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Planning for Power Outages: Why Business Continuity Matters More Than Ever



By Tom Cole, Managing Director, Abacus Group


Will the UK face power outages this winter? While mass blackouts are unlikely, they are not beyond the realms of possibility, with National Grid warning that homes and businesses across England, Scotland and Wales could see their power shut-off for three hours at a time. The potential power cuts have been laid out as a worst-case scenario by the energy group after assessing all possible outcomes. There is reportedly enough capacity to avoid temporary losses of power.

Even with the lights expected to stay on, companies with a clear and consistent business continuity plan (BCP) will be at a significant advantage. Why? Because the ability to withstand the unexpected not only minimises the impacts should the worst happen, but also makes strong business sense today. It demonstrates to investors, customers, and other stakeholders that their operational needs are being taken seriously and that the business is robust enough to overcome any incidents it may face. Furthermore, the watchful eye of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is laser-focused on operational resilience, making it a requisite for firms to identify their important business services, set impact tolerances for the maximum tolerable disruption, and carry out mapping and testing to the necessary level of sophistication.

Tom Cole

The unexpected and rapid onset of the pandemic threw the importance of a robust BCP into sharp relief, highlighting its role as a living, breathing, real-world programme rather than just words on a page. Now, as we enter a challenging and uncertain winter period, it is time for companies to assess their business impact analysis (BIA) and BCP terms. This involves fully understanding the specific risks, evaluating the strength of current contingency plans, and optimising the resources available before and after an emergency.


The costs of downtime

An unexpected power outage could bring business operations to a fast and unceremonious halt. The economic effects of this downtime can be substantial. But the impact of each event often extends beyond the obvious: downtime hampers the productivity of almost everyone in a company, leading to lower morale, reputational damage, and lost business opportunities.

Today’s volatility of market conditions means that few companies in the alternative investment industry would be untouched by widespread power outages. This is particularly true for hedge funds trading very high volumes – even a short outage could have significant impacts.


Setting out a plan

Therefore, firms should have a business continuity plan that recognises infrastructure outages during organised blackouts. While the requirements will vary between companies, the key components of an effective BCP include a thorough business impact analysis, a review of existing processes, and the creation and implementation of clear continuity strategies.

For some businesses, this may involve turning BCPs of early 2020 on their head: outages are arguably more likely to happen in rural areas, so remote employees could be ordered back into central offices to mitigate the risks of disruption at home. In contrast, some London-based banks are reported to be considering reinstating plans to shift to offsite locations and homeworking. And, of course, many businesses have already made the permanent shift to fully remote working, so they will need to consider other office-free contingency plans.


Weighing up the options

In a world of unknowns, firms need to understand their office power resiliency, assessing the effectiveness of their existing backup systems.

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) remains a primary method to provide power resiliency. While this is only effective for a short-term outage, providing continuous power for an additional 20-30 minutes can buy a firm precious time to take quick action and put its BCP into motion.

Businesses should consider reviewing the size and technology of their UPS unit. A desktop UPS could make all the difference for key personnel to save their work and log off gracefully when the lights go out, but a more central UPS that is plumbed into the architecture of an office’s electrical systems will ensure a more stable power supply. However, not every business will be able to accommodate the size and weight of such a unit, so it is important to understand any potential limitations or obstructions should you go down the UPS route.

A much more effective way of ensuring medium-to-long-term office power resiliency is to pair a UPS with a generator. The role of the UPS is to maintain a power load for the immediate aftermath of an outage whilst the generator becomes available – a process that usually takes only a minute or two. As the Fort Knox of power resiliency, generators need to be in place for an office to be truly protected from blackouts.

Many purpose-built offices in the capital already have generators, but they are restricted to life-support functionalities such as elevators and emergency equipment. While this generally fails to cover office infrastructure, it is an opportunity that should be explored with a company’s office provider, as power generators can be a lifeline when the unexpected strikes.

Of course, not every office will have the space, time, or money for power generators. Ideally, power resiliency questions would have been asked as part of the office selection process, but it is never too late for businesses to engage with their provider and query what is currently in place. Even businesses with suboptimal power resilience can take steps to adequately prepare for outages. Laptop batteries typically run for 4-6 hours, so all companies should use this opportunity to test the worst-case scenario, working via battery and tethering to employees’ mobile phones. This exercise will help everybody familiarise themselves with the steps should an outage occur while also allowing the business to assess the speed and performance of their 4G or 5G networks.


Cloud resiliency is key

Cloud evolution cannot be ignored when it comes to full, scalable business resiliency. The widespread move away from on-premises computing and towards the cloud has left many companies in a much safer place and could prove to be a blessing should the UK experience blackouts this winter.

Cloud services reside behind a fortress of purpose-built, always available, and highly resilient data centres. These secure ecosystems hold an abundance of UPS and power generators, which are frequently tested to simulate a total power failure. Furthermore, they connect to various power grids, providing that extra layer of resilience and preparedness for the unexpected.

Should the worst happen, data centres have firm service-level agreements (SLAs) with fuel providers to keep their generators supplied and online for days rather than hours. This arrangement guarantees businesses in the cloud a level of business continuity that an in-office UPS cannot provide.

For companies yet to make a move to the cloud, now is a better time than ever to engage with an IT services provider for advanced, secure, and scalable access to cloud services. Supported by a robust and continually updated business continuity plan, businesses can safeguard and future-proof their operations today to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


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




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




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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