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THE THREE AGES OF DIGITAL BUSINESS

Adam Prince, VP Product Management, Sage

 

Businesses, like people, grow up. From start-up to funding rounds to mid-market stability, their needs change as they evolve. But how many truly understand how to get the best solutions and processes for their age and stage?

 

You wouldn’t give a toddler the keys to your car; you wouldn’t give an undergraduate a Fisher Price pushcart. The same goes for business solutions – the wrong solution at the wrong time will do more harm than good. Businesses need a partner who will grow with them and help them implement the right technology at the right time – in other words, to continually digitally transform.

 

Digital transformation is often misunderstood as a one-off project – buying a new ERP platform or implementing automated customer contact. We can often imply that we see it as a shortcut to success – buy the right widget and your business will magically unearth a whole new line of customers and revenue. But in reality, it’s an ongoing process that will accompany the business through its whole lifecycle, from start-up to SME and beyond.

 

Having a partner that can help you navigate that progressive change is the key not only to effective digital transformation – but also sustainable business growth. This article gives an overview of the key steps in that journey and the key things businesses should look out for in terms of technology partnership.

 

The first age: new life

The first major step on the way to business growth is, of course, the start-up. Start-ups are born of entrepreneurs or as spin-offs from other companies or education establishments. Start-ups typically have a small number of employees, who are focused on whatever the business is doing, rather than dedicated back-office staff who are experts in accounting or finance. It is no surprise that when it comes to financial processes, they normally follow the advice of a trusted external individual – like their accountant. In their infancy, businesses are guided less by policy and more by personality, so the technology they use needs to be flexible, easy to use and operate on the right scale.

 

For that reason, at this point, start-up companies often adopt systems that focus on the basics of accountancy, which work well for their immediate needs. It’s important to be able to fulfil basic requirements like VAT and national insurance payments at a time when you might not have a full-time finance director and certainly won’t have a sizable finance department. Technology automates this burden – financial software can complete routine tasks, freeing up the young company’s entrepreneurs to focus on bringing in new business and shoring up the revenue stream.

 

The second age: walk before you run

These small-scale, flexible, automated systems work well at the start-up level, but change must come if the business is to continue growing. At this point, the business is what we might term a ‘functional start-up’ – still in its early days, but with enough staff, processes and funding in place to be able to confidently forecast a year or two of growth.

 

After a few years, the business gains a better understanding of what it needs, and so may change accounting software vendor to gain access to specific features and capabilities. However, if the business is not careful to move with a trusted advisor that understands their holistic needs, they often find that marketing promises lack depth and that the features they wanted do not solve the underlying challenges.

 

For example, just because a platform can support more users and comes with a larger selection of features doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right platform for you. It’s important to add the right capabilities at the right time. Increasing complexity such as tracking sales orders as projects can significantly increase costs leading to confusion and potential disaster.  Businesses at this stage in their growth need an advisor who understands their needs and their industry so that the most appropriate tools and features can be identified and implemented in a way that supports rather than hinders growth.

 

The third age: stability and growth

As start-ups grow into established mid-sized businesses, they will need even more capabilities – for example, to support multi-site deployments, more complex inventory, international sales, outsourced manufacturing and so on. Many need to change accounting software to Business Management Software (BMS) or Enterprise Resource Management (ERP).

 

This is where businesses need to take care to find the solution that meets their need, not just the software. Whilst add-ons may be common in accounting software that supports earlier growth stages, it becomes more critical at this growth stage, as no-single software vendor is likely to be able to provide all the required features.  Even functionally rich software may not help if support and professional services are poor or expensive – and critical functionality gaps can cripple future growth even if support and professional services are outstanding. For example, if a business uses outsourced manufacturing but lacks visibility into external production status or does not integrate into critical supply chains to track the timing of critical deliveries then production lines and sales promises run into major challenges.

 

Having a trusted advisor to support the selection, implementation and then use of business software as businesses grow is not only critical, it is probably the secret to successful business transformation. Technology change is a key part of effective, sustainable business growth – and like any other aspect of that growth, it needs to be done in the most targeted, strategic way possible.

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Business

WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION

Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo

 

Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.

But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.

By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.

But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.

 

Chris McLaughlin

The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers

Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.

Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.

Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.

Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.

 

Smarter management of data, content and information

One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.

Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.

In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.

System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.

 

Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation

13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.

 

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Business

WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of  Vamp

 

For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?

It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.

Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.

Aaron Brooks

Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.

Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.

 

Hone your personal brand

Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.

Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.

 

Cultivate an engaged following

While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.

Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine

comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.

While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.

 

Maximise influencer marketing platforms

Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.

These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.

With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.

 

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