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ARE UNSTRUCTURED DATA RELATED BUSINESSES THE NEXT BIG THING FOR EARLY INVESTORS?

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Michalis Michael, CEO of DMR

 

Unstructured data (UD) has never been more important than now, and its importance will skyrocket during this decade. It only takes a glance at the recent “State of Unstructured Data Management Report” to reveal how seriously UD is being taken, with 45 per cent of respondents intending to invest in UD analytics software as a matter of urgency.

The report also notes that most IT leaders – 62.5 per cent, in fact – will spend more on UD storage by the end of 2021 than they did in 2020.

These statistics tell us that the possession and understanding of UD is being recognised as increasingly essential. This is hardly surprising: over 90% of all data available to humanity is unstructured, and the business applications of this treasure trove of knowledge are enormous and untapped.

Of course, the potential insights that UD offers come with an important caveat. UD is formidable: it’s intimidatingly vast and exceptionally complex. IBM estimates that, on a global scale, we generate approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of UD every single day.

Though UD might be a treasure trove, it’s treasure protected by a fiendishly complicated locking mechanism.

The scale and intricacy of UD and its potential for insight underscore the significance of the companies – the technologists and data scientists – who hold the key to unlocking its potential. In order to take advantage of UD, then, it’s important to understand both what UD is, and how the right specialists can use it to unveil powerful business insights and create value.

 

What is UD?

Michalis Michael

UD is mostly text, audio, images, and video. It is, perhaps, best understood in relation to its more accessible counterpart: structured data (SD).

SD is, in essence, organised data (numbers in tables): we’re used to seeing SD on spreadsheets, for example, or other highly managed environments. And due to its organised nature, SD holds some obvious advantages – it can be readily used, searched, understood, and actioned.

Moreover, as IBM has pointed out in a recent article, SD “does not require an in-depth understanding of different types of data and how they function”: “users”, they note, “can easily access and interpret the data.”

The same can’t be said for UD. UD is any data which is not organised in tables and spreadsheets and which, by extension, can’t be processed or manipulated via traditional data methods. There is an additional complexity though which is the most prohibitive of all: UD is expressed in natural language and there are hundreds of them that a global business would be required to analyse and understand. SD on the other hand is usually expressed in numbers which are almost universally understood.

According to IBM, 95% of businesses prioritise UD management – and it’s easy to see why, given the vast potential that such data possesses.

As the above implies, UD can include practically any form of data or information: tweets, call centre audio files, any kind of text, sensor data, and images all fall under the purview of UD, and they can solve myriads of business problems – provided that somebody can make sense of UD’s multilingual, tangled, disorganised complexity.

It’s worth repeating that the amount of UD the world creates on a daily basis would fill ten million Blu-ray disks which, if stacked, would be ats tall as four Eiffel Towers.

Consequently, UD requires a potent combination of sophisticated AI technology and specialism in the field of data science in order for its inherent value to be harnessed effectively, meaning that the enormous business value of UD is inexorably linked to the companies who make it work. Thankfully they exist; most are start-ups or early-stage companies.

 

Harnessing the power of UD (and its interpreters)

Why, then, do businesses invest in UD? What benefits can properly harnessed UD create?

In the world of marketing intelligence, UD is exceptionally valuable. By using AI to navigate through breath-taking volumes of customer interactions with brands, it is possible to find unprecedentedly nuanced and immediately actionable insights into customer experience – how customers think and feel about a company, service, brand or product – on a scale and level of nuance hitherto undreamt of.

UD can also provide insights that directly impact companies’ bottom lines, especially in the world of trading and investment. By trawling through large quantities of news articles and headlines in order to find information that may influence the fluctuation of stock prices, for example, UD analysis technology can have a direct impact on trading and investing. .

However, this kind of scenario also underscores the value of accurate insights. If UD analysis is poorly managed, inspiring wrongfooted financial decisions, then traders – to extend the previous example – stand to lose millions.

As such, while UD’s considerable advantages understandably attract a lot of interest from major businesses, it is only as powerful as the technology and people harvesting and annotating that data to turn it into actionable insight.

Consider, for example, the sentiment analysis so vital for marketing intelligence and CX measurement: in order to get the best results, human curators are essential in order to train bespoke AI to accurately detect emotion.

Or, to return to our trading example, the news headlines and articles that can provide valuable insight need to be presented free of ‘noise’. Customised machine learning models can help the “signal,” or the proverbial needle in the haystack, and avoid irrelevant data – without this kind of specialist approach, social media monitoring (for example) can wrongly identify huge swathes of UD as relevant, giving incorrect insights and therefore removing all the intelligence value of UD.

 

Conclusion: investing in the analysers

Clearly, there’s no mystery surrounding IT leaders’ ever-increasing investment in UD – knowledge, in marketing, alternative data, and countless other organisations, is power. But for investors looking to capitalise on the power and utility of UD, there is much to be gained from investing in those select organisations capable of performing the alchemical task of transforming meaningless data into essential insights.

The real value of UD rests in the hands of the technology and AI specialists who can wield it – and this is a cause well worth investing in.

 

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

Dean Fiveash, Head of FinTech Sales, IFX

Without doubt the Coronavirus pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives and fundamentally changed the way in which we all conduct business.

From the widespread adoption of working from home, to the amplified focus on employee wellbeing and work life balance, to simply acknowledging that people are more than their job titles and are often juggling childcare, pets and terrible wifi issues all whilst trying to do their job. The last 18 months have altered the way we work forever and in order to set our businesses up for success we have also needed to rethink how we operate.

Dean Fiveash

In a people facing sector like sales,  it’s  clear that the loss of face-to-face interaction is perhaps the biggest loss and an impending challenge as we slowly emerge from the confines of the pandemic. Gone are the days of instant downloads from ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team discussing deals or general matters. Instead, our inboxes and diaries are full of zoom catch ups. This isn’t to say that success has dwindled. Flexibility of working from home has helped many businesses to grow rapidly. In fact at IFX we have enjoyed our ten best months of company sales, but there is no denying the way in which we work within our teams has shifted. So how can you set up your sales teams to maximise its chances of success?

 

Adapting To The Times

For many businesses operating during these unprecedented times the shift towards the work from home culture has seen its benefits. Speed is key in the fintech industry and video calls on top of isolated working has greatly improved our time efficiency allowing us to do more for our clients in the long run. Equally, with the workforce being spread around the country and in some cases even globally, came the need for further rigorous checks and processes to ensure the high standards set in the office environment are still being met.

Despite this I would argue that this made us better sales people, and in turn a more successful and thriving sales team.

Post-pandemic success is grounded in not just the talent of your employees but also how you choose to structure your teams. For me, the old adage ‘People Buy People’ remains the most relevant factor for developing a slick sales team. At the end of the day, the technical stuff can be learnt over time but the proficient people skills needed in client facing roles is more innate.

When evaluating team skills, individuals who demonstrate determination and the ability to keep smiling through adversity are a vital asset, especially in the fast paced fintech industry.

Having worked in numerous team leader roles within the sales industry,  I know the difference that a collegiate and supportive team can make to successfully securing deals. The key is to have people at your disposal who are going to pitch in to help others, in turn making the team more robust. In the post-pandemic world, this will remain the key quality to look for and embed as a core value across the business.

 

Fostering A Successful Culture 

Whilst the team structure and core skills are an important part of the team set up, good management and personal development structure is crucial to success. At IFX, our sales leadership team all have client portfolios and are regularly signing and navigating deals. It’s through giving my team practical experience and regular client interaction that we can gain far better market insight than through managing team activity or KPIs alone.

More discipline is also required when working at home to retain the sales focus whilst navigating domestic distractions. As such, maintaining your employee motivation and focus is something each business should work on. A difficult feat without the physical presence of your team and one balanced on knowing your employees and their individual needs. But little things go a long way, so incentives and perks such as company socials, bonuses or simply a free breakfast can work wonders to motivate others. Another tip is to set  attainable goals and regular check-ins with your team to keep motivation on track to reach peak productivity.

 

Looking Forward

Team dynamics will continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing and rapidly evolving landscape, the secret to success will remain the same.

Something to look forward to in the next couple of years as a movement,  is the greater adoption of smarter contracts and embedded FinTech, which of course as businesses and as a team we will have to adapt to.

Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice to others is to get the basics right.  A leading-edge solution fails to achieve greatness if it isn’t backed with competent sales/relationship managers and attentive operational support. Traditional ingredients for success such as reputation and trustworthiness are built over time, often through word of mouth, but building a competent team who can make your clients happy is essential to that mix

 

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

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THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

Jennifer Sims, Senior Consultant at Xledger

 

The world of finance software is evolving quickly, but with many new software contenders entering the market it can be a mindfield for organisations. Many finance teams are already using multiple accounting apps and software packages for bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing to service individual needs. Whilst it may work fine for now, this segregated approach isn’t sustainable for long-term growth. The world is swiftly moving to agile, automated ways of working. As a result, there is a growing need to choose suppliers that can fulfil multiple functionalities within the one platform.

Financial software is evolving at such a pace that it can be difficult to keep up. Changing up a finance solution is a big step and ease of migration can be a substantial factor in determining which solution provider to go with. But how do you choose a solution that will grow with your business and still offer something innovative in five or ten years down the line? The fear is always that non-techie organisations will end up falling behind, but in such a highly concentrated industry, how do you decide which solution would work best for you?

 

Cloud-first: the term that makes all the difference 

You could find a ‘cloud-based’ service with an application that comes with automated audit trails to make it easier to meet compliance and record-keeping obligations, for example. But for a solution to offer all of the many future benefits promised by the cloud, it needs to have been built specifically for a cloud environemt from the outset – ie. not an on-premise built system that has been later adapted. Cloud-first services (true cloud) were always intended to leverage economies of scale, cope with live updates, be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and to scale rapidly, to name just a few of the many benefits.

When we talk about innovation in financial technology, we’re not just talking about software that makes it easier for the financial controller to create reports. If eliminating reliance on Excel spreadsheets is the only tangible benefit you have to really shout about, you are missing out on the real deal. With ‘true’ cloud finance software the sky is the limit.

Finance and accounting technology needs to directly meet the needs of the finance function and support the wider business needs.  When looking at accounting software platforms you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t now promise ‘cloud-based’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities. The cloud is nothing new, but it’s the way that a solution harnesses this environment that makes a real difference. And here is where there is a need to read between the lines.

 

Automate more with true cloud 

Historically, repetitive and manual tasks are typical of the finance role – from invoice postings to expense claims handling – these can overwhelm the finance team. Research by Xledger[1] has found that an enormous 91% of CFOs and finance decision makers are carrying out at least one of these repetitive tasks as part of their job. What’s more, senior finance leads are averaging a whopping 25 hours per week carrying out repetitive and manual tasks, compared with 15 hours for other finance decision makers.

A modern, true cloud finance system can enable your business to automate repetitive tasks and provide one source of truth so that teams can make informed business decisions that will help to scale a business. Bank reconciliation, dashboard creation and reporting are just some of the tasks that can be handled automatically.These capabilities are aiding overtasked finance teams and saving hundreds or thousands of hours a year.

Whilst different companies are at different stages in their digital transformation what is clear is keeping up with the latest technology is fundamental to the future success of an organisation.

Xledger is a true cloud finance solution. The basics include invoicing, robust general ledger accounting, detailed slice and dice reporting, purchase orders, billing, VAT reporting, and cash and bank payments. It also adds process and structure to the enterprise with procurement and inventory, budgeting and forecasting, and project accounting. Users are always on the latest version of the software and with regulation more stringent than ever today, Xledger is ISO 27001 accredited.

Choosing the right provider for your financial ERP solution comes down to whether it has the fundamentals right. When hosting all of your vital data in the providers’ own servers, it should evidence a highly tested security process that comes with backup services as standard.

As our demand for technology capabilities grows and as ERP models progress, innovation will become the structure for growth – and there is no end to the possibilities.

 

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