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WHY THE BIONIC C-SUITE NEEDS TEAMWORK

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Aaron Goldman, CMO, Mediaocean

 

The modern C-suite has a lot to contend with. This would be true even without the disruption and economic uncertainty arising from political- and pandemic-related events. By now, it’s a cliché to say that every company is becoming a technology company – but that doesn’t change the fact that business leaders are being asked to keep pace with rapid change simultaneously with their traditional role in the company. While members of the C-suite may attain their positions, in part through years of experience, that now has to be married with the ability to spot when experience is out of date and experimentation is needed.

All of this, of course, was supercharged by the onset of a pandemic which left nothing the same, and the Boston Consulting Group highlighted this last summer in an article arguing that we need to make learning a key boardroom competency. A focus on learning in a time of change will, they argue, lead to the creation of the “bionic company’ which fuses human and machine capabilities – and it’s an argument that rings true. We shouldn’t, however, think of this only in terms of a challenge or a problem for businesses: this technological acceleration also means we’ll be able to do things previously impossible. In fact, I don’t know about you, but what the word ‘bionic’ brings to my mind first is not executive meetings, but a futuristic hero with special powers and a cape.

 

C-suite superheroes

Over the last year, I’ve been increasingly been thinking of the C-suite as a kind of superhero team that rises up against challenges and inspires unity within the organisation. This was made visible by the extraordinary events of the last year, when leaders were frequently called upon to go above and beyond in response to what was happening in the world. I’m thinking in particular of the CMO and CFO, who have been face-to-face with the most abrupt areas of change. For marketers, adapting to the needs of consumers who themselves have had their lives turned upside down has required real, rapid innovation. On the finance front, the shifting economic sands have needed faster analysis, using more accurate data to manage the business.

For both of these roles, the skills and tools acquired through the pandemic will fortify them for the future. And while the superpowers may stop short of x-ray vision, there is a light emerging at the end of the tunnel for human health and it’s clear that the pace of change will not slow. Looking ahead, the easing of restrictions should be seen as an opportunity to build back differently, and the daily experience of technology inside businesses should not simply revert back after a year of remote working.

One thing that will revert as we return to steadier ground, however, is that the planning horizon will lengthen, and businesses will again be in a position to plan proactive strategy, not just reactive tactics for the current changeable context. In order to do that successfully, these leaders will need to take the learning they’ve done and make it available to others across the organisation. While Boston Consulting Group rightly focus on building learning into the workflow across the business, there is something more to be said about increasing understanding within the boardroom.

Where companies have already had deep collaboration between CMOs and CFOs, new practices and new assumptions need to be communicated. Where companies haven’t built those lines of cooperation, now is the perfect time to bring the beginning and the end of the revenue journey into closer alignment. And, of course, it’s critical to do this without quibbling about who is the superhero and who is the sidekick ­– it’s more like The Avengers coming together.

 

Endgame

The first requirement for good C-suite collaboration will be a shared understanding of terms and ideas. Sometimes, this will mean shifting your own perspective: CMOs, for example, may need to get comfortable converting their KPIs into more revenue-relevant numbers if they’re to sing from the same hymn sheet as the CFO. Likewise, CFOs will feel the benefit if they contextualise their work in terms which are familiar to other business functions. With smarter, digitised approaches to data, figures like cost per acquisition, return on loyalty, and retention metrics can help deliver that.

Second, collaboration will happen from a place of greater trust and mutual understanding when it operates from a shared dataset. A monthly marketing report is one thing for the CFO; being able to look at real-time intelligence on how marketing is feeding into revenue is quite another. A unified platform which can bring this data together and create actionable insights can place everyone in the mindset where collaborating is the default, rather than an additional task which may or may not be required of them.

Third, collaboration should be built on commitments around how decisions will be taken. When cross-function communication can too often be taken as an FYI, agreeing to drive enterprise value on the basis of shared, mutually understood data ensures that the work needed to establish a collaborative system actually has real-world outcomes. This is where interpersonal efficiency becomes bottom-line growth. After all, it’s no good shining the bat-signal at the clouds if Batman is just going to make up his own mind about whether to respond to a crime.

When everything is set up properly, C-suite executive should feel empowered like a superhero, with the full power of the organisation at their fingertips. From there, the next logical step, as Hollywood has taught us, is the big crossover event where those superheroes team up to achieve greater things.

 

Business

THE EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT

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Jennifer Sims, Senior Consultant at Xledger

 

The world of finance software is evolving quickly, but with many new software contenders entering the market it can be a mindfield for organisations. Many finance teams are already using multiple accounting apps and software packages for bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing to service individual needs. Whilst it may work fine for now, this segregated approach isn’t sustainable for long-term growth. The world is swiftly moving to agile, automated ways of working. As a result, there is a growing need to choose suppliers that can fulfil multiple functionalities within the one platform.

Financial software is evolving at such a pace that it can be difficult to keep up. Changing up a finance solution is a big step and ease of migration can be a substantial factor in determining which solution provider to go with. But how do you choose a solution that will grow with your business and still offer something innovative in five or ten years down the line? The fear is always that non-techie organisations will end up falling behind, but in such a highly concentrated industry, how do you decide which solution would work best for you?

 

Cloud-first: the term that makes all the difference 

You could find a ‘cloud-based’ service with an application that comes with automated audit trails to make it easier to meet compliance and record-keeping obligations, for example. But for a solution to offer all of the many future benefits promised by the cloud, it needs to have been built specifically for a cloud environemt from the outset – ie. not an on-premise built system that has been later adapted. Cloud-first services (true cloud) were always intended to leverage economies of scale, cope with live updates, be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and to scale rapidly, to name just a few of the many benefits.

When we talk about innovation in financial technology, we’re not just talking about software that makes it easier for the financial controller to create reports. If eliminating reliance on Excel spreadsheets is the only tangible benefit you have to really shout about, you are missing out on the real deal. With ‘true’ cloud finance software the sky is the limit.

Finance and accounting technology needs to directly meet the needs of the finance function and support the wider business needs.  When looking at accounting software platforms you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t now promise ‘cloud-based’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities. The cloud is nothing new, but it’s the way that a solution harnesses this environment that makes a real difference. And here is where there is a need to read between the lines.

 

Automate more with true cloud 

Historically, repetitive and manual tasks are typical of the finance role – from invoice postings to expense claims handling – these can overwhelm the finance team. Research by Xledger[1] has found that an enormous 91% of CFOs and finance decision makers are carrying out at least one of these repetitive tasks as part of their job. What’s more, senior finance leads are averaging a whopping 25 hours per week carrying out repetitive and manual tasks, compared with 15 hours for other finance decision makers.

A modern, true cloud finance system can enable your business to automate repetitive tasks and provide one source of truth so that teams can make informed business decisions that will help to scale a business. Bank reconciliation, dashboard creation and reporting are just some of the tasks that can be handled automatically.These capabilities are aiding overtasked finance teams and saving hundreds or thousands of hours a year.

Whilst different companies are at different stages in their digital transformation what is clear is keeping up with the latest technology is fundamental to the future success of an organisation.

Xledger is a true cloud finance solution. The basics include invoicing, robust general ledger accounting, detailed slice and dice reporting, purchase orders, billing, VAT reporting, and cash and bank payments. It also adds process and structure to the enterprise with procurement and inventory, budgeting and forecasting, and project accounting. Users are always on the latest version of the software and with regulation more stringent than ever today, Xledger is ISO 27001 accredited.

Choosing the right provider for your financial ERP solution comes down to whether it has the fundamentals right. When hosting all of your vital data in the providers’ own servers, it should evidence a highly tested security process that comes with backup services as standard.

As our demand for technology capabilities grows and as ERP models progress, innovation will become the structure for growth – and there is no end to the possibilities.

 

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HOW RETURNS ABUSE AFFECTS RETAILERS

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By Aaron Begner, EMEA GM at Forter

 

Accompanying the significant growth in ecommerce over the past 12 months, is the need for retailers to manage the impact of a growing array of fraud and abuse challenges. One type of fraud that can easily fly under the radar is the abuse of a merchant’s returns policies.

Returns abuse can be difficult to detect and prevent for retailers, as often it is a challenge to identify fraudulent behaviour vs. a ‘usually-good’ consumer trying to bend – but not break – return policies. Therefore, it’s often a challenge to identify how returns abuse actually affects retailers. Here are three of the biggest ways that returns abuse negatively impacts business.

 

Lost Revenue

The most obvious effect that returns abuse has on a business is lost revenue, which can be significant. Research indicates that returns abuse may be costing retailers up to $15 billion per year. When fraudsters purchase items with the intent of abusing returns policies, the retailer makes no profit. Furthermore, it stops legitimate customers from purchasing the items they want, as fraudsters who don’t want the items are moving them around.

Various types of returns abuse can profoundly damage retailers’ bottom lines. Some tactics, such as shoplisting, where fraudsters try to obtain a refund for a list of products listed on a perfectly valid receipt, yet that they never purchased to begin with, can significantly impact retailers’ bottom line.

 

Increased Operational Costs

Returns abuse doesn’t only affect revenue pertaining to the products themselves. There are also operational costs to consider. An increase in returns abuse will often lead to more consideration being put into checking every return, for signs of abuse taking place. This can range from missing tags to damage or wear on the product. This process can be time-consuming, meaning more resources might be necessary to continue operating in an efficient manner. Handling and warehousing costs can also begin to increase, with returned items becoming significantly less valuable.

 

A Poor Customer Experience

As returns abuse continues to increase, many retailers will feel pressure to tighten their return policies. This could range from reducing the allotted time for eligible returns, to only issuing store credit instead of cashback. In some cases, more extreme measures such as requiring a restocking fee for more expensive merchandise will be taken.

While these are all effective ways to help diminish the effect of returns abuse on retailers, they can also have an adverse effect on a retailer’s customer experience. If loyal customers have become accustomed to a more flexible and forgiving return policy, they could be taken by surprise when it’s more difficult for them to return their items.

Ultimately, it can be tricky to balance the two. Returns abuse negatively affects retailer revenue and the overall business, but so does a poor customer experience.

 

The Negative Impact of Returns Abuse Cannot Be Understated

Returns abuse is often overlooked. It can be difficult to detect, but significantly impacts revenue and operations. Because stricter return policies may restrict loyal customers, the reputation of a retailer’s business can be affected. Poor customer experiences can lead to bad reviews and a loss of current and potential customers. Because of this, returns abuse prevention should be a top priority for all retailers.

With this information in hand, retailers can get a better understanding of how returns abuse affects their business and why they need to put a prevention plan in place, as soon as possible.

 

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