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ACHIEVING EFFICIENT COLLABORATION THROUGH DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Marieke Saeij, CEO at Onguard

 

Before the Covid-19 crisis, digitisation was a long-term plan for organisations, but with the developments of this year, businesses have had to fast-track their digital transformation roadmaps. As a result, over 70% of finance departments have found themselves able to adapt to home working within a few days, according to our recent poll of over 300 finance professionals. In addition, over half now expect to continue working from home for the time being. With remote working set to continue for many finance departments, how can digital tools help bring remote teams together and ensure team efficiency during this period?

 

Keeping up-to-date

Without the correct specialist software, over half of finance professionals have found it difficult to work well together while being situated remotely. Of the organisations that have accelerated their digital transformation strategy during this period, over a third single out this reason as having improved efficiency in the department.

Expanding digital transformation also enables greater access to the right data, and the right data is crucial to making the right decisions. Enhanced web-based software ensures that data is comprehensive, up-to-date and available in real-time. This allows for finance teams to collaborate and work together from the same pool of information, regardless of where each individual is based. This then forms the basis for informed decisions to be made, ultimately helping the organisation and its customers.

 

Marieke Saeij

Saving time with software

The benefits of digital transformation don’t stop there. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic software platforms reduces human error and provides a helping hand to the finance professional in their tasks. Intuitive software is now able to take over laborious repetitive tasks, such as dunning. This saved time allows professionals to devote more hours to collaborative work with colleagues on bigger-picture analysis or strategic planning.

Increased use of software in repetitive tasks also allows the technology to provide predictive insights over time. The finance professional is then able to use this information to improve and personalise the service provided to customers. For example, the data could show that a certain customer pays a day late every month, which could lead the finance professional to amending the invoicing date to reflect this.

 

The evolving role of the finance professional

The Covid-19 crisis has found to have changed the finance professional’s opinion of digital transformation, with almost two thirds indicating reduced resistance to digital change during this period, according to our 2020 FinTech Barometer. In fact, home working has proved so popular with finance professionals that a similar percentage would like to keep doing so in the future.

To account for this shift in working pattern, over 40% of finance professionals are actively looking to better understand and grasp new technologies. Not only will an enhanced understanding of the available solutions and technologies allow them to continue to work from home effectively in a post-pandemic era, but also increases usage of digital collaborative tools for effective remote team working.

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly made digital transformation initiatives more relevant to finance departments than ever before, allowing professionals to increase efficiency in their roles and make time for more value-adding tasks. Whether it’s the introduction of web-based software for communication or intelligent solutions to allow for predictive insights to help provide customisation and increased efficiency for customers, digital transformation has been a driving force behind a collaborative and effective finance department for many businesses during this uncertain time.

 

Business

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING AIRLINES SMARTER DURING LOCKDOWN

Captain Nadhem is the General Manager of Alpha Aviation UAE

 

2020 has provided challenges to all industries, but few have been as directly hit as air travel by the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the world, entire fleets have been grounded as international airports closed and travel bans were introduced worldwide.

Unfortunately, the challenges faced by airlines do not stop there. Airline economics dictate that planes be used as much as possible. For larger planes, this means keeping them in the air as close to 24/7 as is possible. For this reason, there simply aren’t enough dedicated storage facilities at global hub airports. At Frankfurt Airport for example, the tarmac on the 4th runway is now the home of many of the airport’s planes. It can also often take as long as 30 days to return a commercial jet to circulation after it has been mothballed.

As a result, many planes that are still in circulation have been transferred to the Indian sub-continent where air travel hasn’t been as badly disrupted. It will take some time for them to be rehomed to their previous routes if flight paths do reopen. In 2021, the aviation industry will also need to adapt and re-assess both its fleet sizes and operational strategies in order to re-build in the wake of this global crisis.

Pilots account for a key proportion of overhead costs and airlines will be constantly rethinking their pilot training strategy, which is likely to include a need to outsource and decentralise to maximise efficiency. At the same time, trained pilots will require training updates and renewals to their licenses, even as fleets are grounded.

Flight simulators have therefore assumed a crucial role in 2020. Usually developed to keep experienced crews sharp by creating challenging scenarios in safe environment for them to overcome, they have now become important across the industry for several reasons. Flying, like any other skill, requires constant practice to maintain the highest level of competency. That’s why airlines have recency rules that require pilots to perform a specified number of take-offs, landings and approaches within a certain period of time.

Advancements in simulator technology continue to bridge the gap between theory and reality. At Alpha Aviation we’ve recently invested in the new Alsim-AL172 flight simulator that features a Cessna 172 cockpit, with two seats and a flight deck. As pilots still need to clock up over 1,500 flying hours to receive their ATP certificate, advanced simulators like these will also be effective in providing pilot training without the operational costs of a real flight.

This year also highlighted the need for regulators to make changes to the training process. For example, there will need to be more reliance on e-learning in the initial cadet training and the acceptance of integrated technology in simulator training will also be important. Further adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also offer a vital competitive advantage.

AI technologies have already been widely adopted across the aviation industry. From facial recognition at airport passport security to baggage check-in and remote aircraft monitoring. For years these innovations have been streamlining processes, both for operators and customers. However, AI has a much greater potential beyond these practical applications.

Among other benefits, AI and machine learning algorithms excel at recognising patterns and are extremely efficient at collating data from the process of training cadets. As most flight simulators are already equipped with sensors that generate considerable amounts of data, this resource can now be used to assess pilot competency from the onset of training.

Powerful AI and machine learning systems can analyse hundreds of flight parameters and sort through thousands of hours of simulator data to produce findings that a human coach wouldn’t have been able to determine. For example, AI programmes can evaluate a pilot’s ability as they execute key manoeuvres and create a comprehensive assessment of a cadet’s strengths and weaknesses based on real-time data.

The data collected from these training sessions can also be analysed by AI programmes to evaluate how the cadets fly certain training routes, for example, considering their angle of descent and acceleration periods. From this, airlines can gather enough data to build a picture of each pilot’s unique flying style and determine the optimum routes for them to fly.

A crucial part of this assessment centres around the rate each pilot burns fuel. Real-time decisions about the throttle settings during take-off and the climb can have a significant impact on the amount of fuel burned during a flight. With airlines spending around 33 percent of their operational costs on fuel, reducing the rate that fuel is burned can have a considerable effect on the finances of an airline and its carbon footprint.

Airlines already use AI systems to collect flight data regarding route distance, altitudes, and aircraft weight to determine the amount of fuel needed for a flight. However, now the data collected from simulators can also be used to pair pilots to specific routes, based on optimum fuel usage. This will result in cost savings for the airline by optimising the potential of their pilot crew to reduce excess overheads.

As we continue to work directly with regulators and the airlines to further expand the use of technology and AI in the industry, our ability to continue to adapt and innovate in this crisis will hopefully mean clearer skies ahead.

 

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Finance

HOW COVID-19 HAS RESHAPED THE PAYMENTS LANDSCAPE

By Mohamed Chaudry, Group Chief Financial Officer of FoodHub

 

The year 2020 may well have sounded the death knell for the saying cash is king. As the pandemic took over our world, consumer behaviour altered considerably as people embraced contactless payment, e-commerce and delivery services for many of the things we once handed over notes to buy.

Finextra reports that research carried out by YouGov for the ATM network Link found that 58% of Brits are using cash a lot less often thanks to the pandemic, with 54% avoiding it altogether and using alternative payment methods.

Some 76% of those questioned by YouGov added that they think the crisis will affect their future use of cash over the next six months.

 

Adapt to survive

Many businesses, particularly those in the food sector, quickly worked out they needed to pivot and adapt if they were to survive. Social distancing measures, lockdowns and the economic downturn hit the hospitality industry hard.

Safe and convenient online payments provide food businesses with a solid foundation from which to operate. The year 2020 saw the rise of payment gateways and the size of the market is likely to escalate in the coming months, giving online merchants more choice over the gateways they choose to work with.

Many of these platforms are embracing the changes in innovative ways, adapting to the altered way of life and creating different ways to facilitate recurring online payments and members’ due models. They can also put in place order ahead services for restaurants and expanded delivery options.

 

‘Seamless’ payments process

As lockdown restrictions continue to drive more people online, the e-commerce industry needs to offer seamless online payments to maximise its soaring popularity. The right payments provider should be able to guarantee security, offer access to fast-growing markets and a plethora of relevant payment methods for each market, all components that provide expansion opportunities and a better consumer experience.

Payment providers allow food businesses to focus on their core business and meet new customer demand while they take over the non-core competency tasks. Platforms such as online food portals need to design their site or app to make it as easy as possible for merchants to onboard and customers to use.

As the use of online payments racks up, online security has never been more important. Increases in one inevitably result in the increase of fraud or cyberattacks. Platforms and businesses must ensure customer data is protected. Payment partners can ensure security is key, their greater size and expertise providing the added edge to small businesses that do not have that capability.

 

Building a loyal customer base

Payment security is what will encourage—and keep—customers who haven’t previously used online food portals. Building a loyal, local customer base can encourage businesses to consider expansion—perhaps opening more venues in their region or county or even nationwide.

Promoting the ways in which a platform can benefit customers and a community—in the midst of a pandemic, for example, many people will be conscious that their local takeaway/restaurants, etc., are suffering and they’ll be anxious to help—is another way to broaden a platform’s appeal. An app that doesn’t charge a service fee or take a commission from its partners is one way to do this.

Covid-19 has accelerated consumers’ whole-scale move to online payments faster than anyone can have imagined, and they want convenient, relevant and secure payment services for markets that have previously been served mainly by cash or card.

The pressure is on for retailers (and especially food retailers who want to survive) to ensure they can meet this demand.

 

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