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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

Unlocking the Power of Data: Revolutionising Business Success in the Financial Services Sector

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Suki Dhuphar, Head of EMEA, Tamr

 

The financial services (FS) sector operates within an immensely data-abundant landscape. But it’s well-known that many organisations in the sector struggle to make data-driven decisions because they lack access to the right data to make decisions at the right time.

As the sector strives for a data-driven approach, companies focus on democratising data, granting non-technical users the ability to work with and leverage data for informed decision-making. However, dirty data, riddled with errors and inconsistencies, can lead to flawed analytics and decision-making. Siloed data across departments like Marketing, Sales, Operations, or R&D exacerbates this issue. Breaking down these barriers is essential for effective data democratisation and achieving accurate insights for decision-making.

An antidote to dirty, disconnected data

Overcoming the challenges presented by dirty, disconnected data is not a new problem. But, there are new solutions – such as shifting strategies to focus on data products – which are proven to deliver great results. But, what is a data product?

Data products are high-quality, accessible datasets that organisations use to solve business challenges. Data products are comprehensive, clean, and continuously updated. They make data tangible to serve specific purposes defined by consumers and provide value because they are easy to find and use. For example, an investment firm can benefit from data products to gain insights into market trends and attract more capital. These offer a scalable solution for connecting alternative data sources, providing accurate and continuously updated views of portfolio companies. Using machine learning (ML) based technology enables the data product to adapt to new data sources, giving a firm’s partners confidence in their investment decisions.

Suki Dhuphar

But, before companies can reap the benefits of data products, the development of a robust data product strategy is a must.

Where to begin?

Prior to embarking on a data product strategy, it is imperative to establish clear-cut objectives that align with your organisation’s overarching business goals. Taking an incremental approach enables you to make a real impact against a specific objective – such as streamlining operations to enhance cost efficiency or reshaping business portfolios to drive growth – by starting with a more manageable goal and then building upon it as the use case is proved. For companies that find themselves uncertain about where to begin their move to data products, tackling your customer data is a good place to start for some quick wins to increase the success of the customer experience programmes.

Getting a good grasp on data

Once an objective is in place, it’s time for an organisation to assess its capabilities for executing the data product strategy. To do this, you need to dig into the nitty-gritty details like where the data is, how accurate and complete it is, how often it gets updated, and how well it’s integrated across different departments. This will give a solid grasp of the actual quality of the data and help allocate resources more efficiently. At this stage, you should also think about which stakeholders from across the business from leadership to IT will need to be involved in the process and how.

Once that’s covered, you can start putting together a skilled team and assigning responsibilities to kick-off the creation and management of a comprehensive data platform that spans all relevant departments. This process also helps spot any gaps early on, so you can focus on targeted initiatives.

Identifying the problem you will solve

Now let’s move on to the next step in our data product strategy. Here we need to identify a specific problem or challenge that is commonly faced in your organisation. It’s likely that leaders in different departments, like R&D or procurement, encounter obstacles that hinder their objectives that could be overcome with better insight and information. By defining a clear use case, you will build a real solution to a challenge they are facing rather than a data product for the sake of having data. This will be an impactful case study for your entire organisation to understand the potential benefits of data products and increase appetite for future projects.

Getting buy-in from the business

Once you have identified the problem you want to solve, you need to secure the funding, support, and resources to move the project ahead. To do that, you must present a practical roadmap that shows how you will quickly deliver value. You should also showcase how to improve it over time once the initial use case is proven.

The plan should map how you will measure success effectively with specific indicators (such as KPIs) that are closely tied to business goals. These indicators will give you a benchmark of what success looks like so you can clearly show when you’ve delivered it.

Getting the most out of your data product

Once you’ve got the green light – and the funds – it’s time to put your plan into action by creating a basic version of your data product, also known as a minimum viable data product (MVDP). By starting small and gradually enhancing with each new release you are putting yourself in the best stead to encourage adoption and also (coming back to our iterative approach) help you secure more resources and funding down the line.

To make the most of your data product, it’s essential to tap into the knowledge and experience of business partners as they know how to make the most of the data product and integrate it into existing workflows. Additionally, collecting feedback and using it to improve future releases will bring even more value to end users in the business and, in turn, your customers.

Unlocking the power of data (products)

It’s crucial for companies in FS to make the most of the huge amount of data they have at their disposal. It simply doesn’t make sense to leave this data tapped and not use it to solve real challenges for end users in the business and, in turn, improve the customer experience! By adopting effective strategies for data products, FS organisations can start to maximise the incredible value of their data.

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Business

Making the Maths Work: Addressing Inflation Challenges through Measuring and Managing Risk

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Matt Clementson, Head of Enterprise UK&I

Persistent inflation is highly troublesome for every business – with or without a recession. In addition to causing unexpected expenses, it complicates decision-making around stabilising wages, setting product prices, and investing in new areas for growth. Meanwhile, stock and bond prices plummet when alarming inflation data arrives and interest rates increase. It’s time to run leaner, making the reassessment of the strategic objectives highly urgent.

With a seat in the boardroom, CFOs can guide thoughtful discussions covering everything from procurement, resource allocation, and manufacturing to the alignment of business purpose with operational tactics and goals. CFOs must also rethink how their business measure and mitigate risk. Understanding the business’ vulnerability, they can add considerable value to their business by identifying risks early and making organisations accountable for mitigating them.

When the economy becomes uncomfortable, the mathematics behind business operations no longer work seamlessly. During more comfortable times businesses have the luxury to accept some degree of inefficiency and low productivity – but in times like these that’s no longer the case.

So now it’s more important that ever for CFOs to use the right tools and technology to manage and mitigate risk and build business resilience.

Enhancing visibility to measure and manage risk:

To navigate through periods of high inflation, CFOs need technologies that provide comprehensive visibility, and enable informed decision-making, in order to optimising cash flow, minimise     costs and manage risk in a transparent and efficient way.

1. Simplify confusing processes to gain moments of clarity

Effective risk management starts with integrating data from various sources within the organisation. By consolidating data from finance, operations, procurement, and sales, CFOs can gain a holistic view of the business landscape. This integration enables them to identify potential risks associated with inflation, such as rising costs, supply chain disruptions, or changes in customer demand patterns. With access to comprehensive and real-time data, CFOs can make informed decisions that mitigate the impact of inflation on the organisation.

A good first step is to unify travel, expense, and invoice solutions, so that finance teams can integrate and streamline operations and scale spend processes without adding additional resources.

2. Make spending decisions with data-driven accuracy

Once data is integrated, CFOs can leverage advanced analytics techniques to identify patterns, trends, and potential risks. Predictive analytics can help identify inflationary pressures, allowing businesses to proactively adjust pricing strategies or negotiate favourable terms with suppliers. Additionally, scenario modelling can simulate the impact of different inflation rates on the organisation’s financials, enabling CFOs to devise appropriate strategies for managing risk. By harnessing the power of analytics, CFOs can navigate inflation challenges with greater confidence and precision.

3.Driving business agility through automation

Facing a myriad of disruptors, companies in every industry are making strategic decisions aimed at remaining competitive in the market and with their people. Digitisation, standardisation, and automation will be critical as businesses focus on solving problems for their customers in innovative, lasting ways

AI technologies, such as machine learning algorithms, can analyse vast amounts of data to uncover hidden insights and patterns. And with automated, customisable controls, CFOs can keep their firm agile – re-adjusting spend controls to match the corporate travel and expense (T&E) policy whenever their business needs to adapt or pivot. Only then will spending insights allow them to review how policies impact business performance and continue to optimise cash management.

Making the maths work

In a business environment plagued by persistent inflation, CFOs play a crucial role in addressing the associated challenges. By rethinking how their organisations measure and manage risk, CFOs can enhance their decision-making capabilities and add significant value. The integration of data, advanced analytics, and AI technologies enables CFOs to build resilience, standardise processes, ensure compliance, and deliver insights to the entire enterprise. By making the maths work in the face of inflation, businesses can navigate uncertain economic times with confidence and stay on the path of sustainable growth.

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