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The CISO role is relatively new and the competitive advantages it brings are beginning to become apparent, write Nicola O’Connor and Yousef Hazimee. Cybersecurity is an ever-growing concern for all businesses and one that cannot be ignored. In larger organisations, the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is typically responsible for overseeing the security control environment and keeping things secure. However, this traditionalist view of the CISO does not consider opportunities for the CISO to create value for the business and turn their position into a leadership role that provides a competitive advantage for the organisation. So how can a CISO successfully evolve their role given their existing commitments? And what must the organisation do to support them in this endeavour? Business and leadership All CISOs must have a thorough understanding of the organisation’s business and product lines, and overall business model. This is imperative as the CISO role typically spans the breadth of the organisation. Without this, the CISO cannot maximise value creation as they will not know what is considered truly valuable from a business perspective. This understanding can be achieved through experiential learning, multi-disciplinary work experience, and the establishment of cross-functional committees. In addition to understanding the business, the CISO must ensure appropriate support from the C-suite and the board. This requires strong leadership and interpersonal skills to ensure that sufficient resources (financial and human capital) can be secured. The breadth of the CISO role, as well as regulatory guidance – most notably in the financial sector – means that cybersecurity is a board-level issue. This provides an excellent opportunity for the CISO to articulate their value through demonstrable delivery against cybersecurity objectives, showing how these align and support the broader organisational strategy, and how they protect the business. The board must also empower the CISO by giving them opportunities to make board presentations and provide updates periodically. The board should challenge them and ensure that they are receiving meaningful cybersecurity metrics that inform their decision-making. These are imperative as quantitative metrics are easily consumable for board members and trends are more readily identifiable. Strategy and risk CISO activities should always align with organisational objectives. A cybersecurity strategy is therefore vital as it not only shifts the CISO role from that of a technical role to a strategic one, but also gives both the CISO and the board assurance that the CISO’s activities align to broader organisational objectives. The added benefit for the CISO is that a defined and approved strategy can help secure resources. Another way to highlight the importance of cybersecurity in an organisational context is by embedding cyber risk as part of the wider IT and enterprise risk frameworks. This allows the CISO to frame cyber risk in a business context and ideally, identify services and dollar losses pertinent to individual cyber threats. Framing cyber risk alongside other enterprise risks (such as regulatory and financial risk, for example) gives a more accurate reflection of the overall risk to the business and can inform decisions about prioritisation and investment. Fundamental to this is a clearly articulated, quantifiable and proactively managed risk appetite, which is necessary to support the decision-making process. Product development Building relationships and gaining knowledge of product lines and services allows for greater involvement of the CISO in product development. This embeds a ‘security by design’ culture, which allows for more seamless and appropriate security controls while exponentially reducing the costs and time to remediate defects as they are discovered earlier in the development cycle. This reduces the time to market and ensures a smoother customer/user experience while allowing for greater functionality on potentially less secure customer endpoints, such as mobile devices. This is particularly important for higher-risk apps, such as mobile banking. Greater CISO involvement earlier in the development lifecycle also allows for better use of emerging technologies in a secure manner. Evolving the CISO role CISO roles have traditionally been inward-facing but this is starting to change, particularly for CISOs in larger organisations. For example, clients now regularly look for evidence of suppliers’ adherence to security frameworks and standards, and these are generally considered a minimum for larger tenders. Other stakeholders such as rating agencies, insurers and pension trustees now seek assurances that appropriate cybersecurity controls are in place. By 2022, Gartner claims that cybersecurity ratings will become as important as credit ratings when assessing the risk of business relationships. From a reputational perspective, the CISO benefits from the fact that cybersecurity affects almost everyone given the pervasiveness of social networks and people’s growing digital footprints. This gives rise to opportunities, through outreach and corporate social responsibility initiatives, to educate communities on how they can better protect themselves and their children online, which is especially important for digital natives who may not understand the scale and impact of their digital footprint. This can, in turn, create digital trust in your brand. The CISO role is relatively new, and the competitive advantages it brings are beginning to become apparent. No longer is it the CISO’s sole responsibility to protect the business; they can also be a real differentiator between organisations as the impact of their role on an organisation’s bottom line becomes more evident. The most significant value creation will be achieved by those organisations that select the right CISO and empower them to deliver. CISO: Creating a competitive edge In a recent survey, security was considered the number one reason for selecting a bank among US participants. Meanwhile, in the UK, 85% of consumers claim that they will change their spending habits with brands that have been the subject of a security breach or hack. When factoring in growing compliance requirements, data growth rates and a global shortage of cybersecurity talent, it is not surprising that most Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) concentrate on their core role of protecting the business. These CISOs, however, risk missing a valuable opportunity to become a real enabler and strategic driver for the business. Through a combination of active stakeholder management, goal alignment and ensuring a thorough understanding of business and product lines, a CISO can create demonstrable value and transform their role from one of pure risk management to one of strategic importance that can make decisions at the highest level of the organisation. As a simple demonstration of how security can provide a competitive advantage, look no further than mobile banking. Security in mobile banking apps is of the utmost importance, but it can be seen to restrict the functionality and service offerings on these apps. Through new technologies and the application of security by design principles, robust and user-friendly controls can be used to safely introduce new, higher-risk functionality such as one-time payments and direct debit/standing order set-ups. This can allow banks to differentiate themselves from their competitors and gain market share.  Nicola O’Connor is Chief Information Security and IT Risk Officer at AIB. Yousef Hazimee is Cyber Security Practice Manager at AIB.

Feb 10, 2020
Management

The General Data Protection Regulation mandates organisations to embed privacy by design into the development of new initiatives involving the use of personal data. Donal Murray discusses the impact of privacy by design from a practical perspective, and explores its benefits. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has changed European privacy rules significantly. The introduction of the concept of privacy by design (PbD) is one of these changes but many organisations have struggled to understand what it entails. For those that have adopted PbD correctly, the burden of GDPR compliance can greatly decrease while also having the potential to achieve operational as well as commercial gains. What is privacy by design? PbD is a requirement placed on organisations that must comply with the GDPR. The specific requirement is detailed in Article 25 of the regulation. PbD holds that organisations must consider privacy at the initial design stages and throughout the entire development of new products, processes or services that involve processing personal data. This means that privacy is considered at the earliest of stages and reduces the risk of privacy bolted onto a system or product at a later stage. While this may initially seem complex, it is, in fact, easier to implement than applying privacy considerations after a design is fully developed.  What are the origins of privacy by design? Although PbD has become a new legal requirement in Europe under the GDPR, the concept is not new. It originated in Canada in the mid-90s and was developed by Dr Ann Cavoukian, a recognised leading privacy expert who held the position of Information and Privacy Commissioner in Ontario for three terms. In October 2010, regulators at the International Conference of Data Protection Authorities and Privacy Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution recognising PbD as an essential component of fundamental privacy protection. It is touched upon in many well-known frameworks; however, many of them have come under much criticism.   Why should organisations focus on privacy by design? Privacy by design promotes a privacy-conscious culture within an organisation. If done correctly, it embeds privacy thinking into many aspects of an organisation’s operations. Further, as it focuses on early privacy considerations and checks prior to new products, systems and processes being released, it greatly decreases the risk of non-compliance with the GDPR and enables a sustainable GDPR/privacy-compliant environment as an organisation evolves.  From an operational perspective, a strong PbD framework can present efficiencies and reduce costs. Consciously considering and planning for the personal data you want to use, the purpose for which you want to use it and how to do this legitimately greatly reduces the chance of discovering that embedding privacy is technologically challenging, expensive or even impossible at a later stage. Knowing what data you want to use at an early stage and being confident in its usage can make the development process more efficient and makes it easier to be transparent to those data subjects. Transparency is critical when it comes to earning the trust to collect the data in the first place.  Implementing a robust framework can also present commercial advantages. It is seen as an enhancement to a brand and a key element in building trust with an increasingly privacy-conscious public.  Implementation While frameworks exist that cover PbD, many of them are too rigid for real benefits to be realised. The key to implementing PbD is adapting privacy to the business and not forcing a boilerplate framework. PbD is optimally implemented when privacy measures are designed based on the specific ways of working within an organisation. The approach to achieving an efficient PbD implementation consists of three steps:  1. Identify and understand: In order to tailor privacy measures to an organisation’s operations, it is important to have a detailed understanding of your organisation’s design processes – of which there could be many across different functions. Once you identify the relevant design processes, an exercise should be performed to obtain a comprehensive analysis of the steps involved in each process. If the processes are not already formally defined, it is useful to spend time mapping the design steps as this will support later PbD implementation activities. As well as the design steps, it’s also key that you understand what teams and third parties are involved in executing the process, and the tools and formats (e.g. Excel, Word checklists) used in each.  2. Evolve: Once the processes and ways of working are fully understood, specific privacy measures should be designed to fit them. The objective of these measures is to ensure that certain privacy topics are considered and assessed at suitable points in the identified processes. These privacy measures could take many different forms. For example, ethical questions built into a design brainstorming session; user stories built into development; or privacy checklists asking a series of questions on the purpose of processing at the initial design stages. These measures are to be applied to identified steps within your design processes and are designed in line with how the current process works. Tailoring the measures to the current processes allows for seamless integration. Together, these set of measures create the Privacy by Design Toolkit.  3. Establish: Implement the measures into your design processes and train employees involved in those processes to ensure the measures are understood and executed correctly. While these measures typically do not require significant process change, the main challenge is ensuring that each measure is executed consistently at the required standard. Those executing the measures are typically not privacy specialists, so educating and training individuals is a critical factor in achieving a sustainable PbD framework.  Think of ethics, not just compliance There have been many public cases where personal data has been used perfectly in line with the rules, but far outside societal and ethical norms. In a PbD process, measures can be built-in to detect cases like these. For instance, to what extent an idea or initiative may be considered unethical can be found by asking a number of questions:  Can I explain why I’m going to process this personal data and what I intend to do with it? Would my family and friends be comfortable if their personal data was used in this idea? Would I be happy to explain my idea in the daily news? Does my idea match the values of the company? Where the answers to these types of questions point towards an attitude of trying to hide the idea from the public eye or not wanting to be part of the data processing, the idea may be unethical and may need to be redesigned.  Compliance PbD is integral to ensuring compliance with data privacy legislation for numerous reasons. First, because effective PbD involves seeking independent testing of privacy and security controls, it helps to maintain best practices. Second, PbD builds an organisation’s brand by fostering greater consumer confidence and trust (through, for example, better management of post-breach incidents) and, in turn, supports organisations in their quest for a competitive advantage. In a reactive approach, the costs are much greater, such as through class-action lawsuits, the damage to reputation and loss of consumer confidence and trust.  In summary, PbD reduces the likelihood of fines, penalties and the resulting financial and reputational damage, and ensures that a firm stays ahead of the legislative curve, thereby minimising compliance risk.   Donal Murray is a Director in Risk Advisory in Deloitte Ireland, where he leads the Data Privacy Services team.

Feb 10, 2020
Management

Chartered Accountants in management positions can lead the way by encouraging their teams to use data visualisation tools. By Richard Day and Alannah Comerford   In this series, we explore the power of visualisation and data analytics and the benefits to Chartered Accountants at any stage in their career. The FAE syllabus has been updated to include some data analytics tools and techniques, and this will bring all newly qualified Chartered Accountants into contact with Tableau, Alteryx and UIPath. In the December issue, we suggested that visualisation tools provide advantages beyond Excel in analysing data. They represent a game-changer in terms of drilling down into information and unlocking the value in a company’s data. Chartered Accountants in management positions can lead the way by identifying opportunities to derive significant benefits and ensuring that their teams experiment with these techniques. Management reporting The area of management reporting often provides a rich vein for visualisation opportunities. Most teams have some element of such reporting, and there is likely to be a traditional management reporting pack. This pack may contain many pages of information and is likely produced many times over for different business units within an organisation. Pages and analyses are rarely removed from such documents and, as such, they have often grown over several years. This reporting pack may, therefore, represent an unwieldy block of information in the standard tabular format with perhaps a sprinkling of graphs. Incorporating data visualisation would present the opportunity to simplify management reporting by presenting complex information on a reduced number of schedules with the ability to include multiple business units in one presentation. It would also allow the user to drill down into individual business units interactively. It may also be helpful to present information that compares results by business unit, by product or by some other relevant category such as location or customer segment. All of these analyses are possible without visualisation, but delivering them all without making the report interactive would result in huge files with many tabs. The report would become almost as unwieldy as the current versions produced. Visualisation is critical if you wish to include a vast amount of analysis in one simple, easy-to-navigate file. It is always useful to review the information provided in such reports, taking account of why the various elements are needed. Considering the introduction of visualisation could complement a determination to bring clarity and a fresh perspective to collating and reporting the data. This would facilitate the selection of the right types of visuals to meet reporting objectives. Improved use of reporting and dashboards of this type should assist in the analysis of trends and patterns in all aspects of performance, whether financial or operational. It helps managers understand trends and can turn management reports into critical tools for decision-making. Project reporting Given the level of organisational change, there are always projects ongoing. We recommend the introduction of visualisation to the reporting currently used in these projects, from status reporting to issue management. The combination of the visual presentation with the interactive ability to drill down elevates this reporting. Stakeholders can view the overall status in a very speedy fashion and easily focus on issues causing delay or aspects that are of particular interest. Citizen-led analytics The above may encourage managers to introduce data visualisation into their regular reporting, which represents a business-led scenario. We also recommend a citizen-led approach where the team members, and Chartered Accountants in particular, are empowered to use analytics techniques, including visualisation, to improve how regular and ad hoc analytics are carried out day-to-day. This requires the chosen tool for the organisation to be made available to all team members, along with basic training. Managers can be hugely influential in the success or otherwise of this approach, and it represents an excellent opportunity to bring positive change to the team. Management can drive the tone at the top, but most opportunities to use visualisation will be identified by those who routinely compile and present analyses. Groups that share success stories and present their analyses will also contribute to a successful rollout and will prompt others to think about how these techniques could be useful in their area. We could discuss more examples in terms of the possible use of Tableau or similar tools, but we recommend that you make a start – whether you are in management or just starting your career as a Chartered Accountant. In the next issue, we will explore the advantages of manipulating data in a more robust and repeatable way to support the production of these useful visualisations. Richard Day FCA is Partner, Data Analytics & Assurance, at PwC Ireland. Alannah Comerford ACA is Senior Manager, Data Analytics & Assurance, at PwC Ireland.

Feb 10, 2020
Management

Olivia McEvoy outlines the diversity and inclusion issues at play in companies across the island of Ireland. As part of EY’s commitment to building a better working world, the firm conducts an annual survey to benchmark diversity and inclusion activity in organisations across the island of Ireland. The third survey reflects the experience of more than 150 C-suite leaders, human resource directors and diversity and inclusion leads. The respondents were drawn from both indigenous Irish and global organisations of varying sizes across a range of diverse sectors. This article outlines how organisations view and position diversity and inclusion. Smart working It is encouraging to note that appetite for diversity and inclusion remains constant. 100% of businesses say it is vital to business performance, and 82% recognise the impact of diversity of thought on decision and risk excellence. Indeed, there is no shortage of appreciation of the connection with diversity and inclusion and more significant customer and employee engagement, productivity, innovation and creativity, as well as talent acquisition and retention. With 95% of survey respondents aware of the pending Gender Pay Gap legislation, which is scheduled to take effect in 2020, significant numbers (71%) are also embracing a critical means of addressing the gender pay gap: a smart working culture. Smart working is a set of practices that add greater flexibility to work methods through innovative solutions and is measured by the achievement of results regardless of where and how employees perform their work. Flexible location, schedule, hours worked, and shared responsibility are some of the markers of smart working. Some organisations refer to smart working as agile, flexible, new ways of working or modern ways of working. The Gender Pay Gap legislation will also provide welcomed impetus and transparency, albeit 60% of organisations already publicly communicate information about their diversity and inclusion goals and targets. Absence of accountability However, there is still a ‘diversity and inclusion disconnection’ between what organisations are saying and what they are doing in this space. Leadership behaviour is the cornerstone of an inclusive environment and enables a culture of psychological safety, but just over half (53%) take responsibility to call out inappropriate behaviour and language. Leadership accountability is one of the most significant game-changers in achieving meaningful transformation, but a critically low 24% of leaders have diversity and inclusion goals or targets tied to their performance metrics and reward. Measuring the impact of diversity and inclusion on performance is instrumental but a rarity (16%) in organisations. Investment is also inextricably linked to enhanced organisational reputation, decision-making and talent attraction, but a third (31%) of organisations invest nothing and 43% spend less than €25,000. The majority of actual investment is a combination of events (63.8%), networks and network membership fees (52.2% and 40.6% respectively) and sponsorship (30.4%) rather than in the more strategic and systemic changes needed to develop the processes, capability and behaviours required to achieve lasting change. Delivering on diversity With ‘business as usual’ often enough to overwhelm, it is easy to get distracted and presume that if someone else in the organisation is talking about diversity and inclusion, that is enough. Indeed, lots of talk about it leads us to believe that the diversity and inclusion box is being ticked. But box-ticking is not enough. Talking is not enough. We need to adopt a transformational approach that embeds diversity and inclusion as part of our systems, structures and, ultimately, our culture if we want to realise meaningful change; and we must be bold personal agents of that change. As evidenced in the EY Ireland 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Survey report, there is some progress in some areas but regression in others – and certainly nothing like the ‘gear change’ called for in previous years. Rather than make exaggerated claims or aspire to progress, we need to be able to proclaim positive outcomes and actual results and deliver on diversity and inclusion. Everybody in? Olivia McEvoy is Director of Diversity & Inclusion in People Advisory Services at EY Ireland.   EY is launching its fourth annual Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) survey of organisations across the island of Ireland and we would be very grateful for your participation. The survey will remain open until 19 February 19th. Take the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/EYDiversityInclusionSurveyIreland2020

Feb 10, 2020
Management

Sarah Daly explains how introducing some new time management methods into your day can help you manage your time more efficiently. In business, time is definitely money. Yet, while learning to prioritise competing demands is a skill that I have tried to develop over the years, like many business owners and managers, I find that unless I consciously manage time, there is always a risk of spending too many hours working ‘in’ the business and not enough hours working ‘on’ it. Talking to other accountants, I know that I’m not alone with this problem. In a busy office where clients phone in with urgent requests throughout the day, it is easy to fall into a pattern of running from one crisis to another. While some of these demands are genuinely urgent and have to be dealt with there and then, others are less urgent, and some – like spending too much time on email – can be a habit that, although neither urgent nor important, can take up a significant chunk of time. The key to good time management is learning to understand how you and your team spend your time each day so that you can identify opportunities to improve efficiency. The idea of analysing tasks and learning how to allocate time appropriately is not new. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, management guru Stephen Covey explains that by categorising tasks into those that are ‘important and urgent’, ‘important but not urgent’, ‘urgent but not important’, and ‘not urgent and not important’ can help you get ahead of the game. Categorise First thing is to decide what tasks go in which category. Where does your daily check-in with staff go on the list? How about returning client calls? Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first (obviously) while those that are in the ‘not urgent and not important’ category may not need to be done at all. At least not by you. Tools to help Today, there are tools that can help analyse how you and your team allocate your time, from monitoring time spent on social media to analysing time spent on particular projects or clients. One that I particularly like is the MyHours time tracking solution which has helped me to identify my most valuable work and eliminate time-wasting activities. Dedicated email time Another technique I find useful is having two slots a day for email — one in the morning and one toward the end of the day — rather than allowing email to constantly interrupt me. For me, email is usually in the ‘important but not urgent’ category, but your emails might be important and urgent, so adjust your email time as needed. Outsourcing It is worth reminding yourself – and your clients – that time-consuming administrative tasks can often be outsourced to specialist service providers, freeing business owners and managers to spend more time working 'on' rather than 'in' the business. What means the most to you? Finally, at this time of the year, it is worth reflecting on whether the things that mean most to us – like spending time with family and friends or looking after our health and wellbeing – are sufficiently high priorities on our ‘to do’ list, falling into the ‘important and urgent category’. If not, now is the time to get them on to our list of priorities for the coming year. Sarah Daly is Founder and CEO of GroForth.

Jan 10, 2020
Management

A new report proposes measures for the sustainability of owners’ management companies and lays the foundation for a more structured approach to managing apartment complexes or managed estates. By David Rouse In a professional audit or reporting capacity, Chartered Accountants may encounter owners’ management companies (OMC). Readers living in an apartment complex or managed estate may even have been asked to serve as an OMC director. OMCs, while in form incorporated typically as companies limited by guarantee (CLG), are in substance hybrid entities. They sit at a corporate crossroads between not-for-profit companies, property management businesses and residents’ associations (see Figure 1). Many readers will be familiar with the legacy construction and financial issues facing these companies. High-profile cases such as Priory Hall and Longboat Quay, as well as other less prominent estates, have featured in the press in recent years while corporate governance failings in OMCs receive periodic attention in court reporting. The country’s largest OMCs have multi-million euro annual service charge budgets. And yet, the stewardship of these companies is entrusted to unpaid, untrained directors (the term “volunteer director” is deliberately avoided, as in law, there is no such thing – a director is a director). There is as yet no firm handle on the number of OMCs in the country. However, it is estimated that the upper limit is likely to be about 8,000 companies. New report A recent independent report titled Owners’ Management Companies – Sustainable Apartment Living for Ireland considers issues that will be familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of managed estates and OMCs. The report was jointly commissioned by the Housing Agency and Clúid Housing. The Housing Agency works with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, local authorities, and approved housing bodies (AHB) in the delivery of housing and housing services. Clúid is the State’s largest AHB, managing  just over 7,000 homes across the country. The inadequacy of annual service charges, failure to provide for building maintenance (sinking) funds, and the persistent problem of mounting debtors are just some of the topics assessed. International best practice is examined, and Ontario and New South Wales are among the comparator jurisdictions featured. The future demand for high-density housing is signalled in the context of new Government policy, such as the National Planning Framework and the Climate Action Plan. To audit or not to audit? Recommendations for reform across a range of relevant regulatory systems are proposed. Of interest to the accountancy profession will be the recommendation for the removal of the audit exemption currently available to OMCs, most of which, as noted earlier, are incorporated as CLGs. Companies Act 2014 provides the audit exemption for CLGs. In this way, small not-for-profit companies without shareholders may benefit from a reduced financial and administrative burden. (It should be noted that under sections 334 and 1218 of the Companies Act, any one member of the CLG may in effect demand an audit.) However, while OMCs are not-for-profit, they are responsible for multi-million euro property assets in the form of estate common areas. Considering the centrality of OMCs to property values, good title, and quality of living spaces, the value of an audit to members in terms of assurance, transparency, and governance cannot be overstated. Finance and governance The creditworthiness of OMCs in the context of current under-funding is also considered. Regulation over and above corporate compliance enforced by the ODCE is recommended. Dispute resolution outside of the courts is advocated, as are more cost-effective avenues for service charge debt recovery. Personal insolvency practitioners will be aware that OMC service charge debt is an “excludable debt” under the Personal Insolvency Act 2012. Only with the consent of the creditor (i.e. the OMC) may management fee balances be reduced or written off in a Personal Insolvency Arrangement. The report’s other recommendations include mandatory training for OMC directors, the standardisation of accounts to a format prescribed for OMCs, and enhanced insurance obligations. Reform may be some way off. In the meantime, practitioners should be aware that the Institute’s practice toolkit, Owners’ Management Company PQAs, was updated in 2018. This replaces the 2011 version. As the Institute’s product catalogue notes, and as may be recognised from sectoral weaknesses highlighted in this commentary, although OMCs can be small in size, they may be higher-risk clients. Future regulation of the sector could mitigate a number of the risks identified.   David Rouse FCA is an advisor with the Housing Agency, a director of the Apartment Owners’ Network CLG, and a director of one of the country’s largest OMCs.

Oct 01, 2019
Personal Impact

Garvan Callan explains why digital transformation is both necessary and defining for companies and their leaders. If the Olympic Games handed out medals for buzzwords, ‘digital transformation’ would surely bring home the gold. However, the ubiquitous overuse of the term has also removed all clarity from the concept. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, though software vendors and marketing overlords selling digital transformation as the stairway to heaven do look a little guilty. What is important is that we reclaim digital transformation from its superficial buzzword status and fully understand why and, most importantly, how. Full contact – not a spectator sport One of the first pre-conceptions about digital transformation is that it arrives in the cloud, in a box, through an app or in lines of code. While technology solutions play a part, they don’t deliver digital transformation on their own (far from it) but are critical enablers in conveying a modern strategy and ambition. Nor does digital transformation arrive on a PowerPoint deck from a strategy guru or a social media article. One must imagine it, develop it, and make it happen – for your customers, your market and your context. Digital transformation involves a fundamental rethink of how organisations make use of people, processes and technology to improve performance. It is a complete change in how your organisation develops and delivers value to your customers, colleagues and investors. Organisations that truly want to embark on a digital transformation strategy start and end with the customer, creating a working environment that nurtures creativity, drives growth and delivers new arcs of value. The 360° approach Figure 1 depicts a 360° approach to digital transformation, split across five layers. At the core are the processes, which enable the revenue-creating propositions (features, products and services) that are brought to market through the engagement layer. The workplace is the people, tools and environment harnessed to create those propositions, with underpinning technology making it all possible. Processes are at the epicentre of transformation. This is where what is required to deliver your products and services is hard-coded. Therefore, this is also where the costs lie and risks exist. Taking out unnecessary steps (simplification), automating steps through low-cost, mature technologies such as robotics and then digitising value chains end-to-end is a great place to start the transformation. Does this mean it’s not about the customer? Of course not. Listening to what your customers and colleagues say about where the friction lies should drive the change. The most successful transformations start by reducing unnecessary ‘effort’ anchored in processes, and retiring whole products and services that don’t add, or even destroy, value. This not only improves the customer and employee experience (assuming you hold everyone’s hand through the change curve), but also reduces risk and releases capacity for the innovation of new propositions – constellations of products and services that fulfil customers’ desires, developed from customer insights leveraged from process-transformation analysis, and informed by techniques such as design thinking and the value proposition canvas. Digitising value chains also facilitates the capture of data, the fuel that powers continuous improvement programmes and the application of artificial intelligence (AI). Combining new data with AI can support a step-change in the personalisation of marketing and improve sales-funnel conversion, automate back-office processing, and support channels in becoming faster and more efficient for the customer. Executing process transformation also offers brands a range of points with which they can tell the story of change, of building a better business, of listening to customers and responding to needs – message opportunities often overlooked in the transformation trenches. The workplace and technology Empowering colleagues with the right tools and environment, and enough time to manage the complexities across the transformation layers, is fundamental to the optimum workplace. Harnessing the team’s insights and motivation, and liberating them to make customer-oriented improvements, is the defining prerequisite. Creating the enabling conditions for such a journey requires strong foundations, and here’s where technology fits in – not last on the list by any means. Technologists and leaders who immerse themselves in the process, proposition, engagement and workplace layers can then determine the technology required, and the operating model needed, to deliver successful transformation and a thriving organisation. The customer is the touchstone Knowing that you need to implement a digital transformation on this scale is one thing, but where to begin is quite another. Embarking on such a monumental organisational shift can be extremely challenging for even the most experienced leaders. To find a good starting point, become deeply knowledgeable about what your customers want to achieve when they engage with you, about their ‘jobs to be done’. It is not only the marketeers who should have such insight into the customer experience; everyone involved in digital transformation needs to have a forensic understanding of the customer and how your business does (or does not) facilitate them. Now that you know what you want digital transformation to achieve for your customers, you need to roll up your sleeves and ask: Are large organisational changes necessary? Do our teams require re-skilling and re-orientating? Do hard re-prioritisation decisions need to be made? You will most likely answer ‘yes’, but beware of procrastination; the time to start is now. Mobilise the effort by making the desire for better customer outcomes the focus. The customer guiding you on ‘what to do and why’ must be the unequivocal and undeniable touchstone to motivate, guide and, if required in the transformation haze, reset the mission at hand. Getting digital transformation right Since successful digital transformation is a 360° endeavour that spans the breadth and depth of the business, each organisation’s roadmap will be different. That said, there are some common principles to abide by: 1. Gain consensus from the whole team: whether your project/programme involves building the new or enhancing the existing, it’s imperative to have buy-in from everyone involved, leveraging the customer as the touchstone and data as the tinder. 2. Embrace the unknown with adaptive design: embracing an adaptive design and project management approach allows for tweaks to be made to the transformation strategy as needs arise – and they will arise. Remember, you’re building your transformation strategy around humans (customers, colleagues and investors) and humans don’t act in linear and predictable ways. 3. De-risk: delivering transformation and building a customer-centric organisation involves taking more than a few risks. Communicate the ambition and the stretch outcomes you’re working towards. Then de-risk by managing the change activity in sprints of two to three weeks. This supports decision-making, seeing progress or calling failure early and learning quickly. Leaders should allow teams to ‘learn as they do’ and build an environment of self-sufficient innovation. In the long-term, this is a great de-risker: smaller projects equate to smaller risks. 4. Initiate and react: Amazon’s game-changing ‘one-click economy’ has put just about every other industry into reaction mode, attempting to catch up with customers’ expectations. But that doesn’t mean that your whole transformation strategy should be a reactive response to the wider e-commerce forces at play. Get ahead of the game with pre-emptive or first-strike moves to truly future-proof your organisation. Larger, well-resourced organisations that are good at this often use game theory exercises; for smaller organisations, less elaborate scenario planning activities can be equally effective. Is it that easy? If it were that easy, everyone would have done it. Most organisations are trying and a few are thriving; some are just embarking and starting to grind it out, while only a few have yet to begin. But let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. It takes years. It takes vision. It takes resilience and it takes persistence. But it is necessary, and it is defining. As Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.   Garvan Callan is a strategist, innovator and transformation advisor.

Feb 10, 2020
Personal Impact

To create a culture free of groupthink, leaders must first make themselves vulnerable, writes Dr Annette Clancy. Have you ever wanted to speak up in a group, but decided that it was better not to? Or have you ever been sure that your co-workers were making a huge mistake, but felt that you couldn’t intervene to voice a dissenting view? If either scenario sounds familiar, you may have been affected by groupthink. The term was coined in 1971 by the psychologist, Irving Janis, who wanted to understand the systematic errors made by teams involved in collective decision-making. Groupthink occurs when people’s desire for cohesiveness and harmony results in faulty decision-making. Two well-known examples of groupthink are the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. In the Bay of Pigs example, Janis describes the men surrounding John F. Kennedy as “one of the greatest arrays of intellectual talent in the history of American government”. There were individual dissenting voices among those men when President Kennedy gave the order for the invasion. Yet, when brought together, the group dynamic prevented them from disagreeing. The formal investigation into the Challenger Space Shuttle identified a technical fault in the o-ring, which led to the disaster. However, it also referenced “a serious flaw in the decision-making process leading up to the launch”. Concerns about the o-ring had been circulating in NASA months before the accident, but nobody took action. So, how can you spot groupthink in organisations? Janis outlined the following symptoms: 1. Invulnerability Members of the decision-making group share the illusion that they are invulnerable. This leads them to become overly optimistic and to make risky decisions. They don’t pay attention to warning signs. In the case of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Kennedy was under the illusion that he could keep secret the fact that Cuba had been invaded by the United States – even after the news leaked to the media. 2. Rationalisations Victims of groupthink ignore warnings and begin to create a rationale to defend why they ignored the warning in the first place. This entrenched position reinforces the group’s illusion of invulnerability. 3. Morality Victims believe that they are behaving morally and doing the right thing. This allows the group members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions. They create, therefore, a new morality out of their groupthink position. 4. Stereotypes The group splinters and the victims of groupthink stereotype those who are not in their group by denigrating them as stupid or not as good as them. In doing so, they reinforce their own identity. 5. Pressure Victims apply direct and indirect pressure to any member who expresses doubt about the group’s illusions. Uncertainty, individuality and questioning are extinguished. 6. Censorship Members censor their views to conform. 7. The illusion of unanimity Because nobody speaks out, everybody believes that there is unanimous agreement. How to avoid groupthink Janis’s optimal solution was that members of senior teams should rotate the role of critical evaluator. He also added that the director should accept the frank exchange of views. The best way to avoid groupthink is to welcome healthy dissent and disagreement. Conflict isn’t always a bad thing. Assigning somebody to be devil’s advocate can often introduce a welcome alternative perspective. Leaders who want to change a groupthink culture must lead from the front. Nobody is going to make themselves vulnerable or step out on a ledge because a leader has decided that “we’re not doing groupthink from now on”. Changing a culture of groupthink requires deft and sophisticated leadership that is tuned into the emotional tone of the organisation. A leader who makes themselves vulnerable first, who is willing to hear criticism and act upon it, and who makes it safe for others to do so without retribution or punishment will go a long way towards making their organisation groupthink-free.   Dr Annette Clancy is Assistant Professor at UCD School of Art, History and Cultural Policy. Annette’s research focuses on emotions in organisations.

Feb 10, 2020
Personal Impact

How can organisations keep the passion going for D&I? Dawn Leane explores how businesses can do more to successfully deliver their D&I programmes.   Diversity and inclusion (D&I) seems like a simple concept: while we are all different, we are all equal. So why has D&I become such a headache for some businesses? Organisations invest significant resources into D&I programmes, such as creating specialist roles, publishing results and setting up employee groups. However, these often fail to deliver the expected return on investment. Without results, organisations can begin to experience diversity fatigue. People become tired of ideas that don’t gain traction and employees can become sceptical that D&I is little more than a PR exercise.   Creating meaningful change To create meaningful change in an organisation, there are a few things you can do: Diagnose the specific D&I challenges the organisation is facing instead of just rolling out a standard set of programmes or initiatives. Find out what issues need to be addressed and how to measure them successfully. Are the organisation’s D&I programmes and initiatives authentic? Unconscious bias training and inclusion workshops can sometimes be implemented in order to mitigate complaints or, when poorly designed, can treat participants as if they are intolerant, which is ultimately counterproductive. Resist the temptation to tag everything as D&I. Most employees don’t want to be labelled as ‘diverse’ even in a positive way as it can create a sense of ‘otherness’. Make D&I relevant to everyone in the organisation. D&I initiatives often focus exclusively on diverse groups and fail to engage a wider audience of people. This can mean that functional and business unit leaders do not know how to support D&I within their individual areas. Embedding diversity, inclusion and belonging requires an organisational culture change – D&I values and associated behaviours must become part of the organisation’s DNA. This can only happen, however, when there is a sustained focus over a long period of time. Often, small changes have the biggest impact. Developing successful D&I programmes is not a one-size-fits-all approach, it is much more nuanced; organisations and the people who work for them are complex and dynamic. Individualised training An individualised D&I training, which involves a combination of coaching and mentoring, can be hugely beneficial to organisations. These sessions create the space for individuals to talk openly about their challenges and ask questions which they may not feel comfortable doing in a group setting.  A coaching conversation elicits, without judgement, the individual’s attitudes, beliefs and any of the issues or questions they may have. A mentoring conversation then takes this further to identify specific actions and behaviours that will make a difference. In my experience, forcing the D&I agenda in an inauthentic manner only serves to make people know which boxes to tick to be compliant. It doesn’t change attitudes or lead to sustainable change, which is essential for D&I to be successful in any organisation. Dawn Leane is Principal Consultant at Leane Leaders, Developing Inclusive Leadership. She will deliver a workshop on Leadership for Professional Women as part of Chartered Accountants Ireland's CPD programme on 25 March.

Jan 24, 2020
News

Let’s apply portfolio diversity principles to our workforces to help drive their success and close the gap on gender parity in the workplace, says Darina Barrett. Investors devote considerable time and skill to ensure that our investments are suitably diversified, and we firmly believe in the portfolio value of sustainability and diversification.  Who among us would consider an investment without including those fundamental elements for success? Why, then, are we not moving forward at a greater pace in bringing these critical qualities to our workplaces? In my view, organisations must do much more to ensure that they are building sustainable, diversified enterprises. A deliberate and concerted shift in this direction will unquestionably enhance the value of businesses and their prospects for future success. This mindset is becoming critical, given the intense competition for top talent and the vital skills that will define their success – even survival – in the digital age. Just as diversification and sustainability help safeguard the future of our investments, businesses should also adopt this approach to shape their workforces through the gender-parity lens, and now is the time to act. The best person for the team In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Klaus Schwab highlights the growing urgency for action against inequalities in the workplace. “Without the equal inclusion of half of the world’s talent, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all of society, grow our economies for greater shared prosperity or achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalised world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality.” We have spent enough time and energy addressing gender-parity and examining it from every angle imaginable. It is time to turn ideas into action. Let’s apply the power of diversity to gender parity just as we have applied diversification to investing and value enhancement, understanding that the results will be the same: stability and vastly heightened prospects for future success. At the same time, amid the growing race for talent and critical new skills in our rapidly transforming workplaces and workforces, let’s replace our pursuit of the ‘best person for the job’ with a quest that seeks the best person for the team. Turning ideas into actions We believe and live by the modern portfolio theory – look at the whole portfolio rather than one investment. Let’s put that thinking – from a diversification perspective – into concerted action for a new future of gender-parity and the heightened prospects for success that it holds. Darina Barrett FCA is a Partner in Investment Management in KPMG.

Jan 23, 2020
News

Diversity and inclusion have become part of business strategy, but how do you measure their success? Mark Fenton outlines the key areas organisations need to assess when determining the effectiveness of their D&I initiatives. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have shifted from being two HR buzzwords to key components of business strategy for many of the world’s best and most innovative companies. Businesses recognise that all organisations share the same three strategic challenges that either inhibit or enable success over the longer term: How to hire, retain and develop top talent; How to understand and connect with clients; and How to outsmart the competition. There has been a myriad of initiatives developed for organisations seeking to embrace and integrate diversity and inclusion programmes into their office culture, with a view to create a more attractive brand that will appeal to future top talent, as well as encouraging and strengthening the existing team. It will also enable organisations to understand clients better, and generate an increasingly innovative workplace to get the jump on competitors. Measuring success However, despite all of these initiatives, less attention is being paid to providing organisations with specific success measures for their D&I programmes (including quantitative and qualitative key performance indicators [KPIs]), and identifiable changes that should follow. Here are nine areas that are worthy of consideration when looking to measuring the success of your D&I initiatives. These are best assessed over time, across several diversity areas, such as gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and age (with the consideration that some may be subject to restriction around data capture availability).  Representation Look at representation in areas across governance (boards, committees) and hierarchical levels. Look at the promotions that have been attained and by whom. Recruitment Assess your applicant pool, who is brought in for an interview and who receives a job offer. It’s important to also assess the diversity of your selection panel. Remuneration Conduct a gender pay gap analysis of all employees. Financial savings Analyse the budget savings attributable to your D&I initiatives such as the utilisation of remote working (which can reduce office footprint and associated costs), the promotion of internal talent (which can reduce hiring costs and talent turnover expenses) and the improved employer brand (which can be effectively generated through day-to-day engagement and word of mouth without expensive marketing campaigns). Employee turnover Assess employee turnover rates and career break returners following parental, care, illness, sabbatical or other leave. Employee resource groups Determine the level of engagement in employee resource groups. Training Check the completion of D&I training such as unconscious bias, inclusive leadership and cultural awareness. Also, investigate the level of access employees have to these programmes. Policies and procedures Assess the policies and procedures in the organisation to ascertain whether they are supportive of gender and minority groups, parental supports and workplace agility programmes including flexible and remote working, talent sponsorship and codes of conduct. Voice Collect feedback on your D&I programmes from employees (via staff surveys), customers (through net promoter scores), and suppliers (utilising supplier diversity policies). In parallel, KPIs can be applied that cover, for example, employee churn rates, performance ratings, employee engagement/job satisfaction, absenteeism, union feedback, grievances or industrial relations-related issues. This data can be further enhanced by overlaying the empirical research that correlates integrated D&I practices with improved financial performance and increased brand value. More than a buzz word An awareness of the power and influence of D&I on corporate culture in conjunction with a framework to tangibly measure and communicate its ability to overcome key business challenges around talent, clients and competitors make D&I much more than a ‘buzz’ issue within the corridors of HR. It is the business strategy for 2020. Mark Fenton is the CEO and Founder of MASF Consulting Ltd. 

Jan 23, 2020
News

Social entrepreneurs are a valuable and necessary part of society and economy, providing much-needed social and environmental change to communities. Fiona Smiddy outlines how accountants and finance professionals can help support these local social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses whose core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Poverty, climate change, anti-social behaviour, housing and health are just some of the problems that Irish social entrepreneurs are attempting to tackle. We need to embrace and support social entrepreneurs as they are a valuable and necessary part of society and economy. Social entrepreneurs often come from range of backgrounds. They tend to see a problem in their local community and devise an innovative solution to help. However, many will run before they can walk, carried by their passion and energy. Below are just some ways that accounting and finance professionals can support their local social enterprise. Provide mentoring services As accountants, we can lend an objective mindset and critical thinking to social entrepreneurs to ensure their enterprise is set up for long-term growth. As in many entrepreneurial scenarios, the main workload often lies with the founder. However, it can be difficult to self-critique when your passion and belief in the solution to your social issue is so strong. A second set of eyes and ears, or the offering of a hand to review a business plan would be welcome support. Improve access to finance Due to their nature, social enterprises often seek alternative methods of funding. EU and government-backed programmes such as the Social Enterprise Development Fund can go a long way to support them. This €1.6 million fund was created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI) in partnership with Local Authorities Ireland and funded by IPB Insurance and the Department of Rural and Community Development. There is opportunity for similar funds to be created. With the right financial backing, combined with supportive mentoring programmes, social enterprises can provide much-needed resources to local communities. Open a co-working space With the high costs of rent, many social enterprises are born and run from kitchen tables and inefficient workspaces. Your workplace could provide a platform for social change by opening a boardroom or co-working space on a part-time basis to local social enterprises. Provide training through CSR programmes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes can go a long way to support social enterprises. Many of the skills that accountants and finance personnel possess are in demand by social enterprises. Work with your employer to identify training needs of local social enterprises and develop training programmes to assist these mission-driven businesses. Make connections and provide visibility We need more social entrepreneurs to help us find new routes toward social improvement. If you know a social enterprise through your connections or in your local community, use your platform to promote them either via LinkedIn or other social channels. You can even invite them into your workplace to promote their product or service. Social entrepreneurs are drivers of positive change. As accounting and financial professionals, we play a part in their success and must support them in creating positive change for all of us. Fiona Smiddy ACA is the Founder of Green Outlook.

Jan 19, 2020
Strategy

Building a successful practice can be a daunting prospect, but according to John Kennedy, it boils down to one elementary skill. Have you ever found yourself wondering whether your practice could be more successful? If so, you might be doing all the right work but ignoring the simple steps that could turn your effort into tangible rewards. At a basic level, successful accountancy practice owner-managers create the following: A network of high-quality and loyal clients they enjoy working with; A good income based on reasonable fees that reflect the real value of  the work they deliver; A good standard of living – not just financially, but in terms of doing things they enjoy; and A high-quality retirement as a respected and valued member of the community. All of this sounds attractive but is often far removed from the day-to-day reality of running an office. A more recognisable scenario might be spending your time on things forced upon you at the expense of concentrating on the critical steps. And when you do get around to thinking about how to build your practice, there are many options, issues and conflicting sources of advice. It is therefore unsurprising that many accountants never get to focus on the steps that are more important before the day-to-day issues drag them back. The simple truth is that some practices thrive and enjoy more success than most, while many never fulfil their potential. The latter instead get stuck on the day-to-day issues that overwhelm occasional good intentions to invest time in securing new clients or promoting the practice. In this new series of articles, I will set out the steps you should take to build the practice you want. There will be no theory or abstract ideas, and I won’t advise you to do things you don’t understand or don’t like. It’s simpler than you think Achieving success is not complicated. In truth, the key is knowing how to get past the complexity and focus on mastering a small number of straightforward tasks. When you think about it, the single most crucial step in understanding a new client is the conversation you have with them. It doesn’t matter whether they were referred to you by an existing client, heard about you from a mutual friend, or – less likely – found out about you from a branded pen. Almost every client in every practice decides to take their business there because of a conversation with someone in that practice. The ability to turn an initial conversation into a client relationship is the cornerstone of every successful practice, but this is where many potentially valuable client relationships stop – at the first conversation. Your success in these initial, and often unexpected, discussions will determine whether you get an opportunity to move on to a more substantial conversation. And you then need a series of precise steps that will build trust, deliver value and guarantee a mutually rewarding relationship. The standard approach is to feel that you need to move quickly, to jump to the things you are familiar with – but this leap takes the conversation onto ground that is not yet comfortable for your potential client. So, building a high-quality practice is about having a clear structure that enables you to move confidently from an initial, casual chat to a trusting relationship. And if one person can do that, then so can you. Much of the advice about marketing, networking, promotional gifts, websites and digital strategy won’t work for you simply because it wasn’t designed for you in the first place. Most of the existing advice was created to sell products to customers, but you are doing something very different. Building a successful practice is about building trusting relationships with clients, you need to master the ability to take the individuals you most want to work with through a sequence of specific steps. And, like most things in life, it’s easy when you know how. Getting the right fit What criteria do you use to select your clients? For many years, we have asked this question when accountants seek our help, and we do it to reframe how they think about successfully building their practice. When we probe this question, we are almost always told that the key is to get as many clients as possible. “So,” we ask, “you want anyone? Your criterion for a client is that they should have a pulse?” I believe your standards should be a bit more rigorous and for very practical reasons. To target the whole universe effectively, you will need a vast amount of money to promote your practice – not to mention an infinite amount of time to talk to all those potential clients. In truth, your pool of potential clients is much more restricted than you realise. Successful practices are built on having a clear focus on a specific, and therefore accessible, group of people. These can be people who share your interests, or they can reflect a specific aspect of your expertise, or who you are as a person. The right people for your practice very much depends on who you are. Building a successful practice is not a task exclusively for extroverts or ‘natural sellers’ or gifted networkers; if you are a quiet, reserved thinker who pursues every issue in depth, there are many clients who are looking for precisely those attributes. If you are excited, engaged and enthusiastic about the fast-moving opportunities of the ever-expanding digital world, there are other clients who want to have an accountant just like that. If a hobby or a specific interest obsesses you, that too can be the basis for building a highly successful practice. A thriving, fulfilling practice is one that brings together the type of people with whom you most want to work in a way that creates value both for them and for you. Connect in the right way For many years, we have been fascinated by the ever-increasing ways in which practice owners voluntarily waste their time, effort and money. We have seen expensive (and cheap) branded corporate gifts and a seemingly endless series of “networking opportunities” ranging from breakfast groups to conferences and sponsored events. Equally unproductive is the more recent phenomenon of websites and emails that are “done for you”, which say things that are never going to help you build the strong relationships that are essential for a thriving practice. If you find these enjoyable or fulfilling in their own right, then go ahead – but they aren’t central to building a successful practice. When you cut away the marketing theory, the promotional gimmicks and the pointless pressure of networking, you see a stark reality: every potential new client decides to work with you because you have an effective conversation with them. You get a new client by talking to them; it is that simple. And when you know how to speak to them in the right way, they will want to talk to you again. And by getting good at creating a sequence of steps, you are much more likely to get the clients you want. Focus on trust The key is to understand the structure of talking to someone in the right way. Much of the traditional advice is not the right way; it can leave you feeling uneasy – especially the bit where you are told that you need to “close the sale”. You don’t. You need to build a relationship of trust that evolves from both you and your client becoming increasingly clear on how to achieve more by working together. To talk to a potential client in the right way, you need to understand how to chat easily with them, and this means being wholly at ease yourself. You also need to know how to move the conversation from a general chat to one where they decide to become your client and to ask you to do a specific piece of work for them. When you understand how this works, it’s easy. The effective conversation structure was developed by examining a vast number of informal chats that evolved into mutually rewarding relationships. By following this blueprint, which is outlined in Table 1, you will create a system that works for you, that helps build a practice that makes you feel good each day and that delivers a steady stream of clients with whom you want to work. In this way, your practice will evolve and grow over time and so will your expertise, your reputation and your rewards. The structure of an effective conversation An effective conversation involves knowing how to listen and what to say. Prepare First you prepare a clear summary of the value your potential client most needs and a clear message to make sure they understand precisely why you are the best person to help them. Probe The most common mistake is to rush to try to convince your potential client of your value. The key to success is to become highly skilled at asking high-quality questions so the client convinces themselves that they really need your help. Present It is only when your questions have helped your client get clearer on what they need do that you begin to present your value and set out the way in which you can best help them achieve the success they seek. Propose Then – and only then – have you created the firm foundations needed to propose that you work together.  To download a more detailed overview of The Practice Builder Blueprint, visit  www.insightstrategiesonline.com.   John Kennedy is a strategic advisor. He has worked with leaders and senior management teams in a range of organisations and sectors.

Feb 10, 2020
Strategy

Jens Gladikowski explains why finance leaders need to lead more than the finance function. In today’s business environment, the role of finance leaders is more demanding than ever. They are required to run their function at low cost, create incisive insights from a complex pool of data, support risk and control governance, and manage a variety of stakeholders. They also play an increasingly critical role in business transformations – initiatives that aim to change the competitive position of an entire enterprise. By addressing five critical tasks, finance leaders can play an essential part in helping such transformations succeed. 1. Identifying value Perhaps surprisingly, a significant number of transformations do not have a comprehensive case for change that lays out their scope, rationale and benefits. For example, business cases often centre on cost-cutting to improve profit. A more thorough analysis might suggest re-directing savings into strategic areas of investment, which may yield higher returns in years to come. Finance leaders are well-placed to identify and balance competing options for the transformation scope and help set targets. That requires a holistic view of the organisation and an understanding of how value is generated and measured. In the case of one Irish consumer goods company, the CFO led an initiative that comprehensively aligned the organisation’s value drivers with corporate targets. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance measures (such as outbound delivery accuracy, for example) were then linked to those drivers. The impact of the company’s transformation can be associated with those KPIs, benefits owners assigned, and success measured. 2. Shaping the organisation of the future The future operating model is formed during a transformation. Here, finance leaders can influence critical decisions in several ways. For example: The overall business model may change with new products, services and markets introduced. Through financial modelling, scenario analysis and risk-based assessments, finance leaders can influence these decisions and help business leaders make the right choices. Operating models define responsibilities and the relationships between organisational units. Finance leaders bring a pan-organisational view and can ‘broker’ the best outcomes from an enterprise-wide perspective. Recently, a global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company assessed the relationship between its manufacturing and sales units. This required an evaluation of the impact of profit margin on transfer pricing and external reporting – the consequences of which were not fully understood outside finance. Technology enablement is at the core of many, if not all, business transformations. Finance leaders often have responsibility for IT budgets and, in conjunction with chief information officers (CIOs), need to shape the technology roadmap. This is best done up-front by assessing current, and agreeing future, capabilities. 3. Keeping stakeholders honest  It can be challenging for executives to establish the exact status of in-flight transformations. Here, finance leaders can use their analytical skills and professional scepticism to provide clarity and challenge. For example, cost-benefit projections should be adjusted as new information becomes available. Frequently, only the cost impact is assessed – and often with delays – and the effect on benefits is not always easy to evaluate. In the case of a large automation programme for an insurance company, benefits were still discovered post-go-live. The processes were deemed too complex to gain the full picture earlier, but a more rigorous financial analysis might have addressed that. There can also be a tendency among benefits owners to be conservative in their commitment to transformation targets. This may be down to a lack of buy-in or to avoid falling short of expectations, especially where they are linked to incentives. Here, finance has a role to play as a critical partner to drive ambitious, yet achievable, benefits targets. 4. Coaxing, connecting and communicating Significant research has been conducted into the future of finance. There is consensus that, generally, roles are changing from traditional scorekeepers to pro-active business advisors and (co-) owners of business decisions. Finance leaders in many organisations are already defining their purpose as influencers, business navigators and drivers of change. They often stay longer in the role and understand their organisations more deeply than other executives. The average tenure of a CFO in a FTSE 100 company is around ten years – twice that of a typical CEO. Finance leaders, with their informed view of the business, can connect different interest groups, communicate key messages and guide an organisation towards expected outcomes. 5. Leading by example A critical factor in successful transformations is aligned and robust leadership. This creates an opportunity for finance leaders to make a positive example of their function, for instance, by: Articulating a vision for finance that is aligned to the transformation objectives. Importantly, leaders must promote and live up to the values associated with that vision. Finance can influence wider cultural and organisational changes. At a national broadcaster, finance pioneered structures and performance measures that were replicated across other functions. Creating early success is essential in any project and realising quick wins is often possible in finance. One could, for example, review how reports produced by finance are used and eliminate those that don’t support decision-making.  Freeing up the best resources for the transformation. In practice, this is often a challenge – not many finance teams can release their ‘go-to’ people. Yet having precisely these people on projects is arguably the most critical driver of success. Finance leaders have an essential role to play in business transformations. Aside from bringing financial understanding and business insights, their primary purpose is to support and lead on the structural, cultural and behavioural changes that are critical to successful business transformations. To do them well, finance leaders must, therefore, lead on a lot more than finance. Technology: Easier than ever? A key challenge in a transformation is selecting the right enabling technologies and implementing them successfully. The technology landscape has changed dramatically during recent years: many businesses deploy cloud applications, automation tools are increasingly used, next-generation enterprise resource planning solutions have entered the market, and more end-user reporting tools are available. These developments can enable more insight from data, drive process standardisation and provide greater focus on business value, rather than IT. Yet in practice, many challenges remain and the promises of more value, more quickly, do not always materialise. Why? Most of the success factors of technology deployment are similar to what they were a decade ago. Enabling technology will not be successful if requirements are not precise and aligned with the transformation objectives, if the underlying data are of poor quality, and if change management is not addressed adequately. Typical examples for the first point are implementations where reporting requirements are simply a re-statement of the ‘as-is’, and consequently, opportunities are missed to create greater insight. Other challenges have emerged for newer technologies. Below are a few lessons from process automation:  The deployment of automation tools should not happen at the expense of process improvements (i.e. don’t automate a bad process); Implementation is relatively easy, and business-led innovation can be managed differently to traditional technology; and Software robots often need user rights to access transactions. Controls must, therefore, be adjusted. Technology choices can be bewildering, and their implications are a challenge for many finance leaders who are expected to understand the options and help govern and deliver transformations. Technology today is neither harder nor easier than it was – but it is different. Finance leaders need to work closely with their IT function and vendors to identify the value of technology and steer the organisation successfully through transformations. Jens Gladikowski is a Director at PwC Consulting.

Feb 10, 2020
Strategy

In this digital age, data analysis is important to a high-performance culture, but so is trust. Teresa Stapleton discusses how to find the balance. There is a need for a data-driven approach to understand how a business is performing, but capturing, analysing and interpreting large volumes of data is a time-consuming process that can lead to analysis paralysis, slow decision-making and delays in getting work done.  When building a high-performance culture, the key is to find the balance between trust and data, where people feel motivated, engaged and empowered to do their best work and collaborate with colleagues to make the business successful.  Building trust For most people, trust in another person is based on knowing from personal experience or by reputation that someone is reliable. We naturally tend to trust people with a proven track record, who can keep commitments, deliver on time, be open and honest, admit mistakes, and speak up to share concerns. Trust is essential for a leader to stand back and give their team space to get on with the job. When a leader doesn’t trust their team, it inevitably leads to micro-management in order to keep tight control and minimise risk. This approach can be extremely frustrating and demotivating for an individual, and particularly for experienced, competent teams. Micro-management often produces disengaged employees, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity – ultimately impacting bottom line results.  When trust is lacking, it’s important to identify and tackle the root cause behind the trust issues. In some cases, it’s down to personality clashes where people have different beliefs on the best way to get work done. When this is the issue, it really helps to invest in team building exercises to promote collaboration. Managing a new team New managers are often in the tricky position of not knowing if they can rely on their new team while having to depend on them to be successful. This can create an anxious and stressful atmosphere. Taking time to get to know a new team, being clear on expectations and open about how you like to operate are critical to building a solid foundation for a good working relationship. Having the right mix of skills, experience and personality style is critical to the success of any business. This explains why many leaders like to build their own teams or bring people they trust when they take on a new role. However, more often, managers inherit people they wouldn’t have chosen. As a leader, it’s important to keep an open mind and give people the opportunity to prove themselves. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  Situational leadership The most successful leaders adapt their leadership style based on the ability and level of commitment of the person or group, as well as the circumstances. Situational leadership involves evaluating what level of trust versus support is optimal. When managing someone new in a role or with responsibility for critical or high-risk tasks, close oversight is advisable. But, as the person demonstrates that they can perform competently, experienced leaders will adapt their style to give the employee more accountability and independence.   Remote working It’s increasingly common for managers to have employees who work remotely. This requires a hands-off style of management with clearly defined goals and KPIs and regular check-ins to stay connected and aligned on performance. While calls and teleconferencing are great for remote working, it’s still important to plan face-to-face meetings periodically to build the relationship and employee engagement, and to ensure they feel that they are valued members of the team.So, what breaks trust? Failure to deliver expected results, keeping someone in the dark, misaligned goals and priorities, competing for rewards and different personal values are often underlying causes. Whatever the reason, once trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to repair. The key to business success is strong leadership with the ability to set a clear vision, create high-performing teams and promote a culture where people feel trusted, valued and motivated to deliver great results.    Top tips for building trust 1. Get to know your team. Share your background, previous experiences, goals, values, expectations, and ask the team to do likewise. Sharing information on family or interests outside work is also a great way to identify common ground and build relationships. 2. Assess whether you have the right resources. Have you got the right mix of skills, experience and capability on the team to support the current and future needs of the business? Modify your plans, or team, to close gaps and set everyone up to be successful. 3. Set clear expectations. Agree and document clear, concise goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) and expected results. Ensure clarity and alignment on the performance management and rewards process.  4. Build self-awareness and collaborate. Personality profiling tools and workshops enhance self-awareness and provide practical support to help individuals, teams and organisations improve communication, increase productivity and drive results. 5. Stay connected and keep up-to-date. Agree with your team what you should know and how you want to be updated on progress and issues. Check-in to ensure the communication approach is working for everyone and adjust as required. Ensure decision-making authority is clear and protocols for escalating issues to the right levels are defined and understood (e.g. highlight bad news fast, no surprises, etc.) 6. Recognise and reward success. Take the time to thank team members regularly for their contribution and impact. Recognise and reward success and behaviour that demonstrates company values or best practices. Provide honest feedback on performance and coaching to drive improvements. Ensure performance is rewarded fairly and that your team knows they can trust you to represent them well. Teresa Stapleton is an Executive and Career Coach with Stapleton Coaching.

Feb 10, 2020
News

Companies are not only talking about sustainability; they are also beginning to act. Elise McCarthy explains how companies can support the Sustainable Development Goals through their business activities. Companies are beginning to recognise the role they play in creating a sustainable society and how, by doing so, they are also driving business growth and productivity. Many organisations are looking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide. Any company considering how it can support the achievement of the SDGs through their business activities should begin with these five starting points Understand the SDGs In 2015, the world leaders under the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals for nations and businesses alike to solve the world’s most significant challenges by 2030. Seventeen goals address the global challenges we face by moving to eradicate poverty, promote peace and equality, allow sustainable prosperity and protect the environment. The SDGs are built on 169 targets, which are measured against 232 indicators. It’s a good idea to review the targets and indicators when considering which SDGs offer the most opportunities for your business. Understand your business Looking upstream along your value chain, where does your company source raw materials and staff? How much of these resources does it purchase? This type of information will indicate where your company can make a change and have an impact. By taking cues from the SDGs, your company can set down specifications for suppliers and the resources it purchases.  Alternatively, your organisation could look downstream along the value chain. What products or services does your company make and supply? Are your distribution or logistics as clean and efficient as possible? Could you recycle goods? Would redesigning some products or services make a significant impact on the SDGs? Look for opportunities  There are business growth opportunities in the SDGs. For example, one report identified $12 trillion in savings and new opportunities by achieving the SDGs. The goals are not just branding for what society is already doing; they are goals that require new thinking and an appetite to see change. They are meant to challenge us to think about the world we want to live in, to play to our strengths and to use our power to make a change – even if it is under just one goal. If we all play our part, we will get there. Engage employees These days, most people are interested in sustainability and are trying to implement changes in their personal lives. Tap into that interest and enthusiasm among your colleagues by helping them to play their part at work. Show them that, as a leading employer, the company is also thinking about making smart changes to practices and procedures, and that it wants to involve its people in the journey. This user-friendly guide to the SDGs can help with internal communications and awareness.  Decade of action In September 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General called for more leadership and local action within countries and among individuals to meet these ambitious 2030 goals. Every day events – fires, storms, drought, waste mountains and growing inequality – are reinforcing the urgency of this mission. The clock is ticking but we excel when we put our minds to it. Elise McCarthy is a Senior CSR Adviser in Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). BITCI has published a detailed guide for business on the SDGs.  

Jan 19, 2020
News

To promote sustainable finance, the finance industry must incorporate environmental, social and governance factors into investment decision-making. Orla O’Gorman explains how companies can enable investors to invest in sustainable, socially responsible assets. The climate crisis is the most impactful and far-reaching agent of change that we will see in our lifetime, the impact of which is comparable only with, perhaps, the industrial revolution. It will permanently alter how our society and economy operate – that includes our financial systems and how capital is allocated. We have already seen the world’s largest asset manager, Blackrock, asserting that climate change will be the focus of its new strategy and that it will reshape the industry as we know it. We have also seen the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norges Bank, divest entirely from all oil and gas exploration. To promote sustainable finance, the industry needs to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decision-making, supporting the allocation and transfer of capital towards sustainable and transitioning assets. Stock exchanges are at the heart of the global financial system and will play a vital role in enabling this transfer in an efficient, transparent way. Two-pronged approach As part of Euronext’s new strategic plan, Let’s Grow Together 2022, we have developed an ESG strategy with a two-pronged approach:  Sustainable practices (what we do internally); and Sustainable products (what we offer externally). Internally, our goal is to embrace the latest and greatest methods of sustainable working. Externally, meanwhile, our goal is to develop and support sustainable products and services for issuers, investors and the financial community, and we have already launched two initiatives in support of this. The first initiative is Euronext Green Bonds, which will allow investors to discover, compare and participate in sustainable investment opportunities and allocate capital accordingly. The second initiative, the publication of our ESG reporting guidelines for issuers, enables listed companies to communicate effectively to stakeholders about their current work in sustainability and assists them in addressing ESG issues with investors that will encourage them to invest in sustainable, socially responsible assets. The guidelines also provide a basic framework for ESG strategy and reporting. Looking to the future We hope that, by empowering issuers and investors with these products and tools, we can make the transition to a sustainable economy and finance a future of which we can be proud.  Orla O’Gorman is Head of Equity Listing Ireland at Euronext.

Jan 19, 2020
News

By Neil Gibson While the economic outlook for Ireland is slightly cooler than the last two buoyant years, it is not entirely unwelcome as the pressures of fast growth are beginning to become more visible. Here are 12 predictions for the economy in 2020. Prediction 1: GDP will rise by 3.2% Strength in the domestic economy resulting from a combination of job growth, real wage growth and government spending is projected to compensate for weakening global conditions. GDP is expected to be above trend at 3.2% in 2020. Modified domestic demand, which strips out the main distortions in Irish GDP, is forecast to grow at a similar rate (3.1%). Ireland will, therefore, remain near the top of the European growth charts. Biggest forecast risk: A global slow-down. Prediction 2: Employment to rise by 1.7% Job growth is expected to remain robust in 2020 with 40,000 net jobs for Ireland projected, a slight reduction on the 56,000 in 2019. Consumer and government spending will boost domestic businesses and strong migration will allow firms to keep recruiting. Biggest forecast risk: Skills gap and housing shortages prevent firms getting the talent they need. Prediction 3: Wage growth at 3.5% Wage growth has picked up over the last 18 months as labour supply tightens and skills gaps emerge in key sectors. The growth is also partly compositional with more hiring at the senior level, pushing up the overall average wage. Overall, average wage growth is projected to slip back very slightly from its 2019 level to 3.5% in 2020. Biggest forecast risk: Wage inflation accelerates as firms struggle to get the labour they need. Prediction 4: Consumer spending growth of 2.4% Despite signs of ebbing confidence in consumer surveys, the rate of job and wage growth should support a healthy 2.4% growth in consumer spending in 2020. With the national savings ratio at a healthy level and confidence largely restored in the property markets, fears over Brexit and the global economy appear to be only having a modest effect on consumer behaviour. Biggest forecast risk: Consumers’ confidence, which is already fragile, finally impacts behaviour and people choose to spend less. Prediction 5: Net migration of 40,000 Ireland remains a very open economy with fluid labour movements both in and out of the country. Net migration is projected to reach 40,000 in 2020 with Ireland’s economic strength and improved relative attractiveness as an English-speaking, cosmopolitan location further boosting inflows. This flow will continue to drive demand in the economy but will add to the pressure on public services and Ireland’s infrastructure. Biggest forecast risk: Insufficient housing supply leads to further rent appreciation which, in turn, deters migrants from coming to Ireland. Prediction 6: Inflation of 1.6% It is one of the great economic puzzles – how has inflation remained so low? With rising wages and a strong economy, most economic models would project a rise in headline inflation. A depreciation in sterling has helped keep Irish inflation down but high levels of competition may also have mitigated against firms increasing their prices. It may also reflect the application of new technology and data analytics as cost control measures. The twin conditions of healthy job/wage growth and low inflation has made it a very strong 18 months for domestic businesses. Biggest forecast risk: Inflation picks up sharply as wage increases lead businesses to feel confident about price increases and a wage/price spiral begins. Prediction 7: House prices to increase by 3.2% House price growth has slowed markedly in the last 12 months. Unusually, this is in not in response to a weakening economy but partly because of the lending rules that have placed a harder ceiling on borrowing. This has been a welcome outturn for the Irish economy overall, though it has not been helpful in accelerating the development of much needed additional housing supply. Our forecast is for prices to pick up slightly from the current growth rates, reflecting demand and affordability in the wider economy. Biggest forecast risk: Despite lending rules, increased cash investment triggers a rapid step up in prices. Prediction 8: Construction inflation of 7% Because of the strong overall economy, construction will continue to perform well with domestic and commercial demand remaining strong. In addition, increased levels of government capital spending are providing a further boost and, consequently, inflation in the sector is very high. Cooling global conditions may take a little heat out of the input and material prices but wages look set to continue to increase. Biggest forecast risk: An uptick in domestic building, coupled with infrastructure spending and further commercial development, creates a ‘perfect storm’, pushing construction cost up even further. Prediction 9: Housing completions: 24,000 Despite net migration of 34,000 into Ireland in the year to mid-2019 and a long-standing stock shortage, housing completion levels remained well below the required level at the end of last year. A moderation in house price growth, opportunities elsewhere in the construction sector and a challenging planning and regulation environment continue to work against a more marked acceleration in house building. Fortunately, the constrained supply has not resulted in an unwelcome sharp pick-up in prices. Biggest forecast risk: Sluggishness in granting permissions and significant opportunities elsewhere in construction lead to lower completion levels. Prediction 10: Tax receipts: 4% Tax receipts have been very robust across all major categories. Though corporation tax increases have made the headlines, income tax and VAT have also grown strongly, reflecting the broad-based economic growth under way in Ireland. It remains hard to predict tax receipts as Ireland’s fortunes have considerable exposure to a very small number of firms, but the forecast for continued job growth and healthy wage increases mean a very healthy 4% is our central forecast for 2020. Biggest forecast risk: Adverse global conditions impact the small group of firms that contribute a large proportion of corporation tax receipts. Prediction 11: Government balance at 0.1% of GDP That the Irish economy is back into general government surplus is both a cause for celebration but also somewhat concerning. The €175 billion debt mountain remains almost untouched, despite the sustained period of fast growth, making the rather cautious Budget set by the Minister for Finance both understandable and advisable. The forecast of a very modest surplus this year reflects uncertainty over the volatile corporation tax receipts and the long list of calls on government budgets across most areas of public service. Biggest forecast risk: Demand for investment in public services, partly driven by population growth, leads to higher levels of government spending. Prediction 12: Unemployment rate of 4.6% Unemployment has been falling steadily for seven years since its peak of over 15%. Employers are finding labour harder to find, though even at the 4.6% rate projected for 2020, it is still some way from being considered full employment. The steady flow of migration and demographic factors mean that the strong job forecasts will not translate into an equivalent fall in unemployment. Nevertheless, we project it will continue to fall to its lowest rate since 2005. Biggest forecast risk: A global slowdown eases hiring and with strong migration flows, unemployment levels move into reverse and start to rise again. (The predictions assume the avoidance of a no-deal Brexit in 2020.) Neil Gibson is the Chief Economist in EY Ireland.

Jan 03, 2020