Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business, discusses how CPOs have become an important voice at the table to drive digital transformation and efficient collaboration.

Harnessing efficiency is at the heart of any digital transformation journey.

Digitalisation should revolve around driving efficiency and achieving cost savings. Otherwise, why do it?

Amazon is no stranger to simplifying shopping for its customers. It is why Amazon has become a global leader in e-commerce. But, business-to-business customers can have different needs than traditional consumers, which is what led to the birth of Amazon Business in 2015. Amazon Business simplifies procurement processes, and one of the key ways it does this is by integrating with third-party systems to drive efficiencies and quickly discover insights. 

Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business, tells us all about how the organisation is helping procurement leaders to integrate their systems to lead to time and money savings.

Satya Mishra: “More than six million customers around the world tap Amazon Business to access business-only pricing and selection, purchasing system integrations, a curated site experience, Business Prime, single or multi-user business accounts, and dedicated customer support, among other benefits.

“I lead Amazon Business’ integrations tech team, which builds integrations with third-party e-procurement, expense management, e-sourcing and idP systems. We also build APIs for our customers that either they or the third-party system integrators can use to create solutions that meet customers’ procurement needs. Integrations can allow business buyers to create connected buying journeys, which we call smart business buying journeys. 

“If a customer does not have existing procurement systems they’d like to integrate, they can take advantage of other native tools, like a Business Analytics dashboard, in the Amazon Business store, so they can monitor their business spend. They can also discover and use some third-party integrated apps in the new Amazon Business App Center.”

Why would a customer choose to integrate their systems? Are CPOs leading the way?

Satya Mishra: “By integrating systems, customers can save time and money, drive compliance, spend visibility, and gain clearer insights. I talk to CPOs frequently to learn about their pain points. I often hear from these leaders that it can be tough for procurement teams to manage or create purchasing policies. This is especially if they have a high volume of purchases coming in from employees across their whole organisation, with a small group of employees, or even one employee, manually reviewing and reconciling. Integrations can automate these processes and help create a more intuitive buying experience across systems.

“Procurement is a strategic business function. It’s data-driven and measurable. CPOs manage the business buying, and the business buying can directly impact an organisation’s bottom line. If procurement tools don’t automatically connect to a source of supply, business buying decisions can become more complex. Properly integrated technology systems can help solve these issues for procurement leaders.”

Satya Mishra, Director, Product Management at Amazon Business

Beyond process complexity, what other challenges are procurement leaders facing?

Satya Mishra: “In the Amazon Business 2024 State of Procurement Report, other top challenges respondents reported were having access to a wide range of sellers and products that meet their needs, and ensuring compliance with spend policies. 

“The report also found that 52% of procurement decision-makers are responsible for making purchases for multiple locations. Of that group, 57% make purchases for multiple countries.

“During my conversations with CPOs, I hear them say that having access to millions of products across many categories through Amazon Business has allowed them to streamline their supplier quantity and reduced time spent going to physical stores or trying to find products they’re looking for from a range of online websites. They’ve also shared that the ability to ship purchases from Amazon Business to multiple addresses has been very helpful in reducing complexity for both spot-buy and planned or recurring purchases. Organisations may need to buy specific products, like copy paper or snacks, in a recurring way. They may need to buy something else, like desks, only once, and in bulk, at that. Amazon Business’ ordering capabilities are agile and can lessen the purchasing complexity.”

How should procurement leaders choose which integrations will help them the most? 

Satya Mishra: “At Amazon Business, we work backwards from customer problems to find solutions. I recommend CPOs think about what existing systems their employees may already use, the organisation’s buying needs, and their buyers’ typical purchasing behaviors. The buying experience should be intuitive and delightful. 

“Amazon Business integrates with more than 300 systems, like Coupa, SAP Ariba, Okta, Fairmarkit, and Intuit Quickbooks, to name just a handful. With e-procurement integrations like Punchout and Integrated Search, customers start their buying journey in their e-procurement system. With Punch-in, they start on the Amazon Business website, then punch into their e-procurement system. With SSO, customers can use their existing employee credentials. Our collection of APIs can help customers customise their procure-to-pay and source-to-settle operations. This includes automating receipts in expense management systems and track progress toward spending goals. 

“My team recently launched an App Center where customers can discover third-party apps spanning Accounting Management, Rewards & Recognition, Expense Management, Integrated Shopping and Inventory Management categories. We’ll continue to add more apps over time to help simplify the integrated app discovery process for customers.

“Some customers choose to stack their integrations, while others stick with one integration that serves their needs. There are many possibilities, and you don’t just have to choose one integration. You can start with Punchout and e-invoicing, for example, and then also integrate with Integrated Search, so your buyers can search the Amazon Business catalog within the e-procurement system your organisation uses.”

Are integrations tech projects?

Satya Mishra: “No, integrations should not be viewed as tech projects to be decided by only an IT team. Integrations open doors to greater data connectivity and business efficiencies across organisations. Instead of having disjointed data streams, you can connect those systems and centralise data, increasing spend visibility. You may be able to spot patterns and identify cost savings that may have gotten lost otherwise. 

“It’s not uncommon for me to hear that CPOs, CFOs and CIOs are collaborating on business decisions that will save them all time and meet shared goals, and integrations are in their mix of recommendations. 

“One of my team’s key goals has been to simplify integrations and bring in more self-service solutions. In terms of set-up, some integrations like SSO can be self-serviced by the customer. Amazon Business can help customers with the set-up process for integrations as well.”

How has procurement transformed in recent years?

Satya Mishra: “Procurement is no longer viewed as a back-office function. CPOs more commonly have a seat at the table for strategic cross-functional decisions with CFOs and CIOs.

“95% of Amazon Business 2024 State of Procurement Report respondents say the purchases they make mostly fall into managed spend. Managed spending is often planned for months or years ahead of time. This can create a great opportunity to recruit other stakeholders across departments versus outsourcing purchasing responsibilities. Equipping domain experts to support routine purchasing activities allows procurement to uplevel its focus and take on higher priorities across the organisation, while still maintaining oversight of overarching buying patterns. It’s also worth noting that by connecting to e-procurement and expense management systems, integrations provide easy and secure access to products on Amazon Business and help facilitate managed spend.”

What does the future of procurement look like?

Satya Mishra: “Bright! By embracing digital transformation and artificial intelligence to form more agile and strategic operations, CPOs can influence the ways their organisations innovate and adapt to change.”

Read the latest CPOstrategy here!

Anthony Payne, Chief Marketing Officer of HICX, tells us how working collaboratively with suppliers on sustainable procurement practices could act as an organisation’s competitive advantage.

Sustainability isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ anymore – businesses don’t have much of a choice in the world of 2024.

With ESG regulations now locked in place, organisations must comply or risk significant penalties. In order to achieve sustainability objectives more effectively and efficiently, collaborating with suppliers represents a real opportunity to get there faster.

When businesses work with suppliers to reach sustainability goals, they need access to the most accurate supplier data possible. However, obtaining this data isn’t necessarily straightforward. Ultimately, suppliers own it and need to provide it.

This means it is in a business’s interest to form and maintain a great working relationship with suppliers.

Anthony Payne, Chief Marketing Officer of HICX, the supplier experience platform, discusses the benefits of being supplier-centric and how giving brands a better experience adds value to organisations.

Anthony Payne: “There is a direct link. A good supplier experience makes it easier to communicate with suppliers because it allows for collaboration, whereas the opposite can harm communication efforts. For example, when businesses need ESG information, many will survey a broad group of suppliers even though the questions don’t apply to everyone. This is easier for the business. But it means every supplier who receives the survey must investigate whether it applies to them. The experience is more likely to frustrate suppliers than to help them offer the best information.

“Rather, we can help suppliers to help us by communicating better. The way forward is to segment suppliers into groups and send them only relevant requests. This creates a more positive experience in which suppliers are better able to provide helpful information.”

What about their motivation to help sustainability efforts – does this also rely on supplier experience?

Anthony Payne: “Yes, because if the culture of the business-supplier relationship is one in which each party looks out for themselves, then suppliers won’t be terribly motivated to offer the most helpful ESG information. It’s just human nature. Whereas if a business creates an environment in which suppliers can collaborate with them, then they’re more likely to become a customer-of-choice. This is a status worth having. A recent HICX survey showed that while 49% of suppliers would go the extra mile for their biggest customer, as many as 73% would make the effort if this was a customer-of-choice.

“Ultimately, if businesses give their suppliers a good experience, then more suppliers should be willing to provide helpful ESG information – even if it means spending a bit more effort.”

Anthony Payne, Chief Marketing Officer of HICX

What are some of your most effective strategies and best practices to building a future-proof ESG framework?

Anthony Payne: “Businesses can futureproof their ESG frameworks by viewing suppliers as value-adding partners. This principle suggests three ways to engage suppliers…

“First, have a corporate mindset in which every employee views every supplier as a valued partner. If COVID-19 taught us anything it’s how much we rely on suppliers. When the pandemic hit, non-strategic suppliers such as providers of IT equipment and protective personal equipment suddenly became as central to operations as those who supplied the main ingredients. If we take the view that ‘all suppliers matter’, then it becomes easier to treat them all as partners in the same eco-system and we can work together towards common goals.

“Then, through this lens, we can market to suppliers. In customer marketing, a business would require a certain action from customers – such as getting them to buy a product, read a newsletter or attend an event – and so would motivate this behaviour. Similarly, in procurement, we can appeal to suppliers in a way that encourages them to participate in ESG activities, for instance, by providing helpful carbon emission information. 

“One way to encourage the desired behaviour with suppliers is to segment them into the appropriate categories and send them only necessary messages. This is what a marketer would do with customers. By viewing suppliers as partners and introducing supplier marketing and segmentation, you can improve suppliers’ experience and get the most from them.”

What are the biggest barriers that organisations face to delivering more sustainable practices within their organisations?

Anthony Payne: “Once supplier data has been captured, however, the challenge continues because it must be maintained as a golden source of truth. Not having accurate supplier data is a major barrier to delivering sustainable practices because it means that businesses cannot see who all their suppliers are and what they’re doing. 

“Thankfully, with robust onboarding and data management in place, businesses can keep their supplier data up-to-date and accurate so that it can inform good sustainability decisions.”

What is the best way for procurement teams to assess and prioritise the suppliers they work with? How do you juggle environmental impact vs value to company?

Anthony Payne: “The best way to assess and prioritise suppliers is to have visibility. Businesses need to know who all their suppliers are and what they’re doing, at any given time. Only once leaders are informed, can they make the best environmental decisions.

“It’s imperative to manage environmental impact with suppliers, regardless of how much value they bring a company. Apart from the moral obligation to protect the environment, businesses also have their reputations to consider. An environmental infringement that gets exposed – no matter how deep in the supply chain it might occur – is very likely to cause reputational damage, which can have a knock-on effect on sales and share price. 

“In addition to brand reputation, businesses can also face expensive fines, if their suppliers are found to fall short of environmental regulations.”

Anthony Payne, Chief Marketing Officer of HICX

What are the challenges and opportunities when it comes to supplier diversity?

Anthony Payne: “The challenge is to source the right suppliers in the first instance and then be able to report on their activity. We know that finding diverse suppliers in the UK can be difficult. While the US market is more mature, supplier diversity is growing here. Considering this, many suppliers that could qualify as “diverse” are not yet certified. Additionally, when diverse suppliers are indeed certified, there is no guarantee that their skillsets will match your needs. 

“Thankfully there are ways in which businesses can proactively grow their networks of diverse suppliers. For starters, leaders can equip people within the organisation who work with suppliers, to find diverse suppliers by educating them and putting policies in place. Further, there are practical steps one can follow – such as defining the criteria for what qualifies a supplier as diverse in various territories and then finding the right businesses by searching online directories, desktop research and asking for recommendations.

“Once suppliers that are considered to be diverse are indeed found, they bring much value. Apart from being able to make a positive sustainability impact, the expectations of regulators, shareholders and consumers can be met. The by-product of this is a positive reputation which has economic benefits. 

“The opposite logic also applies, and failing to capture supplier diversity value becomes a missed opportunity. For instance, when third-party expectations to support supplier diversity are missed, this can damage brand reputation which hurts sales figures and share price. Also, the unique offerings that diverse suppliers can offer will be missed, and with it the chance to make an impact. Therefore, it’s sensible to make the most of the diverse suppliers that you worked so hard to find.”

Do you have any tips for readers who want to make the most of the diverse suppliers they have sourced?

Anthony Payne: “Yes, you can start by knowing that it’s possible to make the most of the diverse suppliers you find. You can do this by following a stepped approach. 

“Start by onboarding new suppliers who are considered ‘diverse’ with processes that reliably capture their information. This way, your diversity programmes can be well-informed. It’s hugely valuable to be able to tell, at the touch of a button, where a particular supplier might be based. Also, what qualifies them as ‘diverse’? And while they might hold diversity status today, how can we be sure it still applies tomorrow? 

“With all the right information collected at the start of each relationship, then it’s a good idea to instill processes that drive everyone who works with suppliers to spend more with those who are considered as diverse. As more diverse suppliers join the organisation, then you need to keep their data accurate. Do this by digitally transforming the procurement landscape to make master data a priority. With robust processes, it’s possible to maximise your relationships with all suppliers.”

How optimistic are you about the future of ESG within procurement?

Anthony Payne: “I am very optimistic about the future of ESG within procurement, because, we’re seeing the supplier experience movement grow in the UK and the US. For instance, we’re seeing new job roles come out in this area as the principle is popularised. And we know that having good Supplier Experience Management programmes in place sets up business to procure in the most ESG-friendly way possible. 

“And so, with Supplier Experience Management becoming increasingly popular, we believe that the future for sustainability is bright.”

Read the latest CPOstrategy here!

Publicic Sapient CEO Nigel Vaz reflects on the leadership strategies required for successful digital business transformations

The hardest part of being a business leader and CEO – especially leading through change – are the choices we make every day to move toward that will drive our future success. Often, this will mean letting go of things that made us successful in the past. We must make room for new skills, relationships, ways of working, and opportunities.

The average CEO has 30 years of business experience and makes decisions based on that accumulated experience. But think how much the world has changed in the space of five years, let alone 30. The same thinking and approach are not going to stand the test of time. The modern CEO needs to find and maintain the ability to turn preconceived ideas on their head. As a leader, I’ve always felt it’s important that I adopt the behaviours I advise for our clients. Leaders must be willing to learn, adapt and act with speed.

The Modern CEO

The modern CEO has a complicated, bordering on paradoxical, relationship with change. We dislike uncertainty and volatility, and yet we have an intense distaste for stasis. We would rather avoid geopolitical instability and macroeconomic challenges. However, changes to customer needs, shifting industry landscapes and rapid technological innovation bring opportunities to transform our companies. We must identify paths to value creation and growth, and build better, more efficient businesses. And, the reality is for today’s CEOs, you don’t get to pick one or the other. You have to be ready to lead your organisation in the context of both simultaneously. Leading through either type of change is not for the faint of heart.

In my role as CEO of Publicis Sapient – a digital business transformation company that partners with organisations globally to help them create and sustain competitive advantage – my relationship with change is amplified. I am responsible for driving growth and ensuring our business capabilities are optimised for the digital age. At the same time I’m leading a business that empowers our clients to embrace change by putting digital at the core of how they think, organise and operate. On the Executive Committee of our parent company, Publicis Groupe, I am also weighing in on how to lead on the digital business transformation of the Groupe. This has been accelerated this past year with the pace of AI.

Change Management

The nexus of these different aspects of my CEO role is not uncommon to many of the CEO clients we work with. Like myself, they are leading their organisations and people through a period of tremendous change. Furthermore, they are tasked with making decisions daily on choices that will impact the direction and outcomes for their company.

One of the most critical choices they will make is determining the purpose of their organisation. When there is so much change and challenge surrounding you, the easy path is to react and say, ‘How do I overcome each of these challenges?’ But first you have to be clear on who you are as an organisation and the impact you want to have. Without that sense of direction, you can very easily fall into the mistake of making disconnected, reactive decisions.

Read the full story here

Welcome to the latest issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our cover story focuses on the work of Nigel Vaz, the CEO of Publicis Sapient – a digital business transformation company that partners with organisations globally to help them create and sustain competitive advantage – and his approach to change management.

Welcome to the latest issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the latest issue here!

Publicis Sapient: Advice for the modern CEO

“I lead Publicis Sapient with a set of principles to keep me on track, and which I offer to fellow CEOs as a guide,” says CEO Nigel Vaz. “Embrace change, and view challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation; Foster a culture of continuous learning within yourself and your organisation; Advance the organisational capabilities that will enable your company to deliver on your brand promise; Adopt a data-driven approach to decision-making, utilising analytics and advanced technologies and Stay rooted in purpose to realise your competitive advantage.”

EMCS: Leading a small fish making a big impact

“If you look after your people and you have the right people in place, the customer experience takes care of itself,” explains EMCS Industries CEO Trevor Tasker. “A lot of entrepreneurs say the same, but you don’t always see it in action. If I have to micromanage somebody, I’ve made a hiring mistake. When I’ve found the right person, all I have to do is support them and trust them. If I can’t trust them, I can’t lead them. And being trusted makes my employees so much better at their jobs. It makes choosing the customers you deal with very important as well…”

Moneypenny: People at the heart

We are consistently listed in the best places to work rankings and have created a happy and fun working environment,” says Moneypenny CEO Joanna Swash. “We strive to be authentic, and that starts at the top. If the leadership team walks the walk and talks the talk, then trust is built. Trust fosters a culture where employees are motivated, engaged and empowered with a culture of transparency and honesty…”

Bupa: Choice, care and compassion driving digital transformation

“In a fast-changing world, it’s essential that we harness the power of technology to keep improving health outcomes for our customers,” says Global & UK CEO Carlos Jaureguizar of the digital transformation journey helping Bupa become the world’s most customer-centric healthcare company. “We give our people the tools to give customers the best care, streamline the customer experience and drive innovation.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Rachel Youngman, Deputy CEO at the Institute of Physics, on how organisations can leverage ESG targets to meet the Net Zero challenge; we get the lowdown on a fintech success story from RTGS.global CEO Jarrad Hubble; discover the importance of Strategic Thinking with Institute for Management Development Professor Michael Watkins and count down ten reasons why integrity is key to business success with Serenity In Leadership CEO Thom Dennis.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Global cloud services point-of-sale provider, GK Software, was founded over 30 years ago in Germany. For most of its existence,…

Global cloud services point-of-sale provider, GK Software, was founded over 30 years ago in Germany. For most of its existence, its focus was on expanding across Europe. However, in 2015, GK broke into the US when its partnership with SAP helped it drive into that vital market. The business has been thriving stateside ever since. Its core business is a point-of-sale software platform – CLOUD4RETAIL – which features the OmniPOS solution. Today, GK is ranked highly in global POS installations and has been among the top three for the last five years.

GK is an organisation committed to continuous improvement and customer engagement. It is evolving, getting into newer technologies like AI in a big way. It’s leveraging its expertise to improve insights into what its retail customers and their shoppers need. This includes everything from price optimisation to loyalty to self-service technologies.

Its ability to provide these services, through its expertise, is what attracted Virginia ABC to GK Software. Virginia ABC was a previous user of SAP’s point-of-sale (POS) solution, but as the authority evolved, it required an updated POS. 

GK Software meets Virginia ABC

Enter: GK Software. “As a result of our relationship with SAP and with Paul Williams at Virginia ABC, we were shortlisted in their new point-of-sale solution selection,” explains Max Francescangeli, Regional Sales Director at GK Software.

“With Virginia ABC, we went through quite an extensive selection process. It’s a government agency, so the rules are very strict,” says Francescangeli. “But we were able to prove that we could use our expertise to address and solve all of their problems in spite of the unique environment they operate in. They needed a flexible solution that would interact well with their legacy platforms during implementation. We were certainly able to provide that. So, we were eventually awarded the business and the project has been extremely successful.”

The approach GK takes with its customers during these projects highlights just how much out-of-the-box capability its solution has. GK’s team spent a lot of time with Virginia ABC. The organisation examined its business requirements and using a consultative approach to show how its software could be configured. This was so it could meet the end-state business requirements and take advantage of best-of-breed capabilities that exist within GK’s platform. 

“Rather than going there and trying to do a lot of customisation, we wanted to help them take advantage of the software as it exists,” Francescangeli adds. There were also other areas where GK was able to provide a lot of value and expertise to Virginia ABC. These include payment processing and its partner ecosystem. Virginia ABC was previously using a payment provider with limited capabilities, but GK was able to step in and expand the technology set. “We gave them more hardware choices, expanding what they could do with their in-store devices.”

Virginia ABC also needed more advanced reporting and analytics within its environment. So, GK introduced a solution called Advanced Central Electronic Journal and Reporting. Francescangeli continues: “It saved them a tremendous amount of effort, and gave them a lot of flexibility. We implemented that very quickly and they gained business value from it immediately.”

An evolving partnership

GK Software and Virginia ABC worked on initial deployment for the first 12 months of the project, and GK has continued to supply its services ever since. Each year after the first, Virginia ABC has expressed interest in something else GK offers. As a result, the relationship has remained close and Virginia ABC continues to expand the partnership.

“Paul and his team have been champions of ours and we’re champions of theirs as well,” Francescangeli states. “Due to the relationship we have with Virginia ABC, we have been able to secure business from other retailers in the same space because they have confidence that we know how to handle the market.”

“GK checks a lot of boxes retailers are looking for,” Bill Miller, North American VP of Sales at GK adds. “We’re in this inflection point where we offer modern technology that also has a lot of functionality out of the box, and that’s what people want. That’s what Virginia ABC wanted, and that’s what we supplied.”

Read more about Virginia ABC’s story, and the part GK Software has played, in issue 49 of Interface Magazine.

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

For our first cover story of 2024 we meet with Lloyds Banking Group’s CIO for Consumer Relationships & Mass Affluent,…

For our first cover story of 2024 we meet with Lloyds Banking Group’s CIO for Consumer Relationships & Mass Affluent, Martyn Atkinson, to learn how an ambitious growth agenda, combined with a people-centred culture, is driving change for customers and colleagues across the Group.

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!

Lloyds Banking Group: A technology & business strategy

“We’ve made significant strides in transforming our business for the future,” explains Martyn Atkinson, CIO for Consumer Relationships & Mass Affluent at Lloyds Banking Group. “I’m really proud of what the team have achieved. There’s loads more to go after. It’s a really exciting time as we become a modern, progressive, tech-enabled business. We’ve aimed to maintain pace and an agile mindset. We want to get products and services out to our customers and colleagues. We’ll test and learn to see if what we’re doing is actually making a meaningful difference.”

AFRICOM: Organisational resilience through cybersecurity

We also speak with U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) CISO Ryan Larsen on developing the right culture to build cyber awareness. He is committed to driving secure and continued success for the Department of Defence. “I often think of every day working in cyberspace a lot like counterinsurgency warfare and my time in Afghanistan. You had to be on top of your game every minute of every day. The adversary only needs to get lucky one time to find you with that IED.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ALIC: Creating synergy to scale at speed with Lolli

Since 2009 the Australian Lending & Investment Centre (ALIC) has been matching Australians with loans that help build their wealth. It has delivered over $8.3bn in loans to more than 22,000 leading Australian investors and businesses. Managing Director Damian Brander talks ethical lending and the challenges of a shifting financial landscape. ALIC has also built Lolli – a broker enhancement platform built by brokers, for brokers.

Sime Darby Motors: Driving digital, cultural, and business transformation together

Sime Darby Berhad is one of the oldest and most successful multinational companies in Malaysia. It has a twin focus on the Industrial and Motors sectors. The company employs more than 24,000 people, operating across 17 countries and territories. Sime Darby Motors’ Chief Digital & Information Officer Tuan Jean Tee shares how he makes sure digital, cultural, and process transformation go hand in hand throughout one of APAC’s largest automotive multinationals.

Also in this issue, we hear from Microsoft on the art of sustainable supply chain transformation, Tecnotree map the key trends set to impact the telecoms industry in 2024 and our panel of experts chart the big Fintech predictions for the year ahead.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

  • Fintech & Insurtech

This month’s exclusive cover story features a fascinating discussion with Dhaval Desai, Principal Group Engineering Manager at Microsoft, regarding a massive and sustainable supply chain transformation at the tech giant… 

This month’s exclusive cover story features a fascinating discussion with Dhaval Desai, Principal Group Engineering Manager at Microsoft, regarding a massive and sustainable supply chain transformation at the tech giant… 

In the past four years, Microsoft has gained more than 80,000 productivity hours and avoided hundreds of millions in costs. Did you miss that? That’s probably because these massive improvements took place behind the scenes as the technology giant moved to turn SC management into a major force driving efficiencies, enabling growth, and bringing the company closer to its sustainability goals. 

Expect changes and outcomes to continue as Dhaval Desai continues to apply the learnings from the Devices Supply Chain transformation – think Xbox, Surface, VR and PC accessories and cross-industry experiences and another to the fast-growing Cloud supply chain where demand for Azure is surging. As the Principal Group Software Engineering Manager, Desai is part of the Supply Chain Engineering organisation, the global team of architects, managers, and engineers in the US, Europe, and India tasked with developing a platform and capabilities to power supply chains across Microsoft. It’s an exciting time. Desai’s staff has already quadrupled since he joined Microsoft in 2021, and it’s still growing. Within the company, he’s on the cutting edge of technology innovation testing generative AI solutions. “We are actively learning how to improve it and move forward,” he tells us. 

Read the full story here! 

Plus, there’s more!

We also have some inspiring and informative content from supply chain leaders and experts at Schneider Electric, Smart Cube, Protokol, Red Helix and Astrocast. Plus, expert predictions for 2024 from leading supply chain leaders, as well as a round-up of the best events this year has to offer! 

Read our amazing content here!

Enjoy! 

Our final cover story for 2023 explores how Deputy CIO May Cheng is accelerating a digital customer and product-centric approach…

Our final cover story for 2023 explores how Deputy CIO May Cheng is accelerating a digital customer and product-centric approach to IT management for the International Trade Administration (ITA).

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!

ITA: A better digital government experience

We connect once more with the tech trailblazers at the International Trade Administration. Deputy CIO May Cheng and her team are accelerating adoption of ITA’s customer and product-centric approach to IT management. In addition, their focus is on Agile, DevSecOps, Value Proposition, and Human Centred Design. “In 2023, we launched 13 products, three MVPs and saw enhancements operationalised. Moreover, the digital model has enabled a partnership between business and IT. The result is clearer lines of shared responsibility, transparency in resources, and a continuous learning culture across the agency.”

Businessman touching data analytics process system with KPI financial charts, dashboard of stock and marketing on virtual interface. With American flag in background.

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Trust: Digitally transforming patient care

The Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is centred on bringing tomorrow’s treatments to today’s patients with a clear mission to provide excellent, specialist care to patients suffering from heart and lung disease. We hear from Andrew Raynes who took up his role as CIO in 2017. He is overseeing a digital transformation program bringing value to staff and patients. “Using the global language of interoperability… we’ll see greater efficiency in terms of use of technology and sweating our assets. Furthermore, exploiting the benefits to support seamless care by allowing standards to do the heavy lifting.”

Toronto Community Housing: Supporting tenants with tech

Toronto Community Housing houses tenants in 106 of Toronto’s 158 neighbourhoods. It ensures over 43,000 low and moderate-income families are supported in their continuously managed homes. Luisa Andrews, VP Information Technology Services tells us it’s the best role she’s had in her career. “It’s the most challenging, and where I’ve seen the most progress in a short amount of time. I’m proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished in five years. We, and our partners, have enabled the corporation, through technology, to do what it needs to do for our tenants.”

Marshfield Clinic Health System:

Marshfield Clinic Health System provides care at over 50 locations across the US state of Wisconsin. Chief Data & Analytics Officer Mitchell Kwiatkowski explains its tech mantra to us: “We’re trying to toe that line while examining new technologies as they come out. We’re aiming to understand what they are, how they can help, and implementing things that are mature enough and show promise. I don’t think healthcare is necessarily risk-averse; it’s a highly regulated area that doesn’t always have deep pockets for investment. However, it’s people’s health at stake, so we have to be careful…”

Also in this issue, we get the lowdown on the tech trends for 2024 from Hitachi Vantara innovation guru Bjorn Andersson. We also hear from the WatchGuard Threat Lab research team with their cybersecurity predictions for the year ahead.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions. Welcome to the latest issue of…

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions.

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!

NAB: Reinventing Small Business Banking

A passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity, Executive GM Ana Marinkovic leads a team of 1,600+ small business experts. They lend over $1.2bn a month to Australian small businesses. National Australia Bank (NAB) plays a major role in propelling entrepreneurship across the country. Delivering better outcomes for small business owners sits at the very heart of NAB’s strategy. “Our scale and connectivity help us to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our business and the communities we operate in,” says Ana.

TUI: Making travel plans mobile

The mobile side of TUI has never been more vital. TUI’s mobile apps were officially launched in 2013 and began as something of a proof of concept. For the entire international industry, moving from web to mobile devices was a huge shift. The initial set of apps were very skeletal and only integrated for UK and Nordic customers.

One of this year’s goals is to accelerate the native journey to make all the customer journeys native. This will further improving the customer experience. After a recent UI refresh, the app look and feel is fresh and sleek, and has plenty of exciting features for customers to enjoy. “Just in the last couple of months we’ve introduced an integration with OpenAI for a travel planner that helps you choose excursions,” Donia adds. “Seeing it grow over the years is so exciting.”

TARA Energy Services: tech fuelling growth

“Continuous improvement is woven into the fabric of the culture at TARA Energy Services,” says its proud Director of IT, Paul Parzen. “Every day, we face new challenges, both operationally in the field and strategically in the boardroom. We must make sure the organisation’s IT strategy for data management, core infrastructure, network architecture, and security is ready to meet them.”

“Some people might say, ‘wow, a pension. That sounds a little boring.’ But at the end of the day, what we do is help people retire in the best way possible and that’s a pretty good place to be.”

Those are the words of Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions since May 2019. The company is a global, digitally-enabled business connecting millions of people with their pension assets – safely, securely and responsibly. 

Evara Health: Technology delivering care for all

Evara Health’s mission statement is to help people become healthy and live healthy lives, and that means all people. A lot of health organisations don’t serve everybody and their treatments aren’t available under many types of insurance. However, Evara Heath doesn’t turn anybody away. It supports the underserved and the uninsured, and patients are treated regardless of whether they can afford it. Around 25% of patients have no insurance at all, and over half are covered by Medicaid, which isn’t accepted by everyone.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions. Welcome to the latest issue of…

This month’s cover story charts NAB’s journey to support SMEs with customer-centric digital solutions.

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!

NAB: Reinventing Small Business Banking

A passionate advocate for diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity, Executive GM Ana Marinkovic leads a team of 1,600+ small business experts. They lend over $1.2bn a month to Australian small businesses. National Australia Bank (NAB) plays a major role in propelling entrepreneurship across the country. Delivering better outcomes for small business owners sits at the very heart of NAB’s strategy. “Our scale and connectivity help us to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our business and the communities we operate in,” says Ana.

TUI: Making travel plans mobile

The mobile side of TUI has never been more vital. TUI’s mobile apps were officially launched in 2013 and began as something of a proof of concept. For the entire international industry, moving from web to mobile devices was a huge shift. The initial set of apps were very skeletal and only integrated for UK and Nordic customers.

One of this year’s goals is to accelerate the native journey to make all the customer journeys native. This will further improving the customer experience. After a recent UI refresh, the app look and feel is fresh and sleek, and has plenty of exciting features for customers to enjoy. “Just in the last couple of months we’ve introduced an integration with OpenAI for a travel planner that helps you choose excursions,” Donia adds. “Seeing it grow over the years is so exciting.”

TARA Energy Services: tech fuelling growth

“Continuous improvement is woven into the fabric of the culture at TARA Energy Services,” says its proud Director of IT, Paul Parzen. “Every day, we face new challenges, both operationally in the field and strategically in the boardroom. We must make sure the organisation’s IT strategy for data management, core infrastructure, network architecture, and security is ready to meet them.”

“Some people might say, ‘wow, a pension. That sounds a little boring.’ But at the end of the day, what we do is help people retire in the best way possible and that’s a pretty good place to be.”

Those are the words of Dee McGrath, CEO of Link Group’s Retirement Solutions since May 2019. The company is a global, digitally-enabled business connecting millions of people with their pension assets – safely, securely and responsibly. 

Evara Health: Technology delivering care for all

Evara Health’s mission statement is to help people become healthy and live healthy lives, and that means all people. A lot of health organisations don’t serve everybody and their treatments aren’t available under many types of insurance. However, Evara Heath doesn’t turn anybody away. It supports the underserved and the uninsured, and patients are treated regardless of whether they can afford it. Around 25% of patients have no insurance at all, and over half are covered by Medicaid, which isn’t accepted by everyone.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our exclusive cover story this month centres around Versuni, home to some of the world’s most renowned home appliance brands

Versuni: Procurement excellence to drive growth 

Our exclusive cover story this month centres around Versuni, home to some of the world’s most renowned home appliance brands. Versuni is a company with a rich history, dating back to 1891, albeit under a different name. Philips Domestic Appliances was renamed Versuni after the Netherlands-based giant sold the business to China-based global leading Private Equity company Hillhouse Capital in September 2021. And so began a process of disentanglement as Versuni embarked on its journey to becoming a successful and independent entity with a simple yet clear purpose of turning houses into homes. 

Read the new issue here!

“We refer to ourselves as a 130-year-old company with a scale-up mentality,” explains Hugo Sparidans, Chief Procurement Officer, Versuni. “We combine the legacy we have with Philips with all the goodies here in this new, agile environment where things can happen much faster and with a different mindset fully focused on growth.” 

Versuni is now operating under private equity ownership following its separation from Philips two years ago. “My boss called me and said, ‘So, we’re going to spin off Domestic Appliances. Do you have the interest to lead the transition for Procurement within that spin-off, and then potentially after?’ That was an interesting question for me,” Sparidans explains. “I’d had a great career within Philips working for a successful business, but I was now facing the idea of leaving that behind for a trip into the unknown.” 

Read the full story here!

Mars LATAM: Shaping the world of tomorrow  

Mars Pet Nutrition LATAM is changing the sustainability game within the pet food sector. Gabriel Guzman, VP Procurement LATAM, and Ana Milena Zambrano, Climate & Sustainable Sourcing Head LATAM, explain how…

Gabriel Guzman, VP Procurement LATAM, and Ana Milena Zambrano, Climate & Sustainable Sourcing Head LATAM, are leading a major ongoing evolution within Mars Pet Nutrition LATAM. Guzman has worked in some of the world’s largest organisations over 25 years, spearheading many high-profile projects during this time. Zambrano’s career spans 15 years across consumer goods and supply chains, with sustainability as a core lifelong passion. 

A focus on sustainability and the environment is nothing new for Mars – it’s part of the culture. It’s a business with firm ESG pillars and a clear concept of what sustainability means to the organisation. “We believe the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today,” says Guzman. “It is the vision at the heart of our Sustainable in a Generation Plan – one where the planet is healthy, people and their pets are thriving, and society is inclusive.”

Read the full story here!

EMCS: A small fish making a big impact 

We sit down with Trevor Tasker, CEO of EMCS, for the second time to discuss partnership, leadership, and the state of the industry 

EMCS Industries is one of the best-kept secrets in its sector. An innovator from day one, EMCS Industries invented the world’s first electrolytic marine growth protection system (MGPS). This set the basic standard for the field, to the extent that everybody else now uses the same or similar technology based on the EMCS Canadian engineered and manufactured antifouling system. Trevor Tasker is the CEO of the company, and he’s not only passionate about what EMCS does, but his rich background in leadership puts him in excellent stead as head of an industry-leading company. 

Tasker’s first job at the age of 16 was as a self-employed wedding DJ. Since then, he has honed his entrepreneurial spirit on an international scale in industries such as financial, large scale digital signage, steel manufacturing, and others. He has experience in both building his own businesses, and being an employee, giving him a good foundation of what it means to both lead and be led. 

“It allows you to get a good mix of what you like, what you don’t like, how you’d like to be treated, and how that shapes the way you treat others as you move through your career,” says Tasker. He’s worked across a variety of industries but the common denominator has been that he’s always either been in a leadership position within a company or running his own company. He’s conducted business all over the world and collected the tools he’s needed to be the best leader he can. 

Read the full story here!

AlphaSense: Making procurement a priority 

Joaquin Rivamonte, Director of Procurement at AlphaSense, talks about how he’s bringing scalability to the organisation, and the benefits of procurement working hand-in-hand with the wider business 

Joaquin Rivamonte has enjoyed a rich and varied career, one which taught him numerous lessons in preparation for his role with market intelligence platform, AlphaSense. He cut his teeth in the financial service sector; he was the Director of Procurement for some medium-sized investment banking companies in San Francisco, helping support Silicon Valley before the businesses he worked for were bought by bigger banks. One was acquired by JP Morgan Chase, where Rivamonte became VP of Procurement. He was then asked to move to New York, just as Silicon Valley was experiencing the dotcom boom.  

Office photos at AlphaSense, 24 Union Square East in New York City.

Rivamonte’s background in building procurement departments from the ground up continued, and eventually, Microsoft took him on. He moved to Seattle to be part of the Microsoft team in 2005, and this was the beginning of his education in how very large procurement departments work. “I did have experience in large groups of people reporting to me already,” Rivamonte says, “but at Microsoft, I had $2-3bn dollars of category responsibility under me. 

“I was responsible for putting together the consulting category, which was almost $1bn, and the outsourcing category of about $1.2bn, plus the web development category and a lot of different IT contracts.” 

Read the full story here!

This month’s cover story features Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement…

It’s a bumper issue this month. Click here to access the latest issue!

And below are just some of this month’s exclusives…

ProcurementIQ: Smart sourcing through people power 

We speak to Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement… 

The industry leader in emboldening procurement practitioners in making intelligent purchases is ProcurementIQ. ProcurementIQ provides its clients with pricing data, supplier intelligence and contract strategies right at their fingertips. Its users are working smarter and more swiftly with trustworthy market intelligence on more than 1,000 categories globally.  

Fiona Adams joined ProcurementIQ in August this year as its Director of Client Value Realization. Out of all the companies vying for her attention, it was ProcurementIQ’s focus on ‘people power’ that attracted her, coupled with her positive experience utilising the platform during her time as a consultant.

Although ProcurementIQ remains on the cutting edge of technology, it is a platform driven by the expertise and passion of its people and this appealed greatly to Adams. “I want to expand my own reach and I’m excited to be problem-solving for corporate America across industries, clients and procurement organizations and teams (internal & external). I know ProcurementIQ can make a difference combined with my approach and experience. Because that passion and that drive, powered by knowledge, is where the real magic happens,” she tells us.  

To read more click here!

ASM Global: Putting people first in change management   

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, discusses her mission for driving a people-centric approach to change management in procurement…

Ripping up the carpet and starting again when entering a new organisation isn’t a sure-fire way for success. 

Effective change management takes time and careful planning. It requires evaluating current processes and questioning why things are done in a certain way. Indeed, not everything needs to be changed, especially not for the sake of it, and employees used to operating in a familiar workflow or silo will naturally be fearful of disruptions to their methods. However, if done in the correct way and with a people-centric mindset, delivering change that drives significant value could hold the key to unleashing transformation. 

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, aligns herself with that mantra. Her mentality of being agile and responsive to change has proven to be an advantage during a turbulent past few years. For Erbynn, she thrives on leading transformations and leveraging new tools to deliver even better results. “I love change because it allows you to think outside the box,” she discusses. “I have a son and before COVID I used to hear him say, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’ He stayed home for a year and now he begs to go to school, so we adapt and it makes us stronger. COVID was a unique situation but there’s always been adversity and disruptions within supply chain and procurement, so I try and see the silver lining in things.”

To read more click here!

SpendHQ: Realising the possible in spend management software 

Pierre Laprée, Chief Product Officer at SpendHQ, discusses how customers can benefit from leveraging spend management technology to bring tangible value in procurement today…

Turning vision and strategy into highly effective action. This mantra is behind everything SpendHQ does to empower procurement teams.  

The organisation is a leading best-in-class provider of enterprise Spend Intelligence (SI) and Procurement Performance Management (PPM) solutions. These products fill an important gap that has left strategic procurement out of the solution landscape. Through these solutions, customers get actionable spend insights that drive new initiatives, goals, and clear measurements of procurement’s overall value. SpendHQ exists to ultimately help procurement generate and demonstrate better financial and non-financial outcomes. 

Spearheading this strategic vision is Pierre Laprée, long-time procurement veteran and SpendHQ’s Chief Product Officer since July 2022. However, despite his deep understanding of procurement teams’ needs, he wasn’t always a procurement professional. Like many in the space, his path into the industry was a complete surprise.  

To read more click here!

But that’s not all… Earlier this month, we travelled to the Netherlands to cover the first HICX Supplier Experience Live, as well as DPW Amsterdam 2023. Featured inside is our exclusive overview from each event, alongside this edition’s big question – does procurement need a rebrand? Plus, we feature a fascinating interview with Georg Rosch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER, who discusses his organisation’s approach amid significant transformation and evolution.

Enjoy!

Nigel Greatorex, Global Industry Manager at ABB, on how digital technologies can support decarbonisation and net zero goals

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

Meeting our global decarbonisation goals is arguably the most pressing challenge facing humanity. Moreover, solving this requires concerted global action. However, there is no silver bullet to the global warming crisis. The solution requires a mix of investment, legislation and, importantly, innovative digital technologies.

Decarbonisation digital technologies

It’s widely recognised decarbonisation is essential to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Decarbonisation technology is becoming an increasingly important, rapidly growing market. It is especially relevant for heavy industries – such as chemicals, cement and steel. These account for 70 percent of industrial CO2 emissions; equal to approximately six billion tons annually.

CCS digital technologies are increasingly seen as key to helping industries decarbonise their operations. Reaching our net zero targets requires industry uptake of CCS to grow 120-fold by 2050, according to analysis from McKinsey & Company. Indeed, if successful, it could be responsible for reducing CO2 emissions from the industrial sector by 45 percent.

A Digital Twin solution

ABB and Pace CCS joined forces to deliver a digital twin solution. It reduces the cost of integrating CCS into new and existing industrial operations. Simulating the design stage and test scenarios to deliver proof of concept gives customers peace of mind. Indeed, system designs need to be fit for purpose. Also, it demonstrates the smooth transition into CCS operations. Additionally, the digital twin models the full value chain of a CCS system.

Read the full story here

  • Sustainability Technology

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.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsDaZiSO1ho

“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…

Read the latest issue here!

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

Melvin Brown, Deputy CIO at the Office of Personnel Management, explains the organisation’s ‘sprint to the cloud’ and its determination to modernise at every level.

Our cover story highlights the Office of Personnel Management’s ‘sprint to the cloud’ with technology.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface hears from leaders who champion a people-first approach driving successful technology transformations.

Read the latest issue here!

Culture Modernisation at the Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a government entity which manages America’s civil service. This month’s cover story explores how an organisation that prioritises people is taking a human approach to IT. Deputy CIO Melvin Brown oversees a portfolio of $500m in programs and a growing workforce of around 300 federal employees and contractors. OPM is undergoing a major cloud transformation… “We want to be cloud-first and cloud-smart as we move forward,” he explains. “So, we created a two-year sprint to the cloud plan where we take all our major applications and move them to the cloud in order to take advantage of all the benefits that brings, from both a security and a utility perspective.”

International Trade Administration: A strategic vision for technology

The International Trade Administration (ITA) strengthens the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promotes trade and investment, and ensures fair trade through the enforcement of trade laws and agreements. We hear from its CIO Gerald Caron who is passionate about involving all stakeholders in ITA’s transformation… “We’re introducing different ways of thinking to drive innovation at the International Trade Administration (ITA). What is the art of the possible? We’re looking to explore possibilities with technology across our business units and build simple foundations for the development of more complex approaches.”

Irwin Mitchell: Technology with a human touch

Also espousing the importance of a people-centric approach, Graham Thomson, Chief Information Security Officer at Irwin Mitchell, discusses his firm’s transformative legal solutions. “We’re far more than just a law firm,” he says. “I think what sets us apart is that we’re very people focused and an organisation that genuinely cares about not only our customers but our people too. People are your biggest asset, and you have to look after them.”

State of Vermont: Using AI for good

We spoke with Shawn Nailor, Secretary and CIO at State of Vermont, about IT modernisation, tackling cybersecurity state-wide, and how AI is being used for the good of Vermonters. “We’ve got to be practitioners in order to give good guidance on how to use advanced technology and where… We want to establish a practice by which we can lead by example and show good applications or AI tools to advance services and the delivery of products.”

Also in this issue, we round up the must attend tech events; get game-changing AI, Metaverse and ‘moonshot’ insights from Lenovo, and learn why people are at the heart of the decision-making process at energy company newcleo.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Amit Thawani, CIO for Consumer Data & Engagement Platforms at Wells Fargo, on the journey towards becoming a customer-centric company

This month’s cover story reveals how a customer-centric approach to technology is helping Wells Fargo deliver stable, secure, scalable, and innovative services.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

It’s our biggest issue yet! The common theme this month is the focus on the creation of customer-centric technologies that offer reliable, secure and helpful user journeys from travel and banking to health and business.

Interface dives deep for insights on understanding, planning, implementing and communicating change across industries.

Read the latest issue here!

Customer-centric banking with Wells Fargo

Amit Thawani, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Consumer Data & Engagement Platforms (CDEP) on the technology journey at Wells Fargo: “All tech employees at Wells Fargo are tasked with working towards delivering stable, secure, scalable, and innovative services at speed that delight and satisfy our customers while unleashing the skills potential of our employees.”

TUI: Developing a technology ecosystem

Kristof Caekebeke, CIO for Product & Engagement, is a member of the leadership team that is driving the transformation of the TUI technical ecosystem which has seen Master Domain Owners taking different blocks of the ecosystem under their control to roll out across the organisation.

TUI Group

Responsible for product and engagement, Caekebeke’s focus is on building products out of the thousands of hotels, flights, experiences and cruises TUI is offering. “I’m responsible for every contact point between the customer and TUI. The websites, the mobile apps, the retail systems – any contact point we have between the customer and TUI. It’s a large team of 1,100 tech people.

A digital bank transformation journey with Banco PAN

“Until 2018 Banco PAN was very much an analogue company reliant on legacy paper processes,” recalls Leandro Marçal. Joining the bank in December 2020, to become Technology & Operations Director (CIO/COO), Marçal was tasked with accelerating a digital transformation journey.

“Banco PAN invested in innovation before I arrived,” says Marçal. “It is my team’s job to formalise the path towards becoming a digital bank. Our legacy operation was digitalising. It was an opportunity to improve the customer experience with our checking account and credit card systems.”

Pohlad Companies: The power of people

A pillar of the community in Minneapolis, Pohlad Companies is well known to Minnesotans for its influence, its charity work, and the opportunities it has created for people since the 1950s.

Alongside significant commercial real estate investments, Pohlad Companies owns a custom engineering and robotics company, a group of automotive dealerships specialising in luxury vehicles, a film production studio, and many more businesses. Famously, the Pohlad family also owns the Minnesota Twins, a Major League Baseball team.

This variety is part of what makes Rachel Lockett’s job so exciting. She’s Pohlad Companies’ CIO and has spent a decade in her current role. Lockett began her career as a programmer over 25 years ago and quickly moved into IT leadership management.

Coalfire: Embracing change in cybersecurity

If you wait for something to happen, then it’s often too late. The art of having a finger on the pulse is an essential ingredient to success. Failure to manage change and implement cybersecurity protocols could mean leaving an organisation vulnerable to hackers. 

Sreeveni Kancharla, Coalfire’s first Chief Information Officer, is leading the company’s digital transformation with unwavering determination. As a cybersecurity advisor, Coalfire assists private and public sector organisations in managing threats, closing gaps, and mitigating risks. Kancharla ensures that her team stays up-to-date with the latest technologies to guard against zero-day attacks.

Uni of Kansas Health: Cybersecurity at the heart

Speed versus safety. The two topics are intrinsically linked and vital in their own individual way. But can you have both in healthcare when the risks are so great? Ultimately, there is no higher stake than saving people’s lives – it goes above everything and is why cybersecurity is so vital.

Protecting the healthcare system

“There’s nothing more important to me than patient care,” affirms Michael Meis, Associate Chief Information Security Officer at The University of Kansas Health System. “It is one of the highest callings you can imagine, to be able to help people. While the cybersecurity team and me, individually, do not directly care for patients, we enable a lot of that patient care to continue and to be able to achieve some of the goals that the health system has set to provide that healing, research, and innovation within the healthcare space.”

Also in this issue, we ask ChatGPT what the future holds for AI and learn from Zoom how businesses can leverage analytics for insights from their hybrid events.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

There is no denying that the world of business is evolving at an incredibly fast pace. With the constant launch of new tools and innovative tech, workers are required to embrace a wide range of modern equipment on a regular basis.

As employees continue to up their game, it is only natural that the next generation of leaders will need a set of updated skills too.

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International

Here, with some insights from Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, we take a look at some crucial future requirements that business owners and managers will have to nail to guide their team in an efficient, successful fashion.

1. Technological inclination

In the same way that youngsters jump at the latest technology at the first opportunity, it is important for future leaders to emulate that same drive and curiosity.

The world is becoming increasingly digitalised, and the business sector is no exception. This is why company owners and managers should have a basic understanding of today’s technologies, exploring how modern equipment can actively aid their business. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence and UX development, there are many different tools that can increase your organisation’s chance of success.  

Of course, nobody expects you to be an expert in computing coding or programming. But getting precious digital and tech skills under your belt can provide you with more than one ace up your sleeve.

2. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Just like an experienced, Michelin-star chef, future leaders have to juggle and balance several different aspects to create a perfect menu. Yes, technology will play an essential role in developing and driving your company forward. But software and robots have not yet mastered emotional intelligence, which means they cannot help on the more human side of things.

A business owner or manager should always strive to harness their relationship with colleagues and team members. Empathising, sympathising, supporting, and understanding the necessities of your employees is crucial, as this can inspire confidence and a sense of belonging in your people. If workers feel appreciated and cared for, there is a good chance they will go the extra mile to spur the growth of your business.

Hence, taking an interest in your team’s well-being and nurturing a shared feeling of unity is a fundamental attribute to possess.

3. Openness to diversity

One of the most prominent advantages of modern technology is that it’s abating boundaries and favouring connections with people worldwide. Hence, as time goes by, it is becoming more and more important to collaborate with colleagues from all over the globe. This means that, on a daily basis, you are working with teams from different cultures and who may even speak another language.

Engaging with people from all walks of life and with diverse backgrounds can open the doors to endless opportunities. Not only will you benefit from a vast range of experience, knowledge, and expertise, but you will also learn precious lessons on how to enter and succeed in global markets. Therefore, as the world becomes increasingly connected, future managers need to embrace diversity and make the most of its invaluable benefits.

4. Clarity and communication

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

Clarity and effective communication are timeless features of strong leadership. Managers need to build bridges between their team members and outline the company’s missions in a concise, transparent manner. In this respect, leadership development training is an excellent place to start when it comes to learning how to deliver messages and strategies that are straight to the point.

Future leaders have to be able to identify the right channels to carry this out in a smooth, effective way. With the many digital platforms at our disposal, it is important to choose one that can keep people on the same page at all times. What’s more, as innovations and possibilities arise, future managers need to communicate the essence of the question at hand in a digestible fashion.

Simplifying a complex situation or task is a crucial skill, and it is one that can aid both your team’s productivity and your business’ efficiency.

5. Foresight and adaptability

As technology evolves, artificial intelligence progresses, and the business sector continues to mutate, future leaders need to be flexible. Business owners and managers have to be ready to adapt and make sure they are not fazed by what the future holds. They should monitor trends and look at how to welcome change with a positive attitude.

How can you prepare for upcoming possibilities? One effective way is to run through various scenarios and start outlining all possible outcomes. What’s more, engaging with new circumstances and journeying out of your comfort zone can be an important learning curve. In fact, it will teach you how to deal with unfamiliar situations. If an unexpected opportunity comes about, you will have both the skills and confidence to respond to them with confidence.

To keep in step with the times, business leaders of the future will need to polish their set of skills. From emotional intelligence and adaptability to clear communication and openness to diversity, there are many aspects that will strengthen your leadership. By showing an interest for new software and technological developments, you can make sure your company is expanding its reach and exploring new, successful paths.  

In EY’s January 2023 European CEO Outlook Survey, it was discovered European CEOs expect short-term challenges but have reason for optimism.

Today’s CEO faces unprecedented challenges like never before and is tasked with navigating choppy waters.

Amid global uncertainty caused by a potential recession and on the back of war in Ukraine and disruption caused by COVID-19, it can feel overwhelming for even the most experienced leaders.

A positive horizon?

Despite this, consulting giants EY has discovered reason for optimism in its January 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse survey which includes 390 responses from CEOs across Europe. While the survey found 98% of respondents are indeed expecting a global recession, the majority of European CEOs (52%) anticipate it to be temporary and not a persistent one. These figures are a greater percentage than CEOs worldwide (48%) who point to more long-term optimism for the global economy among European CEOs.

According to the survey, 47% of European respondents believe this recession will be different from previous slowdowns. The recent crisis is more driven by myriad geopolitical challenges and an ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic compared with previous recessions primarily as a result of financial and credit market factors. Many CEOs are aware of this difference and acknowledge the necessity for new and sustainable approaches that build resilience in uncertain times.

In EY’s last survey in October 2022, ongoing pandemic-related concerns such as supply chain issues were the most important topics. However, since then supply chain pressures have eased to some extent with data from S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showing improvement. Only 32% of European CEOs now cite supply chains as the key issue which is down from 41% in October. Given inflationary pressures and the upward movement in interest rates, European CEOs are increasingly focusing on the policies and steps they believe European governments should take to help businesses mitigate the downturn.

About 35% of European respondents, in comparison to 32% globally, consider uncertain monetary policy and increasing cost of capital as the biggest challenge to growth. With inflation beginning to decline in November 2022 after 17 months of upward trajectory, CEOs are closely following central bank activity for potential course changes.

A strategy change

In response to the current recession, EU policymakers are considering more dovish economic recovery proposals instead of top-down austerity rules seen during the sovereign debt crises a decade ago. This includes rethinking debt rules to help countries navigate this downturn. Alongside this, EU governments now face pressure on how to handle the discontent of people protesting against the rising cost of living crisis and questions still remain on how extensively they will intervene. In particular, governments are reluctant to pursue austerity measures as a result of protests from the crisis 10 years ago. Meanwhile, for CEOs, financing will continue to be a challenge as a result of increased capital costs that are set to persist which disrupted growth plans.

European CEOs have learned from previous financial crises and recognise that it is essential to think of new and sustainable strategies to capitalise on the opportunities.

What is the way forward?

According to EY, there are five directives which are worth exploring over the next few years.

Investing in operations
European CEOs identify investing internally to boost operations as extremely important. Risk isn’t only about extraordinary events; day-to-day operational failures can also lead to losses, regulatory action and reductions in share prices. Operations such as finance, accounting and supply chain have emerged as the top priority area of investment for European CEOs (41%).

Recognising disruption and accelerating digital transformation

Amid ongoing global pressure to embrace new technologies and a digital transformation, COVID-19 further accelerated a trend toward digitalisation. Around 38% of European CEOs (in line with 37% globally) are looking to invest in digital transformation, data and technology to emerge stronger from this downturn.

Developing a strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy

Businesses need to ensure ESG processes are moved to the centre of business strategy. Sustainability, including net zero and other environmental issues, as well as societal priorities, is one of the key areas that European CEOs identify as a need for more investment.

Nurturing talent

Despite the recession, the labour market remains tight in Europe. European CEOs are weighing cost management options, with 37% considering a move to contract employment and 38% planning on reducing learning and development investments. About one third are also considering a restructuring of their workforce compared with global and Americas CEOs (36% and 42%) considering the same approach.

Portfolio transformation

Looking ahead, portfolio rebalancing is expected to be a key theme as CEOs will be compelled to make bold decisions regarding their business portfolio. During a recession, companies must critically assess what their core businesses are, what their focus should be and where they can create value by spinning out or selling non-core assets. Some 93% of European CEOs consider prioritising restructuring opportunities as an important initiative in the next six months.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance, discusses how to build a people-first strategy that enables growth.

As the UK economy continues to balance on the edge of a recession, employee retention is quickly being pushed to the top of CEOs’ lists. Over the past couple of years, the job market has shifted dramatically with previously unheard terms such as ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘hybrid working’ becoming commonplace. People are rightly prioritising their working situation and job satisfaction levels, questioning whether they believe in the organisations they are committing so much time to.

Consequently, there has been a power dynamic shift in favour of the workforce. Reportedly in the third quarter of 2022 businesses witnessed over 365,000 job-to-job resignations across the UK. In similar fashion, the phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ – doing the bare minimum required of a job – has become a growing concern but its rise is prompted by a growing number of employees feeling disengaged in their roles.

Against this backdrop of a highly turbulent job market, and increasingly difficult macro-economic pressures, it’s vital for CEOs to prioritise a people-first strategy to ensure healthy growth for their business in 2023. Data from Deloitte has even revealed that experts believe how engaged a workforce feels can directly correlate to overall business output, with 93% of HR and business leaders in agreement that building a sense of belonging is crucial for organisational performance.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance

However, creating the right environment and recruiting, maintaining and nurturing the right talent to ensure a people first approach can be daunting. With this in mind, here are four learnings CEOs might want to consider when approaching this challenge:

1. Define your beliefs

Before CEOs and founders can hope to attract the right talent, it is critical to first distil and translate the business vision into something that can be understood by employees. Put simply, this means defining the business’ beliefs.

Some business leaders may already refer to this as an ‘employer brand’, and it can be key to not only securing better talent, but also saving a business money in the long-term. Data from LinkedIn for example, recently found that a strong employer brand can help to reduce employee turnover by as much as 28% and cost-per-hire by 50%. Defining these beliefs – or the tenets a business does and doesn’t stand for – is therefore the perfect exercise to put a vision onto paper, and clearly communicate it to its prospective talent.

2. Build a solid culture

Once these beliefs have been defined, they must be reflected, and built into a strong culture. A business’ beliefs should permeate through the whole organisation – from customer communications, to how staff are treated, to how leaders run the business. Culture should essentially be a representation of a business’ beliefs being put into practice.

Building a strong culture in a business, however, is not solely about these beliefs but also extends into how employees are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. Companies that invest in learning and development for example, have been found to benefit from a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t, according to the Association of Talent Development. Training and development should therefore be seen as a worthwhile and necessary investment that can solidify your culture and ensure profitability, not just an unavoidable cost.

3. Invest in retention

With research from Oxford Economics estimating the average turnover per employee earning £25,000 a year to be £30,000 plus, there is an evident cost to businesses that fail to invest in retention. Tackling this will mean regularly taking the time to truly understand what makes employees tick – and more specifically, understanding their motivations, attitudes, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses.

As the past few years have evidenced, individuals are no longer deciding where they work solely based on salary, but are also thinking about employer values, flexibility, and benefits. To avoid employee churn, businesses should regularly take time to understand what drives their employees and implement retention strategies to address these drivers. Gathering and analysing employee data will play an important role here over the coming years, and should be built into a long-term strategy to optimise employee satisfaction.

4. Build for the future

A common challenge encountered by modern businesses and startups wanting to take a people first approach, can be their ability to stay committed to it. As a business grows in size and becomes successful, it can be all too easy to let external factors dictate its purpose and for it to lose sight of what it initially stood for. The reality is that when this happens, a business is in its most vulnerable state – as its beliefs become increasingly distant, and worse, employees no longer understand what it stands for.

When creating a people-first strategy its therefore important to think long-term. If there are external factors that will potentially put this strategy at risk in future, it’s crucial to identify them, and put in practical steps to mitigate them where possible. The pandemic, for example, is a prime example of an external factor that interrupted the status quo of many businesses – disrupting employees, customers and operations in general. While they can be unpredictable in nature, having a plan to get through these times can help to get you back on track and reassure talent that a solution is in place.

In this economic climate, defining beliefs, building a solid culture, and retention plan should be at the core of every business’ strategy. It’s only when these things are in place that a business can hope to attract and retain talented people that exude the same passion and values built into the heart of a business. As while a business’ growth may be defined by its leaders, it is delivered by its people who are putting that vision into practice.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, on changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing.

As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming.

Talking about Disability

What we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change. In 2020, we published our global research report, ‘Towards a Disability-Smart world: Global disability inclusion strategy’ . Conducted with our Partner, Shell, the research found that 91 per cent of respondents across multi-national businesses agreed that identifying a senior global disability champion is essential. Talking about disability and diversity – normalising the conversation so it becomes business as usual, has a massive role to play in creating a culture of “psychological safety” in organisations; one in which employees feel safe to share a difference and to ask for the support they need.

As senior leaders, it is easy to forget our privilege and that the environment we inhabit, and how we think the culture feels, may look very different to others. I often quote a research study by our partner Accenture which showed a marked gap (of around 20% across the board) between senior executives’ perception of how “safe” their employees would feel to raise a sensitive topic (including talking about a disability) and how safe they actually felt.

Changing the narrative

So, what can CEOs do to change the narrative? At Business Disability Forum (BDF), we see time and time again that CEOs or senior leaders who have a personal knowledge of and interest in disability issues – perhaps because of their own experience or that of a close family member – are champions in driving change. Senior leaders are less likely to publicly identify as being disabled – the Valuable 500 campaign often quotes the stat that 1 in 7 C suite leaders have a disability, but 4 out of 5 are hiding it. Yet if you as a senior leader are willing to talk about a disability or long-term condition it is hugely powerful in enabling others to do the same.

Storytelling and sharing personal stories can have a huge impact – for good or for bad! The good: A high profile CEO we work with talks openly about his disabled adult children and the moral imperative that he believes that large businesses have in breaking down barriers and opening up opportunities to people who face greater barriers to employment. The bad: I vividly recall being in a meeting with an organisation (not a BDF member!) to plan a possible disability awareness campaign. At the end of the meeting, the CEO then told an anecdote about having had an operation in the past year and being back at work the next day – unlike one of their counterparts who had taken two weeks off to recover. What message does that send? I’ll warrant that those who overheard that story were less likely, not more, to talk about a disability as a result.

Being a disability ally

But you don’t need to have your own lived experience to be an ally. For many businesses, the pandemic brought many senior leaders “up close and personal” with their disabled employees for the first time. In a survey we carried out to find how out how BDF Members and Partners were responding to Covid19, we found that in 83 per cent of organisations the general response to Covid-19 – including arranging internal communications, home working, and ensuring staff have the adjustments they need – was being led by the Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive.

Whilst the figure for responsibility for ensuring staff with disabilities and long-term conditions specifically can move to home working was much lower – 31 per cent said this was the direct responsibility of the COO or CEO as compared to 69 per cent for HR – this is still encouraging in giving senior leaders much greater insight into the issues facing their disabled employees. Too often we “don’t know what we don’t know” – but once we do, we can call it out.

I was very heartened by a discussion with one of our members who was planning an office relocation in which the senior champion leading the project told me that he had vetoed one possible option because it had cobbled paving directly outside – inaccessible to wheelchair users and difficult for anyone with a mobility or visual impairment.

Role Modelling

Leadership is also critical in modelling adjustments and different ways of working. As a CEO, you probably have the freedom to quietly get on with making the adjustments you need, whether that is working from home one day a week (and it’s worth remembering that pre-COVID-19 home working was the most frequently requested workplace adjustment), different/flexible working times or buying some ergonomic equipment. You don’t need to go through a process or to ask HR – but if you share a different way of working with the wider team again it can be hugely powerful in making it ok for others to ask for the support they need. And again, people are often afraid to ask for even simple adjustments that could transform the quality of their working life.

Our Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2019 found that 28 per cent of those with adjustments and 34 per cent of those without adjustments (but who would have benefited from them) said they did not make requests because they were worried their employer might treat them differently. Again, actions speak louder than words. If the boss doesn’t take a lunch break, the rest of their team is unlikely to.

I hope that one positive legacy of COVID-19 will be a kinder and more human style of leadership. During the pandemic, we were forced to be more human in the way we worked; viewed in our home setting without the “trappings of office” or our workplace “armour” in terms of a formal dress code. The intimacy of letting people into our homes (albeit via our video camera) was a powerful thing. The blurring of lines between work and home has its downsides but has positives too as we started to see the “whole people” in our teams; ironically, since the pandemic began, many of us have got to know our colleagues better than we did before.

Culture Change

Of course, culture needs to be backed up by practical action. Make sure you equip people managers throughout your business with the tools and knowledge they need to have a conversation about disability, to identify any barriers people may be facing and to know where and how to get practical support. Our free Disability Essentials resources is a good place to start.

As Peter Drucker famously said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Like it or not, what you do as a CEO not only matters but has a disproportionate impact. Why not use that for the good?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-TRCm1dv6o

Read more insightful features like this in the latest issue of CEOstrategy

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our first cover story explores how Vodafone is leveraging strong leadership to drive the collaborations enabling businesses to champion change management and better use technology.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the launch issue here!

Leadership with purpose at Vodafone

“Leadership is purpose, it’s why do you do the things you do…”

Our cover story throws the spotlight on Vodafone US CEO David Joosten; also Director for Americas & Partners Markets at Vodafone Business, he talks to CEOstrategy about leading from the front and setting the standards to deliver growth while keeping employees and customers happy.

“People follow leaders that are honest about themselves. If you can reflect on what you’ve done well, but also where you need to improve it can inspire others to do the same.”

EMCS Industries Ltd: How a CEO can navigate change management

“Why hire talent and then tell them what do? You have so much to learn from the great people you hire. Micromanaging is not management, and it’s certainly not leadership. Let your people thrive!”

Read our interview with EMCS Industries Ltd CEO Trevor Tasker for more thought-provoking insights on leadership from the shifting tides of the marine industry in this maiden issue.

How to be an authentic leader

“At the most basic human level, everyone knows what it’s like to feel heard by another person, and how that changes our behaviour. It can help anger and sadness subside and enable us to start seeing things differently. So, when employees are being listened to by their leaders, it can only help how an organisation operates.”

Dr Andrew White, director of the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and host of the Leadership 2050 podcast series, explores transformative approaches to leadership for the modern CEO.

How can CEOs drive forward culture change around diversity and inclusion?

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, explores the changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing. As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming. But what we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-TRCm1dv6o

Also in this launch issue, we get the lowdown on agile ways of working from Kubair Shirazee, CEO of Agile transformation specialists Agilitea. Elsewhere, we speak with Nirav Patel, CEO of the consultancy firm, Bristlecone – a subsidiary of Mahindra Group and a leading provider of AI powered application transformation services for the connected supply chain – who discusses the challenges facing CPOs and supply chain leaders in our uncertain times. And we analyse the latest insights for CEOs from McKinsey and Gartner.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Standard Bank CIO Bessy Mahopo on the challenges of operating in a fractured market and how the company overcomes them

This month’s cover story highlights how technology is helping Standard Bank overcome the challenges of a fractured market to both drive business growth and improve services for customers.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time…” sang David Bowie. Changes can be challenging to manage with the path to positive disruption not always a smooth change management journey.

Interface dives deep for insights on understanding, planning, implementing and communicating change across industries.

Read the latest issue here!

Standard Bank: driving Africa’s growth

Standard Bank CIO (CIB – Transactional Banking) Bessy Mahopo explains how one of South Africa’s largest banks is using its own digital transformation successes as a template to support the country’s ongoing technological evolution by overhauling IT from the inside out. “I believe that once we start moving the curve to fifth and sixth generation technology, we’re going to become even more of a value-producer.”

The art of change management with SAP

Maria Villar, Head of Enterprise Data Strategy and Transformation at SAP, talks about the importance of driving change in the technology space and helping businesses thrive with data from the perspective of one of the world’s leading enterprise resource planning software vendors. “My job is about finding out what a good data strategy looks like and continuing to spend time with customers to look ahead…”

Talent transformation journeys with TUI

We caught up with Cerstin Lang, Director for HR Group IT at TUI. She reveals how it’s global For:ward program is driving digital transformation as the travel giant works with training partner Udacity to upskill IT talent. “Our IT goals are focused on developing a structure that supports new ways of working with the right balance to innovate and grow in the future.”

How TransUnion is enabling consumer trust

Alejandro Reskala, CIO Canada, LATAM, Caribbean at TransUnion, about technology transformation at a leading consumer credit reporting agency, its dedication to people, and how it makes trust possible. “TransUnion has always blazed a trail to use technology and data to generate insights that help support financial inclusion.”

Also in this issue, we ask what the birth of ChatGPT means for businesses leveraging tech and learn from Rivery why organisations need to rethink their data strategy with robust operational analytics.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group, discusses the rise of staff attrition in the industry

At the start of 2023 many companies are still struggling to find employees. The job market favours the applicant far more than before Covid-19 across many sectors. Higher interest rates and lower economic growth so far haven’t reduced the pressure on labour availability.

High staff turnover isn’t just a matter of the cost it creates. The disruption from running with a lot of open roles and with less experienced staff can disrupt client service, increase error rates and lead to more serious compliance and reputation damage.

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group

Examining the data

A lot of commentary on the situation has been based on surveys of employees’ intentions rather than their actual decisions. By managing our clients’ financial, legal and employee administration we have access to large volumes of data. This provides insight on the overall recruitment and resignation levels across workforces, from several hundred thousand employees, covering a broad range of sectors and job levels in more than 90 countries.

As a starting point, the data tells us that there was indeed a significant global increase in staff resignation during and after the pandemic. Across the 90 countries, average company staff attrition rose from around 15% annually in mid-2020 to 25% at the end of 2021. That’s a dramatic 67% increase in just 18 months.

Global annualised employee attrition trend

Digging deeper reveals a much more nuanced picture by company and country. In 2021, staff attrition averaged around 20% across the 90 countries but was below 10% in a small number, with Argentina the lowest at 6%. Of those above 20%, India, the UK and Poland topped the list with a rate of 26%. Both India and Poland are now major destinations for companies establishing regional service centres – locations that are supposed to be low cost, stable hubs that support many other countries. So rising staff turnover there will be particularly painful.

2021 average employee attrition by country

When examining the data at company level, annual attrition levels vary  even more widely, from a low of around 5% to a high of 40%. Some of that will be a result of challenges in specific industries and companies. Some will arise from the underlying attrition in the labour market of the countries they operate in. To disentangle how much is company versus country, we compare in the chart below the attrition a firm is seeing with the average attrition it should be seeing given the mix of countries where it operates.  The wide spread in the data shows that that country averages matter far less than individual company factors. For example, looking at companies whose country mix should give them expected attrition of around 15-20%, we see many at 30%-40% and others at just 5%-10% attrition.

Company actual 2021 attrition versus average for the countries where they operate

Staff attrition is a problem at any time, but becomes a significant threat to a business if it gets too high. How high is a matter of judgement and depends on the particular company. In professional services, for example, when staff attrition is above 20% it starts to impact client service and above 30% it can pose a risk to regulatory and reputational integrity.

The rise in global staff attrition, coupled with big spikes by country and company means that multinational firms will have an increased number of locations where attrition is high and potentially well beyond manageable levels. From 2020 to 2021 the number of employees in company locations experiencing more than 20% attrition nearly doubled, from around 15% to 27%. Looking at where the levels were highest, employees in countries experiencing more than 35% attrition rose from 1% to 7%. That means there’s an increasing number of hotspots, where extremely high staff attrition means companies need to intervene quickly to avoid staff resignations spiralling due to increased workload.

Factoring in country complexity

An important additional factor is the complexity of a particular country to operate in. Many countries  have onerous business rules which are enforced vigorously. High staff turnover in complex countries is particularly dangerous because of the added risk of compliance breaches.

We can look at country complexity using TMF Group’s Global Business Complexity Index. It ranks countries annually based on 292 criteria, covering the fiscal, legal and employment environments for doing business in each location.  

Jolyon Bennett, CEO of Juice, discusses how sustainability has moved to the forefront of his organisation’s operations

A green approach is quickly transitioning away something that is ‘nice to have’ to an essential component of a company’s strategy.

To Jolyon Bennett, who heads up UK tech accessories manufacturer Juice, being environmentally friendly is non-negotiable. Bennett has transformed the mobile phone accessories sector, having consistently introduced a series of quality, vibrant and consumer-focused products to market, ranging from portable power banks through to super-fast chargers.

He takes us under the bonnet of his firm’s sustainability drive.


You have recently removed all single-use plastic from your entire product range – why?

Jolyon Bennett (JB): “Why wouldn’t you? Single-use plastic is one of the biggest polluters in manufacturing – it uses 3% of the entire planet’s oil consumption. This year, it’s forecast that there will be 50kg of plastic waste for every single one of the eight billion human beings on planet earth – that’s a lot! Consumers, manufacturers and brand owners like myself all need to get on board with the fact that we’re going to need to use and re-use plastic packaging to make different things.

“Why have we done it? Because it’s totally the right thing to do. We need to stop making so much plastic and we need start reusing what we’ve already got. We need to stop cutting down trees in order to make paper and cardboard – let the trees grow and re-use what we’ve got. It just makes sense on a planetary level to stop consuming quite so much and start being just a bit more content with what we’ve got. Why do we need to make ‘new new new’ all the time?”


What have you used instead of virgin plastic?

JB: “We’re reusing, reusing, reusing. Did you know that recycled plastic – depending on its quality and density – can be recycled and re-used between seven and 200 times. Isn’t that unbelievable? It’s such an amazing material. Plastic is a vibe, and we should be re-using it. Juice is using post-consumer waste such as Evian bottles to make speakers, old milk cartons to make power banks and so much more!”


Why do you love plastic?

JB: “I just think we’ve got a lot of it so why not reuse it? I admire the material because it’s so durable – it’s an incredible scientific breakthrough to be able to make something that’s not only waterproof and heatproof but lasts for up to 3,000 years. There are so many different elements that make plastic a great material. I would prefer it if we didn’t have any, but that’s not going to solve the current (and ever-growing) problem of plastic waste finding its way into our oceans, and burying it isn’t the answer either. The problem is with us humans is that we just shy away from the truth – l don’t want to shy away, I want to face these problems head on and meet the challenge.”


Has Juice taken a financial hit to make this happen?

JB: “As an example, we sell around three million cables a year (based on last year’s figures) and each piece of packaging that we are making using post-consumer waste costs us between $0.15 and $0.25 more, so as a minimum, our increased cost for doing this is almost half a million dollars. But I still think it’s the right thing to do. Money is made up – the world could end and money would no longer matter, so let’s stop making decisions based purely on money and let’s start making decisions based on the right thing to do.”


How do you rate the overall quality of the ‘Eco’ products compared to the ones they have superseded?

JB: “There is absolutely no difference whatsoever, so I rate them just as highly.”


Do customers really want these eco products or is this more for your own conscience?

JB: “I don’t suffer from guilt so in that respect I don’t feel driven by my conscience to do this – doing the right thing has its own gravity and its own way of whisking you forward. Generally, I believe that people and businesses that do the right things will prosper. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘do the right thing and good things will happen’ so it’s a strategic choice to do something that has a positive impact because positive things attract positive things. While not every consumer or every retailer is especially interested in our sustainability drive, I do think this is shifting slightly. Maybe I do have a conscience, but the reality is that it’s the right thing to do, and the right thing gets rewarded in the end.”


Are retailers keen to stock them?

JB: “We haven’t given them a choice! We changed all of our products because we wanted to and we are adamant that even though the materials we are using are different, our products still perform just as well, if not better.”


Should other tech brands follow suit?

JB: “Of course they should, and we would happily help them do so. We’re willing to introduce other tech brands to our suppliers and guide them through the same process we’ve taken, sharing our knowledge – including the hurdles we’ve overcome – because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t understand why any brand would want to continue producing virgin plastic when they don’t have to, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”


What advice would you give to other brands wanting to embark on this process of removing single-use plastic from their products?

JB: “Do it. Stop messing about – get on with it and do it. Although it may cost you a bit more in the short term, we’ve proven that consumers do generally buy more of your products if you are making the right decisions towards the environment, so you will reap this extra cost back whilst also doing the right thing.”


What is next for Juice?

JB: “I want Juice to be a brand that limits its impact. We’re currently doing this with our manufacturing and through our supply chain and the way that we conduct ourselves in general. I want to start releasing products that have a positive impact on humans as well as the planet – I’m a firm believer that everyone can win. There will always be a demand for technology, so I don’t believe that we should be fighting against it, however, I would very much like to see people taking their technology off grid.

“My dream is to be able to take every mobile phone on planet earth off grid and start generating our own personal electricity. I want to create products that link to your activity – imagine if you could run 5k and the kinetic activity could generate enough energy to a charge a device such as a phone or a laptop while you do it? I’m interested in organic solutions to current chemical problems such as organic battery cells using salt water and algae as a storage method of electricity – so much so that we’re currently in discussions with a photosynthesis harvesting electronics brand about using photosynthesis as a charging capability!

“I want to get more connected with nature and I think you can have it all – I think we can still enjoy modern technology as well as the beautiful world around us. If we can utilise our intelligence in the right way, we can all live in a perfectly harmonious symbiotic relationship with amazing technology products and a sustainable environment for all wildlife.”

Procurement is in a state of flux. Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires…

Procurement is in a state of flux.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires agility to navigate turbulent waters. But, despite significant disruption could there still be opportunity?

Simon Whatson, Vice President of Efficio Consulting, is optimistic about the future of digital procurement and despite a challenging few years he is confident of a successful bounce back. He gives us the lowdown on the direction of travel for digital procurement in 2023. 

As an executive with considerable experience in the space, we’d love to learn more about your background and how you ended up in procurement. Why was this the specialism for you and how did you get involved to begin with?

Simon Whatson (SW): “I think the one-word answer of how I came into procurement was accidental. I studied maths at university, with a year in France, before I began looking for different roles to apply for.

“Eventually, I was offered a position with a big plumbing and heating merchant with global operations. I worked in that supply chain team for two and a half years. Although it was called supply chain, a lot of the work was procurement, which involved negotiating with suppliers. It was after that stint there, that I discovered consulting and joined a boutique procurement consultancy. Now I am onto my third consultancy and I’m very happy here!

“In terms of why I’ve stayed, one of the success factors in procurement is being able to work cross-functionally. Procurement doesn’t own any of the spending that it is responsible for helping to optimise. It must work with other functions and the spend owners. I quite like the people side of that, building relationships, almost selling internally to bring teams together. That really appeals to me and is a key reason why I’ve been very happy in procurement.”

As we move into exploring procurement today in 2023. The space is filled with challenges and complexities. You only need to look at the last few years. Covid, war in Ukraine, inflation – how would you describe the world’s recent challenges and their effect on the industry and what do you feel CPOs and leaders can do to combat these issues?

SW: “I would flip it around and say that these are not so much challenges but rather opportunities for procurement. When I started my career 18 years ago, procurement was often fighting to get a voice and there were complaints that procurement was not represented at the top table, but the war in Ukraine, inflation, COVID and ESG, these are things which are now on the C-suite agenda and procurement is ideally positioned to help companies face those challenges. If you think about COVID and the war in Ukraine, procurement is in a privileged position to help with this.

“I see some procurement functions that prefer to do what they know, which focuses on the process and transactional side. However, there are also many forward-thinking CPOs and procurement professionals out there, that have really seized this opportunity of being on the C-suite agenda and drive the thinking and the solutions to some of these big challenges we’re seeing.”

Although new technology in procurement has been around for well over a decade, digitalisation has become so much more of an important topic. How would you sum up where procurement and supply chain are in terms of digital transformation today?

SW: “It’s a bit laggard, but digital transformation is difficult, and we have to recognise there are some real trailblazers. There are some firms doing some fantastic things in digital to produce better outcomes. If you contrast your experience when you’re buying something in your private life, it’s much easier than 20 years ago. You can get access to a wealth of pre-sourced things, whether it’s food, a holiday, a car, or a book. You can see reviews of what other people think of these things.

“But when you go into your workplace as a business user and you want to buy something, it doesn’t quite work like that yet. You often have to fill in a form, send it off and wait for them to come back to you. They might come back a little bit later than you were hoping and might tell you that they don’t have that part on the supply frameworks. I think people sometimes get confused about how it can be so easy to buy something as large as a car or a holiday on their sofa at home, but when they want to buy something at work, it seems to be quite cumbersome. Digital can help a lot with that, but it is incumbent on organisations and procurement functions to figure out how to recreate that customer experience that we’ve become accustomed to in our private lives.”

With a new generation of leaders growing up with technology, some might say that it could be a key driver in helping to speed the adoption in procurement along. Is this something you would agree with or what would you point to as a key driver?

SW: “I do think that it will act as one of the catalysts for further digital transformation in organisations, because if procurement doesn’t manage to recreate that customer experience that the new generation expects, then they won’t use procurement going forward and will look to bypass it.

“The analogy that I’ve used previously in this case is one of travel agents. I remember as a child, my parents were able to take us on holiday and I remember the whole process. We would walk into town to the travel agent, and look at some of the brochures of options. They often then had to phone the various airlines or resorts on our behalf. They might not be able to get through, so we’d have to come back the next day. I remember as a child being quite excited by the whole process but actually, thinking back, it was quite cumbersome. You compare that to now, with being able to review online, and you can get instant answers to your questions. It’s not a coincidence that travel agents don’t really exist anymore.”

How much of a challenge is it to not get caught leveraging technology for technologies sake? How important is it to stay true to your approach and be strategic?

SW: “We conducted a study of many procurement leaders and CPOs a few years ago, and one of the things that we found was that about 50% of procurement leaders admitted to having bought technology just on the basis of a fear of missing out, without any real understanding of the benefits that technology was going to bring. That was a real shock and a revealing find because technology is not cheap, and its implementation is quite disruptive. If you’re purchasing a system because everybody else is using it, then there could be some pretty costly mistakes. It is really important to make sure that when buying technology, it is because the benefits are fully understood.

“My advice to companies when looking to digitalise is own your data, visualise that data, and manage your knowledge. If you can focus on getting those things right in that order, and make your technology decisions to support that goal, then that’s a much better way of thinking about it rather than just jumping in and buying a piece of technology.”

It’s clear that the procurement space is an exciting, but challenging, place to be. What do you think will play a key role in the next 12 months to push the digital conversation further to take procurement to the next level?

SW: “Looking forward, one thing that procurement needs to do and continue to do is attract the best people. Ultimately, people are what makes an organisation, and it is what makes a function successful. I think procurement has often not looked for the right skills in the people that it employs. Traditionally, it’s looked for people with procurement experience and while they are valuable and required, we also need leadership potential. People who think a bit more outside the box and aren’t so process driven. A lot of what procurement has done in previous years has been process driven, so if you’re just limiting your search of people to those that have had procurement experience, you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of people who are process driven.

“I think being bolder and recruiting people from different backgrounds with different skill sets is the way to go. If procurement can ‘own’ the ESG space, that will help with the younger generation see procurement make a difference. I think that’s one thing that will be key to success going forward.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

Paul Farrow, Vice President of Hilton Hotels’ Supply Management, sits down with us to discuss how his organisation’s procurement function has evolved amid disruption on a global scale

The hospitality industry has endured a rough ride over the past few years.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic which stopped the world in its tracks and now with millions facing a cost-of-living crisis, it’s been a period of unprecedented disruption for those involved in the space and beyond.

But it’s a challenge met head-on by Paul Farrow, Vice President of Supply Management at Hilton Hotels, and his team who have been forced to respond as the world continues to shift before their eyes.

Farrow gives us a closer look into the inner workings of his firm’s procurement function and how he has led the charge during his time with Hilton Hotels.

Could we start with you introducing yourself and talking a little about your role at Hilton Hotels? 

Paul Farrow (PF): “I’m the Vice President of Hilton’s Supply Management, or HSM as we call it. I’ve been with Hilton Hotels for 12 and a half years, and my role is to head the supply chain function for our hotels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Over the past few years, Hilton has grown rapidly and has now got 7,000 hotels in over 125 countries globally. What is really exciting is Hilton Supply Management doesn’t just supply Hilton Hotels and the Hilton Engine because we also now supply our franchisees and competitive flags. While we have 7,000 hotels globally, Hilton Supply Management actually supplies close to 13,000 hotels. That’s an interesting business development for us, and a profit earner too.”

You’re greatly experienced, I bet you’ve seen supply chain management and procurement change a lot in recent years? 

PF: “The past two to three years have been tremendously challenging on so many industries but I’d argue that hospitality got hit more than most as a result of the Covid pandemic. Here at Hilton, supply management was really important just to keep the business operational throughout that tough time, but I’m delighted to say we’re fully recovered now.

“Looking back, it was undoubtedly difficult, and you only have to look at the media to see that we’re now going through a period of truly unprecedented inflation. On top of the normal day job, it’s certainly been a very busy time.”

Hospitality must have been under an awful lot of pressure during the pandemic… 

PF: “Most of our teams as a business and all functions have worked together far more collaboratively than ever before through the use of technology and things like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Trying to work remotely as effectively as possible changed the way we all had to think and the way we had to do. Now we’re back in the workplace and in our offices, we’re actually looking to take advantage of that new approach.”

Inflation, rising costs, energy shortages, as well as drives towards a circular economy means it’s quite a challenging time for CSCOs and CPOs right now, isn’t it?

PF: “Those headwinds have caused and created challenges of the like that we’ve not seen before. The war in Ukraine and Russia has meant significant supply chain disruption and supply shortages of some key ingredients and raw materials. China is a significant source of materials and they’re still having real challenges to get their production to keep up with demand.

“All the local and short-term challenges are around energy and fuel pricing, so throughout the supply chain that’s been a major factor to what we’ve had to deal with. On top of that is the labour shortages. We rely heavily throughout the supply chain and within our business to utilise labour from around the world. In my region, particularly from say Eastern Europe as well as other businesses all fighting for a smaller labour pool than we had before. We are fighting with the likes of the supermarkets, Amazon’s, not just other hotel companies to capture the labour pool we need both in our properties but also within our supply chain supplies themselves.

Hilton operates a rather unique procurement function, doesn’t it?  

PF: “We trade off the Hilton name because our brand strength is something that we are able to utilise and we’re very proud of, but we’ve also got additional leverage by having that group procurement model.

“We’ve got essentially two clients. We’ve got our managed estate which is when an owner chooses to partner with Hilton, they’re signing a management agreement because they want the benefit and value of the Hilton engine. That could be revenue management, how we manage onboarding clients and customers through advertising, as well as the other support we give in terms of finance, HR, marketing and sales as well as procurement.”

HSM is a profit centre and revenue driver through its group procurement model but how does this work?

PF: “Our secret sauce is our culture. It’s our people and that filters across all of our team members and indeed all of our functions. The key strategic pillars are the same for health and supply management around culture, maximising performance and so on as they are across the overall global business.

“Across our 7,000 plus hotels, the majority are actually franchised hotels because that’s the legacy of what still is the model in the US. When I joined Hilton 12 and a half years ago, the reverse is true where nearly all of our hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and indeed in Asia Pacific, were and are managed. In the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions right now we’re building up close to a 50/50 split between managed, leased and franchised.”

What has pleased you most about the roll-out of the HSM?

PF: “It’s certainly not been easy because we’ve got 70 countries that sit within our region here in EMEA and Hilton’s penetration in those individual countries is very different. We may have 100 hotels in one of those markets and only one or two in specific countries. Our scale and our ability to get logistics solutions is different by market.

“Getting everyone on board to what we want to achieve to our guests and to our owners means we have to pull different levers. We have very effective brand standards. If you’re signing up to Hilton, you’re signing up to delivering against those brand standards that we believe are right for our organisation.”

What kind of feedback have you had from your clients? 

PF: “Integrity is in our DNA, and we work very closely with our suppliers who we value as partners. These are long-term relationships, and we work hand in hand because we have to see that they’re successful so that we can be successful – it’s really important to what we do and we constantly look for feedback.

“With our internal and our external customers, we’ll have quarterly business reviews and so we’ll get that feedback through surveys where we are asking them to tell us what we do well and what we could do better. Our partners are now asking what additional value can you do to bring support to our organisation through ESG? So that’s what’s on the table now when it wasn’t before. But it’s not just that – it’s about the security of supply competitiveness, competitiveness of pricing, and a whole bunch of other very important things as well.”

Looking to the future, what’s on the agenda for the next few years?

PF: “We’re out there meeting and greeting people in person and there’s always new opportunities that make things exciting in what we do and how we work. Innovation’s very high on our agenda and we’re very proud of what we do in food and beverage. In non-food categories, it’s about how we support our owners and our hotel general managers to find that competitive edge and do the next big thing ahead of our competitors.”

Anything else important to know?

PF: “One thing we’ve been able to take full advantage of is how we’ve been able to grow our business by bolting on new customers. I think it’s fantastic that our competitors choose to use Hilton Supply Management because they benchmarked what our capabilities are and how competitive we are.

“Another key part of the agenda is environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability. Responsible sourcing and everything that sits within that is front and centre of what we do. Within that you’ve got human rights, animal welfare, single use plastics as well as general responsible sourcing like managing food waste. The list is very long, but they’re all very important.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

Here are 10 of the most important leadership skills that CEOs need to demonstrate in 2023.

In today’s world, a CEO needs to be lots of things to different people. The importance of having the leadership skill to being able to lead through unprecedented disruption was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and helped to define what makes a good CEO.

Here are 10 of the most important leadership skills that CEOs need to demonstrate in 2023.


1. Clear communication

Communicating effectively with employees is one of the most vital skills any leader can have. By adopting a transparent mindset, it leaves little room for miscommunication or misunderstandings. But rather than just being eloquent, CEOs should deliver meaningful content too. A CEO needs to be able to communicate the essence of the business strategy and the methodology for achieving it.

2. Strong talent management strategy

People are the most important component of all businesses. CEOs who are able to recruit and retain key employees have a greater chance of increasing productivity and efficiency. After recruiting good people, the key to retaining them is by harnessing a positive work environment that empowers employees to succeed.

3. Decision-making

As a leader, thinking strategically to make effective decisions is vital to the success of an organisation. Making decisions is a key part of leadership as well as having the conviction to stand by decisions or agility to adapt when those decisions don’t have the required outcome. While all decisions might not be favourable, making unpopular but necessary calls are important characteristics of a good leader.

4. Negotiation

Negotiation is a fundamental part of being a CEO. In a top leadership position, almost every business conversation will be a negotiation. Good negotiations are important to an organisation because they will ultimately result in better relationships, both with staff inside the company and externally. An effective leader will also help find the best long-term solution by finding the right balance and offering value where both parties feel like they ‘win’.

5. Creativity and innovation

Being quick-thinking and ready to explore new options are great skills of a CEO. Creative leadership can lead to finding innovative solutions in the face of challenging and changing situations. It means in the midst of disruption, of which it has been increasingly prevalent, leaders can still find answers for their teams. Creative CEOs are those who take risks and empower employees to drop outdated and overused practices to innovate and try new things that could lead to greater efficiency.

6. Agility

Without agility over the past few years, businesses would have failed. CEOs were forced to embrace remote working following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic whether they liked it or not. Now, faced against a potential recession, these macroeconomic events are unavoidable and have to be managed carefully. Effective leaders will have their fingers on the pulse and ready to respond to changes.

7. Strategic forecasting

Creating a clear path forward is essential to achieving uninterrupted success. The ability to look into the future and identify trends and issues to then react to is vital. Good CEOs are able to plan strategically and make informed decisions to set goals and plan for the future easily.

8. Delegation

CEOs can’t do everything. A leader tends to be pulled in a number of different ways every day and it is impossible to be on top of everything. This means the importance of bringing in a team of people who are trusted and skilled in their respective areas of expertise. Successful CEOs are expert delegators because they recognise the value of teamwork and elevating those around them.

9. Approachability

An approachable CEO who welcomes conversation and is an active listener will help employees feel at ease raising issues or concerns. This approach will help build strong relationships with staff and customers and encourage a healthy culture which is beneficial to employee retention. Leaders with strong, trusting and authentic relationships with their teams know that investing time in building these bonds which makes them more effective as a leader and creates a foundation for success.

10. Growth mindset

If a CEO arms themselves with a growth mindset it allows them to meet challenges head-on and evolve. This shines a light on improving through effort, learning and persistence. As others may back down in the face of adversity and upheaval, successful CEOs will strive to move forward with confidence. Those with a growth mindset are unlikely to be swayed as they have the tools needed to reframe challenges as opportunities to grow.

In McKinsey’s latest report ‘Actions the best CEOs are taking in 2023’, we examine three of the biggest trends on the c-level agenda

Anyone can sail a ship when things are going well. But it takes a strong, robust and characterful CEO to steer a business through choppy waters and out the other side.

In McKinsey’s latest report ‘Actions the best CEOs are taking in 2023’, the research and advisory firm uncovered which trends are set to have the biggest impact on how CEOs lead their business throughout the year.

McKinsey’s CEO Excellence Survey surveyed 200 of the best corporate CEOs of the past 15 years. This was completed by whittling down a list of all the current and former CEOs of the 1,000 largest public companies during that timeframe. The list was subsequently filtered based on tenure, including only those who had completed at least six years in the role. From there, the CEOs were continuously shortlisted until the best 200 were determined.

Each CEO was asked to identify the top three trends that are set to determine how leaders tackle the future. Here is an insight into those findings.

1. Actions to deal with digital disruption

CEOs are targeting digital trends in three key ways: developing advanced analytics, enhancing cybersecurity and automating work. OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT has accelerated the demand of companies looking to embrace advanced analytics for a competitive advantage. Improving cybersecurity is another key action for CEOs with the importance of guarding against external threats paramount amid strengthening and more mature cyberattacks. Lastly, automating work is another key priority to scale efficiency and eliminate boring and manual tasks which free up people’s time.

2. Actions to deal with the risk of high inflation and economic downturn

One CEO who is worried about economic uncertainty told McKinsey: “Act early to lower costs and protect the balance sheet so that you are stronger and leaner when the economy begins to turn more favourably.” McKinsey found that companies that outperformed the 2008 financial crisis cut operating costs by 1% before the downturn while the others expanded costs by the same percentage. The best performers reduced their debt by $1 for every $1 of book capital before the downturn. This can be done by reducing operating expenses, redesigning products and services as well as reassessing strategic and economic assumptions.

3. Actions to deal with the escalation of geopolitical risk

According to McKinsey, there are three actions to help manage the escalation of global and national crises. CEOs are targeting building robust compliance capabilities, creating resilience in supplier networks and investing in monitoring and response capabilities. These actions come following the challenges presented by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and now inflation concerns. Many firms are choosing to build their trade compliance organisations and improve how they screen different customers and companies. While a defensive approach is the way forward for many, some companies see the turbulent times as an opportunity.

How Minted is leveraging digital technology to make investment in precious metals, accessible, affordable and simple

Shahid Munir, co-founder of Minted, discusses how his firm is competing with larger banks for a spot at the top table of investment in fintech.

Few industries have boomed like the fintech space over the past few years. With a plethora of new technology at consumer fingertips like never before, banks are being properly challenged by upcoming startups offering an alternative solution. Among these is Minted, aiming to make the buying, selling, transferring and delivery of physical precious metals simple through flexible monthly plans and one-time purchases. The company was founded in 2018 by three close friends – Shahid Munir, Hamzah Almasyabi and Haroon Siddiq – with a shared passion for entrepreneurship, technology and the opportunities the financial industry presented. Their combined drive led to the creation of Minted.

Shahir Munir, Co-Founder, Minted

The rise of Minted

Munir, co-founder of Minted, admits the journey has been a “rollercoaster” since the trio decided to launch their venture. “It’s certainly been exciting,” he explains. “It’s been a great learning curve and was a case of taking an industry where so many people were so used to doing it one way and offering something new. This has been challenging because we have a great product, but no one understood it. We’ve had to go out and educate people first in what has been a journey of growth, but it’s a constant journey.”

A decade ago, financial technology was considered by many as ring-fenced by bigger banks. But Munir stresses he has tried to change that narrative and offer competition which provides tremendous value. “Previously, a bank was the only way you could provide financial products,” he says. “Technology has allowed more innovative and creative solutions to launch and test the bigger banks and what they became bad at which was the customer experience. Now you see bigger banks adopt a lot of the technology and some of the practices used by challenger banks which can only be a good thing. Being in London has also helped because it is one of the leading hubs for fintechs and really supports the financial technology industry.”

Armed with different skillsets, the three co-founders complement each other with a diverse range of experience. With Almasyabi bringing an operations background and Siddiq bringing business strategy, Munir completes the line-up with finance and technology know-how. “I think it’s what sets us apart and makes us different,” he says. “Our backgrounds mean we’re not tunnel visioned and can see clearly when things aren’t working. We have a great thinktank within the business which helps us come up with ideas.”

Making precious metals accessible, affordable and simple

“I recall seeing a meme about how the price of a Freddo chocolate had changed over the years, no longer being its trademark 10p, it was now 200% more expensive and also smaller in size. This led me down rabbit-hole of trying to understand why most items go up in price as years pass and rarely come back down again. I became fascinated with how the government increases the money supply and the concept of inflation – my money buys me less in the future than it does today.

“I met with the other two founders that same night and the thoughts extended from my mind into an intense conversation about quantitative easing, Brexit, cost of living – snacks were being consumed faster than the rate of government borrowing. Where could we park our money, what was better than money? That was when the penny-dropped (pardon the pun). Hamzah proclaimed: ‘What about gold, guys?’”

Digital disruption

Through Minted, customers will have full legal ownership over their gold and can also request to have their gold delivered to a verified address. The gold and silver are stored in a grade 10 vault in the UK with the highest level of security possible. The products are fully insured by Lloyds of London at the current value while in vaulted storage as well as when being transported.

As a digital disrupter, one of the biggest challenges Minted continues to face is a lack of understanding. Customer assurance is an important priority, and the organisation has established several initiatives to gain trust. Minted is registered and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which means the firm operates to the highest financial standards and guidelines as determined by the FCA. “I feel like we need to go that extra mile,” stresses Munir. “What I think we underestimated at first was the extent to which people needed to ask questions until we launched a live chat facility on the website. This function helps build our knowledge base and allows us to hold the customer’s hand throughout the process. We’ve also found success when we’ve attended face to face exhibition events and had one-on-one interactions. It’s been brilliant to see first-hand the customer perception and look at what we can do better to meet their needs.”

Munir says he has noticed a trend of people starting with a “flutter” to test the water and check out the process. “I think it’s important that people build their confidence and recognise the value in what we offer,” he explains. “Once this is done, we often see those same customers make larger transactions. We know our difference can be a challenge for some people to accept which is why education is such an important topic to us. We have to keep doing explainer videos, use social media and hold community sessions to be there for customers.”

Scaling up

Minted recently launched its own app which offers customers an even easier way to manage their gold and silver, as well as introducing a tool to partner with businesses called Minted Connect. Munir believes the move has helped showcase an advanced, modern way for people to own physical items. “I love the app as it just makes things so much easier for customers via the platform,” he explains. “It’s been fantastic, a one-stop solution that helps stores the precious metals for free and allows them to be delivered at any time. In a world where everything is so digitally enabled it is nice to offer something physical – people don’t even buy cars anymore. Hopefully via customer feedback we can make improvements to the app that will help us develop new features.”

Munir believes gold is increasingly being seen as an alternative for savings and affirms global pressures like the threat of inflation amid economic uncertainty has helped people to realise the full potential of Minted’s offering. “In the past if you wanted to save money, you simply open a saver account and start adding money but with gold it was often a little trickier,” he says. “But with Minted we’ve simplified the process and tried to make it as automated as possible. Gold is a great alternative which has stood the test of time.”

Looking ahead, Minted is showing no signs of slowing down and is expanding into different territories. Munir remains positive for the next few years and what comes next for his organisation. “We’re working towards expanding the team because I feel like we’re at the stage now where each of our departments needs its own team of people to run each department,” he explains. “We’re scaling up and branching into new markets such as Turkey, and focusing in on developing the business to business side too.”

“Disruption should drive digitalisation and cloud uptake rather than hindering it.”

Sal Laher, Chief Digital & Information Officer at global enterprise software provider IFS, reveals how a single strategy for cloud and digitalisation helps businesses maximise the rewards of growth.

Digitalisation equals transformation

Digitalisation and the business transformation projects that enable it are again on the radar for many businesses, particularly given the current macro-economics and potential recession being predicted. According to recent data from Research and Markets, The Global Digital Transformation Market size is expected to reach $1,302.9bn by 2027, rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.8% in the period 2021-2027.

This renewed focus on digitalisation is aligned to businesses accelerating cloud migration, including readily available SaaS solutions. The Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report finds 92% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy and 80% have a hybrid cloud strategy.

Sal Laher, Chief Digital & Information Officer, IFS

Both trends will go hand in hand as digitalisation and cloud migration continue to drive business efficiencies, process change and consumer service demands. Most organisations are aware of the potential rewards both business models can bring. This is because it is not the first time they are being talked about– this major transformational shift has already been in place for a decade. But some, wary of the disruptive impact of recent global events are holding back from implementing them. However, it is the wrong approach.

Disruption should drive digitalisation and cloud uptake rather than hindering it. Even in isolation, either moving to the cloud, or undertaking digitalisation, will enable faster decision-making, supported by greater compute power and more agile processes, generating faster output and enhancing customer service. Yet, to drive competitive edge, organisations need to combine cloud migration with business transformation and look to maximise those benefits. To do this, they must develop a single strategy covering both elements and move forward with a common approach.

Migrating to the cloud for business transformation

By digitalising, organisations have an opportunity to benefit from faster time to insight, enhanced business and customer connectivity, and operational efficiencies. It allows them to more easily collect and analyse data that they can later turn into actionable, revenue-generating insights.

Over time, they can go further and start to tap into the benefits of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). But it is the additional compute power and scalability of the cloud that helps them to maximise these benefits and fulfil the potential of digital technologies.

Cloud migration also includes adopting evergreen application (business process) solutions in the cloud with the many SaaS solutions that are available today. That’s why it is important that they adopt a single plan to migrate to the cloud and drive business transformation all in one. This tandem approach also avoids unnecessary customisation, making a business much more agile to change based on actionable data insights.

Adopting a single plan will, in itself, drive up efficiencies and drive down costs. But critically, the two must be linked to ensure that businesses maximise the benefits of the migration process.

It is cloud, after all, that helps businesses adapt to the new digital world, enabling them, for instance, to leverage out of the box business applications, digital analytics tools and low code platforms that deliver informed decision-making and reduce costs. But cloud doesn’t just maximise the benefits for businesses, it also accelerates them. Cloud has become the fulcrum of digital transformation, mainly due to its ability to enable innovation at scale and allow businesses that have digitalised to rapidly launch enterprise-ready products.

Without cloud, businesses will struggle to drive through timely updates to systems and processes. The costs of stakeholder management may ramp up. Moreover, moving to the cloud without doing it within the step-by-step structure of digital transformation risks mistakes being made, increasing the likelihood of data loss and security breaches through misconfigurations.

Optimising the benefits of digital transformation in the cloud

We have seen how important it is to adopt a single strategy for cloud migration and digitalisation and to execute them in tandem. But organisations also need to maximise the benefits of the combined approach. So how can they best do this?

First, they need to avoid procrastination and delay. The benefits of digitalisation and cloud migration working together are compelling – and senior leaders need to seize the initiative and kickstart the transformation. To get the ball rolling, they need to conduct a benchmarking exercise to better understand where their business stands in terms of its capabilities or gaps. This will help to decide where efforts and resources should be focused.

They then need to align their business processes with IT. That’s key as modern business models increasingly emphasise the digitalisation of processes.

Cloud computing and network security concept, 3d rendering,conceptual image.

They should begin by determining their goals and the systems, technologies, and processes currently in use to achieve them. Next, they need to brainstorm and document core business objectives before developing a cloud and digitalisation migration roadmap to guide their implementation. Measuring performance will also be crucial to optimising results. In choosing which metrics to analyse, organisations should concentrate on those that will most positively impact their bottom line or user experience.

Ensuring employees buy into the process of cloud-based digitalisation will also be key. Organisations should use cloud-based digitalisation as an opportunity to strengthen business processes and help employees switch to new ways of working which maximise the potential of the new technology.

Digital readiness

Given all this, it is vital businesses don’t delay on their journey to digital and the cloud. Unfortunately, CIOs often struggle to know where to start with a cloud and digital migration strategy.

Before they begin, they often look to put a complete strategy in place up front. The truth is that it is not necessary. Instead, they need to get going and prioritise what’s most important. Pick one area, settle on a use case, digitalise, and move it to the cloud, demonstrate results – and then repeat incrementally. That will enable the business to showcase value and create momentum. Over time also, this single coordinated approach, will allow it to tap into a wide range of cloud and digitalisation related benefits – and ultimately to maximise the rewards.

For more cutting edge insights read the latest issue of Interface magazine here

Ian Povey, CIO – Head of Payments Services & Technology, on the strategic transformation taking place at NatWest benefitting both the bank and its customers

This month’s cover story reveals how innovation is at the core of change for payments processes at NatWest.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Charles Darwin famously said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” Technology is helping us to evolve. And that evolution is being driven by innovation.

Read the latest issue here!

Payments transformation at NatWest

“It may be a cliché, but a transformation journey really has no end… If you fixate on a constant end state without ‘checking in’ you can, and likely will, fail in your objectives.” A wise outlook from a CIO with three decades of change management experience across banking’s payments panorama.

Ian Povey, CIO – Head of Payments Services & Technology, discusses the strategic transformation taking place at NatWest and how that journey of change and innovation is benefitting both the bank and its customers as it evolves to become a relationship bank for a digital world. “Our environment is always changing – we must be on the back of the ‘Change Dragon’ and steering/influencing as a leader and always learning from our teams for new ideas.”

Customer-Centric transformation at FedEx

We also check in with logistics leader FedEx… Custom Critical CIO Cheryl Bevelle-Orange reveals a “technology-forward yet flexible company” embracing innovation and “paving the way for customers to get more relevant information faster about their packages while delivering with excellence”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=galaZZlrEn0

Continuous Improvement in IT at Mazars

Mazars CIO David Marcelino explains his approach to innovation and leading on a successful IT transformation program at one of the world’s largest audit and advisory firms aiming to improve the digital experience for all its stakeholders. “Change Management, adoption, training and awareness are at the core of every single business technology project we deliver.”

Tech innovation at speed with the US Air Force

We also caught up with George Forbes, Director of Digital Operations Directorate at the United States Air Force, who outlines the importance of innovation within the federal government.

Digital Transformation in healthcare at Avellino

Nancy Selph, Global Head of IT at Avellino Lab, discusses how technology is creating new opportunities to improve health outcomes and the importance of leadership in the industry.

Also in this issue, we round up the key tech events and conferences across the globe; we learn how Minted are making it easy for everyone to invest in gold; and we feature the latest on cloud digitalisation from IFS.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

We look into the supply chain production process of Easter Eggs and the journey to their final destinations in supermarkets

Chocolate is arguably the world’s most popular sweet treat. Depending on who you ask, of course.

After, perhaps Christmas, it is the most common time for people to indulge in chocolate if they don’t do so anyway throughout the year.

And synonymous with Easter are the eggs themselves which are loved by children and adults alike all over the world.

The journey to Easter Eggs

The supply chain process is split into eight stages of production: cultivating, harvesting, splitting, fermentation, drying, winnowing, roasting and grinding. Following production, the supply chain process is extended further with logistics which is the final step to providing customers with their favourite seasonal sweet treat.

The journey actually begins with cocoa tree plantations being established which is done by scattering young cocoa trees amongst new shade trees or by planting the cocoa trees between established trees. These are planted in humid tropical climates, with temperatures between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius. This is consistent rainfall periods and a short dry season because these conditions provide good quality cocoa.

Easter eggs

Each tree produces 20-30 cocoa pods a year which grows straight from the tree’s trunk and main branches. With this tree also yielding fruit, the crop is carefully pruned, and as a result, it is easier to harvest the cocoa pods. The next step is the labour-intensive task of harvesting the crop.

The harvest is a whole community affair on small West African farms. Large knives are then used to detach the pods from the trees and placed in large baskets on workers’ heads. The pods are then manually split open to remove the beans so they are ready for the two-step curing process. Each pod consists of between 20-40 purple cocoa beans.

The curing process consists of fermenting and drying the beans to develop the chocolate flavour. There are several fermentation methods but the most traditional is the heap method. This requires placing mounds of wet cocoa beans in between layers of banana leaves on the ground for between five to six days. Following this, the drying stage begins. This involves the wet bunch of beans being spread out in the sun or using a more advanced method of special dying equipment.

From plant to factory

Often, a lot of large chocolate brands then buy the cocoa through intermediaries. The beans are then packed into sacks ready to be exported to the brands processing facilities in other locations globally.

After arrival, the beans are cleaned and quality inspected before the winnowing stage takes place. The dried beans are cracked to separate the shell from the nib which is where the small chunks are used to produce chocolate. Afterwards, the roasting phase begins in which the nibs are baked at high temperatures reaching 120 degrees Celsius in special ovens. This is where the colour and flavour is acquired.

Subsequently, the next stage is grinding which creates the basis of all chocolate products. The roasted nibs are grounded in stone mills until a thick liquid chocolate consistency is achieved.

Chocolate to egg

The final step is creating the chocolate egg masterpiece by using highly efficient computer-operated technology which has been used since the mid-20th century. The molten chocolate is placed in heated egg molds which are rotated so there is an even thickness. Following this, the eggs are left to cool and then removed from the molds. Once cooled, the eggs are wrapped in coloured foil and packaged into individual boxes before being sent out for retail. The transportation and exportation throughout the various supply chain stages is vital being a seasonal product. This means they are heavily relied upon for their timings to deliver to large supermarkets and independent stores.

What does today’s CEO need to do to accelerate an organisation’s digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation journeys are no one-size-suits-all. There is no singular way to welcome a new wave of technology into operations.

Since the turn of the century, digitalisation has had an increasingly influential impact on the way CEOs make decisions. Today’s world is full of disruption and potential risk. And with technology growing in complexity it can be challenging to lead such a revolution against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.

Embracing digital

According to KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, which draws on the perspectives of 1,325 global CEOs across 11 markets, 72% of CEOs agree they have an aggressive digital investment strategy intended to secure first-mover or fast-follower status.

Advancing digitalisation and connectivity across the business is tied (along with attracting and retaining talent) as the top operational priority to achieve growth over the next three years. This digital transformation focus could be driven as a result of increasingly flexible working conditions and greater focus on cybersecurity threats.

However, the prospect of recession is threatening to halt digital transformation in the short-term. KPMG research found that four out of five CEOs note their businesses are pausing or reducing their digital transformation strategies to prepare for the anticipated recession.

This is reinforced further when 70% say they need to be quicker to shift investment to digital opportunities and divest in those areas where they face digital obsolescence.

When a company’s digital transformation ambition is mismatched to its readiness, it is the CEO’s responsibility to close the gap. According to Deloitte, in order to do this successfully, the CEO must assess the current level of organisational readiness for change.

This covers four key pillars that are mixed together to work out an organisation’s overall readiness: leadership, culture, structure and capabilities.

How CEOs can close the gap

Leadership: CEOs need to ensure their c-suite and other key executives are motivated and equipped to execute the vision. CEOs interviewed by Deloitte in a recent study emphasised the importance of the leadership team supporting the transformation vision and having a positive attitude and willingness to transform.

Culture: A large potential barrier to readiness in the organisation is down to culture. Low cultural readiness takes the form of bureaucratic, reactive and risk-averse ways of working that are at against the collaborative, proactive learning mindset needed for ambitious transformation.

Structure: If a company hopes to operate differently, it could mean the need for organising in an alternative way. CEOs will often need to lead the reorganisation of teams, assignment of new roles, revision of incentives, strategies to collapse organisational hierarchies or layers to increase agility.

Capabilities: CEOs need to equip their organisation with four key capabilities to harness digital for a superior capacity for change. These are nimbleness, scalability, stability and optionality which are often enabled or supercharged by digital technologies which are critical factors for competing in an increasingly disrupted world.

For now, one of the CEOs most important roles when steering the ship through disruption is to be ahead of the latest trends and tackle change head-on. By embracing a new digital future that will provide the company with long-lasting benefits, it will help create a brighter and future-proofed firm for years to come even after the CEO is gone.

Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about the challenges faced and their priorities for 2022-23. We analysed the results

Priorities change in a business; they evolve all the time to match the societal landscape around them. Following a major worldwide disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the focus for CEOs has shifted to match the way our outlooks and challenges have changed.

Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about their 2022-23 priorities and found that – for the first time – environmental sustainability has made its way into the top 10. Additionally, workforce issues are a bigger priority than ever before.

Mark Raskino, VP Analyst at Gartner, said of the results: “In 2022, the Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey showed that, catalysed by multiple macro trends and economic factors, business leaders are reprioritizing some key areas of enterprise purpose and management focus.”

The last time there was such a dramatic change in the priorities of CEOs was in 2009-10, during the recovery from the last major recession. Here, we’ll dig into the key challenges for CEOs in 2023…

Growth

While growth remains the primary challenge, with 51% of respondents stating that it’s in their top three priorities, it’s actually down 8% from 2021-22. Gartner has surmised that the reason for this is that, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, business leaders are less focused on driving up demand if they don’t necessarily know whether they can supply. Many organisations are working hard to revamp and improve their supply chains, but uncertainty remains and nobody wants to make promises that they can’t keep.

Gartners top 10 strategic business priority areas for 2022-2023

Technology

Technology has also dropped slightly as a top three priority, though it remains the second biggest focus at 34%. While the survey respondents are 5% less concerned about tech-related issues than in 2021-22, it’s still hugely important – especially as the world recovers from the pandemic.

Many businesses have taken the pandemic as a sign that they need better digitalisation, as a lack of that made the transition to home working difficult for some. Additionally, cybercrime is a major concern, especially when ensuring employees have the hardware and software they need to work safely from multiple locations.

Workforce

A focus on the workforce is up 32% from 2021-22, putting it at 31% in third place. This is the second consecutive year that workforce has become more of a priority, and there are multiple reasons for this.

Attracting and retaining employees is a challenge because older generations are retiring and there aren’t always enough replacements for specific roles. Plus, the younger generations joining the workforce are more likely to align themselves with businesses they truly believe in, meaning they are more picky, so organisations have to be the best they can and transparent with it.

Additionally, diversity, equality, and inclusion are bigger focuses than ever, and these have been boosted by the spotlight being shone on such topics during the pandemic. All in all, almost half (49%) of CEOs agreed with the statement that ‘it is very difficult for us to find and hire the kind of people we need in our business’.

Corporate

At 29%, corporate has dipped only a little since 2021-22 – just 5% – and remains a top priority. Corporate includes company structure and culture changes, and this is a focus right now due to the challenges of employee retention, as well as the drive towards digitalisation. Corporate change is required to improve business efficiency and performance, hence its position on this list.

Financial

The financial side of business has decreased in importance to CEOs for 2022-2023, dropping by 27% since 2021-22. However, it’s still in the top three for 20% of respondents. CFOs are making a major push towards finance transformation through technology to boost efficiency in their departments. Despite the ongoing challenge of building digital competencies in finance, 82% of CFOs have reported that their investments in digital are accelerating and exceeding investments in many other areas.

Products & Services

Products and services remain in the top three spot for 15% of respondents, up 43% from 2021. As the world recovers from the pandemic, the products and services a business produces are in the limelight. Competition is more fierce than it’s ever been, so innovation is key to remain in the best position.

Customer

The customer as a priority is up 26% from 2021-22, at 15% – and it’s no surprise. Linking into products and services, and the challenge of hiring the latest generation of workers, costumers have very high standards and hard work is required to impress them and retain loyalty.

In a Gartner survey about customer service trends, 74% of respondents stated that improving operational excellence to create a seamless customer journey is either ‘important’ or ‘very important’, and the survey found that business growth is best achieved through positive customer experience outcomes.

Environmental sustainability

Nine per cent of respondents to the Gartner survey stated that environmental sustainability is a top three priority – up a huge 292% from 2021-22. This is the first time it’s broken into the top 10, which is telling. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to do more when it comes to their own environmental impact. Many leading nations are aiming to be carbon neutral within the next few decades and being more sustainable undeniably leads to growth.

ESG

Cost

Also at 9% is cost, which is actually down 24%. Despite it being less of a concern than in 2021-22, cost remains a major focus. Supply chain shortages and the government support offered to help people through lockdowns have driven inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made that worse. As a result, we’re seeing the prices of products from the region shoot up, and those cost increases inevitably become the problem of business leaders.

Sales

While it’s number 10 (6%) on Gartner’s list of priority areas, sales is a 77% bigger priority in 2022-2023 than it was in 2021-22. Sales falls into a similar category to cost; with rising inflation comes an inability for customers to spend as freely as they once may have, making the landscape more competitive. Having said that, as we touched on with growth, sales aren’t necessarily being driven to the same degree due to supply chain disruptions.

Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University & Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER explain how ESG & the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement.

We speak to Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University and Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER to see how ESG and the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement…

Sara, how have you seen your role evolve as a procurement leader over the years as ESG and supplier diversity come into focus? 

Procurement leaders have gone from ‘cost cutters’ to ‘problem solvers’ within their organisations. Our core mandates used to be to drive cost savings and efficiency. We were hyper-focused on getting the most out of the organisation’s spend and supplier relationships. Those priorities haven’t gone away, especially in today’s inflationary environment, but the expectations of the procurement function are significantly higher and broader today. 

Procurement functions saved their companies during COVID and the confluence of disruptions that followed. We showed we are a strategic linchpin. We are now looked upon to drive value and impact and strategically guide our organisations to achieve broader goals, including diversity and environmental, social, governance (ESG). Internal stakeholders realised the benefits of procurement and sought help with advancing their department’s agendas or solving their challenges. We listen to their needs, allocate the right resources, and ultimately enable them and the overall organisation to be successful.  

I’ve been in procurement for over 20 years, and I can honestly say you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding and exciting career. Procurement professionals have a real opportunity to make a tangible difference within their organisations, communities, and the world through the way we source products and services. 

What is Harvard doing to have a positive impact on society? Can you share some examples, Sara?

Across the Harvard community, students, alumni, faculty, and staff are advancing scholarship and teaching on the world’s most significant challenges, and everyone wants to do their part to address inequities. Supplier diversity and inclusion have been a priority for Harvard for years, but we wanted to make even more of an impact and really invest in the growth and development of diverse businesses, especially as the pandemic highlighted inequities and disparities within our communities.

In 2021, we formed the Office for Economic Inclusion & Diversity (OEID), which is dedicated to reaching out to diverse suppliers, giving them opportunities, and providing them with tools, training, and resources to be successful. The office also encourages the use of underrepresented business enterprises (UBEs) in the purchasing of all goods, services, and construction at Harvard and standardises procurement practices with these businesses across the university. 

We’re proud of the work this office is doing. We’re actively training suppliers on Harvard’s policies and how they can work with us. We’re creating a central location for them to access bid and RFP opportunities. UBEs can also apply to be mentored by Harvard Business School students.

We’ve created a dashboard to track and analyse spend with diverse suppliers across all of Harvard’s schools and measure progress over time. Everything we’re doing is aimed at increasing spend with our existing diverse suppliers, as well as the number of diverse suppliers that work with Harvard, and helping these suppliers grow their businesses.

Jim, why is prioritizing ESG and supplier diversity important and what steps can companies take today to progress in their journey? 

Beyond being the right thing to do, investors, boards, regulators, customers, and employees now expect organisations to prioritise ESG and diversity initiatives and walk the talk. There’s also a clear business impact. Supplier diversity drives competitive bidding processes that lead to cost savings. Working with partners who are sustainable and have different ideas and perspectives fuels innovation and creates a competitive advantage. Sourcing from a sustainable and diverse supplier pool also reduces risk by broadening organisations’ access to multiple resources for various materials, products, and services. 

One of the most critical steps companies can take to progress on their ESG journey is to make it clear to suppliers that environmentalism is a priority for their organisation. They will attract suppliers with higher levels of ESG maturity and provide suppliers who are earlier on in their ESG journey with sustainability toolkits and training to help educate them on eco-friendly best practices and sustainability innovations.

This step avoids having to overhaul their supply chain to account for ESG. Strategically managing suppliers by leveraging third-party data, scorecards, and supplier audits are crucial for understanding the ESG risks that suppliers pose and minimizing disruptions by working with them to correct these issues. 

Successful supplier diversity programs start with a top-down culture shift. If a company’s culture isn’t diverse, inclusive, and supportive for all its stakeholders, they won’t be able to drive supplier diversity in a meaningful way. Supplier diversity strategy should map back to company goals and include an executive-level champion to sponsor the program internally and help bring in the resources they need.

Outside of leveraging technology to identify diverse suppliers and build a program, businesses can talk with people who have been in their shoes. They can collaborate with like-minded companies at industry events, engage in relevant LinkedIn groups, and connect with organisations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Once diverse suppliers are on board, organisations can create a supplier diversity policy that clearly outlines how many diverse suppliers need to be invited to bid for each event to ensure teams are executing on the strategy. Leading supplier diversity programs go beyond simply spending with diverse suppliers to providing mentorship and training them on how to respond to RFPs correctly, as well as creating environments where it’s easier for them to engage. 

Jim, what role does technology play in helping organisations achieve ESG and supplier diversity goals?

Technology is a key enabler of ESG and supplier diversity initiatives. One of the biggest obstacles to supplier diversity and ESG is a lack of reliable supplier data. Suppliers don’t always keep their information up to date in self-service portals. The data procurement teams have isn’t always enriched to the level they need, with insights on diversity status, certifications, and proof of ESG compliance.

Researching and assessing suppliers is tedious and time-consuming, which leads many organisations to skip the verification step. Without this information, organisations don’t have a true picture of the inclusivity and sustainability of their supplier network, which makes it impossible to identify the right partners to source from to meet their ESG and supplier diversity goals and make an impact.

Technology addresses this challenge by automatically collecting, enriching, validating, and integrating the supplier data needed to obtain this level of supply base visibility and make decisions that drive ESG and diversity. AI-powered tools are available to match buyers with specific diverse suppliers who also have the capabilities to help drive ESG objectives and meet broader procurement criteria.

Software that segments the supply base and helps visualise spending with small and diverse suppliers across a variety of classifications is critical for setting benchmarks and measuring progress and ROI. 

Jim and Sara, how do you expect the ESG and diversity conversation to shift and where should procurement leaders focus for the future?

Sara: I expect we’ll see the conversation shift to emphasise measurement. It’s not enough anymore to say you’re committed to ESG – you need to prove it and show demonstrable progress and ROI. Maintaining the momentum on ESG initiatives is hard. Technology is key for setting benchmarks and goals, ensuring accountability for hitting key milestones, and measuring progress and return in a credible way. 

Jim: In a declining economic environment, choices inevitably need to be made. I expect the conversation around ESG will center around where companies can focus to maintain progress on ESG initiatives as financial and economic pressures come to the forefront. While some companies may need to scale back in some areas to preserve cash and resources to navigate a downturn, I’d advise them to be careful about slowing ESG down too much as it will be much harder to catch up to current levels after the economy bounces back.

I’d argue that when ESG is done right it can be a strategic lever for navigating a down economy, saving organizations money and resources, driving innovation, and helping them achieve broader business objectives and resilience. 

Here are five of the biggest procurement events happening during 2023 that chief procurement officers won’t want to miss.

Procurement Futures 


London, UK  |  1-2 February 2023 

Held at the QEII Centre in central London, Procurement Futures is a new conference, launching in 2023. It promises delegates the chance to find out how to make supply chains more resilient, with thought-provoking and presentations and discussions designed to inform and inspire.

There is a flexible programme of content that can be tailored to attendees’ preferences, with networking opportunities throughout and a huge variety of sessions to attend and take part in.

This CIPS event has three streams of content: Insights, Ignite and Interact. Insights will showcase presentations and panel discussions from leaders, Ignite will consist of hands-on workshops to help delegates optimise their procurement strategies and Interact will be smaller groups taking part in interactive roundtables and debates.

Speakers across the two days will include Ross Grierson, Director of Procurement, Primark; Patrick Dunne, Director of Group Property, FM & Procurement (CPO), Sainsburys Plc; Rebecca Simpson, Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Balfour Beatty; and Nick Jenkinson, Chief Procurement Officer, Santander. In addition, delegates are ablew to book a one-to-one career workshop, where they’ll get advice on professional development from coaches covering a variety of specialisms. 

Tickets are £795 for CIPS member, £995 for a non-member and £2240 for a supplier/solution provider, and there is a discount of 30% for tickets purchased before 30 November 2022. 


3rd World Digital Procurement Summit 


Berlin, Germany  |  2-3 March 2023 

The third World Digital Procurement Summit is aimed at procurement directors, VPs, managers and other industry specialists. The two-day event will focus on accelerating procurement processes, adopting emerging technologies, finding the right talent, overcoming the barriers to progress and embarking on a journey of transformation. It’s a hybrid event, bringing together procurement experts from various industries, which will maximise knowledge exchange opportunities. The event organisers list five key learning points for delegates: 

  1. Exploring the latest advances in data and cognitive technologies to gain greater insights and improve procurement processes 
  1. Overhauling the procurement ecosystem with new technologies and strategies to drive business value 
  1. Sharing the best practices of monitoring and managing a range of risks to hedge against future disruptions 
  1. Developing capabilities and skillset required for the digital transformation of procurement 
  1. Defining ESG metrics of the procurement strategy to ensure business continuity 

Speakers will include Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director at TUI Group and Patrick Foelck, Head of Strategy and Transformation Procurement at Roche. 

Click here to check out a video from a previous event. Tickets cost €1495. 


Women in Procurement & Supply Chain 


Sydney, Australia  |  6-8 March 2023 

Returning for its 8th annual event, Women in Procurement & Supply Chain will deliver two days dedicated to leadership and the future of procurement. The event will feature a series of exclusive panel discussions and keynote addresses examining career development, overcoming imposter syndrome, working with confidence, developing an unbeatable talent pool, mentoring, diversity and inclusivity.

It will also address risk mitigation, digital disruption, ESG, sustainability, economic development, ethical sourcing, category management, cultural diversity, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships, procurement with purpose, and supply chain resilience. There are two pre-conference masterclass options on 6 March – that can be booked separately – covering either contract law or leadership skills. 

Some of the reasons to attend include: 

  • Discover the path to taking your procurement career to a new level while elevating your organisation with dedicated days on leadership and the future of procurement 
  • Learn best practice strategies to facedown supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce risk exposure 
  • Get ahead of the game with insights into the future of procurement and the impact of globalisation on modern supply chains 
  • Put yourself at the cutting edge of ESG and procurement with the latest updates and trends in procurement with purpose 

Speakers for the main two-day conference include Michelle Richard, Director of Procurement, Thales; Karina Davies, Chief Procurement Officer, icare NSW; and Kylie McKinlay, Procurement Partner – Property and Business, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Tickets start at $3,495 with discounts available until 25 November 2022. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Miami, USA  |  21-22 March 2023 

The Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise

With a focus on what makes CPOs tick, the Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise in keynote presentations and working groups.

Giving delegates the tools to stay on the cutting edge of procurement developments, there are also sessions aimed at those with responsibilities over governance, procurement capabilities and quantifying data. Unsurprisingly, sustainability will also be a key theme in 2023, and attendees will hear from a diverse range of sustainability leaders about how to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function. 

The agenda for Americas Procurement Congress 2023 will include: 

  • Sustainability of the future  
  • How to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function   
  • Harnessing the power of digital transformation  
  • Utilizing data as a driver of sustainable value, supply continuity and transparency   Agile procurement  
  • New approaches and skills that facilitate speed and agility   
  • Frictionless procurement  
  • Removing friction from the procurement process to support high-velocity sourcing   
  • Beyond Just in Time 
  • Designing future-fit supply networks for an age of chaos and conflict 

Tickets start at $3649. 


Americas Procurement Congress 


Orlando, Florida  |  8–10 June 2023 

Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo 2022 addressed the most significant challenges that chief supply chain officers and supply chain leaders face as they mitigate risk and navigate uncertainty in an increasingly dynamic and challenging environment.  

At the conference, the top 5 sessions that CSCOs and supply chain leaders met on included: 

  • Signature Series: The Future of Supply Chain 
  • What the Pivot to Sustainable Profit Means for Procurement Leaders 
  • The Art of the New Age One Page Dashboard: Why Your Current Perfor-mance Measures May Be Doing More Harm Than Good 
  • Manage Supplier Risk With Technology 
  • Procurement Role Redesign: Stop Fitting Square Pegs Into Round Holes 

Tickets start at $4725. 

Here are five of the best procurement schools in Europe.

As procurement becomes an increasingly vital and strategic function within many organisations, people are beginning to realise the full potential of turning it into a career for themselves.

This has subsequently led to many universities noticing the demand in the industry and offering courses which equip students with the relevant qualifications and skills needed to succeed in the supply chain space.

With this in mind, here are five of the best procurement schools in Europe.


1. CIPS


Course: Various
Where: Across England

procurement schools

Run by Oxford College of Procurement and Supply, there are 10 Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply centres in England offering several different qualification levels to choose from. The courses are recognised throughout the world as harnessing leading edge thinking and professionalism across the procurement and supply chain management space.

CIPS offers courses such as level three, four, five and six in procurement and supply with each qualification created to reflect current, emerging and best practice in procurement and supply chain management. Classes focus on exploring legacy purchasing and supply methods as well as techniques and theory to the application in a business environment.

CIPS doesn’t just offer in-person studying as courses are designed to suit individual lifestyles with virtual classrooms, part-time and weekend options to choose from.


2. Politecnico di Milano


Course: MSc in Supply Chain and Procurement Management
Where: Milan, Italy

Politecnico di Milano
Politecnico di Milano offers an extensive portfolio of programmes

Renowned as being one of the best scientific and technological universities in the world, Politecnico di Milano offers an extensive portfolio of programmes in a variety of different spaces. Its supply chain master’s degree is a 12-month course aimed at equipping students with vital knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the industry.

The course also includes a number of practical activities in the programme such as lessons with international lectures, workshops on soft skills, company presentations, projects with companies, company visits and an international study tour in Rotterdam.

According to Politecnico di Milano, 86% of students were employed three months after graduation while 55% were also working abroad during the same period.

The course was ranked third in the TOP 2021 Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking (Global) and eighth in the QS Supply Chain Management Masters Rankings for 2023.


3. SKEMA Business School


Course: MSc (and MS) Supply Chain Management and Purchasing
Where: Lille and Paris, France

Skema offers two supply chain management (SCM) and procurement masters: The premium international MSc Global Supply Chain Management in Lille taught in English, and the MS in SCM and Purchasing in Paris and Lille mainly taught in French. France’s highly-rated supply chain and procurement program has been designed with a progressive shift from theory to practice. The degree covers the entirety of supply chain activities from planning, purchasing, receiving, production, storage to delivery through nine compulsory and six elective courses.

The global MSc has a new cooperation with the leading prestigious business school, MIT in the US, plus another cooperation with Politechnico from Milano. The MSc master’s degree provides soft skills in supply chain and purchasing management as well as going into future trends in digitalisation, AI, sustainability, ethics, globalisation, risk management and agility. The course’s primary goal is to find future leaders who are seeking to make a positive impact on the world of supply chain management and procurement. The MSc is a full time program, complemented by paid internships in the area of the student’s choice, while the MS alternates weeks of classes with professionals at the forefront of their fields.


4. Audencia Business School


Course: MSc in Supply Chain and Purchasing Management
Where: Nantes, France

Audencia Business School

Created in 2009, Audencia Business School’s programme will cover topics such as procurement, global sourcing and supply chain strategies. Other topics to feature includes green logistics, Big Data, digital transformation, negotiation and commercial law. The course will provide expertise from industry insiders as business executives visit and share professional insights during the programme.

The school works closely with the corporate world and is recognised for its responsible management practices. Audencia is triple-accredited, highly ranked and internationally oriented and according to its website, 79% of course graduates are employed before graduation. The course is available as a one-year or two-year master’s programme.

In autumn 2024, the course is set to be renamed to the MSc in Responsible Procurement and Supply Chain Management.


5. Cranfield School of Management


Course: MSc in Procurement and Supply Chain Management
Where: Cranfield, United Kingdom

Cranfield School of Management provides students with specialist knowledge and skills in procurement needed to progress their careers

Cranfield’s Procurement and Supply Chain Management course has been co-designed with senior industry executives. This purchasing postgraduate course provides students with specialist knowledge and skills in procurement needed to progress their careers. Possessing one of the largest facilities in Europe, the course places considerable emphasis on how to overcome real-world challenges.

Students will gain an in-depth understanding of supply chain strategy and sustainability, procurement strategy, supplier selection and evaluation, negotiation and contact management. They will also be taught how to use data, models and software to solve problems and inform decisions, inventory and operations management and how to design effective supply chain operations.

Students will have the opportunity to attend a study tour and experience a different supply chain perspective elsewhere in Europe.

The course was ranked 11th in the world on the QS Supply Chain Management Masters Rankings for 2023.

Expert analysis of the tech trends set to make waves this year

Digital transformation is a continuing journey of change with no set final destination. This makes predicting tomorrow a challenge when no one has a crystal ball to hand.

After a difficult few years for most businesses following a disruptive pandemic and now battling a cost-of-living crisis, many enterprises are increasingly leveraging new types of technology to gain an edge in a disruptive world. 

With this in mind, here are what experts predict for the next 12 months…


1. Process Mining


Sam Attias, Director of Product Marketing at Celonis

Sam Attias, Director of Product Marketing at Celonis, expects to see a rise in the adoption of process mining as it evolves to incorporate automation capabilities. He says process mining has traditionally been “a data science done in isolation” which helps companies identify hidden inefficiencies by extracting data and visually representing it.

“It is now evolving to become more prescriptive than descriptive and will empower businesses to simulate new methods and processes in order to estimate success and error rates, as well as recommend actions before issues actually occur,” says Attias. “It will fix inefficiencies in real-time through automation and execution management.”


2. The evolution of social robots


Gabriel Aguiar Noury, Robotics Product Manager at Canonical

Gabriel Aguiar Noury, Robotics Product Manager at Canonical, anticipates social robots to return this year. After companies such as Sony introduced robots like Poiq, Aguiar Noury believes it “sets the stage” for a new wave of social robots. 

“Powered by natural language generation models like GPT-3, robots can create new dialogue systems,” he says. “This will improve the robot’s interactivity with humans, allowing robots to answer any question. 

3d rendering cute artificial intelligence robot with empty note

“Social robots will also build narratives and rich personalities, making interaction with users more meaningful. GPT-3 also powers Dall-E, an image generator. Combined, these types of technologies will enable robots not only to tell but show dynamic stories.”


3. The rebirth of new data-powered business applications


In today’s fast-moving world, technology doesn’t sleep. Through the help of experts, we’ve compiled a need-to-know list of 23 predictions for 2023

Christian Kleinerman, Senior Vice President of Product at Snowflake, says there is the beginning of a “renaissance” in software development. He believes developers will bring their applications to central combined sources of data instead of the “traditional approach” of copying data into applications. 

“Every single application category, whether it’s horizontal or specific to an industry vertical, will be reinvented by the emergence of new data-powered applications,” affirms Kleinerman. “This rise of data-powered applications will represent massive opportunities for all different types of developers, whether they’re working on a brand-new idea for an application and a business based on that app, or they’re looking for how to expand their existing software operations.”


4. Application development will become a two-way conversation


Adrien Treuille, Head of Streamlit at Snowflake

Adrien Treuille, Head of Streamlit at Snowflake, believes application development will become a two-way conversation between producers and consumers. It is his belief that the advent of easy-to-use low-code or no-code platforms are already “simplifying the building” and sharing of interactive applications for tech-savvy and business users. 

“Based on that foundation, the next emerging shift will be a blurring of the lines between two previously distinct roles — the application producer and the consumer of that software.”

He adds that application development will become a collaborative workflow where consumers can weigh in on the work producers are doing in real-time. “Taking this one step further, we’re heading towards a future where app development platforms have mechanisms to gather app requirements from consumers before the producer has even started creating that software.”


5. The Metaverse


Paul Hardy, EMEA Innovation Officer at ServiceNow

Paul Hardy, EMEA Innovation Officer at ServiceNow, says he expects business leaders to adopt technologies such as the metaverse in 2023. The aim of this is to help cultivate and maintain employee engagement as businesses continue working in hybrid environments, in an increasingly challenging macro environment.

“Given the current economic climate, adoption of the metaverse may be slow, but in the future, a network of 3D virtual worlds will be used to foster meaningful social connections, creating new experiences for employees and reinforcing positive culture within organisations,” he says. “Hybrid work has made employee engagement more challenging, as it can be difficult to communicate when employees are not together in the same room. 

“Leaders have begun to see the benefit of hosting traditional training and development sessions using VR and AI-enhanced coaching. In the next few years, we will see more workplaces go a step beyond this, for example, offering employees the chance to earn recognition in the form of tokens they can spend in the real or virtual world, gamifying the experience.”


6. The year of ESG?


Cathy Mauzaize, Vice President, EMEA South, at ServiceNow

Cathy Mauzaize, Vice President, EMEA South, at ServiceNow, believes 2023 could be the year that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is vital to every company’s strategy.

“Failure to engage appropriate investment in ESG strategies could plunge any organisation into a crisis,” she says. “Legislation must be respected and so must the expectations of employees, investors and your ecosystem of partners and customers.

“ESG is not just a tick box, one and done, it’s a new way of business that will see us through 2023 and beyond.”


7. Macro Trends and Redeploying Budgets for Efficiency


Ulrik Nehammer, President, EMEA at ServiceNow, says organisations are facing an incredibly complex and volatile macro environment. Nehammer explains as the world is gripped by soaring inflation, intelligent digital investments can be a huge deflationary force.

“Business leaders are already shifting investment focus to technologies that will deliver outcomes faster,” he says. “Going into 2023, technology will become increasingly central to business success – in fact, 95% of CEOs are already pursuing a digital-first strategy according to IDC’s CEO survey, as digital companies deliver revenue growth far faster than non-digital ones.”  


8. Organisations will have adopted a NaaS strategy


David Hughes, Aruba’s Chief Product and Technology Officer

David Hughes, Aruba’s Chief Product and Technology Officer, believes that by the end of 2023, 20% of organisations will have adopted a network-as-a-service (NaaS) strategy.

“With tightening economic conditions, IT requires flexibility in how network infrastructure is acquired, deployed, and operated to enable network teams to deliver business outcomes rather than just managing devices,” he says. “Migration to a NaaS framework enables IT to accelerate network modernisation yet stay within budget, IT resource, and schedule constraints. 

“In addition, adopting a NaaS strategy will help organisations meet sustainability objectives since leading NaaS suppliers have adopted carbon-neutral and recycling manufacturing strategies.”


9. Think like a seasonal business


According to Patrick Bossman, Product Manager at MariaDB corporation, he anticipates 2023 to be the year that the ability to “scale out on command” is going to be at the fore of companies’ thoughts.

“Organisations will need the infrastructure in place to grow on command and scale back once demand lowers,” he says. “The winners in 2023 will be those who understand that all business is seasonal, and all companies need to be ready for fluctuating demand.”


10. Digital platforms need to adapt to avoid falling victim to subscription fatigue


Demed L’Her, Chief Technology Officer at DigitalRoute

Demed L’Her, Chief Technology Officer at DigitalRoute, suggests what the subscription market is going to look like in 2023 and how businesses can avoid falling victim to ‘subscription fatigue’.  L’Her says there has been a significant drop in demand since the pandemic.

“Insider’s latest research shows that as of August, nearly a third (30%) of people reported cancelling an online subscription service in the past six months,” he reveals. “This is largely due to the rising cost of living experienced globally that is leaving households with reduced budgets for luxuries like digital subscriptions. Despite this, the subscription market is far from dead, with most people retaining some despite tightened budgets. 

“However, considering the ongoing economic challenges, businesses need to consider adapting if they are to be retained by customers in the long term. The key to this is ensuring that the product adds value to the life of the customer.”


11. Waking up to browser security 


Jonathan Lee, Senior Product Manager at Menlo Security

Jonathan Lee, Senior Product Manager at Menlo Security, points to the web browser being the biggest attack surface and suggests the industry is “waking up” to the fact of where people spend the most time.

“Vendors are now looking at ways to add security controls directly inside the browser,” explains Lee. “Traditionally, this was done either as a separate endpoint agent or at the network edge, using a firewall or secure web gateway. The big players, Google and Microsoft, are also in on the act, providing built-in controls inside Chrome and Edge to secure at a browser level rather than the network edge. 

“But browser attacks are increasing, with attackers exploiting new and old vulnerabilities, and developing new attack methods like HTML Smuggling. Remote browser isolation is becoming one of the key principles of Zero Trust security where no device or user – not even the browser – can be trusted.”


12. The year of quantum-readiness


Tim Callan, Chief Experience Officer at Sectigo

Tim Callan, Chief Experience Officer at Sectigo, predicts that 2023 will be the year of quantum-readiness. He believes that as a result of the standardisation of new quantum-safe algorithms expected to be in place by 2024, this year will be a year of action for government bodies, technology vendors, and enterprise IT leaders to prepare for the deployment.

“In 2022, the US National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) selected a set of post-quantum algorithms for the industry to standardise on as we move toward our quantum-safe future,” says Callan.

“In 2023, standards bodies like the IETF and many others must work to incorporate these algorithms into their own guidelines to enable secure functional interoperability across broad sets of software, hardware, and digital services. Providers of these hardware, software, and service products must follow the relevant guidelines as they are developed and begin preparing their technology, manufacturing, delivery, and service models to accommodate updated standards and the new algorithms.” 


13. AI: fewer keywords, greater understanding


AI expert Dr Pieter Buteneers, Director of AI and Machine Learning at Sinch

AI expert Dr Pieter Buteneers, Director of AI and Machine Learning at Sinch, expects artificial intelligence to continue to transition away from keywords and move towards an increased level of understanding.

“Language-agnostic AI, already existent within certain AI and chatbot platforms, will understand hundreds of languages — and even interchange them within a single search or conversation — because it’s not learning language like you or I would,” he says. “This advanced AI instead focuses on meaning, and attaches code to words accordingly, so language is more of a finishing touch than the crux of a conversation or search query. 

“Language-agnostic AI will power stronger search results — both from external (the internet) and internal (a company database) sources — and less robotic chatbot conversations, enabling companies to lean on automation to reduce resources and strain on staff and truly trust their AI.”


14. Rise in digital twin technology in the enterprise


John Hill, CEO and Founder of Silico

John Hill, CEO and Founder of Silico, recognises the growing influence digital twin technology is having in the market. Hill predicts that in the next 20 years, there will be a digital twin of every complex enterprise in the world and anticipates the next generation of decision-makers will routinely use forward-looking simulations and scenario analytics to plan and optimise their business outcomes.

“Digital twin technology is one of the fastest-growing facets of industry 4.0 and while we’re still at the dawn of digital twin technology,” he explains. “Digital twins will have huge implications for unlocking our ability to plan and manage the complex organisations so crucial for our continued economic progress and underpin the next generation of Intelligent Enterprise Automation.”


15. Broader tech security


Tricentis CEO, Kevin Thompson

With an exponential amount of data at companies’ fingertips, Tricentis CEO, Kevin Thompson says the need for investment in secure solutions is paramount.

“The general public has become more aware of the access companies have to their personal data, leading to the impending end of third-party cookies, and other similar restrictions on data sharing,” he explains. “However, security issues still persist. The persisting influx of new data across channels and servers introduces greater risk of infiltration by bad actors, especially for enterprise software organisations that have applications in need of consistent testing and updates. The potential for damage increases as iterations are being made with the expanding attack surface. 

“Now, the reality is a matter of when, not if, your organisation will be the target of an attack. To combat this rising security concern, organisations will need to integrate security within the development process from the very beginning. Integrating security and compliance testing at the upfront will greatly reduce risk and prevent disruptions.”


16. Increased cyber resilience 


Michael Adams, CISO at Zoom

Michael Adams, CISO at Zoom, expects an increased focus on cyber resilience over the next 12 months. “While protecting organisations against cyber threats will always be a core focus area for security programs, we can expect an increased focus on cyber resilience, which expands beyond protection to include recovery and continuity in the event of a cyber incident,” explains Adams.

“It’s not only investing resources in protecting against cyber threats; it’s investing in the people, processes, and technology to mitigate impact and continue operations in the event of a cyber incident.” 


17. Ransomware threats


Michal Salat, Threat Intelligence Director at Avast

As data leaks become increasingly common place in the industry, companies face a very real threat of ransomware. Michal Salat, Threat Intelligence Director at Avast, believes the time is now for businesses to protect themselves or face recovery fees costing millions of dollars.

“Ransomware attacks themselves are already an individual’s and businesses’ nightmare. This year, we saw cybergangs threatening to publicly publish their targets’ data if a ransom isn’t paid, and we expect this trend to only grow in 2023,” says Salat. “This puts people’s personal memories at risk and poses a double risk for businesses. Both the loss of sensitive files, plus a data breach, can have severe consequences for their business and reputation.”


18. Intensified supply chain attacks 


Dirk Schrader, VP of security research at Netwrix

Dirk Schrader, VP of security research at Netwrix, believes supply chain attacks are set to increase in the coming year. “Modern organisations rely on complex supply chains, including small and medium businesses (SMBs) and managed service providers (MSPs),” he says.

“Adversaries will increasingly target these suppliers rather than the larger enterprises knowing that they provide a path into multiple partners and customers. To address this threat, organisations of all sizes, while conducting a risk assessment, need to take into account the vulnerabilities of all third-party software or firmware.”


19. A greater need to manage volatility 


Paul Milloy, Business Consultant at Intradiem, stresses the importance of managing volatility in an ever-moving market. Milloy believes bosses can utilise data through automation to foresee potential problems before they become issues.

“No one likes surprises. Whilst Ben Franklin suggested nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, businesses will want to automate as many of their processes as possible to help manage volatility in 2023,” he explains. “Data breeds intelligence, and intelligence breeds insight. Managers can use the data available from workforce automation tools to help them manage peaks and troughs better to avoid unexpected resource bottlenecks.”


20. A human AI co-pilot will still be needed


Artem Kroupenev, VP of Strategy at Augury, predicts that within the next few years, every profession will be enhanced with hybrid intelligence, and have an AI co-pilot which will operate alongside human workers to deliver more accurate and nuanced work at a much faster pace. 

“These co-pilots are already being deployed with clear use cases in mind to support specific roles and operational needs, like AI-driven solutions that enable reliability engineers to ensure production uptime, safety and sustainability through predictive maintenance,” he says. “However, in 2023, we will see these co-pilots become more accurate, more trusted and more ingrained across the enterprise. 

“Executives will better understand the value of AI co-pilots to make critical business decisions, and as a key competitive differentiator, and will drive faster implementation across their operations. The AI co-pilot technology will be more widespread next year, and trust and acceptance will increase as people see the benefits unfold.”


21. Building the right workplace culture


Harnessing a positive workplace culture is no easy task but in 2023 with remote and hybrid working now the norm, it brings with it new challenges. Tony McCandless, Chief Technology Officer at SS&C Blue Prism, is well aware of the role organisational culture can play in any digital transformation journey.

Workers are the heart of an organisation, so without their buy in, no digital transformation initiative stands a chance of success,” explains McCandless. “Workers drive home business objectives, and when it comes to digital transformation, they are the ones using, implementing, and sometimes building automations. Curiosity, innovation, and the willingness to take risks are essential ingredients to transformative digitalisation. 

“Businesses are increasingly recognising that their workers play an instrumental role in determining whether digitalisation initiatives are successful. Fostering the right work environment will be a key focus point for the year ahead – not only to cultivate buy-in but also to improve talent retention and acquisition, as labor supply issues are predicted to continue into 2023 and beyond.”


22. Cloud cover to soften recession concerns


Amid a cost-of-living crisis and concerns over any potential recession as a result, Daniel Thomasson, VP of Engineering and R&D at Keysight Technologies, says more companies will shift data intensive tasks to the cloud to reduce infrastructure and operational costs.

“Moving applications to the cloud will also help organisations deliver greater data-driven customer experiences,” he affirms. “For example, advanced simulation and test data management capabilities such as real-time feature extraction and encryption will enable use of a secure cloud-based data mesh that will accelerate and deepen customer insights through new algorithms operating on a richer data set. In the year ahead, expect the cloud to be a surprising boom for companies as they navigate economic uncertainty.”


23. IoT devices to scale globally


Dr Raullen Chai, CEO and Co-Founder of IoTeX, recognises a growing trend in the usage of IoT devices worldwide and believes connectivity will increase significantly. 

“For decades, Big Tech has monopolised user data, but with the advent of Web3, we will see more and more businesses and smart device makers beginning to integrate blockchain for device connectivity as it enables people to also monetise their data in many different ways, including in marketing data pools, medical research pools and more,” he explains. “We will see a growth in decentralised applications that allow users to earn a modest additional revenue from everyday activities, such as walking, sleeping, riding a bike or taking the bus instead of driving, or driving safely in exchange for rewards. 

“Living healthy lifestyles will also become more popular via decentralised applications for smart devices, especially smart watches and other health wearables.”

The digital landscape is changing day by day. Ideas like the metaverse that once seemed a futuristic fantasy are now…

The digital landscape is changing day by day. Ideas like the metaverse that once seemed a futuristic fantasy are now coming to fruition and embedding themselves into our daily lives. The thinking might be there, but is our technology really ready to go meta? Domains and hosting provider, Fasthosts, spoke to the experts to find out…

How the metaverse works

The metaverse is best defined as a virtual 3D universe which combines many virtual places. It allows users to meet, collaborate, play games and interact in virtual environments. It’s usually viewed and accessed from the outside as a mixture of virtual reality (VR), (think of someone in their front room wearing a headset and frantically waving nunchucks around) and augmented reality (AR), but it’s so much more than this…

These technologies are just the external entry points to the metaverse and provide the visuals which allow users to explore and interact with the environment within the metaverse. 

This is the ‘front-end’ if you like, which is also reinforced by artificial intelligence and 3D reconstruction. These additional technologies help to provide realistic objects in environments, computer-controlled actions and also avatars for games and other metaverse projects. 

So, what stands in the way of this fantastical 3D universe? Here are the six key challenges:

Technology

The most important piece of technology, on which the metaverse is based, is the blockchain. The blockchain is essentially a chain of blocks that contain specific information. They’re a combination of computers linked to each other instead of a central server which means that the whole network is decentralised. This provides the infrastructure for the development of metaverse projects, storage of data and also allows them the capability to be compatible with Web3. Web3 is an upgraded version of the internet which will allow integration of virtual and augmented reality into people’s everyday lives. 

Sounds like a lot, right? And it involves a great deal of tech that is alien to the vast majority of us. So, is technology a barrier to widespread metaverse adoption?

Jonothan Hunt, Senior Creative Technologist at Wunderman Thompson, says the tech just isn’t there. Yet.

“Technology’s readiness for the mass adoption of the metaverse depends on how you define the metaverse, but if we’re talking about the future vision that the big tech players are sharing, then not yet. The infrastructure that powers the internet and our devices isn’t ready for such experiences. The best we have right now in terms of shared/simulated spaces are generally very expensive and powered entirely in the cloud, such as big computers like the Nvidia Omniverse, cloud streaming, or games. These rely heavily on instancing and localised grouping. Consumer hardware, especially XR, is still not ready for casual daily use and still not really democratised.

“The technology for this will look like an evolution of the systems above, meaning more distributed infrastructure, better access and updated hardware. Web3 also presents a challenge in and of itself, and questions remain over to what extent big tech will adopt it going forward.”

Storage

Blockchain is the ‘back-end’, where the magic happens, if you will. It’s this that will be the key to the development and growth of the metaverse. There are a lot of elements that make up the blockchain and reinforce its benefits and uses such as storage capabilities, data security and smart contracts. 

Due to its decentralised nature, the blockchain has far more storage capacity than the centralised storage systems we have in place today. With data on the metaverse being stored in exabytes, the blockchain works by making use of unutilised hard disk space across the network, which avoids users within the metaverse running out of storage space worldwide. 

In terms that might be a bit more relatable, an exabyte is a billion gigabytes. That’s a huge amount of storage, and that doesn’t just exist in the cloud – it’s got to go somewhere – and physical storage servers mean land is taken up, and energy is used. Hunt says: “How long’s a piece of string? The whole of the metaverse will one day be housed in servers and data centres, but the amount or size needed to house all of this storage will be entirely dependent on just how mass adopted the metaverse becomes. Big corporations in the space are starting to build huge data centres – such as Meta purchasing a $1.1 billion campus in Toledo, Spain to house their new Meta lab and data centre – but the storage space is not the only concern. These energy-guzzlers need to stay cool! And what about people and brands who need reliable web hosting for events, gaming or even just meeting up with pals across the world, all that information – albeit virtual – still needs a place to go.

“The current rising cost of electricity worldwide could cause problems for the growth of data centres, and the housing of the metaverse as a whole. However, without knowing the true size of its adoption, it is extremely difficult to truly determine the needed usage. Could we one day see an entire island devoted to data centre storage? Purely for the purposes of holding the metaverse? It seems a little ‘1984’, but who knows?”

Identity

Although the blockchain provides instantaneous verification of transactions with identity through digital wallets, our physical form will be represented by avatars that visually reflect who we are, and how we want to be seen. 

The founder of Saxo Bank and the chairman of the Concordium Foundation, Lars Seier Christensen, argues, “I think that if you use an underlying blockchain-based solution where ID is required at the entry point, it is actually very simple and automatically available for relevant purposes. It is also very secure and transparent, in that it would link any transactions or interactions where ID is required to a trackable record on the blockchain.”

Once identity is established, it is true that it could potentially become easier to assess creditworthiness of parties for purchasing and borrowing in the metaverse due to the digital identity and storage of each individual’s data and transactions on the blockchain. However, although it sounds exciting, there must be considerations into how it could impact privacy, and how this amount of data will be recorded on the blockchain. 

Security

There are also huge security benefits to this set up. The decentralised blockchain helps to eradicate third-party involvement and data breaches, such as theft and file manipulation, thanks to its powerful data processing and use of validation nodes. Both of these are responsible for verifying and recording transactions on the blockchain. This will be reassuring to many, given the widespread concerns around data privacy and user protection in the metaverse.

To access the blockchain all we will need is an internet connection and a device, such as a laptop or smartphone, this is what makes it so great as it will be so readily available. However, to support the blockchain, we’re relying on a whole different set of technologies.  Akash Kayar, CEO of web3-focused software development company Leeway Hertz, had this to say on the readiness of the current technology available: “The metaverse is not yet completely mature in terms of development. Tech experts are researching strategies and

testing the various technologies to develop ideas that provide the world with more feasible and intriguing metaverse projects.

“Projects like Decentraland, Axie Infinity, and Sandbox are popular contemporary live metaverse projects. People behind these projects made perfect use of notable metaverse technologies, from blockchain and cryptos to NFTs.

“As envisioned by top tech futurists, many new technologies will empower the metaverse in the future, which will support the development of a range of prolific use cases that will improve the ability of the metaverse towards offering real-life functionalities. In a nutshell, the metaverse is expected to bring extreme opportunities for enterprises and common users. Hence, it will shape the digital future.”

Currency & Payments

Whilst it’s only considered legal tender in two countries, cryptocurrency is currently a reality and there is a strong likelihood that it will eventually be mass adopted. However, the metaverse is arguably not yet at the same maturity level, meaning cryptocurrency may have to wait before it can finally fully take off. 

Golden Bitcoin symbol and finance graph screen. Horizontal composition with copy space. Focused image.

There is no doubt that cryptocurrency and the metaverse will go hand-in-hand as the former will become the tender of the latter with many of the current metaverse platforms each wielding its native currency. For example Decentraland uses $MANA for payments and purchases. However, with the volatility of crypto currencies and the recent collapse of trading platform FTX indicating security lapses, we may not yet be ready for the switch to decentralised payments. 

Energy

Some of the world’s largest data centres can each contain many tens of thousands of IT devices which require more than 100 megawatts of power capacity – this is enough to power around 80,000 U.S. households (U.S. DOE 2020) and is equivalent to $1.35bn running cost per data centre with the cost of a megawatt hour averaging $150. 

According to Nitin Parekh of Hitachi Energy, the amount of power which takes to process Bitcoin is higher than you might expect: “Bitcoin consumes around 110 Terawatt Hours per year. This is around 0.5% of global electricity generation. This estimate considers combined computational power used to mine bitcoin and process transactions.” With this estimate, we can calculate that the annual energy cost of Bitcoin is around $16.5bn. 

However, some bigger corporations are slowly moving towards renewable energy to power their projects in this space, with Google signing close to $2bn worth of wind and solar investments in order to power its data centres in the future and become greener. Amazon has also followed in their footsteps and have become the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. 

They may have plenty of time yet to get their green processes in place, with Mark Zuckerberg recently predicting it will take nearly a decade for the metaverse to be created: “I don’t think it’s really going to be huge until the second half of this decade at the earliest.”

About Fasthosts

Fasthosts has been a leading technology provider since 1999, offering secure UK data centres, 24/7 support and a highly successful reseller channel. Fasthosts provides everything web professionals need to power and manage their online space, including domains, web hosting, business-class email, dedicated servers, and a next-generation cloud platform. For more information, head to www.fasthosts.co.uk

Todd Salmon, Executive Advisor for Strategic Services at GuidePoint Security, on the cybersecurity challenge of keeping up with the pace of the ever-changing digital world

This month’s cover story explores how GuidePoint Security, an elite team of highly trained and certified experts, cut through cybersecurity chaos and confusion to put control back in customers’ hands.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Interface welcomes in 2023 with a need-to-know list of what we can expect from technology this year and how it can allow enterprises to gain a competitive edge in a disruptive and increasingly digital world. Faced with everything from process mining and AI to quantum-readiness and the metaverse we cut through the hype to bring you the facts.

Read the latest issue here!

GuidePoint Security: digital transformation in cybersecurity

“Cybersecurity is in such a reactive mode because of the sheer volume of risks and vulnerabilities an organisation faces,” says Todd Salmon, Executive Advisor for Strategic Services at GuidePoint Security. “We see a lot of copycats and repeat attacks happen, but at the end of the day it’s all about creating solutions to help combat those problems.”

GuidePoint’s elite team of highly trained and certified experts, cut through cybersecurity chaos and confusion to put control back in customers’ hands. Helping them make the smartest, most informed cyber risk decisions, and choose and integrate the best-fit solutions to build the most effective cybersecurity program, Salmon discusses the challenge of keeping up with the pace of the ever-changing digital world.

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 at bp. This means we are playing to win while caring for our people through investing in their personal development,” says Head of Strategic Transformation Nick Hales.

“After setting the right foundations through various remediation and compliance initiatives, we embarked on our digital transformation journey,” adds Strategy & Transformation Manager 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.

Also in this issue, we round up the key tech events and conferences across the globe and, with the help of the experts at Fasthosts, take a deep dive into the metaverse… Can virtual reality become our reality? Read on to find out.

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

John MClure, CISO at Sinclair Group – a diversified media company and America’s leading provider of local sports and news – talks about the evolution of cybersecurity and the cultural shift placing it at the forefront of business change

This month’s cover story explores how Sinclair Broadcast Group is embracing the evolution of cybersecurity and placing the role of the CISO at the forefront of business transformation.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Communication, secure and at speed, is a vital component of the transformation journey for both the modern enterprise and its relationship with stakeholders, be they customers or partners. Putting the right building blocks in place to deliver successful change management is at the heart of the inspiring stories in the latest issue of Interface.

Read the latest issue here!

Sinclair Broadcast Group: a cyber transformation

Our cover star John McClure progressed from a career in the military and work as a consultant in the intelligence industry to fight a new kind of foe… As CISO for Sinclair Broadcast Group, a diversified media company and America’s leading provider of local sports and news, he talks about the evolution of cybersecurity, the battle to meet the rising velocity and sophistication of cyber-attacks and the cultural shift of the role of CISO placing it at the forefront of business change.

“Sinclair is unique in terms of its different business units and how it operates. It’s my job as CISO leading our cyber team not to be an obstacle for the business; we’re here to help it move faster to keep up with market forces, and to move safely. We’re here to engineer solutions that work for the enterprise but also help us maintain a positive security posture.”

State of Florida: digital government services

We also hear from CIO Jamie Grant who is leading the State of Florida’s Digital Service (FL[DS]) on its charge to transform and modernise the way government is accessed and consumed. He is building a team of talented, goal-oriented and customer-obsessed individuals to drive a digital transformation with innovation at its heart. “Leadership is really about developing the team and investing in the people. And it turns out that when you get their backs, they appreciate it and then you can achieve anything.”

ResultsCX: putting people first

Jamie Vernon, SVP for IT & Infrastructure at AI-powered customer experience solution specialist ResultsCX, discusses what drives customer care in the 21st century, and the part technology has to play.

“We are the custodians of our customers’ customers,” says Vernon. “In this increasingly tenuous relationship with their customers, they trust us. My leadership takes that responsibility very seriously, and charges each of us with doing everything we can to provide a perfect call, or email, or chat, every time, thousands of times a minute, around the clock and around the calendar.”

Jamie Vernon, SVP for IT & Infrastructure at AI-powered customer experience solution specialist ResultsCX, discusses what drives customer care in the 21st century, and the part technology has to play.

“We are the custodians of our customers’ customers,” says Vernon. “In this increasingly tenuous relationship with their customers, they trust us. My leadership takes that responsibility very seriously, and charges each of us with doing everything we can to provide a perfect call, or email, or chat, every time, thousands of times a minute, around the clock and around the calendar.”

Also this month, Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Stripe in Southeast Asia, talks about how the fast-growing payments platform is driving financial inclusion across Asia and supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first, and we get expert advice for the modern CEO from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Our cover story this month reveals how Dr Roman Salasznyk, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, and his team are driving innovation at the IT services specialist to deliver digital solutions supporting federal agencies in their quest to drive mission-critical programs

This month’s cover story charts how IT services specialist Booz Allen Hamilton is delivering digital solutions to support federal agencies in their quest to deliver mission-critical programs.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Technology is changing lives; from banking to transport and manufacturing to healthcare, the scaling of digital transformation journeys across global industry sectors is enabling and enhancing our lives… Harnessing the power of tech, to manage everything from the evolution of our supply chains to our response to medical emergencies like COVID-19, is changing the game.

Read the latest issue here!

Booz Allen Hamilton: innovation in public health

Our cover story this month reveals how IT services specialist Booz Allen Hamilton is delivering leading edge solutions to support federal agencies in their quest to deliver mission-critical programs.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to invest and provide leading-edge capabilities to support some of our client’s most pressing public health challenges across the federal government space,” says Salasznyk. “Technology must add value, solve a business problem, and deliver measurable improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.” That efficiency is driven by over 29,000 experts around the world driving digital journeys, developing analytics insights, engineering, and cybersecurity solutions while working shoulder-to-shoulder with clients to choose the right tech to realise their vision and transform.

Nuffield Health: digital transformation for a healthier tomorrow

Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest healthcare charity (independent of the NHS) operating 37 hospitals and 114 Fitness & Wellbeing Centres. IT leaders Jacqs Harper and David Ankers describe the organisation’s incredible digital transformation and how its people-first attitude runs deep. Nuffield’s beneficiary-centric approach means “driving experiences” to be optimal and best-in-class is paramount. “What was really compelling when I joined Nuffield was how much of a difference this business can make to the nation in terms of improving its health,” says Ankers. “And equally, how we as a team can make the lives of practitioners so much easier. There’s a huge amount of value IT can add.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Celonis on why process mining can help companies stop wasting money on tech they don’t need, and we present the latest analysis from consultancy giant McKinsey’s Technology Council highlighting the development, future uses and industry effects of advanced technologies across 14 key trends.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

CPOstrategy’s cover star this month is procurement transformation expert, and CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell…

Right now, procurement excellence is blooming. Experts determined to create change are coming to the fore and aligning procurement with SaaS to bring an end to the do-it-yourself way of working that decimates technology budgets. Tropic is one such game-changer, providing the tools to navigate software procurement’s complexities for competitive advantage.

Read the latest issue here!

The CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic is David Campbell, a born entrepreneur. He grew up on a cattle ranch in California and has always had at least one side-hustle on the go. Even as a child, he was running some form of money-making venture at any one time – but he didn’t necessarily consider that entrepreneurial pursuits were his calling until later.

CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell
CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell

Campbell studied English at UC Berkeley, and on graduating assumed he’d go into the arts. He’s a lifelong musician and writer, and he moved to a cabin in the woods to write the ‘next great American novel’. This venture, while it didn’t have the exact results he had hoped for, planted the seed in his mind that perhaps entrepreneurialism was for him because he loved setting his own hours and vision, creating a strategy, and executing that…

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with supply chain and procurement leaders at the City of Edmonton and QSC, as well as the results of our first Sustainable Procurement Champions Index. We also have some exciting news from DPW too, ahead of its conference later this month.

Enjoy the issue!

Our cover story this month explores how Wei Li, Vice President & GM for AI & Analytics at Intel, and his team are powering Artificial Intelligence to enable the digital journey from data to insights

This month’s cover story explores Intel’s AI technologies powering the digital journey from data to insights…

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

In this issue of Interface, we speak with a diverse group of tech leaders blazing a trail that others can follow to navigate the journey towards transformation.

Read the latest issue here!

Intel: AI Everywhere

We met with this month’s cover star Wei Li at the AI Summit during London Tech Week where Intel’s AI & Analytics leader delivered a compelling keynote speech and explained how the tech leader is powering Artificial Intelligence to enable the digital journey from data to insights.

“AI Everywhere means that anybody should be able to apply and use AI,” says Li, explaining the pledge Intel has made to further democratise the use of technologies such as AI. “We provide not only the hardware for AI, but also AI software and solutions for everyone to accelerate their data to insights journey. Software is the bridge between hardware and the millions of developers and billions of users.”

London Tech Week

During London Tech Week Chris Philp MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), discussed the launch of the UK’s Digital Strategy with an expert panel. We take a look at what this means for Britain’s approach to expanding the reach of its digital economy to drive growth, boost productivity and create more better-paid jobs.

ENGIE: collaboration through data

We speak with ENGIE’s Group Chief Analytics Officer Thierry Grima, who outlines the extraordinary data transformation the global utility giant is going through, and how the ground-breaking data connection of 170,000 global team members is benefiting the business. “As a business, we need to unlock the value of data because it’s no longer a competitive advantage. It’s just a necessity.”

Elsewhere, Jim Brady from Fairview Health Services reveals how his dual role as CISO and VP Information Security & Infrastructure/Operations is uniting security and operational technology to break down silos and drive a transformation with people power at its heart. “I love people, helping them and interacting with them in a positive way. There are several hundred people on my team, but I still spend time with them one-on-one and in small groups, even now that we’re largely working remotely.”

Also in this issue, S. M. Jaleel’s CIO Teoman Buyan explains how the right company culture can drive a positive technology transformation and Sal Laher, Chief Digital & Information Officer at global enterprise software provider IFS, talks about the importance of developing a more environmentally friendly approach to technology that weaves sustainability into the software fabric.

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!

AXA

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6wxgQ2gAmI

XGS

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.

EY

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

Martin Riley, Bridewell Consulting’s Director of Managed Services, explains why a cyber security strategy can future proof your business and provide the platform for a successful digital transformation

Regardless of sector, digital transformation has become a business necessity for organisations in 2021. Described as the most important trend in business today, 65% of the globe’s GDP is expected to be digitalised by the end of 2022. And with promised benefits including improved operational efficiency, agility and employee productivity, it’s no surprise that businesses are going digital.

However, while there’s no denying the importance of digital transformation, different levels of organisational maturity can lead to different approaches and this is particularly apparent when it comes to security. Many organisations often take a reactive approach, whereby business and technology transformation are the priority and security is only considered afterwards. However, the risks from putting security on the backburner can be numerous, including higher costs and extended timelines to retrofit crucial security fixes.

Martin Riley
Martin Riley

More mature companies have a different approach – one that puts security transformation first, ahead of digital transformation, to ensure the best possible future-proofed outcome. Their success is now providing a valuable proven blueprint for other firms to follow. So, to reap the benefits of this approach where should you start?

Shift your mindset

Before embarking on any transformation, it’s imperative to get your strategy right. Move away from thinking purely about digital transformation and cyber security as separate strategies and instead develop a cyber security transformation strategy. This will ensure that you can reduce risk and improve your cyber resilience, even as your attack surface grows.

It may be that security transformation becomes the driver of your digital transformation. For example, if you have identified vulnerabilities within your legacy IT infrastructure that necessitates a need to move critical data to the cloud.

Take critical national infrastructure as an example… The convergence of IT and Operational Technology (OT) as well as increased legislative requirements, such as the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Regulation, is driving a clear need for cyber security transformation. Organisations need to adapt to gain a holistic view of cyber security across physical OT and cloud systems before transformation can take place.

Understand your risks

Digitalising your business ultimately introduces new risks. For example, new digital channels can broaden your attack service, while poorly configured cloud-based infrastructure can pose easy targets for cyber attackers. There’s also risks from the internet of Things (IoT) which increases sensitive data proliferation (and by association, vulnerabilities), as well as authentication and access risks posed by remote working and connected supply chains. Before embarking on a transformation plan, you need to understand the security implications of any changes.

Assume zero-trust

In order to ensure that security is front of mind in your transformation you need to adopt a philosophy of a zero trust, where no individual or device is trusted. This involves verification by authenticating and authorising based on all available data points, utilising just-in-time and just-enough-access to limit user access and using analytics to drive threat detection. Not only does this help businesses to be prepared for cyber threats, but also articulates the value of security transformation to other departments.

Embed security from the outset

It can be tempting to simply keep investing in a growing number of security technology tools as and when your transformation takes place. However, all too often there is little integration, overlap and there are gaps in the coverage these tools offer. And while a well-configured set of security tools can provide coverage, many drive threat alerts that are false positives or benign positives, leading to fatigue and alert blindness. Instead, ensuring security is a critical part of the initial design of your transformation strategy.

Use security intelligence to your advantage

Move away from a focus on prevention to response and make security intrinsic throughout the business by implementing proactive measures such as Managed Detection and Response (MDR). By combining human analysis, artificial intelligence and automation to rapidly detect, analyse, investigate and actively respond to threats, MDR can encourage alignment of security transformation with digital transformation.

Cyber Technology Security Protection Monitoring

An adaptive and customisable security model, MDR can be deployed rapidly and cost-effectively as a fully outsourced service or via a hybrid SOC. It helps develop a reference security architecture that enables you to safeguard on-premise and legacy systems, cloud-based infrastructure applications and SaaS solutions, whilst also protecting and responding to new security and user identity threats as well as reducing cyber risk and the dwell time of breaches.

Engage third party support

Finally, don’t neglect to seek help from outside your organisation. By engaging a security architect early on in your project lifecycle, you can benefit from robust and detailed analysis and expertise to ensure the correct decisions are made, tracked and traced from beginning to end. They can also help you understand the interdependencies across your IT estate, identify risks and suggest best practice, as well as legal and regulatory obligations to ensure you continue to be able to withstand a range of cyber attacks throughout your transformation.

Reaping the rewards of cyber security transformation

Every business is on a digital transformation journey, regardless of size or objectives. However, as organisations transform, so do technology and cyber threats. Those that fail to adopt a more proactive and efficient system for mitigating risks and handling, responding, detecting and learning from cyber security attacks will find themselves falling behind and the security function unable to keep up.

Ultimately, cyber and digital security should be thought of as inseparable – and those that can plan and integrate both into their transformation projects from the very beginning will be in the strongest position to succeed and future-proof their business.

By implementing a robust cyber security transformation process and proactive security measures, such as MDR that can support secure digital transformation, you can reap the benefits of a stronger, structured system for managing, isolating and reducing threats and continue to pivot, transition and serve in the new digital economy without leaving security on the side-lines.

Bridewell Consulting

Bridewell Consulting is a specialist cyber security and data privacy consultancy. NCSC Certified and CREST accredited, it provides reliable, high-quality security and risk consulting services; helping its customers protect not just their data, but their reputation, customer trust and bottom line. Providing four core service areas: cyber security, data privacy, penetration testing/red team assessments and managed security services, Bridewell’s expert team of professionals possess specialist industry experience and proven capabilities. They can deliver effective cyber security and data privacy services across financial services, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, technology, retail, media, government, aviation and 24×7 critical services. As a vendor agnostic business, Bridewell is able to effectively and honestly engage with business executives and provide advice, guidance and services in a way that is most appropriate for each organisation, ensuring that proposed solutions are aligned with its clients’ strategy, business objectives and the wider IT architecture.

Learn more about emerging trends across the tech panorama in the latest issue of Interface

Going above and beyond to ensure emissions and offsetting the carbon we unavoidably emit as part of daily operations…

Climate change rarely ceases to be out of the news.  Whether it’s unusual weather, a rise in sea levels, or a different angle – the common theme is an increasing danger to humans and wildlife.

Thankfully, a strategy is now in place to reverse the effects of climate change and restore harmony to the planet. Back in June 2019, the UK government became the first country to sign their ‘Net Zero’ target into law – marking it as the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions. Since then, other governments have followed suit, introducing their own laws and policy changes to help reduce the amount of carbon we emit.

 These changes have had a huge impact on the way businesses work, inspiring many to introduce new ways of reducing their carbon footprint. Here, we look at those businesses that are going above and beyond to ensure their emissions are kept as low as possible or are offsetting the carbon they unavoidably emit as part of their daily operations.  

Automotive – BMW

Regularly named as the world’s most sustainable car manufacturer, BMW has gained a reputation for its creativity and innovation in terms of reducing carbon emissions. The company’s long list of green credentials speaks for itself – for example, from 2009 to 2019 BMW has been able to reduce its delivery fleet emissions by over 40%. The company has also invested heavily in electric technology, turning to more renewable fuels to reduce carbon emissions even further. As it stands, BMW is currently on track to ensure that a quarter of all the vehicles it sells will be electrified by 2021, with a third in 2025 and half of all vehicles by the year 2030.

Aviation – EasyJet

Airlines are a significant contributor to carbon emissions globally. In fact, it’s estimated that the flights we catch account for some 12% of all transport emissions annually. Yet there are airlines that are making significant efforts to try and reduce this figure – one of which is EasyJet. In a recent report, EasyJet ranked top of the list of airlines trying to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change and has since become the first airline to operate net zero flights across its whole network. 


This has been possible through carbon offsetting initiatives which help to offset the emissions the airline uses during flights. It’s estimated that the company will spend around £25million each year carbon offsetting, lowering their impact on the environment and positioning themselves as market leaders in reducing CO2. 

Fast food restaurants – McDonald’s 

As one of the most iconic restaurants in the world, McDonald’s are firmly under the microscope when it comes to taking sustainable measures. Luckily, the company is making considerable efforts to reduce its impact on the environment wherever possible. With around 36,000 restaurants located in over 100 countries worldwide, McDonald’s has now began switching to energy efficient appliances to help cut energy waste by around 25%. It also aims to source all its packaging from recycled materials by 2025.

Off-grid energy – Flogas

As one of UK’s leading off-grid energy suppliers who help companies offset carbon emissions, Flogas has quickly become a market leader in the fight against climate change. In its ‘2040 Vision’ manifesto, the company has laid out plans on how it intends to the support the government’s carbon emissions targets by supplying its customers with 100% renewable energy solutions by 2040. As well as aiding its customers, the company has also undertaken several landmark steps in its own carbon reduction strategy such as promising to offset all Level 1 and Level 2 CO2 emissions for 2019 and became one of the first 0ff-grid gas suppliers to add Bio LNG powered delivery vehicles to its fleet. Since then, Flogas has also launched its Carbon Offsetting Initiative for both its commercial and consumer customers. 

Manufacturing – Siemens 

Manufacturing often requires energy intensive processes that create high levels of carbon emissions. However, this didn’t stop electronics manufacturer, Siemens, from becoming the first global company to commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 through using renewable energy at its factories. It’s also set out sustainability goals within its ‘Serve the Environment’ programme which details how it intends to create zero waste. As it stands, zero per cent of its waste has been sent to landfill from its factory in Newcastle and the business currently boasts a 92% recycle rate overall.

Software – Google 

With a reputation for creating innovative software, it comes as no surprise that Google is one of the IT giants leading the way in terms of sustainability. As well as reducing its carbon footprint through company-wide efficiency improvements, Google also uses on-site solar power as a renewable fuel supply. The company then uses carbon offsetting to bring its remaining footprint to zero and goes to great lengths to ensure that the projects it supports help provide long-term global benefits.

Thomas Bradley is a copywriter for Flogas, with over seven years’ communications and copywriting experience.  He has extensive experience within the energy, construction, financial services sector, and auto industries.  

Interface Magazine talks to Vladimir Arshinov, IT Director at steel producer SIJ Group regarding the company’s massive digital transformation

Going into 2017, SIJ Group (Slovenian Steel Group) – Slovenia’s biggest steel producer and one of the largest manufacturers of stainless and special steels in Europe had typical IT structure with semi-independent IT departments on each plant. And like many modern enterprises, SIJ was at work drafting a strategy to transform its operations, systems and processes into a more unified structure in a bid to improve productivity, safety and the all-important bottom line.

Vladimir Arshinov is SIJ’s IT Director and his initial focus in 2017 was trained on the digital transformation of SIJ’s IT department to a more transparent organization with a clear workflow. Previously, IT was a department of innovation with each individual plant having its own independent function, none of which connected with each other, often across varying geographies. “This meant that lots of efforts were wasted solving the same issues with different solutions,” Arshinov reveals.

At the end of 2017, SIJ established a Project Management Office. PMBOK was selected as a master methodology and the Head of PMO received PMP certification and developed internal regulation documents, rules and methodology. After finalizing the initial establishment phase, hiring project managers and the organization of the operational work, SIJ came to the conclusion that to raise the scope and complexity of the projects program, they needed a tool. The MS Project Management Server was duly selected and implemented allowing SIJ to simplify observation of the progress of projects and control, while ultimately reducing duration. Project team meetings were almost eliminated, and the distribution, control and execution of project tasks, were assigned to the project team members who managed and controlled projects including budget consumption. Each project member would then be measured for effectiveness.

Turning the IT department into a leaner function was a massive first step for SIJ as it needed a firm foundation upon which all future innovation could sit. And so, the next step in SIJ’s internal IT transformation was aimed at the most sensitive and critical area: software development. As with many metallurgical companies SIJ had a bulk of different IT systems, which were supplied or developed in the past and had to be either permanently supported, or, due to the business requirements, changed. One concern with the legacy system was the reliance on locally based productive software developer engineers developing new solutions and then, after, supporting them, resulting in a massive drop in development speed, as development and the subsequent support increased. This situation was causing overloading, burnout and frustration, triggering a desire to change something; sometimes resulting in employer change. However, SIJ IT considers people as its major asset and were determined to break the vicious circle of “one system – one person – forever”.

“What we did from an organizational point of view was to unify all geographically distributed developers from 4 different companies into the several virtual groups in each department,” Arshinov explains. “Each group has a Team Leader role, who assigns tasks to the group members and controls the execution of each individual task.”

Development at SIJ is now organised according to an agile approach using scrum boards and Microsoft Project Server to control all the time sheets of the people involved in the projects, plus their schedules and budgets. SIJ uses Microsoft Azure DevOps Server for unified storage of inter-company source code and Change Request Scrum board monitoring and control. Process and technical solutions now allow SIJ to involve external software development partners into the development process while controlling their activities, deliverables and costs. Developers can now use the Azure DevOps Server with the scrum board and are now able to register change requests in their system by themselves, where they see the progress of all individual change requests coming through the process with the integration of the IT Director informing the exchange and updating the status of the task development. 

In October 2019 SIJ revamped and migrated its Corporate Business Intelligence system to a new MicroStategy platform. The project took six months and provided SIJ with an extensive corporate Business Intelligence system with more than 180 different dashboards covering production, finance, sales, procurement, HR, Legal and investment functional areas. The overwhelming majority of the data now uploads automatically and the business intelligence tool has created a unified reporting system across the group utilizing the same source of data in order to integrate it. “There was huge involvement of the business customers with Oracle BI and this year, we moved to this new platform,” Arshinov explains. “The front end of the system was changed (from Oracle BI) to MicroStrategy for usability and a unified interface. Now, SIJ has a system that looks the same no matter the device it’s accessed from. This project allows us to organize and develop the team that tests the trial usage and develops the processes of the PMO (Project Management Office) inside the IT function.”

The BI System contains the entire spectrum of corporate data and allows SIJ to move quickly and transparently when taking a management decision, while reducing the number of mistakes, misunderstandings and time-consuming meetings.

The next system to be unified across the group was the Salesforce CRM system, which is now fully integrated. Then, an Oracle supplier portal followed, which opened the possibility of organizing tenders, thus massively simplifying the purchasing process. Oracle Innovation Management is another successful implementation, which, although a relatively small project, has had a big influence on the business transformation and innovation through increased flexibility. “It is also used to motivate people to suggest improvements and new innovative ideas,” he says.

So, what have been the major successes, according to Arshinov, following the ongoing digital transformation at SIJ? “The main difference between now and then was that each individual company was living alone, and I see now that the IT function in this case is unifying the people and allowing them to speak in a single language. It doesn’t matter if it’s a steel center or a big plant,” he explains. Costs have been dramatically reduced too, outsourcing being a prime example. In 2016, SIJ was spending more than 70% annual budget for operational external services. For 2020, that part of budget reduced to 40%. Meanwhile, the capital investments part of the budget has grown from 4% in 2016 to 56% in 2020.

The implementation of a Supply Chain Planning system (from Quintiq) incorporating the Oracle Business Suite, has improved the delivery, safety and performance of SIJ’s plants. “We improved Delivery Performance OTIFF (on time and in full) of a stainless steel plant by 12.8% in six months,” he enthuses. “And we shortened the production cycle by 15,4% from ordering to shipping, which is a brilliant result within six months of going live.”

In SIJ Matal Ravne has replaced the melt shop technology system and entire plant manufacturing execution system to replace the obsolete legacy system – which had zero planning functionality – with PSI Metals. “First of all, we’re increasing the level of understanding and the knowledge of the internal IT team, while dramatically decreasing project cost by involving internal specialists into the supplier team. That allows us to save several hundred thousand Euros of project budget and it’s a win-win situation for the supplier as well. First of all, the supplier is receiving our team, which knows the production and the limitations and has extensive inside knowledge. At the end of the day, the commercial value, in this case, is the cheaper price. Cheaper than anybody else is able to receive.”

Another and no less important project for Sij Metal Ravne is the joint development work with Comtrade Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). Laboratories in metallurgy companies are complicated and highly demanding environments with unique processes required for quality control of all products and this solution covers and improves core laboratory processes and will be highly integrated with the PSI manufacturing execution system from one side and Oracle ERP on the other.

Through this massive digital transformation, SIJ has also managed to increase quality control through sophisticated AI, which has massively impacted its operations. The acquisition of scrap metal, a major influence on SIJ’s bottom line, can now be influenced through advanced detection systems that can detect impurities, thus representing huge savings when it comes to procurement. “The conservative saving is €1.4m,” he says.

The digital transformation at SIJ is touching every aspect of the company’s growth and is certainly an ongoing journey rather than a destination. “We are not an IT company, that’s understood,” Arshinov says. “But we are supporting services inside the business, and of course our main concern will always be supporting the production of steel. But we’re not there yet.”

Leveraging Radius Networks location technology for curbside pickup, in-store order delivery, and payments.

Technology has and always will be used to solve problems. At the very basic level, technology is developed and used to make things simpler. Just look at our day to day lives and the way that technology has, for the most part, made our experiences simpler and this has changed the way we as consumers engage with retailers and restaurateurs. We now expect and outright demand that the businesses we enter and purchase food and items from offer the same level of seamlessness that we experience in our own homes. The interesting thing however, is that this isn’t necessarily a new challenge for restaurants and retail stores; these businesses have been looking to enable the most seamless and effective customer service since the very beginning. The only real thing that’s changed is the tools that they have at their disposal. 

“At the end of the day, I think this goes for business philosophy in general, you really need to understand the problems that your customers have, and then solve them,” explains Marc Wallace, CEO and Cofounder of Radius Networks, a location technology service provider. “In our case, customers are businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, retailers or casinos; so we are targeting very specific problems. In most cases, those problems are taking wasted time out of the equation.”

Picture the traditional, and maybe even stereotypical, restaurant environment, where a food order is ready to go to the table and the service staff has to locate and identify the corresponding table to that order. In some instances, more than most, they may even walk throughout the entire restaurant before arriving at the right table with the right customer. Through wireless-enabled location technology, Radius Networks has transformed the customer experience by allowing businesses to track customers, improve profit margins and ultimately increase customer retention. 

Customers have, and will always, vote with their feet, and in order to retain those customers, businesses need to be able to remove the pain points. As Wallace noted, wasted time is one of the single biggest pain points in customer service. Radius Networks offers location-based curbside pickup, in-store and table service solutions, as well as mobile payment technology to remove not only the one pain point, but multiple pain points. “We’re addressing other key problems, such as payments. When you dine-in at a restaurant and are in a hurry to leave, trying to get your server’s attention to pay for your bill can be frustrating for the customer. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth at the end of their dining experience,” says Wallace. 

“We’ve developed solutions for making payments remotely without contacting the server. The server is notified when the bill is paid, and they can focus their attention on real problems that other customers have instead of shuttling credit cards back and forth.”

At the time of writing, the world has been gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, a truly unprecedented event that has completely devastated lives and economies all over the world. It has also completely ripped up the rulebook when it comes to food and retail, with lockdown restrictions forcing businesses to either close down entirely, or pivot to delivery services. Radius Networks’ FlyBuy curbside pickup solution was actually launched over 12 months ago, but it has fast become a key technology offering that is solving an unforeseen problem. By automating the curbside delivery service for customers, FlyBuy provides a turnkey, end-to-end solution that uses the customer’s location for a faster, easier order pickup experience. “There was already a pre-existing return on investment (ROI) with FlyBuy because we were reducing the wait times for customers when ordering for pickup, which results in more frequent visits” says Wallace. “Throughout this pandemic, curbside delivery has become the only channel that people can do, so the importance of it has risen dramatically. It was once within a business’s top ten things it needed to consider, and has now risen to the very top of their to-do list.” 

Radius Networks is currently offering a free version of both its FlyBuy curbside and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) software for restaurants, retailers, and non-profits during the COVID-19 crisis.

By its very definition, location tracking technology appears to be very intrusive. It is tracking locations and using that data to inform decision making, after all, and naturally that can cause a little fear and a hesitation. Wallace acknowledges these concerns and understands them wholeheartedly. “We had a decision to make early on in the company whether we were going to harvest data and use it for marketing purposes or whether we were going to be a privacy-centric company and focus on providing a solution,” he says. “We chose to be a privacy-centric company, mostly because all of us as individuals wanted that for ourselves.”

“When it comes to us as a location company, are very transparent with our customers and our businesses, so that they can be transparent with their consumer customers about what we’re doing with their location data, what we’re using it for, and how long we’re keeping it.”

This transparency is built into the very DNA of the company. FlyBuy will only ever use the location data to alert restaurant/retail staff that a customer is on the way and onsite to pick up their order, and only after the customer has opted-in to sharing that information. After a period of time has passed, they will then delete that data entirely. Its policy dictates that it does not, and will never, share that data with any third party, giving customers peace of mind that their data is safe and used only as agreed when they opt-in. Wallace believes that, while the reluctance and fear is understandable, consumers have access to services’ policies and can ‘do some homework’ in order to allay them. “I think, given the amount of options we are given today, customers can no longer just assume every location company is tracking or doing something devious with their information. They need to be aware when they approve location usage and when they don’t,” he says. “If they can be sure that sharing their location brings value to them, whether it be to have a car service come to their exact location, or their groceries meet them at their car immediately upon arriving in the pickup zone, they will happily share their location. Once they have established a level of trust in the people that are requesting location permissions, and see the benefits it brings to their lives, there is no problem.”

Radius Networks was founded in 2011, and for the best part of a decade, it has grown from strength to strength as a business, working with the likes of McDonald’s, Five Guys, and Coca-Cola, as well as being recognized in the INC 500, the Deloitte Fast 500, and the CIO Magazine’s Most Promising Digital Experience Solution Provider. But none of these successes would have been made possible, without a solid and sound foundation within the business. “I’ve been told by people ‘wow you guys got really lucky.’ Luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. Our mission is to solve problems for businesses, and right now businesses need our help more than ever. There were a lot of really difficult times over the years where we worked hard and earned the right to stay in the game, and we are once-again earning it right now,” says Wallace. 

“Take FlyBuy as an example. I’ve been asked as to whether I thought this piece of technology that we developed over the last few years would ever be as important as it is right now. Yes. Yes I did, and so did everyone else on our team, and that’s key to our success as a company. Every single person at Radius Networks is engaged and believes in what we do.”

In these times of crisis, the spotlight has shifted significantly onto those business fundamentals and Wallace is extremely proud of the business he has built and the people within it. “The business principles that we’ve been practicing over the last few years have paid off. We are a strong company with sound fundamentals and sound financials. We haven’t over extended ourselves, either from an investment perspective or from an expenses perspective and that’s paying off for us now,” he says. 

“It is tough in the current environment to point to positives, because you almost feel ashamed to do so. I think we’ve done a lot as a company to help others; we’ve given our product away for free to hundreds of small businesses, thousands of locations, with no obligation, and it’s a testament to the work we have done to get to this point. A lot of companies are doing a lot of good work to help each other right now and they can do so because they are built on solid foundations.” 

Those foundations start from the very top. Wallace is a key advocate in communication. Much like Radius Networks communicates in an open and transparent way with its customers, the same rules apply from within. He admits that the pandemic has, ironically, made that communication better in some aspects, but it has always been a key part of what makes Radius Networks tick. “We’re talking to our customers all the time. My team is the best team in the world. They’re working in overdrive right now, communicating at such a high level, and listening to customer needs, because their needs have changed dramatically,” he says. 

“As the CEO, I try to have frequent hands-on-deck tag-ups with everybody to give them an update and try to be as transparent as possible about the status of the business and what’s happening. I do this so they can feel comfortable that they have a job today, and they’ll have a job tomorrow. We work together to come up with our team goals, and stay aligned and upfront about everything that may come up along the way.” 

Listening to the customer is key. That much is no secret. But when it comes to technology, listening to customers is absolutely essential when ensuring that what you’re offering is what the customers need and what they want. Wallace’s role as the CEO is not to sit at the top of the business and leave it to everyone else. He is very much active and engaged at every level to ensure that everything Radius Networks is doing is driven by the customer. Wallace is proud of the culture within his business and often finds himself sitting on a call with a major customer and beaming at how well his team listens and understands the customer’s needs and how Radius can successfully address them. “I’m so proud that we, as a team, have a culture that takes so much pride in their work,” he says. “Our people have always been solid employees, pre pandemic, but they have become absolute rockstars today.”

The world as we know it has changed forever and we cannot begin to predict what this new world will look like post pandemic. One thing is for certain, communication, and the way in which businesses engage with their customers, will never be the same again. Radius Networks has enjoyed success after success over the past ten years, and as we all experience great uncertainty, the goal for Wallace is to continue providing valuable location technology for many years to come. The key to succeeding, regardless of such uncertainty, remains the same for Wallace and his team. “Persistence,” he says. “It’s about persisting through the bad times, just like the good times, and trusting your business fundamentals and experience. Being transparent with employees and having a good team around you is key.”

Supermarkets share staff and warehouses to combat stockpiling

Relaxation of regulations allows supermarkets to share staff and warehouses to combat stockpiling, but data access holds the key to preventing future shortages.

Britain’s supermarkets are no longer in a state of competition, but one of co-operation. The government has announced a relaxation of trading laws and competition regulations, in an attempt to allow supermarkets to collaborate and share resources to ensure that the public has access to essential food and goods amidst the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

Since Friday, supermarkets have been allowed to share distribution depots, delivery transportation, retail workers, and even data access, to give Britain’s grocers the most ammunition possible to combat shortages during a time of wildly unpredictable consumer demand.  The government is also temporarily lifting the plastic bag tax for online deliveries, in an effort to prevent cross-contamination from delivery crates. 

This unprecedented move, which sees typically competitive and battling retailers share access to data and resources, represents the value that technology and data holds in today’s retail landscape. A recent study by retail tech company Ubamarket showed that over half (52%) of UK shoppers are happy to offer their data to retailers provided they can save money – this suggests that if supermarkets are able to use tech solutions to connect with customers, for example through mobile apps, it will provide them with unparalleled access to data on consumer behaviour. This in turn will ultimately allow tech-equipped supermarkets to run their stores more efficiently and better negotiate unpredictable periods such as the one currently faced. 

 Will Broome, Founder and CEO of Ubamarket, comments on the relaxation of regulation between supermarkets and offers insight into how retail tech can help retailers to effectively negotiate future crises:

“The competition regulations in place in our retail landscape are vital, as they push companies to innovate and offer the very best service to customers. However, despite the havoc that is being caused by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, I for one am very interested to see how supermarkets and grocers across the country will be able to come together, collaborate and share their market insights and resources for the greater good, now that these regulations have been relaxed.

One of the key challenges facing retailers at this moment in time is to mitigate the drastic increase in consumer demand for certain goods and contend with disruption in their supply chains, and it is clear that many supermarkets are struggling to distribute essential goods whilst ensuring that their remaining stock is not unnecessarily depleted.

The implementation of retail technology is one way that Britain’s retailers could safeguard themselves against future cases of fluctuating demand and irregular consumer behaviour. With the help of retail-tech, supermarkets and stores can access far more in-depth and accurate consumer data, helping them to assess their behaviour, manage stock more efficiently and effectively, whilst being able to effectively communicate directly to the consumer base. By effectively using retail technology, retailers will be able to better prepare and deal with unpredictable consumer behaviour and spikes in demand, preventing such a drastic loss of stock which we see today.”

Be sure to read our exclusive interview with Phil Jordan, Group CIO of Sainsbury’s, as he explores Sainbury’s Tech: a brand-new technology division delivering integrated tech solutions across all Sainsbury’s brands and channels…

When Malta-based construction and property enterprise Vassallo Group embarked on a company-wide digital transformation, it looked to CIO Carlo Aquilina…

When Malta-based construction and property enterprise Vassallo Group embarked on a company-wide digital transformation, it looked to CIO Carlo Aquilina to build the entire infrastructure, operations and innovations at the group…

Walk through the streets of the beautiful island of Malta and you will not be able to escape the work of the Vassallo Group. Property, hospitality, education and healthcare, the Maltese construction and property company completely reshaped Malta following the devastation caused by the Second World War. Indeed, Vassallo Group embarked on a mission to ‘rebuild the nation’ to its former glory and beyond.

Building on its strengths, the Group carries a legacy that is over 70 years old, and over the years has diversified its operations that have brought about expansion and investment. Today, Vassallo Group, stands at the forefront of several different sectors in the local market that include property and construction, furniture and interiors, elderly and disability care, catering, hospitality, architecture and education. The Vassallo Group is a large, complex enterprise and represents a unique challenge to its IT function, which provides technological solutions and support to all of the companies and their users.

Vassallo Group talks to Interface Magazine

Carlo Aquilina was approached to take on the role of CIO at Vassallo in 2015, having spent a while building up an IT team at a manufacturing enterprise. “When I started in manufacturing, IT needed lots of work. We started from scratch. We built up the whole IT department and the whole team. When Vassallo approached me, they offered me that challenge again as they really lacked IT. It was a real challenge, but I built my team and we started on what needed to be done.”

Vassallo Group previously had a shareholding in an IT company and this sister company was providing IT, but the level of support was not sufficient for their local clients, thus Aquilina was asked to build the IT function that would serve the 1,900-plus employees and its extensive client base. “When I joined, I was tasked with the project: to start from scratch. I gave the board of directors a number of options. Should we go on premise, should we go with another hosting company, should we go hybrid, should we go cloud? The main ambition was very simple and I was given six months to come up with a solution where we gave our clients, our clients, meaning our users basically, a brand new environment with zero downtime. It was all firefighting in that first year.”

Vassallo went 100% cloud with Microsoft Azure, which Aquilina believed to be the best short-term, and long-term solution. “We’re a Maltese company. We’re not an IT focused company. IT is here to provide service to the business. Our business is not IT. We’re not a gaming company. All of our products are Microsoft, and so it was an obvious choice to move to Azure.” Vassallo agreed to go 100% to the cloud, having drawn a blank against the large capital expenditure associated with on-premise. “With cloud, you don’t invest in anything and everything is top of the range. Of course, it also helps to be paying operational costs and not capital costs. That was the way forward and then they (the board) embraced it. There was a number of partners who approached us to do this, to help us with this migration. I chose CyberSift, which was a start-up, actually.” An advantage to working with a start-up is that they’re not encumbered by a large kind backend and can move audaciously and quickly and this was certainly an appeal to Aquilina and his team. “I knew one of the technicians; a brilliant engineer and that helped. Plus, the price we were given was also from a start-up perspective.”

Vassallo Group. A Maltese institution

CyberSift viewed the chance to work with Vassallo with similar relish and the then start-up provided a specific engineer to be onsite with the IT team at Vassallo for the full duration of the migration. “Whatever I was asking, I was getting,” Aquilina explains. “‘Okay, we’ll do it for you, but you’ll have to promote us, after.’ Now I’m promoting them. So, we had engineers working for us and I didn’t need to grow my team. In fact, we’re a very small team.”

The key thing Aquilina and his team built in that crucial first year was ‘trust’. “I had the trust of the board of directors because every time they asked me something, I satisfied their request. So, there was trust. At the end of the day, it’s a family-owned company. Trust is very important.”

Aquilina and his team were given six months to deliver the project and took 2-3 three months to design and implement the infrastructure. The following three months, they contacted suppliers, before moving the software. “If it’s on premise or on cloud, there was remote access. It was teamwork, everyone pulling the same rope. Whenever one of the suppliers told us, ‘Listen, we’re not available this week. Let’s do it next week. We’ll slot in someone else. We’ll set meetings. We’ll explain what we are doing.’ All they needed to know is that we were moving from server A to server B. They did it for us because it was their software, their app, their solution.”

With any large-scale technological transformation there are challenges although Vassallo seemed to evade many of the pitfalls through great organisation. “I don’t think we had actually the biggest challenges because it was all planned out. We used to meet every day with the engineer who used to work for us and my team. It was a case of ‘What happened yesterday, what happened today, what is going to happen tomorrow and why? Are we on track? Yes. If not, why? What can we do?’ We worked late at night so that we could achieve it. It was all based on trust and teamwork. It was a case of open-heart surgery because the business wanted to work. The business kept on working even though we were doing open-heart surgery. We had that support from everyone. Everyone understood that this needed to be done. We had support from everyone, from all the partners, from Microsoft, everyone.”

Even though digital transformation involves technical infrastructure, software, servers and cloud, people are still integral to a successful outcome. “Yes, they are extremely important,” Aquilina explains. “There are the users, the customers and the IT team. We are a very small team and that really helped, because a huge team would require lots more organisation and more hand holding. It was me who was both sponsoring and managing the project. I had the lead engineer who was doing the actual work, remotely. They had an assistant administrator who was assisting. People are so important.”

Vassallo Group holds an annual internal awards and in 2016, the IT department was awarded ‘Best Customer Focused Department’ even though it had been, in Aquilina’s terms, firefighting. We were there constantly, anytime, any day of the week. The team and I were presented with this trophy, which proved my theory that the company had move to something much more stable.”

Now Vassallo Group is reaping the benefits of this transformation. “IT-wise, we are working on a business intelligence project. Now we have the infrastructure ready and a solid base or foundation, I want to give something back to the business. We implemented an ERP solution, which Finance, Logistics and Operations are using. I don’t want the directors to go into board meetings with huge amount of papers. I want them to go in with just a laptop. The data is live. We’ve already done that for one of the companies and it’s working. You can connect to the TV to project live data. That is business intelligence. We’re working on the other companies too. Now that they know what they can get, everybody’s bombarding us with requests. Of course, we’re taking our time and that is ongoing.”

From BI, Aquilina wants to harness the power of AI in board meetings. “I want to give them the facility to project live data, but I also want to give them the facility to change the data accordingly. They will see the results with AI.” Recruitment could be a big beneficiary of these initiatives too. “What if we employ 100 people? AI will work out the costs, work out the benefits of employing that many people. Then you can take an educated decision. ‘Should we employ 100 or 200? Let’s put in 200 more employees. What’s the cost?’ AI will work out the costs as well as the benefits. That’s all in progress. However, these are very sensitive tools that we need to use and if the tool gives you the wrong information, then you will make the wrong decision. I explained this to the board and they gave me the time needed to do it properly. We have to be very meticulous. They understood and told me, ‘Whenever you’re comfortable, we can start using.’ The CIO has to have 100% trust from the board of directors, because if there’s no trust, they keep on asking, ‘But why and how?’ That is the way forward.”

Providing technological infrastructure, new software and cyber security for such a large company means that Aquilina’s hands are certainly full. “We support about 1,900 employees and 500 users. I can afford to have a relatively small team because we have a solid base, and a solid infrastructure. I have a wonderful team. I recruited everyone from outside the business. I didn’t find anyone here, so they all respect me. We’re all friends at the end of the day, although I am their manager. We talk about anything and I help when needed. So, there’s trust from them and the senior management, which I believe is extremely important. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

In early 2019, the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) was introduced in Hong Kong by the Food and Health Bureau…

In early 2019, the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) was introduced in Hong Kong by the Food and Health Bureau to regulate indemnity hospital insurance plans offered to individuals, with voluntary participation by insurance companies and consumers. The VHIS was designed as a means of encouraging and supporting customers to purchase private healthcare services and for Koh Yi Mien, Managing Director Health and Employee Benefits at AXA Hong Kong, this scheme represents a broader transformation of healthcare and insurance services. “Currently, the demand on healthcare in Hong Kong in the public sector is incredibly high with very long waiting times and waiting lists,” she explains. “As a result, people just aren’t getting timely access to treatment. The private sector in Hong Kong, which is world-class, has capacity. So, if we can rebalance and shift some of the elective work from public to private, it will free up more people to use the public service in a timely fashion.”

Yi Mien also points to a global drive for greater transparency, accountability, use of data and technology as well as promoting customer choice as key drivers of change in the insurance space. “It’s no longer a case of simply providing reimbursement to people when they need treatment,” she says. “It’s about being the patient’s partner throughout their whole life so that when they need healthcare, whenever and wherever they are, we are there to help and support them in their times of need.” 

The modern-day insurance customer is very different from the customer of the past. We live in times of greater access to information through the advent of social media and the increasing influence of the Internet and this has resulted in insurance customers being more knowledgeable about their conditions and asking more questions of their doctors than ever before. As a result, the balance between the customer and the healthcare provider is becoming more equitable. “Customers and patients, as a result, are becoming more demanding,” says Yi Mien. “Gone are the traditional ideas that doctor knows best. It’s not uncommon for patients to see their doctor with a list of demands, while expecting to be serviced.”

Running parallel to becoming more knowledgeable and demanding is the use of smartphones and how it has created a culture of service in an instant. When customers purchase etiquettes or use banking services, they expect the ability to be able to access and complete these transactions and services via their smartphone devices. Fewer and fewer people are accessing physical bank branches and the healthcare insurance sector, despite being still very traditional, is feeling the effects of this instant demand. “Healthcare is a very traditional sector sure, but asking patients or customers to book weeks in advance and telling them they don’t really have any choice is becoming increasingly unacceptable and so healthcare becomes a commodity,” says Mie Koh. “They, like any other customer, vote with their feet and want 24/7 access to quality healthcare without waiting directly from us as the insurer.”

The informed customer and patient have also transformed the relationship between customer and doctor. It is no longer a bilateral relationship and the entire healthcare ecosystem works to provide services from prevention right through to treatment. The result? Insurers like AXA work with customers before they are sick and encourage them to maintain their health, but they also work with clients during their illness and even afterwards AXA will continue to treat them in their rehabilitation. “During their healthcare journey, customers want some handholding in order to navigate the very complex healthcare system, to make sure they get the right healthcare provider, doctor and hospitals that are best for them in their time of need,” says Yi Mien. “This can only happen if we are using digital so that it becomes more real time.”

AXA has been embracing technology for a number of years to be able to serve and effectively work with its customers. It achieves this by starting with the definition of a product, because the product sets the rules. Yi Mien highlights that the rules would often be how AXA would spell out the terms and conditions, the provisions, but these rules also set the customer expectations. Throughout late 2018 and 2019, AXA has invested in digital to enable its customers to buy online, service online, claim online and check-up online. The company also launched a servicing app called Emma, a ‘digital companion’ that enables even faster service. Yi Mien describes this app as a true “health companion”. She is also keen to highlight that the technology is only part of the story. AXA has built a vast medical network with some of the leading hospitals and doctors and customers simply having to log into their companion app to be able to access this network at the touch of a button. “All they need to show is their digital card, their e-card, and with the QR code, the provider just scans it. All of the data is downloaded and all they need to do is sign, get their treatment, and then when they discharge, just sign that they have received the treatment and off they go,” she says. “The hospital will bill AXA directly so there’s no out of pocket. The data is also transmitted to AXA which means that we have more comprehensive and more reliable data.”

Comprehensive and reliable data is crucial to the technology journey of AXA, but it is also integral to the customer journey. With a customer’s entire electronic medical records stored effectively and securely, as Yi Mien notes, why would they go anywhere else? The data that an insurer handles is often complex in nature, but this data is processed through artificial intelligence, with AI being used to process claims more effectively and interpret the information to allow AXA to create rules and algorithms to better serve its customers. AXA also utilises AI through its companion app Emma. “Emma is our chatbot,” explains Yi Mien. “Emma has been built up based on a multitude of Q&As that our customer services team have recorded and collected over many months and years. As we continue to build, and more people use Emma, then the quality of the responses she has in her arsenal will improve.” In the first two months of operations, Emma recorded an accuracy level of 50%. Yi Mien firmly believes that as more people engage with Emma and as a result, the chatbot will evolve and become more of a real-time navigator that can direct customers across the whole ecosystem.

In the global discussion around AI, the topic of transparency is often a key point of debate. With governments around the world shining a spotlight on exactly what data is collected and how it is used, AXA ensures that it maintains an open and transparent dialogue with its customers. As customers engage with Emma and the companion app, they can at any time request their transcripts. Should they choose to speak with a human adviser, all calls are recorded and again they can access those recordings should they wish. Not only is this an example of AXA complying with global governing laws, it also highlights that the customer is at the very heart of every decision it makes and it maintains this as it continues to implement new technologies. “If you look at banking as an example, we all are so used to accessing our bank accounts at any time, be it through our phones or online,” says Yi Mien. “If we want to speak to someone, we can. If we want to go into a branch, we can. I believe this is the way to go with insurance as well. We make it easy for our customers to contact us. We are doing everything we can to allow that.”

“Healthcare is quite personal, so we are doing what we can to allow customers to speak to people, should they not wish to use our chatbot. These are very personal journeys and digital is still in its early days, so we really have to provide different avenues and channels for our customers to contact us.”

As Yi Mien notes, AXA designs its customer journey by starting at the product and going through all the way to treatment. The company makes every decision with the customer’s perspective in mind. As a doctor by trade, Yi Mien sees that all new products are designed by doctors because they understand how the patients move throughout the whole healthcare ecosystem. When AXA designs new products, it does not operate within a vacuum. It has a customer insight group, where around 1,000 customers operate as a real-time focus group in which AXA can test its products with. “When I think about future products, we will test with this group of people and get feedback to see whether we are aligned with the current customer need. So, it’s not just technology per se, but actually meets a customer’s needs,” she says. “One other area to make sure that we are doing the right thing, because technology also costs money, is to make sure that we are very robust in what we do. AXA is unique in that we sell life insurance, health insurance, employee benefits, and we also have P&C. So, being a multi-line insurer, we have the opportunity of having one approach and cross-selling across the business lines, which is a fantastic opportunity. We can only do that through technology.”

Over the course of her career, Yi Mien has been a champion of the transformative effect of technology in becoming a greater enabler for healthcare and healthcare insurance providers around the world. One area in particular that is close to her heart is the mental health space. In Hong Kong, the waiting time to see a psychologist is close to two years and if patients were to seek private care, it is an expensive solution. “Look at a country like Hong Kong, or Australia, they are so vast that there just aren’t enough practitioners to cover the breadth of the geography. Digital is the solution,” she says. “Digital enables people to seek, support and care at the time that is most convenient for them.”

“In the past two to three years, there has been a proliferation of digital tools. Recent studies have shown that digital tools are as good as, if not better, than in-person therapy because customers prefer to talk to a robot rather than face-to-face because they feel that the robot is not judging them.”

Another example that Yi Mien highlights is in the UK, where a VR program has been developed by programmers that is therapy through gameification. The treatment is consistent every time and because of its mobile platform, it is accessible. “We can provide it where you work,” she says. “That’s just one example as to how we can destigmatise mental health through technology.”

AXA operates within a broad healthcare ecosystem, an ecosystem made up of partners, providers and doctors and Yi Mien stresses that in the future of insurance, it will be impossible for insurers to control the ecosystem. “I don’t foresee a future where that happens,” she says. “Partnerships are incredibly important. Things are moving so fast there’s no way we can catch up alone. We need to have partners, collaborators, who are working together to ensure we are at the top of our game and at the forefront of innovation.”

“Over the course of our lives, so many different things can happen and so people will need better care and support. By having a collection of data that represents our customer’s needs we are able to push or suggest services that better meet those needs. In order for us to do that, we need to have players collaborate in the ecosystem. It’s imperative.”

As AXA continues this digital growth journey, the next few years will be defined by improving the agility of the digital companion in order to improve the interaction with customers. AXA will also be looking at developing a digital marketplace in which customers can go shopping within an AXA owned digital platform. For Yi Mien, though, the future is clear for AXA and in order to be successful, she feels it’s down to one thing. “AXA has a clear digital strategy for sure, where it will transform its digital system and build new IT infrastructure to transform the customer experience,” she says. “But the technology is only one part of the story.”

“Unless we can transform the customer experience to deliver a service they truly value, then technology doesn’t do anything. It’s important to recognise that technology is enabling us to transform healthcare, to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for people to receive care. That means in the long-term, sustainable healthcare and health services, which fits into sustainable insurance.”