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TIME TO REACH FOR THE SKIES – HOW THE CLOUD TRANSFORMS THE ORDER-TO-CASH PROCESS

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By Adriaan Kom, CCO at Visma | Onguard

 

In a post-pandemic economy, businesses are now rethinking their strategies as they navigate their way through this recovery period and deal with the profound changes of the last 18 months. They’ve already had to move rapidly to deploy digital and automation technologies, fast-tracking trends that would have, ordinarily, gained traction at a much slower pace. Research from McKinsey shows that many businesses have had their digital transformation journeys accelerated by as much as seven years.

With promises of high productivity and reduced costs, this shift to technology and digital innovation will persist long after the current crisis. And, with order-to-cash processes the defining part of a business’s success, using technology to innovate and improve efficiencies in this area has never been more pertinent.

In this uncertain and volatile world, companies must minimise the risks and maximise the returns from their order to cash processes. Payment delays weigh heavy on finance departments. Visma | Onguard’s latest Fintech Barometer revealed that reducing day sales outstanding (DSO) is the biggest challenge for 30% of finance professionals. Time-consuming processes, manually chasing payments and customers with cashflow issues all add to the bottleneck and create problems that can ripple across a business.

Technology can improve the complex order-to-cash cycle and there are tools available to help businesses mitigate risk, improve cash collection and manage debtors and disputes. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are finding their way into every corner of finance. By scanning data on invoice details, emails and contracts, for example, AI can reduce the manual effort required, speeding up processes, reducing errors, and lowering costs.

However, implementation of these new technologies can be costly. They rely on ongoing development and maintenance and, when errors occur, repair bills can be prohibitive. Although the capabilities of AI and ML are extensive, they rely heavily on the data they’re given, and employees may still be needed for manual tasks to ensure the automation is working correctly.

 

An integral part of business strategy

To truly realise the long-term benefits of digitising the order-to-cash process, it must be part of a business’s overall vision and incorporated into a wider digital transformation plan. It’s a business strategy, not an IT strategy. But whilst the integration of the order-to-cash process is crucial for business growth and resilience, it is still one of the biggest challenges facing 33% of finance professionals that Visma | Onguard surveyed.

Cloud-based platforms can deliver seamless system integration and its adoption has grown significantly in recent times. In fact, 43% of the UK organisations that were surveyed in the Fintech Barometer were using cloud-based infrastructure, with a further 49% planning to do so in the near future.

Robust cloud-based infrastructure is both scalable and secure. It can protect your systems from unexpected and catastrophic losses. It can remove costly in-house maintenance and expertise to reduce downtime and it has low upfront costs. Cloud technologies can also maximise the use of AI and ML with off-shelf applications that can be applied quickly and easily.

Whilst many businesses believe that keeping data in-house allows for greater control, autonomy and efficiency in financial processes, it can expose them to huge risk of system failures or security breaches. However, traditional solutions like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can be maintained and integrated with cloud-based applications, meaning businesses can utilise new capabilities whilst retaining existing architecture.

Crucially, the cloud is a mature technology that can reduce the burden on overstretched IT teams and conversely empower them to be more productive, giving them the freedom and capacity to contribute to wider business goals.

Introducing any technology comes with risks but the transformational benefits of flexibility, accessibility and cost-savings make cloud technology a game-changer.

 

The customer is king

The order-to-cash process plays a crucial role in an organisation’s relationship with their customers and their reputation depends on how they manage it. A simplified, faster order experience, fewer disputes and greater transparency can all contribute to improved customer satisfaction.

Especially in this digital era, customer expectations have risen. They demand speed, convenience and ease of use. They expect a smooth experience, from beginning to end.

Moving to an automated cloud-based order-to-cash platform improves the customer’s journey. It provides both the data and toolkit to more accurately assess if and when a customer is going to pay and helps organisations better understand customers’ needs and requirements.

For finance professionals, the optimisation of order-to-cash can improve job satisfaction; reducing mundane tasks, building capacity and contributing to innovation can all boost morale and productivity. This was highlighted by Visma | Onguard’s latest research, which highlighted that 29% of finance professions said that creating the best solution for clients was the most fun part of their work.

Digital transformation is the key to business continuity, and this means integrating digital technology into every part of a business. That must include the order-to-cash process. As the engine of every organisation, businesses must move away from outdated, legacy processes and strive for optimisation and whole-system integration. Leveraging cloud technology for order-to-cash management will help businesses take a more strategic approach to their activities, improve performance and reveal huge potential for innovation and success.

 

Technology

UK Organisations turn to artificial intelligence to fight sophisticated cyberattacks

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New research by cybersecurity expert Mimecast finds that email attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated

More and more companies in the UK are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to fend off increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks, according to new research from cybersecurity specialist Mimecast. The research finds that 40% of UK organisations are already using AI or ML in their organisations’ cybersecurity programme, with 30% planning to do so within the next 12 months.

The use of advanced technologies such as AI and ML is in direct response to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks that UK businesses are experiencing. 53% believe that increasingly sophisticated attacks will be their biggest email security challenge in 2022, leading to 80% believing it is at least likely their organisation will suffer a negative business impact from an email-borne attack this year.

 

Growing threat landscape

The research shows that email remains the largest threat vector for UK businesses, with 71% of respondents reporting an increase in the volume of email threats their organisation has faced in the last 12 months. This includes phishing with malicious links or attachments (56%), impersonation fraud or Business Email Compromise (53%), and malicious insiders (43%). However, it isn’t just email attacks that are on the rise, as 90% of UK businesses experienced at least one spoofing attack that uses a lookalike web domain or a clone of their organisation’s website in the last 12 months. The average UK company has experienced 11 of these attacks.

On top of this, employees are also presenting organisations with a very real threat to their cybersecurity. The survey identifies that IT decision makers have relatively low confidence in their colleagues’ cyber awareness , believing that there is a risk of an employee making a serious security risk due to oversharing company information on social media (84%), poor password hygeine (80%), using personal email (80%), or using cloud storage and other shadow IT functionality (81%). When an employee does full victim to an attack, it frequently results in more widespread consequences. 85% of respondents say threats have spread from one infected user to other members of the organisation.

 

AI to the rescue

To overcome this growing threat landscape, more and more UK organisations are turning to advanced technologies to strengthen their cybersecurity position. The 40% of UK organisations that are already using AI as part of their cybersecurity strategy are already seeing a number of benefits, including increased accuracy in terms of threat detection (54%), reduced human error within cybersecurity team (51%), and reduced workload/working hours for cybersecurity team (45%).

Despite these very real benefits, there is the very real danger that many UK organisations will miss out due to a lack of budget dedicated to cybersecurity. The research highlights a clear discrepancy between the amount IT decision makers believe should be spent on cyber resilience and how much budget is actually allocated by business leaders. IT decision makers in the UK believe that 16% of their IT budget should be allocated to cyber, but at the moment they see less than 12% allocated. Missing out on new technology innovations such as AI is identified as the most likely consequence (49%) for organisations where the cybersecurity budget is not as high as respondents believe it should be.

Elaine Lee, AI expert at Mimecast, said: “There is no doubt that cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, as UK businesses adjust to the world of hybrid work. On top of this increase in frequency, we are also seeing a rise in the sophistication of attacks. This is creating a perfect storm and making it more difficult than ever for organisations to keep their businesses secure. With this in mind, it is no surprise to see so many organisations turn to advanced technologies such as AI to bolster their cybersecurity defences. AI solutions can help businesses to automate security processes, ensuring they are better able to fend off attacks, as well as providing their security experts with more time to focus on high-level analyses that require human interaction.”

Lee continued: “Organisations that have yet to invest in AI technologies as part of their cybersecurity strategy should do so. Cyberattacks are going to continue to be a major threat to UK businesses and these businesses need to respond accordingly with sufficient budget. A successful cyberattack has the potential to cause serious ramifications for a business, including both financial and reputational damage. Now is the time to take this threat seriously and get prepared.”

 

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Addressing the talent gap within cybersecurity

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By Merlin Piscitelli, Chief Revenue Officer, EMEA at Datasite

 

Rising geopolitical tensions and increasingly sophisticated cyberwarfare tactics have meant that cybersecurity threats are now more prevalent than ever. In current times, the number of cybersecurity attacks are increasing in volume and intensity on a global scale and if a company is not properly equipped to deal with this reality, it could directly impact their survival.

Recently, some sections of businesses were compromised, taken offline, and employee accounts within key microchip and electronic powerhouses were exposed due to cyber-attacks. Most alarmingly, some of these attacks were perpetrated by the same hacking extortion group.

As digitalisation continues to increase throughout the world, and events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine take place, it is now more important than ever to focus on combatting cyber-crime. The industry understands this, as record levels of investments have been pouring into the sector to advance our capabilities within the field.

The cybersecurity surge

Within the last 12 months, the cybersecurity sector has seen major growth with now almost 2,000 firms active within the UK providing cyber security products and services. In 2021 the UK cybersecurity industry contributed £5.3 billion to the economy, an increase of about a third from 2020, and cybersecurity firms have raised more than £1 billion external investments in 84 deals. It’s therefore fair to say that the acceleration towards digitalisation caused by the pandemic has meant businesses have had to increase their cybersecurity efforts, leading to increasing demands within the sector.

Merlin Piscitelli

As the industry finds new solutions to combat cyber-attacks, cybercriminals are continuing to explore new tactics to ensnare victims. This has resulted in higher demands for those skilled within the industry. Now, with over 2.5 million cybersecurity jobs available and the war for talent rapidly gaining momentum, it’s clear that pressure is increasing.

Cybersecurity and data protection is a strategic investment and a highly specialised endeavor. It can be more cost-effective (especially for small and medium size firms) to outsource this responsibility and partner with a vendor to design and implement solutions. Business leaders will need to ensure they are working with a reputable partner that can offer the best level of protection and technical expertise to fit organisational needs.

The talent gap

While demands are currently high, the supply isn’t there to match. In the UK, the cybersecurity talent pool has fallen short by around 10,000 people a year, and in the previous 12 months, the UK’s cyber skills shortage rose by more than a third. As a result, cybersecurity is now the most sought-after tech skill in the UK.

With more than half, 54%, of UK CEOs believing cybersecurity presents the best opportunity for TMT dealmaking over the next year, demand will rapidly outstrip supply of expertise unless there is a rapid change within the industry.

Championing the workforce

Businesses have had various strategies when looking into combatting this issue. When asked what the main drivers of recent and future cross-border technology acquisitions are, one-third of UK M&A professionals surveyed cited access to skilled/specialised talent.

Investing in your workforce is the tried and tested way of mitigating against cyber-attacks and managing risk. Having access to the necessary resources to protect your digital ecosystem and build momentum by upskilling individuals already working in the tech space, along with attracting new talent, will be crucial to tackling the current professional shortfall.

Furthermore, bringing diversity and inclusivity into the process will help truly overcome the war for talent, as businesses will need to acknowledge the correlation between the skills shortage and the lack of inclusivity needed to diversify the sector.

Ultimately, addressing the current skills gap within cybersecurity will require combined efforts from businesses, academia and governments. Championing students to take an active interest cybersecurity and go through the necessary training to develop the skills needed in the industry will go long way in evening out the playing field.

It is only by investing in developing cybersecurity talent that will we have enough people with the expertise required to protect organisations digital ecosystems as the threat landscape becomes more diverse.

 

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