Chris Purcell, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Epicor Software
Business decision making has always been fuelled by financial data, but as data continues to swell exponentially business decision making has become dependent on the finance team’s ability to dissect and analyse this tsunami of information. Traditional systems used by finance teams can often hinder their ability to make informed decisions and recommendations, creating bottlenecks in processes. Also, restricting finance executives in performing their essential role of providing key information to stakeholders to make informed decisions and possibly hindering the company’s growth. Effective financial data analysis is the lynchpin to informed decision making and as such finance must become more responsive, agile and able to act more decisively than competitors.
For UK finance directors (FDs), the recent Brexit decision to leave the EU and the subsequent political and economic uncertainties surrounding it, has added further complexity to their challenge. Regardless of where a company trades, there is likely to be a point in the supply chain which exists outside the UK. FDs must now use the data available to them to review any risks pertaining to an EU exit and support the business in overcoming obstacles to future business performance and growth.
Unfortunately, many finance professionals are struggling to deliver insight at the rate demanded of them. In a survey commissioned by Epicor Software with Redshift Research Ltd of 1,500 business professionals in 11 countries, 28 per cent of CFO’s interviewed felt that decision making is hampered by an inability to make effective use of information.
They may be victims of trying to gather data from multiple sources and systems and attempting to make sense of it all with dated or manual reporting systems. The result? No time left to even consider, let alone to integrate a more efficient system that allows proactive and strategic decision making.
Microsoft Excel® is still extensively used to download data and manipulate it into something meaningful. In fact, 60 per cent of CFOs interviewed stated that they are still using spreadsheets. Unfortunately, Excel is difficult to update automatically, so the data may not always be accurate. It also offers little capability for complex analysis and when trying to bring in information from multiple sources or include multidimensional elements, it often falls flat. It comes as no surprise that 44 per cent of CFOs interviewed see mistakes occur as a result of missing or inaccurate information.
While Excel is easy to use and intuitive, it does not have the ability to deliver fast, on-demand access to the type of information that is key in today’s competitive business landscape. Automation of value-add tasks and producing more accurate reports that can be delivered to stakeholders faster, will inevitably free up resources to develop and support the business with strategy, innovation and growth.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions provide an end-to-end, central source of information – a single point of record where sales data can be accessed and analysed, financial data, operational data and so on. It can optimise the use of Excel and expand on it by adding new functions and formulas that enables users to pull data from a live source.
Modern tools like ERP should and can deliver the ability to access the information needed whenever and wherever required, 24/7. Whether through web browser, smartphone or tablet, there is no need to wait for IT or finance to create a report, the analysed data should be available on demand, on a self-service basis. Of course, this calls data security into question, but ERP vendors should provide security features such as personalised access rights to control what people see and who sees it.
ERP was once viewed as a tool for the Fortune 500, but today it has been developed as a solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes from blue-chip to start-up. Finding the right ERP solution for a business can give companies the edge, whatever their size or geographical footprint. However, it’s important to take the following into consideration when making a decision: ensure there is a full understanding of the objectives and desired results of a solution before purchase. Confirm whether the ERP provider understands the industry and whether it has the right tools to support finance in overcoming its challenges? If the business runs internationally or has global ambitions, does the ERP provider have global capabilities and the ability to scale and grow alongside these ambitions? What customer support services does the ERP provider offer – can it meet the 24/7 demands of the business? Can the ERP provider support mobile working across multiple devices?
Finance executives have a great opportunity to inform the business and drive decision-making, and being able to deliver information that the business needs can prove to be a huge win both personally and professionally. Ensuring finance professionals have the right information at their fingertips at any time will aid in meeting their business growth objectives, by making better business decisions than ever before, boosting their reputation and adding credibility to the organisation
Boeing cites risks in design of newest Airbus jet
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – Boeing Co has raised concerns over the design of arch-rival Airbus’ newest narrow-body jet, the A321XLR, saying a novel type of fuel tank could pose fire risks.
The U.S. plane giant’s intervention is not without precedent in a global system that regularly allows manufacturers to chime in whenever safety rules are being interpreted in a way that might affect the rest of the industry.
But it comes at a pivotal moment as Boeing emerges from a two-year safety crisis over its competing 737 MAX, and Airbus faces its own crucial test of the tougher mood expected from regulators worldwide following the MAX’s 20-month grounding.
In a submission to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Boeing said the architecture of a fuel tank intended to increase the A321XLR’s range “presents many potential hazards.”
The debate surrounds the hot-selling A321XLR’s main marketing point – the longest range of any single-aisle jet.
In most jets, fuel is carried in wings and central tanks.
To meet demand for longer routes, Airbus has already added optional extra fuel tanks inside the cargo bay of some A321s.
For the A321XLR, Airbus plans to eke out more space for fuel by moulding one tank directly into the fuselage, meaning its shape would follow the contours of the jet and carry more fuel.
The concept caught the attention of EASA which in January said it would impose special conditions to keep passengers safe.
“An integral fuselage fuel tank exposed to an external fire, if not adequately protected, may not provide enough time for the
passengers to safely evacuate the aircraft,” it said.
In comments to EASA first reported by Flightglobal, Boeing cited risks if a jet veers off a runway or its wheels fail.
“Public consultation is part-and-parcel of an aircraft development programme,” an Airbus spokesman said, adding any issues raised would be tackled together with regulators.
Such technical exchanges rarely capture attention. But a battered aerospace industry is on edge after the MAX crisis, compounded by COVID-19, shook confidence in aviation.
Commercial stakes are also high.
One industry source familiar with the project warned any extended wrangle over certification could delay the A321XLR’s service entry from “late 2023” to 2024 or beyond.
Should that happen, sources say Boeing is expected to encourage airlines to wait a few years longer for a potential all-new model that insiders say would leapfrog the A321XLR.
While insisting they never compete on safety, Airbus and Boeing have a record of goading each other in the past over issues like novel flight computers on the Airbus A320 or European claims that four engines were safer than the 777’s two.
Fuel tanks have provoked particularly sharp disagreement.
In 2001, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration triggered changes to the design of fuel tanks worldwide, five years after a Boeing 747 exploded in mid-air.
Investigators said TWA 800 was brought down by a fuel-tank explosion in the presence of unwanted oxygen, but Airbus officials maintained their own jets were less at risk.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
UK extends furlough scheme by five months, gives more help to self-employed
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will extend its huge job-protecting furlough programme by five months until the end of September and expand parallel support for the self-employed, finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to announce in a budget speech on Wednesday.
Workers covered by the furlough scheme – currently about one in five private-sector employees – will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked.
But employers will have to start contributing to the cost as the economy reopens from lockdown, paying 10% of the hours their staff do not work in July, rising to 20% in August and September, the ministry said.
“Our COVID support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK,” Sunak was due to say in his budget speech to parliament, according to excerpts sent to media by the finance ministry.
“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it’s only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.”
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) had been due to expire at the end of April, raising fears of a sharp jump in unemployment at a time when the economy is still likely to be struggling under the weight of coronavirus restrictions.
The Confederation of British Industry welcomed the move. “Extending the scheme will keep millions more in work and give businesses the chance to catch their breath as we carefully exit lockdown,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.
The CJRS will cost 70 billion pounds ($98 billion) between its launch in March last year during the onset of the pandemic and the end of April, according to estimates made last month by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
Sunak is also due to announce on Wednesday that a further 600,000 self-employed workers will become eligible for government support. Until now the government had only allowed applications from workers who were self-employed in the 2018-19 tax year, but eligibility for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be expanded to those who first reported being self-employed in 2019-20.
A fourth SEISS grant for the self-employed will be available from next month worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits up to 7,500 pounds in total, and details of a fifth grant would be provided on Wednesday, the ministry said.
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)
German exports to UK fell almost a third in January as Brexit hit
By Paul Carrel and Rene Wagner
BERLIN (Reuters) – German exports to the United Kingdom fell by 30% on the year in January as the impact of Brexit turned Europe’s largest economy away from the UK, exacerbating the hit to business from the coronavirus pandemic, official figures showed on Tuesday.
The UK left the European Union’s single market at the end of last year, raising barriers to trade. That final split followed more than four years of wrangling over its terms of exit from the EU, during which German businesses had already begun to reduce their interactions with Britain.
“Since 2016 – the year of the Brexit referendum – German exports to the UK have steadily declined,” Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said in a comment on the preliminary figures. It did not give a sector-by-sector breakdown.
The Office attributed the January slump to “the effects of Brexit after the year 2020, which was marked by the Corona pandemic.”
The impact of COVID-19 meant that the UK economy was smaller in January than a year earlier. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the UK and euro zone economies will not return to their pre-pandemic levels until next year.
Ahead of formal departure from the EU on Dec. 31, British businesses rushed to bring goods into the country – stockpiling that often results in a dip in activity later.
The January slump in bilateral trade compared with a more modest decline in December 2020, when German exports to the UK fell by 3.3% on the year, to 5.0 billion euros, and imports from the UK dropped 11.4% to 2.8 billion euros.
Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the IfW economic institute in Kiel, said the January export slump was probably an “outlier” as the pandemic slowed trade, and as exporters adjusted to new customs formalities.
“In the long term, we assume that German exports to the UK will be 10% below the level expected without Brexit,” Felbermayr told Reuters.
The Brexit deal is “far removed from the rules of the single market” in the EU and will dampen trade, he added, with many firms on the continent having already reorganised supply chains and scaled back business with Britain.
New customs rules which took effect in January have increased the cost and complexity of trade between Britain and the EU, especially for smaller firms, and caused delays to freight at the borders.
In 2020 as a whole, German exports to the UK fell by 15.5% compared to 2019, recording the biggest year-on-year decline since the financial and economic crisis in 2009, when they fell by 17.0%, the Office said.
In 2015 German exports to the UK amounted to 89.0 billion euros. In 2020, German they totalled 66.9 billion euros.
Imports to Germany from the UK totalled 34.7 billion euros in 2020, down 9.6 % compared to 2019.
(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Catherine Evans)
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