Social Media Super-Buys

The Constantly Evolving Social Media Landscape

If one truth can be said of social media over the past decade is that using apps and the internet to communicate with people we know (and even people we don’t) in this way is not going to going away any time soon. However you look at it though social media is constantly evolving as are the needs of its users. Some apps are useful in our daily lives, some are just fun, some, however all are watched closely by businesses across the globe with an appetite for acquisition.

Social media innovation key to retaining users

rise and fall of vine and bebo

Social Media – constantly evolving but not going anywhere (unless perhaps you are talking about Vine or Bebo)

The raft of new features across Facebook and rollout of new layouts on Linkedin and Twitter are testament to the need for innovation among social platforms and how this innovation helps to keep users engaged. The same can be said of businesses on social media who constantly need to be thinking of new and interesting ways to deliver engaging content to your online communities.

The now defunct Bebo allegedly once had as many as 40 million users. When AOL acquired Bebo in 2008 Facebook was already well on its way to stealing the social media crown of largest social network. Twitter invested in video by acquiring start-up Vine in 2012, before the app had officially launched. When it did launch in 2013 it was still before the trend of streaming videos on mobile apps was less common, not least of all because long, more data heavy videos would mean a higher cost of data than today. As the number of smartphone owners increased so did the internet speeds and the habit of watching video on mobile. The success of these platforms was relatively short-lived therefore, in part, due to the advancement of technology and faster data speeds. Heavy competition from other platforms who were offering new features also contributed to them being sidelined in the social landscape. The very fact that the industry is extremely competitive and ever-changing means that acquisitions of new and emerging networks are popular among established technology companies. Microsoft’s super-buy last year was of course Linkedin for a little over £20 Billion ($26 Billion). And this demonstrates how much the computer giant was willing to wager to have a stake in the sector. In reality big companies can afford it and it represents good value in terms of being able to have a share of the market as well as access to the data and learnings it brings.

The Vine example is a stark warning both for and against acquisitions. On one hand it was a failure; the business was did not generate any profit for Twitter and the network had effectively peaked by the end of 2013. The same year as both Instagram and Snapchat launched their video features. This is no coincidence and just one example of social networks borrowing and taking inspiration from competitors. At the same time Vine could have been a threat to Twitter, and it was an attempt to spread the company’s influence. When it was clear that financially it was not going to deliver a return on investment and Twitter itself struggling to find a place in the modern landscape Twitter Inc could have opted to sell off the dwindling short video platform. Instead though by allowing it to die Vine was blocked a second time from posing any opposition or embarrassment to Twitter’s business in the future.

The social media landscape has changed significantly over the last five years and acquisitions continue to be a key factor for the large players. Only in the next five will we have a better understanding of whether the other acquisitions prove to be successful or not.

Recently we’ve seen Facebook adopt Snapchat-style filters in its messaging app and Google announce its intentions to launch a personalised homepage on mobile and desktop here in UK in the near future.

Our infographic below shows the current state of affairs across different social networks, their value and the various acquisitions.

Social Media Super-Buys Acquisitions Infographic

Social Media Super Buys

Five Things To Consider When Switching To SaaS

If your business is considering adopting a Software as a Service subscription model powered by the cloud instead of a traditional distribution model then you need to consider how it will impact your business, your staff and most importantly your customers – both new and existing. We’ve compiled our top tips of what to consider before you make the switch to SaaS or PaaS.

Five tips for switching to a SaaS model

1. Consider what is an appropriate pricing model

It’s important that the pricing reflects the service you offer, fits your market and ability to service customers. This could mean a more simplified approach or tiered packages. Research what’s important to your customers and what is feasible for them in terms of cost but also what’s feasible for your organisation. This might involve rolling out the service offering/s over time.

2. Develop an on-boarding processsaas model on-boarding process

Getting your customers started might look a little different from how you have done things previously. Ensure you break down the process into steps and that staff are properly trained in how bringing a new customer on board works, what questions they might have and when they need to be available to support.

saas model adoption security best practice3. Ensure your systems are secure

You are probably entering new territory in offering your software or platform via the cloud. Data needs to be encrypted and stored safely. SSL encryption is a good start.

 

4. Involve your sales workforcesaas model adoption and sales teams

Your sales team still have to sell the product. This could be the right time to innovate and improve your software, but it could also be the wrong time. Nevertheless ensure you take into consideration the input (concerns and suggestions) from your sales team/s and try to address these as best as possible. By incorporating their input early in the process there’s time to debate, research and ultimately decide. Whether you take on their suggestions or not this will still help to get buy-in with the teams and make them feel more involved.

saas adoption legal advice5. Take legal advice from a cloud specialist

You are moving into new territory and therefore need specialist advice. You wouldn’t launch a new product without research and a strong understanding of the market and the product so ensure you are seek out expert knowledge and advice and are well protected legally with indemnity cover to limit liability.

Find out more about how we can help you with switching to a SaaS model.

How Long Did It Take the Richest Tech Tycoons to Make Their First Billion?

Almost a third of the richest 30 people in the world have made their billions in the technology industry. This common denominator isn’t a surprise considering that since 2015 in the UK alone the technology sector has a turnover of £170 billion a year , outgrowing the UK economy with 72% of investment coming from outside London.

With continuous opportunities for growth and expansion, many entrepreneurs are taking advantage. Don’t be fooled, however. Tech tycoons aren’t work-shy and making a success of yourself in the technology sector is difficult with so much competition. Much of the list is in fact dominated by these self-made billionaires launching global companies that have gone on to be household names, such as Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Whilst that first billion isn’t easy, it is possible. With the right idea, anyone can be the world’s next billionaire. Some build their fortune in no time at all, while others take the slow and steady route. Find out below how fast the top five technology entrepreneurs went from launching their company to making their first billion and how they did it.

Tech Tycoons Race to Riches List

 

5. Larry Page

Larry Page, Google Co-Founder & CEO of parent company Alphabet Inc [Image source: Bloom Energy, Flickr ]

Net worth: £31.9 billion

Source of wealth: Self-made, founder of Google

Length of time: 6 years

Age of becoming a billionaire: 30

In 1998, Page teamed up with fellow PhD student, Sergey Brin, at Stanford University to create an early search engine, then named BackRub. Little did they know this project would evolve into the biggest search engine in the world. Google and its parent company Alphabet now take up one of the biggest market shares in tech and are worth more than £455 billion ($581 billion). As Google’s net worth increased, so did the value of Page’s shares.

Larry Page has been a key player in the evolution of Google, and after many years at the helm, Page moved on to head up Alphabet. Here he looks after not only Google but also Nest, Calico and Google X and gets involved in everything from driverless cars to home automation.

4. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison, founder, chairman and CTO of Oracle [Image source: Oracle PR, Flickr

Net worth: £40.9 billion

Source of wealth: Self-made, founder of Oracle

Length of time: 16 years

Age of becoming a billionaire: 49

Ellison teamed up with two colleagues at an electronics company in 1977 so they could start their own firm that focused on programming. Their newly formed company quickly gained traction and attention from the likes of the CIA, which wanted Ellison to build it a relational database management system, later known as Oracle.

This first project developed into the giant company known as Oracle Corp and although Ellison stepped down as CEO after 38 years and reduced his salary from a million dollars per year to just one he still receives a massive £47 million from the dividend  on his shares.

3. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerber, Founder and CEO of Facebook [Image source: Anthony Quintano, Flickr]

Net worth: £43.9 billion

Source of wealth: Self-made, founder of Facebook

Length of time: 4 years

Age of becoming a billionaire: 23

At the age of 19 and in his second year studying at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg launched the very first version of Facebook, then known as TheFacebook.com. At the time, it was only a very basic version, but Zuckerberg believed in the venture enough to drop out of university and work full-time on the project.

The move paid off, as Facebook exploded in popularity and now attracts over a billion users every day, making the company worth almost £313.4 billion. Through Facebook, Zuckerberg has secured himself the title of being the youngest in the top 50 richest people in the entire world, let alone in the technology industry.

2. Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos second fastest tech entrepreneur to make a billion dollars

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon [Image source: James Duncan Davidson, Flickr

Net worth: £57 billion

Source of wealth: Self-made, founder of Amazon.com

Length of time: 5 years

Age of becoming a billionaire: 35

In 1994, Bezos launched Amazon, an online book retailer, from his garage at home in Seattle. At the time, it exclusively sold books and continued to be run from his home for the next three years. Once public, Amazon rapidly expanded to include other goods including everything from furniture to electronics, and now it even supplies fresh fruit.

By 2016, Bezos had taken Amazon from being a small business in his backyard to a multi-billion-dollar company, generating £107billion in revenue in 2016 alone.

1.    Bill Gates

Bill Gates the fastest tech entrepreneur to become a billionair

Bill Gates, Co-Founder and Former CEO of Microsoft [Image source: OnInnovation, Flickr]

Net worth: £67.4 billion

Source of wealth: Self-made, founder of Microsoft

Length of time: 12 years

Age of becoming a billionaire: 31

At only 20 years of age, Bill Gates cofounded Microsoft with a childhood friend. Paul Allen and Bill Gates developed the company over ten years, and before Gates’s 31st birthday, Microsoft went public and made him a billionaire overnight. Gates continued to serve as the company’s CEO until 2000.

Although Gates is still on Microsoft’s board, he hasn’t been actively involved in the business since 2014, when he let go of his position as chairholder. At that point he was still the largest shareholder, but since then his generosity and work for his own charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has seen his shares lower. Despite being one of the most generous billionaires on the planet, Gates still remains the richest man in the world.

His work with the foundation is a true testament to Gates’s legacy, with individuals being lifted out of poverty around the world and the elimination of deadly diseases such as HIV and malaria on the horizon.

Compare the speed at which the top sixteen richest tech moguls in the world made their first billion by checking out our Richest Tech Moguls Infographic.

The World’s Richest Tech Moguls

The Rich List of Tech Moguls According to Speed of Growth and Net Worth

Making a success of yourself in the world of tech can be extremely tough. With technology changing so fast the industry is uber-competitiveSo it’s a wonder then that anyone can come up with an idea that is truly innovative and worth investing in and actually has a purpose. In other industries successful companies make millions, but in the tech world it’s all about the billions.

We’ve put together a list of the richest tech moguls in the world, not only to compare their net worth but also to find out who went from start-up to billionaire tycoon the quickest.

Check out our World’s Richest Tech Moguls Infographic below.

Richest tech moguls infographic

Although Bill Gates has been in the lead in terms of highest net worth for quite some time, it may be a surprise to see just how fast some of the newcomers in the tech world are climbing the rich list. In the official Forbes rich list for 2017 you’ll find many of the industry’s super-tycoons and veterans who have been moving up and down the list for the past ten years or more. With mobile technology and social media evolving rapidly, however, younger entrepreneurs are starting to dominate.

With the acquisition of Instagram, social media giant Mark Zuckerberg is now on the heels of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, whilst WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is creeping his way up through the top 20 positions.

As the tech industry continues to change and advance at breakneck speed, it will be exciting to witness just how much changes over the next year in the World’s Richest Tech Mogul list.

Alternative Finance can help education vendors ease the school funding challenge

From enhancing student engagement to improving behaviour management, more educational institutes are embracing modern technology and equipment to enable pupils to learn at their own pace, on any device.

However, the biggest school funding shortages in England since the 1990s are threatening to undermine teachers’ efforts to break away from traditional classroom and curriculum models.

guide to leasing for education

46% of people surveyed said their school had experienced lower spending on ICT.

Findings show reductions in spending

A recent survey conducted by The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers has revealed that almost three-quarters (73%) of schools have cut spending on books and equipment, while 46% of respondents admitted they had reduced their ICT expenditure. Furthermore according to BESA, the average ICT budget for a primary school is forecast to be £13,800 in 2017/18 and £58,230 for secondaries. This represents a year-on-year decline of 4% and 7% respectively.

Do schools need guidance on leasing equipment?

At a time when the funding challenge shows no signs of abating, the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA) has recently published its ‘Leasing guidance for schools’ document in partnership with National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) and the Department for Education (DfE). The guide highlights what should be considered when taking out a lease and how finance can help educational establishments to secure the facilities they need.

The FLA’s guide is a timely reminder to educational vendors and resellers that working with a trusted and experienced finance partner can help them to overcome budgetary objections and accelerate their sales cycles. Specialist alternative finance providers to the education sector, such as Syscap, offer flexible funding programmes to give schools an effective alternative to capital spending which enables them to acquire innovative solutions and services they need to further enhance the learning experience.

The opportunity for educational vendors and resellers

Tailored asset finance solutions can support investment in specialist equipment, the latest IT solutions and associated support services, refurbished classrooms and buildings as well as introducing 1:1 learning schemes based on the Bring Your Own Device model. Leasing allows schools greater flexibility compared with purchasing new assets outright. They can obtain the equipment they need today and pay over time by spreading the cost of their investments over one to five years. In turn, by adopting a prudent financial strategy, schools can better manage cash flow by gaining predictability over their spending instead of being burdened by major upfront costs.

With government cuts set to hit already stretched budgets in education hard the option of alternative finance makes it easier for schools to invest in new assets, inside and outside of the classroom, so they can maintain high teaching standards whilst keeping costs down. Specialist finance partners also work collaboratively with vendors and resellers to ensure they can grow and develop their educational sales by offering flexible solutions that are tailored to schools’ needs.

To download the FLA’s ‘Leasing guidance for schools’ document, click here.

Manage the Pressures of Integrating Technology into Your Business

Integrating new digital systems and technology into a business can be an onerous journey. Whether it’s a simple software update or a full overhaul of all the company’s hardware, incorporating new technology brings many pressures.

Using our many years of experience working within the IT channel , we know that many IT systems are now more cost effective, however we also know that there is a greater reliance on specialist technology and software. With this in mind we’ve put together a list of our top five tips to relieve the stress of purchasing and implementing new technology. Manage the pressures of integrating technology into your business with these five tips:

importance of planning for technology integration

Once you identify the right tool you need to plan the next steps

  1. Plan Well

The integration of new tech can have surprising rippling effects throughout a business and the bigger the business, the bigger the ripple. Once you’ve identified the product or software you need and you’ve started the ball rolling with costings and purchasing, create a plan for the roll-out of the new system. This gives you the opportunity to identify where any issues may arise and solve the problems before they happen.

new tech requires support

Work out how you will handle support and issues with new tech

  1. Put Support Systems in Place

Many companies will already have a tech support team or personnel in place that are able to help with any issues. However, if this is not the case, it’s well worth considering setting up this new role or team. Alternatively, if developing your own in-house team is out of budget, it may be more cost-effective to arrange 24/7 support services through an IT managed service provider or an outsourced tech centre that provides the right services for your system.

finance solutions for IT

Finance solutions are readily available to support purchase, implementation and on-going support

  1. Source a Finance Partner

Investing large sums of money upfront and compromising on other areas of the business financially should no longer be an issue with specialist IT finance solutions available. Spreading the cost through tailored asset finance solutions can ensure that technology integration is affordable and easy to implement quickly.

staff technology competence

Staff need to be competent working with the new tech

  1. Train Staff and Train Them Again

Before the full integration of new tech, ensure that all staff are trained and feel ready to use the hardware, software or tool. It’s essential for managers to arrange appropriate training for staff before launch but also to facilitate regular follow-up sessions to cover any practical questions or issues found in the first few months after launch. As staff change teams, some leave and new staff arrive it’s always a good idea to set aside some time to offer top-up or refresher training to ensure people stay up-to-date.

technology integration expectations

Integration is more than just roll out – set and actively manage expectations

  1. Set Expectations

New technology integration can bring high hopes for both employers and employees, but it’s important to be realistic with expectations. This goes for both the impact that the changes will have on the business and the ability of staff to adapt. Though minimal, there is always a chance that the new tech may fail or not be as cost-effective as first thought. This is why it is vital for managers to assess the risk and develop contingency plans ahead of time, in order to respond in the best manner promptly.

 

If you are looking for support from a specialist IT finance partner, get in contact today to find out if Syscap can help.

The Speed of Obsolescence: How can SMEs keep up with rapidly changing technology?

The digital and technology environment is changing faster than ever before. With brand new technology, particularly hardware, going out of date within the space of just a few years, small and medium-sized businesses are being forced to come up with solutions quickly and on a regular basis to overcome the consequences.

technology upgrades in business

Affording and getting access to the latest technologies can be tough for many organisations..

One of the main challenges for most SMEs with regard to technological advancements is the extent to which vast legacy systems and applications are embedded within their organisation. These make it extremely difficult to make changes or upgrade to modern solutions. This becomes increasingly difficult if the update or tech introduction is radically different from what’s already in place. Before any innovation can take place, the current systems must be maintained, cultivated and supported.

Added to this, there is the mounting pressure for businesses to be seen to be high tech and competing at the forefront of the industry. Now that the technology cycle has rapidly sped up, and continues to do so, businesses are feeling the need to squeeze more and more updates into each budget cycle. In the past, technology updates may have been implemented every three to five years, but the demand is now far greater, with new updates needed multiple times a year.

Combine that with what seems like a never-ending list of new and different platforms and technologies that need integrating into the business, such as cloud computing, big data security and social media, and you have an abundance of competing priorities.

How Can SME Leaders Adapt to Rapid Technology Updates?

businesses and technology

Technology is changing fast but businesses need to keep up

Only Integrate What Your Business Needs
Assess all of your business objectives and strategies in isolation from any technology offerings or products. With so many technology products and tools available and changes becoming faster and faster, the decision-making process can be extremely overwhelming for SMEs. It’s important to remember that you need to choose the right tool for your business and its needs. Ensure that you are streamlining and adapting everything to fit in with your goals, instead of purchasing for purchasing’s sake.

Keep Plans Fluid

Although business and infrastructure plans will have been scoped out and implemented long ago, it is important to remain as agile as possible with regard to technology updates. Remain in the loop with tech industry news and keep plans fluid to ensure that you can steer your business in the same direction as the rest of the world.

Build Partnerships
Partnering with vendors who offer the latest technology can be a perfect solution to getting access to new updates without having to invest large amounts of money. Whether you want to get access to new innovation through start-ups or have a particular affinity with a product or brand, partnerships can be great options for both product- and knowledge-sharing, if they are mutually beneficial.

Brief and Train Staff
It’s vitally important that you bring your staff along on the journey too. When technology updates or new infrastructures are on the horizon, try to provide staff with as much warning as possible. This not only allows them to process the changes and accept them, but also gives them the opportunity to access any necessary training. If the update is significant, it’s important SME leaders provide training not only before the launch but also after the successful implementation, to ensure staff have the opportunity to voice concerns and remain informed.

Finance Partnership Options
With money often being the main setback for SMEs wanting to access new tech, a great solution is partnering with an IT finance provider. Finance can play a variety of roles in helping reach your business objectives and goals, particularly in relation to acquisition of new technology. Whether you’re looking to sign up for ongoing software-as-a-service, or one-off investments in hardware, partnering with a finance provider can help grant your business immediate access without the upfront costs.

Find out more about how Syscap can assist with IT upgrades by providing finance today by contacting us.

The attitude to succeed in financial services

Having a positive attitude is vital to being successful in financial services, something which can be said of many careers, but getting results for your employer and for yourself in finance requires nothing less than an exceptional attitude. To be passionate and focused;  resilient and adaptable and above all decisive in your daily working life will help you go further and increase your standing within any organisation.

the right attitude is important in finance

Demonstrating your determination from day zero

Some people decide that they want to go into finance at a young age; while others enter the profession from a variety of different backgrounds having gained experience elsewhere. A career in financial services provides some unique challenges. Commercial finance requires an intrinsic understanding of different industries and the associated risks and carries with it a need to be flexible and agile. Finance is also very much about cohesion and working as a team, every part of the organisation influences and in turn relies upon the efforts of multiple departments, from Credit through to New Business Administration. Everyone needs to be determined to move in the same direction to accomplish the overall goals.

Syscap is part of Wesleyan Bank with staff working together across three sites; each employee has followed a slightly different path and has their own story to tell. So we asked some of them to do just that and share their experience of working together in this way, but also to share their tips and advice about the attitude needed, to not only survive in finance, but to flourish.

philip white syscap diversity quote

Philip White talks about culture at Syscap

Syscap’s Managing Director Philip White summed up the importance of diversity, remaining open-minded and valuing different experience recently when he explained in an interview about how we operate. “Our business is about people. We strive to create an environment that’s responsive to different cultures and groups. This ethos extends to our customers and suppliers, too”.

Excelling in finance

Some people embark on a career in finance and leasing at a young age, and learn about the intricacies ‘on the job’. In contrast, others only join after gaining considerable experience elsewhere, both sorts of people bring with them unique perspectives. But from changing regulation to the acceleration of technology, the needs of clients in the financial services industry can be varied which provides its own set of challenges.

Commercial finance requires an ability to adapt to clients’ bespoke requirements and identify tailored solutions which can support their business’ short-term and long-term goals. This could range from asset finance solutions to support an investment in the latest technology or an acquisition of another business to strengthen their competitive advantage, or even short-term cashflow centric products to spread the cost of tax liabilities or unexpected expenditures.

Being able to adapt to different approaches, scenarios and understanding a client’s position is key.  This means staying open to new ideas, information so you can learn about different industries and understand different risks. Finance is also very much about cohesion and working as a team, every part of the organisation influences and in turn relies upon the efforts of other departments.

Finance is extremely competitive, fast paced and demanding so remaining calm and fleet-footed under pressure is invaluable, particularly when it comes to managing the expectations of others.

Knowing what you want when opportunity knocks

Being decisive is decisive when it comes to being picked for an important job or opportunity. Sometimes it’s easier to delay making a decision than it is to make the decision there and then. Unfortunately this means that sometimes the opportunity can pass you by if you are indecisive. Laura O’Connell, Commercial Account Manager, joined Wesleyan Bank in 2016 from another financial provider highlights the importance of decisiveness: “if you’re thinking about a career in finance or applying for a new role then don’t be afraid to go for it. You won’t know if you will like something until you try and employers will want you to clearly explain the reasons for your decision [to apply].  You just have to remember to take one step at a time.”

Companies will look at your CV and want to understand your qualifications and your relevant experience, of course, but also who you are, your interests and how you work with others. Employers will often read between the lines so be careful what your CV says about you. Words like “enthusiastic” could be interpreted as inexperienced and “thoughtful” perceived as a daydreamer or someone who is a walkover. Explaining clearly what you want to get across and who you are will form part of their assessment of your communication skills.

HR is a department that sees lots of applications. Our very own HR Operations expert Juana Leacock an experienced HR professional in her own right expanded on this, that “growing quickly we value people who have are flexible in their approach and have the ability to put the customer first as well as being accountable and focused on delivering tangible results”.

Your attitude when in your daily working environment plays a big part as to how others see your performance. Being adaptable and having an ability to take on new tasks and disciplines is important. Carl Hodgetts, Application Support Manager at Wesleyan Bank, recently moved into a new role and talked to us about this experience and his philosophy, “it’s important to understand the technical and analytical requirements but at the same time always remain customer-focused”

Most thought leaders agree that contentment at work is something that is beneficial on an individual, departmental and organisational level. Being proactive tends to help boost career opportunities in finance even more so than other industries. Happiness at work can lead to enhanced performance and productivity levels as well as greater energy, better reviews and is more likely to result in promotion or quicker exposure to exciting opportunities[1].

Paul Slapa, Head of Direct Sales, added “If you concentrate on developing your skill set, learn to accept feedback, and on occasion criticism, then opportunities will present themselves to you.”

Progressing, both individually and as an organisation, is about challenging yourself to do better: staying up-to-date and actively seeking out opportunities to improve the way things are done. Paul agreed that “as an industry we are often slow to adapt to change – for example, we haven’t really embraced some of the advancements in technology. So you should always be prepared to challenge upwards; to challenge the status quo, but be prepared to accept that you won’t always be right. Equally be prepared to listen to others. I accept that I could learn as much from a young graduate who has never worked in leasing, as I do from a 20 year industry veteran.”

For more information about life at our organisation see our vacancies at syscap.com/jobs

[1] SOURCE “Happiness at work is closely correlated with greater performance and productivity as well as greater energy, better reviews, faster promotion, higher income, better health and increased happiness with life. So it’s good for organizations and individuals, too.”

Big data. Big problem: security and reliability

Data fraud and hacking can be devastating for any business, and they are two issues that are very much a reality with no organisation one hundred per cent immune.

big data

The floppy disc has long been a symbol for data and storage. Despite traditionally only storing 1.44 megabytes it remains synonymous with data thanks to its use as the “save” icon in many software packages, not least of all MS Office.

Their consequences can be extremely damaging, tainting corporate reputations irredeemably, and can even lead to costly court cases. The result of which can be a hefty fine or even  potentially a custodial sentence for directors in serious cases. The recent breach at Tesco Bank springs to mind as an example that is only too real for its customers. So how do companies ensure that their big data is secure and reliable?

How Do You Know Your Big Data Is Reliable?

In instances where missing data points are vital to performance  the inclusion of unreliable information can sway results, disrupt user experiences or, in extreme cases can mean big problems for business. In today’s world all aspects of our life are changing faster and more often. This influences reliability by increasing the speed at which data expires – that is to go out of date and no longer be relevant or accurate. There are hundreds of micro factors involved nowadays these range from staff retention. INC.com highlighted loss of knowledge/information as one the hidden costs of staff turnover1.

More residential and business property transactions are taking place each year since 2011, this figure is lower than ten years ago, before the economic downturn2. Individuals moving house has implications for staff retention too. So many of these issues are interlinked. Less than 50% of FTSE business disclose staff turnover it is surely increasing each decade in part due to our shortening attention span3 as humans. Could our attention span also be affecting our likelihood to change or stick with a supplier as we get bored, look for change or attempt to follow the latest trend? Could it also be affecting accuracy of data input and checking. Businesses must therefore continually innovate to stay on top of data that is going out of date much faster.

Data quality is an issue all around the world. With a large emphasis on the speed of capture the collection process still tends to neglect the true value of validation. Figures from Royal Mail Data Service released last year estimated that in the UK 63.3% of businesses have missing, incomplete or out-of-date customer data. Validation was an issue cited there too with basic checks reportedly not taking place.

With simple automated verification and validation techniques you can reduce the amount of unreliable data entering an organisation and with proper systems in place to internally sense check data the reliability can be greatly increased.

How Do You Improve the Security of Your Big Data?

The recent Tesco security breach was a hostile one which resulted in a severe impact to individuals and whilst big data is becoming a more visible issue, as businesses we must take steps to understand the potential risks of the data we collect. The two main points for businesses to consider are the same factors as calculating risk – probability and consequence. In this content therefore we must ask:

  • How important is this data?
  • How likely is a data breach – in light of the robustness of security?

The old adage of prevention is better than the cure applies here – and therefore the more important the data the more steps must be taken to prevent any intrusions or breaches.

With the likelihood of a data breach you are dealing in terms of risk. Ease of access is probably the greatest factor here – how many people, internally and externally access your system and how easily can they do so. Is the data limited to only the people who need to have access? Is it limited to secure connections? Is it encrypted? Is it only accessible via certain IPs or offices?

In these cases, where the sensors themselves are actuators and in charge of controlling the security and safety, data collection can affect the outcome of whether a machine shuts itself down or causes potentially dangerous failures.

In the case of information request sensors, data can be tampered with or the sensors themselves can be hijacked, causing an abundance of new issues. Here, deploying big data fraud detection schemes with careful planning and management log systems can work wonders to reduce foul play.

Ultimately, data security is unique to each business and so the ways in which we protect data need to be unique. Whilst there is a need to reassure clients about security, it is beneficial to continually improve and update your security systems keeping specific details of updates under wraps. To do otherwise can act as a way to point hackers in the right direction and therefore increase the possibility of exploitation.

The key then is to regularly assess your data collection needs, pinpoint potential places for data breaches and invest in robust systems and software to combat data loss and intrusions.


1. Employee Turnover Hidden Costs [INC.com]
2. UK Residential and Non-Residential Property Transaction Section 1, Chart 1 [HM Revenue and Customs Annual UK Property Transaction Statistics 2015]
3. Attention Span Statistics 2000 vs 2015 [Statistic Brain]

Automation in Business

Is Automation Changing Your Business?

Technology has long been the focus innovation for many progressive business leaders across the globe, but throughout history, our culture, arts, technology and even business have pushed boundaries, exploring ideas, discussing concepts and creating ingenious products that have changed our lives forever.

Whilst science fiction has predicted a plethora of everyday tech such video-calling, driverless cars and smart bionic limbs to name a few, inventors such as the Wright Brothers and Nikola Tesla, manually delivered innovation using the physical application of their scientific and engineering expertise. Their visionary creations helped pave the way for many everyday technologies.  Imagine what they could have achieved if they had been able to cede responsibility for repetitive and time-consuming tasks to automation.

Since then numerous advancements have taken place to build on their ideas and increase efficiency. Long gone are the days of starting a car manually with many new cars now starting at the touch of a button. Today, artificial intelligence can be seen influencing and assisting our daily lives. Even entering a password, email address or first name online can now be an automatic process thanks to software. In fact automation software can also be used to send the email response once you complete a form.

In business, automation is now as key as marketing or finance.
Companies are seeing huge returns thanks to automation and software robots. Business Insider suggests that robot co-workers may be closer to reality than we think, with 850,000 public sector jobs in Britain expected to be performed by robots by 2030.

Three Reasons Why Automation is Already Crucial for Businesses

Automation is helping businesses work faster

With automation now freely available and increasingly affordable, there are now more and more businesses relying on the automation of common tasks and processes to make work easier, faster by removing the difficult aspects and allowing staff to focus on the important elements.

From manufacturing to broadcasting and entertainment, automated software and machinery can be deployed to perform repetitive tasks more accurately and with greater reliability than people. Companies such as Zume Pizza have introduced robots to make perfectly sized pizzas with the perfect amount of dough and tomato topping, whilst Chain Reaction Cycles has created a fully integrated automated warehouse that eliminates the need  someone to manually process product orders.

Automation is making businesses more efficient

Automation and artificial intelligence software can replace more than just manual labour. Implementing automation, businesses can repeat tasks with frightening speed and precision. Machines (and software) can be programmed to make the decisions in a fraction of the time it would normally take and shut down, pause or restart in a case of any one of a myriad of undesirable situations or simply if someone is working nearby or passing. This helps to eliminate not only errors, but costly recovery time and set up time as well as avoiding lawsuits or disciplinary action.

Automation is saving money for businesses

Reducing the need for back-office operations and labour by incorporating automation into processes can save businesses money if implemented well. In 2012, mobile operator O2 invested in software automation to reduce temporary staff costs caused by peaks in customer activity .

The firm automated various tasks including SIM swaps, porting mobile numbers, migrating from prepaid onto a contract, unlocking a phone. Each task is a separate software program licensed from Robotic Process Automation firm Blue Prism.

With competition growing year on year in all business sectors, automation is allowing companies to remain competitive by reducing costs  and there is potential for businesses to save millions with software. In an economy where customers are increasingly looking for the best value the speed at which a business’s operations are upgraded and automated could be the difference between successful growth and stagnation.