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Epicor to Accelerate Cloud ERP Adoption and Bring the Intelligent Cloud to Manufacturers and Distributors via Microsoft Azure

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Epicor to Accelerate Cloud ERP Adoption and Bring the Intelligent Cloud to Manufacturers and Distributors via Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure to power delivery of industry-specific solutions to organizations, facilitating faster growth and innovation

Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth, announced today from the main stage of its annual user conference Insights 2018 an expanded strategic partnership with Microsoft to deliver Epicor enterprise-class solutions globally on the Microsoft Azure platform.

Epicor will initially standardize cloud deployment of its Epicor ERP and Epicor® Prophet 21® enterprise resource planning (ERP) suites on Microsoft Azure, empowering customers to drive faster growth and innovation as they move to digitally transform their businesses.

“Microsoft’s focus on the ‘Intelligent Cloud’ and ‘Intelligent Edge’ complement our customer-centric focus,” said Steve Murphy, CEO, Epicor. “We looked at several public cloud options. Microsoft Azure offers the best foundation for building and deploying enterprise business applications that will enable our customers’ businesses to adapt and grow. Today, we are seeing more than three-quarters of prospects ask about cloud ERP. As that deployment model becomes the norm, we are ready to enable our customers to move to the cloud with confidence leveraging the reliability, security, and scalability of Microsoft Azure.”

“Standardizing cloud deployment of its world-class manufacturing and distribution solutions on Microsoft Azure is a natural step for Epicor with its history of leveraging forward-looking technology to deliver the utmost value to its customers,” said David Willis, corporate vice president, Microsoft. “With Epicor solutions running in the cloud, customers will reap the benefits of greater agility, faster innovation, and favorable economics of Azure as they embrace digital transformation.”

Unleashing the power of Epicor on most trusted public cloud platform
For most companies, the big question is not if, but when they will adopt cloud computing for the bulk of their IT operations, including the ERP software they use to manage inventory and product manufacturing.1

The Epicor and Microsoft partnership expands an already proven strategy to a global scale, as more customers are able to access the power of Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 running on the world-leading public cloud platform.

Microsoft technologies will optimize productivity and innovation for Epicor, its customers and partners. Epicor will leverage a range of Azure technologies including Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to deliver ready-to-use, right-sized solutions for midmarket manufacturers and distributors. Epicor also plans to explore Microsoft’s technologies for advanced search, speech-to-text, and other use cases to deliver modern human/machine interfaces that improve productivity for its customers.

More information and news from Epicor Insights can be found at the Epicor Newsroom. Readers can also follow and engage with the Epicor Twitter community at @Epicor and @Epicor_Insights using #insights18.

1 IDG Contributor Network, Talking Tech in the Age of Cloud: “Why CFOs (and CIOs) are finally embracing cloud ERP,” by Barbara Darrow, Contributor, CIO (April 25, 2018)

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2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors

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2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors 1

By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as the year that changed the world. Whether that overall change was for the better or for the worse is a matter of perspective. One thing is for certain, 2020 has been the year of immense innovation and adaptability in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this piece, I’ll touch on some of the greatest challenges that could have had a potentially crippling effect on the economy but instead were overcome and ultimately paved the way for increased resilience and innovation.

Public transport shunned in favour of private vehicles, but driving patterns dramatically shift

With ten months of varying national and regional lockdown restrictions, passenger numbers on public transport have plummeted[1] as many people continue to work remotely, and with most opting for the safety of travelling by private vehicle when they do need to get out and about. But because of restrictive travel measures, motorists have been using their vehicles far less frequently.

This posed a major challenge for traditional motor insurers that were not able to swiftly adapt to this change, with many coming under fire for failing to adjust annual premiums in line with new driver trends[2]. As motorists became increasingly frustrated having to pay the same premiums or sometimes even more despite their vehicle usage being substantially minimised, the relatively new and still largely unfamiliar InsurTech industry was able to rise to the occasion.

In short, InsurTech involves the utilisation of the latest technological innovations such as data analysis, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable insurance products to become more agile and flexible in line with modern consumer demand – all while remaining price competitive.

Being fully-digital and technology-driven, InsurTechs demonstrated the flexibility and agility that enabled them to adapt to the huge shift in customer demand and step change in how insurance is purchased and consumed. They did this by offering an entirely digital user experience in near real-time, with temporary policies tailored to the time actually needed – anywhere from 1 hour to 28 days.

In a time of furlough and economic uncertainty, this meant that many motorists who were not using their vehicles regularly did not have to take drastic action like declaring their vehicle SORN to achieve short-term financial relief. Nor did they have to risk driving uninsured or committing to an annual policy that they could ill afford at the time.

The rise of the digital dealership offering temporary insurance as part of the purchase journey

In the automotive retail market, dealerships were forced to make drastic changes to their operating models to comply with social distancing guidelines. Showroom footfall and subsequent sales initially plummeted[3]. But in the face of this immense adversity, we witnessed the rise of the digital dealership, a concept that would have been unfathomable even just a year ago.

Cazoo was the first fully-digital platform to enter the vehicle dealership market in late 2019, and there has also been significant investment this year in new entrants such as Cinch and Carwow. Traditional dealerships such as Arnold Clark, Cargiant and Motorpoint have extended the digital aspects of their purchase journeys with services including home delivery and Click and Collect as alternative options to the full show room experience.

InsurTech has been instrumental in ensuring that car insurance supports this shift to digital, as several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, now offer temporary driveaway insurance policies that cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days.

Alan Inskip

Alan Inskip

The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.

This takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. It’s also an ideal solution while the car is under its money-back warranty, as the driver does not have to commit to an annual policy on a car that might be returned. Another benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.

Declining brand loyalty and a demand for a more personalised and convenient user experience

Insurance has an unenviable reputation for being inflexible and even unwilling to adapt to shifting consumer trends – making it confusing for most customers. Even pre-COVID, there was a clear trend that brand loyalty was in decline, as modern day consumers are no longer prepared to remain blindly loyal to any company for a long-term period. Instead, they will reward businesses that offer a simple and convenient user experience at best value. COVID accelerated this trend and many large insurers have struggled to adapt accordingly.

Conversely, this has enabled InsurTech to thrive, as the products and user journeys are developed with direct input from customers to ensure that they are receiving a straightforward and fit-for-purpose solution that best fits their needs and requirements. Just some examples of this are simplified terms and conditions, near-instant and paperless policy documentation via the web or dedicated app, and data-driven customer engagement initiatives that offer personalised discounts and communication via email and text messaging. The end result is a user experience that is easier, more convenient and better value for potential consumers in the market.

Cautiously optimistic (if somewhat uncertain) future

Even in the most stable periods, it’s a challenge to accurately predict future market trends. And with 2020 completely rewriting the rulebook on how business is conducted, it would be remiss of me to make outright predictions. One thing is for certain, the days of slow, inflexible and costly motor insurance are numbered. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that InsurTech is gaining the upper hand at the expense of the traditional insurers in a bid to replace them.

Instead it is there to fill a gap and act as a complementary add-on to provide the best possible value to the consumer. Industry players that enter new collaborative partnerships will dramatically improve the consumer experience, leading to new business wins and return custom, which ultimately impacts positively on the bottom line. But those that fail to adapt will be left behind.

I believe that we can look forward to a futuristic economy in 2021, where ground breaking technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate to adapt to rapidly evolving consumer lifestyles and subsequent purchasing habits. The real winner will be the consumer and that is in everyone’s best interest.

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Leadership and management in a WFH world

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Leadership and management in a WFH world 2

By Carolyn Moore, SVP of People at Auth0

Although many of us will have settled into some kind of groove, having worked away from the office for the best part of a year, there are still numerous challenges that businesses and their workforces face in this new reality.

One particularly pertinent challenge is the one faced by people managers, especially those managing virtually for the first time. How can you ensure productivity from those in your charge when you don’t have direct oversight? How do you have those more difficult conversations over a video call? Some of your team may be handling remote working better than others, so how differently should you be handling them day-to-day?

For the majority of businesses these will be questions they’re still grappling with. When the pandemic hit, we happened to be in the fortunate position of being a remote-first business, where 60% of our nearly 700 employees were already working from home. As a result, the uptick to 100% was far less taxing for us. In seven years of working from home, we’ve learned a lot about managing teams remotely, a few of which may help leaders who are still navigating the transition.

Keeping communication channels open to build trust

Leading a remote team is wholly different to the usual, in-office set up. Strict hierarchy, and any notion of presenteeism do not translate well into the remote working environment. You have to accept that your employees’ domestic life will necessarily overlap with their professional one.

Leading a virtual team requires trust and a philosophy of work based on results, and managers need to learn to give them more freedom to do work on their own terms, as long as they produce the intended results.

Building trust is best managed with regular communication. Frequent written communications from leaders regarding strategy, objectives, and organisational learning is crucial. It’s natural when working remotely for team members to isolate themselves and get wrapped up in their own workload. Managers need to help their teams understand how their work impacts on the broader corporate objectives. At Auth0, we adopted and adapted a technique created by Google called ‘Objectives and Key Results’ (OKRs) to enable this.

Now more than ever, make it a priority to regularly check in with your employees and always be up to date and aware of what their needs are. One of the first initiatives we kicked off in an effort to do so was our Slack ‘Coronabot’. This is a tool we integrated with our main form of communication that allows employees to self-identify if their work capacity was impacted by the pandemic. Another way that we tried to better understand the concerns and needs of our employees was holding listening sessions. From these listening sessions, we’ve rolled out a couple of initiatives to combat burnout, including Slack-free weekends and no internal meeting Fridays.

Make flexibility a priority

As the worlds of home life and work life collide, the traditional ‘9 to 5’ workday needs to evolve. Leaders need to encourage their team to devise their own schedules and complete work at those times when they’re most productive.

If in doubt, ask your employees how best you can help and trust that their answers will be honest. In our own experience we saw a need for a different approach when it came to supporting our employees who are caregivers. With childcare much less accessible, caregivers are doing double duty. We rolled out a survey to these individuals to hear directly how best we could support them and used the feedback to plan future programmes and supports.

We have encouraged these employees to take advantage of flexible working hours, should they need to adjust due to the pandemic, and are using tools like Clockwise or Slack that allow our employees to set their working hours and snooze notifications when they’re offline. This alleviates the pressure to respond, and we’ve found employees are actually happier and more productive this way, especially if you have a team spread across several time zones.

Put your culture front and centre

When you work remotely interactions between management and staff become increasingly transactional. Leaders need to avoid making decrees without explaining the reasoning behind them, and the thought process that led to them. Failure to do so can create a secondary culture within the workforce composed of rumours and hearsay, which can lead to mistrust.

Leaders therefore need to firstly be clear in the reasoning for their decisions, but also explicit about the culture they want to create. Your corporate culture must be written down and communicated frequently so employees can use them to guide their everyday work.

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn Moore

This is particularly beneficial for multinational companies spread across geographies and timezones and encompassing multiple cultures. Whether your teams are based in Singapore or San Francisco, they all have a code of conduct to adhere to This is crucial for dealing with conflict in a productive way and creating teams that collaborate and respect each other.

Create virtual spaces to socialise

Leaders mustn’t forget the more pastoral benefits of the workspace. Spontaneous water-cooler chats may seem trite, but they’re an essential means of colleagues building rapport and learning about one another’s lives outside of work.

Socialising should not disappear when you transition to remote work. That would be bad for business, productivity, and employee wellbeing. Instead, I would encourage you to get creative and use different functionalities of the collaboration tools you’re probably using daily. We use Donut within our Slack channels, that randomly pairs three employees together and schedules them for a meeting. The intention is to bring employees together that otherwise may never interact and have them connect on topics beyond the workplace, such as life, family, etc. Donut has been a fantastic aid in keeping our distributed workforce feeling connected. We’ve also utilised the results of both our semi-annual engagement survey and more frequent pulse surveys to give us insight into how effective these engagement programmes have been and where we could tweak them to make them even better.

Don’t neglect security

Security should always be a top priority, especially especially as people are logging into more services remotely. Your business’ IT and Security teams should have set up multi-factor authentication as the minimum standard. As new apps are connected to better enable any of the measures described above, your IT teams and managers should also be educating their teams about the access third-party providers have to their data.

Managers have a crucial role to play as evangelists of security best practice. They should be monitoring whether their teams are completing their security awareness training and, if new apps or technology are being introduced, ensuring that the appropriate channels are open for them to ask questions. The pandemic has been a lucrative time for cybercriminals, who have taken advantage of some lapses in security best practice. Ensuring security is everyone’s business, but it starts from the top.

Building for the future

For many businesses the move to remote working will have been, and is continuing to be, a difficult transition. Admittedly, remote work is not a perfect substitute for personal communication. When circumstances allow, we would recommend managers meet with their teams in-person at least once a year. managers meet with their teams at least once a year.

However, even whilst the pandemic still hampers our ability to travel and meet face to face, it is still possible to have a distributed team that is productive, collaborative, and happy. If leaders take the time and make the effort to foster a culture built on trust, it will open up opportunities for you in the long-term, no matter what that future may be.

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Taking the temperature of residential real estate

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Taking the temperature of residential real estate 3

By Tom Brown, Managing Director of Real Estate at Ingenious

Savills currently forecast a 4%1 growth in UK house prices in 2020 and the latest data from Nationwide shows that they grew at an annual rate of 6.5%2 in November, the fastest rate since January 2015. As the sector seems to be shrugging off the lockdown conditions, we are often being asked if we believe the market is overheated and we are in for a torrid 2021.

Ordinarily, economic downturn and spikes in unemployment, would drive house price falls, but the impacts of this pandemic are more complex. They are expected to be relatively short term and not structural in the way the Global Financial Crisis was, for instance. In addition, huge numbers have been motivated to consider their living conditions and move up the ladder or locations. The house price data therefore takes into account areas where price growth has been higher, for instance family housing outside city centres, as well as where prices have fallen, such as Prime Central London.

Earlier in the year, the Government was swift to act to support the housing market through the pandemic. Construction work continued through both lockdowns, SDLT has been suspended on the first £500k for owner occupiers and a short extension to Help to Buy has been introduced to sustain the market, in addition to further reductions in Base Rate. This stimulus, combined with pent up demand from the first lockdown has played through to rapidly recovering transaction volumes throughout the second half of 2020. Latest data shows that sales agreed were only down 8%3 on last year in September underlining the resilience of the market.

Of course, history has shown us that as unemployment increases, house price growth is negatively impactedon account of affordability. To date, the Furlough scheme has enabled many millions of workers to remain in employment despite the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. In addition, the housing market has not been so heavily impacted by unemployment, perhaps because the most pronounced job losses have been in the young5, who are generally renters, not homeowners.

Whilst house price rises are unlikely to be sustained throughout 2021 and some heat is likely to come out of the market, data does not point to a crash or correction. Knight Frank (KF) forecast a 1%6 national increase and Savills forecast prices to flatten across 2021. Only 8%7 of surveyors anticipate any price rise next year.  Looking further ahead though, KF and Savills anticipate a cumulative increase of 15% and 20.4% for the 5-year period from 2020-2024.

Crucially for us as lenders to the development market, a national average can mask underlying trends, and geography and price point will show variations in performance. However, the UK’s structural shortage of housing at the affordable end of the market remains. Through active management, to an extent, we can manage economic risks. We are avoiding certain areas of the market and diversifying investments to maintain a balanced portfolio, including developments that are intended for long-term rental and locations where there is a balanced economy.

1Savills, Revision to our mainstream residential market forecasts, 30.11.2020

2Nationwide House Price index, November 2020

3Savills, November 2020

4Capital Economics, UK Housing market update, 4.11.2020

5ONS, Employment in the UK: October 2020

6Knight Frank, UK Property Market Outlook: 7.09.20

7RICS Residential Market Survey, October 2020

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