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IT COST MANAGEMENT: 10 STEPS BUSINESSES CAN’T IGNORE

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By Matt Dando, Director, Strategic Business Value Consulting at Serviceware

 

In today’s ever-accelerating digital era, and as we recover from a global pandemic, digital transformation has stepped more firmly into the limelight. Over the last 18 months, digital initiatives have accelerated, with investment in the cloud also increasing dramatically. Digitalisation is arming CFOs and CIOs with data, but understanding what to do with it can be overwhelming, especially when battling to manage cost data from the various vendors associated with both cloud and existing on-premises investments.

With pressure around sustainability acting as another catalyst for cloud adoption, never has there been a greater need for businesses to have a complete, detailed and transparent view of all IT costs. In fact, now is the time for businesses to ensure that they are managing IT costs effectively – not just in terms of cutting, but also optimising, investments, and reinvesting in the tools and technologies that can and will enable them to keep up with the wider business strategy. Luckily, there are 10 simple steps that businesses can follow in order to ensure a comprehensive, detailed and streamlined control over all IT costs.

Step 1: Building a comprehensive IT service catalogue

The starting point for IT cost control is the creation of an IT service catalogue. This catalogue outlines individual IT services, information about their purpose, location and costs, to create a detailed overview. Having a clear and complete definition creates standards for available services and bridges the gap between different departments.

Matt Dando

Step 2: Effectively monitoring IT costs

One of the most important tools for the efficient tracking of IT costs is the control of the value chain, from the smallest cost units to finished business units. With the help of service catalogues, benchmarks, the use of IT Financial Management (ITFM) or what is often referred to as Technology Business Management (TBM) solutions, comprehensive access to this data can be guaranteed, creating a ‘cost-to-service flow’ that identifies and controls the availability of IT costs.

Step 3: Assessing IT budget management

Even with perfect transparency of IT costs, there are different approaches to allocating IT budget – centralised, decentralised and iterative. With a centralised approach, the budget is determined in advance and distributed to operating cost centres and projects in a top-down process, allowing for easy, tight budget allocation. With this approach, however, there is the risk of overlooking projects that offer potential growth opportunities. With the decentralised approach, the process is reversed. Operating costs are precisely calculated before budgeting and projects are determined. The downside is that budget demands might exceed available resources.

Finally, the iterative approach tries to unify both methods. Set budgets, overhead and prospective projects are put together to make a detailed assessment of the most viable course of action. Although the most lucrative approach, it also requires the most resources. None of these approaches are necessarily superior. Instead, it depends on the available resources, and the enterprise’s structural organisation.

Step 4: Managing IT budget for growth

Before allocating IT budget, it is important to define costs into two categories: ‘run’ and ‘grow’ costs. ‘Run’ costs usually include operating costs, while ‘grow’ costs refer to all services and products that are intended to change, transform or expand the business. Benchmarks and standard definitions can help with this categorisation, but do not necessarily have to be followed, as long as cost allocation remains consistent. When definitions have been clearly determined and projects assigned, the IT budget needs to be allocated and decisions need to be made on how to split the budget. Whilst a split of 70% run/30% grow is the norm across most enterprises, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and decisions will rely on varying factors such as availability of resources and the goals of the enterprise as a whole.

Step 5: Keeping a positive gross profit margin

By following the steps above, organisations can achieve complete transparency with regards to which products and services are offered, where IT costs stem from, and where budgets are allocated. This makes it easier to analyse how much of the IT budget is being used and where costs lead to profits and losses. If the profit margin is positive, the controlling processes can be further optimised, and, if the profit margin is negative, appropriate, or timely, corrective measures can be initiated.

Step 6: Staying tax compliant

One additional important factor in comprehensive IT cost control is tax compliance. The more the enterprise of a company operates internationally, the more relevant it is to stay on top of varying international tax regulations. IT products and services that are marketed abroad are subject to country-specific tax laws and, to ensure that they are adhered to without errors, it is necessary to provide correct transfer price documentation. This in turn depends on three factors:

  • Transparent analysis and calculation of IT services based on the value chain
  • Evaluation of the services used and the associated billing processes
  • Access to the management of service contracts between providers and consumers as the legal basis for IT services.

By achieving the transparency enabled by the previous steps, it is possible to demonstrate international tax compliance.

Step 7: Benchmarking IT service pricing

The first step in pricing IT services is to collect benchmark data. These can be researched or determined using existing ITFM solutions that are able to obtain them automatically from different – interconnected – databases. Next, a unit cost calculation is necessary in order to define exactly and effectively what individual IT services – and their preliminary products – cost. This enables businesses to easily compare internal unit cost calculations with the benchmarks and competitor prices, before making decisions about pricing.

Step 8: Providing factual cross-driver analysis

A properly modelled value chain makes it clear which IT services or associated preliminary products and cost centres incur the greatest costs and why. This analysis allows for concise adjustment to expenditure and helps to avoid misunderstandings about cost drivers – for example, the importance of infrastructure on the generation of IT costs. Then, strategies can be developed to reduce IT costs effectively and determine more careful use of expensive resources.

Step 9: Accounting and invoicing IT costs

IT cost control through the value chain enables efficient usage-based billing and invoicing of IT services and products. If IT costs are visualised transparently, they can easily be assigned to IT customers. This increases the transparency of the billing process, and provides opportunities to analyse the value of IT in more detail. There are two options for informing managers and users about their consumption: either through the showback process – highlighting the costs generated and how they are incurred – or through the chargeback process, in which costs incurred are sent directly to customers and subcontractors.

Step 10: Managing supply and demand

The manual nature of Excel spreadsheets poses a risk to data integrity and should therefore be avoided, as they are impossible to keep up to date all the time and require significant effort to maintain. A holistic analysis and greater cost transparency results in a larger, more detailed overall picture of IT service consumption, which allows conclusions to be drawn in a timely manner to enable the optimisation of supply and demand for IT services in various business areas.

Optimising and maintaining IT cost control

Following the above steps will ultimately enable businesses to reach new levels of efficiency and maturity – and, more importantly, create a secure, transparent, and sustainable IT cost control environment. Budgets can be optimally utilised, IT costs can be cut and overall productivity significantly boosted. However, businesses that ignore this advice will be severely hindered if they do not stay on top of the ever-changing conditions of the current market landscape.

Business

5 tips to ensure CSR efforts come across as genuine

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By Mick Clark, Managing Director, WePack Ltd

 

Corporate social responsibility – or CSR – is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the long-term success of modern-day companies.

The harsh reality is that only a paltry 46 percent of people trust the brands they buy from. And with more competition than ever in all walks of business, a positive brand reputation needs to be earned or customers will simply take their money elsewhere.

That’s why I share my insights on the importance of CSR in modern business and introduce an effective plan to avoid coming off as disingenuous to your employees and customer base.

The value of CSR

The needs of modern employees and consumers are changing. There is a higher emphasis placed on the ethics and morals of companies and their handling of hot button topics like the environment or social issues.

59 percent of UK workers believe their business should be investing in charitable initiatives. 67 percent of people aged 18-19 feel this way, showing a generational shift in favour of companies that support ethical, social, or environmental causes.

Mick Clark

At WePack, we recognise the importance of this and make sure to regularly donate to a variety of charities including RRT (Rapid Relief Team), and donated £6,000 to the charity’s social causes last year.

An example of good CSR can be found in search engine giant, Google. It has had notable success with its CSR initiatives. Its flagship CSR campaign, Google Green, is a companywide commitment to using clean sources of energy, cutting down on its use of fossil fuels and drastically increasing energy efficiency as a direct response to the climate crisis.

It has been so successful that its data centres now require 50 percent less power to run than the average data centre and it’s poured over $1 billion into jumpstarting renewable energy projects.

Customer attitudes are fundamentally changing, and people are far more concerned about the values that their money could be indirectly supporting. In fact, 71 percent of customers prefer buying from businesses that align directly with their values.

In the modern-day, demonstrating high levels of CSR boosts brand perception. Businesses that make it a priority are more attractive – from an investment standpoint – to both customers and potential stakeholders.

For example, more than a third of consumers are also willing to pay more for a product or service if the business prioritises sustainability specifically – so it pays to be responsible.

Businesses with purpose-driven and ethical goals and proven commitments to CSR help retain employees. Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and it’s that cohort that is increasingly demanding socially responsible employers.

Those that fail to meet the needs will ultimately see their customers take their purchasing power elsewhere.

Addressing the challenges

As obvious as it may sound for a business to take on as much CSR as possible, many organisations face limitations.

Pressure from investors can disrupt the growth of CSR initiatives. Sometimes, the direction that stakeholders want to take the company doesn’t fully align with plans to target social or environmental issues.

Companies face becoming fixated on linking profitability with CSR programmes. It can be tough to present a genuine CSR programme without it coming across as a marketing ploy – presenting an extra hurdle for businesses to overcome.

Despite the challenges businesses face that are out of their control, many firms unwittingly make their own mistakes that cost them dearly.

For example, businesses can struggle to bolster their CSR programmes if they don’t consult their customers and staff first. A simple survey helps companies decide what issues to put as a priority and target to satisfy their customer base and employees.

Any attempt to create an effective CSR programme needs top-down support. Many businesses wrongly treat CSR as a separate entity, rather than fostering a companywide culture. This can lead any attempt to push back on global issues to appear disingenuous to those looking in.

Shifting the CSR approach

Because of the global shift in public needs and opinions in recent years, businesses need to better demonstrate their efforts to avoid having their campaigns labelled as a box-ticking exercise.

It’s no secret that consumers are doing more research and are becoming more switched on to spotting lacklustre approaches to CSR. Also, everyone can have their say online – it’s much easier to get exposed if your CSR campaign is nothing but an empty publicity stunt.

For example, Volkswagen’s reputation was left in tatters after its ‘greenwashing’ scandal promoted a newer, cleaner diesel vehicle that wasn’t any better for the environment than previous models. The company took it further by fitting a device that helped it cheat emissions tests – resulting in a $125 million fine.

For this reason, CSR campaigns need tangible results to be credible and trustworthy.

Sharing top tips

When it comes to structuring a strong CSR campaign, it’s critical to demonstrate several things to prove your strategy is effective in helping the chosen cause.

Firstly, evidence the fact that your efforts are helping wider communities. Whether it’s through statistics or showing proof of investment in social causes, tangible evidence goes a long way when legitimising your CSR campaign.

Secondly, balance your rhetoric. Effective communications are vital to the success of a campaign. However, it can damage a company’s image when done poorly. Businesses should speak about their chosen issues in their dialogue rather than spending too much time talking about the solutions the company has implemented. This stops them from becoming too self-promotional or sounding braggy.

To further avoid this, make sure you can directly tie your CSR campaign to corporate values and beliefs. As well as helping to strengthen your comms, it will also guarantee that company values are more than just surface-level – helping to facilitate tangible, long-term change.

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How to Build Your Credit Up Safely

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by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit

 

What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.

How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.

1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.

2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.

3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.

4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.

Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.

2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.

3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.

4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.

5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.

What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.

2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.

3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.

4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.

5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.

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