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Geopolitical Disruption A Top Board Concern For 2017

Olivia Berkman

Strategy will be the board of director’s best weapon against risk. FEI Daily spoke with Dan Konigsburg, managing director of Deloitte Global’s Center for Corporate Governance on Deloitte’s 8th annual Directors’ Alert, which highlights key concerns facing boards today and how to address them strategically and courageously.

FEI Daily: What are the disruptions boards will face in the coming year?

Dan Konigsburg: Some of them are new, some of them are not. We have the results of the U.S. election. We have Brexit in the UK. We had the surprise Italian election. We’ve got elections coming up that people are concerned about in Europe. I think for the first time in a while, people are concerned about the consequences to their business. Not just political disruption but the growth in populism and how that might affect business.

People are also closely watching what’s happening in China (in the South China Sea), what’s happening in the Euro zone, what’s happening between the U.S. and Mexico.

Cyber is a disruption that remains. Boards are very closely following the way that cyber risks, hacking, problems with the breakdown of intricately interconnected connected systems are disrupting them.

And activism would be the fourth one I would raise. Shareholders becoming much more active as owners and challenging companies in a way that perhaps they weren’t four or five years ago.

FEI Daily: What are some of the differences in areas of concern between the U.S., Europe, and Asia?

Konigsburg: There’s an interesting difference around disruption. A lot of people point to disruption in business models as being one of the biggest concerns for boards, and not just business models, but political disruption. In Asia, we heard, “I don’t actually believe in disruption.” Disruption is another way of saying you haven’t prepared yourself, you haven’t looked at all the risks. That is a real distinction. We’re generalizing, but perhaps we ran into that a bit more in Asia.

FEI Daily: How should boards approach these disruptions?

Konigsburg: Boards have to be more courageous in challenging old ways of thinking. Challenging management certainly takes courage. Being courageous without thinking about all the risks is not courage, that’s being foolhardy. It’s about being able to be contrarian, with full knowledge of the facts and being aware of risks.

FEI Daily: What are some of the questions that boards should be bringing up and discussing?

Konigsburg: First of all, boards should start by asking questions about themselves: Do we have the right people around the table to deal with these disruptions, and these risks? This brings up questions of board composition and diversity. Do we have folks that come from different backgrounds, do we have women on the board, do we have racial minorities who can see things differently and give a better chance at thinking divergently and dealing with problems?

The questions that boards should be asking of management includes, are we prepared? Management, walk us through a scenario. If we start to see a border, import tariff in the U.S., and we’re big importers into the country, what does that do to our costs, what does that do to our cost of capital? Walk us through that and take us down to the agile line, and what does it mean.

FEI Daily: Conversely, what should management understand about the challenges their boards will be facing?

Konigsburg: I think management doesn’t often think about things from the board’s perspective. They’re looking at the canvas one inch away from the picture. So it’s good for management to take a step back and ask themselves some basic questions. These are people who come together four, five, six, seven times a year. They’re not working at the company. They’re very thoughtful, smart people, but perhaps they don’t know every in and out of the business. So if you were in that position, how would you want to be presented to? What information would you need? What are the big-picture areas of discussion that would help lead to better decision making?

So I think it can be very helpful for management to turn that picture around and say, let me imagine what directors are going through. And that has implications for board reporting, for the type of discussions that you have. It can help management pull the board back if they’re trying to go too deep and micromanage. And equally, it can help them pull back and say, let’s look at the bigger picture: let’s look at economic trends, let’s look at geopolitical questions.

FEI Daily: Given where we are politically, do we think the role of boards will expand?

Konigsburg: I think for the U.S., yes. There are certain industries where the board is going to become a much bigger player. I would say banks and financial institutions certainly. The regulators are encouraging boards to play a larger and larger role.

The trend is for boards to do more and more. I think one of the questions as you look into the future is where does it stop? We put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of outside directors. And as I said earlier, they’re only there at the end of the day, as part-timers.

From both the perspective of regulators and from the perspective of a mom-and-pop investor who rely on boards to protect their interests, what’s reasonable to expect? What’s unreasonable? I don’t think we’ve reached a conclusion about that. I think that’s really open to debate still.

FEI Daily: How can boards develop a resilient strategy?

Konigsburg:  When we talk about resiliency, we mean a strategy that holds up over time. We’re talking about strategies that can be flexible that can change, perhaps as external circumstances change.

You want a strategy that is not rigid. A poor, non-resilient strategy would be one-dimensional. You need people on the board that come from different backgrounds that are approaching this from different angles, who can see around corners. I think one of the advantages of having outsiders on your board is they aren’t there in the weeds. And that increases your chances of having a strategy that holds up over time.

For more insight on disruption in today’s complex business environment, see Are You Ready To Monetize The Disruption Economy?

This article originally appeared in FEI Daily. It is republished by permission.

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Olivia Berkman

About Olivia Berkman

Olivia Berkman is the managing editor of FEI Daily, Financial Executives International’s daily newsletter delivering financial, business, and management news, trends, and strategies.

Survey: Mobile Payments Can Boost Growth And Profitability

Tom Groenfeldt

Companies that accept mobile payments are growing faster and more profitably than companies that don’t, according to a recent study done for NTT Data.

The fastest-growing companies are also the most likely to accept mobile payments, according to the global survey of 2,300 companies and consumers conducted by Ingenico ePayments, Oxford Economics, and Charney Research. It found that among business respondents with annual revenue growth of 11% or more, 43% have an app that supports purchases and payments, compared with 32% of slower-growth businesses.

Peter Olynick, retail banking senior practice lead for NTT Data, said the survey showed what he was expecting to see. “For a while, there has been this sense that mobile payments are just around the corner.” But companies have been hesitant, often over security concerns, he said. He found the correlation of growth and acceptance of mobile payments interesting.

“It seems that a lot of executives were more conservative about the rate of change than we have started to see among consumers. We see more places that can accept some of these newer payment types and more people pulling out their phone than last year.”

He probably doesn’t go a day without using Android Pay, Olynick said. The point-of-sale delays of the EMV chip cards contribute to the interest in mobile payments, he added. “Some of our own research, plus anecdotal information, shows frustration level over the amount of time EMV takes.”

Looking into the future, the survey found consumers expect their use of cash to drop faster than business executives are planning. “A lot of people think they will be using a lot less cash in the near future and executives are more conservative. Consumers thought they would use 32% less cash and execs were thinking it would be five percent–that’s a pretty big difference.”

Drawing on his own experience again, Olynick said he used to go to an ATM once a week; now he often won’t go for a month, and then it’s mostly to get cash for tips; otherwise he pays by card or phone.

He expects a continued move to general-purpose cards, with a handful of private-label cards like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, and more use of general purpose cards like Visa or Mastercard for everything else. “We don’t want to make payments to 55 different places; general-purpose cards have a real value.”

A key lesson from the survey is that retailers profit when they remove friction from the buying process, he said. “Anytime you can remove the friction of the payment, we are seeing those companies are getting a nice uplift. If you walk into a retailer and pick up one or two things and there is a line at checkout, you put it down and walk out because you don’t have the 15 minutes it will take for that queue to open up. When we can get to the point where the payment itself is frictionless, we will get those sales that have been lost. We are very high on the idea that removing that friction, such as Uber, or just making it easier and a little bit faster to get through the line,  all those things are going to make it positive to the retailers who do it best.”

In the survey, cryptocurrencies showed up in a way: 8% of businesses that accept mobile payments also accept cryptocurrencies.

Even that may overstate the case. Chris Skinner, in his recent book Value Web, interviews Jeffrey Robinson, author of BitCon: The Naked Truth About Bitcoin. Robinson says that companies that accept payments in bitcoin really only allow customers to pay in bitcoin, and then they immediately route the payments through Coinbase or BitPay. “Allowing a customer to pay with bitcoin is not an endorsement of bitcoin, it’s a marketing ploy,” he told Skinner.

The survey also found that companies that sell internationally grow faster. “Among companies with annual profit growth of 11% or better, 56% sell to international markets, compared with 44% of their slower-growing counterparts.” Payment guarantee companies like Forter, Signifyd, and Radial make it easier and safer for companies to accept cross-border electronic payments.

Developing countries are eager users of mobile payments – 58% of consumers in developing countries make mobile payments at least once a week, compared with only 39% in developed countries, the survey found, with Kenya and China leading in active use of mobile.

For more on pleasing your customers, see Customer Experience: OmniChannel. OmniNow. OmniWow.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. It is republished by permission.

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Sink Or Swim In ‘17: Embracing The Mobile Mind Shift Keeps You Afloat, Part 2

Erin Giordano

Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1.

What’s the biggest opportunity for finance leaders in 2017? During a recent webinar, Forrester Research VP and principal analyst Paul Hamerman said, “There is an opportunity to use technology to lessen the burden of managing expenses, risk, and compliance activities so that finance [leaders] can be more involved in the strategic side of the business, that is, helping the business grow, innovate, and serve its customers.”

So what’s holding finance leaders back? The burden of managing risk and compliance issues and expense activities are the biggest culprits.

In a new Forrester study of 500 global finance decision makers, respondents revealed that 76% of their time is spent on less strategic activities, such as managing risk and driving compliance, as well as expenses.

 

Source: Harnessing the power of modern T&E tools for strategic financial management

How can finance leaders change this? While this finding may not be surprising to many, as this has been roadblock for many years, finance leaders can now change this by carefully assessing their current travel and expense processes and inefficiencies by modernizing them with technology. For example, T&E modules in conventional on-premise ERP software limit mobile functionality and are not integrated with travel booking systems or data.

By modernizing T&E business processes and using technology that offers an open platform, CFOs and their teams will have more bandwidth to spend time on more strategic activities. Also, modernizing this process will enable employees to become better equipped to spend reasonably and track expenses properly. As the Forrester study states, “While the CFO is ultimately responsible for managing employee-generated spend, improving these processes can help empower individual users to better manage budgets and expenses. This ends up benefiting both the individual users and the business.”

Learn more
Listen to Hamerman speak on this topic: Harnessing the power of modern T&E tools for strategic financial management

Download this Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper: Financial Leaders Must Embrace T&E Solutions Strategically to Drive Growth and Innovation

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Erin Giordano

About Erin Giordano

Erin Giordano is senior marketing manager, Enterprise for Concur, and has held various strategic positions that have helped global companies succeed in their thought leadership and business expansion efforts. Her areas of expertise range in topics from duty of care to global mobility spanning multiple industries.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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Christopher Koch

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

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