Bring Your Own Device Will Free Workers

Employees should be liberated and be given the opportunity to use their own devices at work, according to communications specialist and cloud computing company Qubic. The company’s Managing Director said that an archaic IT policy is unhelpful for workforces that want to be more flexible.

As more businesses consider the introduction of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to enable staff to use their laptops, tablets and smartphones at work, managers are being warned that old fashioned IT protectionism is no longer relevant. As long as due diligence is paid to security issues, workers should have the freedom to work across a variety of devices, it is argued.

Chris Papa, the Managing Director of Qubic, said, “BYOD is an incredibly useful concept. Our working patterns and environments are changing and as a result, we need access to tools that will enable us to cater for that. Accessing networks via a remote cloud system really showcases the capabilities that cloud computing provides.  As long as a secure private cloud is used, and data security remains stringent, it provides a great deal of freedom for workers and can deliver cost savings for businesses in terms of equipment costs.

“BYOD will be as successful as the security that underpins it. The risks should be assessed and devices monitored. This way, employees can be productive without putting their companies in unnecessary danger.”

Chris warns that there is still a large amount of awareness that needs to be created in regards to compatibility issues when it comes to using an employee’s own device to connect to a Local Area Network (LAN).

“One issue that can become problematic and can in some cases slow things down is when companies overlook the suitability of their personal devices for work, particularly when it comes to laptops. Quite often this process can be made easier at the buying stage to ensure that workers know the right equipment and specifications they should look for. Of course, current machines can be upgraded but if it is the employer left with the bill for this, it could become a stumbling block for adoption. When these aspects are taken into account, firms can benefit hugely from employees using their own devices in a professional capacity.”

Chris Papa, the Managing Director of Qubic

SaaS Accounting Technology

As the economy continues to struggle organisations are turning their attention once again towards cost reduction and efficiency improvements. And while many may believe that costs have been squeezed as far as possible over the past few years, there are still opportunities to transform operations. Technology has developed significantly since the recession first hit in 2007.

Software as a Service (SaaS) has become an increasingly accepted way of sourcing technology, offering organisations such as accountancy firms new ways to interact with clients. Small businesses now have access to a range of real time services, from cash flow forecasts to tax planning, that bear no resemblance to the traditional annual accounts provision and discussion of old.

Yet few accountants, or their clients, have yet to address the issue of automated invoice processing. As Kevin McLoughlin UK Country Manager, Twinfield, explains, by combining SaaS based accounting technology with electronic document management that provides both invoice automation and e-invoicing, accounting practices and small to medium businesses can process invoices automatically, reducing costs and providing faster insight into operational performance.

New Model

Many accountants are struggling to create a business model that reflects the demands of a changing market whilst still retaining profitability. Having been undercut by the providers of basic book-keeping services, many companies opted out of providing this service – the shoe boxes – only to discover that these companies had also been a good source of additional service based revenue.

As a result, many accountancy firms, including some of the largest firms, are looking at ways back into this market. But the traditional, annual accounts preparation is an expensive process that offers little if any margin – especially given the general drop in fees the market is now willing to bear. So what are the options? Some companies have opted to outsource these services to other countries, leveraging lower personnel costs to achieve a cheaper model.

But this has limitations – from client concerns regarding the security of sensitive financial data to the difficulty in then addressing client questions regarding specific aspects of the audit.   And this is key: if, as these organisations have discovered, the provision of book-keeping work is a critical way of winning additional service-led business, farming it out to a third party defeats the object.

With the right model, organisations should be able to leverage the book-keeping to deliver the raft of services that clients are increasingly demanding to deliver real, quantifiable value and tangible, day to day business support – from daily or weekly cash flow forecasts, to proactive advice on profitability or tax planning.

Integral Scanning

Key to this process has to be rapid access to client information. Document scanning technology, together with self learning software, can transform the cost base for accountancy firms and their clients and provide a platform for the delivery of these new services.  There are two options – firms can either opt to outsource invoice scanning to a third party (this could be the accounting practice); or clients can be empowered to scan their own invoices. Critical to this model is the integration of the document scanning technology with a Software as a Service (SaaS) based finance solution that automatically posts the invoice and streamlines the entire process.

Scanning purchase invoices in this way – either in bulk or by each client – drives down the cost by automating and streamlining processes, enabling accountants to compete with low cost book-keeping services.  More critically, by encouraging clients to scan purchase invoices on at least a daily basis, accountancy firms have access to the timely business information required to deliver added value services.

The ability to provide any business with near real time insight into performance is incredibly powerful. Simply accessing the accountant’s portal to discover how different parts of the business are performing, to track cash flow or assess the impact of currency fluctuations provides unprecedented confidence in decision making.  In addition, the accountant can publish the client’s accounts on the portal, providing anytime, anywhere access not only to the accounts – useful when talking to investors – but also the ability to drill through the information to attain a full financial history.

Conclusion

Rather than simply cut fees in response to both the financial climate and the squeeze from growing numbers of cut priced book-keepers, or exploit off shore resources to drive down costs, there is a massive opportunity for accountancy practices to leverage their expertise to deliver real financial insight to customers.

By automating invoice processing through document scanning, standardising processes and using self learning software, accountants can change the pricing model and, critically, create a near real time resource of client financial information that can transform the customer relationship, providing a depth of financial expertise that will be essential to help SMEs maintain or even grow the business during this sustained economic downturn, whilst delivering quantifiable additional service revenue to the bottom line.

By  Kevin McLoughlin, UK Country Manager at Twinfield

Technology And Global Expansion

Wendy Hart, Head of Technology at Grant Thornton, talks about technology and how businesses can benefit through global expansion.

As business advisers to the mid-market technology sector one of the most common things we’re asked about is expansion into fast-growing markets and how business can unlock the many opportunities available.

To help paint a picture of the challenges and the potential solutions we produced a report Unlocking growth potential in emerging markets which demonstrates that UK technology companies have been slow to take advantage of opportunities in unfamiliar markets. Merger and acquisition figures for the last five years reflect this, demonstrating that the vast majority of foreign investment from the UK is still going to traditional Western markets such as the USA, Australia and Germany.  Domestic investment is also vibrant, with 141 UK to UK deals completed in the technology sector in 2011 alone, a higher volume than in any other jurisdiction.

When asked about plans for the future just 24 per cent of the companies surveyed said that they have concrete plans for investment outside their current markets in the next 12-18 months, whilst 50% had no plans for investment at all.

Despite this somewhat gloomy picture for international expansion we are aware from our day to day interactions with technology businesses that there is huge appetite for acquisition and expansion overseas, particularly to emerging markets. We believe our research findings reflect the scale of the challenge that breaking into a new market represents and the lack of confidence that UK technology businesses have in their ability and capacity to address that challenge.

There is no doubt that considerable research and planning is required to navigate the complexity of establishing or acquiring operations in a new territory, especially if few have gone there before. In our research, the majority of respondents cited red tape and high levels of taxation as the main barriers to investment in unfamiliar territories. Another reason for faltering strategies to expand into fast-growing economies is a lack of realistic financing options for overseas acquisition or investment strategies. Reluctant to back even UK to UK acquisitions, the banks are incredibly nervous about overseas transactions.

Take Israel for example, which is well known for its entrepreneurial spirit and ability to quickly transform start-ups into profitable and competitive companies. Though Israel offers many opportunities for foreign investors, the challenge presented by bureaucracy can be as significant as the encouragement offered by the Israeli government’s innovation policy. To avoid unnecessary restrictions it’s important that potential investors seek local support to fully understand the risks and opportunities.

Similarly, the opportunity in China is huge, and not just in terms of tax incentives and differences in salaries.  China’s high growth potential means those companies that have already invested in the market are at an advantage over newcomers. One reason many UK technology businesses are reluctant to enter China is the fear of copying or reverse-engineering of their products. Though this is still a risk, any business looking to expand globally should be looking at worldwide patent protection of their products and brand.  In China, there is now a regime in place to protect intellectual property (IP) which is based on the UK, German and American regimes and is both established and enforceable. When looking to apply for a patent in China it’s best to employ a local expert with global reach who knows what the rules are, as this way there will be a greater chance of warding off any potential challenges that may come in the future. Many international law firms now have good IP practices in China and the business infrastructure is becoming more comprehensive every day.

One of the most desirable and fast-growing markets in the world for technology businesses is India, where a burgeoning middle class (with disposable income) are projected to number 580 million by 2030. A strong driver for IT investment is India’s generation Y who are primed to become hungry consumers of IT, consumer technology and social media. Its telecommunications industry is the world’s fasted growing. One of our clients IDEAL INDUSTRIES, is a family owned manufacturer of tools and supplies for electrical, data, telecommunications, low voltage and security installations. Its connection with India began through a joint venture established by another IDEAL company, Trend Communications, acquired in 2004. Lee Thomas, IDEAL Group Finance Director for EMEA, explains: “It was soon clear how important trust was and that the customer always looks for local support, so you need to have a base in India. Customers want to know that you’re committed to the [Indian] market.”

The sheer volume of information that a business needs to get to grips with before making an investment into an unfamiliar market can be daunting – especially when domestic trading conditions are challenging.

We have identified vital foundations for a market entry strategy: full assessment of the opportunity available; thorough preparation so that a business is ready for execution; and management of the actual execution itself. With these foundations in place, and with access to local expertise where necessary, there’s little reason why businesses with international ambitions can’t push boundaries and become successful in challenging new markets. The opportunity for growth is enormous and few businesses can afford to ignore it in the medium to long term.

By Wendy Hart, Head of Technology at Grant Thornton