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ORGANISATIONS SETTING UP TO FAIL AS THEY STRUGGLE TO MAXIMISE VALUE FROM THEIR DATA

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74% of organisations acknowledge that data is a critical business priority, yet 80% still potentially see data accountability and management as just a technology problem.

Businesses are not exploiting the potential of ML, AI, NLP and Automation capabilities

Coeus Consulting, an award-winning independent IT advisory, today announced new research into the approaches organisations are using to drive value from their data. The report – Beyond Technology: How can Organisations drive Sustainable Value from Their Data Investments? – highlights that many organisations are potentially failing to realise the potential value of, or monetise their data, despite 74% acknowledging it as a key priority.

The research found that 80% of the large organisations surveyed, believe accountability for data strategy rests with technology leaders such as IT Directors, CIOs or CTOs. Additionally, only a quarter of organisations currently elect to have a Chief Data Officer, with even less placing accountability with others in the C-suite. Emphasis is being placed on speed (32%), cost (28%), and competition (30%), but less so on more fundamental underlying value, the insights it offers, or decision-makers’ ability to develop new products and services from those learnings.

According to one source, DATAVLT, only one per cent of the data companies collect is currently analysed, and they expect as many as 96% of businesses that exist today to fail in 10 years.

“Many investments in data and analytics have been started from a technology perspective with little alignment to business value or desired outcomes that can be measured against a business strategy. Businesses need a change of mind-set and approach right across the organisation, and the challenge is more than simply collecting data and making it available”, commented Richard Graham, Associate Director, Coeus.

However, the survey did find that 66% of respondents are actively trialling the use of machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and automation capabilities. Yet, only 39% admit to widely using data lakes and warehousing, suggesting that organisations have either not completed these activities or are not placing enough importance on them.

“Being data-driven is an imperative for most organisations and there is a growing trend to incubate and deploy advanced analytics, but organisations need to ensure they have certain fundamental capabilities in place before trying to achieve digital transformation.

There seems to be a motivation to be ‘AI first’, perhaps driven by the perception that most organisations are already ahead in using these capabilities, rather than getting to grips with untapped value in existing data, and how best to make use of it” noted Graham.

The survey results highlight that there are many obstacles to overcome before companies can begin to see meaningful benefits from the data available through technology-led investments such as AI. Of the top five enterprise data bugbears, the majority are business-related: the scale and complexity of data sets (27%); governance and ownership (24%); the lack of a data operating model (19%); regulatory compliance issues (19%); and difficulty in integrating new technologies.

Organisations are facing tougher regulatory environments and when asked to express their concerns about data regulations, compliance with ethical and moral requirements was the biggest, cited by 49% of respondents. This has obvious implications for data management, analysis, and technology buying decisions, and the potential reputational and financial repercussions.

Sixteen per cent of respondents also stated that a lack of expertise and skills is a major obstacle. Whilst companies are investing in foundational skills, moving skills in-house and introducing new roles, third parties and external contractors play a key role in enabling and supplementing these organisations, and will continue to do so.

When asked where organisations are seeing the biggest benefits from their data initiatives, 43% of respondents said they are in ‘improved customer insights’, while 41% identified an improved ability to take proactive, predictive decisions. Improved reporting’ also scored highly, along with better management of risk and regulatory compliance (37%). However, only 24% cited an increased ability to meet customer needs, with 20% citing a greater ability to spot future business opportunities.

In contrast, just 12% identified attracting new customers as a core motivation – the least favoured option on the list, this is despite the realisation that improved customer insight could be the biggest benefit.

“This is surprising given it’s so important in markets that are becoming hyper-competitive. Nearly every type of business is being disrupted by new players and a lack of customer loyalty, especially on new digital channels. Investing in customer insights and new product development ought to be a high strategic priority alongside consolidating market position”, said Graham.

“Being able to seamlessly integrate data and analytics into standard business and IT operations should be the goal of all organisations, to unlock value in your data and information. Businesses need to create an aligned data and business strategy that positions data as a strategic asset, and prioritises resources to integrate data management and analytics effectively”, Graham concluded.

You can view the full report – How can Organisations drive Sustainable Value from Their Data Investments? here.

 

Business

CORONAVIRUS: FURLOUGHED WORKERS AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR BUSINESS

by Tina Chander, Wright Hassall

 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is designed to help businesses that would otherwise be forced to lay off staff in the face of the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19.

All businesses with a PAYE scheme in place on 28 February 2020, regardless of size or sector, will be able to benefit from the scheme with the government reimbursing employers up to 80% of their employees’ wages, to a maximum of £2,500 per month, plus employer’s NICs and auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Employees on agency contracts and flexible or zero hours contracts can also benefit from the scheme. In addition, the scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

 

Furloughed workers: what does that mean?

Businesses have to ‘designate affected employees as furloughed workers and notify your employees of this change’. However, employers still have to heed employment law which means that, having designated those employees whose jobs were at risk, they will need to agree with those employees that they will be ‘furloughed’.

Given the extraordinary situation prevailing at the moment and given the alternative to being furloughed, it is likely that most employees will agree to the terms.

For those workers who do not agree, they will either have to take unpaid leave for an indeterminate period or employers are likely to have to go down the redundancy route. It should be noted that furloughed workers are designated by the employer – an employee cannot ‘self-designate’.

 

Eligibility

Employees hired on or after 1 March 2020 are excluded from the scheme, presumably to stop people ‘gaming’ the system by hiring family members after the scheme was announced and then furloughing them.

However, those businesses that have made people redundant since 28 February 2020, can re-employ them and then furlough them. To qualify for payment under the Job Retention Scheme, an employee must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks in order to prevent employers putting staff on a furlough ‘rota’ i.e., one week on furlough, one week off.

 

Who can be furloughed?

Normal employment law still applies so employers must not discriminate when deciding who to furlough. Employees returning to work after a period of sickness absence, or self-isolation, can be furloughed, however they cannot be furloughed whilst they remain on a period of sickness absence or self-isolation.

Furlough will only take effect when this period comes to an end. Employees who are “shielding” however, will be eligible to be furloughed. Employees on maternity leave can be furloughed if they agree to return to work early or change to shared parental leave, alternatively they will remain on Statutory Maternity Pay where this is applicable and will not be furloughed until their return.

When agreeing changes and moving to furlough status, it is important to remember that normal employment law processes apply. Employers must be careful not to discriminate against any employees when deciding who to offer furlough to.

 

Furloughed workers remain employed but must not work

Assuming the designated employee has agreed to be furloughed, they cannot undertake any work for their employer at all. If the employee continues to work, even reduced hours, they are not eligible for the scheme. The good news for furloughed staff is that they can volunteer or undertake training providing neither activity generates income for their employer. Whether or not people can take advantage of this while confined to their house is, of course, another matter altogether.

 

How it will work?

While furloughed, the government will pay related employment costs including pension contributions and NICs (but not commission or bonuses) in addition to wages. All furloughed workers will remain employed by their employer for the duration of the scheme.

Employers can make up the missing 20% of their employees’ salaries but that is their choice (or ability to pay). There is no legal obligation for the employers to top up the salary to 100%, but any contractual clauses regarding withholding pay and deductions should be taken into account when this decision is being made.

For those employees who are furloughed, their employment status will change but their employment record remains continuous.

Employers need to give HMRC a list of furloughed employees. Employers pay their workers as usual, via PAYE, and then apply for funding, every three weeks (not weekly) to cover 80% of their wages (up to £2,500 of gross pay).

You will receive a grant from HMRC to cover the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular wage or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer NICs and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.

For workers whose pay varies, the 80% is based on the higher of:

  • the earnings in the same pay period in the previous year; or
  • the average earnings in the previous 12 months (or less, if they’ve worked for less).

If employees paid the minimum wage are furloughed, the fact that 80% of their earnings will bring their wages below the NMW does not contravene the legislation as people are only entitled to the NMW if they are working. They can, however, claim the NMW if undertaking training.

The HMRC system through which payments can be made should be up and running by the end of April. The scheme is expected to run for three months, subject to review.

 

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Business

IS YOUR OFFICE LEASE CRUSHING YOUR BOTTOM LINE? YOU HAVE OPTIONS

LEASE

By Jonathan Wasserstrum, Founder / CEO, SquareFoot

These are unprecedented times for us all. Nobody has a playbook to get through it. Every company right now is undergoing a series of budget cuts and enduring difficult questions, trying to trim wherever it possibly can to help withstand the profound pressures and unique challenges that the covid scare haqs brought with it from an economic standpoint.

Companies looking to avoid having to make significant layoffs to offset their expenses are having to find other budget items that they can slash or reconsider. For many companies, especially those on the smaller side, that relief may come through renegotiating or rethinking their office lease. Especially at a time like this, when there’s so much uncertainty on how long this pandemic might last, and with staffers working from home indefinitely, this sizable area of cost to the business doesn’t make sense for some businesses to carry.

At SquareFoot, the commercial real estate company I founded in 2011, near the beginning of a decade of positive economic outlook, I envisioned helping growing companies to find office space. And I staffed up with a talented team of in-house brokers to show offices in NYC, and to work on deals in 30 other major U.S. cities.

I raise this background to offer some context for how dire the situation is now with regard to commercial real estate, when it’s not possible to show available office spaces to interested parties. Just a month ago, we were looking ahead at a very promising 2020, on track to act on and to achieve goals we had set. Because of this current economic downturn that has hit us all, we’ve also had to shift priorities accordingly.

Jonathan Wasserstrum

We’ve instructed our brokers – effective immediately – to make themselves available to all concerned business owners as trusted advisers to walk them through their current leases and to outline for them all of their options. Even if they never do a transaction with us, I want my team to step up and provide some expertise to stressed-out executives. This is our small but significant way of helping to prevent other companies from having to let go of key staffers. We want to make this an easy choice for entrepreneurs. But, first, it requires them to understand what options they can move on.

We are already working closely with a number of businesses to review and to summarize their current leases, giving them some clarity and greater comprehension of what is set in stone and what can be adjusted in the wake of this crisis. Among the options that I and the team are exploring on behalf of those who have reached out include:

  • Checking with your insurance agent about your Business Interruption Insurance coverage;
  • Subletting the space. It’s not an optimal time to find a subtenant, but it’s still something worth pursuing to salvage the situation at hand;
  • Post empty desks on PivotDesk, a business unit that SquareFoot owns and operates to rent out (as a host) a small number of desks within an office (to a guest) to share the space;
  • Propose a rent abatement now from the landlord and arrange for a term at a higher escalated rent on the back end; or
  • Walking away. Closing up shop and declaring bankruptcy isn’t anyone’s first option, but handing back the keys and letting the landlord keep your security deposit is a path forward for the most desperate of clients.

Obviously, this is not a situation that anyone hoped to be in or had prepared for. We don’t proclaim to have all of the answers for every company, but we do hope that giving some knowledge and sharing some wisdom with those in the most vulnerable of positions right now would leave them better off than without it. In addition to the specifics of the situation for each individual client, we can also step back and have offered some additional background on what to expect from the real estate market in the coming months.

For instance, we anticipate that subleasing will emerge as increasingly important to fill spaces quickly. Amid the 2008 financial crash, subleases went from 20% of the market to 45% of the real estate market after the stock market market crashed. If that’s the direction we’re heading again – and it seems we might – it’s perhaps wisest for those holding onto long term leases to act quickly.

Once the quarantine is lifted, it’s possible that everyone else will catch up and get wise to this opportunity in the market and they will likely request these types of discounted transactions in a rush all at once; subleases could flood the market, driving costs straight up.

Moreover, if similar effects on the office market emerge soon the way they did during the 2008 financial crisis then there will likely be a sharp increase in the number of tenants looking to:

  • Renew their lease
  • Arrange for a short-term extension of their lease

This is the lowest risk strategy for any tenant, of course. Lease renewals are likely to be incredibly popular in the coming months. We expect that landlords will be working closely and compassionately with tenants at this time to offer existing tenants who are looking for short-term extensions to offer incentives, in the form of free or reduced rents.

As the markets go sideways, you can likely find better value on the space you already have. Whether you work with my team and me, or with someone else, we still advise that you should act quickly. Right now, it’s all about reducing costs to keep people in place. Your office lease is a better place to start the discussion than anywhere else on that long list of expenses.

 

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