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The devil is in the details: How understanding your supply chain could help keep your business compliant

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The devil is in the details: How understanding your supply chain could help keep your business compliant 1

By Jamie Ahktar, co-founder and CEO CyberSmart

One of the most frustrating things for security professionals to deal with is the element of the unknown. Even if a security team works to do everything right – including patching and updating systems, regularly auditing their online infrastructure, and engaging in security awareness training programmes with wider teams – they could still be let down by those in their supply chain.

Every business has a supply chain. Whether this is a software company that works to provide HR or payroll systems for your business, coffee or paper suppliers, or IT support providers, no business exists in a vacuum. These organisations are a necessary component of business (operations. As a result of this interconnected nature, these other organisations may, to some extent, have access to your valuable business data.  They may even be a part of your digital ecosystem via plugins or widgets.

While this is widespread business practice, it does not come without risk from a security perspective. Although these companies may serve a useful or necessary purpose in the business function of an enterprise, there is no guarantee that they have held their security programme to the same standards that your company has.

Some of the world’s largest organisations have learned this the hard way with high-profile, reputationally damaging data breaches. For example, Marriott hotels, one of the world’s largest hoteliers, fell victim to a catastrophic data breach (their second in 24 months) which affected 5.2 million guests globally when hackers gained access to the Marriott network via stolen credentials from a third-party software used to provide guest services.

This is not an isolated incident. Live event giant, Ticketmaster, and several of its affiliated websites were breached in a similar fashion in 2018.  In this case, malware was discovered in a third-party, AI-generated customer service system which stole details from some individuals who successfully purchased, or even attempted to purchase tickets on the Ticketmaster website.

These incidents and others like them are hugely damaging for enterprises, who live and die by their reputation among customers. Despite the breaches originating with third-party operators, the reputational damage is borne by the household names of Marriott and Ticketmaster.

Not only that, but even if the breach originated in the supply chain of an organisation, they themselves may still be liable to serious financial ramifications as set out by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. Indeed, the GDPR states that the regulator could demand up to 17 million, or 4% of an organisation’s annual turnover- whichever is higher. While this remains a theoretical, and probably terrifying prospect for Ticketmaster, for Marriott it is all too real: They were subjected to the UK’s first GDPR fine in 2019 for a separate 2018 data breach.

These fines are, undoubtedly, a devastating blow for enterprises of all sizes. However, the Marriott’s and Ticketmaster’s of this world are likely to weather the storm both reputationally and financially..

This is not the case for most businesses. If a data breach were to occur at an SME for example, the financial and reputational damage could be such that the business is unable to recover. This problem is further compounded by the reality that small or medium sized businesses, particularly those in the embryonic stage, are most likely to be the ones who need third-party help for day-to-day business functions;  seeing as it is often a more cost-effective method of operating than managing in-house.

So what can organisations do to ensure that their partners are taking security as seriously as they are? One important thing is simply understanding where in your digital ecosystem third-party code is being used, or where your supply chain is coming into direct contact with your network. This will help security teams or providers to know where the potential weak links are in your security posture and take appropriate steps to secure them.

Another impactful move is to talk to potential partners or suppliers about their own security setup. Understand what tools or partners they use to ensure their security compliance, and if you suspect that they need to consider security more stringently, encourage them to work with a company who can provide accreditation, support or security audits in order to put your mind at ease. Partners need to be trusted in the same way that members of your own team are. The devastating consequences of what happens if this trust is broken, show that taking security seriously is a benefit to everyone.

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Why hybrid working will shift the economy, not ruin it

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Why hybrid working will shift the economy, not ruin it 2

By Pete Braithwaite, COO at B2B self-service portal KIT Online,

Today explained that despite the major drive to get people back to the office, which the government has now U-turned on, the future comes in the form of hybrid working, which could make cities outside of London and Manchester have access to a larger pool of talent.

“When we’ve seen how well we can perform at home, the idea of going back into the office five days a week is a little unnecessary. Of course with some roles, including many in healthcare, working from home isn’t an option, some do not have the space or desire to work from home and others prefer the social and creativity aspect of working in the office, which is fine. But we can’t scare people to return to the office when they’re trying to protect themselves and their family’s health, and they can do their jobs perfectly well at home,” he said.

“The future is neither working from home or working in the office. It’s hybrid working, with the ability to work from anywhere. Being around people is what inspires some. For others, it’s nature. Who’s to say we can’t be productive by working in a retreat in the countryside so long as we have the right equipment and services to keep us connected? When people work at home during the day, the local shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in their immediate vicinity are likely to be positively impacted.  This could lead to a shift to a revitalised and more localised economy with employment spread more evenly rather than just in city centres.”

Pete Braithwaite

Pete Braithwaite

New remote-working technology has helped many companies to adapt easily to the new ways of working. Many national and international teams were already using video-conferencing software but this has become the day-to-day modus operandi for most successful teams now. Other companies have taken the opportunity to review their systems and ensure that they are fit for a more distributed workforce, investing in more portable devices that help employees work anywhere around the house and balance work with parenting. The move away from a desktop reliance has made lives easier.

“The fourth industrial revolution is much closer than we thought. I fully understand that the Government wants to breathe more life into our cities, but the genie isn’t going to go back into the bottle – working from home isn’t going to go back to being only when someone has a doctor’s appointment.

“Instead, there needs to be a blended way of working. Otherwise, the best people will leave for a business which is adapting faster.”

His comments come after some claimed the demise of the so-called ‘Pret economy’, whereby fewer people are going to cafes, shops and restaurants on their lunch and on their commute. But Braithwaite delves on the recent story of the CEO of Pret, who announced last week that instead of following businesses, they’re now following their customers.  Pret has adapted its business model, using Deliveroo to deliver at home and to students, selling coffee beans in Waitrose and, most radically, introducing a coffee subscription model.

“Successful companies aren’t downsizing, but instead they’re adapting. The future will be leaner and the economy will shift as people spend their money differently, such as in suburbs and on home renovation.”

Recent stats revealed that numbers of people spending in London’s suburban town centres have picked up fast, and small independent traders in towns such as Okehampton recently reported more customers through their doors, after a recent YouGov poll found 30% of consumers say they have used local retailers more since the pandemic hit.

“Cities won’t die, but well-paid workers, with the rise in remote working, could actually become less congregated in London, and spread themselves thinner, thus spending more in other locations. IT will need careful investment, and human interaction will still be King, but you don’t need to have one without the other,” he concluded.

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Stella McCartney Transforms Financial Consolidation And Lease Accounting With Board

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Stella McCartney Transforms Financial Consolidation And Lease Accounting With Board 3

Board revamps financial analysis, consolidation and reporting for luxury lifestyle brand’s IFRS 16 compliance

Board International, the leading provider of the #1 decision-making platform, has today announced that luxury lifestyle brand Stella McCartney is working with Board to transform financial consolidation and lease accounting.

Board is enabling the luxury lifestyle brand to automate financial consolidation from multiple locations worldwide, replace manual and time-consuming consolidation activities, model the impact of different scenarios on financial performance and achieve full lease accounting compliance with ease, for IFRS 16.

Stella McCartney is a luxury lifestyle brand that was launched under the designer’s name in 2001, with collections available in more than 100 countries and 53 freestanding stores including London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

“The Board platform’s ability to streamline our finance consolidation activities, whilst preserving the accuracy of financial data from Stella McCartney locations across the world and ensure IFRS 16 compliance, has been vital to the management of the brand” said Sandra Federighi-Oni, Chief Financial Officer, Stella McCartney.

“Board’s expertise in automating and analysing key financial reporting to obtain new insights, by simulating what-if scenarios adds a new dimension to our strategic financial planning,” said Federighi-Oni. “We can plan for future progress and model multiple scenarios to inform our decision-making, with a fully holistic view of our latest financial data and metrics and ensure all accounting calculations generated are IFRS 16 compliant.”

“In today’s fast-paced, data rich and evolving business environment, modelling for effective financial scenario planning, whilst ensuring the latest compliance is critical to compete,” said Gavin Fallon, Managing Director for UK, Nordics & South Africa at Board International.

“Board transforms financial decision-making, saving time through the automation of repetitive activities, creating full visibility of vital data, to enable the big decisions global

luxury brands like Stella McCartney make daily to thrive in today’s economy” continued Fallon.

Financial closing, financial consolidation, and other accounting activities require high levels of manual, repetitive work and the collation of data from a multitude of spreadsheets and data sources. These activities must also meet strict requirements in terms of compliance to corporate internal control systems.

IFRS 16 specifies how an IFRS reporter must recognise, measure, present and disclose leases.  Introduced in January 2019, this new standard will affect most companies reporting under IFRS and will have a major impact on the financial statements of lessees of property and high-value equipment. Under IFRS 16, if a company has control over, or right to use, an asset they are renting, it is classified as a lease for accounting purposes and, under the new rules, must be recognised on the company’s balance sheet.

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Can your company data make you famous?

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Can your company data make you famous? 4

By Kerry Gould, Associate Director, Speed Communications

Businesses gather and generate reams of data every day on everything from purchasing habits to customer behaviour. But too often, it gets ignored or restricted to ‘internal use’. Is this a big opportunity missed?

Perhaps more than in any other sector, finance and banking companies hold a goldmine of data. Of course, individual customer transactions are highly sensitive and need to be kept secure. But when these are collated into trends across an entire customer base, it can paint a compelling picture of people’s changing priorities. What are people spending money on? How are they using credit cards differently? Are they shifting their savings goals or looking at mortgages differently? And it’s not just consumer-facing businesses that can use their data to tell stories. It’s a growing area in the world of B2B marketing, especially for firms targeting the UK’s 5 million+ SMEs.

Insight in the COVID-19 era

Appetite to share data is increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, too. We’re already seeing companies step up and share this intelligence; barely a day goes by when there’s not a report on how people are changing and adapting. In an era when everyone is trying to be a ‘thought leader’, having this unique insight can really set a company apart and elevate its public profile.

There are some great examples out there. Barclaycard revealed in its SME Barometer that the number of small businesses actively taking payments has increased by 24 per cent since the start of lockdown, an indicator of recovery. Meanwhile, Bottomline revealed in its Business Payments Barometer that 89% of firms continued to pay its suppliers late and £164,000 was lost by the average mid-sized business to payment fraud.

These reports achieved media coverage in print and online, and likely to have been shared widely over social networks, been promoted in email newsletters, discussed in online webinars and provided talking points in customer meetings. In today’s multi-channel world, there are a plethora of ways to reach customers (and potential customers) and we know that a ‘layered approach’ to these communications stand the best chance of getting you noticed and remembered.

Commissioning a survey through an independent research agency is a tried and tested method for marketing and PR teams to gather insight to use for content marketing and news generation. But often, your company’s own proprietary data can be even more compelling. It’s based on actual facts and behaviours, immune from the public’s continually fluctuating opinions. Plus, it doesn’t cost you thousands of pounds to commission. If your company has a strong enough dataset that can tell a story or indicate a trend, it should absolutely be used.

Overcoming hurdles

Like all well-meaning initiatives, data-led PR doesn’t come without its challenges. Here, we tackle three.

  1. Getting buy in to go public
Kerry Gould

Kerry Gould

Sometimes, business stakeholders can be nervous about releasing data that may be deemed commercially sensitive, revealing market share or insight that competitors could take advantage of. In this case, it’s about considering risk versus reward. The marketing benefit for making yourself known could be offset by competitive intelligence that your rivals may have through other sources anyway. Ultimately, there’s often a compromise to be stuck and there may be some data that you can’t disclose. Bringing stakeholders on the journey with you from the start is often the best way to ascertain this.

  1. Organising reams of data

It can be overwhelming to organise complex data sets, gather trends from different silos, departments and platforms. Many finance companies have in-house data analysts and insight teams whose job this is, but for others, outsourcing to a specialist provider like Data Cubed or Beyond Analysis can be a helpful move. By building a dashboard that collates everything in one place, teams from across the business, and external PR or marketing agencies, can get access in real time.

  1. Not having enough data

It may be that your business doesn’t generate reams of data or lacks a large enough sample size of customers. In this case, you can partner with an organisation that does. In the Jobs Recovery Tracker developed with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, we partnered with EMSI to tap into their database of live job vacancies. This helped to track the employment market amid COVID-19, generating masses of media coverage, insight to inform its content marketing and talking points for its upcoming REC 2020 conference.  This can sometimes be treated as a commercial arrangement but often considered a joint PR opportunity that’s win-win.

Data journalism is a growing discipline in the world of media, with news outlets dedicating talented people and resources to telling stories with numbers. The BBC and Guardian do it particularly well. With marketeers – particularly in data-rich industries like finance – waking up to the power it can hold for true thought leadership, the future is likely to be one ever more governed by data-led insight. How long before ‘data-PR’ becomes a discipline in its own right?

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