When you think about VR, the first things that come to mind are likely immersive gaming or scientific applications. But…

When you think about VR, the first things that come to mind are likely immersive gaming or scientific applications. But there’s so much more to VR as the relentless pace of technology marches on. With it, we start turning to other areas that could benefit from it; procurement, for example.

LavenirAI is an organisation so dedicated to leveraging AI for the betterment of procurement that it has created a negotiation training solution powered by this advanced technology. Communicating with AI-powered sales avatars using this solution allows users to learn masterful negotiation tactics. With procurement at the core of every organisation, and increasingly taking on a seat at the table, the ability to better negotiate, understand customer needs, and improve the ability to make decisions is more valuable than ever. That’s exactly what LavenirAI provides.

Clive R. Heal is the CEO of LavenirAI. We caught up with him at DPW NYC to discuss what the company offers, and dive into the real-world applications of VR in procurement.

VR as a procurement training tool

Images courtesy of DPW

“With what we do, you meet a digital mentor – Harini. She’s an avatar, a coach,” Heal explains. “She teaches you in an interactive way, and you can ask her questions. Then there’s negotiation practice where users can negotiate with sales avatars that negotiate right back. Virtual reality gives you a sense of presence, grounding the experience in realism.”

The VR version of LavenirAI’s solution – which will be released later this year – means users can train in that completely interactive way with avatars that are right in front of them. Heal led a session at DPW NYC whereby all attendees wore VR headsets. He guided them through the metaverse, meeting avatars along the way.

“The avatars are photorealistic. The quality of avatars has grown enormously over the last year,” says Heal. “So the avatar you’re talking to while wearing your headset is as close to real as it’s possible to get at this point.”

The potential of the metaverse

And these avatars, this metaverse, this AI-VR landscape – there’s so much that can be done with them beyond training. “In procurement, you might want to do a supplier audit before dealing with a new business,” explains Heal. “You’ll want to visit their plant. In the future, this won’t require a lengthy business trip to fly over there – you’ll be able to walk around a digital twin of the plant and meet the avatars of the people from manufacturing. You’ll be able to have actual conversations with them.

“There’s also the concept of collaborative workshops; innovation workshops. AI and VR unlock the ability for people anywhere in the world to be able to put on a headset and be able to have conversations, look at potential products, and talk about them. Right now, you can go into metaverse stores in Monaco with your avatar, and try on clothes to see how they look and fit, and order those clothes. It’s as simple as that.”

In Heal’s view, a whole new economy is coming: the virtual reality economy. “A year ago, McKinsey published a report saying that, within five years – just four years from now – 15% of all corporate revenue will come through the metaverse. Think about that. Not 15% more, but 15% of existing revenue that companies have.” 

This marks a major shift in the way we consume, the way we live, and the way we work – as well as the way we procure. As evidenced by the work DPW does, AI is on the forefront of all procurement professionals’ minds, and it’s being applied in many exciting ways. But there’s always scope for more.

“AI is the thing of the moment; it’s everywhere,” Heal continues. “But I don’t think people realise the opportunities and impact. For me, the most important thing is embracing the technology. Vitally, AI can get you one step ahead of everyone else if you’re not afraid to branch out with what you’re doing with it. Using AI to improve procurement creates opportunities in the race to be the first to new insights, unlocking a competitive advantage.”

Global cloud services point-of-sale provider, GK Software, was founded over 30 years ago in Germany. For most of its existence,…

Global cloud services point-of-sale provider, GK Software, was founded over 30 years ago in Germany. For most of its existence, its focus was on expanding across Europe. However, in 2015, GK broke into the US when its partnership with SAP helped it drive into that vital market. The business has been thriving stateside ever since. Its core business is a point-of-sale software platform – CLOUD4RETAIL – which features the OmniPOS solution. Today, GK is ranked highly in global POS installations and has been among the top three for the last five years.

GK is an organisation committed to continuous improvement and customer engagement. It is evolving, getting into newer technologies like AI in a big way. It’s leveraging its expertise to improve insights into what its retail customers and their shoppers need. This includes everything from price optimisation to loyalty to self-service technologies.

Its ability to provide these services, through its expertise, is what attracted Virginia ABC to GK Software. Virginia ABC was a previous user of SAP’s point-of-sale (POS) solution, but as the authority evolved, it required an updated POS. 

GK Software meets Virginia ABC

Enter: GK Software. “As a result of our relationship with SAP and with Paul Williams at Virginia ABC, we were shortlisted in their new point-of-sale solution selection,” explains Max Francescangeli, Regional Sales Director at GK Software.

“With Virginia ABC, we went through quite an extensive selection process. It’s a government agency, so the rules are very strict,” says Francescangeli. “But we were able to prove that we could use our expertise to address and solve all of their problems in spite of the unique environment they operate in. They needed a flexible solution that would interact well with their legacy platforms during implementation. We were certainly able to provide that. So, we were eventually awarded the business and the project has been extremely successful.”

The approach GK takes with its customers during these projects highlights just how much out-of-the-box capability its solution has. GK’s team spent a lot of time with Virginia ABC. The organisation examined its business requirements and using a consultative approach to show how its software could be configured. This was so it could meet the end-state business requirements and take advantage of best-of-breed capabilities that exist within GK’s platform. 

“Rather than going there and trying to do a lot of customisation, we wanted to help them take advantage of the software as it exists,” Francescangeli adds. There were also other areas where GK was able to provide a lot of value and expertise to Virginia ABC. These include payment processing and its partner ecosystem. Virginia ABC was previously using a payment provider with limited capabilities, but GK was able to step in and expand the technology set. “We gave them more hardware choices, expanding what they could do with their in-store devices.”

Virginia ABC also needed more advanced reporting and analytics within its environment. So, GK introduced a solution called Advanced Central Electronic Journal and Reporting. Francescangeli continues: “It saved them a tremendous amount of effort, and gave them a lot of flexibility. We implemented that very quickly and they gained business value from it immediately.”

An evolving partnership

GK Software and Virginia ABC worked on initial deployment for the first 12 months of the project, and GK has continued to supply its services ever since. Each year after the first, Virginia ABC has expressed interest in something else GK offers. As a result, the relationship has remained close and Virginia ABC continues to expand the partnership.

“Paul and his team have been champions of ours and we’re champions of theirs as well,” Francescangeli states. “Due to the relationship we have with Virginia ABC, we have been able to secure business from other retailers in the same space because they have confidence that we know how to handle the market.”

“GK checks a lot of boxes retailers are looking for,” Bill Miller, North American VP of Sales at GK adds. “We’re in this inflection point where we offer modern technology that also has a lot of functionality out of the box, and that’s what people want. That’s what Virginia ABC wanted, and that’s what we supplied.”

Read more about Virginia ABC’s story, and the part GK Software has played, in issue 49 of Interface Magazine.

CPOstrategy is a proud partner of ProcureCon Asia Transformation is on the lips and minds of every procurement and supply…

CPOstrategy is a proud partner of ProcureCon Asia

Transformation is on the lips and minds of every procurement and supply chain professional right now. Procurement is increasingly being recognised for its vital role at the core of any business, thanks to the fact that CPOs and other supply chain professionals are executing enormous changes for the benefit of their organisations. 

Set to be a major theme at ProcureCon Asia this year, running between the 11th and 13th of July at the Equarius Hotel in Singapore is the topic of transformation. Procurement professionals from all over the globe will come together to share ideas, make connections, and learn more about the profession through interactive learning and keynote speeches from experts.

All hands on deck

Ter Long Tay, Group Director at JTC Corporation, is one of the event’s illustrious speakers. For him, procurement transformation is a necessity, and requires the full support of the entire business.

“Procurement needs to reimagine its purpose and the role it plays,” says Tay. “It must go beyond the traditional efficiency, productivity, and management of procurement lifecycle. Successful transformation entails understanding the business and partnering with stakeholders on the decision-making process and the strategy of the company. It means being able to create value and have a seat at the table.”

Tay himself has a long history of victories in the procurement sphere. Years of experience in the real estate industry and centralised procurement at JTC gave him and his team the opportunity to understand each element of the business and their considerations better, and procurement – hand-in-hand with digitalisation – has been able to offer added value through the knowledge and experience gained from this involvement. Alongside insights gleaned from data, the business has been able to evolve through informed decision-making.

“For example, in a review of our procurement policies for infrastructure development, we were able to achieve a good ratio of partner vendors supporting our business while maintaining a healthy share of new entrants,” says Tay. 

“This allows us to achieve a balanced outcome of value for money, business continuity, and industry development. We had intentionally used procurement as a lever to achieve other strategic outcomes, leveraging procurement to test or nudge the market in terms of specific sustainable solutions and investing in R&D for long-term benefit.”

CPOstrategy is a proud media partner of ProcureCon Asia 2023. Quote “CPOSTRATASIA15” for 15% off tickets here.

Woodlands North Coast, JTC

Meeting challenges head-on

Of course, there are often hurdles for procurement professionals to jump in order to successfully implement transformation. No big change is without its challenges, and Tay is experienced enough to understand where the pain points lie. For him, procurement has always been viewed through a certain lens, regardless of whether that lens still fits, and that can hold some businesses back. However, increasingly, the department is being looked to as a value-add creator of change.

“Traditionally, procurement has been viewed as transactional,” Tay explains. “Supporting operations while helping businesses reduce costs and increase profits. Now, companies are looking at procurement to achieve long-term business objectives. Arising from the pandemic,  businesses are actively reviewing their supply chains and changing from a ‘just-in-time’ mindset to ‘just-in-case’. 

“There is also significant traction regarding sustainability, and procurement is the department supporting new objectives more than ever.”

Seletar Aerospace Park, JTC

Business-procurement collaboration

Tay is bringing all of this expertise to ProcureCon Asia 2023, in order to share his knowledge with his peers and discuss solutions with other procurement professionals. The reason he wanted to speak at the event came from a ‘pay-it-forward’ mindset; he’s benefited enormously from speakers at previous summits sharing their own wisdom, and hopes to help others by sharing his own knowledge.

“I’ll be discussing the aspects of good business-procurement alignment,” Tay says. “Plus, the value procurement brings, how procurement can support the wider business through managing tensions – such as profits, governance, and risk management – as well as sustainability, and whether procurement is a leader or a follower.”

Tay hopes that focusing on business-procurement collaboration will achieve added value for those attending the summit. “Through collaboration within the procurement community, we can cross-pollinate ideas across different industries, encourage each other through success stories and learn from mistakes. We never walk alone in our procurement transformation journeys.”

For himself, Tay hopes to have the opportunity to network with his peers and continue gaining useful information and insights, as he has at previous events. “I want to learn from the best-in-class in the procurement community,” he concludes.

Read our other ProcureCon Asia preview here.

ProcureCon Asia is the leading procurement summit gathering and connecting CPOs and Heads of Procurement from the biggest companies in Asia. ProcureCon Asia 2023 will be happening from 11 – 13 July at the Equarius Hotel, Singapore. To learn more, click here.

What is excellence in procurement – and how we can encourage it? We chat to Olivia Brown, a Managing Consultant…

Olivia Brown, a Managing Consultant with Rowe Advisory UK.

What is excellence in procurement – and how we can encourage it? We chat to Olivia Brown, a Managing Consultant with Rowe Advisory UK…

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I spent the first 16 years of my career as an employee with oil and gas operators, both here in the UK and internationally, so I have a solid foundation in working in contracts and procurements. Later in my career, I became focused more on general management roles. Those roles combined led me to understand what good business looks like, and the things to avoid – not just within the function, but more broadly within the wider business context. I started working as a consultant with Rowe Advisory in 2017, initially working in support of clients in overseas, in Australia.

Give us some background on Rowe Advisory.

Rowe Advisory was established in 2013 by a very inspirational lady called Jody Rowe. I started to get involved with some of the Australian clients in 2017, working remotely from here in the UK to support them in redefining, updating, reviewing their procedures and their processes.

Typically, what we find is that a client will have a particular requirement for an area of concern, so we will go in and start to address that and help support them. From there, we often get involved in other areas for improvement as a consequence. 

In 2020, Rowe Advisory set up a branch here in the UK. It was difficult timing because we were launching it during lockdown. We had the challenge of the pandemic which was also compounded by the oil price crash. However, it was a real opportunity for us to reestablish some individuals within our network and reconnect with previous colleagues to tell them who we are and what we do, and make them aware of how we can help as in when the need arises.

What does ‘procurement excellence’ mean to you?

For us, it’s about aligning the strategy and the delivery of third-party spend with the needs of the business. It’s really connecting the department’s activity with the business priorities. To best achieve that, we see a focus on the overall procurement operating model. As previously mentioned, often there are areas of concern already which CPOs recognise can improve.

Generally, when we get involved with a new client, we will review the whole operating model to be more holistic in the review and understand how joined-up the department can be in providing that functional excellence back to the business. It’s really about the department adding value back to the business and establishing credibility through delivery of value to the business. 

We’ll look at the people, the process, the systems, and the tools to really focus on how the department can manage risk, provide clear strategic planning, align with the business objectives, be innovative, be creative, and also collaborative internally and externally. 

We’re working to elevate the role of the procurement department. It has the potential to provide significant benefits to the business, and they extend far beyond the P&L impact. The events of the last 18 months have really proven the importance of procurement departments and non-financial performance incentives; those non-financial performance metrics have become more integral to the priorities for procurement. That being said, we recognise the need to get the basics right first so it’s about having clarity on rules and responsibilities, both within the department and the business. 

What have you seen by way of sector differences or trends?

The most interesting thing for me, having come from a strong background in oil and gas, is that a lot of the areas of focus that I’ve talked about – specifically identifying areas of improvement and what functional excellence can look like – are very much sector agnostic. The tactical interventions do vary depending on each client, so the areas of focus will always vary – but that’s true within any sector. We’ve seen that transcend into others. The fundamentals of what good looks like in procurement are, we’ve observed, sector agnostic. 

That’s been very interesting. It’s allowed us to provide diversity of thought into new sectors. If you think about demand planning and category management, we’ve seen with some clients where it works very well, and we’ve been able to translate that knowledge and experience in working with them in embedding that, sustaining it, and building on it. We’ve been able to translate that into other sectors that are less familiar with the concepts of category management and category planning, and the importance of that in the upfront strategic planning where real value can be set for procurement.

One thing we do find in some sectors more than others is that the procurement department is seen as a transactional function, and there is absolutely a strong requirement for there to be good transacting within any procurement team. But in the context of functional excellence, what we try to do is to explain the value that can be delivered through moving beyond that phase of the department into the strategic, and doing that in an appropriately segmented way so that it is differentiated based on value and risk – and other relevant factors – but ensures that both the department and the business are focused on those contracts that are key to the delivery of the business.

How do you support your clients by driving change within their procurement departments?

We work on ensuring that the focus is in the right place to deliver value, getting the transacting right and then also, of course, post-award. The contract is then executed, and it’s not about necessarily just putting it on the shelf and leaving the business to manage it. Certainly, for a number of contracts, it’s about managing those contracts for delivery and being clear on the role that the procurement department plays in that process. A further development on that is, again, how many of those need to be strategically managed? How do you strategically manage the relationship with key suppliers to, again, further leverage the value through innovation, being creative, and working together to further enhance the value that can be achieved?

The case for change is important because people’s response will be, “What’s in it for me? We’ve done it like this for years and it’s been fine, so help me understand.” And you need to kind of take people on that journey of change. Clarity on single-point decision making, understanding that when a decision is taken, that’s not the start of a conversation on the matter – it clarifies the need to move on. 

Tell us about your sister company, Promitheia Procurement.

Promitheia Procurement was established 2020. It is an online platform for procurement templates and also advisory services. It’s a web-based system so anyone can go on and buy, and download the whole series of procurement templates across the whole life cycle. It ranges from demand planning, strategy setting to people and competencies, and skills matrices, development planning, and performance management, through the procurement life cycle itself, through the transacting, into post-award, and supplier relationship management. So, they’re documents which can become available to companies at the click of a button, which is fantastic. It allows us to diversify further into new sectors who may otherwise not be able to come to us for the full suite of consultancy services. 

What do you enjoy most about your work? 

We have that real passion for procurement and want to really be ambassadors for what good can look like – and we want the clients to feel that as well. It can never really be implemented and sustained based on a consultant coming in and telling you how to do it. It’s very much about working alongside the client in their particular environment to understand how best to do that.

Procurement Leaders’ CPO Compass report – the indispensable navigational document for today’s CPO – is published this week

Procurement Leaders’ CPO Compass report – the indispensable navigational document for today’s CPO – is published this week. One of its many insights focuses on the drive for new capabilities within the procurement ecosystem.

The past few years have been nothing short of transformational for procurement, while the road ahead looks just as challenging as it has ever been. Supply chain issues dominate the headlines, and with sustainability affecting every way in which an enterprise operates, procurement teams are at the centre of a massive global slipstream. Of course, within every challenge there is also opportunity for more growth and change, and the CPO Compass report is an indispensable device for today’s CPO navigating these massive operational and technological shifts.

The 2022 CPO Compass report has been split into three major trends within the procurement space to address the current concerns of procurement leaders, globally: volatility, sustainability and new capabilities. Ahead of its publication this month, CPOstrategy has gained a sneak preview of the report to reveal a little of the focus on new capabilities just to whet your appetite…

46% of CPOs are creating new roles and responsibilities in 2022.

The next step for us is to focus on creating a procurement ambassador role. They will be able to better able to sit within business units and bring the right cast of characters from category management ranks to focus on the business units’ needs.” CPO, technology company

The CPO Compass report delves into the operational revolution that has redrawn the physical and virtual maps of every enterprise and how that has affected procurement in particular, as companies harness new technologies and remote working set against constant disruption. ‘The Call For New Capabilities’ looks at how procurement has emerged as a key partner in driving new ethical transformations, focusing on critical areas such as working practices, and how environmental impact and community engagement can only be meaningfully addressed if organisations have full visibility of their supply chains. The function has an opportunity to play a pivotal role in coordinating value-chain partners around these strategic priorities.

This opportunity requires a transition in procurement’s role from a tactical, back-office function to a leading business partner. This transition is already driving a transformation in processes, skills and digital capabilities within mature procurement functions. It continues a longer-term trend towards CPOs seeking to deliver a more strategic value proposition which delivers value beyond cost-minimisation. This enhanced value proposition is built from enhanced supplier partnerships, with leading practitioners pushing a culture of collaborative relationships beyond simply delivering on cost savings.”

It’s obvious that with the massive operational changes hitting procurement and beyond, CPOs are going to need to recruit and upskill existing talent so that enterprises can “adapt at pace to create a more collaborative, connected and nimble function”. And these new roles will need to take advantage of digital solutions to automate and provide services and data to the rest of the business, as well as providing stakeholder-facing capability.

The report cites a new breed of specialists needed to meet these new responsibilities. These new roles often involve coordinating activities around emerging priorities, with these individuals often representing specialist expertise; around risk, supplier-enabled innovation, sustainability and diversity. A second set of specialist roles are also evolving around enablement, building out capabilities which, whilst not directly associated with these areas, support the function on overall execution.”

The unprecedented times we live in, whether it’s the effects and risks of a global pandemic or the drive to a more sustainable way of living and working, have placed an incredible amount of pressure onto the procurement function and this has a direct influence on the types of supporting and innovative technology that CPOs require. “CPOs are looking for supporting technology and the demand is on technology providers to offer deeper, more flexible and more focused capability. The challenge for CPOs and digital procurement leads is optimizing their mix of digital solutions to support a growing breadth of organisational objectives. While for some that means focusing on best-of-breed providers, others see value in becoming more comfortable moving beyond the bounds of established providers and working with start-up technology, while others look to platforms and big-name providers to provide more versatility and leverage their scale to greater effect.”

The full report outlines many solutions to these challenges and much, much more… so register here to make sure you don’t miss out!

IT heads say data leaks in the home will cause the biggest security headache over the next two years as…

IT heads say data leaks in the home will cause the biggest security headache over the next two years as hybrid working arrangements see employees buying and installing their own technology, according to new research by Brother UK.

More than a third (34%) of the respondents cited the issue as their top concern as more decentralised purchasing decisions for devices such as laptops, printers and scanners are creating more data vulnerabilities. 

The research, which surveyed 500 IT leads working for UK businesses, found that just 13% expect employees to be in the office full time over the next two years.

Work to minimise security risks was signalled by almost a quarter (23%) of respondents anticipating that office technology would be centrally procured with employees purchasing home tech from approved supplier lists over the next two years, up from 19% that currently have this procurement model.

However, 11% of IT leads said they expect all office and home technology to be procured by employees on their own over the same period, compared to 5% that currently operate in this way, which could signal some additional challenges for security in the future.

Other top concerns included data security in the office (27%), network security for remote workers (13%) and accountability (12%).

Mike Mulholland, head of services and solutions at Brother UK, said: “The immediate challenge for IT leads in managing people working from home is ensuring that the technology connected to business systems is secure.

“This is part of a wider opportunity for the channel, as they help customers respond to new challenges from the workforce becoming more dispersed, by providing new solutions and services.

“But it’s important that suppliers consult with clients on balancing the efficiencies gained from decentralised procurement against the security and integration that’s more assured from centralised decision making.

“Helping customers to build lists of approved technology for employees to procure from may pay dividends in productivity and security benefits.

“It will also be important for IT vendors and partners to advise when managed services can offer the best outcomes for businesses. Managed print services, for example, gives IT managers full oversight of print fleets wherever they may be, enabling them to manage security settings, firmware updates, and diagnostics from afar.”

Overall, the research found security to be the top priority for IT heads. Almost two-thirds (63%) saw the issue to be as being ‘very important’ over the next two years, compared to 52% that said the same for productivity, 50% for cost-efficiency and 48% for sustainability. Nearly half (49%) associate security with business resilience, while two-thirds (66%) said they are currently working towards improving their IT security in order to underpin resilience.

Local surgical hubs, new technology to speed up diagnosis, and innovative ways of working, will help the NHS to tackle…

Local surgical hubs, new technology to speed up diagnosis, and innovative ways of working, will help the NHS to tackle growing waiting lists and treat around 30% more patients who need elective care by 2023 to 2024.

Backed by a new £36bn investment in health and social care over the next three years, ‘doing things differently’ and embracing innovation will be the driving force to get the NHS back on track.

The funding will see the NHS deliver an extra nine million checks, scans, and operations for patients across the country, but it’s not enough to simply plug the elective gaps. The NHS will push forward with faster and more streamlined methods of treatments.

Surgical hubs already being piloted in a number of locations are helping fast-track the number of planned operations, including cataract removal, hysterectomies and hip and knee replacements, and will be expanded across the country. Located on existing hospital sites, surgical hubs bring together the skills and resource under one roof while limiting infection risk and providing a COVID-secure environment, with more planned to open in the coming year.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “This global pandemic has presented enormous challenges for the NHS and led to a growing backlog – we cannot go on with business as usual.

“We are going to harness the latest technology and innovative new ways of working such as surgical hubs to deliver the millions more appointments, treatments and surgeries that are needed over the coming months and years to tackle waiting lists.”

GP surgeries are also using artificial intelligence to help prioritise patients most in need and identify the right level of care and support needed for patients on waiting lists.

Using the latest technology and locally led innovation will increase efficiencies, make every penny count and increase activity levels to tackle rising backlogs.

The Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s SMS Protection Registry, which was developed and piloted in the UK, is now being launched in…

The Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s SMS Protection Registry, which was developed and piloted in the UK, is now being launched in Ireland and Singapore.

The Registry significantly reduces the impact of smishing (SMS phishing) and spoofing by SMS.

In the UK, many major banks and government brands are currently being protected with 352 trusted SenderIDs registered to date. Over 1,500 unauthorised variants are being blocked on an ever-growing list, including 300 senderIDs relating to the government’s coronavirus campaign.

Government agencies, including HMRC and DVLA, are participating in this ecosystem wide anti-fraud solution which is supported by BT/EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, along with the UK’s leading message providers.

The cross-stakeholder working group has seen a significant drop in fraudulent messages being sent to the UK consumers of the participating merchants. Following the success in the UK, The Ireland SMS SenderID Protection Registry is being launched.

The Registry is also launching in Singapore as The Singapore SMS SenderID Protection Registry. With strong interest from numerous other territories, MEF expects new Registries will soon follow.

“There are millions of faked SMS sent by fraudsters trying to steal passwords every day,” says Dario Betti, CEO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum “We need to help consumers and organisations fight back. Thanks to the collective efforts of the British mobile industry MEF has managed to show a way: a Registry for SMS short-code names.

“The fight against fraudsters is a relentless one, it will never stop. But we are happy to celebrate one successful tool created in the UK.”.

The summer of 2021 has shown a vast variety of extreme weather events around the world and thereby given an…

The summer of 2021 has shown a vast variety of extreme weather events around the world and thereby given an outlook on the consequences of the climate crisis. To limit global warming to safe levels, we need to do everything we can. The latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that it is crucial to reduce our emissions drastically and, on top of that, remove unavoidable and historic carbon emissions from the air permanently. Climeworks’ carbon dioxide removal via direct air capture technology is the only solution that can reduce atmospheric concentration of CO2 in a scalable manner, by capturing CO2 from the air today and storing it permanently underground.

Swiss Re’s pioneering commitment

Swiss Re committed in 2019 to reach net-zero operational emissions by 2030 by reducing their carbon footprint and removing any residual emissions. The company is committing to a unique long-term partnership with Climeworks.

Swiss Re and Climeworks are launching a cutting-edge collaboration by signing the worlds’ first 10-year carbon removal purchase agreement. This first of its kind agreement is worth $10m.

Both the length and the total value of the partnership are, so far, unrivalled in the voluntary carbon market for this type of innovative high-quality carbon removal. The partnership with Swiss Re is of integral importance to Climeworks: the re/insurance industry is at the forefront of assessing complex risk structures including those of climate change. Re/insurers are capable of structuring those risks and allocating them in an efficient way. Swiss Re’s unique long-term commitment sends a strong signal emphasising that a pure climate solution like Climeworks’ technology is important to reach the Paris Agreement climate targets.

Supporting the rapid scale up

This commitment is by its nature providing a structure for interested buyers to enter into similar purchase agreements with Climeworks. Swiss Re is sending a key demand signal to carbon removal solution providers and investors. Pioneering customers like Swiss Re and their long-term commitment prove that a market for measurable and permanent carbon dioxide removal already exists today and will grow significantly in the future.  

Bringing climate solutions to scale not only requires the right demand signals, but also de-risking and financing. This is why the partnership between Swiss Re and Climeworks goes beyond the pioneering 10-year carbon removal purchase agreement with further joint activities being assessed together.

About Climeworks’ direct air capture and storage technology

Powered solely by renewable energy, Climeworks’ direct air capture plants capture CO2 from the air. In Iceland, Climeworks’ partner Carbfix mixes the CO2 with water and pumps it deep underground where it reacts with the basaltic rock formations and mineralizes: the CO2 literally turns into stone. Climeworks’ technology is scalable and does not compete with arable land. This September, Climeworks is going to launch its new large-scale direct air capture and storage plant ‘Orca’ in Iceland, bringing large-scale direct air capture technology to reality.

By Robert Hewitt, MB BS, PhD, Biosample Hub The UK has over 150 hospital-associated biobanks, and the function of these…

By Robert Hewitt, MB BS, PhD, Biosample Hub

The UK has over 150 hospital-associated biobanks, and the function of these biobanks is to provide researchers with consented and carefully processed clinical samples. However, three years ago, the annual report of a UK agency called Medicines Discovery Catapult came up with a shocking finding. A survey conducted by the organisation found that 80% of SMEs (small-to-medium sized biotechs) found accessing samples from the NHS ‘unexpectedly difficult with the result that 75% imported samples from abroad.

This is not a problem exclusive to the UK. Biotech companies everywhere in the world have great difficulty accessing high quality patient samples to support their research and development. And at the root of the problem is the simple fact that patient samples most often originate in a healthcare setting in the public sector. Biotechnology companies are in the private sector and therefore have reduced access.

Hospital biobanks

Hospital biobanks generally exist in teaching hospitals and academic centres. They are publicly-funded and are established for the purpose of supporting research in associated universities and institutes. They require dedicated staff and expensive equipment—such as liquid nitrogen freezers—so the start-up and maintenance costs are considerable. While the start-up phase may be funded by research grants, it is harder to obtain research funding for the on-going maintenance costs of these unglamorous-yet-essential core facilities. So, many biobanks survive on funding provided by their own institution. A typical hospital biobank may have 2-3 staff working extremely hard within a very tight budget to provide professionally-curated clinical samples for in-house researchers.

One way in which biobanks can develop an independent income stream is to charge a fee for the provision of patient samples. However, this must be approached with caution as it is illegal to make a profit from the sale of human tissue in many countries. So, biobanks are allowed to charge a carefully calculated cost-recovery fee.

Access to a biobank’s samples is decided by scientific and ethical committees that are populated by various institutional members (scientists, clinicians, administrators, ethicists), with the frequent addition of a patient representative. These committees judge the merits of each application for samples, and they operate according to institutional policies.

One issue that sometimes reduces the likelihood that samples will be provided to industry is the concern that some patients may not want their samples to be used by commercial organisations that make a profit from them. Whether patients react in this way is very much dependent on how matters are presented to them and whether or not the societal value of industry research is emphasised.

In many cases these biobanks are open to applications from industry, in theory at least. Biobanks of different specialities can be found in various national and regional biobank directories, but unfortunately their level of interest in working with industry is often obscure. So, we have the problem that useful biobanks are hard to find.

Biotechs and Big Pharma are very different

Sample access problems are bigger for smaller, younger biotech companies than for established pharma companies. For one thing, these pharma companies will have had many years to develop networks of hospitals supplying samples. Additionally, the fact that pharma companies conduct clinical trials gives them access to hospitals, doctors and patients. Many large pharma companies have teams of dedicated clinical sample procurement staff and their own in-house biobanks, which often dwarf those found in typical hospital biobanks.

In contrast, a small biotech company, particularly a start-up, has none of these advantages and certainly cannot afford to have staff dedicated to sample procurement.

Looking ‘abroad’

In general, the easiest way for biotech companies to obtain samples is to get them from a commercial broker. These companies have the sole focus of providing clinical samples for industry, and naturally they are driven by the need to make a profit.

Brokers generally find it difficult to obtain their samples from hospitals and biobanks in western Europe, where ethical concerns about the sale of human tissue are prevalent. Some countries in eastern Europe and parts of Asia provide a more reliable source. The USA is one industrialised country where brokers are much more accepted, with many US hospital biobanks being willing to supply brokers. The majority of brokers are based in the USA, and many of these have sample procurement operations that extend across global networks.

Scientifically-speaking, the main disadvantage of using a broker is that sample provenance may be lacking (brokers tend not to reveal their sources for business reasons) and along with this there may be uncertainty about the quality of the samples and hence the reliability of resulting research.

Encourage some practices, discourage others

It must surely be best practice for any researcher to obtain biosamples direct from source, that is, directly from the hospital biobank that collected the sample from the patient. In this way, they can have the most confidence that samples and data have been collected professionally. So biotechs should ideally obtain their samples direct from hospital biobanks.

To encourage this, we need to make it easier for biotechs and hospital biobanks to find each other. Biotechs can search a number of biobank directories to find suitable partners, but this is often a difficult approach. Many of the biobanks listed may not be open to working with industry, or may give companies a low priority. Use of biobank directories often results in a lot of disappointing false leads.

One initiative that offers a solution is the online platform, Biosample Hub. This international platform is dedicated to bringing biotechs and academic/hospital biobanks together, and its use is restricted to these two groups. It includes a directory of biobank and biotech members, a directory of sample requests and social networking features. The only reason for biobanks to be on the platform is to supply industry, so the problem of false leads is minimised. One other key aspect of the platform is that it is not-for-profit, so this overcomes the ethical concerns of many biobanks.

Another way to encourage this is to make it more attractive for hospital biobanks to work with industry. In other words, there need to be more and bigger incentives. The problem is that for many hospital biobanks, local academic researchers get top priority, other academic researchers get second priority, leaving industry at the end of the queue. This is natural, because these biobanks are established as institutional initiatives, with the purpose of serving their own institution. The focus of academic biobanks is very much on research productivity as measured by publication impact, and unfortunately industry, for reasons of intellectual property, faces restrictions about how much work it can publish and when.

The incentive of funding is certainly the most viable option for getting hospital biobanks to work with industry. Biobanks need funding and often operate on shoestring budgets. Much has been written on the subject of biobank sustainability, especially financial sustainability. One approach is for biobanks to charge industry a cost-recovery fee for its samples and also to charge a fee from additional sample processing services, such as cutting sections and extracting DNA. This approach seems to be especially well understood by French biobanks, who use the term valorisation for the process of adding and yielding value from their samples. Almost half of the biobanks that have joined Biosample Hub are French and most offer additional sample processing services. All French hospital biobanks are certified according to the French norm NF S96-900 which must also make them more attractive to industry.

Another approach is to make external grant funding of biobanks conditional on service to industry. This could be aided by making it mandatory for funded biobanks to make their sample access policies public, by requiring annual reports on sample distribution and perhaps even having industry representatives on sample access committees. Patient representatives are well accepted, so why not industry representatives?

Samples that lack provenance

New regulations are likely to have a major impact on how biotech companies source their clinical samples. An example is provided by the new European regulation governing manufacture of in vitro diagnostic devices, which comes into force on the 26th May 2022. To demonstrate conformity, makers of IVDs must show that the biospecimens used to validate their devices have undergone acceptable pre-analytic processing. This will require the sourcing of samples from biobanks that are certified to meet specific quality management standards. As a result, diagnostics companies will need to obtain samples from known sources that provide full provenance information.

This need for provenance information will put pressure on commercial brokers to change their business practices and reveal the source of their samples. One way in which brokers may mitigate this is by using binding contracts with both the provider and the requestor of samples, to prevent them from interacting independently of the broker. Of course, not all companies or biobanks will be comfortable with such restrictions.

There are technological solutions that can be used to ensure the reliability of provenance information of samples and use of these will be beneficial. The use of blockchain is one example. This digital technology allows tracking of the transfer of biospecimens from the patient donor to the researcher in a secure, transparent and ethical manner, with all transactions documented in an incorruptible shared digital ledger.

What do patients want?

In order to speed up development of new therapies, diagnostics and vaccines, do we want to allow biotech companies to have access to the best quality patient samples? Or do we want this access to be blocked for a variety of possibly short-sighted reasons? The time seems ripe for a major change in the way clinical samples are sourced by industry and by smaller biotech companies in particular. Now more than ever, as a result of the pandemic, the general public understands the importance of biotech and pharma companies.

As reported by the BBC, the UK government spends £2.3bn every year on keeping old technology chugging along. While it…

As reported by the BBC, the UK government spends £2.3bn every year on keeping old technology chugging along.

While it spends £4.7bn altogether on IT across all departments, almost half of that goes to patching up systems – some of which date back three decades.

The Cabinet Office has stated that it’s taking action to reduce the reliance on outdated technology.

A report that the Office published warns that the spend on obsolete systems over the next five years could each £13bn to £22bn.

Some service, the report says, ‘fail to meet even the minimum cyber-security standards’.

The Home Office spends the most on IT, compared to other government departments, but still relies on 12 legacy systems. Attempts to retire them have repeatedly failed.

The report also reveals that the performance of government systems isn’t being monitored effectively.

A performance management system was implemented nine years ago, but is not only obsolete now, but it soon fell into disuse.

Commenting on the report, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office minister Fleur Anderson said Michael Gove had “created a culture of waste and inefficiency”.

“It is unacceptable that taxpayers’ money is being pumped into failing and outdated infrastructure.

“Keeping old and broken systems going is what this Conservative government does best. They desperately need an upgrade.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the government had accepted the report’s recommendations in full.

“We are reducing our reliance on legacy IT, moving away from costly, insecure and unreliable technology and laying the foundations for future digital transformation.”

Major car manufacturers are leveraging advanced technology to prioritise a different formulation for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, according to Environmental…

Major car manufacturers are leveraging advanced technology to prioritise a different formulation for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, according to Environmental Leader. Ford, VW, Tesla and others are looking to replace nickel or cobalt batteries with lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP), as the components are cheaper.

CEO of VW, Herbert Diess, has committed to using LFP in Volkswagen’s entry-level EVs in order to lower costs. Ford has also confirmed that it will be using these new types of batteries in commercial EVs.

Additionally, Tesla founder Elon Musk has announced the company will be making a ‘long-term shift’ towards LFP.

Importantly, making this change also helps to reduce human rights issues over cobalt mining.

LFP isn’t new technology, but it has helped boost EV adoption thanks to lowering battery costs.

In 2020, lithium-ion battery pack prices dropped 89% in real terms to $137/kWh (compared to 2010 prices), and average prices will be close to $100/kWh by 2023, according to BloombergNEF

At the $100/kWh price point, BNEF expects vehicle manufacturers will be able to produce and sell EVs at price parity with non-EV vehicles in some markets.

As reported by Printweek, Critiqom – an omnichannel comms specialist – has secured a multi-million pound contract with Scottish Procurement,…

As reported by Printweek, Critiqom – an omnichannel comms specialist – has secured a multi-million pound contract with Scottish Procurement, for the provision of postal services. The agreement will last four years.

This partnership will make a big difference to organisations across Scotland, including central government, fire, health, local authorities, police, universities and colleges, and more. It will mean that Critiqom is able to bring more channel choice to businesses receiving transactional and business-critical documents.

This will also improve and modernise access to Scottish Procurement’s services.

“This is a transformational agreement. It is an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and to use our knowledge to accelerate change for public sector organisations in Scotland,” said Critiqom director Gerry Crawley.

“We know that we can deliver greater efficiencies and cost savings by encouraging the public sector in Scotland to adopt a new approach that embraces digital technologies. 

“As a Scottish-based operation, where possible we want to provide the shortest distance between manufacturing and recipient. We want to change the way that organisations think and showcase how hybrid mail and digital communications can deliver huge benefits and economies of scale.

“Our focus during this process was always on delivering the greatest value to the customer. With access to a portfolio of omnichannel services, we can improve the way that public sector organisations communicate, making the preferences of the recipient a priority.”

The UK government has approved continuation of a key contract for engineering design and safety case services provided by a…

The UK government has approved continuation of a key contract for engineering design and safety case services provided by a joint venture at Sellafield site in West Cumbria.

The Design Services Alliance (DSA), a 15-year contract with a total sanction value of £1.5bn, will continue into its third five-year tranche from 2022 to 2027.

The DSA was originally set up in 2012 with Sellafield Ltd as a partner working as one team, alongside AXIOM (a four-entity joint venture comprising Assystem, Jacobs, Mott MacDonald and Progressive (Aecom and Cavendish Nuclear)).

Working with the broader supply chain, the alliance has since delivered cashable, non-cashable and future benefits totalling more than £220m.

The DSA has also helped to make Sellafield safer sooner by cutting 744 months from hazard reduction schedules.

Paul Adams, head of the DSA, said: “This announcement is just reward for a lot of hard work by the people involved in the alliance. It recognises how we value each other across the alliance and our shared commitment to perform with passion, pride and pace.

“We are committed to continuous improvement and our belief that we can deliver even better results between now and 2027.

“The DSA makes a real difference at Sellafield by challenging accepted ways of doing things, removing unnecessary scope, making procurement smarter, and reducing project costs with radical new technologies and lean techniques.”

Ian Belger, head of design engineering and safety case at Sellafield Ltd, added: “This is great news for the individuals and teams working in the DSA and a recognition of their contribution and effort.

“Our alliance with the DSA partners gives Sellafield Ltd access to a range of key capabilities and reach back into some of the world’s largest and most capable nuclear industry contractors.

“This has enabled Sellafield Ltd’s design engineering capability to deliver significant value over the past nine years.

“Our challenge now is to build on this by doing even better and delivering on our digital, sustainability and carbon targets.

“This latest sanction from government will allow the alliance to continue providing benefits as it concludes its 15-year mission.”

According to Spend Matters, CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Chain) and Hays Procurement and Supply Chain have…

According to Spend Matters, CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Chain) and Hays Procurement and Supply Chain have released their annual salary survey support, showing big increases in salaries for procurement professionals in 2020 – way above the national average of professions (3.3%).

For North America, the salary increase was 4.6%; in the UK, it was 5%; in Europe, 6%, in the Middle East, 7.9%; and in sub-Saharan Africa, a huge 9.7% increase.

CIPS and Hays compiled its research by surveying over 6,000 procurement professionals. Its aim is to provide a benchmark for salaries and bonuses across the industry.

“The CIPS/Hays report is about much more than salaries,” said Bill Michels, VP of CIPS Americas, in a press release. “It’s a valuable read for any executive who leads a team, as it offers an insightful profile of the environment in which procurement professionals work.”

The findings show that procurement is becoming increasingly vital to the way in which businesses operate – something that has been highlighted by the global pandemic.

One interesting statistic in the study is that 71% of respondents said the perception of procurement improved in the last year.

“It is very gratifying to see the strong recognition of the value procurement teams bring to an organization,” Michels said in the release. “For more than a year, supply managers have overcome tremendous challenges to keep organizations safe and producing the goods and services the world needs. We can expect that recognition to continue as procurement pivots from a need to ‘keep us going, whatever the cost’ to ‘keep us going, and manage our costs.’ “

Ericsson organised a dedicated virtual event, Ericsson Digital Unboxed 2021, for Jazz Pakistan, to share its thoughts on industry leadership…

Ericsson organised a dedicated virtual event, Ericsson Digital Unboxed 2021, for Jazz Pakistan, to share its thoughts on industry leadership and discuss digital infrastructure.

Ericsson’s global and regional experts and thought leaders showcased the latest insights, use cases and technologies tailored to Jazz Pakistan.

During the virtual event, Ericsson shared its technology vision and updates, and also discussed the possibilities for consumer and enterprise segments. It delved into several topics revolving around creating a differentiated user experience for sports, spectrum strategies, and dedicated networks with a focus on B2B segments.

As part of the event, the latest Ericsson ConsumerLab reports were also presented and discussed. Several demos were also part of the event like Edge Compute Gaming, where low latency access can enable a better gaming experience, and Ericsson Industry Connect, a channel-ready cellular network for factories and warehouses, built to streamline ordering, installation, and management for Enterprise IT.

Abdul R. Usmani, VP of Network, Jazz said: “Digitalisation is everywhere and is now part of our daily lives. At Jazz, we aim to provide state-of-the-art end-to-end services to our customers, focused on data-driven networks as well as the need to accelerate technology advancements in the areas of AI, FinTech and digital content.

“The Ericsson Unboxed event showcased several valuable insights which will accelerate the next phase to meet the evolving demands of connectivity. We are looking forward to more insights and are confident in the next step of the digitalisation journey.”

Ekow Nelson, Vice President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa and Head of Ericsson Pakistan added: “Ericsson’s partnership with Jazz spans over many years with several recent wins and shared successes in the areas of network rollout and digital services. Our world is witnessing challenging times due to COVID-19 and connectivity has never been more critical than ever.

“At Ericsson, we endeavor to automate and accelerate our networks and technology to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. We are working closely with Jazz to provide the best possible connectivity, ensuring that Jazz networks run optimally as demand grows and the need for digitalization expedites.”

Brother UK has partnered with Datalogic to provide technology resellers with the opportunity to buy Auto-ID products on subscription. The…

Brother UK has partnered with Datalogic to provide technology resellers with the opportunity to buy Auto-ID products on subscription.

The ranges of both vendors will be made available through Brother’s Managed Label Service (MLS) platform, which will give businesses the option of spreading the upfront cost of new labelling and scanning devices, software, services and supplies over a monthly payment plan.

The move will include Datalogic’s barcode scanning hardware and partners supplying the equipment will be able to simply integrate Brother labelling devices into customer deals via MLS, and vice versa.

The vendors say the partnership will make it easier for resellers to specify label printers and barcoding technology for bespoke Auto-ID systems, and provide them with access to a joint technical support team.

Ged Cairns, head of Auto-ID business unit at Brother UK, said: “Customers are increasingly looking to buy all hardware, software and solutions as a service, as they look to simplify purchasing decisions and turn capex into opex for affordability.

“Vendors working side-by-side can help partners responding to these changing customer needs faster, by providing considered guidance and expertise of how technology can work as part of a full system and by supporting one another through shared payment platforms.

“With Datalogic by our side, we’re well positioned to help partners as they handle the growing demand for Auto-ID systems.”

Jonathan Brown, UK&I Channel Country Manager, at Datalogic, added: “Brother’s MLS platform is providing another string to partners’ bows as they target growth in the Auto-ID market, so it’s an excellent platform to open up to the resellers we work closely with too.

“Our new partnership recognises the value that two vendors working together can provide resellers, which is especially helpful for those breaking into the Auto-ID market for the first time.”

The move follows Brother UK’s Auto-ID team striking a new deal with specialist distributor BlueStar, which will now carry the company’s thermal and mobile print range as part of a pan-European arrangement.

UtterBerry, a tech giant whose innovations have been used on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, is…

UtterBerry, a tech giant whose innovations have been used on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, is bringing some of its operations to Leeds, Yorkshire, creating 800 jobs – as reported by the Yorkshire Post.

The business’s primary objective is producing sensors which monitor the movements of infrastructure – for example, bridges and tunnels – in real time. It allows those working on the infrastructure to be warned in advance if anything’s wrong, preventing potential accidents.

The new Leeds hub will also design and manufacturer contactless COVID-19 symptom scanners. UtterBerry is aiming to roll these out across the globe.

Heba Bevan, founder and CEO of UtterBerry, is keen to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic find meaningful work again, and to attract more women into a typically male-dominated industry.

“What attracted me to Leeds was I knew there was a huge amount of talent around Yorkshire because you have got amazing universities,” she said.

“There is a huge pool of undergraduate and graduate talent.

“Engineers want to do good and provide sustainable developments. The pandemic showed us just how much we are lacking in manufacturing.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said that the investment was “fantastic news for Leeds”.

As reported by DroneLife, Verizon has launched a Robotics Business Technology Division in a bid to involve itself further in…

As reported by DroneLife, Verizon has launched a Robotics Business Technology Division in a bid to involve itself further in the unmanned sector.

Verizon states that it “expands enterprise solutions for drones and ground robotics”.

It acquired Skyward, a drone management company, in 2017 and has since used drones for emergency response and the maintenance of its own network.

It has also worked closely with businesses like UPS or delivery projects, and to leverage the power of 5G.

The new division will continue to enable autonomous solutions for Verizon.

“Enterprises in many industries are adopting drones and ground robots to gather data, survey and monitor infrastructure, and automate logistics operations,” says Mariah Scott, Head of Robotics Business Technology.

“By integrating these fleets with one operational platform, and leveraging Verizon’s advanced connectivity solutions, businesses can speed up time to insight, increase automation of their operations and deliver greater value.”

“Robots are a critical aspect of the 5G future. The formation of this new business unit will accelerate the symbiotic relationship between humans and machines, paving the way for Verizon to transform the way businesses approach innovation and the future of work,” adds Elise Neel, VP of New Business Incubation.

“Our talented team of roboticists will leverage the power of Verizon’s network, paired with the sophistication of next-generation software, to orchestrate and unify robotic experiences. This work will help deliver on the promise of making the fourth industrial revolution a reality.”

According to a new study, technology could create a way for indigenous communities in the Amazon to curb deforestation in…

According to a new study, technology could create a way for indigenous communities in the Amazon to curb deforestation in a major way, as reported by the BBC.

Conservationist groups have supplied indigenous citizens of the Peruvian Amazon with satellite data and smart phones to allow them to monitor the removal of trees. As a result, tree losses have been halved in the first year of the project.

The researchers wanted to see if putting information directly into the hands of those living in the forests themselves could make a difference to the rapid deforestation that has plagued these areas for decades – with great success.

The controlled study was randomised, using 76 remote villages in the Amazon, with 36 randomly-assigned people participating.

Thirty-seven other communities served as a control group, where normal forest management resumed.

When suspected deforestation was picked up by satellite information, coordinates and photos were loaded onto USB drives and delivered up the Amazon river. Then, the data was downloaded onto apps which would show the participants the locations.

It could then be confirmed whether or not the deforestation was unauthorised, and community members would decide on the best approach. If drug dealers were involved, they could decide whether to report to law enforcers. Otherwise, they would intervene directly.

“It’s quite a sizeable impact,” said Jacob Kopas, an independent researcher and an author on the paper. “We saw evidence of fewer instances of tree cover loss in the programme communities compared with control communities.

“On average, those communities managed to avert 8.8 hectares of deforestation within the first year. But the communities that were most threatened, the ones that had more deforestation in the past were the ones pulling more weight and were reducing deforestation more than in others.”

Indigenous groups welcomed the research. “The study provides evidence that supporting our communities with the latest technology and training can help reduce deforestation in our territories,” said Jorge Perez Rubio, the president of the Loreto regional indigenous organization (ORPIO), where the study was carried out.

According to The News, Pakistan’s largest oil refinery – Byco – has signed an agreement to implement SAP Ariba DSN…

According to The News, Pakistan’s largest oil refinery – Byco – has signed an agreement to implement SAP Ariba DSN (Digital Supplier Network) and Sourcing Suite – the first in its nation.

Byco stated: “The initiative will automate the procurement process enabling a paperless process, significantly eliminating errors and unnecessary delays, as encountered in traditional procurement to the payment process.”

Fayaz Ahmad Khan, Vice President Commercial Byco Petroleum, added: “Byco has always been at the forefront of innovation and implementation of processes that are in line with global best practices.

“The deployment of SAP ARIBA DSN and Sourcing Suite will be another first by Byco as an industry leader in Pakistan.”

Fayaz Ahmad Khan, Vice President Commercial Byco Petroleum

He stated that, not only will this move improve efficiency in procurement, but also create better transparency and visibility across the business for all stakeholders.

Gayle Carpenter, Founder and Creative Director at Sparkloop, discusses her incredible journey and the way she has smashed– and continues to smash – gender-based barriers in business…

It seems incredible, in 2021, that female founders remain a rarity – especially when it’s been proven, time and again, that the influence of women entrepreneurs is an incredible force for good. The Treasury recently commissions Alison Rose, CEO of Natwest Group, to lead her own independent review of female entrepreneurship in the UK [LINK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-alison-rose-review-of-female-entrepreneurship] digging deep into just how influential women can be and exposing the barriers they face.

The goal of the review was to tap into the economic potential of female entrepreneurs; one of its key findings was that up to £250bn of new value would be added to this country’s economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men. In response to Rose’s report, the government now has plans in place to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by 50% by 2030 – this is around 600,000 women.

The business case for why this is so important is crystal clear – it’s the much slower march of the way society views women that still needs an overhaul. You’ll hear people claim that sexism no longer exists in the UK because there are no specific laws that bar women from doing anything men do in business, but that’s a deeply short-sighted claim that completely discounts the pervasive nature of negative gender-based stereotypes. 

Even the highly successful Gayle Carpenter, Founder and Creative Director at Sparkloop, faced that one-dimensional mindset from her father when she was choosing what to study. While her passion lay in the arts, she initially chose a business degree, because he’d told her, “girls can do art, but if you want to get a proper job, you’ll need to do business”. Carpenter soon realised she’d made a mistake, and switched to art and design – something that didn’t stop her launching her own business 15 years ago, flying in the face of what Carpenter Senior expected.

Challenging perceptions

“The two things – arts and business – are completely united now,” she says. “My father’s viewpoint spurred me on to prove him wrong in the fact that you could be artistic and commercially creative, and make a career out of it.” Carpenter describes Sparkloop as “an ideas business”, a creative agency which specialises in branding, and all the associated channels of delivery. While the fundamentals of what Sparkloop does, as a business, haven’t changed much in a decade and a half, the way it delivers what it creates certainly has.

“The channels in which we deliver our strategy are beyond the imagination, now,” she explains. “You can’t recognise the output from 15 years ago. So, whilst staying true to our core skills and beliefs, we do make sure that we’re just one step ahead in terms of technology.” This has enabled Sparkloop to remain at the top of its game, and, unsurprisingly, the words and attitude of her father have stayed with Carpenter every step of the way, challenging her to continuously prove his perceptions wrong.

“Part of the reason there’s such a gap in female entrepreneurship is the perception of women in leading roles,” she says. “My dad, bless his soul, had a really old-school attitude towards girls in business – but have we actually moved on that much? There’s still that perception that if you were to start a family, you will be at home, potentially, or at least have to take a step back in order to do that. And that’s a real challenge for many women. Sadly, I do genuinely see that kind of ‘old boys network’ idea at play, but I think you can find or start your on network, and what I’m seeing now is a much more diverse network of people who are like-minded, rather than it being a ‘who you know, not what you know’ situation. It’s really, really nice.”

Everyday barriers

Times are indeed a-changing, but Carpenter has still been up against her fair share of barriers – the kind that remain common today. “I’ve been in a lot of male-dominated teams, and even at creative head level, there would be stereotypical response to my opinions; I was seen as ‘feisty’ as opposed to ‘assertive’, yet the ego-driven, crazy creative director who would throw hissy fits constantly was just ‘eccentric’! It’s interesting how we’re labeled, and how that’s so set within the psyche. But I am seeing it change.”

When we talk about those deep-rooted prejudices, language choice is often how they emerge. People are so used to describing powerful women as ‘difficult’ for standing their ground, and praising men for the same behaviour, that they don’t always realise how damaging that can be and how it influences their own viewpoints and actions surrounding women leaders. For Carpenter, personally, the best way around that has been to take what she’s learned and make sure others know they can come to her for guidance and advice.

Creating the change

“I would say I take much more of a mentoring role,” she says. “I like nothing more than when I started to work with, or collaborate with, clients or other people in my sector and they then almost outpace me. It’s a sign of success in terms of how they’ve grown. I never set out to do it in a structured way, but I’ve worked with a lot of clients who have just naturally asked me for advice, or 360 feedback, and that’s turned into more of a conversation and a bit of mentorship, where they’ve then gone onto do really great things with the confidence and the voice to make a difference. That’s really heart-warming for me.”

Carpenter’s team, just by chance, happens to be very diverse, including her ‘right-hand woman’ whom she brought on board as a junior and who is now a great senior creative. And Carpenter herself has been the recipient of a mentor’s sage advice, which – consciously or unconsciously – shapes the way she has worked with juniors now. 

“When I was at university, I did some experience at a small agency, headed up by a male and female team, and I later went back to work for them – it was one of the happiest places I’ve worked,” she says. “Looking back on it now, in this particular creative head, who was female and had children, I can identify the qualities I’ve noticed in woman leaders and that I would like to draw on myself – kind, but firm, and with a real tenacity. I actually didn’t realise, until now, how much of an impact that particular personal situation had on me, perhaps because it was the only time within my career where I had been working for a female head. So it enabled me to start as I meant to go on, very early.”

The future’s bright

For Carpenter, it’s important to reiterate the fact that giving women equal opportunities shouldn’t be seen as a threat to men, and opening doors for one doesn’t close any for another. It’s also vital to highlight that diversity isn’t just about men and woman – it’s a far broader conversation including gender, sexuality, race, health, and beyond. But regarding female leadership, the issue still lies within perceptions creating barriers that needn’t, and shouldn’t, be there.

“I’ve got a son, and I want to be a role model for him as much as I do for other women, to know that it’s right and fair to have this diverse attitude going forward,” Carpenter explains. “I certainly see that playing out in him, which is wonderful. He doesn’t see male and female roles in the same way that we ever would have, as kids, so that’s fantastic. Additionally, my other half works in finance, which isn’t the most diverse industry, but some of his favourite roles have been when he’s had female bosses, because he says they often have more divers teams which have been more successful.”

Things are moving in the right direction, from Carpenter’s perspective. The fact that gender is an everyday topic of conversation, now, is a step forward, and she’s seeing a general increase in the numbers of women in business. “It’s a lot more split, now, in terms of who I’m seeing as decision-makers,” she says. “There’s a real blend, and that’s really reassuring. I think you just have to have a certain mindset or ambition, regardless of gender, and if you have that sort of natural instinct it’s hard to let go of it. I’m constantly trying to stay one step ahead of myself, always challenging myself. I talk to other female – and male – leaders and use their mentorship to spur me on. 

“Just stay true to yourself, don’t be something you’re not. As a woman, you don’t have to try to be a man to be successful – be who you are and have confidence in that. Never take your eye off the ball, look after your clients, value your team, and that will pay you back in dividends. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. Test, learn, challenge yourself, keep moving forward, and be prepared to make measured risks – it’s the only way you’ll grow.”

Technology has played a vital role in changing the way people eat and view their health. The strategy& report, “An appetite for opportunity: How changing dietary goals can drive growth in retail and consumer goods”, explores how…

The internet as a teacher: COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on health

From the endless memes about inevitable weight gain – glossing over the fact that this has often been caused by illness, depression and anxiety – to the laser-focus on mental health, how we function and what we put into our bodies has become more of an open talking point since the pandemic began. This inevitably means that people have spent more time researching the best options for their personal needs online.’Our research shows the pandemic, and resulting lockdowns, have seen some consumers altering their diets to better support their mental wellbeing’, the strategy& report states. ‘We see indicators of this shift to overall wellbeing when we look at Google Search data. It’s clear there has been sustained interest in ‘vitamins’ over the past five years, with a significant spike in January 2021′. The first lockdown also saw a huge spike in Google Searches for ‘sugar substitute’.

Increased reliance on technology has changed how we acquire food

This shift isn’t new, but COVID-19 has accelerated it. In the UK, many supermarkets had to quickly adjust their online services when the first lockdown caused an enormous surge in the demand for delivery and click-and-collect slots. Additionally, the popularity of takeaway websites and apps has exploded.According to strategy& data, 21% of consumers found they’d increased the amount they spent online during 2020, and 13% expected that to continue for the next 12 months. The data also found that consumers are more interested in spending their money with independent, local food businesses.

People are learning new skills via the internet

While consumption of takeaways has indeed risen, many have also used this time as an opportunity to either learn to cook, or to expand their cooking skills, with the internet to guide them.’Across all consumer segments, the web is the top destination for food information and inspiration, including search engines, recipe websites and videos’, the strategy& report states. Additionally, subscription box services have become increasingly popular. ‘Consumer intent to purchase these has doubled since the pandemic, with a particularly strong take-up among Generation Z’. 

Gen Z is leading the way in online health education

The strategy& research found that, by far, Gen Z was the most likely age bracket to change its diet. ‘While they my lack the spending power of older generations… the younger demographic is more likely to change their diet for environmental reasons and they are also looking to become better-informed, turning to digital formats for information about wellbeing and diets. They’re using social media, health tracking apps and podcasts to guide their nutritional choices and meet their health goals’.

Health-based goal-setting has gone digital

Food-tracking websites and apps have also been around for several years already, but an increased focus on health and wellbeing has made them far more commonplace. Additionally, pre-packaged meal plans that focus specifically on health or meeting a certain are on the rise, with online services hurrying to provide. ‘The significant rise in healthy-eating packaged meal plans, delivered to the door, is capturing the attention of consumers whose goals may include a healthier lifestyle or the greater convenience of more hassle-free preparation and cooking’, the strategy& report says. ‘The proliferation of online services and marketplaces means consumers can easily and quickly better understand their choices against their goals, and then satisfy their dietary needs, whatever they are, at the touch of a button’.

We take a look at 5 apps that have underscored the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office, as identified in Okta 2021 Business at Work report.

Many of us have adapted seamlessly to working from home over the last 12 months. Technology, and the way software organisations have stepped up to the plate to supply the tools we needed most, has been key to this. We take a look at 5 apps that have underscored the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office, as identified in Okta 2021 Business at Work report.

While it now feels utterly normal to join a professional video chat and see the inside of people’s home offices, kitchens, or sheds, the fact is that it’s only been normal for less than a year. Many people thrive on home working, although some did struggle with the shift, and numerous reports have explored the clear benefits of a more flexible working situation than most of us had pre-pandemic. 

One of the main reasons why many of us have adapted so seamlessly is the role technology has played, and the way software organisations stepped up to the plate to supply the tools we needed most. ‘A shakeup in our top apps underscores the new necessities of remote work: collaboration, security, employee engagement… and a well-equipped home office’, states the Okta 2021 Business at Work report. 

As well as a rise in the use – and choice – of tools that enable us to better work with our colleagues, clients, and peers, remote workers have required additional protection that their employers would normally take responsibility for, hence the rise in security-related apps. Additionally, HR teams are busy investing in whatever will give them the best employee engagement, in order to ensure staff feel happy and supported at a time when they’re separated from their co-workers.

Interestingly, the Okta report shows that 90% of the fastest-growing apps are brand new to the top 10 – the first time in the report’s history. ‘Companies needed to enable remote work, which means supporting at-home workspaces and virtual collaboration, and these apps helped them do it. Also, for the first time, security tools claim four top spots in the fastest growing category, and an HR-centric tool appears for the first time since 2016’.

Microsoft 365

The real heavyweight app of 2020/21 was Microsoft 365, which is no surprise considering most office workers need to use at least one element of the app every day, and many of them haven’t invested in it for their personal computers. In the words of the Okta report, ‘Since our first report in 2015, Microsoft 265, Salesforce, and Google Workspace have held three of our top four spots. They may have rebranded once or twice, but they are embedded in our desktops and our work lives’.

AWS

Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing service that works on a pay-what-you-use basis – it’s not surprising, then, that it’s such a popular choice, particularly at a time when the way we work has changed so drastically. ‘We’ve seen some exciting changes in out top rank’, the report states. ‘Cloud platform AWS has risen steadily from sixth place five years ago to become this year’s second most popular app by number of customers’. 

‘The new second-place global rank for AWS is driven by its strong growth in EMEA and APAC, where it has seen over 25% growth since April 2020, compared to 16% growth in North America during the same time period’. 

Salesforce

A CRM platform and cloud computing service, Salesforce’s popularity has remained steadfastly near the top of the list. This is thanks, in part, to its usage in the US: ‘Salesforce and Zoom’s global ranks are underpinned by their popularity in North America’, the report states. In APAC and EMEA, Salesforce is several spots lower, but this hasn’t affected its appreciation elsewhere.

Google Workspace

Formerly known as G Suite, Google Workspace combines collaboration and productivity tools, and cloud computing. Its broad appeal has brought it to the top four spot, regardless of how it overlaps with other apps. ‘While companies may splurge on a few best-of-breed apps, we might expect they would tighten their belts where they see clear redundancy. However, 36% of Okta’s Microsoft 365 customers now also deploy Google Workspace, the largest jump in the past three years. Top collaboration tools have never been more important for productivity’.

Zoom

Zoom is no longer simply a name – it’s a verb. “Shall we Zoom later?” is the latest “Google it”, thanks to the video call app’s usability, stability, and business-friendly features like the ability to record meetings and set a photo of the Taj Mahal as your background. ‘Tools enabling collaboration, including Zoom, have jumped in the ranks’, the report states.

‘[It] had only joined the top apps by unique users for the first time in 2019, ended this current data period in sixth place. In our Businesses at Work (from Home) report in April, when we highlighted apps that had seen significant growth in numbers of corporate and personal users in March, Zoom was our fastest growing app by number of unique users. While unique users dipped a bit over summer, by the end of September they were reaching new highs, likely related to Zoom’s extensive efforts to support distance learning’.

Interface Magazine talks to James Shanahan, CEO Revolut Singapore, regarding an exciting new dawn of digital banking…

The banking sector has experienced so much disruption in recent years, hasn’t it?

My background is in banking and insurance for many years. One of my observations ever since has been the emergence of internet banking where the operating models of banks are very much outdated and customer experience is lagging behind what customers expect and experience in other industries. One of the opportunities that Revolut brings to the table or has built, in fact, is that we continue to expand on a new perspective on customer experience and a new perspective on the underlying operating model of banks. We’ve built, and continue to expand on, a global operating model. It’s a contemporary approach with a single underlying infrastructure; one that makes the business highly scalable. And I think in order of magnitude, less costly and more efficient than your run-of-the-mill bank.

Why is this so important?

This is important because when you take a zero off the cost of pretty much anything, you can change the world. And we’ve seen that in many industries in the past and as we move down that path with Revolut, we can see that as we bring ourselves into more and more markets. The difference that makes to our customers and the difference that makes to our ability to scale the business very rapidly is immense. The fundamental business model of banking is the balance sheet, leveraging the balance sheet, taking in deposits, lending those deposits out, and essentially, making a margin on that business. That business is not being disintermediated. The balance sheet business of a bank is intact and sound and will continue on for hundreds of years into the future, is my expectation. However, the surrounding systems, the surrounding protective systems, whether they’re credit systems, whether they’re profit and loss generating platforms or new product platforms, you will want to cut the G and L platform: the credit scoring, the risk engines, all of these are designed to protect those balance sheets. And then, of course, we get to the distribution where the high cost of branches, the high cost of ATM networks, are the millstone around the neck of banks that no longer performs the way it has done in the past. I mean, with the advent of technology, we can disintermediate at that level.

How does a restructuring of a platform help?

Looking at it from a more holistic perspective, the business model of a bank is intact, but the way it is carried out is dramatically or vastly inefficient to what’s possible using the kind of technology we have available today. And so, when you reimagine that from the perspective of an organisation like Revolut, you can conceive of a global bank that operates on a single common platform. You can conceive of a global bank that shares the same operating model universally. And when you start to do that, you are able to scale the business far more rapidly than any bank. Most banks, if you look in their scaled markets, are going to be individual stacks. The stack we have in one country is different from the stack that we have in another country. And that leads, obviously, to very high cost and the inability to move rapidly and to act in a very agile manner. So, by re-conceiving the infrastructure of a bank, if you like, the way that a bank delivers its services, you can take an order of magnitude off the cost, number one, and you can bring a level of experience to the customer that’s not hamstrung by old tech, by old thinking, by siloed approaches, and even a silo at a country level. Because frankly, that school of thinking, that style of thinking is really what’s held banks back and continues to do so, today.

I guess changing is coming to many banking enterprises?

There are some banks starting to move out of that mindset, but it’s like turning the ocean liner. And we’re coming along in perhaps not a speed boat anymore, but in a fast-moving, rapidly expanding boat that can move quickly, can turn quickly and can speed past, some of the incumbents in the market. In any market, we always overestimate what can be achieved in one year, but we dramatically underestimate what can be achieved in 10 years. So, Revolut is five years into its existence. I mean, ask me that question in five years or 15 years, and I hope to show you that Revolut is a global bank with tens, if not hundreds, of millions of customers on board able to operate at margins which put banks in their current form to shame.

Security issues obviously increase with these transformations…

Well, look, security is a war, and a war that will continuously wage. I think there’ll be no end to that. The good guys versus the bad guys will go on forever. What I see is this is increasingly… What we all see is a tech battle as we move to technology as a way to distribute financial services. I think a company that has a stronger tech underpinning and is digitally native, if you like, in its understanding of that technology, will always fight a better battle than those who have to learn the tools of war and have to bring their approaches to a new battlefield, if you like. I think there’s a second part of it as well. So, not only the ability to leverage technology more completely and with more modern and up-to-date tools, if you like, but also the usability factor here. So, a lot of security issues are not driven by weaknesses in the underlying security, but rather weaknesses in customers’ behaviour or lack of understanding on the part of protagonist in the transaction as to what might represent a less secure way of doing things. By having a lot of agility and flexibility on the front end with this customer experience, we can make it easier for customers to stay secure. We can educate them through the way that the application is laid out, through the way the customer journey moves. And we can avoid situations by running, if you like, a rule set or machine learning, or some artificial intelligence tools around the transactions, in addition to the usual transaction monitoring tools and protection tools to guide customers and to help them in a way that many, I think, less contemporary organisations don’t have the flexibility to do. That allows us to do, build in a level of customer awareness of security right from the beginning, and to adjust that on the fly. We can adjust our front ends very, very quickly and lead customers to a better position.

Does this inevitably lead to lower fraud rates?

We find our fraud rates, for example, to be significantly lower than industry standards right across the board. And I think this does reflect the fact that we have a more agile and more technologically-sound understanding of what’s going on, and we can apply it more completely. There’s also something to be said for the ability to manage customers’ expectations in this regard. So, it’s quite clear coming onto a digital-only platform from a financial services perspective, that customers need to be educated, need to be made secure, need to be reminded, if you like, or nudged in the right directions. And that’s easy to achieve with a digital front end much more so than, in a branch or an ATM machine or other offline kinds of environments. So, I think the opportunity to be vastly more secure is built into the operating nature of what we’re doing here with Revolut and other technology platforms.

I guess Covid has driven some of these changes…

You could argue that, absolutely. I think a lot of our customers are driven by convenience, less so than an age demographic. And I think convenience also raises a question in people’s mind, “Whilst this is easier to achieve, am I being safe? Is my bank, A, being responsible, and B, do I inherently understand the change in risk profile that I’m taking on with moving to this platform?” I think in the end… I don’t know. Maybe let’s leave it at that now. Obviously, there’s been some changes in customer behaviours. I mean, despite all the best intentions, travel has evaporated around the world, as we’ve come to see. So, spending has been affected, but I would say that it’s more muted than we expected. We saw a change in our customers’ behaviour and a dip in spending, but we’ve also seen a rapid recovery from that, in particular as people moved online. So, an acceleration in the tendency of people to move online occurred. Perhaps we saw three to five years’ worth of growth in several months in some markets. And then, secondly, I think it creates almost like a pendulum effect. When people are unable to spend, particularly in their disposable income, a demand builds up. And as we saw in various markets now, as lockdowns were eased or removed, we’ve seen spending bounce back, and again, with the pendulum effect, in some cases higher than it was before we went into the COVID period.

While the virus has presented many challenges, it has also opened up opportunities for increased industry security and customer relationships. Agnė Selemonaitė, Deputy CEO at ConnectPay, explains.

1. Increased industry security

Banks and other financial institutions have been a major target for scammers since the beginning of the pandemic; in fact, cyberattacks between February and April alone spiked an astonishing 238%. The increased volume of threats has encouraged companies to face the situation head-on and implement new safeguards.

“Putting more safeguards in place will benefit market players long after the crisis has blown over, as market players will be better equipped to deal with the constantly evolving digital threats,” says Selemonaitė.

2. Growth of digital payments market

Alongside the World Health Organization encouraging us to go cashless, the crisis has stimulated the growing amount of e-payments. Selemonaitė notes Sweden’s example: amidst the uncertainty, Sweden’s central bank signed an agreement to gain access to EU TIPS platform, which will act as the basis for the country’s own platform for instant payments.

“Sweden’s approach shows that in order to be in a better spot to satisfy increasing demand for faster, more convenient services – you need to be proactive,” Selemonaitė explains. “We follow this approach too; having realised our clients’ needs for greater options amidst quarantine, we integrated more payment methods into our Merchant API.”

3. Accelerating digital banking development

As banks had to severely limit their working hours during the lockdown, digital banking picked up the slack to accommodate the financial needs of people working from home. “As the new wave of customers sieged the system, faster development of banking services took precedence,” says  Selemonaitė. In the US alone, over 45% of people have changed the way they bank amidst the crisis, and according to a European customer survey by McKinsey, there has been a 20% increase in digital engagement.

4. Enhanced customer experience

The aforementioned McKinsey survey showed that people who are highly satisfied with their digital banking experience are two-and-a-half times more likely to open new accounts with their existing bank than those who are just just satisfied. The aftermath of COVID-19 is expected to continue down the path of developing simplified UX to attract and retain clientele.

“Although requiring meticulous work, constant UX evaluation can greatly benefit product credibility and client retention, for instance, our first UX update led to doubling our monthly conversions,” says Selemonaitė. “It is likely that we will see a more customer-focused approach in the post-crisis industry too.”

5. A catalyst for fintech companies

The ’08 financial crisis gave a boost for the fintech industry, as, at the time, people were losing trust in the system, and in legacy financial institutions. In the aftermath, some entrepreneurs parted ways with the concept of traditional banking, aiming to present the market with a more technologically sophisticated solution.

“This time, the crisis could have an even greater impact for fintechs, as well as regtechs, as they rely on solutions fintechs can develop,” adds Selemonaitė. “Unfavourable circumstances drive the need to innovate across interconnected sectors.”

Marius Galdikas, CEO of ConnectPay, explains the role of digital finance during a pandemic, and how it has changed society forever…

Could you tell us a little about your background?

I originally come from the field of technology. I’m a physicist,  and I’ve always marveled at engineering and technology – digital technology, specifically. Through the years, I shifted into products and then into fintech, which was very exciting to me, because fintech is about people and technology. It’s about good people that understand regulation, understand business and understand technology. I am now the CEO of ConnectPay.

Data shows that cyberattacks on financial institutions spiked enormously between February and April this year – why is that?

I think the main reason it happened is actually at the core of the pandemic; the pandemic means people are locked up at home, so you end up with many more users of digital financial services than there usually are. Cash is unusable at this time, when you’re locked up, so you have a lot of new customers in digital finance – some of them are tech savvy and others are not. There’s a lot of people that never used digital financial services, and now they must. So you have this influx of customers into the market, that’s number one. Number two, governments reacted and we had these stimulus programs released, which means there’s a lot of funds being distributed through different programs. And many of those funds are meant for relieving the consequences of joblessness.

So you have a lot of new funds moving around and, because all of it is happening in the digital finance area, I think that stirred up the whole fraudster community. Fraudsters are working hard, now, to try and use the situation to steal funds from people, which results in  information security threats and cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are means of achieving the goals for fraudsters.

How has cyber security adapted to combat this issue?

It’s a very big challenge to tackle. Number one is, all of the financial services providers that already operate online, they have their assets online, they have the required technology and so on. Could that have been changed so fast? No. Information security requires a lot of work and insight, and it’s a lengthy process to deploy specific tools to combat that. So I don’t think much has changed, but I think a realisation came that fraud prevention is now a very important area.

As well as increased security, what have been some of the digital baking trends since the emergence of COVID-19? How have people changed the way they handle money?

The stride towards a cashless society has obviously been accelerated, forcefully. Some countries and some companies will do better than others, but I think majority of the change is yet to come, because the pandemic will result in economic hardship and economic hardship will result in changes, in innovation, just like we had in the 2008 crisis. That gave birth to Bitcoin crowdfunding, sharing economies – all of that was an outcome of financial crisis, and I think we will see something come up that we cannot even imagine right now. What is the driver for those changes? Previously in 2008, there was a huge loss in trust towards financial institutions. The financial sector was the reason behind the crash, and so trust was lost, and all of these instruments – crowdfunding, sharing economy, blockchain technology – were targeted specifically at, “Hey, we don’t trust financial institutions anymore; what can we do to exclude them from the economy altogether?”

So what will happen now, I think, will be the same, depending on the size of the downturn. I’ve been hearing that in the Western and European developed markets, countries have been hit very hard, financially, by the pandemic. This will continue; there will be financial problems. It’s different because, previously, everybody lost jobs and salaries went down. Now, there’s a different aspect to what the hardship will be like, and it will result in something new.

What are your thoughts on a cashless society? Do you think it’s inevitable or are there barriers? And if it does happen, how far away do you think it is?

I do think it’s inevitable. I think the entire world is going towards a cashless society at different speeds; for example, the Nordic countries are the biggest cashless societies in the world, whereas the UK is probably five years behind them. In the US, cash is still very important –people love cash in the States – so they’re about 10 years probably behind the Nordics. However, the direction is the same. It’s all going towards cashless. The reasons for it is obviously internet penetration and mobile phone penetration – those are the key factors towards how fast will we get to cashless society, country-by-country. But also, what we need to understand is that cashless society also sort of puts a strain on the society as a general, because elderly people might be excluded from this market or might have trouble or problems adapting to the cashless environment. However, sometime, we will all be there.

The push towards the cashless society is driven by two things: one is the new consumer. These are new people, the new generation, and exchanging funds should be as simple as messaging or using social media. So one driver is this new generation that drives the digital economy and the cashlessness, because they live in the digital world. The other part is the actual financial institutions that drive the cashless society, but their reasoning is different – it’s efficiency. They want to cut costs. They don’t want to have physical retail locations. Nobody wants to transport or count cash. There’s fraud issues related to cash, so the financial institutions are driving it from another perspective.

Do you think it’s safe to say that digital banking is no longer a luxury, but a necessity?

Absolutely. We see that the world is much more fragile than we thought. We are all forced to go online, work from home, access our financial instruments from home, shop online, get government funding and stimulus online without going anywhere, and so on. It is a necessity, it is definitely not a luxury and everybody will have to adapt to that. I just hope it becomes less painful for everybody to transition, and that people don’t lose out on their money through fraud.

We spoke to Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, about the transformative power of both technology and company culture…

What led to you launching your business, Cloud9 Insight?

I started Cloud9 about 10 years ago, and it was an opportunity to support small businesses to deploy CRM in the cloud for the first time, because I saw a trend of more and more clients moving to the cloud. There’s an opportunity to help clients with making the most of their data in the SME space, plus they’re able to use Microsoft technology to get more insights – hence the name Cloud9 Insight. At the time, most of my competitors were still looking to sell on premises-software, but I saw a gap in the market.

Historically, what I’d seen with enterprise clients I had worked with, is that CRM projects had been at least a year long, and often you’d question whether the business had moved on since the definition stage of the project, and if it was still fit for purpose. I think projects these days need to be a lot more agile to support clients with business transformation; for me, working with cloud technology allows that agility.

There’s a quote on your website where you say you have a love of change and disruption – what does that mean to you, as a tech leader and expert?

I think it comes naturally to me. I’m moderately dyslexic, and some say that dyslexics are quite creative people. I find it hard to read anything without having a pen and paper in my hand, because I always got lots of ideas, and I think part of the reason that entrepreneurs have often been so successful as dyslexics is that we often think differently. If you look at tackling problems the same way they’ve always been tackled before, then you’ll probably come up with the same answers – but if you can address things differently, then maybe you might come up with a better opportunity.

When I started my business, I moved almost immediately to the Alps; I hadn’t worked in the Microsoft channel, and I had no preconceptions about what did a Microsoft partner selling CRM did. That meant my business model turned out very different to a lot of others. I also recruit a lot of young people into my business – which is why I’ve set up an apprenticeship programme, called Vantage Academy – and having them involved in the business has helped maintain that creative, disruptive model.

So is company culture very important to you?

Definitely. I used to work at IBM, and it was quite normal to travel around different offices around the country, visit your clients and just pop in and hot desk. Depending on which office you went to, some people were a bit more chatty and you got to hear a little bit more about what they’re doing. But what I noticed about my business, as it was growing, was it was becoming departmentalized and siloed in the same way that many of my clients complain about. I didn’t want that; I don’t want the salespeople not working with the support people, or projects people, and so on. There’s so much opportunity to learn when you have conversations with colleagues across different parts of the organisation, and I really wanted to make sure that we worked as a team.

I know you’re a big advocate for diversity in the workplace, and in the general realm of technology – what are some of the benefits diversity can bring?

First of all, organisations need to make sure that the demographics of who they employ reflects the demographics of who you’re selling to, because it’s difficult to understand them otherwise. Certainly in a B2C market, having representation across age groups in your workforce is really important. What I’ve found is that what really motivates the older generation is the ability to be a mentor and a leader to those that don’t yet have the experience. They want to give back.

As for younger people, they have energy, ambition and hunger to pass on to across the workplace, allowing great things to happen, and I think it increases the performance of my overall team. Diversity could also be gender; certainly in many sectors like tech and oil and gas, it is heavily biased towards males, and a lot of my staff do tell me that it’s nice to have a more balanced workplace.

I’m a lot more people centric than maybe a lot of my peers might be; I like to embrace the people and the value of people in businesses, both within my clients and within my own team. That’s really important to me.

You wrote a piece about how working from home is changing attitudes to work, specifically citing children gatecrashing video calls and how that represents how the life part of work-life balance can no longer just be hidden away – with technology supporting people really successfully to work from home, will things ever go back to ‘normal’?

I think there’s no going back to ‘normal’, for sure. The old way is not going to exist at all. There’s two types of businesses: those who are probably kidding themselves and just about surviving, and those who are probably a lot more agile and forward-thinking, who are going to look at the trends that have been happening, jump onto those trends and allow a lot more flexibility around people working from home.

The other great thing about this mobility of the workforce, is that maybe your team don’t even have to be in the vicinity of your office – maybe not even the vicinity of the UK. Maybe we can tap into where the best talent is.

How do you think female entrepreneurship can be encouraged in tech, and other STEM industries?

I love that question. One of the exciting things about me being able to set up an apprenticeship business is I’m definitely going to use my voice and position to be a great advocate for younger females to come into the tech sector. I think there might be a perception that you need to have technical skills, but having great leadership skills, having creative skills are also very important and greatly valued in the sector. It’s just trying to open the younger generation’s mind, especially for young females, as to the skills that they have inherently, in great abundance, how are they valued, and how can they use those skills to make a difference.

And for me, technology is a great enabler of change and making a difference. I’d like to see schools working more with younger people to help them feel confident about working with technology. When I hire people that are fresh out of school, I’m absolutely dismayed by how few skills they have in using technology. That crosses all genders, but it’s really sad to see the percentage of females attending degree courses that are highly attended by males. However, when you look overseas at places like Poland, they have a much greater balance, so I think we have a lot to learn about what is it that overseas countries are doing that we’re not. I suspect that starts at a young age in school, and if we could create more entrepreneurs, then our economy will be much more successful.

So it’s about encouraging STEM topics in schools, full stop, not just for girls but all genders, in order to fill that skills gap.

Yes, absolutely. I think that if there’s more integration between businesses and their involvement in schools, and that opportunities to learn entrepreneurship and problem-solving using technology exist, that might open their eyes.

Full article:

Nell Walker talks to James Shanahan, CEO Revolut Singapore, regarding a new dawn of digital banking

“By re-conceiving the infrastructure of a bank, the way that a bank delivers its services, you can take an order of magnitude off the cost and you can bring a level of experience to the customer that’s not hamstrung by old tech, by old thinking, by siloed approaches…” James Shanahan, CEO of Revolut Singapore

As the world slowly establishes a new normal, we reflect on some of the technologies which will contribute to a successful economic recovery

Technology thrives during times of need

Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. According to Digital Information World, solutions created during desperate times endure, and drive economic growth long into the future. For example, The Great Depression birthed the electric razor and car radios, among other technological advances, while Microsoft and Apple got their start during the oil crisis recession in the 1970s. The current pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to change the way we live and operate, exposing weaknesses in systems we previously relied on and allowing us to make them better. People are searching for ways to adapt, and technology will always lead this march.

Increased investment in cyber security

According to the 2nd Global Business Barometer, teleconferencing platforms have, arguably, received the most attention as a tool for businesses to adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19; however, for many businesses, the current focus is on security and risk. Forty-four per cent of respondents said cyber security would become ‘much more important’, followed by the related areas of data privacy at 42.5%, and risk management and cloud computing at 39.9% each.

Remote working

Businesses forced to either shut down or send their staff home to work during lockdown have been able to enjoy the silver lining of decreased costs of running their workplaces, giving them a little grace to ensure they survive and, hopefully, thrive as the economy reboots. Technologies such as video conferencing and project management software have meant that a lot of companies working from home have still managed to make a success of this time, and it’s highly unlikely that they won’t emerge from this with revised remote working policies in place. A Nowsourcing infographic states that as remote work, technology, and internet access continue to develop, workers will have the option to leave big cities, escaping the high cost of living and bolstering small town economies in the process.

Adoption of home technology

Whether it’s due to working from home, home schooling, a need to create alternative revenue streams or simply for the sake of socialising with friends and family, there has been a massive uptake in home technology – both hardware and software. The aforementioned infographic shows that sales and use of these technologies keeps growing: sales of Chromebooks have risen by 400%, webcams 179%, monitors 138%, headsets 134%, and keyboards 64%. Additionally, Zoom gained an extra 190 million new users in three months, and G Suite gained a million new paying businesses in February alone.

5G infrastructure

Despite bizarre conspiracy theories linking 5G to COVID-19, it is still fully expected by experts to help boost post-pandemic recovery by introducing new possibilities for tech products. 5G isn’t an upgrade of 4G, as many people believe, but a brand new mobile system. For businesses, it will create increased speed and bandwidth, improved battery life for remote IoT devices, enhanced security, better WAN connections, 100 times the traffic capacity, and 100 times the network efficiency – among many, many other advantages. Rolling out across 2020 and 2021, 5G will be a huge boon in our post-COVID recovery.

How openness and authenticity can contribute to successful procurement career…

Procurement isn’t necessarily an area that’s thought of as particularly human-centric, yet it does go hand-in-hand with the concepts of co-operation and organisation. As such, a touch of humanity can go a long way – and Lizan Molmans, CPO of Eneco, has it in spades.

Driven and enthusiastic, Molmans is the type of person who, in her own words, assumes that “the fastest way to the other side of the lake is straight through it, even if going around it is safer,” when she’s excited about a solution. And creating and carrying out solutions requires openness, communication and self-belief – things which Molmans learned to hone the hard way, through her career. 

Like many procurement professionals, Molmans fell into her current role as a mid-career option. Previously, she was in sales – a role in which she was perfectly happy, because she knew the products inside-out and was a real asset to her business. However, the factory supplying those products hit difficulties, one year, and couldn’t deliver them; Molmans found herself in a position where she had to repeatedly tell clients the unpleasant news, meaning they lost faith in the business. “I could not be truly authentic,” she says. “That’s not the way I like to do my job. At that time, I was still very young and naive, but I realised I was not the perfect person for that job. I became unhappy, and complained to a former manager of mine, who was head of procurement. She said, ‘Why don’t you do the same job you’re doing in sales but on the other side of the table?’ That’s when I discovered that procurement was a perfect fit for me.”

After years of varied roles, this one finally clicked. As part of a centralised procurement team, Molmans and her peers looked after procurement for the entire IT business she worked for, and it suited her because it allowed her to buy at a higher level. “Eventually, though, I got a bit stuck on the idea that having a boss who makes choices about how I do my job or how a department is arranged didn’t suit me, because my opinions were different. It was time to take the next step.”

The next step

By her own admission, Molmans didn’t necessarily have the ambition to shoot for top positions, she expected that next step to be a horizontal one. So she moved on, but found that in her next role, nobody cared whether she worked hard or simply did nothing. She moved on again, but this time, she wanted to be in a position where she had influence. “I realised I wanted to improve everything I could see,” Molmans explains. “My circle of concern is very large and my circle of influence is a bit smaller, so I’m always trying to push the latter and show that, when I believe I know better, I will stand my ground if someone disagrees.”

Molmans needed to be part of a business which, in turn, needed her. “I was with this executive search bureau and they asked me what kind of job I was looking for. I said that I needed to be in a management position because I’d had too many bosses where I could have done better. I needed a company on the move, that had a sense of urgency to change. They suggested I approach one of the three Dutch energy companies, and I said, okay, I want to be a manager; I want to split up the company from a procurement perspective and I want to partner from a procurement perspective. I thought that would be a nice challenge, and they agreed.”

Facing the challenge

Molmans spent over 10 years with this business, eventually becoming interested in mediation. She even studied to become a mediator, but then Eneco head-hunted her to lead its procurement function; it was a dilemma, for Molmans, who had been thinking of starting her own company and being a full-time mediator, but she reasoned that she could do that later in life – this was an opportunity that couldn’t be refused.

“Eneco is a very smart, intelligent, strategic company,” she says. “The culture is one that celebrates great planning and innovation.” Eneco, as a decentralised organisation, wasn’t particularly mature, but Molmans saw this as a challenge she could fix for the betterment of the company. “Operational excellence is very important, but it took Eneco some time to really embrace that.” 

Now, Molmans has found her place and embraced how who she is affects her role, and vice versa. She has discovered that while she wants to influence and to make big changes, she isn’t driven by the limelight; if she was, she’d have stayed in sales. She is more than content to be making waves in the background, driving innovation from within.

The value of authenticity

“The older I get, the more okay I am with who I am – and that’s very valuable,” she explains. “I’ve become integrated with myself. People feel very liberated when they have honest conversations with me, and they allow themselves to be vulnerable and courageous. This is what, I think, is key for companies to be successful – if a company isn’t vulnerable, if people are holding their cards too close to their chests, how can you fix or change that business? The main purpose of an organisation is to let people co-operate as an organic entity, to create value, to work efficiently. The key to that is vulnerability and openness. You can’t work together if you’re not open.”

It’s easier said than done, of course, and some people struggle with vulnerability to the extent that they become argumentative and defensive, but Molmans does her best to communicate the importance of it to her team and her superiors to make company-wide change. In her experience, with procurement being a fairly male-dominated arena, keeping one’s cards close to the chest is sometimes seen as being strategic and intelligent, where openness may be considered naive – but this is where a little diversity of thought can go a long way. “A company has a lot to gain by putting different people in place who might question the status quo,” Molmans says. “We shouldn’t be trying to compete; we’re meant to co-operate, and competition doesn’t bring profit.”

Molmans firmly believes that it takes courage to be vulnerable, because vulnerability can mean risk. To her, if you’re not being yourself and not being vulnerable, you’re not doing the best job you can do; you’re not contributing to the organisation as much as you could by not being your authentic self. 

So, if Molmans had with this extensive knowledge in how to promote a successful, open, efficient organisation through honesty, innovation and openness, early in her career, would the journey have been different? “Yes,” she says, “because I would have felt able to stand up and admit when I wasn’t the right person for something. Our experiences are a combination of environment, society, upbringing and the time period, and I didn’t know anything about what I’ve learned now, back then. But, if I wasn’t a good CPO – if I couldn’t understand procurement and how to move this organisation forward – I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

We spoke to Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, about the transformative power of both technology and company culture

Interface Magazine hooks up with Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, who reveals the transformative power of both technology and company culture…

What led to you launching your business, Cloud9 Insight?

I started Cloud9 about 10 years ago, and it was an opportunity to support small businesses to deploy CRM in the cloud for the first time, because I saw a trend of more and more clients moving to the cloud. There’s an opportunity to help clients with making the most of their data in the SME space, plus they’re able to use Microsoft technology to get more insights – hence the name Cloud9 Insight. At the time, most of my competitors were still looking to sell on premises-software, but I saw a gap in the market.

Historically, what I’d seen with enterprise clients I had worked with, is that CRM projects had been at least a year long, and often you’d question whether the business had moved on since the definition stage of the project, and if it was still fit for purpose. I think projects these days need to be a lot more agile to support clients with business transformation; for me, working with cloud technology allows that agility.

There’s a quote on your website where you say you have a love of change and disruption – what does that mean to you, as a tech leader and expert?

I think it comes naturally to me. I’m moderately dyslexic, and some say that dyslexics are quite creative people. I find it hard to read anything without having a pen and paper in my hand, because I always got lots of ideas, and I think part of the reason that entrepreneurs have often been so successful as dyslexics is that we often think differently. If you look at tackling problems the same way they’ve always been tackled before, then you’ll probably come up with the same answers – but if you can address things differently, then maybe you might come up with a better opportunity.

When I started my business, I moved almost immediately to the Alps; I hadn’t worked in the Microsoft channel, and I had no preconceptions about what did a Microsoft partner selling CRM did. That meant my business model turned out very different to a lot of others. I also recruit a lot of young people into my business – which is why I’ve set up an apprenticeship programme, called Vantage Academy – and having them involved in the business has helped maintain that creative, disruptive model.

So, is company culture very important to you?

Definitely. I used to work at IBM, and it was quite normal to travel around different offices around the country, visit your clients and just pop in and hot desk. Depending on which office you went to, some people were a bit more chatty and you got to hear a little bit more about what they’re doing. But what I noticed about my business, as it was growing, was it was becoming departmentalized and siloed in the same way that many of my clients complain about. I didn’t want that; I don’t want the salespeople not working with the support people, or projects people, and so on. There’s so much opportunity to learn when you have conversations with colleagues across different parts of the organisation, and I really wanted to make sure that we worked as a team.

I know you’re a big advocate for diversity in the workplace, and in the general realm of technology – what are some of the benefits diversity can bring?

First of all, organisations need to make sure that the demographics of who they employ reflects the demographics of who you’re selling to, because it’s difficult to understand them otherwise. Certainly in a B2C market, having representation across age groups in your workforce is really important. What I’ve found is that what really motivates the older generation is the ability to be a mentor and a leader to those that don’t yet have the experience. They want to give back.

As for younger people, they have energy, ambition and hunger to pass on to across the workplace, allowing great things to happen, and I think it increases the performance of my overall team. Diversity could also be gender; certainly in many sectors like tech and oil and gas, it is heavily biased towards males, and a lot of my staff do tell me that it’s nice to have a more balanced workplace.

I’m a lot more people centric than maybe a lot of my peers might be; I like to embrace the people and the value of people in businesses, both within my clients and within my own team. That’s really important to me.

You wrote a piece about how working from home is changing attitudes to work, specifically citing children gatecrashing video calls and how that represents how the life part of work-life balance can no longer just be hidden away – with technology supporting people really successfully to work from home, will things ever go back to ‘normal’?

I think there’s no going back to ‘normal’, for sure. The old way is not going to exist at all. There’s two types of businesses: those who are probably kidding themselves and just about surviving, and those who are probably a lot more agile and forward-thinking, who are going to look at the trends that have been happening, jump onto those trends and allow a lot more flexibility around people working from home.

The other great thing about this mobility of the workforce, is that maybe your team don’t even have to be in the vicinity of your office – maybe not even the vicinity of the UK. Maybe we can tap into where the best talent is.

How do you think female entrepreneurship can be encouraged in tech, and other STEM industries?

I love that question. One of the exciting things about me being able to set up an apprenticeship business is I’m definitely going to use my voice and position to be a great advocate for younger females to come into the tech sector. I think there might be a perception that you need to have technical skills, but having great leadership skills, having creative skills are also very important and greatly valued in the sector. It’s just trying to open the younger generation’s mind, especially for young females, as to the skills that they have inherently, in great abundance, how are they valued, and how can they use those skills to make a difference.

And for me, technology is a great enabler of change and making a difference. I’d like to see schools working more with younger people to help them feel confident about working with technology. When I hire people that are fresh out of school, I’m absolutely dismayed by how few skills they have in using technology. That crosses all genders, but it’s really sad to see the percentage of females attending degree courses that are highly attended by males. However, when you look overseas at places like Poland, they have a much greater balance, so I think we have a lot to learn about what is it that overseas countries are doing that we’re not. I suspect that starts at a young age in school, and if we could create more entrepreneurs, then our economy will be much more successful.

So it’s about encouraging STEM topics in schools, full stop, not just for girls but all genders, in order to fill that skills gap.

Yes, absolutely. I think that if there’s more integration between businesses and their involvement in schools, and that opportunities to learn entrepreneurship and problem-solving using technology exist, that might open their eyes.

Digital strategy is the cornerstone of any business – but how is it driven? Dr. Paul J. Bailo, Global Head of Strategy and Innovation at Infosys Digital, explores digital leadership.

When it comes to digital leadership, people often become fixated on the software part of that – but you are somebody who believes that the human element is just as important.

Absolutely. I don’t see how any organisation in this current world could survive without a true digital leadership model, when digital is at the forefront of every business. With COVID-19 coming into play and people working from home, you really have to develop your digital talents in relation to digital leadership. How do you become part of an employee’s moral values? How do they hear your voice for leadership and guidance? And how do you do this without physically being next to that person? How do you actually lead in this world of digital without a physical person being there? In my experience, and my own research, one of the critical elements to being a real digital leader is to have vision.

How do I take these pieces of technology, people, and process and look towards the future, allowing us to get from point A to point B, while keeping us moving forward? Six months ago, some people were sort of thinking about digital, some organisations had digital in a box, some people had digital in the corner, and some people didn’t even have a Chief Digital Officer. Fast forward today, if you didn’t have a digital model when COVID-19 hit, you’re dead in the water. That kick in the butt is allowing businesses to see cracks and fractures in their leadership model, that they don’t have a digital leadership framework where they have a vision for digital, and that digital is everything.

What are the most important tools in a digital leader’s arsenal?

Creativity, and a great network. You have to have a big Rolodex; you have to have a big contact list in your phone. You have to have a great network of different people from different areas that you could call upon. You may need people in the artistic world, the academic world, the philosophical world. You may need high-end programmers. You need all these people at your beck and call and you need them to build these solid relationships in order to share the wealth of knowledge.

In my opinion, it doesn’t help a digital leader to network in the same area that they’re familiar with. They have to break out of their own shell and network and build deep relationships, working relationships, outside of their norm. A lot of people say, you’re in digital, so you’re going to go to the digital conference. That’s great; I love to go to the digital conferences, and I love to speak at them.

However, I also go to other conferences, which have nothing to do with digital or data. I’m interested in aerospace, so I go to aerospace conferences to see about what’s happening in the aviation space. I go to museums to see the world differently, where there might be something in that artwork that intrigues me, that gets my brain to be working and thinking about problems differently.

When we start talking about networking, digital leaders need to know that they have to expand their proficiency in networking. They need to look outside what they’re comfortable with.

The way a digital leader thinks is that the day something is successful is the day it’s antiquated, so you have to rewire your mind that it can always be better. And this is not new – this is how nature works, it’s called evolution. Everything is constantly changing for the better, depending on the environment, or depending on the conditions that we’re living in. So when you start thinking about the digital leadership, I don’t think it just comes naturally – it’s an art form. It’s something you have to work on, it’s something you have to rewire your brain for; you have to read about it, you have to be thinking about it, you have to be talking about it, and you have to collaborate with others.

What do you think are some of the pitfalls, or common mistakes people make, when it comes to successful digital leadership?

Great question. Number one is thinking you have the people’s support when you don’t; thinking you actually have the leadership and the inspiration of the people, when you don’t. Thinking that what you suggested works without testing it out and trying it first. Talking without substance or an understanding of the data, and having the ability to talk to people but not really having empathy for them. People are smart, and they want to know that you’re going to walk through fire with them.

The idea of leaders considering themselves to be in a position of power – those days are over. People don’t want that; they want a leader who’s at the front, who’s going to be with them day and night to make sure things work. They want someone to are for and love them, who has the vision, experience and knowledge to assess risks very quickly.

These qualities are not easily found; there’s a limited amount of people who can do this, but if you can communicate digital change and transformation in a way that really touches their hearts – in a way that people understand – they’re happier to take risks. I look for the pebbles in people’s shoes; a lot of people focus on the big pain points and miss the smaller ones, but as a digital leader, you need to understand. Then you can instil in them self-leadership, and show them that you’ll be there to pick them up if they take a risk and fail.

We’re hearing more and more about the advantages of failing, and that it should be seen as testing and progression.

I think we’ve all failed, right? Historically, everyone has failed, but many swept it under the rug because people weren’t rewarded for failing, and looked down upon it, but life is made for us to fail. If you have a newborn baby, as it develops, it starts to crawl. And then, eventually, it tries to stand up and immediately falls down. Then it says, wow, okay, I learned something: let me try this again. They keep trying.

This is who we are as humans. Failure is just part of how we learn; we’ve put a societal black cloud over it, but it’s how we were made. You don’t learn as much in your successes as your failures. So, in looking for a great digital leader, you want to make sure this person’s failed a lot and has been through everything, because that’s the person who sees around the corners.

What are the three most important attributes of a digital leader?

Number one, be human. Number two, have a vision that people can understand and believe in. Number three, be curious about data, technology, the world – be curious about many different things. It could shape your thinking in formulating the best digital transformation solution around.

This isn’t something you become overnight – for the best digital leaders, it’s who they are. They’re naturally curious, they already have vision, they gravitate towards technology and they love people. People have to really want to work with you, believe in you, trust you, and love you to do really great things.

Marius Galdikas, CEO of ConnectPay, talks digital banking’s place in the modern world

The latest episode of The Digital Insight welcomes Marius Galdikas, CEO of ConnectPay, a digital banking alternative for online-focused businesses.

In this episode, Nell Walker talks to Galdikas about how COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in digital banking fraud, the upsides of this difficult time from a fintech perspective, and the future of cash in an increasingly online society.

G20 leaders have an opportunity to develop policy responses to the pandemic that immediately address women’s roles in healthcare, unpaid care and the workforce.

Amidst a COVID-19 pandemic that is expected to cause an unprecedented global economic downturn, UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, and Women 20 (W20), the official G20 engagement group on women, have called on G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to put women at the heart of recovery efforts. In a joint statement, both groups called on addressing women’s distinct economic roles, contributions and constraints, and seizing the opportunity to put women at the centre of investment design to realise sustainable recovery.

Women contribute 37% of the global GDP. Moreover, all types of women’s care work, including unpaid work, generate $11 trillion globally (nine per cent of global GDP). Enabling women’s potential fully and equally with men promotes sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth, improves the representation of women within institutions and inter-generational development outcomes, and is also crisis-cushioning.

Already encumbered by gendered labour-market disadvantages, women workers have been disproportionately affected by job loss, reduced working hours and bankruptcy due to the current pandemic. Also, health risks to health workers, paid and unpaid care work and violence against women have escalated with COVID-19 and lockdowns.

G20 economies have introduced a firepower support package of $8 trillion to cushion households and businesses and facilitate recovery. Despite evidence that the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are worse for women, it is unclear how much the sizeable G20 (or non-G20) economic packages have invested in women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women said: “Women are drivers of economic recovery and resilience. G20’s sizeable investments in response to COVID-19 and beyond must be intentional about this and be designed with women at their centre in order to realise sustainable rebuilding.”

Dr. Thoraya Obaid, Women 20 Chair added: “While we work to recover from the damage caused by this global crisis, we have an opportunity to correct a historical fault regarding women and their role in the society. G20 leaders must grasp this opportunity to enable women’s potential fully and equally with men – this is critical to economic recovery now and for future crisis-cushioning.”

In their joint statement, UN Women and W20 called on G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to implement gender-responsive impact reviews of the crisis, recovery packages and plans worldwide, especially for the worst-affected women and girls, in order to guide investment priorities. They also appealed for greater fiscal space for countries of the Global South, including through debt relief or cancellation, and expansionary monetary policies that enhance credit availability for women-specific sectors via loan guarantees and other loan instruments as well as greater investment in gender-responsive budgeting.

The organisations also urge G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to promote inclusive governance and decision-making, sustainable employment and entrepreneurship, expanded, accessible social safety nets and inclusive, quality, sustainable health care systems and gender-based violence services.

UN Women and W20 concluded, G20 leaders have an opportunity to develop policy responses to the pandemic that immediately address women’s roles in healthcare, unpaid care and the workforce.

Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, explores innovation in the software field

The latest episode of The Digital Insight welcomes Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight, a business which helps SMEs become more efficient and flexible through cloud technology.

In this episode, Nell Walker explores Jackson’s background as the founder of her business, the two discuss the importance of being agile and innovative as a growing technology business, and our guest explains why she’s so passionate about promoting diversity in the workplace.

Resellers will have a central role to play in helping IT leads manage ‘hybrid’ workforces as employee demand is split between working in the office and at home, according to Brother UK.

A study of almost 300 office-based employees reveals a divide in appetite for returning to work, with 53% of respondents saying they feel safer working from home in the current climate.

The office commute is the top concern for two thirds of respondents (66%), followed by sharing toilets and bathrooms (65%) and using communal kitchen areas (61%). Almost half (49%) are also worried about the cleanliness of other colleagues, according to the findings.

On the contrary, 37% say they are looking forward to getting back to the office. Many miss seeing colleagues (77%), collaborating face-to-face (62%) and having a ‘proper’ workspace (45%). A quarter (25%) are also missing the office gossip.

The business says this split in demand for office and home working will create a productivity and safety challenge for many organisations – and resellers will have an opportunity to provide a range of solutions, including labelling devices, higher-end print devices for home offices, and compact scanners, to tackle it.

Andy Johnson, Head of Product and Solutions management at Brother UK said: “Understandably, many people in the UK are still concerned about returning to the office. But businesses also recognise that some employees are struggling to work from home and want to offer them the opportunity to resume some sense of normality.

“Companies must cater for both and this hands IT leads the challenge of not only managing a mix of office and home working technology on a longer-term basis, but also making sure they can operate productively while keeping employees safe.

“To do this, businesses will need their reseller partners on hand to help them with a range of challenges, from ensuring they have the right printing and scanning devices so people can work in the office safely, to providing remote working tools so those at home can operate securely at distance.

“We’ll be at the side of partners with our full print range, with devices suited to home and office use, as they help customers to meet the needs of the hybrid workforce.”

A new study found that a wide range of streaming services fail to connect with consumers on an emotional and psychological level.

TV subscription brands consistently show ‘narcissistic’ tendencies, which can erode subscriber trust and ultimately make them disloyal, according to a report launched by Singula Decisions.

The new study – ‘The Psychology of a Subscriber’ – found that a wide range of streaming services, in both entertainment and sports, fail to connect with consumers on a deeper emotional and psychological level, by:

  • Not understanding the fundamental drivers motivating a subscriber’s behaviours and interactions
  • Invading their boundaries when asking for financial commitment too soon
  • Insufficiently tailoring the service to meet the moods and mindset of each customer
  • Creating ‘avoidant’ or ‘ambivalent’ attachments to subscribers that do not build loyal relationships
  • Ineffectively providing subscribers with the ability to share more about themselves and to listen to their feedback

Psychology of a Subscriber

The qualitative study, conducted and authored by Qualitative Researcher, Accredited Psychotherapist and Director of QualiProjects, Jennifer Whittaker, and Business Psychologist and Researcher, Katharina Wittgens, explores subscriber attitudes towards TV brands in the UK and US, gaining a deep understanding of how consumers think, feel and behave throughout the customer journey. 

Whittaker, says: “Many brands do not listen to subscribers, nor do they create a safe enough space for subscribers to come forward and give more. In fact, brands often have unconscious narcissistic tendencies and are blinded by the belief that customers are only there to serve, by giving ‘strokes’ to the ego – aka money to the account – and helping to build a good reputation. Unfortunately, brands cannot know subscribers until subscribers give more. But subscribers will only give more if they trust, and they’ll only trust if they don’t feel forgotten.” 

Part 1: Acquisition

This first report in a three-part series covers the acquisition phase of the customer journey. The research found that dissatisfaction and suspicion can begin from the moment a subscriber ‘joins’ a service, if asked to hand over financial information or commit to the brand too soon. While subscribers are at their most enthusiastic in the first months of engagement, brands rarely take advantage of their potential to become advocates. 

Commenting on the findings, Bhavesh Vaghela, CEO of Singula Decisions, adds: “We recognise how tough it can be to build a strong brand and grow a TV subscription business as consumers continue to dip in and out of services every month. We have seen strong consumer brands being created in other sectors such as retail, ecommerce and banking; consumers are loyal to these brands and TV subscription businesses are behind this curve.  Brands must think differently about how they build a service and experience that best suits the needs of their customers – and do a better job to emotionally connect with their customers to build trust and loyalty.”

Death of the demographic?

Bucking the trend of demographic differences, the study found that at the acquisition stage there weren’t huge variations in needs and experiences between age groups. From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, subscribers of all ages said they felt a sense of being ‘pushed by TV brands to commit to the platform financially or share private information. Both UK and US consumers also emphasised the need for a variety of content; American respondents search for unique content that is frequently updated, while British viewers seek value for money based on choice and options for the whole family. After joining the platform, subscribers felt brands were nowhere to be seen, without guidance on how to use the service or how to connect accounts with friends. 

Best practice opportunities

The findings do indicate, however, that brands willing to listen and take time to truly understand their customers, can build trust and loyalty. The report sets out nearly 40 best practice recommendations that can help brands to offer a simultaneous sense of both freedom and connection that subscribers crave in order to feel comfortable to share more of themselves.

Building a relationship that goes beyond a transactional one will have a huge impact on consumers who are faced with more choice than ever. brands that take a lead from other industries, such as retail, ecommerce, and banking, and seek to connect with their customers on a more emotional level, can emerge much stronger.

For more information and to download the full report, visit https://psychologyofasubscriber.com.

Wazoku is preparing for future growth through an additional injection of £1.25M, on top of its latest acquisition.

Wazoku has announced a new funding round of £1.25M, led by Calculus Capital, supported by other shareholders and members of the Wazoku management team.

Wazoku is also continuing its expansion with the acquisition of US open innovation firm, InnoCentive’s, assets, creating the world’s most comprehensive and powerful innovation platform and community. Following a partnership earlier in 2020, it quickly became clear that the combination of platform and network had huge value to innovation-focused businesses and was a unique proposition in the market.

“Adding such a remarkable and proven external crowd to our existing platform means that no other organisation in the world has our reach and experience when it comes to open innovation, crowdsourcing and idea management,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“This is a significant step for Wazoku – further funding and a strategic acquisition mean we are better positioned than ever and have a strong and established US presence. Workplaces are becoming inherently open and collaborative and we can offer the tools, services and collective expertise to help global businesses of all sizes solve problems and create opportunities.”

InnoCentive has grown a global network of almost 500,000 expert problem-solvers, comprising CEOs, PhD students, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, retired technologists and business leaders. This combined brainpower has helped address thousands of the world’s most complex innovation and bid data challenges, for organisations such as AstraZeneca, NASA and Enel. InnoCentive has a 75% success rate in solving challenges and Wazoku customers – which include John Lewis & Partners, Barclays and the Ministry of Defence – now have full access to this service.

Wazoku now provides the world’s biggest innovation community and broadest innovation offering. It allows the crowdsourcing of solutions to any pressing business challenge, all supported by the features and functionality already found in the Wazoku platform, Idea Spotlight.

“Our customers have long demanded a platform that integrates internal idea management with external crowdsourcing,” said Alpheus Bingham, CEO and co-founder of InnoCentive. “This enables multiple modes of innovation within the same workflow and on the same digital backbone and the combination of Wazoku and InnoCentive capability offers precisely that. No other firm has the experience and capability of crowdsourcing, idea management and open innovation that this combined proposition brings. The possibilities and potential are hugely exciting.”

Wazoku’s latest investment round brings the total amount raised to £7.35M and recognises the increasing demand for innovation in business. COVID-19 saw both an increase in business and a change in the way in which organisations were using Wazoku, with the quarter during lockdown (April-Jun 2020) Wazoku’s best ever from a new business perspective and overall platform activity level.

“The rapid shift to remote working and the need for engaging dispersed networks as well as the on-going need to innovate and solve problems, has seen a significant increase in demand for both our idea management and open innovation services,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“We will continue to invest in new talent in both Europe and the US, and in product development, but our main focus is on continuing to build awareness of the power of open business models for driving cost-effective and highly impactful business change.”