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HOW AUTOMATION HELPS CFOS DRIVE PROFITABILITY

By Vijay Kurkal, CEO at Resolve

 

The economic backlash of the pandemic has challenged organisations across sectors to bolster their financial security. CFOs play a critical role stabilising businesses in the near term, positioning them for recovery, and safeguarding against the unexpected.

Given the economic climate and uncertainty, CFOs are closely monitoring every corporate expenditure and understandably questioning how current investments will add value to the business. Digital transformation initiatives are being carefully scrutinized as CFOs weigh costs and benefits.

As business leaders analyse which projects to pursue and which to table, they should consider this: research shows that innovation during downturns and investing in the future empowers companies to better survive recessions. Economists suggest that investing in digitalisation helps cut costs because it increases flexibility and allows for more sound, data-driven decision making. Additionally, companies that neglect technology investments during downturns oftentimes face insurmountable performance gaps as they come out of the turns.

Transformative technologies can deliver significant cost savings and operational efficiencies that help address immediate challenges while positioning companies for long-term success. Simply stated, digitalisation should remain a key investment area for CFOs to drive recovery and foster growth.

 

Driving Productivity and Cost Efficiency

One technology that has surged to the forefront over the last few months is automation. Automation immensely improves process efficiency by minimizing repetitive tasks and increasing output per worker to maximise resources. According to Accenture’s Finance 2020 report, robotic process automation can eliminate up to 40% of the transactional accounting work for finance departments. In addition to freeing up the finance team to refocus efforts on more strategic work, it also enables more accurate forecasting and real-time decision making – which drives better business outcomes.

Automation can undoubtedly have substantial impact on your bottom line, with applicability across many departments and job functions. For example, Resolve’s customers use our platform to automate IT tasks and processes, which has resulted in business outcomes ranging from an annual savings of 40,000 manhours to more than $15 million in operational costs.

Today’s IT workers face an overwhelming workload in the wake of the pandemic, resulting from a rapid shift in business processes to digital channels, a workforce that became remote overnight, and mounting demand on infrastructure – not to mention ongoing challenges related to increasing complexity in dynamic IT environments. Intelligent automation can help make IT more efficient and streamline a wide range of activities, such as automating the roll out new applications and services, onboarding new users, powering chatbots that enable employees to self-serve, and provisioning new infrastructure. Reducing support loads on service desks allows IT teams to focus on more business-critical digital transformation initiatives that will improve business continuity and resilience.

Automation, both in the IT department and elsewhere, also has the benefit of capturing and encoding business-critical tribal knowledge, alleviating the need to rely on a select few subject matter experts to keep processes flowing. CFOs can rest assured that business won’t be disrupted by workforce fluctuations due to illness or other unforeseen events (or the inevitable reductions in headcount that many organizations are forced to make right now).

 

Preventing Unnecessary Losses 

In an increasingly digital world, ensuring reliability of critical applications and infrastructure is no longer just the concern of the CIO. Last year, server downtime cost 15% of global businesses over $5 million per hour, while 65% were set back between $300,000 and $2 million for every hour of downtime. The significant cost of such outages should come as no surprise given today’s dependence on technology systems for virtually everything – from day-to-day businesses operations to customer service. Downtime does long-term damage to brand reputation and directly equates to lost business and lost productivity – all of which adds up to serious financial impact.

Given CFOs’ vested interest in IT performance, it’s important that they work with their IT counterparts to minimise system outages. Investing in automation enables IT teams to prevent downtime by automating preventative maintenance and proactive health checks, and when outages do occur, automation significantly accelerates problem resolution by pinpointing the source of the problem and executing remediation procedures to quickly bring things back online.

CFOs seeking to streamline operations should also be aware of AI for IT Operations (AIOps), which leverages machine learning and advanced analytics, alongside automation, to help further ensure business-critical infrastructure remains up and running at all times. By collecting and analysing immense amounts of data from a variety of systems, AIOps can quickly identify and, in many cases, predict issues before they impact the business. By pinpointing a problem in the making and triggering automated processes, AIOps can help your business avoid costly outages and improve business continuity (not to mention safeguard customer satisfaction).

Today’s business landscape has been altered in profoundly unexpected ways, shifting customer demand and making the need for speed, agility, and optimisation more pressing than ever. CFOs can ensure their organizations survive and thrive by making strategic technology investments that offer immediate value, while also fuelling long-term growth.

Business

WHY IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO SHOP SOCIAL

Dave Linton is an innovator, social entrepreneur, thought leader, mentor of social enterprises, motivational speaker and the founder and Managing Director of multi award-winning Madlug C.I.C which won the social enterprise UK consumer facing award in 2018.  Prior to beginning his journey with Madlug, Dave was a youth worker for more than 20 years and for the past three years he has also become heavily involved in mentoring and raising awareness of social enterprises. Dave is extremely passionate about using Madlug to influence a new young generation of social entrepreneurs.

Have you ever made a purchase because you know it will make a societal impact? Have you ever bought from a company because they proactively promote beliefs and values that align to your own? If so, you’re not alone.

As shoppers are becoming more conscious of the impact of their purchases, corporate social responsibility has become a buzzword for businesses, holding them to account in how they balance money-making operations with activities that benefit society.

This increasing expectation for brands to take a larger role in society helps further customer trust. When I talk with social entrepreneurs and leaders of social enterprises, I hear the same feedback: consumers want their purchases to do more. According to research from Edelman Trust (2019), 64 per cent  of consumers are belief driven buyers – an increase of 17 per cent since 2017. In addition, a report by Nielsen that surveyed 30,000 consumers in 60 countries also found that 66 per cent of consumers were willing to pay more for goods from brands that demonstrated social commitment.

The pandemic has severely restricted economic activities, but it has provided opportunities for businesses to rethink corporate social policies that can help sustainable growth. A recent paper by Accounting and Finance 2021 concluded that firms with excessive debt along with poor CSR performance are worse off compared with businesses that have good CSR performance.

The pandemic also shows the important contribution that social enterprises make to society. With nearly one million people now employed in the social enterprise sector, contributing to more than £24billion to the UK economy, it is a considerable force for good.

In 2015, I set up an ethical business called Madlug. The concept was simple: someone buys a backpack or piece of luggage, a child in care then receives one. We have had amazing opportunities to partner with business all across the UK who want to make a positive difference in the lives of others. IKEA UK contacted us pre- Christmas to order 12,000 Madlug bags to give as gifts to their staff. The social impact of this partnership is going to be huge. Thanks to IKEA, we can give out thousands of bags to children and young people in care throughout all of the UK and Ireland this year.

One thing we can recognise as we continue to live through this pandemic, is the importance of community. From standing together every Thursday evening clapping for our NHS heroes, to shopping for the most vulnerable, donating to food banks and staying home to protect lives, we have seen a seismic shift in people’s societal impact.

The bottom line is, we have to use our time and resources for good. How can your business or brand make the best impact on the communities in which you operate? Is there a charity or social enterprise that your company could partner with to make a change today and sustain a lasting legacy?

 

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Business

CREATING A PEOPLE-CENTRIC WORKPLACE CENTERED ON FLEXIBILITY, EXPERIENCE AND WELLBEING

By Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, Logitech EMEA

 

The light is appearing at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been 2020. With vaccination schemes now underway, we can (albeit cautiously) dare to dream of a general return to relative normality. Yet in the wake of the pandemic, neither our personal lives nor our work lives will ever be quite the same.

A wholesale change to working practices, and the nature of how and where we work, is set to be one of the big lasting legacies of 2020. Cal Henderson, co-founder of Slack, recently came forward to say he thinks that the age of the office is coming to an end. In a less extreme view, AWS’ CEO Andy Jassy predicts we’ll see the rise of ‘hot offices’, where employees will mostly work remotely, only coming into the office when they need to work on specific projects. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates predicts the age of business travel is over, with only 50% of business trips set to resume.

As the office evolves it’s clear employers will have to adapt their spaces in line with new, post-pandemic wellbeing and workplace trends, and create an office centred around “super experiences” that makes it a destination in itself.

So, in what ways will working practices change, and how do we see the physical workspace evolving?

 

Re-focussing on the employee

Ultimately, the pandemic has re-focussed the discussion on how employees can best work, and how teams are spending their time. It has also given employers the opportunity to ensure they’re in a better position to help people find a good work life balance.

Yet even after Coronavirus, it’s clear we won’t be working from home forever. The UK government says work from home orders may stay in place until April 2021 and with this in mind a flexible, and hybrid, way of working is set to stay. Employees feel that way too – a recent Simply Communicate survey found only 2% want to go back to the full week in the office.

With the digital tools available and the experience gained over the past 10 months, the idea of everyone being in the office everyday seems old fashioned and unnecessary. People don’t want to travel into an office to then just be sat at their desk for eight hours. What they want is to connect with colleagues, to learn, to be inspired and to share with others.

Whilst getting your head down to work is important, social time and collaboration is equally valued, and central to general wellbeing. For many employees, their work is central to their sense of self, their meaning and purpose, and after a long period of being at home alone, they’ll be yearning for those in-person, face-to-face experiences. This should be placed at the forefront of modern office culture and design.

 

An office designed for the people working in it

Offices will become destinations unto themselves – for collaboration, innovation and strengthening team relationships – and less about desk-based or task-based work. The space should also be vibrant and different.

These offices should offer a mixture of meeting rooms and open operational space, which will promote gathering for teamwork, collaboration and companywide networking events. At the same time, smaller collaborative working areas, enabled by video, will facilitate break away group work for those both physically present and working remotely. Banks of individual cubicles will disappear, and instead we’ll see occasional, dedicated concentration pods for when employees need to get their heads down between meetings. And how about relaxation pods should employees want a quick break and recharge?

Beyond work, offices also need to become social destinations in themselves. A recent JLL study found that nearly half of employees hope their office will prioritise social spaces, such as coffee areas, lounges or outdoor terraces and gardens. Common areas play a central role in nurturing informal work relationships, which improve development opportunities and help career outlook – especially crucial for people early in their work life. These spaces allow employees to maintain the inspiration, energy and social connection that comes with belonging to a physical team and environment – something which many found a real challenge to maintain virtually during the pandemic.

Flexible schedules and shared spaces will also lead to a “rightsizing” of office space, where organisations will rethink their real estate, in what will undoubtedly save costs. Some are even predicting that we’ll see the creation of an office ‘ecosystem’, which will comprise of employees working from offices, houses, and third places such as cafes, coworking spaces, and libraries.

 

Tech and video as the glue for hybrid working

While all of the above will support flexibility, functionality and employee wellbeing, for it to all work it needs high-end peripherals, such as Logitech’s MX Series of high-performance mice and keyboards, and collaboration software to pull it together. This tech needs to help us and not take us away from people, helping our collective mental health in environments that could be potentially isolating.

This human centred approach to work collaboration requires non-intrusive, seamless video conferencing and productivity tools. Through each space in the office, from large town hall style areas, through to smaller huddle rooms, personal workspaces and even satellite offices in the suburbs, these video solutions and smart productivity technologies can help to bring together a team as one.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of high-quality video tools available that can fit the needs of the modern worker within each individual environment. From large 4K cameras with the ability to pan, tilt and zoom to focus on an individual speaking within a large room, to wide angled huddle room cameras for smaller groups, and webcams with integrated high-quality microphones and optics to make sure remote workers are seen and heard just as clearly as if they were physically in the office.

 

The hybrid opportunity

The hybrid office presents itself with an opportunity to make work better for employees, while creating a more committed and motivated workforce. There’s also potential to save money through reduced office related overheads.

Tied together by smart technologies such as video, this hybrid office has the potential to make employees happier, more motivated and equipped to do their best work. Video will pivot from being the technology we used to survive during the pandemic to the one we use to thrive.

 

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