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wealth management businessman playing chess

Predictions 2021: Wealth Management Firms Embrace Digital To Thrive

By Financial Services, Information Technology No Comments

We will remember 2020 for COVID-19, how it permanently changed the ways customers seek advice, and how financial advisors dispense it. As the lockdown began, consumers did not have access to a physical branch or office, did not know what investment decisions made sense, and lacked access to customer service or support. Wealth management firms predicted it was time to embrace digital to thrive in the ever-evolving “new world” entered.

These challenges exposed underlying gaps and customer pain points that existed prior to the pandemic. Solutions, however, have been hiding in plain sight. Innovative wealth-tech firms are using digital technologies to drive better digital experiences for customers and more efficient ways to receive financial advice. They include digital onboarding that allows customers to open and fund a new account in less than five minutes and digital servicing that allows customers to connect short-term financial wellness with longer-term financial goals.

Beyond the pandemic, environmental crises such as wildfires in the western United States and global social unrest highlighted the importance of sustainability. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is an increasingly common topic in client conversations. Consumers now include addressing climate change and supporting social causes in their investing agenda. Forrester sees ESG playing a significantly larger role in wealth management in 2021 for retail investors, wealth management firms, and portfolio managers. Sustainability has thus far been a point of differentiation. In the years to come, it will be table stakes.

For most wealth management firms, capitalizing on these trends will enable them to acquire more customers. But in a world where fees are racing toward zero, achieving profits will remain challenging for firms that offer only a limited set of products and solutions to their customers. Wealth managers will have to expand their product offerings to remain relevant and profitable.

Planning ahead in financial services is difficult in any circumstance, particularly in a pandemic. But one thing is certain: Now is the time to use the momentum that 2020 has brought to digital acceleration to reshape the future of your business.

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Digital Transformation: A Key Enabler For Wealth Management Firms In Post-Pandemic Times

By Information Technology No Comments
Digital transformation in wealth management has been an important theme for a long time, but its adoption has been relatively slow.

The wealth management industry is dealing with challenges such as changing business models, fintech disruption, increasing client expectations, and revenue and fee compression pressures. The pandemic has further accentuated a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment, and digitization has become extremely important.

To explore how digital transformation is driving the wealth management industry’s priorities in these disruptive times, my company recently hosted leaders from a cross-section of the wealth management industry. We invited leaders from a leading independent broker-dealer, a top turnkey asset management provider (TAMP) and a large institutional investment management firm.

Each leader represented a slightly different end of the wealth management value chain. They discussed the challenges and priorities for their firms and shared many common themes that resonate with the entire wealth management industry.

Below is a summary of the key themes discussed in this very insightful session.

Advisor Enablement Is The Key

As the financial advisory industry pivots from a transaction-led model to a relationship-based one, advisors need to provide personalized advice tailored to the client’s goals and life events. Digitization has been at the forefront of the evolution of the advice-centric model. Financial advisors want tools and insights to offer hyper-personalization, get a holistic view of clients, and efficiently service clients at scale. The advisors want a unified experience and functionalities such as account aggregation, client portals, and CRM and client servicing tools. Digital advisor enablement assumes greater importance in the wake of a pandemic, and firms are doubling down on these initiatives.

Improving Scale And Omnichannel Servicing

Advisors want to focus on delivering client value and want to digitize time-consuming and error-prone tasks. Digitization of account opening, account transitions, and e-signatures has helped in reducing errors and NIGOs and improving operational scale. During the pandemic, these initiatives received a tremendous boost, with both clients and advisors calling for straight-through processing using workflow-based tools.

With volatility and uncertainty in markets, the need for investment information and client servicing improved dramatically. A firm’s investments to provide an omnichannel experience to advisors and clients will help them service their stakeholders effectively. Technologies such as Zoom have helped manage disruption by enabling close collaboration and putting clients at ease. Business leaders should expect these digital collaboration channels to further evolve, while digital laggards may lose clients to their more digital-savvy counterparts.

Operations Transformation

Even though client-facing initiatives get more attention, digitization has had a massive impact on improving operations. Many firms grapple with inefficiencies introduced by legacy platforms, workarounds and customizations built for supporting business. Business leaders must decide between building focused-point automation and large-scale transformation. Operations transformation requires firms to also redesign their legacy processes to eliminate inefficient and non-value-adding activities. Without applying digital design principles, the results of such transformations can be underwhelming

Cloud Adoption

Many wealth management firms were already on their cloud adoption journey to improve flexibility, scalability and resilience and reduce infrastructure complexity. The pandemic has not affected the cloud strategy of organizations; rather, given how firms scaled with increased trading, volatility and application usage, it provided validation for resilience and scalability offered by the cloud.

AI/ML Usage Will Grow

AI/ML in wealth management is gradually shifting from drawing boards to practical usage, but the use cases are still limited. Robo advisory continues to be the most notable use of AI/ML, and firms have rolled out these tools to attract younger investors.

Lately, firms have started using AI/ML in other areas such as improving lead conversion and unstructured data ingestion using OCR and character recognition. AI/ML has been used for algorithmic high-frequency trading, but its use in long-term financial planning is still limited. As the firms’ data ecosystems mature and their ability to consume alternate unstructured data increases, AI/ML’s usage will expand. In the future, AI/ML will be used for recommending next best action, chatbots, stock analytics and ranking (already underway), and generating alpha, thereby complementing wealth managers in client servicing and investment decision making.

Central Role Of Data

Leaders view data as central to the execution of initiatives for providing high-touch services for operational transformation or using AI/ ML for client servicing and investment decisions. Harnessing data, especially in the digital world, to offer insights and personalized services will remain a key priority for wealth managers. Dealing with data growth, ensuring data quality and integrity, harmonizing disparate data sources, and putting good data governance practices are essential to ensure data lakes do not turn to data swamps and generate actionable insights for decision-makers.

Impact Of FinTech And Fear Of Disruption From FAANGs

FinTechs have helped in expanding the technology choices for advisors and pushing the digital agenda forward. The desire to capture more customer wallet share and industry consolidation is resulting in overlapping services of various players.

Schwab and Vanguard have started offering automated planning and advisory solutions. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs entered the retail space with their acquisitions of E-Trade and United Capital, respectively. Empower Retirement will start offering financial planning services with its acquisition of Personal Capital.

In the future, expect tech titans such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google to foray into wealth management. The adoption of digital technologies and the harnessing of data will stand the incumbent firms in good stead against such competition, and new players will help the industry move forward.

To summarize, the wealth management industry adapted well to the Covid-19 disruption. Remote working will be a new normal but does present more challenges around information security. Digital transformation was already underway in wealth management, and the pandemic gave a big push to its implementation and adoption. The success of digital transformation requires orienting the organization toward a digital mindset. How wealth management firms shape the organizational culture for such transformation will determine the success or failure of these initiatives.

Article written by Nitin Seth, Forbes Councils Member

See the original article here

customer experience drives digital transformation office computers

How Customers Experience Drives Digital Transformation

By Information Technology

Post summary:

  • What is digital transformation?
  • Understanding the new, digital customer experience
  • 3 ways to get started with a digital transformation strategy

Digital transformation is forcing companies to change their business models and adapt to the new market reality.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s not the companies that are driving this change.

Instead, this change is being driven by the customer.

Today, customers expect relevant content in relation to what they’re doing anytime, anywhere and in the format and on the device of their choosing. It’s their journey that dictates your strategy.

And in order to keep up with this new kind of “always-connected” customer, your business must embrace technology to deliver an unmatched customer experience.

Fortunately, putting the customer first is already at the center of many organizations strategy.

According to research from IDC, two-thirds of the CEO’s of Global 2,000 companies will shift their focus from traditional, offline strategies to more modern digital strategies to improve the customer experience before the end of the year – with 34% of companies believing they’ll fully adopt digital transformation within 12 months or less

…which explains the increase in digital spending.

The net global spending on digital transformation in 2018 was approximately $1 trillion.

This number is expected to increase to more than $2 trillion by 2022.

(In fact, 79% of companies admit that COVID-19 increased the budget for digital transformation).

However, despite this forecast, we’re far from complete digital adoption.

In their State of Digital Business Report, Progress revealed that 47% of companies haven’t started their digital transformation yet – while 59% are worried that it might already be too late for them.

And there’s good reason to worry:

The same study found that 55% of businesses believe they have less than a year before they start to suffer financially and lose market share.

digital transformation laggards

That gives you less than 12 months to digitally transform for your organization before you start to lose business.

It’s not a lot of time, is it?

The good news is that we can help you get started.

First, we’ll explain what digital transformation is.

Then, we’ll introduce you to the new, digital consumer and how you can use technology and data to provide them with a better customer experience.

What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, resulting in fundamental changes in how a business operates and the value they deliver to their customers.

Put simply, it’s about changing the way a business interacts with its customers and how they provide their customers with a consistent experience whenever and wherever they need it.

In fact, when asked about factors that influence a business’ decision to implement a digital transformation strategy, nearly half of all organizations cited customer experience and customer satisfaction as their leading influences.

The companies that do transform digitally are creating highly engaged customers.

And these customers are:

  • Six times more likely to try a new product or service from their preferred brand
  • Four times more likely to have referred your brand to their friends, family and connections
  • Two times more likely to make a purchase with their preferred brand, even when a competitor has a better product or price

Furthermore, highly engaged customers buy 90% more frequently, spend 60% more per purchase, and have 3x the annual value (compared to the average customer).

That’s not all.

A study at MIT found that companies that have embraced digital transformation are 26% more profitable than their peers!

As the table below illustrates, there’s a huge revenue and growth opportunity you could be taking advantage of by digitally transforming your business!

digital transformation case studies

One thing’s clear:

It’s the customer who is in the driver’s seat.

And in order to deliver on better customer experience, you first need to understand who this new kind of digital customer is.

The New, Digitally Conscious Customer
Digital technology has transformed consumer habits.

Mobile devices, apps, machine learning, automation and much more allow customers to get what they want almost exactly at the moment they need it.

What’s more, these new digital technologies have caused a shift in customer expectations, resulting in a new kind of modern buyer. She’s constantly connected, app-native, and aware of what she can do with technology.

Because of the opportunities that rise from using modern technology, customers often rate organizations on their digital customer experience first.

Digital-first requires you to rethink how you interact with your customers.

  • For B2B sales teams, digital-first means replacing cold calling with social selling. Your customers are already active in social media and that’s where you need to be. Instead of waiting for the customer to contact you, you will need to reach out to them, build a relationship and help educate them. You can do this by sharing relevant content and your expertise as part of a solution to their problem.
  • For marketing teams, digital first means reducing your spend on offline marketing activities, such as direct mail, billboards and TV ads. Your customers want (and expect) highly targeted messages, which can only be achieved through a data-driven marketing strategy. Now, you need to use digital channels to implement search engine marketing, account-based marketing and email marketing strategies.
  • For customer service teams, you’re no longer restricted to waiting for the phone to ring or a fax to come through. Digital first is not just about being reactive. It’s about being proactive in the way you help your customers, who use a wide range of channels to seek out support. Social media, reviews sites, forums, and communities are all now part of the customer service eco-system.

To accommodate the new, modern-day buyer, your business needs to think digital-first, too.

Getting Started with Digital Transformation
Digital transformation offers organizations an opportunity to understand the modern-day buyer, engage with them and deliver on their expectations of multi-channel customer experience.

However, of the $1.3 trillion that was invested in digital transformation, more than $900 billion has been wasted.

So, why do some digital transformation efforts succeed while others fail?

To help you succeed, here are three ways to help your business to get started with digital transformation.

1. An agile, flexible IT environment
Having the right technology to power up digital strategies is fundamental in today’s business world. But, did you know that 45% of executives believe their companies lack all the necessary technology to conduct a digital transformation strategy?

Fortunately, organizations recognize the need for implementing agile systems and 86% of businesses believe that cloud technology is critical to digital transformation.

cloud adoption critical digital transformation

The cloud enables companies to be fast, dynamic and flexible – giving your organization the ability to test new projects that are cost-effective and low-risk – allowing you to use technology to meet customer demands quicker.

By easily connecting SaaS applications such as customer databases, Big Data analytics, web and mobile apps, you can digitally record all touch-points to create a 360-degree view of your customer. By using this data, you will learn how, when and why your customers do business with you and from it, you can provide a better, more improved customer experience.

This brings us to the next factor in digital transformation – personalization.

2. Personalized customer experiences
Today’s buyers want organizations to treat them as a unique individual, and know their personal preferences and purchase history.

According to Accenture, 75% of customers admit being more likely to buy from a company that:

  • Recognizes them by their name,
  • Knows their purchase history, and
  • Recommends products based on their past purchases.

The best part is that they’re happy for organizations to use their data..

customers happy to share personal data

The good news is that customers are happy for organizations to use their data to improve their experience.

But, in order to take advantage of this opportunity, you need to invest in CRM.

Without CRM, you cannot treat your customers as individuals. And without storing the history of how your business interacts with them, it’s impossible to provide a unique experience.

With a CRM system, you can analyze and study customer-related data based on a customers’ previous interactions with your company. For example, you can get a good understanding of your customers by evaluating general requests, product quotes and support enquiries. This data can then be used to create highly targeted messages to match customers’ individual preferences, which results in a more personalized experience.

Delivering the right message to the right person at the right time brings us to our third and final success factor for digital transformation – a seamless multi-channel experience.

3. A seamless multi-channel experience
Technology has empowered customers to get what they want, whenever they want, and how they want it.

More than half of all consumers now expect a customer service response within one hour. They also expect the same response times on weekends as on weekdays. This need for instant gratification has forced organizations to remain accessible and on-demand, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

Everything is now happening in real-time, which is why those companies that can offer immediacy, personalization and accessibility to their customers will win out in the long-run.

Today’s consumers are not tied to a single channel. They browse in-store, shop online, share feedback through mobile apps and ask questions for your support team on social media networks.

Tying all of these interactions together allows you to create a single digital profile every time a customer interacts with your business.

Conclusion
In today’s fast-moving, always connected and always-on society, companies are forced to seriously consider implementing a digital transformation strategy, if they haven’t already.

Digital transformation offers organizations an opportunity to engage modern buyers, and deliver on their expectations of a seamless customer experience regardless of channel or place.

That being said, digitally transforming your business can be quite a complex project.

So, here’s how to get started:

  1. Instead of purchasing on-site solutions, think cloud solutions first. Cloud solutions enable you to be agile and meet customer demands quickly. In addition, you’re automatically updated to the latest features, so you are never behind.
  2. Personalized experiences are what your customers have come to expect. Use the data in your CRM software to evaluate previous correspondence, purchase history and their behaviour to give them just that.
  3. Customers want seamless experiences regardless of channel. Consider how you tie all the digital channels you have in your company together in order to provide a single, user-friendly customer experience.

By focusing on these three factors, you will help your organization embrace the new digital landscape, exceed customer expectations and improve the overall customer experience.

Have you started digital transformation journey yet?

See the original article here.

it company it consultant

What Do IT Consulting Companies Really Do?

By Information Technology

Many decision-makers at companies find themselves questioning the value of IT consulting companies.

For a lot of them, it really comes down to a lack of knowledge of what consultants do.

It doesn’t help that there are so many kinds of consultants, all with varying levels of expertise and value.

Use this guide to learn the basics of IT consulting and how to determine if your business can benefit from it.

What Are IT Consulting Companies?
An IT consulting company works with clients to help them solve IT problems. The field includes everything from basic network analytics assistance all the way up to managed IT solutions.

Most consulting firms will specialize in a fairly narrow field of IT. These can include:

  • Cloud services
  • Disaster management
  • Network operations
  • Cybersecurity and compliance
  • Managed IT solutions

Consultants from these companies will review your business needs and current operations. They then make recommendations and suggest new equipment and software.

What Do IT Consultants Do?
At their core, IT consultants are experts in a particular field. They are able to take a high-level view of an organization’s problems and make recommendations.

Many consultants are brought in specifically for advice. They study the flow of a business and identify areas that can be improved. In IT, this takes the form of recommending types of software and systems to use.

Many software companies will offer consulting services as part of a software sale. This allows a company to customize newly purchased software for their needs.

There are also IT consultants who specialize in the day to day maintenance of a company’s systems. You can hire them to provide managed IT services and completely replace your in-house IT department with outside contractors.

Benefits of Using an IT Consulting Company
There are several major benefits to hiring IT consultants. These include the specialized knowledge they bring to bear on a problem and cost savings over employees.

IT consultants usually have a deep but narrow knowledgebase. They’re experts in their field and have experience implementing and working with the software within it. Chances are that a good consultant will have dealt with a situation very similar to your company’s with another client.

This gives them real-world experience and firsthand knowledge they can apply to your needs.

Many companies baulk at the high hourly rate consulting companies can charge. This overlooks the significant savings you’ll see from not hiring full-time employees. Consultants are available when you need them, and don’t cost you anything when you don’t.

Their outsider status also provides a major benefit. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when dealing with a major issue. Providing a new set of eyes is a great way to reinvigorate a project.

IT for the Future
The IT field is changing on a daily basis. IT consulting companies provide organizations with a great way to keep abreast of major changes. They also make it easy to upgrade your systems in the most effective ways possible

IT consulting companies IT consultants desk sticky notes

What Do IT Consulting Companies Really Do?

By Information Technology

Many decision-makers at companies find themselves questioning the value of IT consulting companies.

For a lot of them, it really comes down to a lack of knowledge of what consultants do.

It doesn’t help that there are so many kinds of consultants, all with varying levels of expertise and value.

Use this guide to learn the basics of IT consulting and how to determine if your business can benefit from it.

What Are IT Consulting Companies?

An IT consulting company works with clients to help them solve IT problems. The field includes everything from basic network analytics assistance all the way up to managed IT solutions.

Most consulting firms will specialize in a fairly narrow field of IT. These can include:

  • Cloud services
  • Disaster management
  • Network operations
  • Cybersecurity and compliance
  • Managed IT solutions

Consultants from these companies will review your business needs and current operations. They then make recommendations and suggest new equipment and software.

What Do IT Consultants Do?

At their core, IT consultants are experts in a particular field. They are able to take a high-level view of an organization’s problems and make recommendations.

Many consultants are brought in specifically for advice. They study the flow of a business and identify areas that can be improved. In IT, this takes the form of recommending types of software and systems to use.

Many software companies will offer consulting services as part of a software sale. This allows a company to customize newly purchased software for their needs.

There are also IT consultants who specialize in the day to day maintenance of a company’s systems. You can hire them to provide managed IT services and completely replace your in-house IT department with outside contractors.

Benefits of Using an IT Consulting Company

There are several major benefits to hiring IT consultants. These include the specialized knowledge they bring to bear on a problem and cost savings over employees.

IT consultants usually have a deep but narrow knowledgebase. They’re experts in their field and have experience implementing and working with the software within it. Chances are that a good consultant will have dealt with a situation very similar to your company’s with another client.

This gives them real-world experience and firsthand knowledge they can apply to your needs.

Many companies balk at the high hourly rate consulting companies can charge. This overlooks the significant savings you’ll see from not hiring full-time employees. Consultants are available when you need them, and don’t cost you anything when you don’t.

Their outsider status also provides a major benefit. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when dealing with a major issue. Providing a new set of eyes is a great way to reinvigorate a project.

IT for the Future

The IT field is changing on a daily basis. IT consulting companies provide organizations with a great way to keep abreast of major changes. They also make it easy to upgrade your systems in the most effective ways possible.

See the original article here.

benefits of IT consulting services it consultant

Benefits of IT Consulting Services

By Information Technology

As a business owner, there are many different decisions that you must make with regard to managing the company. One of the most important has to do with maximizing current technologies in order to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive landscape. Business owners have an eye to do this as cost-effectively as possible, and in many situations are doing so with a team that has very little direct information technology experience. IT Consulting offers a solution to this problem.

Benefits of IT Consulting Services

It is often too expensive for a small business to maintain a dedicated full-time IT department, or even an IT person in-house. This is also often inefficient and time-consuming. One of the premier responses to this is to use an IT consulting team. This allows a small business owner to tap into the expertise and experience of an outside professional. There are several different reasons why it makes sense to maintain an IT consulting team.

Tap into Economies of Scale as Well as Purchasing Power

Technology service providers achieve greater economies of scale and efficiencies because they have a primary focus on IT. This means that with deep access to broad knowledge bases, they can also consolidate purchasing power, and therefore, deliver cheaper, better and faster technology solutions and services. This means cutting through all of the common questions where individuals get tripped up in their IT services and working to arrive at a solution that is most in line with a small business in mind. This translates to real cost savings in terms of money and time.

All businesses can benefit from leveraging someone else’s talent in a very specific manner, and IT consulting is just one example. This leaves employees to be able to work on their other tasks without the interruptions of IT problems and ensures that the company has an IT strategy aligned with their individual needs.

Focusing More on Core Business Functions

Individuals are typically happiest and most productive when they focus on what they do best. Getting frustrated with outside tasks can be overwhelming and can lead to disengagement. The time spent trying to figure out information technology as a business owner comes with a serious opportunity cost that could even decrease the revenue of the company. Implementing new technology, fixing IT-related crises and researching solutions is very inefficient for a non-IT professional. Engaging the services of an IT consultant allows internal staff to focus their time on the revenue-generating activities for which they are better skilled.

When each person on the team is working on projects and tasks aligned with their personal preferences and zone of genius, productivity increases for the entire company. This is just one of the reasons why it makes more sense to take a look at an organizational chart and to give everyone assignments based on their zone of genius. Someone who gets roped into IT, for example, may not feel entirely comfortable with this role and may resent being asked to step in for a position they did not really want in the first place. It can also put that employee in the line of fire should there be consistent IT-related problems.

Control Operating Expenses and Minimize Cost

One of the primary interests of a small business owner today is to generate predictable IT costs. The value associated with the technology service provider goes well beyond reducing costs and can even lead to significant savings. In the majority of cases, leveraging an IT consultant will cost as much as 50% less than paying the annual salary of one mid-level IT professional.

Cost savings can also be realized as a result of not having to deal with vacation, training, recruiting, sick days and management issues that are all removed from the equation when you leverage an IT consultant. Costs are planned, controlled and budgeted using an outside IT consultant.

One of the biggest problems for any business owner is not being able to plan ahead from an expense perspective. Particularly with IT, which carries solutions across the board that can be extremely expensive, just a handful of IT problems within a given year can put unnecessary pressure on the entire business.

A business owner gets additional peace of mind from knowing that expenses are being controlled and managed as much as possible through the help of an IT consultant. The consultant has a deep understanding of all the key issues in the IT landscape, as well as within the business and can, therefore, suggest solutions in line with exactly what the company is looking for. This has ripple effects that help with controlling expenses and giving the business owner an idea of what he/she can expect with regard to IT consulting.

Minimize Downtime

Even just a couple of minutes of downtime from a company’s websites or internal server has tremendous business costs. It is a primary goal for the majority of small business owners today to maximize their uptime. Small businesses cannot afford issues associated with corrupt data, internet connectivity, email communications or systems failure. The cost of even attempting to react to such events is extremely high. An IT consultant can offer a measured and planned approach towards maintenance, backup, disaster recovery, and systems maintenance. When this is combined with remote systems monitoring, this can eliminate expensive and frustrating downtime.

Improve Productivity

An IT consultant can also assist with enhancing productivity by enabling collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing that allows individual employees to innovate in the day to day aspects of their job. Such capabilities are delivered through multiple technologies including central databases, file servers, mobile platforms, email communications and broadband connectivity. Businesses can benefit from true productivity when this technology is properly maintained, implemented and planned. Best practices around maintaining, implementing and planning allow service providers and technology to obtain maximum productivity enhancements.

Tap into Highly Specialized Talent

The rapid change associated with the information technology world and its complicated nature can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming for a business owner to attempt to understand. Tapping directly into an IT consultant allows a small business owner to tap into specialized expertise that would otherwise be too frustrating or expensive to develop in-house. Small businesses cannot achieve the human flexibility and scale necessary to support technology environments. Even a dedicated IT employee will have limits to their individual skills.

An IT consultant comes with an extensive background, most likely working in the field, as well as having the necessary training and education to assist with all aspects of your IT needs within your business. This means that without having to pay the salary and benefits to keep this person within your office at all times, you get the peace of mind in knowing that you have leveraged such talent in an affordable and meaningful way. Working with someone outside of the office allows for a consultant who can step in and provide valuable information without additional expenses. Furthermore, the longer a company is with an IT consultant, the better that consultant will understand the company’s challenges, laying the groundwork for an effective relationship together.

Retain and Attract Employees

Most companies do not want to have to hire IT services in-house. For one, there may not be enough of a consistent need to leverage a person in this situation. This can put unnecessary financial pressure on the company and lead to an employee who feels as though he or she is not really needed, thus pushing productivity downward. Without a clear understanding of all that is offered by an in-house IT professional, the company may also struggle to supervise such a role. With all of the costs involved in having a full-time employee at the office, it often does not make sense for a company to have a full-time employee available. It can actually be a big mistake to hire an IT person to work within the company when there is no room or opportunity for this person. This is one of the leading reasons why a company will start to think about how to accomplish their IT goals without a full-time staff member.

However, it is not just IT employees who need working computers and systems. When an IT consultant is used, the company gets the benefit of another person’s expertise on these complicated issues, without having to pay salary and benefits to a whole other employee. Furthermore, the employer benefits from having numerous support systems in place to help with current employees.

Employees want to work in an environment where computers are up and running. A constant downtime associated with IT problems can be extremely frustrating and can drive people to leave their jobs or to be less productive in general. Employees expect to be up and running with timely technology solutions that help them exceed expectations rather than just meet them. Those entering the workforce today will analyze a company’s technological prowess before agreeing to work in a job. It is important to maintain this not only for smooth business operations but to draw in the top of the line talent in terms of employees. Contact Network Depot today to schedule a consultation.

See the original article here.

5 reasons your busienss needs an it consultant it consultant meeting

5 Reasons Your Business Needs an IT Consultant

By Information Technology

Most businesses utilize internal talents to install and run new technology. The strategy may work at first since most professionals have basic IT training. However, some situations require that a business hires professional IT consultants to handle its technology. Below are the top reasons why a business may require the services of an IT consultant.

1. Saving Costs

Hiring a permanent IT expert is expensive, especially for a startup. IT consultants in Nottingham such as the Custard Group charge for their services based on the amount of work done for a company. A business may not require advanced IT services every month. For instance, a company may only require an expert to install a new system and train the users on how to use it. After the installation, the company can run the system and consult the expert when issues arise.

2. Enhancing Data Security

One of the greatest concerns when adopting new business technology is data security. IT experts can advise a business on the safest technologies to use. The experts can also help businesses identify loopholes in their current systems that may lead to a security breach. Hiring an IT consultant is the right move whenever a business experiences or suspects a data security breach. Internal IT professionals may be too busy managing daily operations to monitor data operations keenly.

3. Professional IT Services

The main advantage of hiring an IT consultant is that a business gets professional services and advice. Business technology is dynamic and IT experts can help a business integrate the latest technologies into its operations. In addition, experts can predict future trends in business technologies and help businesses adjust their operations in line with those trends. Certified IT consultants can analyse the current and future technology needs and help a business to meet those needs.

4. Improving Customer Service and Productivity

Business owners are always looking for new ways to improve customer satisfaction. Technology can help achieve this goal when implemented in the right way. Current technologies enable businesses to communicate with their customers easily and efficiently. The technologies also help employees to improve their productivity and efficiency. IT consultants can advise businesses on the best technologies to adapt to improve their efficiency. The most appropriate technology depends on the nature of business and number of users.

5. Solving a Crisis

Some technical issues or crisis may be too overwhelming for an internal IT department to solve. Sometimes, hackers breach the systems in a way that internal experts cannot reverse or contain the damage. Natural disasters such as floods or fires may affect technology in a way that only experts can resolve. In such cases, a business cannot avoid hiring experts to restore normalcy and prevent a similar crisis in the future.

Conclusion

IT consulting offers multiple benefits to both small and large organizations. Businesses benefit from their wealth of expertise and experience in handling technical tasks. Unfortunately, many business owners wait until they experience a crisis to hire experts. Such an approach may lead to irreversible damage, especially in the case of a security breach. The best approach is to hire consultants regularly to ensure that a business has the best systems in place.

investing in private equity investment

FAQs on investing in private equity and venture capital

By Information Technology

1. What is the difference between private equity and venture capital?
Both private equity (PE) firms and venture capital (VC) firms aim to raise money from investors, with the intention of investing in private companies, increasing the value of these companies and in due course, selling their interest in these companies at a profit. The sale could be to another private firm, or by listing on a stock exchange. However, VC firms invest in early-stage companies, while PE firms generally invest in more mature companies. The VC or PE firm that raises the money, chooses new investments and manages the turnaround of these investments is called the general partner (GP). Investors who commit capital to the GPs are called limited partners (LPs).

2. Who are the typical investors?
In South Africa, LPs generally consist of development finance institutions (DFIs), insurance companies, pension funds, banks, investment holding companies, government agencies and wealthy individuals. The high minimums and sophistication required to manage committed capital have traditionally kept ordinary investors away from investing in PE.In recent years however, governments have become keen promotors of both PE and VC investing, as there are important social returns to be gained from investing in small- and medium-sized businesses. SMEs have been found to play a vital role in job creation, particularly for employees with low skills. In a South African context, the PE investment structure lends itself to creating opportunities for black management and BEE beneficiaries.

As a result of these developments, maximum thresholds for pension funds have been increased. From 2011, South African pension funds have been allowed to invest up to 15% into ‘alternative investments’ – a group that includes private equity funds, hedge funds and other derivative or pooled vehicles. In addition, tax breaks have been introduced for small companies and those who invest in them.

3. Why do investors invest in PE/VC funds?
Possible outperformance: The chief investment premise of investing in a PE or VC firm is to catch the upward growth of a promising business and/or the ‘value-add’ of a talented PE firm. The ‘2018 SAVCA Private Equity Industry Survey’, released in February 2019 by industry body the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, reported that the private equity industry delivered a ten-year internal rate of return (IRR) of 11.6% compared with the 10.7% from the JSE All Share Total Return Index over the same period.According to CEO of SAVCA, Tanya van Lill, over the past two years the average PE IRR has fluctuated between 16% and 11%. Globally, the top PE firms traditionally offer returns higher than 20%.

She commented that PE is cyclical in nature and it takes a few months from the initial investment for the PE firm to unlock the value through bringing expertise such as people, processes, new products or services, access to markets and other relevant innovation.

Internationally, some PE/ VC returns, relative to public investments, have been more compelling. The ‘Asia-Pacific Private Equity Report 2019’, published by management consultancy firm Bain and Co, reported that the pooled IRR for Asia-Pacific-focused funds with a five-year investment horizon was 14%, compared with 8% for Asia-Pacific public markets. The IRR for a ten-year investment horizon was 11% versus 6% for public markets.

The liquidity premium: The PE industry is particularly attractive to investors who have a long-term horizon. By sacrificing liquidity, an investor gives a PE manager time to make meaningful changes or for a new idea to gain traction, which has a greater chance of yielding greater returns over time. On the other hand, investors can be locked into loss-making investments. There is an old joke that a PE relationship is generally longer than the average marriage in the United States, which is eight years.

Uncorrelated returns: PE returns tend to be uncorrelated to listed equity returns. This makes them popular with institutional investors looking for diversification, reduced portfolio risk and lower portfolio volatility. Both PE and public equities are exposed to the same broad macro-economic conditions but PE/VC valuation is not affected by the same investor sentiment and stock price volatility – which is a normal feature of publicly-traded markets. The investment horizon of PE investment is well suited to the long-term horizon of a pension fund.

Alignment: In private equity funds, the tradition of a general partner commitment ensures that there is full alignment between the interests of the PE or VC firm, the management team and the LPs. Everyone has skin in the game.

4. What are the disadvantages of investing in private equity?
Investing in PE and VC funds can be risky.Investors essentially agree to invest large sums of money, for long periods, for no guaranteed outcomes, with no regulatory protection other than the law of contract.

While clearly target firms are identified due to their potential, relative to listed companies, they are higher on the risk curve, either because they are either small with untested ideas or because they offer turnaround potential. Turnarounds can sometimes be longer and more difficult than planned.

Returns in PE investments are notoriously uneven; there is a significant return disparity between top-performing private equity firms versus industry laggards. Manager selection is a key determinant of success in PE investing, and unlike most investing, past performance and a strong track record is a stronger indicator of future performance, a proud hallmark of PE.

Like many other investments, timing of the entry and exit points is crucial to investment success. Big winners and losers tend to emerge during periods of turbulence and volatility. While most PE investments have a pre-planned exit arrangement, these plans can go awry. In difficult economic environments, PE firms tend to defer planned listings until investor appetite is deemed ready, further locking in LP money.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article should not be construed as solicitation, advertising or sale in any shape or form. Nor is it advice of any description. It is an information-only article of general interest that aims to describe the risks of investing in PE and VC opportunities.

Original article found here.

it consulting technology consultant demonstration

Why IT Consulting Is Important

By Information Technology

IT consulting can play a vital role in your business

By definition, IT consulting involves the management, implementation, deployment and administration of the IT Environment. Taking on an advisory role, IT consulting assists organisations with optimising their IT environment and assist in achieving business goals and objectives.

IT consulting can be an internal operation, however, by outsourcing the service there is the added benefit of the objective insights of the service provider.

By understanding what IT consulting is and how it fits into the business, you may be asking yourself how important IT consulting really is within your IT environment.

The Importance of IT Consulting
The answer to how important IT consulting really is, is a simple one, especially when considering the integrated way in which IT assists in achieving business objectives and a well-run IT environment is often essential to the running of a business.

Downtime as a result of “technical issues” where your IT team is left to face unexpected issues which may take hours or even days to resolve has the potential to impact the productivity of staff and their abilities to meet business objectives greatly.

If carried out correctly, IT consulting plays a pivotal role in ensuring that this isn’t the case. Not only avoiding issues that are already apparent within the IT environment but assisting in the development of strategies to avoid future challenges.

The Role of Triple4
IT Consulting is in our DNA, and we take a specialised approach to our client’s IT. By developing bespoke strategies, tailored to the pain points the client is experiencing within their IT environment we are able to not only offer analysis on all system architecture and infrastructure but assist with insight into the environment as a complete entity.

Through our hands-on, bespoke and tailored insight into your IT environment, we are also able to provide expert strategic business analysis, even developing recovery strategies for your information and ensuring all elements of your IT environment are working cohesively towards the common goal of meeting the business objectives.

In doing this we acknowledge the understanding that people are only as effective as the processes they follow, and likewise, processes are only as effective as their purpose. Our consultative approach to the IT environment ensures that neither is without purpose or direction.

–  by Business Essentials

customer engagement client showing customer document

Is Customer Engagement the new CCM professional’s challenge?

By Information Technology

Customer Communication Management (CCM) has long been about sending wads of documents to customers (i.e. also called output management). These documents are statements, invoices, contracts, direct mailings, etc. New technologies like mobile services, social networks, big data or cloud services have changed today’s customer expectations. People, I mean existing customers as opposed to prospects, are now looking to engage in real-time with enterprise and brands. They want a continuous dialogue, access to personalised advice, peer reviews and immediate answers from experts. CCM is therefore no longer about complying with regulations or “telling” customers but actively engaging with them, in an open and bold way instead.

The CCM Maturity Model proposed by Quadient outlines how enterprises manage to move from “Print” to “Customer Engagement” in 4 key stages. This journey is as follows:

  • Print to e-delivery
  • CCM platforms consolidation
  • Online presentment
  • Customer engagement
Revealing Discussion with 7 Customer Experience Pioneers GMC Software

In most enterprises, the first 2 stages are often managed by IT departments as they are in control of core systems and data storage. They design documents while managing and operating output management solutions. Marketing or line of business departments, such as claims or retail banking departments, send hundreds of document change requests to IT.

They may ask to update a line in a paragraph if a regulation has changed, a signature if a supervisor has been newly appointed or a logo if branding requires. This process tends to be time-consuming as IT needs to prioritise these requests while maintaining legacy systems at the same time.

IT is, therefore, looking for solutions that are easy to use in order to increase productivity. They are consolidating systems to centralise and to share work to reduce CCM management costs. There are four lines of improvements to reduce costs: Data extraction, data transformation, digital assets management and layouts.

Marketing or line of business departments drive work in the last 2 stages as they see a surge in customer demand. Online presentment & customer engagement drive traffic to digital assets like websites, mobile websites or mobile applications.

Customers have instant access to personal details through using online services. They can perform actions such as payments, money transfers, order new products, subscribe to services, etc. These capabilities define a new kind of customer experience that differentiates enterprises from traditional competition and “neo-competition” like Fintechs or Insurtechs.

One of the reasons marketing or line of business departments are driving these stages is that they want to drive new revenue through delivering and optimising customer experience.

Print to e-delivery
This is the first stage when tier 1 enterprises want to cut customer communication costs as they spend millions of dollars annually to send documents to their customers. A recent discussion with several large print service providers in North America suggested this cost be between $600 to $800 dollars per 1000 posted mail pieces. It would, therefore, cost between $72M to $96M annually to an enterprise posting one monthly statement to its 10 million customers. Migrating from Print to e-delivery reducing this expense by a huge amount. Learn more about how Quadient helped BMO (Bank of Montreal) to cut costs.

Is it, therefore, a no-brainer to switch from print to e-delivery?

If figures suggest massive financial gains to make that switch, it remains important to manage change and to equally explain the benefits it will bring. As an example, I met with a large insurance firm in the UK that took more than 18 months to send life insurance contracts as PDF attachments in emails. They explained that it took time to reach internal consensus as some people argued that the life insurance product was the actual physical document itself. They said that not sending this document would diminish the value of the service, affect brand recognition and damage sales in the medium to long term. Then, once agreement to move from sending a printed version to e-delivery was reached, it took months to implement the solution as IT was busy with other important requests that led to impact 3 legacy systems.

Another Quadient client explained that they only achieved to migrate 50% of their customers based on posted physical mail to PDF delivery. They explained that the remaining 50% had either refused to receive PDFs or did not provide the bank with a digital address (i.e. email address or a website personal account).

CCM platforms consolidation
As enterprises develop and/or acquire other companies, they often have several CCM platforms to manage. Operating and maintaining several CCM platforms come at a high price for several reasons:

  • Support of different technologies
  • Maintain people skills to support different platforms
  • Pay maintenance for each solution
  • Maintain different customer communication portfolio repositories with consistency risks
  • Inconsistent customer experience on different channels

In this context, Enterprises are often struggling to maintain consistent and up-to-date customer communications. They explain the difficulties to keep up with several vendors upgrading their software version every 20 to 36 months on average (i.e. average vendor new solution General Availability -GA- lag in the CCM industry).

Each new release requires migration work and testing. It generally freezes change requests for months while IT departments are upgrading to the latest software version.

A CCM expert in Australia once reported that each communication (i.e. document composition) template’s true cost was between $5000 (USD) and $7000 (USD). He also explained that sharing resources, access to data, and operating work from one single CCM platform instead of several could save up to 40% in operational expenses.

A tier 1 enterprise implementing a CCM project would typically have to manage 250 to 500 templates or more. Having to migrate these templates is expensive and rationalising CCM vendors provides a quick return on investment.

At Quadient, we target to deliver positive ROI after only a few months. To achieve this objective, enterprises would migrate their entire customer communication portfolio under Quadient Inspire covering all their use cases with one solution only. Quadient provides easy migration paths for supporting other CCM solutions migrating or upgrading Quadient software version.

In most countries, enterprises run CCM RFPs to rationalise CCM costs. They often consider two aspects:

  • CCM platforms consolidation
  • Digital content enablement or in other terms “Online presentment” and “Customer Engagement”.

Online presentment
Online presentment is the next logical phase in the CCM maturity model. Enterprises are looking for developing personalised content directly accessible from websites or in mobile applications. In the same way, customers were receiving personalised documents by post, they are now accessing personal information from these digital channels.

Websites and mobile applications propose all sorts of personalised screens accessible to customers once they have logged into their personal account. These screens show prefilled forms, account statements, invoices, terms and conditions, policies, etc. To the exception of a few screens such as account balance checks or some forms, personalised content is not delivered in an optimised way. For instance, a website would link to PDF documents that are hardly readable on smartphones.

One of the common reasons for not being able to deliver the full scope of personalised content on websites and in mobile applications is the cost of developing and maintaining personalised content on digital channels. This content is often developed manually by web or mobile application developers. 90% of customer custom-made mobile applications are developed using iOS and Android SDK solutions, according to Gartner. It is, therefore, an expensive process. Quadient considers the cost of personalised content management in websites and mobile applications represents up to 70% of the overall cost of running these channels. Quadient brings solutions to ease personalised content management across all communication channels including digital channels. A recent Quadient internal study demonstrated that tier 1 enterprises spend between 5 to 10 Million USD annually on internal staff or on external resources to manage personalised content across all communication channels including digital channels.

Customer engagement
Customer engagement is the ultimate phase in customer communication management. This phase targets existing customers as opposed to prospects. Better customer engagement drives new revenue through upselling and cross-selling products and services. New revenue generation motivates marketing and line of business departments to take ownership of this space. They are looking for optimising customer experience across the entire customer journey. They want to implement consistent and easy interactions across all channels.

A few commonly agreed industry figures outline the challenge: Whereas about 80% of customers will discover new products and services from a website, 70% of them will use their mobile phone during the engagement process and more than 60% will complete it after meeting or talking to a sale representative. This illustrates the importance of providing personalised, up-to-date and cross-channel content to customers. It also shows that each touch point is as much a business opportunity as a risk if not delivering the correct message.

There are new ways to engage with customers as technology enables new capabilities while lesser and lesser people are going to bricks-and-mortar branches and shops to interact with enterprises.

A new trend shows that enterprises are developing solutions to mobilise their field agents. Using mobile devices such as tablets working online and offline, they are mobilising their workforce while reducing operational costs associated with a large number of branches to manage. Mobilising workforce implies digitising business processes and developing mobile solutions. However, IT departments have large amounts of business requests to manage and they often have to manage mobile applications skills shortage. A few figures illustrate the issue:

  • According to an Outsystems 2017 Research Report (IT is Overwhelmed), 37% of enterprises face mobile application development skills shortage
  • Forrester states that the true two-year cost of building and maintaining a mobile application is 3 times the initial cost of building the application
  • A VDC Research survey highlights how 80% of cross-selling take over 3 months to develop while 40% over 6 months

Quadient provides solutions for redefining the customer experience through omnichannel communication. It includes designing print documents, emailing PDF, consolidating CCM platforms plus enabling true digital customer communications in mobile applications and websites. It also includes building mobile applications from scratch to mobilise the workforce.

With artificial intelligence (AI) and bots coming up, on customer engagement is still at its infancy stage. In a bit more than one decade we will likely be talking to machines instead of human beings without even noticing it – but that is another topic that I already touch upon in my Banking Legacy Systems Interrupted – the Disruption of AI, Blockchain plus Robotics blog post.