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Overcoming the digital skills gap

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Ambrozy Rybicki, Co-founder and CEO, ARP Ideas

 

2022 was a challenging time for SMEs. Rising inflation has increased the costs of running a business, made more complex by successive interest rate hikes and the UK now finding itself in the midst of a recession, which could last throughout 2023.

At an operational level, SMEs are also facing pressure due to a widening gap between workforce demand and supply. This is particularly prevalent in the digital and IT space. It is estimated that 75% of UK companies are struggling to fill vacant positions, while the widening digital skills gap is estimated to be costing £6 billion in lost GDP every year.

ARP Ideas has been working closely with clients across a range of different sectors to ensure they have the correct IT solutions in place to support how they operate. Based on our expertise and experience, it has become clear to us that many companies are suffering from a knowledge gap when it comes to understanding and implementing IT solutions that ultimately support their ways of working.

For this reason, SMEs across all sectors need to prioritise their access to IT and digital services in 2023. Doing so will ensure they are best positioned to tackle prevalent challenges, enhance their operational efficiency and ultimately find opportunities to leverage new technologies to improve how they engage with their clients and facilitate long-term growth.

 

Top IT trends for SMEs in 2023

While there are challenges specific to each industry, there are three trends linked to the implementation and use of IT and digital services.

Ambrozy Rybicki

The first is cybersecurity. The migration to the cloud and adoption of remote working practices has increased the digital footprint of SMEs. At the same time, we are seeing a risk in cyber attacks taking place, with evolving new threats being deployed to exploit weaknesses in current defence systems. SMEs are a prime target and can fall victim should they rely on outdated software or lack the knowledge to effectively minimise their risk of being attacked.

The second is finding talent. As mentioned above, finding and hiring an inhouse tech and IT team can be costly and time-consuming, particularly for companies which are planning to launch a new CRM system or deploy a new internal IT process. The gap between demand and supply in hiring talent will widen in 2023, making it more difficult for talent acquisition.

The third trend is linked to innovation and proliferation of new technologies. Through its modern evolution, IT has naturally become embedded into SMEs due to its ability to simplify and enhance how they operate. Innovations like AI and machine learning means SMEs can use these technologies to reduce the time and resources traditionally required for manual and tedious activities. There are huge advantages here, yet understanding which technologies are relevant and how they can be integrated requires careful strategic planning and industry insight.

Having worked with a diverse range of enterprises across many verticals, it is evident that the majority of companies face similar obstacles when attempting to address their digital skill needs. This has become more important following the rapid digitalisation of business processes instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what can UK businesses do to ensure they are able to meet their digital skill and IT needs in 2023?

 

Outsourcing talent to overcome skill shortages

One solution lies in outsourcing IT – that is engaging with external, third party service providers who are able to provide the necessary services. The concept of outsourcing has been around since the 1990s and has slowly established itself as a viable tactic for companies that don’t have the resources to have on hand a full time, internal support team.

There are multiple advantages to this.

Companies choosing to outsource IT services can do so at the fraction of price compared to having one or more people working in house. Certain providers, like ARP Ideas, can also provide a diverse team of specialists depending on the needs of the project, from analysts and programmers to software architects and technical consultants.

On top of this, there is the ability to quickly scale-up the amount of resources dedicated to particular IT services that might warrant attention, and scale-back accordingly.

For example, if an e-commerce platform is preparing to roll out a new CRM system, they can focus on the strategy and find an IT provider with the creative talent and experience needed to successfully deliver on this project. This removes the stress of having to implement a new CRM system and overcome any initial problems that could be encountered following the launch.

Ultimately, it is this flexibility and cost-efficiency on offer from outsourcing which makes an attractive option for scaling SMEs. However, the decision to outsource IT services isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Like any IT project, an SME needs to do the necessary research to find an IT partner that can not only take on the necessary work but also aligns with the company culture. Doing so ensures there are clear and transparent lines of communication, laying down the foundations for a long-term partnership.

Outsourcing is one way SMEs can improve access to IT and digital services, promoting cost-efficient and secure online processes that can help overcome the challenges they may face over the coming 12 months. With a digital skills gap, macroeconomic pressures and a likely increase in cyber attacks, engaging with a third party provider is one way of making sure that IT and digital remains a top priority in 2023.

 

Ambrozy Rybicki, Co-founder and CEO, ARP Ideas  an IT company specializing in custom software development, outsourcing and consulting. As a Gold Microsoft Partner, ARP Ideas supports clients with Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft SharePoint and dedicated solutions based on the Microsoft .NET Framework.

Business

Accounting Automation in the Future

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Accounting automation is the process of streamlining repetitive tasks in financial processes. For example, some processes like invoicing are time-consuming and repetitive. Automation can reduce manual labor and save businesses both time and money. Also, it helps improve accuracy, reduces errors, and provides more accurate financial reporting.

Accounting automation in the future will be increasingly important for businesses to stay competitive. But every new change comes with both advantages and challenges. Let’s dive in to get ready for this future trend.

 

Potential Future Benefits of Accounting Automation

Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings

Accounting automation is a great way to increase efficiency and cost savings. For example, AI bookkeeping uses advanced algorithms to automate many accounting tasks. So, companies can track expenses, prepare financial reports, and more using AI.

It reduces the time needed for manual entry. So, businesses can spend fewer labor hours on tedious processes. They can increase efficiency by freeing up resources for more strategic work. It also helps reduce errors and inconsistencies associated with manual processes. So, the cost of compliance is lower because of greater accuracy.

 

Improved Accuracy and Reliability

Accounting automation can improve accuracy and reliability in accounting processes. For example, Automating bank reconciliation is less prone to errors from human mistakes or miscalculations. You can automate the process to identify discrepancies between the bank statement and accounting records. It helps to ensure that financial reports remain accurate and reliable. So businesses can take corrective action faster than processing data manually.

 

Streamlined Business Processes

Streamlined business processes involve eliminating unnecessary steps, reducing paperwork, and automating repetitive tasks. This allows businesses to focus on higher-value activities, such as developing new products, improving customer service, and developing strategic plans for the future.

 

Making a Better Decision

Accounting automation can enhance decision-making in 3 ways.

1. It enables businesses to access real-time information from multiple systems. So they can identify trends for better decision-making.
2. Automated accounting also helps with forecasting, budgeting, and auditing tasks. It enables businesses to be more proactive in their decision-making processes.
3. Also, automated accounting tools can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They can manage data across the enterprise and make concise decisions that are favorable to the company as a whole.

 

Increase Customer Satisfaction

Accounting automation can help businesses increase customer satisfaction by streamlining their processes and providing a more efficient customer experience. For example:
4. Automated accounting systems can automate tedious manual tasks such as invoicing, data entry, and payroll processing. This allows businesses to focus on other aspects of their operations that are more important for customer service.
5. Automated accounting systems can also provide customers with more accurate and timely financial information. The information can help them make better decisions about their finances.
6. Also, accounting automation enables businesses to respond quickly to customer inquiries. It helps reduce wait times and improve the overall customer experience. So, you can build better relationships with their customers.

 

Improved Accessibility

Accounting automation takes place online or comes with cloud-based solutions. So, you can access your information and do your job from anywhere instead of being confined to one spot.

 

Challenges to Implementing Accounting Automation in the Future

Cost of Technology Infrastructure Upgrades

Automating an accounting system often requires businesses to invest in new hardware and software, such as servers and other associated equipment. These upgrades come with a hefty price tag that may be difficult for small businesses to afford.

There are also extra costs, such as installation fees, setup charges, software licensing fees, cloud storage costs, and maintenance fees.

 

Training Requirements for Staff Members

Accounting automation involves using advanced technology to automate certain processes. So, it creates a need for trained staff members who can handle the new technology. Training requirements vary depending on the type of software used.

Some common training includes record-keeping procedures, software applications, and troubleshooting skills.

 

Regulatory Compliance Issues

Accounting automation can be a time-saver, but it also requires firms to be aware of the applicable rules and regulations. Companies must ensure that their automated systems are compliant with relevant laws and regulations such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and other applicable accounting standards.

Besides, they must also comply with legal requirements related to taxes, financial statements, and other reporting obligations.

So, businesses must consider the complexities of regulatory compliance when automating accounting.

 

Security and Data Protection Concerns

As businesses move their accounting processes to the cloud, they are exposed to a wide range of potential security risks. Data breaches can cause significant damage to the business’s financial and reputational integrity. Besides, the complexity of automated accounting systems can make it difficult to identify and detect suspicious activities or errors in the system.

To ensure data is kept secure, businesses must have strong measures in place to protect against unauthorized access, encryption, and regular backups of data.

Furthermore, companies must train their staff on the proper use of the system. It helps staff to know how to protect confidential information from being accessed or misused by unauthorized personnel.

Businesses may also need an experienced IT team to monitor and maintain the system to keep up with any changes or updates for optimal performance.

 

Final thoughts

Accounting automation has come a long way in the past few decades. It is likely to continue to advance in the future. As technology continues to evolve, more businesses will likely begin taking advantage of automation in their accounting processes. So, businesses should be aware of the potential challenges and prepare to stay competitive.

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Business

Three ways data can help financial organisations thrive in today’s economy

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By Rinesh Patel, Global Head of Financial Services, Snowflake

 

Financial organisations are caught in the middle of an ever-evolving landscape caused, in part, by emergent fintechs, shifting consumer expectations and increased regulatory change. Businesses are therefore turning to their data, re-imagining how they collect, process and analyse it, to drive growth and opportunity.

Despite this intention though, firms can often find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of data at their fingertips. Data tends to reside in individual departments that have no secure, efficient way of sharing it with other teams, creating silos of information. When teams need to collaborate, organisations are faced with additional costs and complexities in the movement of that data. The current infrastructure used by many financial institutions is not able to support the changing requirements of the industry, where data is the lifeblood.

Rinesh Patel

Firms looking to harness their data should leave behind their outdated legacy architecture and implement an enterprise data strategy with a cloud-native platform. They can reposition themselves to accelerate time to market and value, with differentiated products and improved client offerings to gain a critical competitive advantage. Here are three ways that financial services are using better technology and enhanced data management to add business value.

 

Adhering to regulatory requirements

The volume of global regulations and reporting obligations has risen exponentially in the past decade, creating greater complexity and security challenges for firms capturing and processing data. Many of these regulations were taken by supervisors to ensure financial stability after the financial crisis of 2008. Regulators have greater expectations of firms with the aim of risk mitigation and transparency. With advanced technologies facilitating data capture, storage and analysis now available, supervisory bodies are also keen in part, to ask for additional disclosures because it’s now possible to demand more documentation and seek greater transparency.

The landscape of differing interpretations, overlapping regulatory requirements across asset classes and geographies and strict, even unrealistic deadlines for implementation have forced customers to take tactical quick-fix solutions, elevating operational risk and the chance of regulatory fines. Compliance departments have therefore been spending years building reporting processes, managing inconsistent data sets, maintaining ageing data stores and importantly overseeing differing levels of governance, adding more cost and complexity to the task at hand. For a large multi-segment global bank or asset manager this fragmented and manual approach to data management and analysis is not sustainable given the scale of processes and multi-geographic considerations that they have to comply with.

As regulators continue to push the long-term structural change agenda, financial services must now ready themselves to meet more robust reporting requirements to comply with the ever-changing regulatory landscape. The objective is to simplify and better manage data across teams with the governance and security provided by technological capabilities now offered through modern cloud capabilities to drive needed reporting. This will allow firms to replace old and inconsistent data with a centralised data architecture, providing a single source of truth. The time and cost reduction from data sourcing, ingestion, and the normalisation of data for analysis, can shrink to significantly streamline reporting processes.

 

Customer 360 experience

Consumers provide financial institutions with a vast amount of information, ranging from their banking habits to their behavioural preferences. Financial organisations have traditionally been slow to tap into the totality of this information to provide a better experience for customers.

The quest to provide greater visibility and a 360-degree view of customer behaviour is at the core of financial services organisations’ priorities. Customers want smooth, easy digital experiences that can speak to their desire for ease of use and convenience. This is seen in the ways virtual banking consumers have opted for technologies that are simple to interact with, self-directed and frictionless when it comes to carrying out digital transactions. New regulations, such as PSD2 and rules around open banking have also primed customers to expect more.

The challenge for legacy institutions is to bring the ease and usability of digital-first platforms with the sophistication of a major, global provider. Tapping into the full spectrum of data created by consumers is central to a successful transition.

Wealth advisory, investment management professionals are increasingly looking at data capabilities to support ongoing relationship management with their clients. Using data to understand customers in this way helps banks to successfully move customers up the wealth value chain. Wealth management organisations can digitise the investment process – from finding customers to managing accounts, and offering bespoke plans. Effective use of data in this sector can free up time for advisors, helping to retain key customers and charge higher commission levels thanks to a new level of personalised service.

 

Developing an effective ESG strategy

Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations have grown in significance with increasing stakeholder pressures, driving a response by firms to prioritise their sustainability agenda. To understand, evaluate the problem and take action, firms need access to technology providing holistic ESG data capabilities and solutions, with performance and scale.

Financial firms are amassing large data sets from the public sector, including government reports, scientific bodies and private sector reports, to understand and address the climate challenge. Businesses are moving with urgency to acquire robust data sets, to meet ESG criteria and sustainability metrics needed to evaluate impact and make progress against their own commitments. There are several pervasive business use cases for teams experiencing ESG data challenges, including portfolio construction, financial planning and regulatory reporting that will require an effective ESG data management strategy.

Ever present challenges in the ingestion, standardisation, and sharing of ESG data will be at the forefront of every organisation – as they process the magnitude of the challenge and transform their operations to address the issue. With cloud-native solutions, firms can use ready-to-use query data across established marketplace data sets. They can then share that data across teams in a secure, governed way – with greater speed to market. Organisations can meet the need for scalable analytics, and access a data ecosystem to build their own proprietary ESG applications for different user and workflow requirements.

 

A business fit for the future 

With data cloud solutions, businesses can effectively analyse the vast amounts of data available to them, equipping them to meet the ever-changing financial landscape. Leaving behind legacy systems will open up a multitude of opportunities and benefits that will drive business growth. This includes developing a 360 view of the customer, improved data governance and the opportunity to use data to support an effective ESG strategy. Without the ability to harness data through the cloud, companies will get left behind the competition and struggle to meet the standards that modern consumers expect.

 

 

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