Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital…

Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service, in the Office of the OCIO, her team’s mission is to drive a tech transformation at the USDA. The goal is to better serve the American people across all of its 50 states.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Welcome to a new year of possibility where technology meets business at the interface of change…

Read the latest issue here!

USDA: The People’s Agency

“We knew that in order for us to deliver what we needed for our stakeholders, we needed to be flexible – and that has trickled down from our senior leaders.” Arianne Gallagher-Welcher, Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service reveals the strategic plan’s first goal. Above all, the aim is to deliver customer-centric IT so farmers, producers, and families can find dealing with USDA as easy as using an ATM.

BCX: Delivering insights & intelligence across the Data & AI value chain

We also sat down with Stefan Steffen, Executive Leader for Data Insights & Intelligence at BCX. He revealed how BCX is leveraging AI to strategically transform businesses and drive their growth. “Our commitment to leveraging data and AI to drive innovation harnesses the power of technology to unlock new opportunities, drive efficiency, and enhance competitiveness for our clients.”

Momentum Multiply: A culture-driven digital transformation for wellness

Multiply Inspire & Engage is a new offering from leading South African insurance provider Momentum Health Solutions. Furthermore, it is the first digital wellness rewards program in South Africa to balance mental health and physical health in pursuing holistic wellness. CIO, Ndibulele Mqoboli, discusses re-platforming, cloud migrations, and building a culture of ownership, responsibility, and continuous improvement.

Clark County: Creating collaboration for the benefit of residents

Navigating the world of local government can be a minefield of red tape, both for citizens and those working within it. Al Pitts, Deputy CIO of Clark County, talks to us about the organisation’s IT transformation. He explains why collaboration is key to support residents. “We have found our new Clark County – ‘Together for Better’ – is a great way to collaborate on new solutions.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Alibaba’s European GM Jijay Shen on why digitalisation can be a driving force for SMEs. We learn how businesses can get cybersecurity right with KnowBe4 and analyse the rise of ‘The Mobility Society’.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • People & Culture

Timothy Woodcock, Director of Procurement at CordenPharma, discusses the new wave of change following acquisition and amid transformation

We have a bumper issue of fascinating exclusives this month!

Corden Pharma: Powering Change

Timothy Woodcock, Director of Procurement at CordenPharma, discusses the new wave of change following acquisition and amid transformation 

Change is here, get busy. Indeed, some organisations are further along a transformation journey than others.
For CordenPharma, a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisation (CDMO) partner, they are right on track. 

CordenPharma supports biotech and pharma innovators of complex modalities in the advancement of their drug development lifecycle. Harnessing the collective expertise of the teams across its globally integrated facility network, CordenPharma provides bespoke outsourcing services spanning the complete supply chain, from early clinical-phase development to commercialisation. Recognised as a key partner to the pharma industry, CordenPharma provides state-of-the-art know-how, an integrated product offering end-to-end capabilities from early-stage development to commercial large-scale manufacturing. 

A closer look 

Timothy Woodcock has been the Director of Procurement at CordenPharma since October 2022 and is based in Basel, Switzerland. He explains that since joining over a year ago, while it was a “good start”, he admits to discovering some surprises after closer inspection. “There was a lot of information to get to grips with at the start and it was spread wide and thin,” he tells us. “But the team is certainly key and they have helped me pull it together through solid collaboration and engagement. Of course, there were a few surprises in the process realm, but that’s what makes this challenge so interesting to me.”

Read the full story here

carbmee: Carbon management for complex supply chains

Prof. Dr. Christian Heinrich, Co-Founder at carbmee, discusses his organisation’s journey to being the trusted solution provider for carbon management.

​​carbmee means carbon excellence for complex supply chains. It is the carbon management solution for automotive, manufacturing, chemical, pharmaceuticals, medtech, hi-tech, logistics, and FMCG industries. Whether to assess emissions holistically throughout the entire company, product or suppliers, carbmee EIS™ platform can create the transparency required for uncovering optimal emissions reduction potential and at the same time, stay compliant with upcoming regulations like CBAM.

carbmee’s journey

Christian Heinrich has been the Co-Founder at the organisation since January 2021. While some executives end up in procurement and supply chain by mistake, for Heinrich he affirms it was “always” the industry for him. As far as he’s concerned, collaboration is a big piece of the puzzle and Heinrich points to his diverse experience in a range of different industries and sectors which have helped him along the way to forming carbmee. 

“This was actually one of the reasons my co-founder Robin Spickers asked me to leverage my supply chain knowledge,” he says. “Robin had expertise in sustainability areas like Product LifeCycle Assessments and I had that in procurement and supply chain. We connected together and created carbmee to have scope 1, 2 and 3 solutions for carbon accounting and carbon reduction, which also combines the lifecycle analysis.”

Read the full story here!

Hemofarm: Strength through glocal procurement

 Zorana Subasic, Director SEERU & PSCoE Cluster Procurement at Hemofarm A.D. reveals how a glocal approach is transforming procurement at the pharmaceutical… 

Zorana Subasic is all about people. She heads up procurement for Hemofarm, the largest Serbian exporter of medicinal products, with a share of more than 70% of the total pharmaceutical. It sells pharmaceutical products on four continents in 34 states and, since 2006, has been part of the multi-national pharmaceutical giant STADA Group. 

Meeting the challenges

Zorana explains that her priority is focusing on people, both within her team and in the wider company, a priority that has been even more important during the last few challenging years and has impacted her leadership style.  ”These are areas that were new for me – managing people in ‘business as usual’ times is completely different to what we’ve been through in the last two or three years. It has affected people, and how it was for me to manage people in difficult times – understanding the challenges around us and making sure that people also understand the challenges.”

Read the full story here!

Elon: Procurement as a strategic partner

Onur Dogay, CPO at Elon Group, reflects on a year of procurement evolution and making the function an indispensable partner to the organisation…

A lot can happen in a year. Just ask Onur Dogay. In late summer 2022 he arrived in Sweden from his native Turkey to take the helm of a complex and evolving procurement environment at Elon Group AB, the Nordic region’s leading voluntary trade chain for home and electronic products. That he joined just a month after a significant merger that cemented the company’s market-leading position was no coincidence. Rather, Dogay was brought on board with a specific mission: use his industry experience and passion for transforming procurement to sustain the company’s market status while spearheading growth in new areas of retail and electronics. 

And he hasn’t slowed down since. In little over 12 months, Dogay has overseen a procurement evolution that includes setting a new data strategy that’s aligned with the broader company vision, shifting procurement’s role to be less transactional and more of a strategic business partner, improving communication and partnerships both internally and externally with suppliers, and overseeing the greater use of data and technology to enhance forecasting and planning capabilities. 

A seasoned procurement professional

A glance at Dogay’s CV to date leaves little surprise at his success. He is a seasoned procurement professional, with more than 20 years’ experience in procurement leadership positions working across internationally dispersed teams in Europe. “My background is particularly strong in retail, consumer electronics, telecom, and IT business units,” he explains, “including at Arcelik, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, and also for one of the biggest retailers in Europe, MediaMarkt. At the time of the merger in 2022 here at Elon Group, this experience, as well as the good relationships I had with many of the suppliers and brands we work with now, was the perfect match for the company.” 

Read the full story here!

Microsoft: A sustainable supply chain transformation

In the past four years, Microsoft has gained more than 80,000 productivity hours and avoided hundreds of millions in costs. Did you miss that? That’s probably because these massive improvements took place behind the scenes as the technology giant moved to turn SC management into a major force driving efficiencies, enabling growth, and bringing the company closer to its sustainability goals. 

An exciting time

Expect changes and outcomes to continue as Dhaval Desai continues to apply the learnings from the Devices Supply Chain transformation – think Xbox, Surface, VR and PC accessories and cross-industry experiences and another to the fast-growing Cloud supply chain where demand for Azure is surging. As the Principal Group Software Engineering Manager, Desai is part of the Supply Chain Engineering organisation, the global team of architects, managers, and engineers in the US, Europe, and India tasked with developing a platform and capabilities to power supply chains across Microsoft. It’s an exciting time. Desai’s staff has already quadrupled since he joined Microsoft in 2021, and it’s still growing. Within the company, he’s on the cutting edge of technology innovation testing generative AI solutions. “We are actively learning how to improve it and move forward,” he tells us. 

Read the full story here!

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Our final cover story for 2023 explores how Deputy CIO May Cheng is accelerating a digital customer and product-centric approach…

Our final cover story for 2023 explores how Deputy CIO May Cheng is accelerating a digital customer and product-centric approach to IT management for the International Trade Administration (ITA).

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders at the forefront of innovation with digital technologies transforming myriad industries.

Read the latest issue here!

ITA: A better digital government experience

We connect once more with the tech trailblazers at the International Trade Administration. Deputy CIO May Cheng and her team are accelerating adoption of ITA’s customer and product-centric approach to IT management. In addition, their focus is on Agile, DevSecOps, Value Proposition, and Human Centred Design. “In 2023, we launched 13 products, three MVPs and saw enhancements operationalised. Moreover, the digital model has enabled a partnership between business and IT. The result is clearer lines of shared responsibility, transparency in resources, and a continuous learning culture across the agency.”

Businessman touching data analytics process system with KPI financial charts, dashboard of stock and marketing on virtual interface. With American flag in background.

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Trust: Digitally transforming patient care

The Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is centred on bringing tomorrow’s treatments to today’s patients with a clear mission to provide excellent, specialist care to patients suffering from heart and lung disease. We hear from Andrew Raynes who took up his role as CIO in 2017. He is overseeing a digital transformation program bringing value to staff and patients. “Using the global language of interoperability… we’ll see greater efficiency in terms of use of technology and sweating our assets. Furthermore, exploiting the benefits to support seamless care by allowing standards to do the heavy lifting.”

Toronto Community Housing: Supporting tenants with tech

Toronto Community Housing houses tenants in 106 of Toronto’s 158 neighbourhoods. It ensures over 43,000 low and moderate-income families are supported in their continuously managed homes. Luisa Andrews, VP Information Technology Services tells us it’s the best role she’s had in her career. “It’s the most challenging, and where I’ve seen the most progress in a short amount of time. I’m proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished in five years. We, and our partners, have enabled the corporation, through technology, to do what it needs to do for our tenants.”

Marshfield Clinic Health System:

Marshfield Clinic Health System provides care at over 50 locations across the US state of Wisconsin. Chief Data & Analytics Officer Mitchell Kwiatkowski explains its tech mantra to us: “We’re trying to toe that line while examining new technologies as they come out. We’re aiming to understand what they are, how they can help, and implementing things that are mature enough and show promise. I don’t think healthcare is necessarily risk-averse; it’s a highly regulated area that doesn’t always have deep pockets for investment. However, it’s people’s health at stake, so we have to be careful…”

Also in this issue, we get the lowdown on the tech trends for 2024 from Hitachi Vantara innovation guru Bjorn Andersson. We also hear from the WatchGuard Threat Lab research team with their cybersecurity predictions for the year ahead.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions. Welcome to the latest issue of…

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders at the forefront of innovation with digital technologies transforming myriad industries.

Read the latest issue here!

NAB: Reinventing Small Business Banking

A passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity, Executive GM Ana Marinkovic leads a team of 1,600+ small business experts. They lend over $1.2bn a month to Australian small businesses. National Australia Bank (NAB) plays a major role in propelling entrepreneurship across the country. Delivering better outcomes for small business owners sits at the very heart of NAB’s strategy. “Our scale and connectivity help us to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our business and the communities we operate in,” says Ana.

TUI: Making travel plans mobile

The mobile side of TUI has never been more vital. TUI’s mobile apps were officially launched in 2013 and began as something of a proof of concept. For the entire international industry, moving from web to mobile devices was a huge shift. The initial set of apps were very skeletal and only integrated for UK and Nordic customers.

One of this year’s goals is to accelerate the native journey to make all the customer journeys native. This will further improving the customer experience. After a recent UI refresh, the app look and feel is fresh and sleek, and has plenty of exciting features for customers to enjoy. “Just in the last couple of months we’ve introduced an integration with OpenAI for a travel planner that helps you choose excursions,” Donia adds. “Seeing it grow over the years is so exciting.”

TARA Energy Services: tech fuelling growth

“Continuous improvement is woven into the fabric of the culture at TARA Energy Services,” says its proud Director of IT, Paul Parzen. “Every day, we face new challenges, both operationally in the field and strategically in the boardroom. We must make sure the organisation’s IT strategy for data management, core infrastructure, network architecture, and security is ready to meet them.”

“Some people might say, ‘wow, a pension. That sounds a little boring.’ But at the end of the day, what we do is help people retire in the best way possible and that’s a pretty good place to be.”

Those are the words of Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions since May 2019. The company is a global, digitally-enabled business connecting millions of people with their pension assets – safely, securely and responsibly. 

Evara Health: Technology delivering care for all

Evara Health’s mission statement is to help people become healthy and live healthy lives, and that means all people. A lot of health organisations don’t serve everybody and their treatments aren’t available under many types of insurance. However, Evara Heath doesn’t turn anybody away. It supports the underserved and the uninsured, and patients are treated regardless of whether they can afford it. Around 25% of patients have no insurance at all, and over half are covered by Medicaid, which isn’t accepted by everyone.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions. Welcome to the latest issue of…

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders at the forefront of innovation with digital technologies transforming myriad industries.

Read the latest issue here!

NAB: Reinventing Small Business Banking

A passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity, Executive GM Ana Marinkovic leads a team of 1,600+ small business experts. They lend over $1.2bn a month to Australian small businesses. National Australia Bank (NAB) plays a major role in propelling entrepreneurship across the country. Delivering better outcomes for small business owners sits at the very heart of NAB’s strategy. “Our scale and connectivity help us to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our business and the communities we operate in,” says Ana.

TUI: Making travel plans mobile

The mobile side of TUI has never been more vital. TUI’s mobile apps were officially launched in 2013 and began as something of a proof of concept. For the entire international industry, moving from web to mobile devices was a huge shift. The initial set of apps were very skeletal and only integrated for UK and Nordic customers.

One of this year’s goals is to accelerate the native journey to make all the customer journeys native. This will further improving the customer experience. After a recent UI refresh, the app look and feel is fresh and sleek, and has plenty of exciting features for customers to enjoy. “Just in the last couple of months we’ve introduced an integration with OpenAI for a travel planner that helps you choose excursions,” Donia adds. “Seeing it grow over the years is so exciting.”

TARA Energy Services: tech fuelling growth

“Continuous improvement is woven into the fabric of the culture at TARA Energy Services,” says its proud Director of IT, Paul Parzen. “Every day, we face new challenges, both operationally in the field and strategically in the boardroom. We must make sure the organisation’s IT strategy for data management, core infrastructure, network architecture, and security is ready to meet them.”

“Some people might say, ‘wow, a pension. That sounds a little boring.’ But at the end of the day, what we do is help people retire in the best way possible and that’s a pretty good place to be.”

Those are the words of Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions since May 2019. The company is a global, digitally-enabled business connecting millions of people with their pension assets – safely, securely and responsibly. 

Evara Health: Technology delivering care for all

Evara Health’s mission statement is to help people become healthy and live healthy lives, and that means all people. A lot of health organisations don’t serve everybody and their treatments aren’t available under many types of insurance. However, Evara Heath doesn’t turn anybody away. It supports the underserved and the uninsured, and patients are treated regardless of whether they can afford it. Around 25% of patients have no insurance at all, and over half are covered by Medicaid, which isn’t accepted by everyone.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Cybersecurity leader Shinesa Cambric on Microsoft’s innovation journey to identify, detect, protect, and respond to emerging threats against identity and access

This month’s cover story highlights a cybersecurity program protecting billions of users.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders at the forefront of innovation with digital technologies transforming myriad industries.

Read the latest issue here!

Microsoft: Innovation in Cybersecurity

Shinesa Cambric is on a mission to drive innovation for cybersecurity at Microsoft. Moreover, by embracing diversity and opening all channels towards collaboration her team tackles anti-abuse and delivers fraud-defence. Continuous Improvement doesn’t just play into her role, it defines it…

“In the fraud and abuse space, attackers are constantly trying to identify ways to look like a legitimate user,” warns Shinesa. “And this means my team, and our partners, have to continuously adapt. We identify new patterns and behaviours to detect fraudsters. At the same time, we must do it in such a way we don’t impact our truly ‘good’ and legitimate users. Microsoft is a global consumer business and any time you add friction or an unpleasant experience for a consumer, you risk losing them, their business and potentially their trust. My team’s work sits on the very edge of the account sign up and sign in process. We are essentially the first touch within the customer funnel for Microsoft – a multi-billion dollar company.”

ABB: Digital Technolgies contributing towards Net Zero

Nigel Greatorex, Global Industry Manager for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at ABB Energy Industries, explains how digital technologies can play a critical role in the transition to a low carbon world. He highlights the role of CCS in enabling global emissions reductions and how challenges can be overcome through digitalisation…

“It is widely recognised decarbonisation is essential to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Therefore, it’s not surprising that emerging decarbonisation technology is becoming an increasingly important, and rapidly growing market.”

CSI: How can your IT estate improve its sustainability?

Andy Dunn, Chief Revenue Officer at IT solutions specialist CSI, reveals how digital technologies can contribute to ESG obligations: “Sustainability is a now seen as a strategic business imperative, so much so that 74% of companies consider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors to be very important to the value of their company. Additionally, we know almost three in four organisations have set a net zero goal. With an average target date of 2044, 50% of organisations are seeking more energy efficient products and services.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsDaZiSO1ho

“Optimising energy use and consolidating servers and storage infrastructure form a strong basis for shaping a more environmentally friendly and efficient IT estate. It no longer needs to be the Achilles Heel of an ESG policy. “

Mia Platform: Sustainable Cloud Computing

Davide Bianchi, Senior Technical Lead at Mia Platform, explores the silver lining of sustainable cloud computing. He reveals how it can help us reduce our digital carbon thumbprint with collaboration, efficient use of applications, containerisation of apps, microservices and green partnerships.

“We’re already on an important technological path toward ubiquitous cloud computing. Correspondingly, this brings incredible long-term benefits too. These include greater scalability, improved data storage, and quicker application deployment, to name a few.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Doug Laney, Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and author of Infonomics and Data Juice. Also, we learn how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their data. And, Deputy CIO Melvin Brown discusses the people-centric approach to IT supporting America’s civil service at The Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • Infrastructure & Cloud

Doug Laney is Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and a leading Data & Analytics strategist. We caught up with the author of Infonomics and Data Juice to talk tech and how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their data

Our cover story explores the rise of data and information as an asset.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders aiming to take advantage of data, particularly in a new world of AI technologies where it is the fuel…

Read the latest issue here!

How to monetise, manage and measure data as an asset

Our cover star is pretty big in the world of analytics… We meet the guy who defined Big Data. Doug Laney is Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and a leading Data & Analytics strategist. We caught up with the author of Infonomics and Data Juice to talk tech and learn how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their information. In his first book Laney advised companies to stop being fixated on hindsight-oriented analytics. “It doesn’t actually move the needle on the business. In the stories I’ve compiled over the last decade, 98% have more to do with organisations using data to diagnose, predict, prescribe or automate something. It’s not about asking questions about what happened in the past.”

Canvas Worldwide: A data-driven media business

Continuing this month’s data theme, we also spoke with Alisa Ben, SVP, Head of Analytics at full-service media agency Canvas Worldwide. Data has transformed the organisation, and what its clients do. “We look holistically at the client’s business and sometimes the tools we have might be right for them, sometimes not. It’s more about helping our clients achieve their business outcomes.”

TUI Musement: from digital transformation to digital pioneer

At travel giant TUI, handling data effectively is paramount when communicating consistently and meaningfully with up to 25 million customers annually. David Garcia, CIO for TUI Musement, talks about the tech evolution driving the travel giant’s provision of experiences, transfers and tours. It’s a big part of its operational shift from local to global. “As a CIO, I’ve always been interested in how the tech innovations we drive can support the business and add value.”

Hiscox: making cybersecurity more accessible

Liz Banbury, CISO at Hiscox and president of (ISC)² London Chapter, talks to us about how cybersecurity can become a more accessible, realistic career path for almost anybody. “When I was at school, topics like computer science didn’t even exist,” Banbury explains. “In one of my first jobs, over in Hong Kong, we were still using a typewriter! A lot has changed. My key point here is that there’s a lot of cybersecurity professionals who are really good at their job. They are inspiring, and have come from all walks of life. Crucially, they don’t have a maths, computer science, or technological background at all. But they still make great cybersecurity professionals.

Portland Community College: Risk vs Speed in Cybersecurity

Reet Kaur, former Chief Information Security Officer at Portland Community College, discusses the organisation’s transition to the cloud amid a digital transformation journey. I don’t want to work with people who just say yes all the time. I want my ideas challenged to help forge the excellence in the security programmes I help build.”

DBHDS: Cybersecurity in healthcare

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) exists to create ‘a life of possibilities for all Virginians’ and transform behavioural health. Its focus is on supporting people across the entire commonwealth. It helps them get the support they need in order to take wellness and recovery into their own hands. In an area like healthcare, sensitive information is all over the place, meaning cybersecurity is a priority – and this is where Glendon Schmitz, CISO at DBHDS, comes in. The security team exists to help the wider organisation achieve its objectives with data. We’re there to protect the business, not the other way around.”

Also in this issue, we schedule the can’t miss tech events and get the lowdown on IoT security from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Welcome to issue 42 of CPOstrategy!

This month’s cover story sees us speak with Brad Veech, Head of Technology Procurement at Discover Financial Services.

CPOstrategy - Procurement Magazine

Having been a leader in procurement for more than 25 years, he has been responsible for over $2 billion in spend every year, negotiating software deals ranging from $75 to over $1.5 billion on a single deal. Don’t miss his exclusive insights where he tells us all about the vital importance of expertly procuring software and highlights the hidden pitfalls associated.

“A lot of companies don’t have the resources to have technology procurement experts on staff,” Brad tells us. “I think as time goes on people and companies will realise that the technology portfolio and the spend in that portfolio is increasing so rapidly they have to find a way to manage it. Find a project that doesn’t have software in it. Everything has software embedded within it, so you’re going to have to have procurement experts that understand the unique contracts and negotiation tactics of technology.” 

There are also features which include insights from the likes of Jake Kiernan, Manager at KPMG, Ashifa Jumani, Director of Procurement at TELUS and Shaz Khan, CEO and Co-Founder at Vroozi. 

Enjoy the issue! 

We look into the need for a supply chain reset amidst inflation concerns, supply uncertainty, geopolitical issues and sustainability drives.

Today’s supply chains are under pressure like never before.

Amidst inflation concerns, supply uncertainty, geopolitical issues and sustainability drives, the modern supply chain is having to think twice about the way it operates. It means companies are rethinking their supply chain strategy as well as the materials they source and the suppliers they work with. But such significant change doesn’t come easy and isn’t necessarily cheap either. Indeed, these factors have led to the necessity of a great supply chain reset. But this is no easy fix. It impacts the entire business model, from strategy, marketing and design all the way through packaging, storage and transportation.

Supply Chain Revolution

The first part of a supply chain overhaul is rationalising the portfolio. A major review of the product portfolio could reveal what is profitable to make or sell. In many industries, the combined effect of the rising cost of products, logistics, carbon charges for border crossings and frequent supply disruptions is increasing the cost-to-serve, reducing gross margins and making it unprofitable to hold inventory as a buffer.

Leading companies look for ways to improve communications among the supply chain, leadership, sales, and other commercial teams so that supply chain leaders clearly understand the trade-offs required to win in the market. The most successful companies are also involving other key stakeholders in the supply chain balance equation discussion, including finance, R&D, regulatory, sustainability, and procurement. This ensures everyone understands all the implications of the proposed overhaul, particularly what can actually happen.

COVID-19 disruptions pushed companies to reorient their supply chains around resilience. According to Bain & Company, management at one global apparel firm recognised early on that this would require a transformation that would have ripple effects across other parts of the business. In order to make the correct decision, it pulled together a cross-functional strategy team that included the heads of supply chain, finance, sustainability, consumer insights, and the product’s business unit. The team saw the supply chain redesign as an opening to not only boost resilience but also responsiveness and sustainability. It found reducing reliance on any one location would provide insulation from supply disruptions, and making its products closer to customers would speed up delivery and shrink the supply chain’s carbon footprint.

Design to delivery and beyond

Taking a detailed view of the entire product journey, from design to delivery and beyond, can also help to simplify sourcing, by standardising as many elements as possible, reducing the range and specification of materials used for production and packaging. This means fewer suppliers and components, which lowers the exposure to disruption. Companies should investigate whether it’s possible to use less material and/or more recycled content, and whether this can reduce total cost of manufacture.

Today, chief supply chain officers balance multiple conflicting needs of cost, service, sustainability, agility and resilience. As a result of increasingly international trade complexity and the need to manage a widening range of risks, it’s difficult to determine where products should be manufactured and sold. While the onshoring versus offshoring versus friendshoring debate remains, it is further complicated by issues such as sustainability, trade wars, agility and, increasingly, visibility.

In the era of mass offshoring, manufacturers have enjoyed the huge scale efficiencies of large manufacturing centres in low-wage countries. For a wide range of products, there is a now a considerable and visible shift to get closer to the end customer, to ensure a faster response to changing consumer demands, while avoiding tariffs, cutting logistics costs and reducing carbon footprint.

Looking ahead, supply chain has little choice. It can’t stand still and wait for the next black swan event to unfold – companies must be more resilient and fluid. A great supply chain reset may not just be a “nice to have” anymore.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance, discusses how to build a people-first strategy that enables growth.

As the UK economy continues to balance on the edge of a recession, employee retention is quickly being pushed to the top of CEOs’ lists. Over the past couple of years, the job market has shifted dramatically with previously unheard terms such as ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘hybrid working’ becoming commonplace. People are rightly prioritising their working situation and job satisfaction levels, questioning whether they believe in the organisations they are committing so much time to.

Consequently, there has been a power dynamic shift in favour of the workforce. Reportedly in the third quarter of 2022 businesses witnessed over 365,000 job-to-job resignations across the UK. In similar fashion, the phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ – doing the bare minimum required of a job – has become a growing concern but its rise is prompted by a growing number of employees feeling disengaged in their roles.

Against this backdrop of a highly turbulent job market, and increasingly difficult macro-economic pressures, it’s vital for CEOs to prioritise a people-first strategy to ensure healthy growth for their business in 2023. Data from Deloitte has even revealed that experts believe how engaged a workforce feels can directly correlate to overall business output, with 93% of HR and business leaders in agreement that building a sense of belonging is crucial for organisational performance.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance

However, creating the right environment and recruiting, maintaining and nurturing the right talent to ensure a people first approach can be daunting. With this in mind, here are four learnings CEOs might want to consider when approaching this challenge:

1. Define your beliefs

Before CEOs and founders can hope to attract the right talent, it is critical to first distil and translate the business vision into something that can be understood by employees. Put simply, this means defining the business’ beliefs.

Some business leaders may already refer to this as an ‘employer brand’, and it can be key to not only securing better talent, but also saving a business money in the long-term. Data from LinkedIn for example, recently found that a strong employer brand can help to reduce employee turnover by as much as 28% and cost-per-hire by 50%. Defining these beliefs – or the tenets a business does and doesn’t stand for – is therefore the perfect exercise to put a vision onto paper, and clearly communicate it to its prospective talent.

2. Build a solid culture

Once these beliefs have been defined, they must be reflected, and built into a strong culture. A business’ beliefs should permeate through the whole organisation – from customer communications, to how staff are treated, to how leaders run the business. Culture should essentially be a representation of a business’ beliefs being put into practice.

Building a strong culture in a business, however, is not solely about these beliefs but also extends into how employees are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. Companies that invest in learning and development for example, have been found to benefit from a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t, according to the Association of Talent Development. Training and development should therefore be seen as a worthwhile and necessary investment that can solidify your culture and ensure profitability, not just an unavoidable cost.

3. Invest in retention

With research from Oxford Economics estimating the average turnover per employee earning £25,000 a year to be £30,000 plus, there is an evident cost to businesses that fail to invest in retention. Tackling this will mean regularly taking the time to truly understand what makes employees tick – and more specifically, understanding their motivations, attitudes, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses.

As the past few years have evidenced, individuals are no longer deciding where they work solely based on salary, but are also thinking about employer values, flexibility, and benefits. To avoid employee churn, businesses should regularly take time to understand what drives their employees and implement retention strategies to address these drivers. Gathering and analysing employee data will play an important role here over the coming years, and should be built into a long-term strategy to optimise employee satisfaction.

4. Build for the future

A common challenge encountered by modern businesses and startups wanting to take a people first approach, can be their ability to stay committed to it. As a business grows in size and becomes successful, it can be all too easy to let external factors dictate its purpose and for it to lose sight of what it initially stood for. The reality is that when this happens, a business is in its most vulnerable state – as its beliefs become increasingly distant, and worse, employees no longer understand what it stands for.

When creating a people-first strategy its therefore important to think long-term. If there are external factors that will potentially put this strategy at risk in future, it’s crucial to identify them, and put in practical steps to mitigate them where possible. The pandemic, for example, is a prime example of an external factor that interrupted the status quo of many businesses – disrupting employees, customers and operations in general. While they can be unpredictable in nature, having a plan to get through these times can help to get you back on track and reassure talent that a solution is in place.

In this economic climate, defining beliefs, building a solid culture, and retention plan should be at the core of every business’ strategy. It’s only when these things are in place that a business can hope to attract and retain talented people that exude the same passion and values built into the heart of a business. As while a business’ growth may be defined by its leaders, it is delivered by its people who are putting that vision into practice.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our first cover story explores how Vodafone is leveraging strong leadership to drive the collaborations enabling businesses to champion change management and better use technology.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the launch issue here!

Leadership with purpose at Vodafone

“Leadership is purpose, it’s why do you do the things you do…”

Our cover story throws the spotlight on Vodafone US CEO David Joosten; also Director for Americas & Partners Markets at Vodafone Business, he talks to CEOstrategy about leading from the front and setting the standards to deliver growth while keeping employees and customers happy.

“People follow leaders that are honest about themselves. If you can reflect on what you’ve done well, but also where you need to improve it can inspire others to do the same.”

EMCS Industries Ltd: How a CEO can navigate change management

“Why hire talent and then tell them what do? You have so much to learn from the great people you hire. Micromanaging is not management, and it’s certainly not leadership. Let your people thrive!”

Read our interview with EMCS Industries Ltd CEO Trevor Tasker for more thought-provoking insights on leadership from the shifting tides of the marine industry in this maiden issue.

How to be an authentic leader

“At the most basic human level, everyone knows what it’s like to feel heard by another person, and how that changes our behaviour. It can help anger and sadness subside and enable us to start seeing things differently. So, when employees are being listened to by their leaders, it can only help how an organisation operates.”

Dr Andrew White, director of the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and host of the Leadership 2050 podcast series, explores transformative approaches to leadership for the modern CEO.

How can CEOs drive forward culture change around diversity and inclusion?

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, explores the changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing. As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming. But what we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change.”

Also in this launch issue, we get the lowdown on agile ways of working from Kubair Shirazee, CEO of Agile transformation specialists Agilitea. Elsewhere, we speak with Nirav Patel, CEO of the consultancy firm, Bristlecone – a subsidiary of Mahindra Group and a leading provider of AI powered application transformation services for the connected supply chain – who discusses the challenges facing CPOs and supply chain leaders in our uncertain times. And we analyse the latest insights for CEOs from McKinsey and Gartner.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Standard Bank CIO Bessy Mahopo on the challenges of operating in a fractured market and how the company overcomes them

This month’s cover story highlights how technology is helping Standard Bank overcome the challenges of a fractured market to both drive business growth and improve services for customers.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time…” sang David Bowie. Changes can be challenging to manage with the path to positive disruption not always a smooth change management journey.

Interface dives deep for insights on understanding, planning, implementing and communicating change across industries.

Read the latest issue here!

Standard Bank: driving Africa’s growth

Standard Bank CIO (CIB – Transactional Banking) Bessy Mahopo explains how one of South Africa’s largest banks is using its own digital transformation successes as a template to support the country’s ongoing technological evolution by overhauling IT from the inside out. “I believe that once we start moving the curve to fifth and sixth generation technology, we’re going to become even more of a value-producer.”

The art of change management with SAP

Maria Villar, Head of Enterprise Data Strategy and Transformation at SAP, talks about the importance of driving change in the technology space and helping businesses thrive with data from the perspective of one of the world’s leading enterprise resource planning software vendors. “My job is about finding out what a good data strategy looks like and continuing to spend time with customers to look ahead…”

Talent transformation journeys with TUI

We caught up with Cerstin Lang, Director for HR Group IT at TUI. She reveals how it’s global For:ward program is driving digital transformation as the travel giant works with training partner Udacity to upskill IT talent. “Our IT goals are focused on developing a structure that supports new ways of working with the right balance to innovate and grow in the future.”

How TransUnion is enabling consumer trust

Alejandro Reskala, CIO Canada, LATAM, Caribbean at TransUnion, about technology transformation at a leading consumer credit reporting agency, its dedication to people, and how it makes trust possible. “TransUnion has always blazed a trail to use technology and data to generate insights that help support financial inclusion.”

Also in this issue, we ask what the birth of ChatGPT means for businesses leveraging tech and learn from Rivery why organisations need to rethink their data strategy with robust operational analytics.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group, discusses the rise of staff attrition in the industry

At the start of 2023 many companies are still struggling to find employees. The job market favours the applicant far more than before Covid-19 across many sectors. Higher interest rates and lower economic growth so far haven’t reduced the pressure on labour availability.

High staff turnover isn’t just a matter of the cost it creates. The disruption from running with a lot of open roles and with less experienced staff can disrupt client service, increase error rates and lead to more serious compliance and reputation damage.

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group

Examining the data

A lot of commentary on the situation has been based on surveys of employees’ intentions rather than their actual decisions. By managing our clients’ financial, legal and employee administration we have access to large volumes of data. This provides insight on the overall recruitment and resignation levels across workforces, from several hundred thousand employees, covering a broad range of sectors and job levels in more than 90 countries.

As a starting point, the data tells us that there was indeed a significant global increase in staff resignation during and after the pandemic. Across the 90 countries, average company staff attrition rose from around 15% annually in mid-2020 to 25% at the end of 2021. That’s a dramatic 67% increase in just 18 months.

Global annualised employee attrition trend

Digging deeper reveals a much more nuanced picture by company and country. In 2021, staff attrition averaged around 20% across the 90 countries but was below 10% in a small number, with Argentina the lowest at 6%. Of those above 20%, India, the UK and Poland topped the list with a rate of 26%. Both India and Poland are now major destinations for companies establishing regional service centres – locations that are supposed to be low cost, stable hubs that support many other countries. So rising staff turnover there will be particularly painful.

2021 average employee attrition by country

When examining the data at company level, annual attrition levels vary  even more widely, from a low of around 5% to a high of 40%. Some of that will be a result of challenges in specific industries and companies. Some will arise from the underlying attrition in the labour market of the countries they operate in. To disentangle how much is company versus country, we compare in the chart below the attrition a firm is seeing with the average attrition it should be seeing given the mix of countries where it operates.  The wide spread in the data shows that that country averages matter far less than individual company factors. For example, looking at companies whose country mix should give them expected attrition of around 15-20%, we see many at 30%-40% and others at just 5%-10% attrition.

Company actual 2021 attrition versus average for the countries where they operate

Staff attrition is a problem at any time, but becomes a significant threat to a business if it gets too high. How high is a matter of judgement and depends on the particular company. In professional services, for example, when staff attrition is above 20% it starts to impact client service and above 30% it can pose a risk to regulatory and reputational integrity.

The rise in global staff attrition, coupled with big spikes by country and company means that multinational firms will have an increased number of locations where attrition is high and potentially well beyond manageable levels. From 2020 to 2021 the number of employees in company locations experiencing more than 20% attrition nearly doubled, from around 15% to 27%. Looking at where the levels were highest, employees in countries experiencing more than 35% attrition rose from 1% to 7%. That means there’s an increasing number of hotspots, where extremely high staff attrition means companies need to intervene quickly to avoid staff resignations spiralling due to increased workload.

Factoring in country complexity

An important additional factor is the complexity of a particular country to operate in. Many countries  have onerous business rules which are enforced vigorously. High staff turnover in complex countries is particularly dangerous because of the added risk of compliance breaches.

We can look at country complexity using TMF Group’s Global Business Complexity Index. It ranks countries annually based on 292 criteria, covering the fiscal, legal and employment environments for doing business in each location.  

Procurement is in a state of flux. Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires…

Procurement is in a state of flux.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires agility to navigate turbulent waters. But, despite significant disruption could there still be opportunity?

Simon Whatson, Vice President of Efficio Consulting, is optimistic about the future of digital procurement and despite a challenging few years he is confident of a successful bounce back. He gives us the lowdown on the direction of travel for digital procurement in 2023. 

As an executive with considerable experience in the space, we’d love to learn more about your background and how you ended up in procurement. Why was this the specialism for you and how did you get involved to begin with?

Simon Whatson (SW): “I think the one-word answer of how I came into procurement was accidental. I studied maths at university, with a year in France, before I began looking for different roles to apply for.

“Eventually, I was offered a position with a big plumbing and heating merchant with global operations. I worked in that supply chain team for two and a half years. Although it was called supply chain, a lot of the work was procurement, which involved negotiating with suppliers. It was after that stint there, that I discovered consulting and joined a boutique procurement consultancy. Now I am onto my third consultancy and I’m very happy here!

“In terms of why I’ve stayed, one of the success factors in procurement is being able to work cross-functionally. Procurement doesn’t own any of the spending that it is responsible for helping to optimise. It must work with other functions and the spend owners. I quite like the people side of that, building relationships, almost selling internally to bring teams together. That really appeals to me and is a key reason why I’ve been very happy in procurement.”

As we move into exploring procurement today in 2023. The space is filled with challenges and complexities. You only need to look at the last few years. Covid, war in Ukraine, inflation – how would you describe the world’s recent challenges and their effect on the industry and what do you feel CPOs and leaders can do to combat these issues?

SW: “I would flip it around and say that these are not so much challenges but rather opportunities for procurement. When I started my career 18 years ago, procurement was often fighting to get a voice and there were complaints that procurement was not represented at the top table, but the war in Ukraine, inflation, COVID and ESG, these are things which are now on the C-suite agenda and procurement is ideally positioned to help companies face those challenges. If you think about COVID and the war in Ukraine, procurement is in a privileged position to help with this.

“I see some procurement functions that prefer to do what they know, which focuses on the process and transactional side. However, there are also many forward-thinking CPOs and procurement professionals out there, that have really seized this opportunity of being on the C-suite agenda and drive the thinking and the solutions to some of these big challenges we’re seeing.”

Although new technology in procurement has been around for well over a decade, digitalisation has become so much more of an important topic. How would you sum up where procurement and supply chain are in terms of digital transformation today?

SW: “It’s a bit laggard, but digital transformation is difficult, and we have to recognise there are some real trailblazers. There are some firms doing some fantastic things in digital to produce better outcomes. If you contrast your experience when you’re buying something in your private life, it’s much easier than 20 years ago. You can get access to a wealth of pre-sourced things, whether it’s food, a holiday, a car, or a book. You can see reviews of what other people think of these things.

“But when you go into your workplace as a business user and you want to buy something, it doesn’t quite work like that yet. You often have to fill in a form, send it off and wait for them to come back to you. They might come back a little bit later than you were hoping and might tell you that they don’t have that part on the supply frameworks. I think people sometimes get confused about how it can be so easy to buy something as large as a car or a holiday on their sofa at home, but when they want to buy something at work, it seems to be quite cumbersome. Digital can help a lot with that, but it is incumbent on organisations and procurement functions to figure out how to recreate that customer experience that we’ve become accustomed to in our private lives.”

With a new generation of leaders growing up with technology, some might say that it could be a key driver in helping to speed the adoption in procurement along. Is this something you would agree with or what would you point to as a key driver?

SW: “I do think that it will act as one of the catalysts for further digital transformation in organisations, because if procurement doesn’t manage to recreate that customer experience that the new generation expects, then they won’t use procurement going forward and will look to bypass it.

“The analogy that I’ve used previously in this case is one of travel agents. I remember as a child, my parents were able to take us on holiday and I remember the whole process. We would walk into town to the travel agent, and look at some of the brochures of options. They often then had to phone the various airlines or resorts on our behalf. They might not be able to get through, so we’d have to come back the next day. I remember as a child being quite excited by the whole process but actually, thinking back, it was quite cumbersome. You compare that to now, with being able to review online, and you can get instant answers to your questions. It’s not a coincidence that travel agents don’t really exist anymore.”

How much of a challenge is it to not get caught leveraging technology for technologies sake? How important is it to stay true to your approach and be strategic?

SW: “We conducted a study of many procurement leaders and CPOs a few years ago, and one of the things that we found was that about 50% of procurement leaders admitted to having bought technology just on the basis of a fear of missing out, without any real understanding of the benefits that technology was going to bring. That was a real shock and a revealing find because technology is not cheap, and its implementation is quite disruptive. If you’re purchasing a system because everybody else is using it, then there could be some pretty costly mistakes. It is really important to make sure that when buying technology, it is because the benefits are fully understood.

“My advice to companies when looking to digitalise is own your data, visualise that data, and manage your knowledge. If you can focus on getting those things right in that order, and make your technology decisions to support that goal, then that’s a much better way of thinking about it rather than just jumping in and buying a piece of technology.”

It’s clear that the procurement space is an exciting, but challenging, place to be. What do you think will play a key role in the next 12 months to push the digital conversation further to take procurement to the next level?

SW: “Looking forward, one thing that procurement needs to do and continue to do is attract the best people. Ultimately, people are what makes an organisation, and it is what makes a function successful. I think procurement has often not looked for the right skills in the people that it employs. Traditionally, it’s looked for people with procurement experience and while they are valuable and required, we also need leadership potential. People who think a bit more outside the box and aren’t so process driven. A lot of what procurement has done in previous years has been process driven, so if you’re just limiting your search of people to those that have had procurement experience, you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of people who are process driven.

“I think being bolder and recruiting people from different backgrounds with different skill sets is the way to go. If procurement can ‘own’ the ESG space, that will help with the younger generation see procurement make a difference. I think that’s one thing that will be key to success going forward.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

Paul Farrow, Vice President of Hilton Hotels’ Supply Management, sits down with us to discuss how his organisation’s procurement function has evolved amid disruption on a global scale

The hospitality industry has endured a rough ride over the past few years.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic which stopped the world in its tracks and now with millions facing a cost-of-living crisis, it’s been a period of unprecedented disruption for those involved in the space and beyond.

But it’s a challenge met head-on by Paul Farrow, Vice President of Supply Management at Hilton Hotels, and his team who have been forced to respond as the world continues to shift before their eyes.

Farrow gives us a closer look into the inner workings of his firm’s procurement function and how he has led the charge during his time with Hilton Hotels.

Could we start with you introducing yourself and talking a little about your role at Hilton Hotels? 

Paul Farrow (PF): “I’m the Vice President of Hilton’s Supply Management, or HSM as we call it. I’ve been with Hilton Hotels for 12 and a half years, and my role is to head the supply chain function for our hotels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Over the past few years, Hilton has grown rapidly and has now got 7,000 hotels in over 125 countries globally. What is really exciting is Hilton Supply Management doesn’t just supply Hilton Hotels and the Hilton Engine because we also now supply our franchisees and competitive flags. While we have 7,000 hotels globally, Hilton Supply Management actually supplies close to 13,000 hotels. That’s an interesting business development for us, and a profit earner too.”

You’re greatly experienced, I bet you’ve seen supply chain management and procurement change a lot in recent years? 

PF: “The past two to three years have been tremendously challenging on so many industries but I’d argue that hospitality got hit more than most as a result of the Covid pandemic. Here at Hilton, supply management was really important just to keep the business operational throughout that tough time, but I’m delighted to say we’re fully recovered now.

“Looking back, it was undoubtedly difficult, and you only have to look at the media to see that we’re now going through a period of truly unprecedented inflation. On top of the normal day job, it’s certainly been a very busy time.”

Hospitality must have been under an awful lot of pressure during the pandemic… 

PF: “Most of our teams as a business and all functions have worked together far more collaboratively than ever before through the use of technology and things like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Trying to work remotely as effectively as possible changed the way we all had to think and the way we had to do. Now we’re back in the workplace and in our offices, we’re actually looking to take advantage of that new approach.”

Inflation, rising costs, energy shortages, as well as drives towards a circular economy means it’s quite a challenging time for CSCOs and CPOs right now, isn’t it?

PF: “Those headwinds have caused and created challenges of the like that we’ve not seen before. The war in Ukraine and Russia has meant significant supply chain disruption and supply shortages of some key ingredients and raw materials. China is a significant source of materials and they’re still having real challenges to get their production to keep up with demand.

“All the local and short-term challenges are around energy and fuel pricing, so throughout the supply chain that’s been a major factor to what we’ve had to deal with. On top of that is the labour shortages. We rely heavily throughout the supply chain and within our business to utilise labour from around the world. In my region, particularly from say Eastern Europe as well as other businesses all fighting for a smaller labour pool than we had before. We are fighting with the likes of the supermarkets, Amazon’s, not just other hotel companies to capture the labour pool we need both in our properties but also within our supply chain supplies themselves.

Hilton operates a rather unique procurement function, doesn’t it?  

PF: “We trade off the Hilton name because our brand strength is something that we are able to utilise and we’re very proud of, but we’ve also got additional leverage by having that group procurement model.

“We’ve got essentially two clients. We’ve got our managed estate which is when an owner chooses to partner with Hilton, they’re signing a management agreement because they want the benefit and value of the Hilton engine. That could be revenue management, how we manage onboarding clients and customers through advertising, as well as the other support we give in terms of finance, HR, marketing and sales as well as procurement.”

HSM is a profit centre and revenue driver through its group procurement model but how does this work?

PF: “Our secret sauce is our culture. It’s our people and that filters across all of our team members and indeed all of our functions. The key strategic pillars are the same for health and supply management around culture, maximising performance and so on as they are across the overall global business.

“Across our 7,000 plus hotels, the majority are actually franchised hotels because that’s the legacy of what still is the model in the US. When I joined Hilton 12 and a half years ago, the reverse is true where nearly all of our hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and indeed in Asia Pacific, were and are managed. In the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions right now we’re building up close to a 50/50 split between managed, leased and franchised.”

What has pleased you most about the roll-out of the HSM?

PF: “It’s certainly not been easy because we’ve got 70 countries that sit within our region here in EMEA and Hilton’s penetration in those individual countries is very different. We may have 100 hotels in one of those markets and only one or two in specific countries. Our scale and our ability to get logistics solutions is different by market.

“Getting everyone on board to what we want to achieve to our guests and to our owners means we have to pull different levers. We have very effective brand standards. If you’re signing up to Hilton, you’re signing up to delivering against those brand standards that we believe are right for our organisation.”

What kind of feedback have you had from your clients? 

PF: “Integrity is in our DNA, and we work very closely with our suppliers who we value as partners. These are long-term relationships, and we work hand in hand because we have to see that they’re successful so that we can be successful – it’s really important to what we do and we constantly look for feedback.

“With our internal and our external customers, we’ll have quarterly business reviews and so we’ll get that feedback through surveys where we are asking them to tell us what we do well and what we could do better. Our partners are now asking what additional value can you do to bring support to our organisation through ESG? So that’s what’s on the table now when it wasn’t before. But it’s not just that – it’s about the security of supply competitiveness, competitiveness of pricing, and a whole bunch of other very important things as well.”

Looking to the future, what’s on the agenda for the next few years?

PF: “We’re out there meeting and greeting people in person and there’s always new opportunities that make things exciting in what we do and how we work. Innovation’s very high on our agenda and we’re very proud of what we do in food and beverage. In non-food categories, it’s about how we support our owners and our hotel general managers to find that competitive edge and do the next big thing ahead of our competitors.”

Anything else important to know?

PF: “One thing we’ve been able to take full advantage of is how we’ve been able to grow our business by bolting on new customers. I think it’s fantastic that our competitors choose to use Hilton Supply Management because they benchmarked what our capabilities are and how competitive we are.

“Another key part of the agenda is environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability. Responsible sourcing and everything that sits within that is front and centre of what we do. Within that you’ve got human rights, animal welfare, single use plastics as well as general responsible sourcing like managing food waste. The list is very long, but they’re all very important.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

“Disruption should drive digitalisation and cloud uptake rather than hindering it.”

Sal Laher, Chief Digital & Information Officer at global enterprise software provider IFS, reveals how a single strategy for cloud and digitalisation helps businesses maximise the rewards of growth.

Digitalisation equals transformation

Digitalisation and the business transformation projects that enable it are again on the radar for many businesses, particularly given the current macro-economics and potential recession being predicted. According to recent data from Research and Markets, The Global Digital Transformation Market size is expected to reach $1,302.9bn by 2027, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.8% in the period 2021-2027.

This renewed focus on digitalisation is aligned to businesses accelerating cloud migration, including readily available SaaS solutions. The Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report finds 92% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy and 80% have a hybrid cloud strategy.

Sal Laher, Chief Digital & Information Officer, IFS

Both trends will go hand in hand as digitalisation and cloud migration continue to drive business efficiencies, process change and consumer service demands. Most organisations are aware of the potential rewards both business models can bring. This is because it is not the first time they are being talked about– this major transformational shift has already been in place for a decade. But some, wary of the disruptive impact of recent global events are holding back from implementing them. However, it is the wrong approach.

Disruption should drive digitalisation and cloud uptake rather than hindering it. Even in isolation, either moving to the cloud, or undertaking digitalisation, will enable faster decision-making, supported by greater compute power and more agile processes, generating faster output and enhancing customer service. Yet, to drive competitive edge, organisations need to combine cloud migration with business transformation and look to maximise those benefits. To do this, they must develop a single strategy covering both elements and move forward with a common approach.

Migrating to the cloud for business transformation

By digitalising, organisations have an opportunity to benefit from faster time to insight, enhanced business and customer connectivity, and operational efficiencies. It allows them to more easily collect and analyse data that they can later turn into actionable, revenue-generating insights.

Over time, they can go further and start to tap into the benefits of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). But it is the additional compute power and scalability of the cloud that helps them to maximise these benefits and fulfil the potential of digital technologies.

Cloud migration also includes adopting evergreen application (business process) solutions in the cloud with the many SaaS solutions that are available today. That’s why it is important that they adopt a single plan to migrate to the cloud and drive business transformation all in one. This tandem approach also avoids unnecessary customisation, making a business much more agile to change based on actionable data insights.

Adopting a single plan will, in itself, drive up efficiencies and drive down costs. But critically, the two must be linked to ensure that businesses maximise the benefits of the migration process.

It is cloud, after all, that helps businesses adapt to the new digital world, enabling them, for instance, to leverage out of the box business applications, digital analytics tools and low code platforms that deliver informed decision-making and reduce costs. But cloud doesn’t just maximise the benefits for businesses, it also accelerates them. Cloud has become the fulcrum of digital transformation, mainly due to its ability to enable innovation at scale and allow businesses that have digitalised to rapidly launch enterprise-ready products.

Without cloud, businesses will struggle to drive through timely updates to systems and processes. The costs of stakeholder management may ramp up. Moreover, moving to the cloud without doing it within the step-by-step structure of digital transformation risks mistakes being made, increasing the likelihood of data loss and security breaches through misconfigurations.

Optimising the benefits of digital transformation in the cloud

We have seen how important it is to adopt a single strategy for cloud migration and digitalisation and to execute them in tandem. But organisations also need to maximise the benefits of the combined approach. So how can they best do this?

First, they need to avoid procrastination and delay. The benefits of digitalisation and cloud migration working together are compelling – and senior leaders need to seize the initiative and kickstart the transformation. To get the ball rolling, they need to conduct a benchmarking exercise to better understand where their business stands in terms of its capabilities or gaps. This will help to decide where efforts and resources should be focused.

They then need to align their business processes with IT. That’s key as modern business models increasingly emphasise the digitalisation of processes.

Cloud computing and network security concept, 3d rendering,conceptual image.

They should begin by determining their goals and the systems, technologies, and processes currently in use to achieve them. Next, they need to brainstorm and document core business objectives before developing a cloud and digitalisation migration roadmap to guide their implementation. Measuring performance will also be crucial to optimising results. In choosing which metrics to analyse, organisations should concentrate on those that will most positively impact their bottom line or user experience.

Ensuring employees buy into the process of cloud-based digitalisation will also be key. Organisations should use cloud-based digitalisation as an opportunity to strengthen business processes and help employees switch to new ways of working which maximise the potential of the new technology.

Digital readiness

Given all this, it is vital businesses don’t delay on their journey to digital and the cloud. Unfortunately, CIOs often struggle to know where to start with a cloud and digital migration strategy.

Before they begin, they often look to put a complete strategy in place up front. The truth is that it is not necessary. Instead, they need to get going and prioritise what’s most important. Pick one area, settle on a use case, digitalise, and move it to the cloud, demonstrate results – and then repeat incrementally. That will enable the business to showcase value and create momentum. Over time also, this single coordinated approach, will allow it to tap into a wide range of cloud and digitalisation related benefits – and ultimately to maximise the rewards.

For more cutting edge insights read the latest issue of Interface magazine here

Ian Povey, CIO – Head of Payments Services & Technology, on the strategic transformation taking place at NatWest benefitting both the bank and its customers

This month’s cover story reveals how innovation is at the core of change for payments processes at NatWest.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Charles Darwin famously said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” Technology is helping us to evolve. And that evolution is being driven by innovation.

Read the latest issue here!

Payments transformation at NatWest

“It may be a cliché, but a transformation journey really has no end… If you fixate on a constant end state without ‘checking in’ you can, and likely will, fail in your objectives.” A wise outlook from a CIO with three decades of change management experience across banking’s payments panorama.

Ian Povey, CIO – Head of Payments Services & Technology, discusses the strategic transformation taking place at NatWest and how that journey of change and innovation is benefitting both the bank and its customers as it evolves to become a relationship bank for a digital world. “Our environment is always changing – we must be on the back of the ‘Change Dragon’ and steering/influencing as a leader and always learning from our teams for new ideas.”

Customer-Centric transformation at FedEx

We also check in with logistics leader FedEx… Custom Critical CIO Cheryl Bevelle-Orange reveals a “technology-forward yet flexible company” embracing innovation and “paving the way for customers to get more relevant information faster about their packages while delivering with excellence”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=galaZZlrEn0

Continuous Improvement in IT at Mazars

Mazars CIO David Marcelino explains his approach to innovation and leading on a successful IT transformation program at one of the world’s largest audit and advisory firms aiming to improve the digital experience for all its stakeholders. “Change Management, adoption, training and awareness are at the core of every single business technology project we deliver.”

Tech innovation at speed with the US Air Force

We also caught up with George Forbes, Director of Digital Operations Directorate at the United States Air Force, who outlines the importance of innovation within the federal government.

Digital Transformation in healthcare at Avellino

Nancy Selph, Global Head of IT at Avellino Lab, discusses how technology is creating new opportunities to improve health outcomes and the importance of leadership in the industry.

Also in this issue, we round up the key tech events and conferences across the globe; we learn how Minted are making it easy for everyone to invest in gold; and we feature the latest on cloud digitalisation from IFS.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

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

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.

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

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.

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 are five of the best procurement schools in Europe.


1. CIPS


Course: Various
Where: Across England

procurement schools

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
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 (and MS) Supply Chain Management and Purchasing
Where: Lille and Paris, France

Skema offers two supply chain management (SCM) and procurement masters: The premium international MSc Global Supply Chain Management in Lille taught in English, and the MS in SCM and Purchasing in Paris and Lille mainly taught in French. France’s highly-rated supply chain and procurement program 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 global MSc has a new cooperation with the leading prestigious business school, MIT in the US, plus another cooperation with Politechnico from Milano. The MSc 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 MSc is a full time program, complemented by paid internships in the area of the student’s choice, while the MS alternates weeks of classes with professionals at the forefront of their fields.


4. Audencia Business School


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

Audencia Business School

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tricentis CEO, Kevin Thompson

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

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


Michal Salat, Threat Intelligence Director at Avast

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

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…

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

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

Read the latest issue here!

Stripe: increasing the GDP of the internet

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

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

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

IAG: tech procurement linked to purpose

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

IAG’s CPO & VMO Claire Ledder
Portrait Photography

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

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

Afni

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

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

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

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

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

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

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

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

Read the latest issue here!

Scotiabank Peru

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

IBM

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

Digital Transformation in healthcare, education and telecomms

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

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

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our cover story reveals a massive procurement transformation programme at Zendesk

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

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

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

Read the latest issue here!

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

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

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

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

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

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

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

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

The aggregation of marginal gains

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

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

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

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

digital transformation and the GB cycling team

Removing digital silos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Digital Transformation only for big players?

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

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

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

by Terry Daniell, Operations Director at Trenches Law

Read more of our insightful articles from Interface magazine.

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

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…

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


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


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


Increasing collaboration through innovation 


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

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


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

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


Increasing uptake


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


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


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


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


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

How will Open Banking develop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to another packed issue of Interface Magazine!

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

Read the latest issue here!

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

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

Andrew Woods

Editorial Director

Almost two thirds received additional funding to accelerate initiatives…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can view the full report here

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

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

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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…

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?

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worker safety is paramount

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

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

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

Business leaders split on return to office preferences

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

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

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

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

Survey Methodology

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

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

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…

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface Magazine!

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

Read the latest issue here!

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the issue!

Andrew Woods

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

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

The top 10 cities to be a tech student

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

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

Introducing the top 10 cities to be a tech student…

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

Top cities contributing to tech research

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

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

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

Top 10 universities to study technology worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

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…

What led to you launching your business, Cloud9 Insight?

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

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

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

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

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

So is company culture very important to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Other key findings from the joint research include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KYC is a financial services standard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

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.

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

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!

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

Read the latest issue here!

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

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

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

Enjoy the issue!

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

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

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.

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…

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where and how to start? 

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare for the new normal 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brand is your difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squarespace – democratising a previously closed world

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

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

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

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

R2 Data Labs – from manufacturing to a data analytics powerhouse 

The idea: A data innovation catalyst inside Rolls Royce.

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

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

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

Creating a culture of shared creative leadership

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

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

Your key takeout

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

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

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

Private – Keep Out

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

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

But it’s not all bad…

That said, the same s