Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital…

Our cover story this month focuses on the work of Arianne Gallagher-Welcher. As the Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service, in the Office of the OCIO, her team’s mission is to drive a tech transformation at the USDA. The goal is to better serve the American people across all of its 50 states.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Welcome to a new year of possibility where technology meets business at the interface of change…

Read the latest issue here!

USDA: The People’s Agency

“We knew that in order for us to deliver what we needed for our stakeholders, we needed to be flexible – and that has trickled down from our senior leaders.” Arianne Gallagher-Welcher, Executive Director for the USDA Digital Service reveals the strategic plan’s first goal. Above all, the aim is to deliver customer-centric IT so farmers, producers, and families can find dealing with USDA as easy as using an ATM.

BCX: Delivering insights & intelligence across the Data & AI value chain

We also sat down with Stefan Steffen, Executive Leader for Data Insights & Intelligence at BCX. He revealed how BCX is leveraging AI to strategically transform businesses and drive their growth. “Our commitment to leveraging data and AI to drive innovation harnesses the power of technology to unlock new opportunities, drive efficiency, and enhance competitiveness for our clients.”

Momentum Multiply: A culture-driven digital transformation for wellness

Multiply Inspire & Engage is a new offering from leading South African insurance provider Momentum Health Solutions. Furthermore, it is the first digital wellness rewards program in South Africa to balance mental health and physical health in pursuing holistic wellness. CIO, Ndibulele Mqoboli, discusses re-platforming, cloud migrations, and building a culture of ownership, responsibility, and continuous improvement.

Clark County: Creating collaboration for the benefit of residents

Navigating the world of local government can be a minefield of red tape, both for citizens and those working within it. Al Pitts, Deputy CIO of Clark County, talks to us about the organisation’s IT transformation. He explains why collaboration is key to support residents. “We have found our new Clark County – ‘Together for Better’ – is a great way to collaborate on new solutions.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Alibaba’s European GM Jijay Shen on why digitalisation can be a driving force for SMEs. We learn how businesses can get cybersecurity right with KnowBe4 and analyse the rise of ‘The Mobility Society’.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • People & Culture

Cybersecurity leader Shinesa Cambric on Microsoft’s innovation journey to identify, detect, protect, and respond to emerging threats against identity and access

This month’s cover story highlights a cybersecurity program protecting billions of users.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders at the forefront of innovation with digital technologies transforming myriad industries.

Read the latest issue here!

Microsoft: Innovation in Cybersecurity

Shinesa Cambric is on a mission to drive innovation for cybersecurity at Microsoft. Moreover, by embracing diversity and opening all channels towards collaboration her team tackles anti-abuse and delivers fraud-defence. Continuous Improvement doesn’t just play into her role, it defines it…

“In the fraud and abuse space, attackers are constantly trying to identify ways to look like a legitimate user,” warns Shinesa. “And this means my team, and our partners, have to continuously adapt. We identify new patterns and behaviours to detect fraudsters. At the same time, we must do it in such a way we don’t impact our truly ‘good’ and legitimate users. Microsoft is a global consumer business and any time you add friction or an unpleasant experience for a consumer, you risk losing them, their business and potentially their trust. My team’s work sits on the very edge of the account sign up and sign in process. We are essentially the first touch within the customer funnel for Microsoft – a multi-billion dollar company.”

ABB: Digital Technolgies contributing towards Net Zero

Nigel Greatorex, Global Industry Manager for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at ABB Energy Industries, explains how digital technologies can play a critical role in the transition to a low carbon world. He highlights the role of CCS in enabling global emissions reductions and how challenges can be overcome through digitalisation…

“It is widely recognised decarbonisation is essential to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Therefore, it’s not surprising that emerging decarbonisation technology is becoming an increasingly important, and rapidly growing market.”

CSI: How can your IT estate improve its sustainability?

Andy Dunn, Chief Revenue Officer at IT solutions specialist CSI, reveals how digital technologies can contribute to ESG obligations: “Sustainability is a now seen as a strategic business imperative, so much so that 74% of companies consider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors to be very important to the value of their company. Additionally, we know almost three in four organisations have set a net zero goal. With an average target date of 2044, 50% of organisations are seeking more energy efficient products and services.”


“Optimising energy use and consolidating servers and storage infrastructure form a strong basis for shaping a more environmentally friendly and efficient IT estate. It no longer needs to be the Achilles Heel of an ESG policy. “

Mia Platform: Sustainable Cloud Computing

Davide Bianchi, Senior Technical Lead at Mia Platform, explores the silver lining of sustainable cloud computing. He reveals how it can help us reduce our digital carbon thumbprint with collaboration, efficient use of applications, containerisation of apps, microservices and green partnerships.

“We’re already on an important technological path toward ubiquitous cloud computing. Correspondingly, this brings incredible long-term benefits too. These include greater scalability, improved data storage, and quicker application deployment, to name a few.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Doug Laney, Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and author of Infonomics and Data Juice. Also, we learn how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their data. And, Deputy CIO Melvin Brown discusses the people-centric approach to IT supporting America’s civil service at The Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • Infrastructure & Cloud

Doug Laney is Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and a leading Data & Analytics strategist. We caught up with the author of Infonomics and Data Juice to talk tech and how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their data

Our cover story explores the rise of data and information as an asset.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface showcases leaders aiming to take advantage of data, particularly in a new world of AI technologies where it is the fuel…

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How to monetise, manage and measure data as an asset

Our cover star is pretty big in the world of analytics… We meet the guy who defined Big Data. Doug Laney is Innovation Fellow at West Monroe and a leading Data & Analytics strategist. We caught up with the author of Infonomics and Data Juice to talk tech and learn how companies can measure, manage and monetise to realise the potential of their information. In his first book Laney advised companies to stop being fixated on hindsight-oriented analytics. “It doesn’t actually move the needle on the business. In the stories I’ve compiled over the last decade, 98% have more to do with organisations using data to diagnose, predict, prescribe or automate something. It’s not about asking questions about what happened in the past.”

Canvas Worldwide: A data-driven media business

Continuing this month’s data theme, we also spoke with Alisa Ben, SVP, Head of Analytics at full-service media agency Canvas Worldwide. Data has transformed the organisation, and what its clients do. “We look holistically at the client’s business and sometimes the tools we have might be right for them, sometimes not. It’s more about helping our clients achieve their business outcomes.”

TUI Musement: from digital transformation to digital pioneer

At travel giant TUI, handling data effectively is paramount when communicating consistently and meaningfully with up to 25 million customers annually. David Garcia, CIO for TUI Musement, talks about the tech evolution driving the travel giant’s provision of experiences, transfers and tours. It’s a big part of its operational shift from local to global. “As a CIO, I’ve always been interested in how the tech innovations we drive can support the business and add value.”

Hiscox: making cybersecurity more accessible

Liz Banbury, CISO at Hiscox and president of (ISC)² London Chapter, talks to us about how cybersecurity can become a more accessible, realistic career path for almost anybody. “When I was at school, topics like computer science didn’t even exist,” Banbury explains. “In one of my first jobs, over in Hong Kong, we were still using a typewriter! A lot has changed. My key point here is that there’s a lot of cybersecurity professionals who are really good at their job. They are inspiring, and have come from all walks of life. Crucially, they don’t have a maths, computer science, or technological background at all. But they still make great cybersecurity professionals.

Portland Community College: Risk vs Speed in Cybersecurity

Reet Kaur, former Chief Information Security Officer at Portland Community College, discusses the organisation’s transition to the cloud amid a digital transformation journey. I don’t want to work with people who just say yes all the time. I want my ideas challenged to help forge the excellence in the security programmes I help build.”

DBHDS: Cybersecurity in healthcare

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) exists to create ‘a life of possibilities for all Virginians’ and transform behavioural health. Its focus is on supporting people across the entire commonwealth. It helps them get the support they need in order to take wellness and recovery into their own hands. In an area like healthcare, sensitive information is all over the place, meaning cybersecurity is a priority – and this is where Glendon Schmitz, CISO at DBHDS, comes in. The security team exists to help the wider organisation achieve its objectives with data. We’re there to protect the business, not the other way around.”

Also in this issue, we schedule the can’t miss tech events and get the lowdown on IoT security from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Nick Hales, Head of Strategic Transformation and Emmanouela Vlachantoni, Strategy & Transformation Senior Manager, on the journey to reinvent business processes that are reimagining bp

This month’s cover story reveals how bp’s Strategic Transformation leaders are on a journey to reinvent business processes that are reimagining the energy giant.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Our final issue of Interface for 2022 covers some of this year’s hot tech topics: digital transformation, cybersecurity, data & analytics, customer-centricity and more…

Read the latest issue here!

bp: a strategic reinvention

“We are investing in digital to drive process efficiency and improve insights; but also to develop our people with the skills we need for now, and the future. This means we are playing to win while caring for our people through investing in their personal development,” says Nick Hales.

“After setting the right foundations through various remediation and compliance initiatives, we embarked on our digital transformation journey,” adds Emmanouela Vlachantoni. “There was a clear opportunity to standardise and streamline our controls environment to reduce complexity and increase insight.”

Fairfax County: winning the IT war with cybersecurity

Meanwhile, across the pond, we learn how Fairfax County in the State of Virginia is reaping the rewards of a cybersecurity program enabling government services and keeping citizens safe. “My role is to educate our leadership to ensure they understand the business value of cybersecurity as it relates to government services. Being accountable for the security of their systems and data is a key factor in developing a successful cyber program,” explains CISO Michael Dent.

Piedmont Healthcare: data & analytics at the heart of growth

The power of data cannot be under-estimated… At Piedmont Healthcare Mark Jackson, Executive Director of Business Intelligence is building a data strategy driving speed to insight at scale. “Tool selection has played an important role in our ability to scale the BI program and deliver rapid insights in a dynamic environment.”

Also in this issue, CalArts CTO Allan Chen explains how an IT strategy based on coordination and collaboration is supporting six schools; Information Tech VP Fausto Sosa de la Fuente reveals the people-centric transformative IT process at construction industry giant CEMEX; and we take a look at the latest insights from McKinsey highlighting the lessons CEOs can learn from successful digital transformations.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story explores the customer-centric digital transformation journey of leading insurer AXA being led by UK & Ireland CIO Darrell Ryman

Our cover story this month explores how leading insurer AXA‘s customer-centric digital transformation journey is refining the art of the possible to unite business with technology.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

The opportunity to leverage data & analytics to transform organisations seeking to sharpen their digital focus and better connect with internal and external stakeholders is at the forefront of a revolution in connectivity driving both operational efficiency and growth. In this issue we bring you some inspiring stories that reflect the impact today’s innovations are having on shaping the business journeys of tomorrow…

Read the latest issue here!


This month’s cover story explores the customer-centric digital transformation journey being led by AXA’s UK & Ireland CIO Darrell Ryman. “It’s both a challenge and an opportunity for the insurance industry,” he reflects. “Many of the legacy systems firms use are now outdated and based on the nine-to-five business operating model – they’re not designed for the modern digital experience.” Ryman’s IT team is driving that transformation pivot by focusing on three key pillars: developing a digital backbone, becoming a digital business and creating a digital ecosystem.



Today’s on demand transactions require custom logistics solutions. We discover how flooring supply chain specialist Xpress Global Systems (XGS) is combining existing data with employee experience to deliver technology solutions that form the core of the company’s humanised approach to digital transformation.


Also in this issue, Ken Priyadarshi CT AI leader of EY Technology, explains how the leading professional services network is developing Digital Twins to deliver big-data and low-latency scenario planning models for financial services: “It’s time for the digital twin to become a mainstream tool for the C-suite and go beyond the traditional manufacturing or operational use-cases.”

Data management driving efficiency and growth

Elsewhere, we learn how specialist insurance broker Howden is achieving success in Asia by establishing a structured, data-driven, engagement and distribution strategy; and reveal the way America’s leading critical infrastructure damage prevention firm, Stake Center Locating, is future-proofing by transferring its expertise from legacy systems to the cloud.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Web scraping can improve your bottom line and competitive positioning if done correctly

According to BRC-KPMG’s retail sales monitor[1], retail sales in the UK increased by 6.1 per cent in September on a like-for-like basis from the same period last year. However, the same month also saw a dramatic increase of 37 per cent in online non-food sales. As we enter the Golden Quarter, eCommerce operations need to be clear about why they need an ethical approach to web scraping to stay ahead of the pack. This is according to Oxylabs, a proxy and data gathering service provider.

Julius Cerniauskas, CEO at Oxylabs, stated: “It is very clear from the figures released this week that UK consumers are spending online on home improvements and even stockpiling goods in preparation for another tightening of COVID related restrictions. In fact, the British Retail Consortium went one step further claiming Christmas was coming early.” 

While this appears to have provided a boost for some retailers, as we move towards Black Friday and into the Christmas trading period, those online or refocusing on eCommerce, need to get ready quickly, and the key to this is having a clearer understanding of their market. Central to this is information and that in turn requires data. 

“Information is so readily available today with the advent of the internet and sourcing reliable information can happen incredibly quickly,” added Mr Cerniauskas.

The top five business benefits of ethical web scraping

Competitor analysis

Imagine being able to scrape product and price comparisons within minutes across tens of thousands of eCommerce channels, enabling you in turn to be able to influence consumer-buying decisions via data-driven pricing strategies and attracting price-sensitive customers. 


The main goal of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to increase website traffic and convert leads. With ethical web scraping, you can quickly collect critical data on keywords, PPC and even content. Then, with this data available you can adjust your own online campaigns.

Enhanced lead generation

As a business, for you to reach out to your prospective customers and generate more sales, you need qualified leads. That means getting all their details, such as the name of a company, street address, contact number, emails, and other necessary information. 

How data is collected is absolutely critical, but so too is its veracity. This is where ethical web scraping steps in to collect public data from competitors’ websites, portals and forums, so you can find out who is following them and what they are saying. From there, the collected data will have to be aggregated and analysed to provide insights and patterns.

It’s all about brand

Anyone who sells online knows the pivotal importance of brand and how consumers perceive it. Ethical web scraping across multiple online channels can help executives to promptly collect vast amounts of data that can bring tangible insights once analysed. The real value is if this is done in conjunction with measuring your competitors over the same timeframe and that leads us to the final benefit.


From TripAdvisor to eBay, from Amazon to Yelp, the internet is awash with opinions on your business, drafted and posted by consumers on a daily basis. It is all publicly available and that is why you need ethical web scraping to automate this process of intelligence collection, which, once absorbed, can create new opportunities and allow companies to differentiate in highly competitive markets.

Mr Cerniauskas concluded: “Ethical web scraping is a practise whose time has come. When done ethically and correctly within the law, it can identify and extract vital public data which will help any eCommerce operation to maximise the critically important financial and marketing decisions they need to take in the build-up to the Golden Quarter and beyond.”

Oxylabs has been at the forefront of data gathering and extraction for over five years. Driven by an ever-increasing demand to capture and leverage publicly available information, large scale eCommerce providers, as well as businesses working in the information economy, are readily deploying residential and data centre proxies to fuel web data gathering mechanics in-house, as well as outsourcing ready to use solutions to gather business intelligence, support price optimisation, and enhance lead generation over competitors, to name a few.      

“Data centre and residential proxies make in-house data scraping possible by acting as intermediaries between the requesting party and the server. The choice of either type depends on the business use case, with residential proxies being most suitable for more challenging data targets and/ or specific geographic locations. 

“Not every company has the resources to conduct data extraction in-house. In those cases, outsourcing a trusted solution is ideal because it can free up resources to focus on data insights rather than being overloaded by challenges associated with data acquisition,” concluded Mr Cerniauskas.

As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been…

As UK businesses look towards the cloud to enable digital innovation, more than half (58%) say the move has been more costly than envisaged, according to new research from Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

However, the research reveals that cloud migration (72%) remains the top transformational priority for most organisations, ahead of process automation (45%), big data analytics (40%), and artificial intelligence/machine learning (31%). This is a further indication that organisations see cloud as a core component to effectively enabling these next-generation technologies.

The From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report, which surveyed 200 UK IT decision makers, cites reduced cost (61%), improved speed of delivery (57%), and increased IT security (52%) as the main reasons for organisations to move to the cloud. However, 90% of respondents admitted that cloud migration had been delayed in their organisation due to one or more unforeseen factors. Issues such as cost (39%), workload and application re-architecting (38%), security concerns (37%), and skills shortages (35%) all point to a process that is more complicated than expected.

“Cloud adoption is a critical foundational step towards opening up real transformative opportunities offered by cloud-native technologies and emerging digital platforms and services. While some forward-thinking organisations are able to keep their eye on the goal, the complexity of the migration and application modernisation process tends to introduce delays and cost-implications that slow down progress,” said Wasif Afghan, head of Cloud and Platform at Capita’s Technology Solutions division.

A more complex and costly migration than expected

On average, those businesses asked had migrated 45% of their workloads and applications to the cloud. However, this did correlate to organisation size as organisations with more than 5,000 employees have further to go, with less than a third (31%) of workloads and applications migrated. This could be the result of having larger, more complicated systems.

Nearly half (43%) of respondents found security to be one of the greatest challenges they had faced during their migration. A lack of internal skills (34%), gaining budget approval (32%), and progressing legacy migration solutions (32%) were other significant challenges organisations had faced.

In fact, half of respondents found their organisation had to ‘rearchitect’ more workloads and optimise them for the cloud than they had expected. Further, only just over a quarter (27%) found that labour/logistical costs have decreased – a key driver for moving to the cloud in the first place.

“Every migration journey is unique in both its destination and starting point. While some organisations are either ‘born in the cloud’ or can gather the resources to transform in a relatively short space of time, the majority will have a much slower, more complex path. Many larger organisations that have been established for a long time will have heritage IT systems and traditional processes that can’t simply be lifted and shifted to the cloud straight away due to commercial or technical reasons, meaning a hybrid IT approach is often required. Many organisations haven’t yet fully explored how they can make hybrid work for them, combining the benefits of newer cloud services whilst operating and optimising their heritage IT estate,” said Afghan.

A platform for innovation

Despite some of the challenges outlined in the report, the majority (86%) of respondents agree that the benefits of cloud are compelling enough to outweigh its downsides. For more than three-quarters (76%) of organisations, moving to the cloud has driven an improvement in IT service levels, while two-thirds (67%) report that cloud has proven more secure than on-premise.

Overall, three-quarters of organisations claimed to be satisfied with their cloud migrations.  However, only 16% were ‘extremely satisfied’ – indicating that most organisations have not yet seen the full benefits or transformative potential of their cloud investments. In addition, 42% of respondents currently believe that cloud had ‘overpromised and underdelivered’.

“It’s no longer enough to think of cloud as simply a way to benefit from initial cost savings or just another place to store applications and data. Today, the move to cloud is driving a spirit of innovation right across the enterprise, paving the way for advanced digital services to be rolled out in a highly accessible, faster and more cost-effective way – whether that’s AI, RPA, complex data analytics or machine learning. Only through the alignment of IT and lines of business leadership – in terms of goals, vision, direction and mindset – can organisations fully unleash the potential of cloud to address their key business objectives, whether that is improving business agility, delivering an enhanced customer experience or enhancing business efficiencies.” said Afghan.

The ‘From Cloud Migration to Digital Innovation’ report can be download here https://go.capita-it.com/cloud-research-report.

Professionals will need to learn data science skills to do their jobs and help their companies thrive in the next…

Professionals will need to learn data science skills to do their jobs and help their companies thrive in the next decade, say business leaders.

Most managers believe data analytics, automation and AI will be essential for business survival in the coming years yet lack the necessary knowledge that underpins it, according to MHR Analytics research.

“We wanted to explore the levels to which organisations across all sectors are developing their data strategies, as businesses get ready to enter a new decade that promises unprecedented digital acceleration,” said Laura Timms, MHR Analytics Product Strategy Manager.

“Without the crucial component of a good data foundation, it is impossible to implement advanced analytics, automation or AI,” she said. “Despite a widespread appetite for adopting these technologies, the study showed that a better understanding of data strategy basics will be vital for companies to launch the data-driven projects they know they need to compete.”

The Data Decade survey, which polled 500 senior technology and finance managers in large UK organisations, found that:

  • More than half (55%), believe data analytics will be essential for business survival in the next ten years, 53% say automation will be essential, and 42% believe AI will be essential
  • A fifth (21%) of UK companies plan to implement AI yet they do not have a data strategy to support it, suggesting a better understanding will be necessary
  • Skills gaps are delaying AI adoption, with 40% reporting this as a barrier to advanced analytics
  • Data science skills will increase in importance, with 43% of senior professionals saying they will need to learn data science or analytics skills to progress their role in the next five years
  • 43% say their role will become more strategic as traditional tasks become automated, with 91% saying their department will become more efficient due to automation.

“The research results demonstrate the positive aspirations that senior leaders have about data-driven technology, and how it will evolve and advance their roles and keep their organisations competitive in the next decade,” said Timms. “But delivering any AI-based system relies on getting the basics right with every aspect of your data quality, and on taking a step-by-step approach to data maturity.”

In the MHR Analytics report, Advancing with Analytics: Spreadsheets to AI, AI expert Bernard Marr reveals how different organisations are establishing data strategies to underpin their AI aspirations.

For example, Marr explains how Royal Shell is using AI to solve the problem facing the company’s drive to roll out electric vehicle-charging terminals.

Motorists weren’t keen to make the switch to electric vehicles while the number of terminals were so limited and while forecourt operators weren’t offering charging terminals because demand was so low.

A focused data strategy underpinning AI techniques offered a solution to this chicken and egg issue. Royal Shell’s RechargePlus programme uses AI to monitor and predict demand for charging terminals throughout the day. By better understanding customer charging needs, power can be supplied more efficiently – which, in turn, saves motorists money and will potentially encourage more motorists to make the switch to electric cars.

More information about progressing along the data journey is available via the MHR Analytics data maturity quiz.


*The survey of 500 UK finance and technology professionals employed by large UK companies was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of MHR Analytics in August 2019.

About MHR Analytics

MHR Analytics is a specialist provider of business intelligence, analytics and financial performance management.

The MHR Analytics team enables businesses to capitalise on the data available to them, to identify opportunities and prepare for the future – whatever stage of the data journey they are on.

With an end-to end-suite of quality solutions from IBM, SAP, Tagetik and Microsoft, MHR Analytics supports customers to go beyond intuition and act based on real evidence.

The growing business has been established for 10 years and has a presence in eight countries and more than 20 different private and public sectors, with a proven track record of over 750 successful implementations. Customers include Admiral Group, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Edinburgh Napier University and Loughborough University.


About Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data.

LinkedIn has ranked Bernard as one of the world’s top five business influencers. He is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes

Bernard Marr and MHR Analytics have been in partnership since June 2018, with Bernard holding a keynote presentation at the MHR Analytics Summit.

An uncertain business climate doesn’t have to mean uncertainty in your business, says data analytics expert Laura Timms. Despite complex…

An uncertain business climate doesn’t have to mean uncertainty in your business, says data analytics expert Laura Timms.

Despite complex challenges on the horizon, the wide availability and adaptability of data analytics means managers can take proactive steps to futureproof their organisations.

As product strategy manager at MHR Analytics, the business intelligence and financial performance management provider, Timms sets out five ways companies can harness data analytics to thrive in tough times and plan confidently for 2020 and beyond:

1.    Reduce unnecessary expenses

A key part of preparing for the future is watching what we spend now.

Deciding where to cut funding can easily be left down to intuition rather than truly understanding key and ‘not so key’ revenue drivers.

In Deloitte’s Analytics Advantage report, revenue generation or cost reduction was reported to be the most valued outcome of using analytics.

How? By aligning budgets and resources, funds can be redeployed to meet critical objectives and lower costs. Taking this approach, we recently helped one of our customers deliver savings which equated to a return on investment of 250%.

Analytics acts as a strategic tool which can be used to give insight into areas such as investment opportunities, financial performance and key financial drivers; to give managers peace of mind that resources are always allocated in the right place at the right time.   

2.    From hindsight to foresight – see and respond to changes in real-time

Organisations that are able to respond to changes quickly are better equipped for success.

As Mckinsey laid out in its five trademarks of agile organisationsTechnology is seamlessly integrated and core to every aspect of the organisation as a means to unlock value and enable quick reactions to business needs.”

To future proof a business, it is necessary to evolve from a “hindsight mentality” that tries to accompany change once it’s already happened; to an approach that identifies and responds to changes as they happen in the moment.

This is where analytics comes in. Business intelligence and analytics technology can provide a real-time view of an organisation so that employees can easily adapt systems to changing business strategies and realities.

With analytics, businesses can provide products and services that meet changing customer requirements, match outputs to available resources, and ultimately make smarter decisions.

3.    Scenario modelling to plan for different possible outcomes

There are two types of organisations: those that are reactive and those that are proactive.

While reactive businesses simply try and diffuse an already burning fire, proactive organisations identify the risk factors involved and question not only what they need to do to prevent the fire, but also whether there are any hidden risks or opportunities accompanying the disaster.

The good news is that even for those who currently fall under the first category, data analytics can easily change this.  

Certain analytics technologies provide scenario planning capabilities, which enable managers to model different potential scenarios and outcomes. This can supercharge the effectiveness of decision-making, as it provides front-row seats to see how different decisions will impact the organisation – all without having to commit to one particular course of action.

When this scenario modelling is “multi-dimensional”, you can see how change in one area of the business will impact on other areas, to ensure the whole business is optimised for success.

Whether it’s a change in legislation, cuts in funding or changes to company structure – managers can plan and prepare in advance and reduce the risk of any nasty surprises.

4.    Free up more time to spend on what matters

Chances are, businesses that are not using analytics to carry out their planning are probably relying solely on spreadsheets.

Think of the number of different spreadsheets in your department alone and think of how many hours are spent in a typical week updating these… the answer is probably “too many.”

While spreadsheets are widely seen as the building blocks of planning, relying on spreadsheets alone is neither a reliable or efficient way of preparing for the future.

Repetitive administration tasks can hold companies back and are not always necessary.

A better approach may be to utilise a ‘planning analytics’ solution to reduce these time-consuming jobs and simplify planning, budgeting and forecasting processes.

This eradicates the need for data input-led roles and allows the costs associated with these positions to be better utilised in higher-value tasks. Not only does this provide financial benefits in terms of ROI, but it also works to the advantage of employees by allowing them to focus on ‘what they’re trained to do’ over routine tasks.

Ultimately, analytics frees up more time to spend on the initiatives that really matter, positioning organisations in the best place to meet objectives.

5.    Full organisational view of planning

Without a holistic picture of the organisation, it’s impossible to safeguard it against future changes.

While localised planning limited to individual departments and teams may be convenient, it doesn’t offer the scale of impact needed for success. To truly prepare for the future, the whole organisation has to be on board.

Another downside of relying on spreadsheets alone to plan is that they’re simply not designed to tell the whole story. With different teams using different spreadsheets, input methods and analysis techniques, and little collaboration between this data, the task of collating and making sense of it isn’t an easy one.

On top of this, manually inputting data into Excel documents leaves room for human error, with various studies even suggesting that almost 9 out of 10 spreadsheets contain errors.

Planning analytics software puts all this sporadic data into one centralised place to give a 360-degree view of an organisation.

Through this, you’ll be able to see and understand your business at a granular level so that you can gain early insight into the health of your organisation and plan with confidence.

To learn more about using analytics to plan for the future, take the data maturity quiz which assesses the stage your organisation is on and outlines the steps to take to create a futureproof organisation.

By Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK According to a global Gartner survey of 196 organisations 91% have not yet…

By Eltjo Hofstee, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK

According to a global Gartner survey of 196 organisations 91% have not yet reached a ‘transformational’ level of maturity in data and analytics, despite it being the number one investment priority for CIOs. And with big data set to solve some of the biggest research challenges around today, this needs to change. It is absolutely vital for businesses to be able to process big data quickly and meaningfully if they are to keep on-track with the rapid growth in data.

Along with all the other contemporary buzzwords, ‘big data’ is increasingly thrown around in business and tech sectors as if everyone truly understands it. But do they really? Big data is the description for very large data sets that can be evaluated and provide insights around trends and patterns to drive better business decision-making. 

That may seem fairly easy to comprehend, and although plenty of information is available about big data technologies, few have actually mastered the knack of using big data to its full potential. A survey from Capgemini found that just 27% of executives described their big data initiatives as ‘successful’. This reinforces the fact that, while many are talking about big data and have ambitions around it, the majority of organisations still have quite a long way to go on their big data journey.

Implementing effective, fast data-processing can ensure your company’s continued success. While this may seem daunting, it actually gives us all the ability to analyse more inventively, even more so considering the large, diverse quantity of data produced by businesses these days.

Additionally, considering the growing dominance and capabilities of cloud computing, now is the perfect time to take a deeper look into ‘big data analytics’ so you, too, can leverage the power of big data to bring a greater competitive edge to your company.

Big data + cloud computing = a perfect match

Data-processing engines and frameworks are vital elements within a data system. While there is no key difference between the definitions of “engines” and “frameworks,” it’s important to define these terms separately — consider engines as the component responsible for operating on data while frameworks are typically a set of components that are designed to do the same.

Although systems designed to handle the data lifecycle are rather complicated, they ultimately share a similar objective: to operate over data with the aim of broadening understanding and surface patterns while gaining insight on complex interactions.

To be able to do all this, however, requires an infrastructure that supports large workloads. This is where cloud comes in. Cloud is considered a beneficial tool by enterprises globally because it has the ability to harness business intelligence (BI) in big data. In addition, the scalability of cloud environments makes it much easier for big data tools and applications, like Cloudera and Hadoop, to function.

Available programming frameworks to find a suitable fit

Several big data tools are available, some of which include:

Hadoop: This Java-based programming framework supports processing and storage of extremely large data sets. This is an open source framework and is part of the Apache project, sponsored by Apache Software Foundation, which works in a distributed computing environment. Hadoop supporting software packages and components can be deployed by organisations in their local data centre.

Apache Spark: Apache Spark isa fast engine used for big data processing that is capable of streaming and supporting SQL, graph processing, and machine learning. Alternatively, Apache Storm is also available as an open-source data processing system.

Cloudera Distributions: This is considered one of the latest open-source technologies available to discover, store, process, model, and serve large amounts of data. Apache Hadoop is considered part of this platform.

Hadoop on CloudStack to Crunch Data Successfully

Hadoop, which is based on Google’s MapReduce and File System technologies, has gained widespread adoption in the industry. This framework is similar to CloudStack and is implemented in Java.

As the first ever cloud platform in the industry to join the Apache Software Foundation, CloudStack has fast become the logical cloud choice for organisations that prefer open-source options for their cloud and big data infrastructure.

The combination of Hadoop and CloudStack is really a great match made in the clouds. Considering the availability of big data tools such as these, working in the cloud to leverage meaningful business intelligence, now is the perfect time to harness the power of big data so that your business can think, and achieve, big.

Lesley Holmes Data Protection Officer at leading HR and payroll provider MHR gives a valuable insight into the future of…

Lesley Holmes Data Protection Officer at leading HR and payroll provider MHR gives a valuable insight into the future of technology and how the axis of power may sway towards tech leaders.

A phrase I hear a lot is that ‘data is the new oil’, in reference to data as an extremely valuable commodity, which is increasing in value year by year and may well one day have a similar value to fossil fuels.

If data is the new oil, then the people controlling the data must be the new oil barons, maybe even becoming even more powerful than individual oil barons at some point in the future, as they are not tied to set geographical areas for ‘mining’ and will never run out of new data.

Oil prices in the global marketplace are controlled by a handful of people, yet the decisions they make have a huge impact on world economies, so the power of data might just create a similar group of digital oligarchs.

I feel that the use of ‘data-mining’ by these individuals can be used in several ways:

  • For the public benefit.
  • For the benefit of a particular organisation using its own collated data.
  • For the purposes of monetisation or to influence outcomes through targeted marketing.

Public Benefit.

Most people understand that data can benefit us all in various ways, like anti-terrorism work and to detect other crimes, through the use of statistics, or using CCTV footage to log crimes.

Governments also collate data from both public and private sources to help plan public services better and prevent economic, social and environmental issues, by identifying data trends.

Data can also be used for things like medical research, or to gauge public opinion and is often done by public bodies with the public interest at heart, so data isn’t used directly for profit; the research is done to benefit us all.

An organisation using its own collateral.

Organisations can gather their own data, in accordance with their privacy notice, which will make clear what they are doing and why (in most cases anyway!).

They use this data to improve the services they offer, work out the effectiveness of their marketing and plan their workforce; not to mention informing strategies for performance and profitability.

Data also has specific uses, like assessing actuarial risk in the insurance industry, with the aim of providing a better service based on strong data, so we get a better quote if we are low risk customers, so there are many positives to gathering data.

Aside from using data to assist customers, organisations can use data they hold on their own employees for purposes which help the business, like monitoring performance trends, absence management and workforce optimisation.

Besides the obvious benefit of using company data to build a better business, organisations over a certain size are required to produce reports for the government. An obvious example of this in recent memory, was the introduction of Gender Pay Gap reporting, part of a wider investigation into equal pay in the UK, taking personal data and anonymising it for reporting purposes. There is debate over whether this data might be misused and encroach on personal freedom, but that’s a discussion for another day…

For the purposes of monetisation.

In the last year there has been a huge list of articles written which illustrate the risks of big data when misused, most notably the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data breach, but this isn’t an isolated event. Just like the oil barons discussed at the beginning of this article, many other companies are extracting and refining your personal data like oil for massive profits.

Data is already taking a sinister turn.

Hidden cameras are now being used which implement facial detection software to establish which adverts shoppers like best. As they walk through shopping centres, the cameras gauge the reaction to each advert, changing these when the reaction is a negative expression.

While this seems like a great advance in technology, there is an issue.

These technologies use facial detection (capturing a blurry image), rather than true facial recognition, but the quality of data is sufficient to distinguish gender with 90% accuracy, age to within five years and mood range (from very happy to very unhappy) to around 80% accuracy. In many countries this happens without consent, or even customer knowledge, which is a worrying trend.

This shows the world is changing.

The recent discussion around facial recognition technologies suggest these will be exploited further to enhance the customer experience. This will come through utilisation of ATM identity verification and hotel check-in processes, designed to increase customer satisfaction while reducing employee demand.

Behind the scenes, data-sets are manipulated and combined to identify trends, forecast spending patterns, and other activities which lead to profits; including the use of personal data for commercial purposes – such as drug trials by companies hoping to create expensive products from the data they gather.

Facebook of course allowed an app to harvest millions of data items to target content which may have created political sway, which demonstrates the power of the tech companies to influence political and social outcomes.  There is much speculation about how harvested data has been used in the political environment and who knows? We may ourselves have been influenced by such data.

For the prevention and detection of crime.

Data, personal and otherwise, has been used for years to help prevent and detect crime. The use of forensic techniques started in China in the 700’s when fingerprints were starting to be used, but the most significant breakthroughs came in the last century with the creation of dedicated teams to deal with this area of investigation.

Now the Chinese again lead the way with facial recognition being used to identify and capture criminals as they move around the major cities. With the largest number of CCTV cameras, China is probably embracing the technology for more than just policing.

So what are the dangers?

What’s clear is that these ‘data barons’ can use the data for good, but they will be (and perhaps already are) so powerful that anything other than the most scrupulous data usage has the potential for disastrous societal issues.

Objection to overzealous state control has resulted in everything from strongly worded literature to violent protests, but at least governments can be held accountable, and we know who’s in charge.

The clandestine nature of the internet means that some of the most powerful public figures in future will not be public at all, just pulling the strings through the data-wells they possess.

What’s clear is that we need to establish a way of controlling the use of data, or we lose control of everything else.

With all of the talk about the importance of analytics for finance professionals, by now you probably understand its significance….

With all of the talk about the importance of analytics for finance professionals, by now you probably understand its significance.

The million dollar question is: are you actually taking full advantage of it?

In reality, ticking the analytics knowledge box or even having an analytics system in place is just the beginning of the story.

There are many core capabilities that are often left untapped which lead to missed opportunities and many financial professionals only partially fulfilling their potential.         

We’ve put together a list of the top analytics capabilities that are often neglected, but if carried out correctly, can provide a whole new level of insight that can work as a long-term strategic asset.  

1.   Syncing data across the organisation

Having an analytics system isn’t just about optimising financial processes.

To get a full picture of the financial state of your organisation, it’s essential to take a holistic view, and to do this, data from across your organisation must be synced and coordinated.

Often, what rather tends to be the case is that teams across the organisation record and analyse their data using their own individual methods. This ultimately leads to mismatched and inconsistent financial data.  

Analytics can be used to store all of your organisational data in one centralised place. Using a data warehouse, it’s possible to even collaborate business processes in real-time so that you can see how changes in other areas of the organisation will directly impact the financials. 

2.   Understanding key value drivers

Knowing your organisations’ key value drivers is key to financial growth. Unfortunately, many rely on rough estimates to determine what these key drivers are.

For instance, it’s easy to assume that core factors like product pricing have a direct impact on revenue, when in fact, this is nothing more than an assumption until proven otherwise.

If you fall into the above category, analytics can be used to “see what the data says” so that you can base this understanding on facts rather than mere theory.

Having this capability will allow you to work directly with your organisation to employ a smart, data-driven strategy that will significantly increase the chances of realising your goals.

3.   Visibility of cash flow

Cash flow is the lifeblood of your organisation and it’s your job to oversee this.

Understanding exactly what’s going into your organisation, what’s leaving it, and precisely when and how this is happening, is a crucial part of avoiding financial issues later down the line.

Analytics can be used to get a multi-dimensional view of your cash flow – looking not just retrospectively, but in real-time, and even to predict what future cash flow will look like.

Using this information and tools like scenario planning, you can plan and prepare in advance and ensure that cash is constantly being allocated to the right place at the right time.  

4.   Automating financial processes

Are you still relying on manual methods to carry out your financial reporting? If your answer to this question is “yes”, then you’re seriously limiting your potential for growth.

Research shows that 80% of spreadsheets contain errors, and reliance on these manual processes alone leave you at risk of non-compliance, not to mention taking up a good portion of your time.

Instead of relying on manually inputting data into spreadsheets, analytics can be used to automate repetitive, low-value tasks; giving you peace of mind that your financial data is accurate and up to par.

Another added benefit is that by freeing yourself from tedious tasks, you’ll have more time to spend on activities that fully utilise your skills so that you can provide greater value in your everyday role.

5.   Insight into profitability

Analytics can be used to drill-down to understand where profit is being generated and how much, as well as revealing areas of the business that are dwindling.

It helps you to answer questions like: What product generated the most revenue for the business within a given time period? What is each customers’ lifetime value? And which areas of the business need extra support to reach revenue goals?

These insights can be fed back to teams in other areas of the business so that the approach can be refined to promote activity that will increase the profitability of your organisation over time.

6.   Predicting sales in advance

Getting your budgeting and forecasting process to a point where you know your estimates are accurate isn’t an easy task – especially when this is left down to manual observation.

Using historical data and a range of predictive techniques, it’s possible to present sales figures in digestible visualisations so that you can easily forecast and make accurate predictions about what future sales figures may look like.

This also allows you to identify patterns and seasonal trends that may impact your organisations’ sales revenue, so that you can plan ahead and ensure that you have enough budget set aside to prevent any cash flow issues.

Analytics is certainly gaining momentum in the conversation of how to be a more effective finance professional, but many are still in the early days of implementation.

To compete in the ever-changing finance space, it’s important to equip yourself with an understanding of how you can use the latest technologies to increase your personal impact and value.

You can learn more about your own level of analytics capability by taking MHR Analytics’ Data Maturity quiz.



Bersin by Deloitte, 2017: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/audit/ca-audit-abm-scotia-high-impact_analytics.pdf

By Jake Madders, Co-Director at Hyve Managed Hosting It’s been 13 years since Google’s then CEO, Eric Schmidt, coined the…

By Jake Madders, Co-Director at Hyve Managed Hosting

It’s been 13 years since Google’s then CEO, Eric Schmidt, coined the phrase ‘cloud computing’ and since then it has changed the landscape of both business and consumer IT. In fact, research recently revealed 77% of enterprises have at least one application or a portion of enterprise computing infrastructure in the cloud, highlighting its immense popularity.

Although some businesses will go all-in with either public or private cloud, this isn’t a model that works for everyone. Different workloads and applications are suitable for different types of cloud and this has driven the popularity of both hybrid and multi-cloud environments. But what is the difference between the two and what are the benefits that they provide?

Both hybrid and multi-clouds involve using a mixture of public and private cloud to maximise efficiency, cost and scalability – the differentiator is in how they are integrated and managed. 

Multi-Cloud v Hybrid Cloud

Multi-cloud consists of a series of different clouds that are centrally managed in a single architecture. These cloud environments can be either public cloud, private cloud or a mixture of both and are provided by a range of suppliers and therefore have to be managed internally, adding to the responsibilities of the IT team. Operating in a multi-cloud environment results in different configurations, settings, pricing plans and multiple invoices – making management and budgeting more complex and time consuming. 

In comparison, hybrid cloud is a single entity and consists of a combination of on-premises, private cloud and public cloud, working together in tandem. This is provided by one supplier and means businesses are operating within a single cloud infrastructure. As with multi-cloud, the most appropriate cloud can be used for different workloads and data. Having all of the operations within the same infrastructure unifies IT and it can therefore be managed more effectively.

The True Value of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud provides the best of both worlds for businesses and working with a managed cloud provider means that the correct workloads will always be in the most suitable environment. Public cloud will be utilised for intensive workloads and is ideal for running test and development servers, for example, and for sensitive data, the private cloud will be used. Having this all centrally managed by an experienced managed cloud provider will mean businesses can fully embrace the hybrid cloud model – avoiding the siloed approach of multi-clouds.

An opinion piece by Inbal Axelrod examines the use of predictive analytics to develop more efficient supply chains. Not a…

An opinion piece by Inbal Axelrod examines the use of predictive analytics to develop more efficient supply chains. Not a new conversation, but one that’s gaining relevance as analytics and data tools grow in both capability and validity. These technologies can potentially revitalise how the industry approaches supply chain dynamics in the future.

When it comes to the cold chain, technology offers the industry some interesting opportunities to shift transparencies and capabilities. Traditional systems are outdated, limited and introduce unnecessary delays when fresher solutions can transform how operations are handled and real-time data transfer, among other things.  Still in the cold, Lineage Logistics has announced that it is to acquire Preferred Freezer in a deal worth around $US1 billion. The deal will see the company take top spot in the cold storage market.

Manger for Public Medical Supply Chain, Joe Chen, announced that his division is anticipating rapid growth in 2019. In a release, he explained: “Serving as a medical equipment supply company with access to critical spare parts and consumables defines our competitive advantage in the vital medical supply business to over 500 hospitals between China, the US market and Europe.”

The supplier collaboration platform for the construction industry, Command Alkon, has announced that its executives have been named the 2019 Provider Pros to Know by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine. The award is given to those execs who are working on, and delivering, innovative supply chain initiatives.

At the 2019 LINK supply chain conference taking place in Orlando, Redwood Logistics talked about the importance of technology in the retail supply chain. The spokesperson, John Centres Executive VP of Sales, said that “For many years the transportation and logistics sector was the last group that got its resources from technology. Now it’s on the forefront of technology because of the on-demand product environment. We have not seen – outside of food – any huge price inflation of consumer products. And that is because of the innovations taking place in the supply chain.”

In other news: the need to increase the fairness of the global supply chain and the companies already engaged; how technology can improve the grocery supply chain; Horizon Robotics raises $600m in funding; M&S and Ocada to start a home delivery service in 2020; and Resolution Foundation shows that retail has the highest employee redundancy rate.