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SOFTWARE IS NOW YOUR BRAND

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Tori Coons

For those who think they’re not in the software business, it’s time to think again…

Going through your daily routine at home and at work, if you stop and notice, you’ll find that software is playing an ever larger role in your everyday activities.

Tori Coons

Tori Coons

No longer is software confined to your computer. It is spreading to meet your needs wherever you are and whenever you need it. Software is on your phone, your car dashboard, your refrigerator door, your home security system, even your athletic shoes! It’s replacing the need for books, televisions, GPS’s, checkbooks, and other standalone items.

With the combination of mobile, smart products, social media, data visualization and analytics, software is starting to invade every aspect of our lives as businesses realize the incredible opportunity it offers to provide their products and services in a new way.

With this pervasion of software in today’s world, even though your firm may not be in the tech business per se, you are starting to see that software is becoming a daily means by which your customers engage with your business. Regardless of what you make or do, innovative software that gives your customers new, easier, faster access to your products and services is becoming a major way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. That’s because, in today’s fast-paced, mobile world, no one has time to tolerate anything less than the convenience that good software brings.

For example, a bank that provides a mobile app with the ability to deposit checks while on-the-go or an auto insurer with an easy-to-use mobile app for capturing photos and facts at a collision scene will now drive new customers to their business based primarily on the ease and accessibility that their company’s software innovation provides. This is especially true with millennial generation consumers, who often will only interact with companies that let them conduct their entire relationship via mobile device. Therefore, software must now be considered an integral part of your company’s brand regardless of what your underlying product or service actually is.

In effect, because of this new reality, software is now what defines your brand. Forrester Research has used the phrase “software-is-the-brand” to describe non-tech companies who are finding that more and more of their business value is coming from software-based products and services:
“It is the software that operates at key mobile customer touchpoints, defines the interaction with the consumer, and, ultimately, acts as the main product differentiator.”

(Forrester Research, Inc., Non-Tech Companies Become

The New Market For Software Product Development Services, August 2013).

Forrester specifically names the following four industries as becoming “increasingly software-centric”:

  • Information Services
  • Retail and eCommerce
  • Media and Entertainment
  • Financial Services

For those in the financial services industry, there are several software endeavors that businesses are finding they must undertake in order to stay competitive in this modern age. Below is a highlight of Object Frontier’s software assessment for this industry:

Financial Services – Software That Defines Your Brand

Object Frontier

Object Frontier

Mobile Banking has become a critical avenue for financial services companies to engage customers today. Individuals can check their personal accounts, transfer money, make a deposit, and pay their bills whenever and wherever they want. This round-the-clock access ensures banks are meeting the needs of their modern, on-the-go customers.
Treasury Management Software that provides businesses with a mobile-friendly financial management dashboard, which sources data from multiple places, tracks real-time stock prices and news, sends alerts, and presents everything in one, easy-to-use dashboard, will help businesses quickly make informed strategic financial decisions, whether in the office or mobile.

Wealth Management Software optimized for mobile devices allows financial services firms to provide a simplified way for high net-worth clients’ personal wealth administration staff, advisors, tax preparers, and lawyers to access information securely and efficiently in order to obtain a real-time, complete view of their investment portfolio. Advisors can rebalance a client’s portfolio right in front of them with just the swipe of a finger to increase or decrease the customer’s percentage of equities, for example, and then generate a proposed list of rebalancing trades.

Mobile Insurance Apps let customers easily find an agent, pay a bill, update their policies, and make a claim at any time, with the ability to insert valuable details like photographs and maps of the incident area on-the-spot. All these features provide customers with hassle-free, streamlined access to the services of their insurance company at the times they need it most.

Gamified Personal Banking Software, currently being used by some of the largest financial institutions, applies principles of motivation and mastery, along with game mechanics like points, levels, awards, and competition, to customer-facing software to incent customers to actively shape their long-term financial future. Businesses can encourage users to determine their risk/reward profile, choose the right financial investments, plan for retirement, buy life insurance, and educate their children on financial principles in order to positively influence their real-life financial behavior.

All of these new uses for software in the financial services industry are becoming table stakes for businesses to compete in today’s digital age. Forward-thinking businesses are continually searching for original ways to use technology to enhance their offerings, making software now an essential part of their brand. Businesses are actually treating software like one of their products, as they are finding they must put the same innovation and design into it as they do their core products.

For financial institutions to fulfill their software aspirations, they will “need the discipline, agile processes, and technical know-how associated with PDS [Product Development Services] firms, which is separate from traditional IT services,” as Forrester emphasizes in the report mentioned above. The product mindset of a PDS firm is essential to developing branded software, as it allows you to:

  1. Create an innovative user experience (UX) that will engage your customers and redefine your brand.
  2. Adopt an agile methodology to produce early, measurable results for your stakeholders and to keep up with your competition in the software feature wars.
  3. Redesign and rebuild the backend technologies to transform the total UX and break down the silos of transactional processing systems.
  4. Release software in a disciplined manner to provide regular improvements that meet the changing needs of your customers.
  5. Adapt quickly to user feedback in order to please customers and avoid a social media nightmare that can instantly ruin your brand’s reputation.

These benefits of a product-focused approach are necessary components for creating software of real value to a business. Forrester explains in the same report that any “attempts to assign these activities to internal IT departments — which have traditionally focused on maintaining and developing slower-changing environments — have led to problems and, ultimately, the creation of a separate product development/software company” within the organization.

Product development companies specialize in building innovative, revenue-driving software, and they are increasingly being tapped by non-tech, “software-is-the-brand” companies to bring that same expertise to their software projects in order to engage customers and drive business. Those that choose to ignore this trend face the grim prospect of being left behind by their competition, as they move forward to redefine themselves and their industries through software.

Tori Coons is a marketing associate for Object Frontier Software. To view more of her work on the latest in the software and technology industry, check out the OFS company blog Our Focus on Software Trends.

Technology

The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency

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The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency 1

By Tomas Gogar, AI CEO, Rossum

In this era, digital transformation isn’t anything new. Nonetheless, it can still cause a lot of confusion and resistance for some companies, many of which are often slow, unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes to embrace technology. As a result, entire industries are barely scratching the surface when it comes to shifting to the digital world, and many, from the insurance industry to logistics and delivery are still catching up on the digital transformation.

The banking and financial sector have been notoriously slow in adapting to the online world. They paid the high price for it, giving way to a flurry of incredibly successful new disruptive players, built on cutting edge tech from the ground up. From Transferwise, Revolut or Venmo, to GoCardless, this new generation of fintech companies addressed consumers changing expectations in a way that traditional retails banks simply couldn’t.

To catch up, incumbent players have prioritised the user interfaces, giving the appearance of a digital offering, and oftentimes leaving the back end infrastructure untouched, and hence the processing power, accuracy and speed unaffected. Back-office functions, although they are essential to the smooth running of a business, have seen very little change and as a result,  too many people in these functions are still tied up typing information into spreadsheets and software forms – in fact, manual data entry is a prime example of how much resources the offline legacy wastes. Take Accounts Payable for example, invoice data entry in this sector is estimated to eat up roughly 100 human lives worth of time every single day.

Tomas Gogar

Tomas Gogar

With the significant increase in the number of employees working from home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the back-office challenges have suddenly come to light, and finally, companies that got away with minimal changes so far, are realising that they need a structural digital overhaul, and fast. We believe the solution to this is artificial intelligence backed software solutions.

Previous technology based solutions essentially did half the job, heavily depending on human fact checking. Consequently, these solutions were actually quite cumbersome and time consuming and costly to implement and maintain, and offered only incremental improvements. Now with AI, automises data processing completely removing the need for human fact checking (and human error!). Additionally, deployment is massively simplified with an average setup time of one week, compared to about 6 months for previous technologies.   AI solutions are also highly adaptable to new formats and scenarios, allowing businesses to test them in say one department and to quickly roll out a single unified solution across all functions of the business.   Data can be extracted from any invoice layout with no template or rule set-up, saving significant and effort. Rather than trying to change and standardise a highly fragmented environment (there are about as many invoice formats as there are businesses), AI can work with it, and optimise the overall process and offer a unified answer to a fragmented ecosystem.

Taking Accounts Payable as an example again, this is a sector that has relied by and large on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software solutions in an attempt to remove some of the manual labour involved in reading processing and filing invoices. Although OCR did improve the processes to a certain degree, ultimately these types of solutions still required a long and expensive set up processes and a lot of manual labour to actually capture the data accurately with templates and manual data entry. Now, with AI software, like the one we have created, this is a solution that makes data extraction simple and easy, saving time and man power, as well as building on existing infrastructure. It has the ability to transform this industry.

In conclusion, for a sector that has been slow to adopt digital change, AI is THE technology answer that is finally fixing the invisible pain points that businesses had simply accepted as unremovable. AI applied in this way offers a viable way forward and businesses that were notoriously slow and resistant to embrace the digital transition, incentivised to make a change, may actually end up at the head of the pack. Skipping ‘older tech’ and jumping straight into AI solutions, the best scenario available by far, is indeed the smartest, fastest and most cost effective way to transition into the digital world.

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Technology

InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry

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InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry 2

By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder

If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed both buying and driving habits for UK motorists. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents.

Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in person viewing or road test before buying.

While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures*, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures.

And when it comes to arranging insurance for their recently-purchased vehicle, our survey participants displayed an equal balance between telephone and online as the preferred method (48% each). Nearly a third of those (28%) said they wait up to ten minutes for their policy to be confirmed, and a further 22% wait as long as 20 minutes to get cover.

The switch to digital insurance, driven by InsurTech

In the midst of rapid and significant market changes, many traditional insurers have lacked the agility and flexibility to adapt accordingly. InsurTech can provide immense value in bridging that gap, as the digital solutions are entirely scalable, with the flexibility to substantially increase in size and across multiple geographies, with minimal disruption.

Alan Inskip

Alan Inskip

The ongoing decline of physical transactions in the motor retail industry is a perfect example of how InsurTech is adding value. Several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, are already streamlining their online purchase process by offering temporary driveaway insurance policies to cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days, as part of the purchase journey.

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.

For the dealers, this technology means more efficient stock clearance times and greater profitability. For the buyers, it 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. An added benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.

While there is a chance these trends will reverse to some extent post pandemic, it is clear that the consumer appetite for digital purchase and consumption is here to stay, and InsurTech will continue to lead the way in making motor insurance more easily-accessible across digital platforms, while offering consumers the best value for money.

* https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-8615851/Used-car-sales-halved-lockdown-brakes-1m-motor-transactions.html

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud

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Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud 3

By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino

The public cloud is the most significant enabler in a generation. It’s causing a massive shift in how businesses are operating and tearing apart previous business models.

Amid challenging economic times, it’s inevitable that spending within IT is dropping. However, the cloud is the only segment that is still growing. The public cloud is increasingly becoming a central element of enterprise IT.

Contino asked 250 IT decision-makers at enterprise companies across Europe, USA and APAC within companies of over 5,000 employees about their views on the state of the public cloud within their organisation at the beginning of 2020.  Nearly all of them (99%) saw a significant technical benefit compared with on-premises.

Here are some other ways public cloud is being used by enterprises:

  1. Widely, albeit not yet business wide.

A whopping 77% of enterprises are using the public cloud in some capacity. Overall, 50% of businesses are utilising a hybrid cloud, 22% single private cloud, 20% multi-cloud, 7% single public cloud and only 1% are using only on-premises.

But only 13% of businesses have a fully-fledged public cloud program. The largest set of respondents (42%) have multiple apps/projects deployed in the cloud. 24% were still working on initial proofs-of-concept, and 18% were in the planning stages.

83% of respondents said they want to grow their cloud program. Almost half (48%) do wish to grow, but with caution, while 36% want to move as quickly as possible.

Only 4% plan to revert to on-premises but are in no rush to do so.

  1. To enhance security and compliance versus on-premises, although these are still also seen as barriers to adoption.

A massive 64% of respondents stated they find this more secure than on-premises, and only 7% see it to be less secure. 72% found it easier to stay compliant with business data in the cloud versus only 4% who found it harder.  However, 48% cited that their biggest barrier for not using the cloud was security, and 37% stated the need to remain compliant was the most prevalent blocker.

Other challenges also posed a barrier: a lack of skills, the cost to purchase and cloud-native operating models not working with existing investments made up 29-32% of responses.

19% stated that lack of leadership buy-in is the biggest barrier, reflecting that a significant number of IT departments have a need for this solution but have not been provided with the support to do so. However, relatively speaking, this was one of the least-cited barriers.

  1. For improved efficiency, scalability and agility, but vendor lock-in is still a major concern.

The top three cited technical benefits of public cloud were better efficiency, agility and scalability versus on-premises. However, 63% of IT professionals were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much’ afraid of the commitment that can come with investing in the cloud. This is another major barrier that is preventing businesses from ​migrating to the cloud.

Only 23% are not afraid of being locked in and a meagre 5% have no fear at all. However, the fact that 77% of businesses are using the cloud shows any risk of being locked in is outweighed by the benefits of the cloud.

  1. To align IT with the business.

This is by far the most cited business benefit of the public cloud. 100% of those surveyed witnessed varied business benefits versus on-premises. Other major benefits include the ability to focus on new revenues (43%), accelerated time-to-market (43%), and increased ROI (40%).

  1. To accelerate innovation and increases cost-effectiveness.

Innovating in the cloud was quicker for 81% of respondents. What’s more, not one person surveyed said the cloud slowed down their innovation. 79% have saved money with the cloud and only 5% have found it more of an expense than on-premises.

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