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BEYOND SPREADSHEETS: HOW CORPORATE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT DRIVES INSIGHTS

By Alok Ajmera, President and Chief Operating Officer, Prophix Software

 

Half a century ago, the first electronic spreadsheet – LANPAR – was introduced to replace paper-based bookkeeping ledgers and make business management more efficient and effective. It was a great tool at the time, but 50 years later more than two-thirds of companies still use a clunky spreadsheet-based approach to corporate performance management (CPM) that is painfully inadequate for today’s complex real-time business operations, sophisticated financial processes and onerous planning needs.

 

Besides Woodstock’s Summer of love, 1969 gave us the first microprocessor, the UNIX operating system, the first ATM, the birth of ARPANET, the debut of the 747-jumbo jet, the first test flight of the Concorde and a baby named Jennifer Aniston. She’s still around but the Concorde and 747 are retired, and the Internet, microchip and UNIX are unrecognizable from their humble origins. The world has moved on and so must corporate performance management.

 

Alok Ajmera

Modern software tools that incorporate machine learning and analytics enable financial professionals to move beyond spreadsheets and into a new level of operational sophistication. They accelerate and streamline budget management, automatically pulling in data in real time data from a myriad of systems, enabling the creation of comprehensive, insightful forecasts and plans.

 

Streamlining Financial Data Results

Automating these CPM processes frees finance teams from the tedious, time-consuming and error-prone tasks of manually collecting data and moving it from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, workbook to workbook in order to generate actionable insights. With data collection and report generation automated, finance teams become value generators rather than number crunchers. They can focus on applying the insights their data provides to business operations, increasing competitiveness, improving profitability, minimizing risk and driving results.

 

For example, with meaningful access to data in real time, finance professionals can build dashboards that provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand holistic views of performance. This is the Holy Grail of one true picture of the company. What is working, what isn’t working, and what will and won’t work in limitless what-if scenarios?

 

This one true picture is essential to simplify analytics, streamline workflows, and ensure optimal data governance across the organization, which is of course essential to financial teams in meeting compliance requirements.

 

Automating and integrating the planning process can eliminate the back-and-forth hunt for numbers and reduce the time to generate plans from months to days. Integrated financial planning also serves to break down silos and fosters collaboration, giving financial teams a more complete and uniform picture of the organization, which enables management to make smarter decisions. Where will more resources create a better return, and where would they be non-productive?

 

But despite the clear cost-benefit and enhanced profitability that automated CPM provides, most businesses continue to slog along in a spreadsheet world, consigning finance professionals to what is essentially non-strategic busy work. Often, by the time data is collected, scrubbed and combined, and reports are generated, the opportunities and risks that management needed to address are long gone. Consequently, leadership teams are stuck in a “good-enough” cycle. As long as the company isn’t in the red, financial performance is good enough. By re-thinking the approach to enterprise performance management – investing a little time and effort to update that process — financial officers can provide an extensive new level of insight into the health of the company.

 

Driving Business Decisions through Trusted Insights

Data is the key to unlocking hidden value and risk in customer relationships, but the data most firms use to manage their own performance is often locked in kludgy home-grown systems. But it’s not enough to collect the data. You have to be able to do something useful with it. For most companies, it’s difficult if not impossible to collect and synthesize their data into meaningful business insights in time to do anything about them. As a result, the relatively small percentage of firms that have automated CPM have a huge competitive advantage. This is true whether data operations are on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of both.

 

Different companies have different choke points. By automating CPM, business leaders can identify those choke points in real time and make better decisions about managing their operations faster to create better results. Adapting CPM to operations gives management operational information and analysis much faster, enabling to cut costs and increase effectiveness by managing staffing levels better, reducing administrative burden, closing the books earlier and getting more useful information to sales teams.

 

Now apply that capability to the financial planning process. Instead of starting to collect guestimates several months in advance, automating financial planning with a modernized approach and sophisticated software tools, gives organizations greater insight into their company performance – a shared picture across the whole organization that leads to reduced risk and better business results.

 

The business environment is constantly evolving. Businesses that fail to adapt are flying noisy, fuel-gulping 50-year-old 747s while their more-nimble competitors are winning today’s race with the equivalent of super-sophisticated 787-Dreamliners.

 

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Business

WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION

Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo

 

Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.

But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.

By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.

But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.

 

Chris McLaughlin

The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers

Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.

Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.

Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.

Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.

 

Smarter management of data, content and information

One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.

Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.

In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.

System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.

 

Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation

13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.

 

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Business

WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of  Vamp

 

For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?

It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.

Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.

Aaron Brooks

Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.

Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.

 

Hone your personal brand

Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.

Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.

 

Cultivate an engaged following

While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.

Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine

comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.

While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.

 

Maximise influencer marketing platforms

Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.

These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.

With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.

 

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