Gareth Richardson, CEO & Founder,Marketlinx
Due to the accelerated rise of new technologies and ever-increasing consumer demands, rapid change has become the new norm.
A significant number of organisations are struggling to keep pace and constantly devise innovative strategies that deliver high quality services and garner customer loyalty.
According to Forrester ‘every company now continuously reinvents its business with technology at the core — or watches while its customers defect and its markets are disrupted’.But with all the hype around emerging technologies, machine learning and AI, companies find it increasingly challenging to wade through a marketplace full of complex technology suppliers, to find and decide which technology is the right fit for their company’s requirements both short and long term,which will also save time and cut costs.
As a result, in many cases, organisations get stuck with unsuitable solutions that instead of driving productivity are, actually, hindering efficiency.
Furthermore, for too many years companies have been using the same practices when it comes to cost reduction, vendor selection, evaluation, approval of vendors and so on. However, the IT industry has seen some tremendous changes in the past decade and these processes are not effective anymore.
What worked two years ago might already be obsolete.
If IT leaders don’t do their homework and stay up to date with the latest market trends they are destined to fail.
By learning and testing new approaches constantly, organisations can predict market disruption, adapt to new trends and enjoy long term success.
So how do modern CIOs and IT sourcing managers, who all too often are under high pressure to deliver complex technology systems with tight deadlines, ensure that they’re sourcing the optimal technology for the company’s objectives and development plans?
Thankfully, as technology evolves so do service providers.
Slowly but surely the market is disrupted by agnostic IT sourcing companies that help CIOs and vendor managers to discard cumbersome and expensive tender programmes, reduce costs and save time.
In order to gain significant results through a sourcing strategy such as this, CIOs must rely on the right set of experts.
Associating with competent IT sourcing providers is a fundamental step. When it comes to sourcing, there is no place for a one size fits all approach. This is because every organisation is different. So are their objectives and spending capabilities. Sourcing experts help devise innovative strategies that can capture the company’s requirements and align them to the right suppliers.
When it comes to high performance tech infrastructure many companies invest their resources internally, looking to streamline internal processes and save costs through automation. But agile, forward thinking organisations first look outwards and focus their approach on creating and implementing a customer centric strategy that will keep customers happy and loyal.
They do this because they understand that for savvy customers, price is not the principal driver of decisions anymore, value and customer service are more important.
But how should CIOs and IT managers design high performance tech infrastructure focused on the customer and its interaction with the brand on all communications and sales channels?
Omnichannel customer services
A crucial part of a customer centric strategy is the contact centre – the voice and face of the company. Many companies are still running premise based contact centres and are struggling to migrate to the cloud in order toimprove the customer experience, scale up or down according to business needs, and save costs and time.
Some organisations underestimate the impact of contact centres on customer experience but in a highly competitive arena where customers are bombarded with thousands of offers every day, if the contact centre experience is not up to scratch, consumers will quickly look elsewhere.
Furthermore, because contact centres deal with sales, providing information, solving problems, capturing data and researching innovative ways to improve the customer journey, they play a pivotal role in understanding customers’ needs, creating a personalised experience and overall shaping the business strategy.
As a result, companies that understand the huge competitive value of providing customers with a high quality seamless experience on many different communications and sales channels are placing contact centres at the top of their priority list.
This is where IT outsourcing consultancies play a crucial role in helping CIOs access and assess accurate data about various providers and the most efficient technology platform that would enable an organisation to set up omnichannel interaction platforms that empower employees to communicate more effectively and efficiently with customers.
Regardless where CIOs and IT managers choose to focus their efforts and resources, the reality is IT outsourcing is not a choice anymore. With maturing cloud based services and the arrival of new technology and suppliers, there are simply too many options to consider and the stakes are too high to manage everything internally.
The key thing is finding a trustworthy sourcing company that truly understands business priorities and is committed to finding the best suppliers aligned with the company’s needs, strengths and weaknesses.
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below zero later this year or in 2022 if a recovery in the economy disappoints, especially if there is persistent unemployment, policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said on Friday.
Vlieghe said he thought the likeliest scenario was that the economy would recover strongly as forecast by the central bank earlier this month, meaning a further loosening of monetary policy would not be needed.
Data published on Friday suggested the economy had stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown hit retailers last month, while businesses and consumers are hopeful a fast vaccination campaign will spur a recovery.
Vlieghe said in a speech published by the BoE that there was a risk of lasting job market weakness hurting wages and prices.
“In such a scenario, I judge more monetary stimulus would be appropriate, and I would favour a negative Bank Rate as the tool to implement the stimulus,” he said.
“The time to implement it would be whenever the data, or the balance of risks around it, suggest that the recovery is falling short of fully eliminating economic slack, which might be later this year or into next year,” he added.
Vlieghe’s comments are similar to those of fellow policymaker Michael Saunders, who said on Thursday negative rates could be the BoE’s best tool in future.
Earlier this month the BoE gave British financial institutions six months to get ready for the possible introduction of negative interest rates, though it stressed that no decision had been taken on whether to implement them.
Investors saw the move as reducing the likelihood of the BoE following other central banks and adopting negative rates.
Some senior BoE policymakers, such as Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden, believe that adding to the central bank’s 875 billion pounds ($1.22 trillion) of government bond purchases remains the best way of boosting the economy if needed.
Vlieghe underscored the scale of the hit to Britain’s economy and said it was clear the country was not experiencing a V-shaped recovery, adding it was more like “something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery.”
“I want to emphasise how far we still have to travel in this recovery,” he said, adding that it was “highly uncertain” how much of the pent-up savings amassed by households during the lockdowns would be spent.
By contrast, last week the BoE’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, likened the economy to a “coiled spring.”
Vlieghe also warned against raising interest rates if the economy appeared to be outperforming expectations.
“It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
Higher interest rates were unlikely to be appropriate until 2023 or 2024, he said.
($1 = 0.7146 pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month hit retailers, and business and consumers are hopeful the vaccination campaign will spur a recovery, data showed on Friday.
The IHS Markit/CIPS flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, a survey of businesses, suggested the economy was barely shrinking in the first half of February as companies adjusted to the latest restrictions.
A separate survey of households showed consumers at their most confident since the pandemic began.
Britain’s economy had its biggest slump in 300 years in 2020, when it contracted by 10%, and will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021, the Bank of England predicts.
The central bank expects a strong subsequent recovery because of the COVID-19 vaccination programme – though policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said in a speech on Friday that the BoE could need to cut interest rates below zero later this year if unemployment stayed high.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due on Monday to announce the next steps in England’s lockdown but has said any easing of restrictions will be gradual.
Official data for January underscored the impact of the latest lockdown on retailers.
Retail sales volumes slumped by 8.2% from December, a much bigger fall than the 2.5% decrease forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and the second largest on record.
“The only good thing about the current lockdown is that it’s no way near as bad for the economy as the first one,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said.
The smaller fall in retail sales than last April’s 18% plunge reflected growth in online shopping.
BORROWING SURGE SLOWED IN JANUARY
There was some better news for finance minister Rishi Sunak as he prepares to announce Britain’s next annual budget on March 3.
Though public sector borrowing of 8.8 billion pounds ($12.3 billion) was the first January deficit in a decade, it was much less than the 24.5 billion pounds forecast in a Reuters poll.
That took borrowing since the start of the financial year in April to 270.6 billion pounds, reflecting a surge in spending and tax cuts ordered by Sunak.
The figure does not count losses on government-backed loans which could add 30 billion pounds to the shortfall this year, but the deficit is likely to be smaller than official forecasts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said.
Sunak is expected to extend a costly wage subsidy programme, at least for the hardest-hit sectors, but he said the time for a reckoning would come.
“It’s right that once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing and I’ll always be honest with the British people about how we will do this,” he said.
Some economists expect higher taxes sooner rather than later.
“Big tax rises eventually will have to be announced, with 2022 likely to be the worst year, so that they will be far from voters’ minds by the time of the next general election in May 2024,” Samuel Tombs, at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.
Public debt rose to 2.115 trillion pounds, or 97.9% of gross domestic product – a percentage not seen since the early 1960s.
The PMI survey and a separate measure of manufacturing from the Confederation of British Industry, showing factory orders suffering the smallest hit in a year, gave Sunak some cause for optimism.
IHS Markit’s chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said the improvement in business expectations suggested the economy was “poised for recovery.”
However the PMI survey showed factory output in February grew at its slowest rate in nine months. Many firms reported extra costs and disruption to supply chains from new post-Brexit barriers to trade with the European Union since Jan. 1.
Vlieghe warned against over-interpreting any early signs of growth. “It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
“We are experiencing something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery. We are clearly not experiencing a V-shaped recovery.”
($1 = 0.7160 pounds)
(Editing by Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)
Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output
By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell for a second day on Friday, retreating further from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Brent crude futures were down 33 cents, or 0.5%, at $63.60 a barrel by 11:06 a.m. (1606 GMT) U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 60 cents, or 1%, to $59.92.
This week, both benchmarks had climbed to the highest in more than a year.
“Price pullback thus far appears corrective and is slight within the context of this month’s major upside price acceleration,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.
Companies were expected to prepare for production restarts on Friday as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.
“While much of the selling relates to a gradual resumption of power in the Gulf coast region ahead of a significant temperature warmup, the magnitude of this week’s loss of supply may require further discounting given much uncertainty regarding the extent and possible duration of lost output,” Ritterbusch said.
Oil fell despite a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles in the week to Feb. 12, before the big freeze. Inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels to 461.8 million barrels, their lowest since March, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday. [EIA/S]
The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Still, analysts did not expect near-term reversal of sanctions on Iran that were imposed by the previous U.S. administration.
“This breakthrough increases the probability that we may see Iran returning to the oil market soon, although there is much to be discussed and a new deal will not be a carbon-copy of the 2015 nuclear deal,” said StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Jason Neely, David Goodman and David Gregorio)
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