By Nick Pike, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems
In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are competing on all fronts. You need to provide a great product or service backed by outstanding customer support, develop new products at the speed of the market, and keep pace with ever-increasing user expectations. To achieve this, you’re scrutinising productivity, costs, processes, and technology, searching for ways your business can operate as efficiently and dynamically as possible. Sometimes, in the middle of all of this, I think we can overlook one of the most important factors: our people. Without a great workforce that is inspired and enabled by their employer, a company doesn’t have that critical edge that means success in today’s market. The workforce and its expectations are changing; businesses need to change with them to unlock the real power of their people.
A Changing Workforce
Take a look at today’s employees. As consumers, they comfortably use technology to organise and enhance their lives. So, why would we or they expect that to change when they walk into the office? The lines between work and leisure have become blurred. So, what if we took the benefits of the labour-saving apps that employees use to organise their home lives and apply them to our business? Employees could get up to speed on technology faster because they’d recognise familiar elements, and their productivity and satisfaction with work would increase. Higher productivity results in greater efficiency, and higher satisfaction leads to greater retention. And, amidst all this, there is the greater ability to be agile and adaptable to changes in market and consumer demands.
Great App Expectations
Remember back when you first used the Expedia app? For me, it was one of those “where has this been all my life?” moments. When you use Expedia and other apps like it, you become your own travel agent. You instantly access itineraries, tickets issued, timely check-in reminders, and tips. You can make decisions based on a wealth of real-time information at your fingertips, and all you need is your phone to get from home to your destination with a minimum of fuss.
Now think about your company’s internal processes. Typically, internal systems have evolved with new elements and data sources bolted on ad hoc. They might rely on manual effort, email, spreadsheets, and the like. For those who have been with the company a long time, this is business as usual; they understand the system and, though cumbersome, it does the job. But imagine how that process looks to a new employee who has grown up with the efficiency and intuitive interface of an app like Expedia? New generations joining the workforce will be less and less backwards-compatible with “old” technology. And, they’ll have much higher expectations of the systems they’re expected to use. Rather than spending time teaching Generation Z how to use spreadsheets, it’s better to upgrade the system so it works the way that they—and most people—want to work.
Transforming Digital Operations for a Better Employee Experience
At OutSystems, we help a lot of organisations that want to improve their employee experience by digitally transforming their internal applications. The typical solutions are composite applications, dashboards, workflows, internal web portals, mobile applications for the front-office or field, and small-to-medium-sized database apps. All of these put the information that employees need at their fingertips wherever they are and on whatever device they prefer to use. Because they have an intuitive user experience, employees work faster, more accurately, and with less frustration than when using patched-up legacy systems.
There are a few common requirements for all these projects. The first is speed: the pace of business means there’s pressure to develop, test, and launch mobile and web responsive apps. Secondly, many will need simple development of forms and workflows to streamline the user experience. Thirdly, there must be seamless integration with existing systems of record so information is always correct in real-time, and users can make fully informed decisions. The fourth factor is the ability to change rapidly and deploy updates to the system without the risk of glitches. Finally, organisations want to know what improvements the new processes are delivering, so productivity insights and dashboards for managers are needed.
Enabling Digital Transformation with Low-Code
Low-code development enables all this, as Logitech found when it adopted it for its mission-critical product launch app. A product launch is the company’s biggest activity, and it wanted a way to move multiple processes from Lotus Notes to a more up-to-date system. Using the OutSystems low-code platform, the company developed an app that brings everything together and can be easily modified. As a result, the product launch process ran more smoothly for everyone involved. Enterprise Collaboration Manager Steven Schmidt neatly summed up what they have achieved by saying: “Low code simply allows us to do more.”
That’s really the key to how low-code should be used in digital operations: to empower employees to work in a way that suits them and makes their working lives easier. Once that happens, we see a cascade of benefits. Business activities can be completed anytime, anywhere; employees are more engaged in business processes and more responsive. They’re also more likely to adopt a process that works intuitively, and that ease-of-use means support costs are lower.
Employees, just like consumers, have increasing expectations of the technology that is designed to support them. To meet those expectations and unlock the potential of a company’s greatest asset—its people—it’s critical to develop and deploy apps that put their people in the driver’s seat.
An unprecedented Black Friday: How can retailers prepare?
Retailers must invest heavily in their online presence and fight hard to remain competitive as a second lockdown stirs greater uncertainty
With an unprecedented Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend on the horizon (27th – 30th November), eCommerce hosting and consultancy expert, Sonassi, advises retailers to strengthen their online presence and make the necessary preparations for a fatigue in consumer spending.
James Allen-Lewis, Development Director at Sonassi, explains: “This year’s golden quarter has squeezed together three of the biggest sales periods like never before, meaning retailers will have to fight harder than usual to remain competitive this Black Friday. With greater discounts over a longer period of time, alongside the fact that a second lockdown has moved everyone and everything online, retailers will be battling it out for a share of decreasing consumer spending.
“However, this sense of uncertainty should not deter merchants from implementing their sales strategies this Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. Instead, they must go further than simply providing online discounts and tackle challenges head on by re-focusing their efforts on creating a highly competitive user experience. Successful merchants will make the necessary preparations for a change in consumer demand and invest more heavily in their eCommerce infrastructure.
“One way in which retailers can do this is by using last year’s Black Friday as a case study to inspire their future response. For example, retailers should take note of the key consumer behaviours that transpired throughout last year’s mega peak in discounting and plan accordingly for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber-Monday weekend.
“Tactics such as providing the ultimate online delivery service and secure payment methods will also be pivotal for retailers looking to survive a fatigue in online spending. Consumers will look to retailers who do not overpromise on items like next-day delivery and ensure their checkout process is safe and frictionless for all. It is the retailers who embrace this fact and meet the needs of the conscious consumer that will win their share of consumers wallets.
Allen-Lewis concludes: “With Black Friday and the build-up to Christmas just around the corner, retailers must adapt to changing consumer demand, invest more heavily in their eCommerce infrastructure and focus their efforts on creating the ultimate online experience. The only way to plan ahead amid challenging times is to listen to the needs of the customer.”
Optimistic outlook for 2021 public M&A
Optimism is returning and the outlook is positive for the Australian M&A market in 2021 after a COVID-induced crash in deal activity in 2020, according to Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s tenth M&A 2021 Outlook report.
The special report reveals that an environment of historically low interest rates positions M&A as a significant means of achieving growth and generating returns, including for private equity firms looking to deploy capital and strategic buyers focused on complementary acquisitions.
With the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, global political instability and arguably the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression, M&A 2021 Outlook details somewhat surprising trends emerging for the next 12 months and analyses a number of common COVID-19 myths and their influence on future M&A deal making.
Corrs’ detailed examination of the Australian M&A market draws on data taken from the firm’s proprietary database of transactions combined with in-depth research for the 12-month period ending 30 September 2020.
Key trends identified in the report include a rapid escalation in M&A levels and an increase in creativity in pricing and speed in closing deals, while also highlighting the critical need for support from target shareholders. Conditions also appear to be set for a continued rise in equity prices as a result of the ongoing influx of capital into Australian equity markets, making it imperative that bidders employ strategies to move quickly on M&A transactions.
Discussing the M&A 2021 Outlook, Corrs Head of Corporate, Sandy Mak, said “Despite a challenging year, our research indicates that 2021 could well see the volume and value of deals continue to grow. We are already witnessing this uptick in activity and while some industries and sectors are seeing a faster rebound than others, early indications are that the wider public M&A market will continue to strengthen over the coming months.”
Based on its detailed research, the M&A 2021 Outlook report discusses further key findings including:
- Deal volume and value is the lowest since 2016, however volumes have shown significant recovery since June 2020.
- More than 50% of deals in 2020 were ‘hostile’ and not recommended at the outset.
- 71% of deals over A$500 million were structured by way of a takeover – a significant increase from prior years – largely as a result of increased competition for assets through rival bids.
- Despite border closures and the tightening of foreign investment regimes, the percentage of deals with foreign bidders has increased materially since April 2020.
5 steps for SMEs to budget properly for the coming year
By Fabio Comminot, Head of Dealing, Switzerland at Ebury, one of Europe’s largest Fintechs, has provided a five-step guide to make sure budgeting is done on time.
During the challenging times of COVID-19, it is difficult to forecast orders and costs. This is especially true for SMEs that operate internationally and therefore are exposed to currency fluctuations and market movements. So budgeting is immensely important.
Autumn is budget season for most companies. Upcoming project costs, sales and fixed costs must be defined or forecasted. Budget planning should be as accurate as possible right from the start of the process to avoid unexpected consequences at the end of the year..
With the effects of the COVID pandemic it has become difficult for all companies, no matter their size or history, to plan and make sales forecasts. Early planning and hedging are especially important for companies that work internationally and are therefore particularly exposed to currency risk.
These five steps will help SMEs take the right measures for the coming financial year, in time for budget season:
Step 1: Estimate your costs or sales in foreign currencies
As difficult as it may seem, every company must estimate its expected fixed and variable costs for the coming year. Most companies can forecast their revenues based on experience or existing orders.
However, start-ups or young companies should also be able to at least estimate their costs including rents, insurance, wages and production costs. Special attention should be paid to costs or revenues that are spent or received in a foreign currency.
Step 2: Profit or cost assurance – define the strategy
As soon as an approximate plan for the coming year is in place, the company should consider the importance of currency management. Regular earnings or expenditures in foreign currencies are exposed to movements in exchange rates. If costs in a foreign currency are to be forecasted until the end of the year, the company needs to minimise volatility. This means that the exchange rate should be fixed so that there are no unexpected negative consequences at the end of the year.
Another option would be to protect the operating profit. Fluctuating exchange rates can rapidly ruin intended profit margins. In this case the company could aim to define the forecasted sales in the foreign currency and fix the margin based on this.
Step 3: Fix your budget rates
The budget is set, the currency management goals are defined, the major part is done. Now it is a matter of defining the budgeted rates for the various currencies based on the current exchange rate. A buffer of about 5% can be useful when doing this – for example. instead of fixing the exchange rate from US dollar to Swiss franc at the current 91 cent, a rate of 95 cent could be budgeted. In this way, the minimum budget rate is defined and any negative exchange rate movement can be at least partially compensated for.
Step 4: Define the hedging strategy
With the targets and the budget course set, the next questions are: What currency developments can be expected? What is the industry outlook? Is the order situation relatively secure? Or is there practically no empirical data?
This step is where Ebury can support the company. Our experts in FX markets help answer these questions and begin to define the individual hedging strategy.
Step 5: Ensure a flexible fit
It’s done: the measures have been defined, now it’s time for implementation.
Ebury will implement the previous steps and , so that the company focuses on its core business. In contrast to traditional financial services providers such as banks, Ebury constantly monitors international trade and political events in order to assist clients with strategy adjustments. The Ebury team is supported by state-of-the-art technology and international currency analysts. It makes no difference whether the changes are driven by the currency market or whether the company’s order situation itself is changing. This allows the SME to focus on its operational business, which is worth a lot in uncertain times like these.
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