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HOW TO KEEP DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ON TRACK AFTER THE PANDEMIC

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DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Ashley Coker, CEO and founder, Slate

 

Introduction

The global coronavirus health emergency has made it abundantly clear how dependent we are on digital services for business continuity and social cohesion. When physical contact must be minimised, digital businesses are in a better position to rapidly adapt and continue their services and respond to customers’ needs.

This is perhaps why Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was prompted to delay the introduction of IR35 Off-Payroll working rules to the UK private sector until April 2021, as part of his package of measures to support British businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.

While some businesses expressed relief at the delayed introduction of IR35 rules in the private sector, many financial enterprises had already terminated contracts with IT contractors in preparation for the original deadline, with the risk of digital transformation programmes stalling.

 

What is IR35?

Inland Revenue legislation 35 (IR35) is a tax law designed to prevent individuals from using intermediaries, such as their own limited company, in order to avoid paying their fair share of tax and national insurance contributions (NICs). By setting up a limited company, some people were able to leave their employment in a bank on a Friday and return to the same job on a Monday as an IT contractor, with no change in their role, duties, or place of employment. HMRC wants to put a stop to this.

However, with an estimated 170,000 contractors working through their own personal service companies, HMRC has not had the resource to address cases individually and decided to put the onus on the organisations that hire contractors.

From April 2021, the responsibility for assessing whether a contractor is genuinely self-employed (outside of IR35) will fall on every medium and large private sector organisation with a turnover of over £10.2 million, a balance sheet of £5.1 million, and more than 50 employees. This means that every contract will have to be reassessed to decide whether an individual’s work falls inside or outside IR35. Contractors must be provided with a Status Determination Statement (SDS) for each contract that they undertake, confirming the organisation’s assessment of their status for IR35 purposes.”

 

How has the financial sector prepared for IR35?

To avoid the time and resource required to scrutinise thousands of contractor contracts, many financial services organisations took a blanket decision which deems that all contractors are working inside IR35. Several prominent organisations have taken this route and terminated all contracts with contractors who bill for their services via limited companies.

Being deemed to be working inside IR35 has the effect of making hiring organisations liable for paying contractors’ income tax and National Insurance contributions at source, as though they were employees, without contractors benefiting from the sick pay and holiday pay benefits of the organisations’ employees. Tax experts have calculated that working inside IR35 will reduce contractors’ incomes by approximately 25 per cent. This makes projects less attractive to IT contractors who might be working on delivering digital change.

 

How does IR35 affect Digital Transformation?

Prior to the IR35 deadline extension, HSBC, Lloyds bank and Barclays bank were reported to have taken a uniform decision to classify all contractors as working within IR35. It was also reported that Deutsche Bank risked losing 50 out of 53 contractors working in its London-based change management team after taking the decision to cease working with contractors via personal service companies and asking them to join the payroll of a recruitment outsourcing agency used by the bank.

If IT contractors stop working with their financial service industry clients, to avoid falling foul of IR35 after April 2021, this could have a devastating impact on digital transformation projects that depend on the specialist skills of external contractors.

A number of contractors have reported that they plan to seek employment overseas after IR35 comes into force in the private sector, so that they can carry on enjoying the flexibility, job satisfaction and remuneration of working off-payroll. This could result in a brain drain for many sectors, such as banking, which relies heavily on the skills of external IT contractors to deliver digital transformation.

 

Fast track to digital delivery:

While IR35 could pose serious challenges for digital change programmes in the UK financial services sector after April 2021, some CIOs we have spoken to see the contract renewal phase as an opportunity to clear the decks, refocus and keep their best people on the pitch.

Our experience of providing corporates with highly-skilled software engineers who are born problem-solvers, who work in small, capped teams on a 5 in 50 model, has shown that they are often fundamental to getting stalled digital change programmes back on track. These developers work alongside enterprise IT teams, on a Seed, Scale, Succeed process, bringing fresh coding skills and transforming project thinking into product thinking, with continuous delivery of digital service iterations. They are technology specialists who relish the challenge of working on high profile digital journeys, but who do not wish to work as corporate employees and are therefore hard for financial services organisations to hire.

We now have another twelve months to prepare for IR35. In the meantime, as financial services organisations adapt to the demands of the pandemic, this is the time for small, agile teams of problem-solvers to shine.

Technology

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT ENHANCING THE ORDER-TO-CASH PROCESS WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

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Mark Sheldon, Chief Technology Officer, Sidetrade

 

The global pandemic has meant companies everywhere have woken up to the fact that cash is king, leading to a renewed prioritisation of liquidity generation and cash conservation to survive.

One of the ways that companies have sought to secure cash flow is through improved Order-to-Cash (O2C) processes – helping enterprises minimise risks and maximise returns in their financial dealings.

 

But not all O2C processes are created equal. In fact, I see the current O2C market split into three segments:

  1. The first being the companies that employ manual siloed systems, who continue to work predominantly with Excel spreadsheets and even the postal system, and they continue to manually process customer data across a variety of siloed functions (sales, support, finance, etc.).
  2. The second segment, and where we start to see technology being leveraged, is a more digitised approach, whereby the basics of automation are employed, or digital collection media such as email is the norm. Firms taking advantage of these kinds of technologies can expect to benefit from improved efficiencies across the whole O2C process.
  3. The third and most mature segment however, and where the full benefits can be reaped, is when AI capabilities are built into the O2C process.

Mark Sheldon

In overlaying AI into this process, firms are able to leverage data and intelligent insights to supercharge their efficiencies even further. Teams can benefit from AI-powered recommendations that lead to optimum results, improved customer retention and overall streamlined O2C workflows. Customers can enjoy a much more sophisticated and effective end-to-end experience with their suppliers. And the business at large can benefit from significantly healthier cash flow, reduced bad debt and the enhanced ability to better forward plan.

But where to start when implementing AI technologies into your O2C process and what are the most important things you should be aware of?

 

Top tips for implementing AI-powered O2C systems

Firstly, it’s important to look past the hype of AI. It’s become a bit of a buzzword across all industries, and there are many vendors out there that label themselves as an AI provider, but simply don’t have the creds for it.

Fundamentally, without historical data, there is no AI. A company just starting out for example, might have the technical abilities to build an AI platform, but is highly unlikely to have the data sets required to feed it, and make it truly “intelligent”.

Secondly, it is critical to clarify the difference between robotic process automation (RPA) and AI. Many RPA vendors talk about AI and RPA interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

RPA is generally concerned with automating everyday processes – using software “bots” that you can set up to emulate a particular task; so it’s very much focused on automation of existing manual processes. Whilst there are some similarities in terms of efficiency benefits, it’s very different from what we do in AI. In AI, we use algorithms to intelligently recommend the best course of action, by taking the human thinking out of the system.

The risk with a purely RPA-based solution is that you end up automating ineffective or even damaging processes. For example, missing insight into where bottlenecks lie, or where siloed systems further amplify cash flow problems. So you could argue there is nothing truly intelligent about RPA.

Thirdly and finally, one of the biggest barriers that still exists today for anyone looking to employ AI in the O2C process, is the cultural challenges. Wherever we deploy AI, the number one challenge in terms of the rollout is the cultural belief and trust that AI is going to do a good job.

Fundamentally, AI-powered O2C software has been proven to improve key business metrics. With AI solutions, you can expect significantly reduced DSO, faster cash collection, and improved efficiencies by up to 50%.

What’s more, with AI, businesses can enjoy far more in-depth insights: understanding which suppliers aren’t paying fast enough, where to get cash into the business more efficiently, or identifying where the business opportunities for growth lie. All of this is powerful ammunition for CFOs looking to implement a cash-to-cash culture across the entire business, and a valuable aid in demonstrating the significant impact that AI in the O2C process can have across the business.

 

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Business

DIGITAL TICKETING: THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING PTOS AND PTAS.

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By

Arnaud Depaigne, Product Manager, Smart mobility at Fime.

 

Transport ticketing has rapidly evolved in the digital age. As recently as the 1990s, closed loop systems based around paper tickets or tokens were the norm. This resulted in a poor user experience. Lines to purchase tickets were often long, and turnstile throughput was inefficient. Today, passengers can use a smartcard or even their phone as their ticket, utilizing contactless and Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality to tap-and-go.

This proliferation of digital ticketing has only been further accelerated over the last 18 months. The pandemic has presented Public Transport Operators (PTOs) and Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) with an urgent need for hygienic contactless solutions. As passenger numbers slowly begin to return, the ecosystem is presented with a unique opportunity to advance urban mobility and move towards a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) model. However, with this also comes a series of challenges.

 

Reacting to changing user behavior

Arnaud Depaigne

Today’s consumer world is digital, global and on demand. Passengers want seamless integrated solutions that allow them to plan and pay for their transit using only the device in their pocket. Furthermore, the urban mobility ecosystem is seeing a rising demand for interoperable MaaS solutions that provide end-to-end transportation on a single ticket. Mobile ticketing must deliver on these expectations as well as being user friendly, reliable and secure.

In part, this is being achieved by changing the focal point of urban mobility from the station to the passenger themselves. This consumer-centric approach allows PTOs and PTAs to reconfigure their sales and distribution channels to meet the growing demand for digital solutions.

Mobility providers can achieve this by integrating Host Card Emulation (HCE) and NFC technologies into their ticketing solutions. More technologically literate passengers will already be familiar with digital wallets and contactless payments. This mitigates concerns about achieving widespread user adoption and means that any digital urban mobility solution could be rolled out at speed. Another benefit to this is that it significantly cuts costs for providers. As passengers no longer require mode-specific travel cards, everything is instead accessible on one device. Providers can therefore cut their expenditure on manufacturing the cards themselves. They can also scale back the on-the-ground resources allocated to support issuance.

 

Context is key

When rolling out a solution, providers must be mindful that each individual passenger has different needs. Cities have unique transit networks of varying sizes that require different approaches. Furthermore, any solution must be accessible to all demographics, from digital natives to those who are less technologically adept. They must also remain aware that not every passenger will have a bank account. Solutions must not exclude people. They must offer customers a range of options to make their payment.

Account-based ticketing (ABT) manages the consumer’s funds in the back-office account, making the payment automatically. This gives users flexibility to move between several fare media to make payments depending on what is most convenient at the time – be it by smartcard, mobile device or wearable. To this end, ABT solutions simplify maintenance logistics, improve security while also ultimately reducing the cost of urban mobility.

By moving from a stored value card system to an account-based approach, PTOs and PTAs can achieve “the holy grail of ABT” as it has been described by Visa. This system opens the door for future adjacent services by achieving interoperability between different fare media.

 

The importance of open standards

Open standards can offer a pathway to truly realizing seamless transport ticketing. With open standards, PTOs and PTAs remain in control of their ticketing network as the supply chain remains open to multiple solution providers. Providers can therefore avoid vendor lock-in and the issues that can present. Furthermore, an open standards approach means that PTOs and PTAs can evolve organically with the technology as it is rolled out. This allows them to remain agile and prepared for future challenges and developments.

 

The need for expertise

PTOs and PTAs will need to continue evolving with future technological developments. By remaining aware of the challenges that may lie ahead, they can put themselves in the best possible position to capitalize on opportunities. Infrastructure migration does not necessarily require huge investments, and with the right support, the transition can be made as smooth as possible.

Fime’s global expertise can help demystify and simplify ABT deployment. With over 20+ years of experience ensuring the efficient and successful implementation of card and mobile transaction services. Fime is well-equipped and experienced in supporting the transport market in delivering the next generation of transit ticketing solutions in a complex market.

 

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