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The challenges of being a CTO in a digital world

The increasing speed of technological change has made it critical for companies to stay ahead of trends and anticipate disruptions to avoid diminishing performance and competitiveness. As a result, businesses have dedicated more resources in recent times to developing their technological capabilities to keep up with their peers or forge ahead of them, with one role becoming increasingly important to organisations regardless of their size or industry – the CTO. Why do companies need a Chief Technology Officer? A CTO's primary role is to ensure that a company’s tech strategy aligns with its overall goals, ensuring that any technology will factor into and support key business decisions. They blend knowledge of existing and emerging technology to provide a business with the optimal solutions possible for the future. The CTO must not only manage the company's current tech solutions, but also be aware of new technology and work on integrating these new solutions and solving problems. In recent years, there has also been an increased focus on customer experience and satisfaction, with companies needing a CTO who can deliver these cultural changes through tech upgrades. What does digital mean to a CTO? The digital world has changed many roles forever and CTOs are no exception. Digital transformation has become top of the list of priorities for many companies. Organisations in every sector are trying to find the best way to embrace new technologies so they can improve processes, make better decisions and stay ahead of the game. Because digital transformation touches every part of a business, it needs to be championed and led by the whole senior leadership team. A CTO is often the ‘bridge builder’ between the technical components of a transformation strategy and how they apply to the people and process within the organisation. The challenges a CTO faces in the digital world As we have all experienced with tech on a personal level, there can be a number of challenges appear as more services go digital. A CTO needs to anticipate where possible and meet these head on. Identifying the right approach A CTO needs to have a clear understanding of how any digital transformation programme will be planned and executed, which can be a challenge because many organisations know that change needs to take place, but they don’t fully understand why or how to get there. Getting this right can be the difference between a successful transformation and a failed one. Getting the support of others in the organisation Companies often get so caught up with adopting technology and processes that they end up forgetting about one of the most important drivers for change – people. When an organisation announces that they’re going to become more efficient and offer a better customer experience, its staff often hear, “We’re cutting jobs and replacing you with software.” One of the challenges for a CTO is too allay those fears and foster some excitement and confidence in the proposed new direction or tech adoption. With the right understanding, approach and leadership, businesses can be steered into a culture of continuous improvement which will enable them to drive change and deliver value. Focusing on ‘customer’ engagement Whether a business has a physical product or offers a service to clients, the ‘user’ experience is becoming ever more important and CTO’s need to be able to use tech to improve engagement with their ‘customers’. This could be in the form of an easy-to-use app or a software platform that speeds up processes behind the scenes. Whichever way the adopted technology affects the client, the CTO needs to maximise this benefit. Recruiting the best talent As technologies continue to evolve faster than people can adapt and be trained on them, skill shortages will continue to be a challenge for a CTO. Specialist talent will always be hard to come by, but by staying at the forefront of transformation, a business can foster a company culture that is attractive to the right tech professionals. If your business is undergoing digital transformation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Consultancy Groupand we’ll be happy to help.

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Addressing gender equality issues in Finance

In a world that’s fighting so hard for gender equality, why is the finance industry still lagging behind? Reports show that the gender pay gap is still significant and not closing as fast as in other sectors, despite some high-profile headlines of positive steps being taken. Accountancy professionals in practice and industry are still suffering from a gap above the national average, with the prevailing reason behind the disparity down to the much higher proportion of men than women in senior roles, rather than an issue of ‘equal pay’. A year ago, the 20 biggest accountancy firms in the UK all had a gender pay gap that widened as the professional level increased, and even though the latest figures show that some of the major players have reduced the gap, there are still few female partners and the bonus gap may now be rising. For finance professionals in industry, while there are marginal differences between sectors, the lack of women in senior finance roles is still apparent. Much of this comes down to culture – sadly stemming from a time where the world of commerce was a male concern only – where women continue to face stereotypes, sexual comments, presenteeism (where performance is judged by visibility rather than output) and of course, the motherhood penalty. One of the biggest challenges lies in changing the stereotypes, assumptions and biases about what is required for leadership. So, what is being done? Finance has much work to do to close the gender pay gap and ensure that women have the same career opportunities as their male counterparts. Shining a light on issues like the gender pay gap and whether firms are imposing, and meeting targets is the only way that diversity is going to get pushed up the priority lists of boards. From the 6th of April 2017, employers with more than 250 staff were required, by law, to publish the following information in the interests of transparency: Gender pay gap (mean and median averages) Gender bonus gap (mean and median averages) Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure The 30% Club was also launched back in 2010, setting out to achieve a minimum of 30% women in the FTSE-350 boards and many employers have finally got around to banning all-male shortlists as a positive step forward, as well as initiating mentorship schemes that have been roundly agreed to help women up the ladder. However, one problem may need to be addressed at an earlier stage in the recruitment process. A recent study found that job adverts for very senior roles tended to have a male bias in the language used, subliminally reinforcing the glass ceiling. Words such as “go-getter,” “ambitious,” “driven,” “competitive,” “fearless,” “dynamic” and “leader” are associated with strongly male-dominated leadership roles and actively deter women from applying. Ads needs to be more gender-neutral and inclusive, using wording that appeals to female as well as male applicants, such as “catalyst,” “guide,” “grow,” “encourage” and “create”. If we start to view leadership as a hands-on, supportive, nurturing process, rather than a controlling position, then more women will apply. If women have a green light and are encouraged to apply for senior roles, then surely, it’s only a matter of time before the numbers balance out?

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How will Brexit affect recruitment?

It’s just a couple of weeks until the UK is supposed to be leaving the EU. Despite this, we still don’t know what that Brexit will look like. With arguing politicians, scaremongering and uncertainty dominating the headlines since the June 2016 EU referendum, it’s no wonder that 61% of employers are worriedabout us leaving the European Union. At a time like this, it’s natural that companies may be reluctant to hire, certainly permanent staff, and employees less likely to leave the security of their current role. With the March 29 deadline rapidly approaching, what impact is Brexit having on recruitment? Survey data released by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) late last year revealed that demand for both permanent and contingent workers suffered a year-on-year dip. Vacancies for contractors fell by 6% in October 2018 while demand for permanent employees declined by 4%, suggesting a marginal fall in employer confidence. In the year up to October 2018, the number of contractors out on assignments fell by 10% and demand for these workers fell across almost every sector. Either things have changed since these figures, or finance professionals are in slightly different demand in commerce because we aren’t seeing this trend as we head towards Brexit. While there has indeed been little activity at the senior level, aside from normal attrition and succession rates, probably due to uncertainty or a lack of confidence, the junior level is as robust as ever. We’ve seen no drop-off in demand for ACAs up to three years post-qualified, particularly for group accounting and control roles, in fact there is a shortage of candidates. The interim side is booming too as a side effect of uncertainty, across all our specialist sectors. Even though all the headlines are negative, with EU workers quitting the UKat the fastest rate since 1997 and a drop of 132,000 EU citizens working in Britain, we are seeing growth plans continue among our clients and business carrying on as normally as possible. If permanent hires are seen as risky, particularly as an investment for smaller businesses, then our stats suggest that the temporary market should continue to flourish. Whether those contracts will be converted to permanent once a Brexit decision is made remains to be seen, but from our perspective the negativity, however we feel about Brexit, isn’t having the effect on recruitment as it might be in other industries. If you need help finding talented professionals, please don’t hesitate to contact The Consultancy Groupand we’ll be more than happy to help.

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How to successfully implement ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) refers to the systems and software packages used by organisations to manage day-to-day core activities such as accounting, procurement, project management and manufacturing. As well as enabling you to align departments and improve workflow, an ERP system can also benefit your business by: Improving insights and efficiency thanks to real-time information generated by reports Reducing risk as data integrity and financial controls are improved Lowering management and operational costs through better defined and more streamlined business processes. If you’ve decided that ERP is right for your business but you’re not entirely sure how to implement it, follow the steps we’ve put together below. Put together a project team By creating a dedicated ERP implementation team, the process is far more likely to run smoothly. You will need some core members including: A project manager to lead the implementation An application analyst, responsible for data migration and cleansing An application developer for system customisation A QA test engineer to head system testing and performance efforts Stakeholders, such as senior management or sales professionals can also be very helpful, but who you choose will depend on what functionality you’re implementing. If you don’t have in-house ERP expertise, you should also consider hiring an experienced implementation consultant who will be able to run the project for you. Create a change management plan Best practice would be to plan your ERP implementation in steps, delegating the relevant tasks across your new project team depending on expertise. Change within an organisation can often bring disruption so take steps to keep this to a minimum, such as: Communicate any anticipated disruption with staff Allow adequate time for training employees on new systems Take key stakeholder needs into account when creating your plans Devise a budget According to a Software ThinkTank report, more than half of ERP implementations run over budget. Although there’s no definitive answer for how much the process will cost, a fair assumption would be that it will require at least 1% of your annual gross revenue. Some costs can be defined in advance, which can help with your ERP implementation budget including: Hardware/network upgrades Staff overtime Vendor training and consultancy fees Data backups and storage Productivity loss for the inevitable drop during implementation Migrate your data Data migration is the first element of moving your organisation to the new ERP and will most likely be the remit of the application analyst on your project team. The tasks will involve: Database setup Data cleansing and verification Mapping legacy data to new database fields Transferring data to the new system Testing and verifying legacy data and new data inputs Train users Once implemented, the new system needs to be adopted and embraced as soon as possible to minimise downtime. The style of training that suits your employees will be down to your culture and individuals, but it’s worth selecting a few either experienced or technophile employees to champion the new system as super-users, helping others and taking up the slack. If your internal culture is suited to it, you could also try gamification or incentives to encourage training and adoption. Going live There are a number of activities during the go-live stage of ERP implementation that will require clear communication from your team to the other employees, to manage their expectations: System testing (pre and post go-live) Staff scheduling (including required overtime or temporary staff) Identifying metrics for project evaluation Creating a communication strategy for system downtime Network speed and reliability checks Data backup processes Evaluate the success of the project Once implemented, if all has gone to plan, there are a number of areas to consider and monitor to determine whether or not your ERP is successful: What’s your return on investment? Has there been a reduction in human error in processing data? Have productivity levels increased? Are your clients happier with the improved service you can now offer? If you need help recruiting professionals who can help you with your ERP implementation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Consultancy Groupand we’ll be more than happy to help.

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