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.
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.
Dissecting the expansion of online checkouts
Daniel Kornitzer, Chief Business Development Officer
Card payments have long existed as the preferred payment method for online consumers. But in recent years we have begun to see a rise in the use of alternative payment methods. Although card payments continue to serve the majority, it is becoming increasingly clear that consumer preference is diverging rather than reaching a consensus. Across the globe local preferences have developed as eCommerce has grown, and across the global digital payments landscape card payments are being passed over for new ways to pay.
Alternative payment methods are on the rise as they address several of the hurdles which have prevented cards from achieving total rule over consumer preference for online payments. Here are four key reasons for this:
- Alternative methods offer a superior consumer experience, particularly when it comes to mCommerce. With the rise of new regulations such as Strong Customer Authentication and developments in Open Banking, alternative payment methods can be faster and easier to use for consumers.
- New payments methods such as crypto are growing in popularity thanks to a more attractive offering to consumers such as lower cross border payment fees.
- With the digitalisation of services forcing many customers to pay online for the first time and many experienced online shoppers looking for more secure ways to pay, the security of financial data is a major concern. Alternative payment methods can protect customer details by removing the need to share bank details at the checkout.
- Not all consumers have bank accounts or a debit card. By offering alternative payment methods businesses are enabling these customers to join the digital economy.
Businesses have been watching these trends closely and are constantly looking to improve their checkout experience for consumers accordingly.
The impact of COVID-19 on online payments
The need for businesses to expand their online checkout to meet changing consumer expectations is not a new trend. However, it has certainly been accelerated by COVID-19. The majority of businesses agree the pandemic has shifted consumer payment preferences, with alternative payment methods gaining in popularity.
Research shows businesses have seen more alternative methods chosen at their online checkouts with a greater percentage of consumers choosing digital wallets (57%), mobile wallets (39%) and eCash (28%). This has caused businesses to reconsider the way they understand payments, looking beyond traditionally methods to newer consumer friendly alternatives. With this is mind, reports suggest more than 60% of businesses are now making improving their checkout a top priority to fulfil the new high standard of consumer expectations.
Businesses are actively expanding their online checkouts
If we compare data from 2020 to 2021 on the payment methods offered or planned to be offered by businesses in the next one to two years, the trend is clear.
The number of businesses not offering or not intending to offer alternative payment methods is falling, as more and more start to recognise the importance of offering choice at the checkout. In the last year alone the increase in the adoption of alternative payment methods has risen dramatically, particularly crypto and eCash. As businesses begin to understand the urgency of upgrading the checkout experience, it is clear that alternative payment methods will play a key role in making this a reality.
Establishing crypto as a key player
One of the most interesting areas of payments which businesses should be watching is crypto. Research shows businesses are already backing this trend with almost half considering adding crypto as an alternative payment method as an immediate priority, believing it will help them reach new markets, and more than 50% already have confidence in crypto as the future of payments.
Diversifying the checkout as a form of defence
As well as offering a better customer experience and reaching new markets, businesses are expanding their checkouts with alternative payment methods to combat other familiar problems.
Most businesses see their current levels of cart abandonment as an issue, with research showing almost half have experienced an increase in levels of abandonment at the checkout in 2021. Businesses consider two of the most significant causes of this to be card declines and absence of the customers’ preferred payment method. Offering alternative payment methods is an effective way of tackling these problems at the checkout.
The rise of fraudulent transactions is also becoming a more pressing concern for businesses, with the number of fraudulent transactions increasing since the start of the pandemic. Diversifying the checkout with alternative payment methods can be used as a valuable strategy to lower fraudulent transactions.
Looking to the year ahead
2022 looks set to be another year where we will see businesses continue to adopt new payment methods at their online checkout in a bid to keep up with consumer expectations.
By working with a leading payments partner, businesses can benefit from access to a range of payment methods through a single API integration, allowing ambitious plans to become a reality in the year ahead.
All data from this article is taken from our recent research report Lost in Transaction: Finding competitive advantage at the checkout.
How bug bounty programs can help financial institutions be more secure
Rodolphe Harand, Managing Director at YesWeHack
Financial services have been one of the most heavily targeted industries by cybercriminals for several years. One alarming stat from the Boston Consulting Group found these firms to be 300x as likely as other companies to be targeted by cyberattacks.
Furthermore, the pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of cyberattacks targeting financial institutions (FIs), with around 74% experiencing a spike in threats linked to COVID-19.
With FIs holding some of the largest collections of sensitive and private data, it’s clear they will remain an attractive target for malicious actors, especially as any data stolen can be used for fraudulent activities. This leads to the reputational damage of the financial entity that was compromised and has a knock-on effect in terms of monetary and reputational damage to affected customers.
For CISOs at FIs, the conundrum faced is how do you protect intellectual and customer data, and ensure accountability and transparency for clients and stakeholders, at a time when the pandemic has created budget constraints. Research from BAE Systems found that last year alone, IT security, cybercrime as well as fraud and risk departments had their budgets cut by a third.
Below we look at how bug bounty programs can help to address these pressing issues.
Protecting valuable data
Protecting customer and intellectual data has always been a top priority for FIs. However, as opportunistic cybercriminals have a lot to gain by stealing this valuable data, there is a constant evolution of threats, which means FIs must stay on their toes. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs can work with ethical hackers that have a wealth of experience and unique skills when it comes to identifying security weaknesses within a FI’s defence, thus helping to implement effective security measures to help prevent data breaches.
Building trust among various stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and investors is critical for achieving business goals. By deploying a bug bounty program, FIs send out a message that they care about protecting the security of the data of those they work with – which in turn can have a cascading effect resulting in better business performance.
For FIs to win customers and keep them happy, amidst the growing threat of neo banks and customer-centric fintech organisations, speed of innovation is crucial. As such, many FIs have adopted an agile approach to build, test, and release software faster to bring online and mobile banking solutions to market quicker. However, this can create frictions between development and security teams. Security mandates are deemed to be unnecessarily intrusive and a cause of delayed application development and deployment.
Yet, with DevOps teams needing to build and deploy applications faster than ever before, an epidemic of insecure applications has emerged. According to Osterman Research, 81% of developers admit to knowingly releasing vulnerable applications, while research from WhiteSource found 73% of developers are forced to cut corners and sacrifice security over speed.
With developers often not having the time, tools, skills, or motivation to write impeccably secure code, there is an evident need to provide developers with more support when it comes to building applications securely Fortunately, bug bounty programs can provide a “fact-based” financial implication of inherent security flaws within the process. This makes it possible to hold development teams and service providers accountable for creating or delivering insecure products, thus addressing inherent security gaps within the business units and helping to drive continuous improvement.
Moreover, security awareness and education of developments teams can be improved significantly for those developers that are directly involved with the management of vulnerability reports for their bug bounty programs. This is because, the mere fact of exchanging information with ethical hackers, or assimilating the thinking of a potential hacker and having proof of concepts of vulnerability exploitation on their application components, naturally accelerates consideration of security early in the development stage and provides ongoing learning.
Get more return on your investment
According to Gartner, 30% of CISOs effectiveness will be directly measured on their ability to create value for the business. When security budgets are challenged, CISOs need to demonstrate business value through initiatives designed to enhance efficiency whilst stretching the dollar.
This is where bug bounties can help tremendously. Compared to conventional penetration testing, bug bounty offers a fast, complete, and measurable return on your security investment, with businesses only paying out for successful discovery of vulnerabilities. Equally, businesses get access to hundreds of ethical hackers that can test their programs, each with their own unique skillsets as opposed to only one skilled researcher testing the network. This results-driven model ensures you pay for the vulnerabilities that pose a threat to your organisation and not for the time or effort it took to find them.
Bug bounty programs also deliver rapid vulnerability discovery across multiple attack surfaces. With this approach, organisations receive prioritised vulnerabilities and real-time remediation advice throughout the process to accelerate the discovery of, and solution to vulnerabilities.
Another appeal of bug bounties is that due to the continuous nature of testing, more vulnerabilities are found over time as opposed to pen-testing. This is key to financial institutions that require agility to keep up with the continuous roll-out and updates of applications.
The cornerstone to a successful security programme
The risk posed to financial institutions by cyber threats will only continue, as evidenced by the number of data breaches seen in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these risks, especially with almost all FIs having needed to shift to a remote working environment – which has only widened the attack landscape.
For FIs, a bug bounty program should be considered a fundamental cornerstone of any security strategy, with it being a modern-day cybersecurity solution that is well-equipped to tackle the immediate security challenges they face. In doing so, FIs will not only prove to customers and stakeholders their commitment to data protection and security but this will also be help them to avoid the monetary damages that could be imposed by regulators if a breach was to take place.
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