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BEYOND SPREADSHEETS: HOW CORPORATE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT DRIVES INSIGHTS

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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

THE ACCELERATION TOWARDS A MOBILE FIRST ECONOMY

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By Brad Hyett, CEO at phos

 

Over the last year, we have seen a big shift towards contactless payments. Fuelling this has of course been the coronavirus pandemic, which has made the public hesitant to handle cash due to the health concerns.

As multiple national lockdowns forced physical stores to close, and customers demanded easy, cash-free payment options, merchants had to quickly adapt. The result? An increased provision of pay and collect services.

In the UK alone, 83% of people use contactless payments according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

So it’s vital that merchants are equipped with the most efficient payment solutions, as the UK heads towards a mobile-first economy.

 

Proliferation of contactless payments

In 2020, 90% of UK card payments were contactless. This equates to an increase of 12% on the year prior, despite the total number of payments made falling by 11% from 2019 to 2020. Moreover, the affordability of smartphones has increased significantly over the last decade. And it’s estimated that 84% of UK adults now own one.

We’re Seeing merchants embrace more efficient and cost effective payment methods in response. While physical payment terminals are often too expensive for many small businesses, software point of sale, or SoftPoS, enables merchants to turn hardware that they already own – i.e. their mobile device – into a point of sale terminal.

With merchants increasingly adopting these innovative technologies, contactless payments will continue to gain popularity among the general public. In 2020, 13.7 million people in the UK either didn’t use cash at all or only used it to make a single purchase. That’s double the same figure from the previous year.

 

Changing consumer demand

Now more than ever, consumers are aware of how innovative payment solutions can add efficiency to their daily lives. As such, consumers now demand better payment services, including reduced queuing times, checkoutless stores, and bespoke loyalty schemes.

Businesses such as Mercedes offer an end-to-end digital car purchasing service, so customers can go through the whole car purchasing journey from the comfort of their own home. This includes car deliveries, financing, insurance and more.

Meanwhile, eCommerce giant Amazon has started trialling checkoutless ‘Go’ stores, speeding up the shopping experience by eliminating the queuing process altogether. The days of waiting for a table at a restaurant are also over, as more people have grown used to booking in advance.

Hence, it’s important that we empower small businesses to remain competitive and provide them with the payment solutions to meet customer demand.

 

Global transformations

The digital payments revolution isn’t slowing down anytime soon. By 2026, only 21 percent of transactions will be made using cash.

The US might have been slow out of the gate, but it’s starting to see increased adoption of mobile payments. In-store mobile payments grew by 29% in the States last year alone.

This growth was primarily fuelled by Gen Z-ers and millennials. Latest projections show that there will be 6 million new mobile wallet users by 2025, with millennials accounting for 4 million of this figure. These two generations, the former in particular, have grown up with mobile banking.

For most Gen Z-ers, their first foray into financial services was with a challenger bank like Starling or Monzo. These banks are able to offer online features such as ‘split the bill’, fee-free withdrawals abroad and much more to cater to the modern financial needs of the younger generation.

The Middle East experienced similarly sharp increases in contactless payments. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 200% growth in contactless transactions. This shift towards a mobile-first economy in the region was inevitable; the pandemic merely accelerated this shift. A recent study showed that 80% of people living in the Middle East planned to continue using contactless payments post-pandemic, with speed and security being the main draw.

 

The future is mobile

As parts of the world now start to come out of lockdown, there’s an openness to new solutions and a widespread acceptance of new technologies.

It is now a case of when, rather than if, we’ll see a permanent shift to cashless in the future. For businesses, embracing digital innovation will be key to remaining competitive and keeping pace with consumer demand in this fast-changing payments landscape.

 

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HOW MERCHANTS CAN IMPROVE THE ONLINE PAYMENTS EXPERIENCE

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By Alan Irwin, Senior Director of Product at Global Payments UK

 

The dramatic increase in online shopping over the past 18 months has encouraged many businesses to invest in developing their omnichannel shopping experiences. The reasons vary – some are keen to capitalise on the trend of older shoppers migrating towards ecommerce and some are trying to make up for loss of sales in brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. It is also true that many businesses are shifting their models to sell direct to consumers to avoid high marketplace fees and are therefore building their ecommerce channels for the first time.

The checkout experience is arguably the most important and delicate part of the ecommerce transaction, as it can make the difference between a happy customer likely to return, and a shopping cart abandoned out of frustration and confusion. A survey from March 2020 suggested that 88% of online shopping orders were abandoned, i.e. not converted into a purchase. A seamless, customer-centric online payment experience is therefore critically important in ensuring completed transactions. But with so many payment providers available, what should businesses be looking for when trying to keep friction to a minimum?

 

Keep clicks to a minimum

Less touchscreen interaction equals less abandonment. Adapting the payment page to fit any device and supporting popular mobile digital wallets like Google Pay ensures a seamless, stress- and hassle-free checkout experience for the customer and keeps clicks to a minimum. Friction can present itself in the most minor features – for example, when the customer is navigating the payment form, the appropriate keypad should be shown to the customer when required. It’s much easier to enter a card number using the dial pad instead of switching between QWERTY keypad layouts.

Simplifying online forms with autofill and tokenisation also significantly reduces friction at checkout and shortens necessary time taken. Ensuring checkout forms are tagged correctly for “autofill” is a great way to offer customers a single-click to input the payment, shipping, and billing data that they have stored in their browser profile. Similarly offering a guest checkout option will help convert customers who are in a hurry or looking for a one-off purchase. This can also be achieved by offering to store the payment details (called ‘tokenisation’) for express repeat and one-click purchases.

 

Make it easy to understand

A tailored payments approach can increase both domestic and international global sales. By offering a checkout experience in the customer’s language, the option to pay in their currency of choice, and use their preferred method of payment (whether it’s PayPal, Alipay or card), businesses can build loyalty quickly and put customers at ease. It is equally important for merchants to ensure they always display simple direction and information about next steps to instil confidence and prevent customer drop-off. The customer should be informed of what is happening at every stage in the process, for example, whether they will proceed to SCA (Secure Customer Authentication) next or go straight through to completion.

In addition, validating forms in real-time means merchants can highlight potential errors to the customer early on, and payment providers should provide this functionality. This could be an invalid expiry date, an incorrect digit in the card number or incorrect CVV number based on card type. When issues are only flagged at the end of the process, this forces the customer to go back through the steps to figure out the error. Real-time signposting of problems removes this potential friction and reduces the potential for a declined transaction.

 

Ensure seamless security

Merchants should work with a payment partner who offers the right blend of security and compliance management without it coming at a cost to the end-to-end checkout experience for the user. Instilling trust and security in your checkout flow while utilising the right solutions to drive seamless authentication flows will increase customer confidence and help prevent drop-off.

The greatest level of security and control comes from either utilising hosted payment fields that the
merchant can natively integrate into their checkout flow, or a hosted payment page where they can
manage the look and feel. Showcasing your brand on the checkout page with trust signals and logos also adds to building trust with the customer.

Staying ahead of regulations is also important. Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) will soon be mandatory in the UK for all eligible digital transactions, and this doesn’t have to be a friction-full process. Tools like Transaction Risk Analysis (TRA) and Exemption Optimisation Service (EOS) can quickly score transactions and drive exemptions where there is the right blend of transaction risk.

 

The devil is in the details

These three rules for successful ecommerce checkout experiences may seem straightforward, but it is important to apply them at a micro level. It can take only one minor point of friction to cause a customer to abandon their cart, and this will inevitably be replicated across other similar customers. It is critical to identify friction points early on and anticipate customer needs throughout the process. Discussing these points and any opportunities to improve customer checkout experience with your ecommerce team and payment provider is an important first step towards ensuring your entire shopping experience remains competitively seamless and loyalty is won. It may be that your payment provider cannot address them, in which case it could be time to move on in order to stay competitive.

 

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