By Philip Ashton, CEO of 7bridges
Supply chains are changing all the time, and by their nature tend to be a complex combination of processes and third parties. But as the fourth industrial revolution takes shape, supply chains are developing and advancing rapidly.
Amazon has led the way for consumer-facing logistics, integrating technology at every stage of their supply chains and making one-day deliveries the market standard. All other businesses, large or small, B2B or consumer-facing, are now having to compete with this benchmark of convenience that has been set.
To make matters worse, this year has seen the single largest disruption to the international supply chain in living memory. The shock caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected the whole supply chain, from manufacturers to consumers, and has resulted in the closure of warehouses, price hikes and missed deliveries.
As businesses react and are required to pivot quickly, there is a growing argument for experimenting with technology such as AI to help navigate and manage the increased complexity in supply chains. With entire industries looking for solutions to supply chain disruption, there are several key benefits to AI adoption:
The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times, but smaller shocks to supply chains happen regularly, particularly for those that cross international borders. For example, last year’s discussion of choice, Brexit, will cause disruption to supply chains across the continent, and the implementation of any new processes, such as new customs paperwork or the application of trade tariffs, will slow deliveries and increase costs.
Integrating AI allows businesses to react autonomously to temporary market shifts or long-term disruption in the supply chain to ensure deliveries are always made on time, and in full. As macro events occur, the technology can automatically reroute shipments to take conditions into account, removing the need for cumbersome manual calculations and processes. This agility can keep operations running and scaling as competitors falter, saving on direct costs and future proofing the business
COVID-19 has undoubtedly alerted businesses to the realities of disaster planning – now is the time to build in extra layers of fail-safes to ensure that operations can continue through the next ‘worst case scenario’.
Any business involved in direct-to-consumer deliveries needs to constantly upgrade and improve their logistics operations. Next-day or even same-day deliveries are now expected as a minimum; consumer studies have found that shipping dates affect purchasing decisions for more than 90 percent of shoppers. In addition, more than a quarter of online shoppers will abandon their basket at checkout if delivery is too slow.
In an increasingly crowded and competitive ecommerce marketplace, logistics failures or slow service could cause significant business harm, as consumers take their custom to more responsive suppliers. The primary way that businesses can ensure their deliveries are always being completed in the fastest and most efficient way possible is to implement an AI-based solution that considers historic and real time service performance.
One of the most significant advantages of utilising artificial intelligence within logistics is that it is not rules-based, but optimises within a set of constraints. As a result, it does not have to be reprogrammed – instead it reacts and adapts to any new environment or condition, making any AI solution innately flexible and scalable. For businesses looking to grow and gain market share, this is incredibly valuable.
AI allows businesses to predict orders and intelligently distribute stock closer to the customer, before they’ve even ordered. By calculating all the possible permutations to the large number of complex variables involved in sending a shipment, AI can optimise the process for each order within a set of customer or business constraints, and thus allowing individual flexibility on a large scale.
In addition, AI can incorporate ever-changing manufacturing schedules when deciding when and how to distribute stock directly from the manufacturer to warehouses, stores or consumers, allowing flexibility if and when there are disruptions higher up the chain.
As with other automation technologies, AI can take responsibility for the manual, menial processes and free up humans to add more value by focusing on the strategy and guide rails for the technology. AI is also able to process larger volumes of data and permutations far beyond human capability, enabling much better and considered decisions being made. With AI doing the ‘heavy lifting’, organisations are able to reduce direct costs by 50%.
For example, humans can set rules on how to fulfil one order based on storage, handling and transportation costs. AI, on the other hand, will consider how to fulfil the same order but in the context of potentially hundreds of thousands of other orders. It will take into account stock and replenishment requirements, fulfilment location, pick and pack load and consolidation opportunities across single and multiple sites, while adapting to near real-time service levels of each provider and relevant surcharges. The benefits come from making these numerous micro, contextual and near real-time decisions that reduce waste on a large scale in aggregate.
Artificial intelligence will quickly become a central part of all supply chain management systems, both for large, international enterprises and smaller direct-to-consumer operations. COVID-19 has created unparalleled challenges for logistics teams, but has also presented the industry with an opportunity to safeguard supply chains and ensure that they are ready for whatever the future holds.
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Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services
By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020
The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.
This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.
With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.
2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services
2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.
The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.
In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.
Working together in tandem
Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.
The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.
The importance of sharing across communities
To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.
In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.
By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.
Creating a single source of intelligence
Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.
Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.
This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.
While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.
Blackline reveals CEO succession plan
By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair
Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021. Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer. Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.
A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer. He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations. Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.
Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite. During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.
“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers. Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker. “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level. I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”
The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.
“I am ready and excited for this next step. BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman. “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”
Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO. His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market. Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”
Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago. Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader. We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”
Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.
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