The date has been set for Thursday 23rd June, campaigns have started and soon the public will decide whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union. The effects of a vote to leave have been widely speculated but are not known for certain, and for one group in particular, the repercussions are even more up in the air.
Research published in February 2016 by the Federation of Small Businesses showed that 42% of SMEs were yet to make up their minds on whether to stay in the EU or leave. Interestingly enough, over half (52%) of the more than 4,000 businesses that were surveyed said that they feel they hadn’t been given enough information to make a reasoned decision.
While we cannot predict for certain what the effects of a ‘Brexit’ could be, Love Energy Savings has spoken to five industry experts to discover what they think the biggest changes could be, and how SMEs can prepare in advance…
- Fix international money transfers
While the UK has always maintained independence from the rest of the EU by keeping Sterling rather than transferring to the Euro, a Brexit could cause all kinds of financial complications.
Ali Steed, founder of money-saving website TheBusinessPowerhouse.com, believes that sending currency overseas will be one of the biggest problems facing SMEs in the UK.
“If the UK decides to vote to leave the EU, at the very least there will be a significant period of uncertainty for businesses in the UK. Even if we vote to stay, the period leading up to the vote is likely to be much more volatile when it comes to currencies and the strength of the pound. Those who deal with companies abroad, whether they are importing raw materials or exporting goods overseas will be particularly concerned about the issue.
“One key area for these businesses is going to be currency costs. Many will be making payments overseas and if the pound weakens significantly, then any raw materials they need to import will become more expensive, and that potentially could reduce profit margins, or make their products too expensive.
“To combat this, these companies should be looking to use currency services via a broker rather than a bank, which will allow them to not only make significant savings on their international money transfers, but it also gives them the option to fix rates for a period of time. This can help the business because they will know what their costs are going forward for a set period – up to two years – and that should hopefully give them some breathing space while things settle down.”
- Revisit employee contracts
A great number of the UK’s employment laws and procedures come directly from the European Union, and no one is able to say for sure exactly how an exit would affect these laws. Many experts say that the UK would continue to have a strong relationship with the EU, but the government could come under increasing pressure to move away from certain employment laws set in Brussels.
Karen Bexley, head of employment law at MLP Law, recommends that businesses prepare in advance by taking another look at their employees’ contracts with a Brexit in mind:
“As the majority of employment laws are written into an employee’s contract, businesses should start by reviewing this document and the terms currently in place – particularly surrounding agreements on holiday pay and rest breaks,” she commented.
“They need to consider whether they would amend these terms if changes are made to UK employment laws – such as the Working Time Directive which determines holiday pay – following an EU exit. For existing employees, their contract would remain the same, as it’s a legally binding document. But for new starters, the business could put a revised contract in place to take the new laws into account.”
Karen also recommended that companies in the UK who employ non-British workers take steps to ensure that those working for them will be legally permitted to do so…
“A departure from the EU could particularly affect companies employing non-British workers from other EU countries. This is because leaving the EU could mean non-British employees need to have a visa or work permit to allow them to continue working here. Businesses that could be affected by such a change need to start considering their options now. Would it be economically viable to keep these staff members? Or could the business resource staff from within the UK with the same level of experience and skill?”
- Cut back on everyday spending
Phil Foster, MD of Love Energy Savings, believes that in the scramble to prepare for a possible ‘Brexit’, businesses shouldn’t forget about expenditure that they can control.
“Even without the vote to leave the European Union, the fact of the matter is that many businesses across the UK are spending vast sums of money where they don’t need to. Some of the biggest culprits are business insurance, card service providers and business energy bills.
“Many SME owners don’t currently take steps to reduce their bills by switching energy suppliers or to explore different insurance options, simply because they believe that the process is too time consuming. But with the possibility of a Brexit drawing closer, it is essential that SME owners make economies wherever they can, so that they can redirect those funds into more important aspects of their company and keep business ticking over while there is so much uncertainty in the air.”
- Plan ahead with all clients
Planning ahead is key to the success of any business, but it becomes even more important, particularly from a financial point of view, when so much uncertainty looms. The prospect of leaving the European Union means that a great deal of control will be taken away from businesses, further complicating any plans to expand or export.
Jonathan Watson, Chief Marketing Analyst at Foreign Currency Direct, recommends that businesses put in the hard work now to solidify their supply chains.
“Exploring relationships with overseas suppliers and even UK customers who are likely to be affected by a Brexit seems sensible. Unfortunately, there is very little known about the actual implications of a Brexit which is only adding to the uncertainty. However, by speaking to clients and exploring how trade and business could continue to operate, there is at least open lines of communication within which to discuss the situation.
“Despite the uncertainty there are some steps SMEs can take to manage their financial situation, principally in terms of exchange rates. Forward contracts allow businesses to ‘fix’ current exchange rates for up to one year. This removes the uncertainty of a future Sterling weakness negatively impacting their costs. The same contract can also be used the other way around to fix rates to sell Euros or Dollars (or any other currency) for the future.”
- Explore international trading options
The subject of international trade is a tricky one for many SMEs. For those at the lower end of the size spectrum, the prospect of hopping on a plane to travel halfway across the world simply won’t be feasible. Even so, if relations with the EU do become strained, it’s vital that companies explore markets further afield. Having a diversified client base will be even more important.
Martin Campbell, Managing Director of fintech startup firm Ormsby Street, believes that more businesses should be encouraged to expand their horizons further than the EU if they are to survive.
“If the UK does vote for a Brexit, then small businesses won’t fall apart immediately, but over time, trading with the EU (a natural market for the UK) will become harder. Many small businesses are only ‘small’ because they are starting out – they want to reach new markets, grow and become bigger businesses. Anything that puts the brakes on growth cannot be a good thing, so trade barriers should be kept down.
“If it becomes harder to trade with EU countries, then small British businesses will have to develop new markets and opportunities. If there is a Brexit, then one would hope small businesses would receive guidance on how to forge partnerships with other parts of the world.”
Fortunately, there is guidance already available for businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors who are looking to grow their business overseas. The government runs the UKTI (UK trade and Investment) service which provides tailored support and even face-to-face meetings with advisers to help answer any questions that business owners may have.
Whichever way you decide to vote in the referendum, the end result could have major implications for small businesses. Therefore it is essential that SMEs know which steps they need to take in order to give themselves the best chance of coming through a Brexit stronger than ever, and the five tips mentioned above are a great place to start.
What Skills Does a Data Scientist Need?
In this modern and complicated time of economy, Big data is nothing without the professionals who turn cutting-edge technology into actionable insights. These professionals are called Data Scientists. Modern businesses are awash with data and many organizations are opening up their doors to big data and unlocking its power that increases the value of data scientists. Data is one of the most important features of any organization which helps to make decisions based on facts, stats, and trends.
As the scope of data is growing, data science came up as a multidisciplinary field. Data science is an integral part of understanding the working of many industries, complex or intricate. It helps organizations and brands to understand their customers in a much better, enhanced, and empowered way. Data science can be helpful in finding insights for sectors like travel, healthcare, and education among others. Its importance is increased as it solves complex problems through Big Data. With data science, companies are using data in a comprehensive manner to target an audience by creating better brand connections. Nowadays data science is taking an important and big prime role in the growth process of brands, as it is opening new fields in terms of research and experiments.
Let us know about the much-hyped role of a data scientist, the skills required to become one, and the need to take data science training.
Who is a Data Scientist?
Data Scientists are the individuals who gather and analyze large sets of structured and unstructured data. It combines the roles of computer science, mathematics, and statistics to create actionable plans for companies and other organizations. They gather, analyze, and process the data and then find the filtered results. Their work is to make sense of large, messy, and unstructured data using sources such as social media, smart devices, digital channels, emails, etc.
In other words, data scientists are analytical data experts who solve complex problems through technical skills to explore what problems need to be solved with available data. They are struggling with data all the time and experimenting via complex mathematics and statistical analysis. Usually, data scientists are required to use advanced analytics technologies such as machine learning, advanced computing, and predictive modeling. They use various types of reporting tools and analytical skills to detect problems, patterns, trends, and connections between data sets. Their goal is to provide reliable information about campaigns and consumers that help companies to attract and engage their customers and grow the sales.
A job of a data scientist is also known and advertised as a machine learning architect or data strategy architect. Data scientists generally require enough educational and experiential background of big data platforms, tools including Hadoop, Pig, Hive, Spark, and MapReduce and programming languages such as SQL, Python, Scala, and Pearl; and computing languages like R.
Skills Needed To Become a Data Scientist
To become a data scientist, it is recommended to have a master’s degree. This means a very strong educational background and the deep knowledge is must-required to become a data scientist. You must have a bachelor’s degree in any stream such as computer science, Physical science, social science, statistics, and mathematics or engineering.
The skills required to become a data scientist are categorized into technical and non-technical. Some of them are mentioned below:
● R Programming
R is specially designed for data science to deal with big data. It is generally preferred for data science to gain in-depth knowledge of analytical tools. Almost 43% of data scientists are using R to solve data problems and statistical issues.
● Python Coding
The most required technical skill to become a data scientist is having the knowledge of the most common coding language that is Python along with C, C++, Java, and Pearl.
● Hadoop Platform
It is the second most important skill to be a data scientist. This platform is heavily used in several cases. Hadoop is used to convey the data quickly to different servers.
● Apache Spark
It is becoming the most popular big data technology in the whole world. Just like Hadoop, it is a big data computation framework, but it is faster.
● SQL Database/Coding
With SQL database and coding, data scientists are able to write and execute complex queries in SQL.
● Data Visualization
A data scientist can visualize the data with data visualization with tools such as ggplot, d3.js and Matplottlib, and Tableau.
● Machine Learning and AI
Machine learning techniques include reinforcement learning, neural networks, adversarial learnings, etc. Along with it, supervised machine learning, decision trees, logistic regression can help you stay ahead from other data scientists.
There are also some non-technical skills such as Intellectual curiosity, Communication skills, Business acumen, Teamwork, etc. that can make you a successful data scientist.
Ready to Learn Data Science?
Data Science is nowadays a buzzing word in the IT sector. It has become an evolutionary technology that everyone is talking about. Several people want to become data scientists. It is a versatile career that is used in many sectors such as health-care, banking, e-commerce industries, consultancy services, etc. This career is one of the most highly paid careers. Data science careers have been always in high demand so the seekers have numerous opportunities to start or boost their careers.
It is a widely abundant field and has vast career opportunities because there are very few people who have the required certifications and skill-set to become a complete data scientist. You can gain these skills by enrolling in an online data science training program. By learning from industry experts, you will have a strong foundation of data science concepts. You’ll also be able to work on different data science tools and industry projects through a training course. So it’s the right time to get certification and grab the golden opportunities in the Data Science career.
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How to use data to protect and power your business
By Dave Parker, Group Head of Data Governance, Arrow Global
Employees need to access data to do their jobs. But as data governance professionals, it’s our job to protect it. Therefore, we must perform a fine balancing act to weigh robust data protection against the productivity of workers who need the data to maintain business-as-usual working processes.
Data grows exponentially, and most organisations will admit that they simply don’t know what data they have, where it is, and the controls that exist around it. This creates 2 challenges:
- Burgeoning amounts of unstructured data makes the business increasingly vulnerable from external attackers or internal data breaches.
- Because data is the key to understanding a customer’s wants and needs, if the business can’t identify its data and unlock its value, it’s at a competitive disadvantage.
As a European investor and alternative asset manager, here at Arrow Global we take care of £50bn of assets and own a data estate exceeding 160TB. How we manage our data is key to our success. We understand the difficulties involved in opening up environments to allow people to work productively, while at the same time locking them down to protect our organisation.
When it comes to analytics, I believe that Arrow is highly proficient because we employ a talented team of data scientists. But even for us, the sheer volume of raw and processed data, that resides in both our structured systems and unstructured data repositories, has the potential to put our business at risk.
We know there’s always more that can be done to strengthen our security posture and ensure regulatory and contractual compliance, while at the same time using our data to drive the business forward.
Data protection isn’t just about compliance
For many organisations, data protection has centred on demonstrating compliance with the GDPR. At Arrow, our efforts have gone one step further to include our contractual exposure.
Being a more mature data organisation, we had previously tried to develop an application in-house to manage our data estate. However, with 160TB across the company in production data alone, we simply couldn’t achieve the scale we needed to handle the sheer volume of data. Of course, the volume is just the start – once you know what data you have, you then need to be able to categorise the data and put it into a structure, so the business can analyse it for a specific use case.
We knew we needed to go to market to find an industrial-strength data discovery product to replace our in-house application. By aligning our choice of product to our overall IT and change strategy, meant that ultimately, we ended up with a far better outcome than we’d anticipated.
Position data as both a risk and an asset
Data touches every part of an organisation, so when it came to building a business case for buying-in a data discovery software platform, we approached it in a way that would speak to different people at the same time. We did this by posing the question:
“What do we want to do with data in a way that is GDPR-compliant, contractually-compliant and enables us to better service our clients?”
These are the black and white tests of data governance – to recognise the importance of securing and protecting data. They’re applied in a way that enables us to commoditise data and use it to drive the business forward, by forcing us to consider how we would use the data – for example, creating value-based pricing for our clients.
In aligning the business case to initiatives that were already priorities within the boardroom, we knew that we’d gain the attention of the senior leadership team and it would be easier to get the buy-in and budget we needed. And in the end, everyone wins – we get what we need to protect the data, and the business gets to distil the data’s value to better meet our customers’ expectations.
Get visibility of data at scale
For us, things got really exciting once we were able to see all of our data at scale. We chose Exonar because it allowed us to discover our data in ways that other products couldn’t. And the interface between the user and Exonar meant that everyone – both technical and non-technical users – could understand the technology and the findings it revealed.
When we saw exactly what data was in the estate, where it was and who had access to it, data security became much easier and the risk of data being compromised was dramatically reduced. We can see exactly where the vulnerabilities are and restructure how our data is stored to strengthen security. Then over time, we can use search, workflow and analysis to optimise the infrastructure and continually identify new areas to improve.
Commercialise the data
From a wider-business perspective, once people can see the data, they can start asking “What if…” to query it and distil its value. But it’s more than just the data itself. It’s not uncommon for data relating to the same thing to exist in unconnected systems across the business. For example, customer interactions and incidents or events.
Exonar is capable of joining the dots in disparate data sets. By stitching these data sets together, we can get a better overall view of our customers and use the outcomes to think of new, different or better ways of serving them through enhancing or adapting our offerings.
Why other financial services businesses should also take a smarter approach to data
- By changing the way you approach data, you can use it to protect and power your business and the people you serve.
- By positioning data as both a risk and an asset, you elevate its position to give it priority in the boardroom. Ultimately, it’s data that helps the business make informed strategic decisions about how to strengthen its competitive advantage.
- By gaining visibility of data at scale, you can see exactly what data you have and where it is. This gives the business confidence about the actions needed to ensure it is secured in both a regulatory and contractually compliant way, and that people are doing the right thing with data at all times.
- And joining different data sets provides you with a single view of ‘X’ within your data, no matter where it is. Helping to support your wider-business strategy and priorities, it gives you the information you need to secure a business advantage and generate value.
How business leaders can find the right balance between human and bot when investing in AI
By Andrew White is the ANZ Country Manager of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio
The digital world moves quickly. From keeping up with consumer behaviour patterns, to regulation and compliance, the most successful organisations are always on the cutting-edge of technological developments.
However, when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence (AI), a hard and fast strategy does not guarantee a top spot amongst the league of tech greats. Instead, it pays to take a considered approach to balancing reliance on automated processes with a human touch. Why? Because creative and strategic thinkers are the true propellers of innovation; automation is simply the enabler.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) developed the ‘Routine Task Intensity’ (RTI) index as a measure of which processes are likely to benefit most from automation. According to this metric, jobs requiring analytical, strategic, communicational and technical skills score low on the RTI index, while simple, repetitive tasks scored highly.
The lesson for business leaders here is simple; your digital investments are just as important as your stake in talent. When deciding which processes to automate, start simple, and remember to value the skills and potential of your people.
Keep customer-centricity at your core
Customer-centricity means that every business decision, dollar spent and new hire is centred on one question: how does this benefit my customer? Investments in AI are no different. To be truly successful, they must have a customer-focused outcome.
Where companies get this wrong is by implementing cost-saving measures or ‘copy and paste’ software that fails to improve the customer experience – often having the adverse effect.
Take the virtual chat-bot, for example; if implemented poorly, it can send your customers into a frustrating and seemingly infinite cycle of dead-ends. The modern consumer is far too digitally savvy for this shortcut, and will quickly move onto the next merchant offering a more seamless customer service experience.
To guarantee your investments are delighting rather than infuriating your customers, it helps to take an outside-in perspective of your business processes, aided by Customer Journey Mapping (CJM).
Before you commit to digital investments, CJM can trace and map each customer touchpoint, signalling pain points or conversion rates throughout their journey. These data-driven insights lead you to the areas that would benefit the most from automation, instead of implementing a broad band-aid solution.
Avoid the ‘set and forget’ method
When investing in enterprise-wide AI, the ‘set and forget’ method rarely works. Real transformation requires an ongoing dedication to refining and improving AI-driven processes, as well as adapting them to the evolving needs of your customers. This is the best way to achieve customer loyalty, by proving that your organisation listens to, and understands its users.
A human perspective is invaluable here, paired with process mining – a method that thrives on finding process inefficiencies – to create a consistent feedback loop of improvement.
During periods of uncertainty, customer loyalty is everything, so aim to protect it at all costs.
The power of your people
The rise of automation can be linked to the corporate world’s obsession with speed and efficiency. However, the psychology behind this goes deeper than being the biggest and fastest producer; it’s also about reallocating resources into attracting and retaining the brilliant minds that drive companies into the future.
When communicating digital change, it’s critical to highlight the valuable impact AI has on augmenting jobs; removing the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks and allowing for more strategic skill-sets to shine through. For lower-skilled workers, invest in upskilling or re-education where possible.
Successfully rolling-out digital transformation plans means that every employee across all tiers of your company understands the value of AI. The starting point here is education to achieve buy-in. Change communications must be accessible, constructive and value-focused, supported by key culture influencers who champion automation within teams.
Enterprise-wide buy-in is an important element of refining and improving digital processes, as cross-functional collaboration can offer valuable insights into common pain points or inefficiencies ripe for automation. Supported by process mining, collaboration provides a holistic view of how each investment will impact other processes. There is no point investing in automation that streamlines one process and makes another more people-centric, so be sure to take a balanced approach to your investments.
Remember, AI is not about creating an army of robot workers; it’s about increasing efficiency and productivity so that an organisation, and its people, can work smarter.
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