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HOW COMPANIES ARE SHIFTING THEIR IT INVESTMENTS

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Frances Weston, Managing Director at Econocom UK & IRL / US & CAN

 

COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge the world has seen in decades, resulting in a dramatic acceleration in the need for digital transformation. Companies had to react quickly and switch to remote working, without all the necessary capital and human resources in place.

Unforeseen investments, including laptops, apps, cloud computing and security, have had to be generated. Due to declining revenues, fixed costs and deferred payments from customers, lack of cash has become a big problem.

In light of the cost pressure due to uncertain business and economic conditions, more and more companies are opting for “as-a-service” models and moving to OPEX for their IT investments.

 

Immediate need for digital transformation since the pandemic

To strive in this economic downturn, companies were forced to fast-track their digital transformation efforts. A survey by Gartner in September 2020 found that 69% of the board of directors accelerated their digital business initiatives.

Technology driven companies have been leading the path to a faster recovery.

To meet employees’ needs and customers’ demands, IT and Procurement leaders should continue transforming their operating models and investing in key enablers, such as cloud computing, intelligent automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and advanced data and analytics.

Frances Weston

A recent report from IBM shows that 36% of business executives now assign high or very high priority to digital transformation compared to 17% in 2018. In 2022, this percentage is predicted to reach 62%. Another study by Nasscom, reports that more than 70% of CIOs are prioritising digital spend and moving to OPEX. In 2005, IT expenditure was 34% CAPEX vs 66% OPEX compared to 24 vs 76% in 2019-2020.

 

Cash is king and the emergence of as-a-service models

Having a favourable cash flow is particularly important in times of economic decline, when credit is harder to obtain. If a business can continue to ensure the regular inflow of liquid capital whilst controlling costs, it will be much better placed to ride out the storm of lower sales. In this context, the Device-as-a Service (DaaS) model of acquiring hardware by paying rental payments over time to preserve cash reserves is gaining significant traction in the technology sector.

 

Below are the main advantages given by the DaaS model:

  • Companies shift large IT budget allocations to more manageable expenditures over a planned period of time. It reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), allowing business leaders to make more strategic decisions regarding future investments.
  • Obsolescence risk is removed. Some goods require regular maintenance or even replacement. This is particularly the case for hardware. With an as-a-service contract, you avoid the risk of obsolescence and the problems of disposal of the equipment.
  • Setting up an as-a-service contract means benefiting from a complete, fully customisable service, with optional add-ons: upgrades, technical support, data wiping, recycling etc. Each contract is adapted to your activity and your company’s needs.
  • It increases flexibility: Unlike traditional IT infrastructures, the DaaS model allows organisations to ramp the number of devices up or down as required. At the end of the as-a-service contract, companies have three options: extend the subscription, return assets and renew the contract with upgraded tech or purchase the assets.
  • The DaaS model promotes multiple device models and configurations, enriching employees’ productivity and experience.

In 2015, according to TechRepublic, no major PC manufacturers were offering DaaS options to their customers, compared to 65% now.

Most companies also opt for subscription-based models to better meet customers’ expectations. The flexibility offered by as-a-service models means consumers pay for things as and when required, with some accessing goods or services they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. And with the transition from ownership to ‘access’ comes the opportunity to build a circular economy by innovating and saving costs and energy while conserving natural resources and reducing e-waste.

 

New business priorities

With all this happening around us, how much have long term business priorities really changed?

Asked about the most pressing of these priorities, C-suite executives ranked “workforce safety and security” number one, closely followed by “crisis management”, “cost management” and “cash flow management” (IBM reports).

Most companies are now switching to OPEX models to better manage their costs and optimise their cashflow.

In times of crisis, cash is king. But the current environment presents a big opportunity for digital innovation, and business survival will mostly depend on strategic IT investments.
To help navigate the tension between financial cuts and critical investments, shifting from CAPEX to OPEX could be a good alternative; it frees up funds that organisations can allocate to core business activities.

 

Business

HOW WILL DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION EFFECT JOBS SKILLED IN TECH

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Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

 

The world of technology is constantly evolving, and digital skills are also rapidly changing over the years. The interaction with the end customer is becoming more and more digital since the pandemic, therefore tech jobs, particularly in the banking industry, may need professionals to “humanise” the interfaces used by customers.

 

Tech jobs on the rise

Tech talent is growing, particularly in the Artificial Intelligence (predictive, customer profiling, etc.) sector, and technical skills regarding augmented reality, the user experience, and interface design are also on the rise. The outbreak of the pandemic has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the digitisation of processes, therefore jobs that specifically require knowledge of digital skills has increased in order to meet the needs of customers. Tech jobs remain focused on specialised areas of tech, however as the technology industry is in constant flux, some areas might be in more of a demand in comparison to others.

 

How remote working will affect the tech talent pool

The increase of remote working has already impacted the tech skills business, as the day-to-day working environment now exists in the digital realm. Tech skills are needed now more than ever, and employers have a huge role to play in helping people to continue their personal development while continuing home working. They need to focus on their personal development in order to build the workforce they need for tomorrow’s world.

 

Skills beneficial to the banking industry

There has been a massive shortage of skilled candidates in digital and technology disciplines. IT and financial companies need to upskill existing staff to fill these exciting new roles. In an age of high-frequency change, learning is truly for a lifetime.

In the debate about tomorrow’s skills in the banking sector, the rising value of each employee has often been overlooked. People are a valuable asset as machines take on the more robotic processes, and uniquely human skills come to the fore. How we develop these skills becomes a critical question for employers and workers alike. It will be many years before schools and universities nurture students well versed in these skills.

 

More tech talent required for business digital transformation

The process of digital transformation has already started with some businesses as a modernization process. This has undoubtedly accelerated strongly following the COVID-19 pandemic which forced everyone to overcome situations of technological immaturity and to radically review flows, work processes and models of consolidated business. Digitisation has entered even more pervasively into working life, becoming an essential and permanent condition, and making it necessary to acquire skills that are best suited to the new digital paradigms.

It’s inevitable that companies looking for ways to counteract the effects of the pandemic on their operations will ask their technology function to bear part of the burden. However, they must be strategic about any shifts made to the tech workforce. To ensure that vital digital services remain up and running, organizations must do everything possible to protect mission-critical talent. By showing their support now, companies can create goodwill that will carry over to when better times return.

Another of the direct consequences of remotisation is the emergence of new demands for soft skills suitable for managing collaborations and partnerships as well as specific technological talents that are increasingly specialized to support the new needs of businesses.

 

Tech skills that companies can use for their benefit

The movement towards technological areas are becoming increasingly crucial. Companies must necessarily equip themselves with professionals experienced in cybersecurity and train their people on the adoption of new operating models to protect all internal workflows from possible cyberattacks. In parallel, the need to acquire skills in the cloud, artificial intelligence, automation and user experience fields is growing exponentially in order to adequately support the changes in progress and allow work processes to be increasingly safe, intelligent and functional as well as suitable for supporting the new business models developed by companies following the pandemic.

 

How tech skills will support remote working

Soft skills are essential as they allow remote management and collaboration in virtual environments, but the importance of digital skills is growing. All HR departments are engaged in planning and finalizing training and learning projects whose main topic is information and communication technologies. The high complexity and technological vastness necessarily imply a high level of know-how and specialization in order to guarantee an optimal performance in the production and line areas, unlike the managerial or corporate areas where a disciplinary transversality of skills is generally privileged to allow a global overview.

Businesses have to work in order to build the right talent into the organization as a long-term plan during and after the pandemic, and this might be possible by applying AI, automation, and other exponential technologies to make workflows more intelligent. All of this affords a new opportunity to build better businesses and a better world. It starts with enabling a diverse workforce to perform optimally, and building trust and confidence among employees will be critical. How they are treated now will have an outsize impact on perceptions and value in the future.

 

Maria Paola Resta, HR Manager at Auriga

Maria Paola Resta has been a HR Manager at Auriga since 2018. Her role includes the coordination and overseeing of the group’s HR initiatives. She has a background in occupational and organizational psychology, and has been working in the human resources profession for 15 years. Her role focusses on talent acquisition, people development, training and employee relations. In the last 10 years she has worked in the HR departments of important companies that specialise in Information Technology, and her roles have increased in responsibility as she has progressed throughout her career.

 

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Banking

TO ENABLE BETTER LENDING FOR PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES, WE HAVE TO LOOK TO OPEN BANKING

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By Iain McDougall, CCO of Yapily

 

A recent FCA study found over 14 million people were grappling with financial issues at the end of 2020, representing more than a quarter of the UK adult population. The picture is similarly tough for SMEs, too, which have been impacted hugely by lockdowns, loss of earnings and more; it’s estimated the pandemic will cost SMEs an extra £173,000 in debt per year.

This is resulting in a lack of lending options for both consumers and businesses, as well as expensive or high interest loans, or worse, rejection from lenders all together. This in turn is driving unaffordable lending, and penning consumers and businesses in an ongoing and irresolvable debt cycle – at a time when they need the most support.

One of the biggest causes of this lies in lenders relying on credit scores and credit bureau data to inform their decisions, which simply aren’t accurate enough to truly get the full picture of a borrower’s financial situation.

The case for using Open Banking data in lending decisions has never been stronger.

Data accessed through Open Banking permits lenders to retrieve accurate information about the borrower’s financial history. This can provide more accurate assessments, and therefore enable fairer lending decisions.

 

Credit scores aren’t helping consumers

Take NHS workers as an example. Despite working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, NHS workers make up a sizable portion of the UK adult population currently struggling with debt.

Iain McDougall

An independent report from the University of Edinburgh Business School, in partnership with Salad Projects, found NHS workers are heavily reliant on long-term overdrafts and high-cost credit, where APR is as high as 1,333%. Almost all (93%) respondents said they use one or more types of credit or loan, compared with 75% in the wider UK population (according to the Financial Lives Survey). More than half (58%) use up to three loan providers and 68% use up to four loan providers.

This situation is the result of relying solely on credit scores. While these are the near-universally accepted method of determining credit terms, each credit reference agency has a different method for calculating a credit score. They rely solely on financial history, whether they’ve previously defaulted, or failed to get credit, and not a consumer’s actual financial position, whether they’ve recently got a pay rise or new income, to see how likely it is they will pay back any money borrowed. This can mean, no matter if a consumer’s financial position has changed, they can’t get a better loan because of a previous discrepancy.

 

The challenges facing SMEs

These issues are not just limited to consumers. SMEs, particularly those in the hardest hit industries like hospitality and travel, have struggled to access credit throughout the pandemic.

While many may have been thriving pre-pandemic, their lack of ability to turn a profit during lockdowns, meant they needed extra support. In an effort to keep these industries alive, we saw numerous government backed loan schemes launched, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, to help struggling businesses survive. In total, these schemes have provided almost £180 billion worth of lending to date, supporting over a quarter of businesses in the UK.

However, the soaring demand from businesses in need of these vital funds meant lenders were unable to keep up and many businesses did not receive support quickly enough. What’s more, providers may register these types of loans with credit reference agencies, which means companies that previously had strong credit ratings may see their credit scores negatively affected by any delayed or missed repayments.

This is why it’s vital for lenders to get lending limits right the first time round, so SMEs can avoid potentially adding to their already growing list of debt and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

 

Enhancing lending with Open Banking 

Using Open Banking can add a much-needed layer of trust and loan personalisation for businesses and individuals. By basing credit decisioning on real-time financial data, lenders will be able to create a more accurate picture of their financial situation; and so make fairer credit offers.

Through adopting Open Banking principles, lenders will be able to onboard new customers and grant loans more efficiently, providing businesses with the cashflow required to maintain their workforce and support the economy.

With the borrowers’ consent, it will also give lenders oversight into how the economy is recovering, and enable them to monitor the rate at which the individual or business can expect the loan to be repaid. Meaning they can step in and provide extra support if and when required.

Open Banking provides what credit scores alone simply cannot – real-time insight into an individual’s or a businesses financial position right now, not three to six months ago. By leveraging the data that is readily available to them, lenders could achieve far better and more responsible outcomes. This will reduce the risk of loan default – for both businesses and individuals – and lead to more responsible lending decisions that can help people and businesses bounce back after what has been a difficult year.

 

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