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Digital transformation: the growing data problem

As digital transformation has gathered pace across all sectors over the past couple of years, fundamentally changing the way we work with its introduction of new technologies, 2020 will see one of its early benefits become a growing challenge for businesses: data. Collecting data One of the first upsides of digitizing working processes and the way we store information was access to customer data. Initially, it was simply a way of improving customer service: having access to transactional data from a CRM system, for example, giving a real-time snapshot of a client relationship. But in a very short period of time, nearly everything has gone digital, meaning data can today be harvested from almost anywhere, such as social media, the web, voice recordings and IoT devices, and in areas as diverse as demographics, behaviour patterns and interactions. Known as ‘big data’, this unstructured data is very different to traditional transactional data, coming in multiple raw forms, and as such requires specialist data analytics skills to integrate and interpret. The return from this investment in data analytics talent for organisations is of course in-depth insight to give a competitive edge. But big data is coming at an unprecedented rate today, its volume estimated to be doubling every six months, with new sources frequently added into the mix. This results in storage challenges, as well as integration issues. On its own, its usefulness is limited, but combined with the corporate process data, it can be a powerful weapon, meaning CIO’s will need to bring data scientists more into the day-to-day, rather than retain them as separate siloed entities, if they want meaningful results. Storing data Traditionally, data storage is cheap, which has meant it’s been easy for businesses to adapt to harnessing big data from multiple sources. Even though storage requirements are increasing exponentially, the advent of data repositories has given analytics a home, as well as a platform to integrate the unstructured digital content with the regular data gathered and present the fuller customer picture. However, regulatory changes, such as the recent introduction of GDPR, have brought data management and governance to the fore. Vast quantities of stored data present both a cyber and compliance risk if they are stored for too long, which is becoming a problem as the incoming volume of data starts to outpace the manual capabilities of the data analysts. Integrating data Organisations at the forefront of data management are increasingly incorporating AI, in particular machine learning, into their data analytics strategy, to keep up with the massive quantities of incoming data and to provide better business decisions. Machine learning is able to adapt to new forms of data, discovering new patterns or rules in it, often without human intervention. Its sophistication is already at a level where it can be used for data derived from NLP and image recognition, for example, negating some of the problems in the multiple forms and sources of unstructured data. While human data science skills are still crucial, automation is being introduced into the data architecture to speed up the extraction and integrating of the unstructured data, to ensure it is not stored in a data lake for longer than is necessary. Not only is the process more efficient from an internal perspective, the single view of a customer and all related data is achievable faster and mitigates any data governance concerns. Exactly what the data landscape will look like by the end of 2020 is still unknown, but those businesses addressing the changing nature of its collection and analysis now through the implementation of AI, will be leading the way, come what may. If you would like any help or advice on your transformation project or specialist talent, please don't hesitate to contact us today.

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Future proof your in-house tax career with tax technology

In the face of shifting economic and regulatory conditions in the UK, junior tax professionals need to consider what skills they need to acquire to help grow their careers in the long term. Regulations are becoming more complex and stringent, with FATCA and BEPS regulations impacting the financial services sector, and HRMC's risk-based approach requiring businesses to provide a clear and concise approach to reporting. Making Tax Digital has become a huge focus for long term projects. Embrace tax technology Businesses are investing heavily in data analytics, robotics and tax technology platforms and tax professionals with expertise in this area, so professionals with a grounding in these fields will be highly sought after. Involvement in tax transformation projects Familiarity not only with how to use tax software systems but how to implement them will be a highly valuable skill. As technology continues to develop, implementing new systems will become a regular occurrence. Just as technology evolves, so will regulatory frameworks. Move into an industry tax team early in your career to gain exposure to tax technology Seek out in-house roles which offer potential for career progression to ensure that you are able to gain more strategic and technology related experience as quickly as possible to position yourself for senior roles. This will enable you to really see through your work from start to finish and implement into the business. More and more of the businesses we work with are expecting candidates to have had exposure to technology. Those that have a deep understanding of the robotics behind such systems, plus strong tax technical compliance and reporting knowledge are in a fantastic position. If you are interested in hearing about the market and in-house opportunities, please contact me on 0203 865 1542 or simon@consultancygroup.com. We work with a range of clients such as: FTSE listed multinationals, overseas corporations, privately owned groups and growing start-ups.

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What ERP will you be selecting in 2020?

As we enter a new decade and with technology being fine-tuned, customers have a vast range of choice when it comes to selecting the right fit ERP solution for their business. Historically, SAP and Oracle have been the main players in the market, dominating for a number of years, but with smaller, smarter and specific technology being created they now have more choice and can really drill down to what their needs are to ensure they are correctly moving their business forward using data and customer behaviours. I have selected my five ERP systems that I feel are going to be the go-to systems this year: 1) Oracle Netsuite The industries real avant-garde ERP solution has worked itself to the top of the list with other solutions playing catch-up with their cloud offerings. Oracle have improved their financial and organisational offerings and they are reaping the rewards. They had mainly been operating at the mid-market level providing an exceptional solution but now moving into the enterprise market with some great deployments and success stories. Netsuite is holding its own against some of the larger solutions such as D365 providing real scalability when selecting. I would say keep in mind that it still has some tweaks to be made but I would suggest ensuring you are fully aware of any limitations when you are selecting. 2) Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) It is no surprise that D365 is in my top five, largely because I am a fan and have been apart of some really challenging but successful deployments with my clients who are reaping the rewards of its ability to scale between mid-market and enterprise business models. Microsoft have built a product which is very flexible and can bolt on seamlessly to other applications which provides less risk and a real ROI. The feedback received from my clients and network is that if they were to start a new D365 implementation they would select the right partner who can facilitate and ensure realistic “go live” dates. 3) Oracle ERP Cloud I have seen some real growth within the Oracle product line and feel the product is maturing with many of its functions providing a real strong functionality base which entail allows it to hold up well against such counterparts as SAP S/4HANA. The above makes it an attractive proposition when selecting with attractive cost, risk and some core business benefits. 4) Sage X3 Probably not one that comes to mind immediately but a real strong contender in the logistics and manufacturing arena within the mid-market. The low-cost, low risk mantra works well, and they have had some strong success in deployments going up against the SAP and Oracles of the world. The area of improvement is that they are not able to progress in the larger enterprise logistics market and if you have a global presence the functionality may be limiting. 5) SAP S/4HANA There has been a huge amount of care and investment gone into plugging gaps into the S/4HANA platform which holds itself well amongst the top quartile of solutions for large enterprise companies. They have been smart with ensuring they have acquired smart with Ariba and SuccessFactors to name a few. The 2025 deadline has seen a low level of conversion to date with not many adoptions in the mid/upper market. There is still work to be done from them and I think ensuring they reduce the limitations they should be in a good market position. Summary The above are my opinions through talking to my network and being part of implementations, upgrades and feedback, I have received. I would always recommend that you do your due diligence when selecting an ERP solution ensuring you have the right blend of client side resource and business resource to ensure you are pulling the right levers to deliver and lastly please ensure you plan and be realistic when doing so as it can be challenging when going through such a huge bit of change.

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Don't be put off by a CVA

The competition in the High Street across the Casual Dining and Fast Food industry has never been as intense as it is now. While a number of brands continue to thrive, new brands popping up, offering the latest experience in grab-and-go Asian, Pasta, Mexican & Vegan to name just a few, has resulted in a few well documented cases recently of this growing competition leading to financial difficulties for some of the UKs best known chains. You may have seen the recent media coverage of the likes of Prezzo and Carluccio’s entering a CVA process, for example. However, as a prospective employer, a CVA is not the doom and gloom it may first seem. What is a CVA? In Lehmann’s terms, a CVA is an alternative to Administration, whereby an agreement is made by the company with its creditors to carry out a repayment of its debts with mutually agreed terms, with the basis often being a renegotiated value or timescale. Why a CVA? As opposed to an going into Administration and winding up, in a CVA case, the Directors of the business can stay in their position. What this frequently means is that these Directors are required to change the strategy of the business and streamline areas which may have previously been overlooked. It is a much less public affair than a company going into Administration. The less press coverage and scaremongering available to the public and customers, the less long-term financial impact it is going to have on the business. Although 75% of creditors are required to agree to a CVA, for those that are in agreement this means that they get to retain a customer in the long term and still receive a value of the debt owed. In an ideal supplier/customer relationship, payments are made on time and in full but let’s be realistic, this is business and all industries and companies experience difficult times and nothing is more valued than long-term professional relationships between businesses. Why work for a company that has been through a CVA? Being approached to work for an organisation that has gone through such troubling times can be daunting, but it does not necessarily spell danger for your career and job security. The likes of Carluccio’s and Prezzo are testament to the positive outcomes that can be had by going through the process and coming out the other side. The exposure you can get from an Accounting point of view in this situation can be excellent; being involved with strategy review, stakeholder management, commercial decision making and key financial analysis can be great, especially if it is a turnaround project and you can assist in getting the company back on track to its profit targets. There will be a need for you to carry out due diligence in this instance, analysing the published accounts, speaking with those within the business and understanding exactly where they are at this moment in time and there will be times where it may be too much of a risk. However, if there’s an opportunity to make an informed decision, go for it; it might prove to be one of your most valuable career moves. If you are interested in discussing new opportunities across the Hospitality sector, get in touch with on 0203 854 1818 or e-mail me on hunter@consultancygroup.com

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UK In-House Tax Recruitment Market

The in-house tax recruitment market is buoyant and this year has kicked off with a number of broad in-house tax roles. In comparison to the start of last year, we have seen a growth in a number of roles we are registering. Given the shortage of appropriate candidates at the NQ-5 years experience level, as well as the fact that the Big 4 are working hard on retention, salaries have continued to outstrip experience. Demand has been strong at all levels though predictably the core market from £45,000 to £70,000 is where we have been the busiest. Within this bracket it is not uncommon for candidates to receive multiple offers and counter-offers from their current employer. The burden of compliance and complex regulation remains an issue for our clients and we are seeing a lot of investment within this area to offset pressure from financial authorities and prevent unnecessary reputational risk. Whilst recruitment within the banking sector has slowed, the trend of recruiting newly qualified tax candidates to cover compliance-focused roles is one that we have seen across the in-house market. Interestingly, the difficulty of persuading Big 4 candidates to step away from advisory work means that businesses are increasingly looking to candidates who have trained in Top 10/Top 20 firms or started out in in-house to fill these vacancies. Our tax recruitment desk covers FTSE 100/250, privately owned and overseas corporations in the Retail, Consumer, Media, Technology, Property, Construction, Oil, Gas, Energy, Manufacturing, Business Services. If you are interested in hearing about the market and in-house opportunities, please contact Phil Smyth or myself on simon@consultancygroup.com and p.smyth@consultancygroup.com

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