How does anyone go about defining digital transformation?

Transformation again, is synonymous with trying to transform a legacy laden organisation. So it’s an organisation that probably on the whole was born in the last century. So they’re geared for the Industrial Revolution. They’ve got higher hierarchies. They’ve got an obscene amount of technical debt, they’ve got a vendor lock in with some of the big guys and the big software packages. They’ve got legacy people skills and people in roles that might have been there for a bit too long and legacy leadership and on the whole that causes a lot of ambiguity and confusion. They’re trying to transform soup to nuts in an organisation born in the last century and decentralise it to an organisation that’s fit for purpose or designed around products and services with business agility in the core. This is incredibly hard. Some of the traditional consultancies will go in and sell you a playbook that might work in one of your competitors. But when it’s actually shoved into organisation it will not work because you’ve got cultural nuances and other nuances that are just difficult to decipher unless you’re in there and you’re trying to really get to the bottom of what’s going on.

So invariably, what we see is the older ways of consulting have not solved this problem. Because if they had done, we wouldn’t be having all these companies that are starting to die, or starting to have consecutive years of declining revenues.

Problem number one in organisations is often that the boards are under so much pressure, they’ve got so much operational drag on their time. They might have city pressures. They’ve got issues going on in their business. They’ve got failures, they’ve got burning platforms and they’ve got people issues with miscommunications going on and people leaving people joining. I could go on and, and that’s actually really hard for that level of executive to actually get some time to think about where our business should go.

We start off with getting executive groups to stop and we bring them into our workshop environment.  What does the future look like for your business? Do you have the right strategy? What does the customer of your future look like? Where would you like your company to be in three or five years? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How are your customers? How are your people feeling? How do you constantly iterate in accordance to market conditions? What kind of talent have you got? What is the baggage in the old company that you never want to have again? 

It’s a concept of reverse engin eering the future rather than trying to fix the past? What I find with transformations these days is that a lot of them are trying to fix the past before they can even get to the future and by then they’ve lost two or three or four years and they’ve actually got no value into the business and they’ve wasted a lot of money. The organisation is completely fatigued with transformation and change. They don’t actually have a muscle in the business of how to change after they’ve done it, because they’ve been heavily reliant on the management consulting drug. We try to turn all of that stuff upside down and actually get them to think. So if there is a discovery process, we have our IP of how we do it. At the end, there is a point of view, a solution, a roadmap and a way.

It’s getting them to come together and go through that process. They’ve all got equity in that process and they all feel like it’s their idea, because eventually, invariably it is and we’re adding points of views. We’re adding expertise and we’re facilitating. We also find that’s what actually gets the board and the leadership teams aligned. If I think about some of the problems I see in transformation, digital transformation, business transformation, it might not be the right strategy, the board might not be aligned. We’ve seen it before we get sponsored to go in somewhere and then the sponsorship dies. So the business doesn’t follow through on it. But if you get the board aligned with the right strategy for the right transformation, get them ready for change, execute outcomes every 90 days – then everyone in the business starts to get confidence that it’s moving in the right direction and can visualise the work around the organisation. 

Long gone are the days where you’ve got racks and racks of people where no one’s talking to each other. As a recruiter, you could imagine that I’ve been into thousands and thousands of businesses and most people are dead behind the eyes in the middle of the company. They’re just coming in doing their nine to five, tapping their keyboard, doing a bit of work, finding a bit of politics and falling out with someone. It’s not all doom and gloom on the whole in my experience but there’s a lot of bloated organisations where it is like that. There’s too many people doing too many things. They’re not talking to each other, and then they’re not collaborating. We find if you visualise the work at board and leadership level, and bring the work to the people, and carbonise everything so you’ve got a flow of work going through and there’s collaboration and cross functional teaming that’s delivering value to a customer. Then you have a cross functional team delivering value to an internal customer, cross functional teaming, where the execs and the leaders are working with the staff, and you really get the whole organisation aligned to get into their intended state. 

I have business coaches, and I’ve had life coaches before, so I’m probably the product of coaching. I made a decision when I was 28 to just try and be someone of growth and be an individual who has a growth mindset and I don’t know all the answers and I need help. I need to be on the hook sometimes for improvement and to sustain some of the gains that I’ve made. So why don’t we have that in companies? We’re starting to see now where we’ll put a board coach alongside the board. We have enterprise coaches, we put across the leadership teams can bang coaches and agile coaches and flow coaches working with the organisation. So it’s that kind of coaching concept that we see in the individual market coming into the business world and I’m a massive advocate of it. 

It starts to bring in the concept of continuous improvement and continuous reinvention. And knowing that your last 90 days isn’t gonna be as good as your next 90 days, in terms of you as an individual or you as the business and in terms of how close you are to the customer in terms of the health of the organisation.

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. 

Leading U.K. retailer selects Blue Yonder’s end-to-end Luminate platform to power its supply chain strategy

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Blue Yonder Tech, today announced that Sainsbury’s, one of the United Kingdom’s leading multi brand, multi-channel retailers across food, clothing, general merchandise and financial services, has selected its end-to-end supply chain platform as the foundation of its supply chain transformation.

Sainsbury’s will deploy Blue Yonder to power its end-to-end supply chain strategy, on a single artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform. To support the business’s future supply chain program, Sainsbury’s will benefit from extending its current Blue Yonder solutions footprint, with powerful new capabilities. These current and new capabilities will now span AI-powered demand forecasting and replenishment, digital control tower, space management, macro space planning, range management, warehouse management, labor management and yard management.

Sainsbury’s is a leading multi brand, multi-channel retailer based in the U.K., operating more than 2,000 stores across its Sainsbury’s, Argos and Habitat brands. Sainsbury’s also operates a number of wholesale partnerships globally.

By partnering with the in-house engineering expertise of Sainsbury’s Tech, together the two businesses will create an autonomous self-learning supply chain platform with advanced machine learning capabilities. This step forward will enable Sainsbury’s colleagues to spend more time on the store floor and serving customers. Sainsbury’s chose Blue Yonder for its leading machine learning (ML) capabilities and SaaS-based solutions that uniquely power an end-to-end supply chain experience.

“We relentlessly seek to improve the way we serve the needs of our customers. Having a predictive, autonomous and adaptive supply chain powered by world class technology products and Sainsbury’s Tech engineering means we can show up for our customers whenever and however they shop with us,” said John Elliott, chief technology officer – Retail at Sainsbury’s. “Blue Yonder provided a strong balance of advanced capabilities, ML experience and a culture and value set closely aligned to our own, including a commitment to sustainability.”

By implementing Blue Yonder’s solutions, Sainsbury’s will further enhance its ability to monitor and respond to ever-changing customer needs, predicting and preventing potential supply chain disruptions. Blue Yonder’s Luminate platform includes ML-based forecasting and ordering solutions that help stores better manage fresh and perishable products. It also includes Blue Yonder’s crisis control center – Luminate Control Tower – which provides complete supply chain visibility, orchestration, and collaboration across the end-to-end supply chain and prescribing more automated, profitable business decisions.

“We are thrilled to expand upon our long-standing partnership with Sainsbury’s by offering iconic, game-changing, and customer-centric solutions that meet consumers’ daily and ever-changing needs, particularly in the critical environment in which we are all living today,” said Mark Morgan, executive vice president and chief revenue officer, Blue Yonder. “We know how important Sainsbury’s supply chain is to the company’s rich history of success and the loyalty of its customers. Our innovative AI and ML capabilities have a proven track record of real results, and our end-to-end platform is unmatched in the market. Our goal is to make AI and ML become key enablers of Sainsbury’s future digital transformation as the company expands its remarkable, trusted, multi brand, multi channel business.”

Additional Resources:

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. 

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.

CEO & Founder of INSTANDA, Tim Hardcastle, discusses how businesses leveraging technology are speeding up processes, increasing flexibility, reducing costs,…

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CEO & Founder of INSTANDA, Tim Hardcastle, discusses how businesses leveraging technology are speeding up processes, increasing flexibility, reducing costs, freeing up resources and driving profits.

February 2020 brings with it the first leap day in four years, gifting us with a whole extra day of precious time. With this theme in mind, I asked myself: what could be achieved within the insurance industry if only we had more time?

The greatest challenge facing insurers and their time is inflexible technology solutions and legacy platform constraints. Whether it is by limiting the ability of insurers to improve existing processes, or to develop new ones, the legacy systems still used by the industry today waste time, create congestion and frustration, and simultaneously, stall improvement and progress.

But technology offers a solution. As we’ll explore, we see insurers increasingly challenging the constrains of time and, through the use of technology, they are beginning to set the path of a more streamlined, reliable and efficient way of doing business. In this article we show the businesses doing just that and outline the impact it’s having: speeding up processes, increasing flexibility, reducing costs, freeing up resources and driving profits.

Bringing products to market in record speed: Hiscox

The ability of digital platforms to drastically reduce time to market is not a new concept. But what speeds are we talking? Hiscox are leading the way when it comes to distribution and responding to market need. Hiscox’s car product in Germany for example was built in just 10 weeks and the second product, with more channels, was built in just 6 weeks.

Through the use of INSTANDA’s no-code technology, Hiscox has been able to create their own ‘agile product factory’. This means Hiscox have a team of in-house and partner configurators who are adding more books, building new products and making changes whenever the business requires it.

Increasing flexibility and driving innovation: Imperium

Imperium aims to empower its customers by making specialist products easy to purchase. This requires them to get highly tailored products out to brokers, proactively anticipate customers’ needs and respond to market changes – quickly.

But thanks to traditional systems, it often takes months to make adjustments to existing products, let alone build a new one. Implementing a digital pathway by working with INSTANDA allowed Imperium’s trained super-users to transform to product-build mode.

In the days following a new product launch, Imperium can now react immediately to broker feedback and make changes to their questions and rates within the hour. And for the management team, it has dramatically reduced the time spent with systems providers. Imperium can now spend time developing the business and fine-tuning their offerings.

Saving customers time: Aviva

It’s not only the product teams and insurers that benefit either, but the end consumers too. Aviva’s recent deployment of INSTANDA’s no-code platform to introduce innovative life and health cover offers a useful case in point. Aviva found that medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were citing product cost and lack of staff and resources as the two biggest barriers to managing insurance.

Using INSTANDA Aviva can deliver a solution that offers a flexible, highly tailored, yet simplified protection insurance for small businesses.

Driving efficiency: Top 5 global insurer

When it comes to speciality lines, time is complex. Combined with the limits imposed by legacy IT processes, they are additionally challenging given their complexity and diversity. As a result, many are manually run and slow as a result.

In this insurer’s case, despite a number of efficiency efforts their operational model was only able to assess and quote on 12-15% of the 10,000+ submissions received without increasing headcount.

However, in just eleven weeks, the team worked with INSTANDA and Deloitte to digitise the process, enabling the business to significantly increase the size of their book without increasing headcount.

Speeding up the process increased the potential for efficiency and growth by reducing costs, improving customer (broker) experience and thereby providing an opportunity to maximise profits.

Leaping ahead: A lesson in bettering insurance industry

The ability to free up time and resource is integral to insurers looking to revitalise and grow their business – and the only way that the insurance industry as a whole will be able to leap forward.

As the above examples demonstrate, we’re helping companies make the most of their time and create more of it as a result. Through technology, insurers are enabled to quickly build the products they know customers want whilst development teams are freed up, so profits can be maximised. Moreover, customers are increasingly empowered through easy-to-purchase, personalised insurance products delivered in never before seen timescales.

With technology, the insurance industry can leap forward on its own, without an extra calendar day.

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

Mauro Guillén Zandman, Professor of International Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA Srikar Reddy, Managing Director and Chief…

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Mauro Guillén Zandman, Professor of International Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Srikar Reddy, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Sonata Software Limited and Sonata Information Technology Limited

Artificial intelligence (AI) relies on big data and machine learning for myriad applications, from autonomous vehicles to algorithmic trading, and from clinical decision support systems to data mining. The availability of large amounts of data is essential to the development of AI.  But the scandal over the use of personal and social data by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has brought ethical considerations to the fore. And it’s just the beginning. As AI applications require ever greater amounts of data to help machines learn and perform tasks hitherto reserved for humans, companies are facing increasing public scrutiny, at least in some parts of the world. Tesla and Uber have scaled down their efforts to develop autonomous vehicles in the wake of widely reported accidents. How do we ensure the ethical and responsible use of AI? How do we bring more awareness about such responsibility, in the absence of a global standard on AI?

The ethical standards for assessing AI and its associated technologies are still in their infancy. Companies need to initiate internal discussion as well as external debate with their key stakeholders about how to avoid being caught up in difficult situations.

Consider the difference between deontological and teleological ethical standards. The former focuses on the intention and the means, while the latter on the ends and outcomes. For instance, in the case of autonomous vehicles, the end of an error-free transportation system that is also efficient and friendly towards the environment might be enough to justify large-scale data collection about driving under different conditions and also, experimentation based on AI applications.

By contrast, clinical interventions and especially medical trials are hard to justify on teleological grounds. Given the horrific history of medical experimentation on unsuspecting human subjects, companies and AI researchers alike would be wise to employ a deontological approach that judges the ethics of their activities on the basis of the intention and the means rather than the ends.

Another useful yardstick is the so-called golden rule of ethics, which invites you to treat others in the way you would like to be treated. The difficulty in applying this principle to the burgeoning field of AI lies in the gulf separating the billions of people whose data are being accumulated and analyzed from the billions of potential beneficiaries. The data simply aggregates in ways that make the direct application of the golden rule largely irrelevant.

Consider one last set of ethical standards: cultural relativism versus universalism. The former invites us to evaluate practices through the lens of the values and norms of a given culture, while the latter urges everyone to live up to a mutually agreed standard. This comparison helps explain, for example, the current clash between the European conception of data privacy and the American one, which is shaping the global competitive landscape for companies such as Google and Facebook, among many others. Emerging markets such as China and India have for years proposed to let cultural relativism be the guiding principle, as they feel it gives them an edge, especially by avoiding unnecessary regulations that might slow their development as technological powerhouses.

Ethical standards are likely to become as important at shaping global competition as technological standards have been since the 1980s. Given the stakes and the thirst for data that AI involves, it will likely require companies to ask very tough questions as to every detail of what they do to get ahead. In the course of the work we are doing with our global clients, we are looking at the role of ethics in implementing AI. The way industry and society addresses these issues will be crucial to the adoption of AI in the digital world.

However, for AI to deliver on its promise, it will require predictability and trust. These two are interrelated. Predictable treatment of the complex issues that AI throws up, such as accountability and permitted uses of data, will encourage investment in and use of AI. Similarly, progress with AI requires consumers to trust the technology, its impact on them, and how it uses their data. Predictable and transparent treatment facilitates this trust.

Intelligent machines are enabling high-level cognitive processes such as thinking, perceiving, learning, problem-solving and decision-making. AI presents opportunities to complement and supplement human intelligence and enrich the way industry and governments operate.

However, the possibility of creating cognitive machines with AI raises multiple ethical issues that need careful consideration. What are the implications of a cognitive machine making independent decisions? Should it even be allowed? How do we hold them accountable for outcomes? Do we need to control, regulate and monitor their learning?

A robust legal framework will be needed to deal with those issues too complex or fast-changing to be addressed adequately by legislation. But the political and legal process alone will not be enough. For trust to flourish, an ethical code will be equally important.

The government should encourage discussion around the ethics of AI, and ensure all relevant parties are involved. Bringing together the private sector, consumer groups and academia would allow the development of an ethical code that keeps up with technological, social and political developments.

Government efforts should be collaborative with existing efforts to research and discuss ethics in AI. There are many such initiatives which could be encouraged, including at the Alan Turing Institute, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Royal Society, and the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society.

But these opportunities come with associated ethical challenges:

Decision-making and liability: As AI use increases, it will become more difficult to apportion responsibility for decisions. If mistakes are made which cause harm, who should bear the risk?

Transparency: When complex machine learning systems are used to make significant decisions, it may be difficult to unpick the causes behind a specific course of action. Clear explanations for machine reasoning are necessary to determine accountability.

Bias: Machine learning systems can entrench existing bias in decision-making systems. Care must be taken to ensure that AI evolves to be non-discriminatory.

Human values: Without programming, AI systems have no default values or “common sense”. The British Standards Institute BS 8611 standard on the “ethical design and application of robots and robotic systems” provides some useful guidance: “Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans. Humans, not robots, are the responsible agents; it should be possible to find out who is responsible for any robot and its behaviour.”

Data protection and IP: The potential of AI is rooted in access to large data sets. What happens when an AI system is trained on one data set, then applies learnings to a new data set?

Responsible AI ensures attention to moral principles and values, to ensure that fundamental human ethics are not compromised. There have been several recent allegations of businesses exploiting AI unethically. However, Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have established a non-profit partnership to formulate best practices on artificial intelligence technologies, advance the public’s understanding, and to serve as a platform about artificial intelligence.

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.

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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