Risks are Everywhere; How Can You Protect Your Businesses?

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Risks are Everywhere;  How Can You Protect Your Businesses?

Jean Pousson, strategy and finance consultant for the Institute of Directors gives advice on how to protect your business.

Every business faces risk. Every strategy faces some degree of risk. Risk is part of the fabric of capitalism.

Risk has been part of society from the very early days. In the biblical story, David took a huge risk but beat Goliath by competing differently and was successful.  But did David have a Plan B? Probably not. So Plan A so had to work!  Likewise, Goliath assumed that David would compete in a certain way and did not even consider what was to come.  Both are examples of strategic risks which were not understood!

There are numerous frameworks, professional bodies, regulations even, that address this topic and serve as guidance for boards and directors. This article takes a slightly different approach based on my experiences of working with boards and directors worldwide.

Things to Remember About Risk

The level of risk complexity is not necessarily commensurate with size. Apple may be the largest company in the world as measured by Stock Market capitalisation ($888bn at the time of writing) with annual revenues of $229bn, but the risks are not as intricate as one would think. iPhone sales make up some 60% of total sales and, in truth, Apple does not have many products. That is not to say that it is a company without risks; far from it.  But risks do not get elevated by size alone. Conversely a small company (however measured) can be laced with a multitude of complex risks that can be difficult to manage or mitigate.

New risks emerge all the time. Apple has been using its immense cash pile to invest and dabble in financial transactions and hedging to the point that it is now attracting the attention of the USA financial regulators.  In its last full year accounts for the year ended September 2017, its cash and investments totalled some $268bn, enough to buy both HSBC Bank plc and Barclays Bank plc.

New business models inevitably bring about new risks that no one had thought about. Ask Facebook!  Its costs will double this year as it seeks to filter false information and prevent user data to be used for inappropriate purposes.

Increasingly companies are registering the possibility of being blindsided by fake news and the digital battles that can ensue.  What boards should consider

·         Does your Risk Register contain new risks?

·         Reflecting on the last twelve months, what has surprised you? Should you have been surprised?

·         What strategies do you have in place to manage yourself out of a crisis?

Supply chain fragmentation. As supply chains become more and more fragmented, aided by technology, risk visibility becomes even more blurry.  No longer can boards be content with counterparty risk analysis; this has now to be extended to counterparty’s counterparties’ risk.

Risks need to be monetised i.e. what would the financial impact be of this event happening on our revenues, profitability, cash flow, solvency and financial flexibility?  Netflix took a hit of $39m on its financials this year.  That was the cost associated with replacing actor Kevin Spacey from the popular TV hit show House of Cards because of alleged sexual misconduct. On that note, what policy (-ies) does your business have in place to deal with such matters?

At the same time over-reliance on numbers, and numbers only, can be fatal.  In his book The Tyranny of Numbers, David Boyle quotes the economist Robert Chambers:

“Quantification brings credibility. But figures and tables can deceive, and nunbers construct their own realities.  What can be measured and manipulated statistically is then not only seen as real; it comes to be seen as the only or whole reality”

And he sums it up beautifully:

“Economists have come to feel

What can’t be measured isn’t real

The truth is always an amount

Count numbers; only numbers count”

So the point here is that risk assessment has to be both quantitative and qualitative.

Reverse Stress Testing. Sometimes different questions have to be asked.  A few years ago an Icelandic volcanic eruption caused havoc over European skies with travel.  Directors often ask me: ”Show me a model that would have predicted this!” Smart question but the wrong question.  The question should have been: ”What is key to our business? What if we are prevented from performing this activity? How would we react? Could we carry on?”  The conversation should not be about the reason but what to do in the event of.  We call this Reverse Stress Testing.

Decomposing Risks.  Risks are often not sufficiently decomposed.  Cyber Risk, for example, is not one risk.  It is merely a heading that should be dissected into all its constituent parts.  Cyber risk can manifest itself in a multiplicity of events. It is that granularity that needs to be understood. As an acquaintance with a technology background keeps reminding me, the top three cyber risks are 1)People 2)People 3)People.  He also takes pleasure in reminding his clients that they are not a food company, or a retailer, or logistics etc: ”You are a data company! What are you doing to protect your digital assets?”

Strategic Risks. All too often, risk conversations tend to ignore this.  Questions for the board:

·         What is the craziest thing that your competitor(s) could do?

·         Do you understand your competitors’ strategy?

·         Those who choose to live by the sword get shot by those who don’t! (Indiana Jones Movie) so have you considered different ways of competing? Unlike Goliath?

·         What if we win? Amazingly enough this is rarely considered.  What if you exceed even your most optimistic forecasts?  Could you cope with this scenario?

·         Are you able to attract new customers?  If not why not?

·         How do you measure customer loyalty?  Frequency of purchase doesn’t necessarily equates to loyalty.

·         Are you confident that your process of strategy creation is robust and would stand up to scrutiny?

The disrupters. When platforms attack!  Technology has caused untold damage to many industries from books, travel, retail, newspapers, music, gambling, advertising, and even the  taxi industry.  Could you be disrupted?  What are typical forces that could cause this?  Most industries that I can think of have seen some level of changing dynamics. My industry (management consultancy)has not been immune.  Knowledge is now free and available in abundance.  Just ask Dr Google!

Board Risks. What are the greatest risks facing the BOARD over the next few years.  This is different to the company’s own risk analysis. Is group thinking creeping in?  Are the Board dynamics changing?  What about behaviour risks ie who is making the key decisions?  Board malfunction is a big risk in itself and should never be ignored.

Risk Reviews. A good practice, of course, and there are many ways of doing this.  Try the following different approach.  Go and locate your Chief Sarcastic Officer (you have one, we all do!) and assemble a team of creative people to work with him/her with one brief. What would you do if you wanted to destroy this company?  This will expose all your risk frailties in a way that outside consultants would probably not.  And all it will cost you is time.

In Summary:  The ABC of Risk

I have never forgotten a lesson taught to me very early in my banking career about risk assessment.

·         Assume nothing

·         Believe nobody

·         Check everything

Good luck!

Launching Your Start-Up: Business Advice

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Launching Your Start-Up: Business Advice

Planning a start-up business can be a daunting experience for any eager entrepreneur, with big decisions determining whether you hit the ground running or fall flat at the first hurdle. It can be a difficult game to get right, with fierce competition and battles for investment making it a thrilling yet startling experience.

With your newly found business idea being the burning passion inside of you, the team at MediaWorks teamed up with Total Enterprise Solutions to highlight some of the key details you must know about building your start-up business from scratch.

Storing Business Information: CRM Systems

With the majority of start-up businesses having a small workforce to begin with, many business owners do not think about implementing a sophisticated project management system such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV as this can be seen as an inconvenient expense. However, this is a huge mistake that could be detrimental to the company’s operations in the later life of the business.

Due to a small workforce, organisations think that they are able to manage projects and a diverse range of data through software like Excel — and although this can be a reasonable and cheaper alternative, it can have its drawbacks. When your start-up finally expands and widens its workforce, it can be difficult to transfer all of that data into a CRM system; which could then potentially cause your business a lot of downtime as a result.

If you were to be wise and invest in such systems from the beginning, you’ll not have to worry about the later change that could badly impact your business. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking priority in terms of unifying and strengthening data across Europe, you can rest assured that the security provided by Microsoft will deliver a risk-free service whilst allowing you to install industry-specific solutions that can enhance the operations of your company.

If you continue to use software that is susceptible to risks, such as mishandling of data, you could find yourself the victim of harsh penalties orchestrated by the European Parliament. This shows that it’s incredibly important to introduce the right features to your business from the beginning, especially at a time where discussions on data are pivotal across every sector.

Not only that, you will experience a rapid return on investment which will ensure faster results that can minimise disruption within the company and save time and expenses on what you would spend on additional training for your employees.

Determining the right office space

Picking the perfect office space for your business can be difficult too — but this is all dependent on your location as rent prices will vary. Choosing an office space is often the biggest downfall of start-up businesses, with many wanting to make a lasting impression and picking a location that is extortionate. You must avoid this at all costs.

London is often dubbed as the ‘place to be’ and is thought to make the best impression on your clients. You couldn’t be more wrong. Your clients would prefer to spend more money on your delivery team — employing the best people in your field than they would on you picking an expensive location; because ultimately, that doesn’t impact them.

An office in London comes with many drawbacks and the office prices is just one of them. If you situate your business in the capital, you will have to pay higher salaries and probably reduce the number of workers in your business as a result — are you really willing to take this risk?

It’s important to remember that office prices outside of London are considerably cheaper, and cities such as Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds are all developing at a rapid rate and becoming a more lucrative option for all.

Moving away from office prices, you need to determine your office culture as this can have a profound impact on your employees. Happy employees outperform the competition by 20% and happiness in the workplace makes people 12% more productive, which is something that you should be working towards. This can be achieved in various ways, whether this is creating a unique and quirky office space or adding great employee benefits that can’t be resisted. To create more of a community feeling within your business, it might be worth opting for an open-plan office so that everyone feels involved in the company’s objectives and can work together towards it.

An online presence

When you’re starting up your business, you want to make sure that you have your online presence already established so you can instantly gain some brand recognition — you want your customers to know who you are, after all.

Create a consistent account (preferably with the same username handle) across all social media platforms — especially LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If one platform does not specifically apply to your business, direct your audience to where you’re mostly active. It’s important to show your customers that you’re involved with modern developments and care about how your company is perceived by the public.

Post regularly across your platforms and to ensure you’re staying within your brand guidelines, create different ‘social personas’ that can be used to outline the types of posts you’re about to publish. From this, you will also be able to gain greater insight for your social pages.

Those were just some of the areas you must consider when starting up your business — remember that all are equally important and can determine the success of your company.

Sources:

https://www.findalondonoffice.co.uk/toolbox/rental-guide/#rent-table

https://growtheverywhere.com/management/statistical-case-company-culture/

Problem. Solved.

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Problem. Solved.

The financial industry has become unnecessarily complicated and Space believes complexity is the biggest barrier to the industry creating trust. As such, it works with financial services brands to simplify the world of money, making it easier for financial providers to build more valuable relationships with their customers.

Space is a team of thinkers and doers who bring together creative, technical and industry expertise to create powerful ideas that solve business problems and deliver results. Whilst the agency is focused solely on the financial services sector, the help offered to clients is broad.

At a strategic level, the agency helps clients understand their customers better, and develop client centric products and propositions, as well as rebranding. The agency also has in-depth technical capabilities enabling them to deliver simple marketing sites, through to complex underwriting solutions and wealth management platforms. Also, the agency offers clients a full range of marketing communications skills from advertising, through to content creation in the form of video and animation.

Every project starts with a thorough interrogation of a client’s business to identify what makes it different. The overall mission is to capture the intellectual capital from around the boardroom table, and across the wider business, to provide the insight to develop powerful marketing and digital assets.

Paul Brooks, the agency’s Creative Partner, who honed his skills at various London agencies, including M&C
Saatchi, believes one of the main differentiators for the agency is deep knowledge of the industry: ‘Creativity is important but of equal importance is industry knowledge,’ he says. ‘For over 15 years, we have been acquiring an in-depth understanding of the nuances surrounding the different distribution and product strategies within the insurance, wealth management and retail banking worlds. This means we get to the point quickly and our solutions are more effective. You simply can’t sell what you don’t understand.’

The agency is obsessed with customer insight – in an industry reliant on intermediated sales, Space has built strong relationships with multiple financial advice firms. These firms provide a valuable sounding board for the agency when testing ideas and have enabled Space to embed objective research into every step of its process, without clients having to incur extortionate research costs.

Managing Partner Marilyn Cole says: ‘Our adviser network not only provides us with the perceptions intermediaries have of our providers’ clients – they are also a rich source of end customer insights. After all it is the adviser’s job to understand their clients’ financial priorities and concerns.’

The agency also puts a great emphasis on being a true partner, working alongside client internal resources to enable them to maximise the investment in their own teams.

Paul Wilson, Customer Experience Partner at Space, says that these days individual agencies have to respect the fact that they may only be a part of the solution: ‘Clients are increasingly upskilling their own in-house teams,’ he says. ‘At Space, we understand that clients are looking for agencies to partner with them, and knowledge share – it makes for much longerlasting relationships.’

Equally important is that the back-end experts in the agency are passionate about development, immersed in the technology and happy to challenge clients on how best to move a project forward. For them this is not just a ‘day-job’. Rather they share Space’s commitment to being proactive in ‘doing it better’ and make the customer experience more efficient and richer.

In terms of consumer and industry developments the client team is constantly in ‘learningmode’, reading widely, attending events and, most importantly, spending quality time with clients. As such, it is well versed in the coming CRM challenges of initiatives like ‘robo-advice’, and how brands who engage clients in a robo-environment can go on to build a relationship that delivers positive outcomes for brand and end-user alike.

Marilyn Cole makes the point that the quality and diversity of clients helps keep the agency on its toes: ‘The fact we’re at the leading edge of creating digital experiences for banks, life and pension providers, general insurers, wealth managers and global asset management businesses means we’re confronted with a complete spectrum of challenges,’ she said. ‘Often one challenge informs another, meaning our clients benefit from our compound learning.’

To stay at the forefront of trends, any business needs to recruit the right talent, however the digital agency world in financial services is quite tight knit and good knowledgeable staff can be hard to find.

The agency’s executive team and main studio is based in Guildford, Surrey, but to ensure access to the very best thinking Space also has a satellite office in the Moorgate, the creative digital hub of London. The agency runs an agile model and, in a world of digital connectivity, staff also have the opportunity of working from home.

The agency is steadily establishing a more international business footprint, working with a global asset manager on
communication and messaging strategy and working with clients in Australia. Overall, the client base is a good mix of established businesses and new start-ups.

The agency’s plan is to continue extending its product and proposition development capabilities.
Paul Brooks says: ‘The challenges our clients face are all manifestations of the complexity of their products. A complex financial product results in complex user experience and requires complex messaging to promote it, all of which are barriers to purchase. For financial brands, simplification is a painful necessity – and that’s what we’ve designed and built Space to do.’

Company: Space

Contact: Marilyn Cole

Address: Centrepoint House, 2 Denmark Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4DA, UK

Telephone: 01483 400 680

Website: www.space01.co.uk

A Game Changer for Real Estate Visuals

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A Game Changer for Real Estate Visuals

REinVR, Real Estate in Virtual Reality, is a Canadian company that uses advanced video game technology to create photo-realistic visuals and animation to beautifully showcase real estate projects that have not yet been built. We spoke to founder Nathan Nasseri about the success of his firm, and his unique background in video game design and new home sales.

Established in 2016, REinVR creates stunning visuals and interactive animations for preconstruction real estate projects. Using cutting-edge technology developed for the video game industry, REinVR develops life-like photo experiences and immersive visual environments that help real estate developers with permit approvals, marketing and, ultimately, sales. REinVR’s team consists of many talented designers who have spent their careers making some of the most innovative video games ever created. This gives REinVR a huge technological advantage over its competition due to the speed at which changes can be made. With the simple click of a button (or even a voice command), a floor plan layout or interior design palette can be completely changed – instantly. This provides incredible value, as homebuyers or customers are able to see different colour palette combinations at lightning speed.

Nasseri’s talented team of designers has enabled REinVR to offer a wide-range of visual experiences, and has attracted a diverse client base of high-profile real estate developers.

“Predominantly, our clients are architects and real estate developers of residential, commercial, and industrial projects around the world. We have also worked on several government projects, and we’re always excited to work with new clients who want to showcase their pre-construction project with visual experiences that set a whole new standard,” said Nasseri.

“Our approach to creating visuals is very different from the traditional rendering market. For example, when we create an apartment or home, we make the entire floor plan. Once we’ve created this holistic environment, we can do whatever we want with it, including creating high quality, photo-realistic renders, videos, Virtual Reality experiences, and 3D walk-through tours. We can also instantly change colour palettes to showcase variety to homebuyers, or customise a commercial space with a logo for a specific client like Amazon, Nike, or Tesla. With our advanced technology, pre-construction real estate projects can be showcased with life-like quality that you’ve never seen before. It’s an innovative game changer for the industries of architecture, engineering, construction and real estate.”

Creating visuals using this unique approach is also beneficial when working with a new client. Nasseri explains the method that REinVR uses to ensure their clients’ requirements are met and surpassed.

“At REinVR, the most important work is done in the first 48 hours of a new project. We review all the building schematics and specifications, assign tasks to our team, and create a breakdown of exactly what needs to be done. This is imperative to ensure we utilise our resources efficiently to finish the project on time and with the utmost accuracy. Also, we request specific information from the client if it’s not provided (e.g. what door knobs they want to use, or what towel bars they have selected). These tiny details make a significant difference and provide an accurate portrayal of the visual environment. If the client doesn’t have these details finalised, we simply ask them to show us a sample that is similar to what they will select,” said Nasseri.

“Furthermore, speaking with their architect or interior designer is an important initial step to ensure everything is done right, the first time. If our clients have interior designers, we work with them to determine what furniture they would like. Our furniture catalogue has thousands of options, so there’s always something to suit each project. Also, we include complimentary interior design consultation to ensure the furniture and layout match the target demographic of the project. This can save our clients significant time if they don’t have the internal resources to select furniture.”

With regards to REinVR’s overall mission, Nasseri explains that every team member works together to provide clients with the most advanced sales tool in the real estate market, and this is what the team measures its success against.

“Our mission is simple: provide our clients with the most advanced visual sales tool in the real estate market. We have several long-term goals, however, our mission this year is to disrupt the render industry with a solution that provides both quality and quantity for less than the cost of traditional static renders alone. We have spent the last year perfecting our system, and we have industry-leading visual quality in Virtual Reality (VR), which also translates into our photos, videos, and other applications. As technology advances and AI, cloud computing, VR, and Augmented Reality improve, we will be implementing these into our system. I designed our system to work as a sales tool first, and if it works for sales, it will work just as well, if not better, for marketing,” said Nasseri.

Operating within the competitive technology industry, it is vital that REinVR is able to differentiate itself from its competitors. Nasseri strongly believes in his team’s technological and design capabilities, not to mention his own unique bi-level background and work experience.

“My family has been building homes since before I was born, so I had a lot of exposure to the construction and new home industry. I’m formally educated in video game design, but after graduating I found my true passion was in real estate, and helping people find and build a new home. After spending four years in new home sales, I identified certain areas that could be improved with the assistance of a state-of-the-art sales tool using video game technology as its foundation,” said Nasseri.

However, Nasseri’s unique background is just part of the equation, and he’s keen to praise the incredible skillset and knowledge of his colleague and business partner. He’s adamant that his business partner is a major contributor to the success of the company.

“Aaryn Flynn, who worked at BioWare for 17 years and was the General Manager for nine years, joined REinVR as my business partner. For those who don’t know, BioWare is arguably the best video game studio in the world. Together, we wanted to take a new approach to innovate how the real estate industry showcases pre-construction projects,” said Nasseri.

“Based on my experience, we set out to create a sales tool. This is the biggest difference between us and our competition. I have the experience of actually selling new homes and we have tested our system and made improvements to create the next best option to building the real-life model. We are experts in our field, and we already know how to push the limitations of this technology.”

“Typically, our competitors make traditional static renders, not critically-acclaimed video games. For us, this is a cakewalk compared to the industryleading video games created at BioWare. However, many of the same skillsets are used when we transform our clients’ specifications and drawings into a compelling life-like visual scene. Plus, we ensure our clients’ sales and marketing team is trained, and knows exactly how to use our system to sell more homes, faster. We want all of our clients to have success using our system, and the last thing we want is a system that isn’t utilised to its full potential.”

Nasseri’s formal education in video game design, coupled with his past work experience in new home sales, has provided him with a rare perspective into the customer’s decision-making process. He’s confident his knowledge of the new home sales process has helped spark steady company growth for REinVR.

“My previous experience has given me a unique bi-level perspective regarding the process that homebuyers undertake when purchasing a new home. Buying a home is often the largest investment a family will make in their lifetime, and understanding the customer’s journey throughout this process is absolutely critical. My experience in new home sales has given me a unique vantage point that allows me, and Aaryn, to guide our clients with strategic approaches that focus on the homebuyer’s perspective – and what they typically deem to be most important,” said Nasseri.

“This pinpoint focus allows us to visually highlight particular features in a home that are traditionally viewed as key selling points by the homebuyer. For example, many homebuyers focus on a handful of important features in a new home (e.g. the kitchen, the foyer, the master bedroom and ensuite, an openconcept feel, abundant natural light, etc). Key insight into a homebuyer’s typical perspective streamlines our process and keeps our visuals focused on what’s usually deemed a top priority for the buyer.”

Furthermore, REinVR also boasts advanced technology knowhow. Nasseri says the technology they use is redefining the real estate industry, and is attracting more clients across the sector.    

“The technology we use has existed for years in the video game industry. It’s called Real Time Rendering (RTR), and it’s radically different from how traditional rendering companies create their work. The old way is called offline rendering, and it can take days, weeks or even months to render a video or photo, and these become very expensive, very quickly. RTR, however, can reduce rendering time from months down to mere minutes. Our competitors have to charge for rendering time – we don’t. We can do it almost instantly. Personally, I founded REinVR to help new homebuyers actually fully understand what they’re buying using Virtual Reality technology. To my surprise, we found that the market isn’t completely ready for VR just yet, and we’ve had better results offering our system to replace static renders and provide video, while positioning the VR and 3D interactive walk-through tour as a free bonus for working with REinVR,” said Nasseri.

“The amount of time and money dedicated to creating static renders for real estate projects would shock most people. There is a lot of money spent on pictures that don’t convey the full scope of a real estate project. We don’t feel that static renders for exteriors will be going away anytime soon, but for interiors it’s a different story. Our focus has been creating the most realistic interior visuals to help sell a real estate project.”

Nasseri is confident in his company’s ability to meet the ever-increasing demands of clients across the sector, and refers to what techniques he uses in order to ensure his company stays ahead of the curve.

“I spend about two hours every day researching new hardware, software, and connecting with people in the RTR and VR industry. The pace at which the industry is changing is staggering, and without dedicating a few hours each morning, I wouldn’t be able to keep up,” he says.

“As a Canadian real estate design firm, we like to use the term “Hockey Stick” to explain the growth chart of our newly emerging industry. We are in the early days of using RTR technology for architecture, but the results speak for themselves. In a year, we’ve completed over 25 projects, and are setup to handle up to 1,200 projects per year, so we’re prepared for the hockey stick growth. The biggest challenge for us is that architects and real estate developers are typically somewhat reluctant to adopt new technology.

“However, in this circumstance, I think the benefits are so significant that once they understand how it works, they’re compelled to switch. For instance, traditionally, if you had a static render, and you wanted to change the cabinet colour from white to brown, it would take days to re-render this image. At REinVR, it takes less than a second and a click of a button, or better yet, the use of a voice command that simply says, ‘change colour’ and it’s done. Last year, we created a project with thousands of colour combinations including six wall colours, six cabinet colours, 25 flooring options, 12 tile backsplash options, and six countertop options. The speed, flexibility, quantity and quality of our system is helping push the industry to embrace RTR technology, but the majority of architects and real estate developers are still using old-school renders and offline rendering services. However, this is changing quickly and by the end of 2020, I expect to see the vast majority switch to RTR.”

In addition to his advanced technology, Nasseri also knows the importance of a strong company culture that allows each team member to find the perfect balance between work and home life. Throughout the industry, Nasseri is well aware that employees often feel burnt out, and he is keen to ensure this does not happen at REinVR. 

“Across the company, we encourage our team to work at home and be with their families. The games’ industry is infamous for working long hours and burning out employees. We have learned those lessons, and we want to create a workforce that sticks with us for the long term, instead of burning out and leaving.”

Nasseri is also quick to praise his business partner and his contacts within the industry, which means the company is able to attract the very best talent.

“Honestly, I am very blessed to have Aaryn as my business partner. He knows the top talent in the video game industry because he spent years working with them, and his praise goes a long way. If he says someone is good, I fully trust his judgment and we bring that individual onto our team. Our approach – to give team members the freedom to work at home and work the hours they want – is very attractive and has resulted in us having some of the best designers in the world working at REinVR.”

In his concluding comments, Nasseri explains how he views the European real estate market, and that potentially entering the market is something he is incredibly interested in doing.

“Moving forward, the prospect of entering the European real estate market is very exciting for us. There are many world-class projects with unique architectural details not seen in North America. It would be a great opportunity to expand our perspective. We’re all about learning, listening and growing, so each new opportunity is something we deeply cherish.”

REinVR charges $10,000 CAD per floor plan, which includes 30 static renders, a video animation, a 3D interactive walk-through tour, and a VR experience as a full packaged offering. Contact us for a quote for your next real estate project: [email protected]

Contact: Nathan Nasseri

Website: reinvr.com

Thinking Human – Acting Digital

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Thinking Human – Acting Digital

Human Thinking Ltd (HT) is an innovative design agency delivering world class, cross-channel UX, design and build. We invited Founder, Rich Mumford to provide us with a thrilling overview of this dynamic and unique company, which has been elected as the London Representative of our prestigious 2018 Digital Elite.

Everyone seems to have jumped on the User Experience bandwagon in recent years. Demand for highly skilled UX practitioners has never been higher, yet a skills shortage in this domain is a very present reality. This situation has led to an influx of under skilled practitioners entering the market, ultimately delivering substandard solutions for agencies and clients alike in a space where delivering World Class Digital experiences has become a commercial imperative.

HT was conceived in 2012 as an antidote to this problem, where instead of focussing upon emerging technology as a solution looking for a problem to solve, the primary goal was to deliver Digital solutions of the very highest quality with end users’ real wants and needs at the very heart of the process.

The world is evolving at an ever increasingly rapid pace, digital has transformed the way in which we live and technology is now an everyday part of our lives. With such advancements it is easy to forget the stuff that matters. At the very heart of it all, we are still human beings with the same emotional needs and desires. Often, technology ignores this very perennial fact. Technology is an amazing toolset, but if not properly considered in a humancentred way it can often miss the mark. Instead of traditional technology-led approaches, we regard people as presenting the opportunity and technology as being the enabler. This ideology was internally dubbed as ‘Thinking Human’.

Six years on and that banner is still proudly flying high over the business and setting Human Thinking apart from its peers. It is woven into the DNA of everything that the business touches and is an integral part of its manifesto. The business has always believed that designing successful consumer experiences takes skill, but also needs to be grounded in meaningful research and insight so that the resulting service or concept is buildable, usable, measurable and, most importantly, delivers on the business imperative. HT bring a blend of brand experience design, business consultancy and formal experience architecture together to form the backbone of the business.

Human Thinking is classed as a London-based full-service User Experience agency providing research, insight and design services and was founded by Rich Mumford as a fully-fledged agency in 2012. He explores how the firm came into being and how its first, illustrious client set an exciting precedent for what was to come.

“Our very first client was in fact Google, we delivered some early concept work for the Stanley Kubrick Estate’s online archive and were then subsequently invited to work on the experience design for Google Science Fair, Google’s global online worldwide science competition. It was a really exciting time for the business.”

Since then they have worked for some of the world’s best-known brands on a wide array of different projects. Their main strength has been evident in business transformative customer-centric design – this roughly translates to the application of a flexible process that places the end consumer at the heart of the business, deeply analysing who they are, what their needs are and where the opportunities exist for the business to engage with them and deliver value. Often the output of this process provides something of an awakening for their clients, presenting a rare opportunity for genuine insightdriven business transformation.

Rather than be too rigidly driven by process, they see their offering as a more flexible, highly skilled stable of people with
well-honed toolsets, all coming together under the umbrella of seasoned discipline heads. The key value here is in the ability of the experienced individual to apply the right tools at the right times, it minimises wastage of effort and ensures economy for their client base. HT offer a wide variety of services from primary user research to detailed product specification. They also have extensive experience of planning and running mixed methodology research programmes covering quantitative and qualitative, as well as longitudinal ethnographic research.

Additionally, HT have a wealth of experience in the formal Digital design arena, covering detailed user experience design and visual / graphic design. They have delivered many Digital vision pieces, high-level concepts and working prototypes for their clients as well as market ready consumer facing products across most business verticals. They have worked with major grocery retailers, global consumer electronics manufacturers, media companies, utilities providers and academic establishments. They recently delivered a businesscritical online flight booking and management platform for a major UK airline. This covered early research, concept development, prototype development, user validation, formal UX design, visual design, front-end build and test – it was the largest single project undertaken by HT to date, and the most personally rewarding for the team and commercially successful for the client.

Each new project has to be approached with an open mind and a client focus, so that the overall outcome meets clients’ needs and exceeds their expectations, as Rich highlights.

“Typically, when we first begin a new project we are given some form of brief, sometimes really loose and sometimes quite tight and prescriptive. At this point, we always perform some form of research and insight generation, be it small and desk-based or more detailed and outbound, and always on our own time as part of a due diligence approach to our work. We use the output of this to probe the brief looking for points of validation or weakness. Additionally, we almost always find something of high value that augments the brief into something of greater worth to our client, sometimes pushing it up to the strategic level and at other times pushing it down to a more rigid, operational delivery level. Ultimately, our focus is on doing the right thing by the business and its customers – not just simply taking the brief and blindly running with it.”

As a key part of achieving this, HT constantly invests time in emerging trends and technology. Being at the leading edge of the digital revolution, the firm has to work hard to maintain its strong industry position, and working to be at the forefront of emerging developments is central, as Rich highlights.

“To ensure that we are always offering our clients innovative solutions, at HT we are always learning something. Be it a shift in consumer behaviour, interaction or technology, there is always something new to consider. The digital landscape is like a constant rolling canvas, if you don’t keep up then you quickly find yourself behind the curve. We have been actively exploring the area of IoT (Internet of Things) for over five years and it always features somewhere in our thinking. Also, we have recently started delivering VUI (Voice User Interface – think Siri or Alexa) solutions for our clients. Regarding VUI design, the principles are still the same as for traditional interface design, it’s just applied via a different medium and therefore has slightly augmented rules. Fundamentally, we are still human beings with the same set of needs, desires, hopes and limitations that we have always had.”

Looking to the future, HT has many exciting developments ahead. As part of their annual Digital review, they have drafted six trends for Digital design likely to be seen in late 2018, which they are keen to adapt around. Firstly, HT believes that channel agnostic design is becoming a basic requirement – service design should now be conducted across multiple channels as standard, rather than approaching touchpoints in isolation. Additionally, the importance of design strategy is set to increase, with seemingly more varied touchpoints, the need for a well thought out design strategy is key to ensure that brand, interaction patterns and services are applied consistently and appropriately.

User experience and visual design are set to become more specialised with the continued fragmentation of skillsets. Also, more specific roles will emerge within niche design areas, and project methodologies will continue to evolve in order to meet the challenges of lean UX methodology shortfalls and the end of traditional User Interface design as a separate step. The
team also anticipate that they will see an emerging demand for intelligent machine interface design. This will go beyond the visual and interactive and push design into the semantic realm.

Finally, HT expect to see an increase in VUI design activity and associated emerging mediums. All of these developments offer a myriad of exciting opportunities for this proactive and experienced team, and over the months to come they will seek to take advantage of them so that they can continue to offer clients a truly exceptional service that they can rely upon. 

Phone: 0203 289 8008

Website: www.human-thinking.co.uk

Your Intelligent Future Starts Here

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Your Intelligent Future Starts Here

Royal Vision Group is a fast-growing and multi-award-winning alternative investment group, which has pioneered a new trading technology, the Two Brain System, to support the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund strategy. We spoke to CEO, Matjaz Zadravec as we look to gain an insight into the extensive success that the group has achieved.

Founded in 2012, the core activity of the Royal Vision Group is to offer asset growth with reciprocal tech-supported risk management and strong fiduciary standards in a form of a mutual fund. The overall mission of Royal Vision Group is to keep a longlasting and mutually beneficial relationship with its clients, and the team strives to provide the best possible experience and performance when it comes to investing in a professional fund.

Matjaz starts off the discussion by outlining the services and expertise held within the firm, as well as the fund that the group utilises in order to deliver the best service to clients. There are many exciting aspects that Matjaz discusses which highlight why the firm has been so successful.

“Essentially, Royal Vision Group’s expertise lies in a single fund management that employs an advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence system, which is able to perform a variety of trading strategies to reach a steady return at low deviations regardless of the market’s behaviour. Royal Vision Intelligent Fund is opened exclusively to professional individual investors, family offices and financial institutions, who understand the benefits of undertaking this type of alternative investment.

“The investment objective is to provide qualified investors with a positive double-digit return on rolling 12 months at a 10 percent maximum risk of the net asset value. The Royal Vision Intelligent Fund works with a priority on capital preservation with its own developed technology, the Two Brain System. It is an optimal blend of a computer-based intelligent support and a resultsdriven team of experienced professionals.”

In this increasingly technology dominated generation, the financial sector has been transformed, with software and technological solutions playing an integral part in many companies’ operations. Matjaz provides us with more information on the computer that assists the group in its operations, and he talks about why this technology is integral to success of Royal Vision Group.

“The highly sophisticated computer brain, also known as AIA (Artificial Intelligence Assistant) assists the experienced professional trader to produce the best performance possible. It analyses the market and learns from it with lightning speed, produces suggestions based on its smart examination of market data for a potential trade with probability parameters. These parameters are then fed to the human brain – the experienced professional trader, for a second evaluation and execution of the trade.

“At Royal Vision Group, we strongly believe that no investment endeavour can go without a thorough risk management system, that is why we use this technology to help us cope with the market’s uncertainty. The main foundation of the investment strategy initially lies in its risk mitigation, optimising the return performance on top of it. Besides the technology being on the front line of risk management, there are additional measures that take place, such as intraday trading, whereby positions are not affected by the possibility of negative overnight news; low monthly trading exposure; and avoidance of major unpredictable political or economic events.

“Furthermore, we strive being the front-runners of the financial industry in terms of product and services provided, which are reliable and safe for the intended user, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target. As an example, in the first quarter of 2018, many indices and the vast majority of macro hedge funds were struggling to brake onto positive grounds, whereas the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund has already generated a seven percent net return for its investors.”

Combining this advanced technology with unrivalled expertise across the sector, the Royal Vision Group is able to stand head and shoulders above its competitors, and is always at the forefront of any advances which occur within the sector. Matjaz believes this technology is one of the key reasons why clients choose to work with the group, rather than its competitors.

“When constructing the right business model, you have to focus on the client’s ‘needs and wants’, whilst constantly evaluating how can you improve and offer an even better experience. The complete business model is designed in a way that ensures corporate transparency and to ground the interdependent business relationship with the client, where we offer generous profit sharing, no exit fees or hidden charges and monthly liquidity. Aside from the frame of the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund, we draw a distinction between our competitor is also in the customer support segment and the technology powering the trading operations.

At Royal Vision Group, with its clientele selectiveness and a small team of professionals takes great pride in customer support. Our boutique approach enables us to nourish and sharpen the created business relationships with the commitment we express through our actions.”

Internally, the company culture and impressive cohesion between team members contributes greatly to the success of the firm. Matjaz comments on what methods and techniques his team employs in order to ensure that his staff provide the best service possible, implying that the small team means that staff can deliver a personal touch to each project.

“Significantly, every member of our team is dedicated, can act on their own self-initiative, and possesses the desire to be a part of a change, a greater vision. The DNA of the company demonstrates curiosity, diversity, and curiosity. In all elements of the company, we are a firm believer in establishing an innovation lab within the company’s eco-system. Freedom from the constraints of old business structures, hierarchy and culture is hugely beneficial in accelerating innovation and collaboration within our partners. This statement strongly reflects the management of business operations of the Intelligent Fund.

Looking at Royal Vision Group as a team of professionals, they embody the pioneering spirit, encourage diversity and support creativity. The group was created as a sound merger of two outstanding careers in the premier class in the financial industry, and in a global family and corporate business environment.

“Royal Vision Group consists of a small but flexible team of experienced professionals with a variety of competencies for trading, data analysis, research and development, business development, finance and investor relations. The collective is not comparable in size to a big financial institution, that way we are able to leverage is flexibility and at the same time focus on the expertise of individuals.”

Providing us with a brief overview of the industry within the UAE currently, Matjaz believes that the area has a lot of factors which have a positive impact on the company, despite the company operating on a global level.

“Royal Vision Group is being managed from its headquarters, which are located in Dubai International Financial Centre, UAE. Our main investment strategy focuses on US and EU equity futures and our client base is targeted globally (except US), that is why we do not feel directly or indirectly affected by the region, where we operate from.

“Although our scope is on an international level, we strongly believe that the GCC region has a lot of business potential to offer. Since Royal Vision Intelligent Fund handles an alternative approach to investing and is one of the few or perhaps even the only kind of alternative investment solution in the region, it is on our shoulders to properly educate the potential investors.

“Currently, many professional investors in the region tend to focus on real-estate, and we are trying to make a change by showcasing the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund as a great mid- to long-term diversification option to their portfolio. Considering this, we do see it as a challenge, but more in a way that it will require some time to educate the investor about the new opportunity we are offering.”

With a long-term vision of disrupting the current state of financial corporations with its services, the team is able to anticipate advances in the industry as it has built a dedicated department precisely for research and development. Matjaz talks about the industry and what techniques the Royal Vision Group employ to view any developments which will be a potential asset in the future.

“Although many classify Royal Vision Intelligent Fund as an alternative investment solution, we believe we are opening a completely new segment of asset management. With the modular strategy, the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund has proven to be a good diversification and asset allocation tool for mid- to longterm investment decisions.

Within the industry, there is a broad selection of possible solutions for the investor, but the issue we were noticing is that the financial vehicles offer a “one-state” type of strategy, where you have to combine the right mixture of them to lower your portfolio’s risk. With that in mind, at Royal Vision Group, we dived into finding a solution with the help of the current advancements in technology, especially artificial intelligence and machine learning. Hence the strategy of the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund has the ability to apply a mixture of trading styles, depending on the current market conditions, and being able to offer above-average returns in almost any conditions. The technique we are using cannot be compared to any other fund strategy, at least not to this day, since we have found a way to leverage the modularity of strategies with the assistance of artificial intelligence.

“Where the Royal Vision Intelligent Fund strategy especially shines is on markets with high volatility, this is where the Two Brain System performs amazingly well. Lastly, all of the research and development done at Royal Vision Group is done in-house, which means that the investment and trading strategy is exclusively applied only on to the Intelligent Fund.”

Ultimately, Matjaz and the team always have one eye on the future, and in his concluding comments, Matjaz is excitingly optimistic about the times ahead for the Royal Vision Group.

“At Royal Vision Group, we have been present in the industry now for over five years, where we gained our experience and verified the proof of concept of the technology, by managing a private fund before opening the regulated Intelligent Fund. The Intelligent Fund is still relatively young, now completing two years of audited track record. For us, the most important thing in the near future is to focus on increasing the FUM. Apart from business development operations, we are continuing with our new development in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning in asset management.”

Company: Royal Vision Group

Contact: Matjaz Zadravec

Address: Index Tower, Office 1503, DIFC – Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai, P.O. Box 507020, UAE

Phone: 00971 4 326 6656

Website: www.royalvisiongroup.com

Exploring Beyond IQ

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Exploring Beyond IQ

An Engineering Gold Medallist and MIT-Sloan alum, Er. Manmeet Singh Nayyar is a leading Design Thinking Expert and the founder of SpieQ Edutainment, investing into promoting non-traditional methods of educating children based on Holistic Development and fun-based Experiential Learning. We spoke to Manmeet about his role within SpieQ and what vision he has for the company.

Featuring in Corporate Vision’s Corporate Excellence Awards as our Most Influential CEO of the Year 2018 in Education, Manmeet spearheads the SpieQ team in creating the right learning ecosystem for children to be able to develop all quotients of human development, and enhance their creative skills, as well as adopting a critical thinking approach to learn and solve challenges of 21st Century. Manmeet provides us with an overview of what attributes he believes his team possess which contribute to its success.

Describe Your Background and how you came into this business?

I have more than 18 years of professional experience in leading senior management roles with large Global Companies such as GE, American Express and Tech Mahindra and compelling Technology Start-ups such as Global eProcure and TrustSphere.

I hold M.S (Computer Engg) from USC-Veterbi School of Engineering and MBA from SPJIMR. Also, I am an alumnus of Columbia Business School (Certified Digital Transformation Leader) and MIT-Sloan (Certified Innovation & Design Thinking Expert) besides being ITIL and Six Sigma Certified consultant.

After an accomplished corporate career, I started Arsym Consulting to fuel the growth for Indian SMB and Large Companies by adopting advanced processes and technologies. My passion to work towards building an egalitarian society was the bedrock of founding RACE BHARAT, a social initiative for Inclusive Growth in India by collaborating with Corporate, NGOs, Educationists and Researchers.

To bring this change since inception, I decided to target the K-12 student community, the future of India and instil in them the needful skills and values to be successful in 21st Century and develop all quotients of intelligence: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, and Emotional.

What are your business Mission Statement and Values?

What differentiates your firm from your competitors? As a brand, we wish to build an association with K-12 children community as their partner for Holistic Development. We are sure with time SpieQ will be most preferred community, connecting global children and evolving the dimensions and pace of learning beyond IQ and school curriculum.

At the same time, we are committed to Scientific Social Responsibility and have incubated this culture across our stakeholders with our values of – Inclusive Growth, Women Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Global Innovation and Environmental Sustainability.

Here at SpieQ, our Design Thinking and Customer-Centric approach differentiates us from our competitors. In the case of SpieQ, we are the only company that has established an immersive story telling methodology for teaching STEAM and inculcating 21st Century values and skills, enhancing to build a global brand, connecting the children of tomorrow.

Our customers are always going to get innovative products that enhance the behavioural, communication, creative skills of children.

With regards to your industry, what developments do you foresee?

Human challenges will not be same as in today. The world is going to need new skills in the 21st century such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, and more. This is because in future, our competition will be with advanced machines, powered by Artificial Intelligence. As such, it is crucial for us to get our children learn those skills that enable them to survive the storm of automation.

21st century skills and values are strongly supported by SpieQ, and so we have integrated the learning into our STEAM based DIY Kits that broaden the perspective of children and instil sensitivity in them for self-growth, community development and environmental sustainability.

When it comes to latest developments, Digital Transformation is inevitable to every business model, so our integrated Online (platform engagement, cartoon series, books etc) + Offline (STEAM & Holistic Development Kits Boxes) provide unique proposition.

Our Products & Services include:

• Nucleo Game Adventures (STEAM & 21st Century Learning Games)

• Infinity School Kits (School Curriculum Based Models)

• Thunderwings Adventure Camps (Recreational and Physical Adventure Camps)

• Dr. Dragon’s Lab (Online Marketplace for Project materials)

• SpieQ online Community.

What is the internal culture in your firm?

We pick the best brains, a group of like-minded people with strong commitment and deep expertise to bring innovation in how education is provided. Our core team comprises of talented alumni from leading global institutes including IIT-K, IIT-D, MICA, professionals including CAs and Lawyers having inclination towards fun-based learning approach. We have a flat hierarchy for innovation and all ideas are welcomed. We strongly believe to have a great idea, it is important to have lots of them and then to encourage that are technologically feasible, user friendly and financially viable.

Do you have any plans or projects you would like to share with us?

Looking to the future, we wish to launch a compelling Digital Platform which is easy to access, providing affordable STEAM and 21st Century Skills based educational entertainment for kids in Non-English speaking states in India and other countries.

Company: SpieQ Edutainment

Contact: Er. Manmeet Singh Nayyar

Address: Arsym Consulting Pvt. Ltd., BJ-90, West Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, 110088, India

Offices: New Delhi (Headquarter), Dubai, Singapore, Melbourne, San Francisco and Toronto

Phone: 0091 97 111 222 88

Website: www.spieq.com / www.arsym.com

Exploring Beyond IQ

Manmeet Singh Nayyar Most Influential CEO of the Year 2018 in Education

An Engineering Gold Medallist and MIT-Sloan alum, Er. Manmeet Singh Nayyar is a leading Design Thinking Expert and the founder of SpieQ Edutainment, investing into promoting non-traditional methods of educating children based on Holistic Development and fun-based Experiential Learning. We spoke to Manmeet about his role within SpieQ and what vision he has for the company.

Featuring in Corporate Vision’s Corporate Excellence Awards as our Most Influential CEO of the Year 2018 in Education, Manmeet spearheads the SpieQ team in creating the right learning ecosystem for children to be able to develop all quotients of human development, and enhance their creative skills, as well as adopting a critical thinking approach to learn and solve challenges of 21st Century. Manmeet provides us with an overview of what attributes he believes his team possess which contribute to its success.

Describe Your Background and how you came into this business?

I have more than 18 years of professional experience in leading senior management roles with large Global Companies such as GE, American Express and Tech Mahindra and compelling Technology Start-ups such as Global eProcure and TrustSphere.

I hold M.S (Computer Engg) from USC-Veterbi School of Engineering and MBA from SPJIMR. Also, I am an alumnus of Columbia Business School (Certified Digital Transformation Leader) and MIT-Sloan (Certified Innovation & Design Thinking Expert) besides being ITIL and Six Sigma Certified consultant.

After an accomplished corporate career, I started Arsym Consulting to fuel the growth for Indian SMB and Large Companies by adopting advanced processes and technologies. My passion to work towards building an egalitarian society was the bedrock of founding RACE BHARAT, a social initiative for Inclusive Growth in India by collaborating with Corporate, NGOs, Educationists and Researchers.

To bring this change since inception, I decided to target the K-12 student community, the future of India and instil in them the needful skills and values to be successful in 21st Century and develop all quotients of intelligence: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, and Emotional.

What are your business Mission Statement and Values? What differentiates your firm from your competitors?

As a brand, we wish to build an association with K-12 children community as their partner for Holistic Development. We are sure with time SpieQ will be most preferred community, connecting global children and evolving the dimensions and pace of learning beyond IQ and school curriculum.

At the same time, we are committed to Scientific Social Responsibility and have incubated this culture across our stakeholders with our values of – Inclusive Growth, Women Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Global Innovation and Environmental Sustainability.

Here at SpieQ, our Design Thinking and Customer-Centric approach differentiates us from our competitors. In the case of SpieQ, we are the only company that has established an immersive story telling methodology for teaching STEAM and inculcating 21st Century values and skills, enhancing to build a global brand, connecting the children of tomorrow.

Our customers are always going to get innovative products that enhance the behavioural, communication, creative skills of children.

With regards to your industry, what developments do you foresee?

Human challenges will not be same as in today. The world is going to need new skills in the 21st century such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, and more. This is because in future, our competition will be with advanced machines, powered by Artificial Intelligence. As such, it is crucial for us to get our children learn those skills that enable them to survive the storm of automation.

21st century skills and values are strongly supported by SpieQ, and so we have integrated the learning into our STEAM based DIY Kits that broaden the perspective of children and instil sensitivity in them for self-growth, community development and environmental sustainability.

When it comes to latest developments, Digital Transformation is inevitable to every business model, so our integrated Online (platform engagement, cartoon series, books etc) Offline (STEAM & Holistic Development Kits Boxes) provide unique proposition.

Our Products & Services include –

·         Nucleo Game Adventures (STEAM & 21st Century Learning Games)

·         Infinity School Kits (School Curriculum Based Models)

·         Thunderwings Adventure Camps (Recreational and Physical Adventure Camps)

·         Dr. Dragon’s Lab (Online Marketplace for Project materials)

·         SpieQ online Community

What is the internal culture in your firm?

We pick the best brains, a group of like-minded people with strong commitment and deep expertise to bring innovation in how education is provided. Our core team comprises of talented alumni from leading global institutes including IIT-K, IIT-D, MICA, professionals including CAs and Lawyers having inclination towards fun-based learning approach.

We have a flat hierarchy for innovation and all ideas are welcomed. We strongly believe to have a great idea, it is important to have lots of them and then to encourage that are technologically feasible, user friendly and financially viable.

Do you have any plans or projects you would like to share with us?

Looking to the future, we wish to launch a compelling Digital Platform which is easy to access, providing affordable STEAM and 21st Century Skills based educational entertainment for kids in Non-English speaking states in India and other countries.

Company: SpieQ Edutainment

Contact: Er. Manmeet Singh Nayyar

Address: Arsym Consulting Pvt. Ltd., BJ-90, West Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, 110088, India

Offices: New Delhi (Headquarter), Dubai, Singapore, Melbourne, San Francisco and Toronto

Phone: 0091 97 111 222 88

Website: www.spieq.com , www.arsym.com

Closing the Admin Gap

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Every CEO wants their employees to work smarter. To do more with less. Successful disruptors often address this issue. 

A good example is Purplebricks, the hybrid estate agent that has reworked the traditional estate agent’s job and removed a huge slice of the admin associated with the role. Their local property experts spend all their time selling homes and none drumming up business or undertaking back office admin tasks. 

Car maintenance start-up Fixter connects independent garages with customers, picking up a car from a customer’s home or workplace and taking it to a specially vetted local garage. Garages spend too much time on admin – scheduling bookings, suppliers, tax, invoices. But Fixter feeds these independent garages with jobs while providing them with the technology to provide instant quotes and accurate parts matching and ordering. Do customers care the garage isn’t spending all that time doing paperwork? Of course not – they want a simple, quality service from a trustworthy independent garage. 

Which brings me to the health sector.

A huge issue for the health service is the amount of time that doctors are spending not seeing patients; on admin, travel, scheduling amongst other tasks. In a climate of staff shortages and limited budgets, GP practices are struggling to cope with patient demand.  Patients are currently waiting an average of around 13 days to see their doctor – with some forecasts suggesting that might rise to three weeks.

From a patient’s point of view the 13-day wait is already far from ideal. And, course, your appointment is only for one illness. If you have three things you need to see the doctor about, you are likely to need three separate appointments. It’s going to take you a long time to get those booked in, that’s all time spent not getting better.

Until April 2014, the standard GP appointment slot in England was fixed at 10 minutes and although the length can now be varied, the NHS Choices website tells patients they should expect doctors to spend an average of 8-10 minutes with them.

With challenges in recruiting more GPs to the UK and funding already stretched, the only way that the NHS (in its current guise) could reduce waiting times would be to increase the number of patients each GP has to see every day. That would clearly be a retrograde step for the health service, for doctors who are already stretched and for patients, who can already struggle to get the help they need.  You can’t cut the consultation down much further, especially with an ageing population with complicated, multiple health needs that cannot be properly treated within a much shorter timeframe. 

But there is another way. 

Push Doctor doesn’t do admin on behalf of the NHS individual surgeries. We focus on the provision of care online and via our hassle-free healthcare app, allowing patients to get the diagnosis, advice, and treatment they need via a video consultation. Our appointments (currently £20 rather than free at the point of delivery, by way of full disclosure) are booked in 10-minute slots and appointments can always be extended as needed. We only work with GMC-registered and NHS trained doctors with experience in NHS clinics, private clinics, or both. So there’s no difference in service – other than the consultation taking place on your smartphone, tablet or desktop rather than face-to-face. Push Doctor is not a niche new offering – with thousands of appointments being delivered each week, hundreds of thousands of patients have now been able to access the help they need, and audits show that over 95% get the help they need via their first video consultation, without the need for face-to-face care.

With Push Doctor someone can pick an appointment time to be seen in under 10 minutes rather than 13 days. And our service is available every day of the year from 6am until 11pm.

Now, this isn’t an advert for Push Doctor, but the contrast, in terms of delivery, is currently very stark indeed. 

How? 

The difference is, of course, in the admin. At Push Doctor we want doctors to focus on the diagnosis alone and to improve efficiency, with centralised medical and customer experience teams supporting them around the clock. Digital healthcare increases the ability of doctors to work flexibly and can improve doctors’ working environments while enabling them to treat more people, often unlocking hours that wouldn’t previously have been practical for them. With a digitally empowered platform and smart technology, Push Doctor can also maximise the effectiveness of the workforce which is no longer limited by geographical location. The effective use of technology to remove admin and travel out of a doctor’s day is one of the reasons that the country’s medical tech sector is thriving.  According to PwC, the global “connected healthcare” market is expected to expand by a third every year, reaching £37bn by 2020. The UK, it predicts, will grab five per cent — or nearly £2bn — of this.

Currently, GPs currently spend 11 per cent of their time on administration. In an age of large-scale cloud computing, many GP surgeries still retain stacks of paper patient records and operate clunky legacy IT systems. When you add commuting and other administrative roles to the paperwork, 45% of a GP’s time is not being spent on patients. Now overlay best-in-class digital healthcare technology onto the NHS. So much more could be done with the application of advanced automation and centralised support to close that gap. Do patients miss the admin? It appears not – something our significant 230% year-on-year subscription increase shows.

Not only does digital healthcare have the potential to free up NHS capacity and help the health service to offer better care to people who still choose to see their GP in the surgery, there is already evidence that waiting times for face-to-face appointments are falling due to apps. 

Another example of a disruptor doing more, with less.

Eren Ozagir is the CEO and Founder of Push Doctor, and he talks us through some of the most innovative ways to close the admin gap.

Wellbeing At Work: No Longer A Fad Or Fiction.

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Wellbeing At Work: No Longer A Fad Or Fiction.

Joe Gaunt, Founder and CEO of hero talks us through the importance of investing in corporate wellbeing. 

There is a growing evidence base to show that we can no longer ignore workforce wellness and wellbeing.  Up to 40 per cent of the UK workforce’s sickness absence is due to mental ill health, with one in six working aged people experiencing mental ill health at any given time. Presenteeism is also an increasing issue for organisations where employees are at work but are under-productive due to poor emotional wellbeing or worse absenteeism.  We know sickness absence costs on average £692 per employee per year and presenteeism approximately £15bn annually to the UK economy. 

Technology is a factor which has led to some wellness issues in our workforce.  It enables employees being accessible around the clock with employers demanding more and more employees’ time and commitment out of normal office hours.

It’s all to play for when it comes to corporate health and wellbeing.  It’s an issue rising-up the boardroom agenda and affecting businesses large and small.

There is a challenge when it comes to corporate wellness programmes, which is especially true in large organisations and this is personalisation.  A clear and emerging theme from wellness best practice is that employees desire and require a personal experience. What works for one employee won’t for another.  Think about the make up of your team. Everyone is different and have different strengths and weaknesses.  We therefore can’t expect one off the shelf programme to suit your entire workforce – no matter how small they are.  The Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey revealed that most employees (73%) say they prefer to manage their health and wellbeing on their own but that two-thirds of employees around the globe agree that employers have a role to play in encouraging them to live healthier lifestyles.

It’s important organisations recognise that wellness isn’t just about another weekly fruit box or gym memberships.  Physical wellbeing is important but psychological health is equally important, and good quality corporate wellness programmes will include resources for employees to seek help, support and advice.

The one thing that is central to the success of any corporate wellness programme is technology.  Although it’s sometimes referenced as the cause of some wellness issues,if it’s utilised correctly it can be the solution.  To begin with technology will help organisations understand the wellbeing landscape when they conduct a wellbeing audit or discovery report.  And it is vital that this is carried out.  It ensures the entire company is surveyed and the organisation understands where the issues are, what the trigger points are for the issues and what worries the workforce has.

From this standing start the company can look to offer a range of services, resources and tools, which allow employees to be empowered find the support and resources they need to support them the most.  Employers should be looking to offer a good mix of company-wide initiatives to complement this. Every employee’s journey to a healthier lifestyle is unique, and it should be treated as such.

The best corporate wellness programmes are meaningful and stem from a clear, well thought out strategy with KPIs, which are measured regularly.  Digital platforms should be used to create and enable personalised experience for employees.  Technology can also be used to connect employees with similar health and wellness interests as well as supporting and reward individual progress. Employers can expect to see higher participation rates with a more personalised approach to employee wellness.

Why invest in corporate wellness?

It makes sense both ethically and financially to invest in corporate wellness.  There is a growing bank of evidence which supports the belief that a healthy and happy workforce equates to a happy and healthy balance sheet in other words – happy me, happy we.

Investing in a corporate wellness scheme will decrease absenteeism among employees. If employees are taking less time off due to sickness they are also not attempting to work whilst they are feeling ‘under the weather’ so job performance will improve. One study found employees who participated in a health promotion programme and improved their health care or lifestyle regained an average of 10.3 hours in additional productivity annually and saved their companies an average of $353 per person per year in productivity costs compared to non-participants.

It’s not just performance, which wellness programmes have a positive impact on. Employees who are healthier, feel better, have more energy, are less stressed aren’t going to look to leave an employer who has helped, supported and encouraged them to achieve all this.  Corporate wellness programmes also do wonders to help employee retention. Any good wellness programme will also strengthen the bond and commitment of teams.  Programmes that enable individual and wider company initiatives will naturally build a stronger work ethic and bond, which will in turn have a positive impact on job performance.    

A successful organisation will go on a journey with their teams, which will see education, information sharing, recognition and reward as part of the strategy.

Corporate wellness programmes make sense and is a trend which is gaining momentum. Any new or re-invigorated wellness programme should come from a well thought out and measured strategy. Each business is different, and each workforce faces different challenges.

The ROI or the value of investment (VOI) should and will differ from company to company. But it’s vital evaluation takes place on a regular basis.  Using a digital platform will help with this and ensure visibility. The platform will enable you to see who is engaging with this and what impact that is having on the overall business.          

It’s an exciting time for corporate wellness and wellbeing and it has the potential to make a huge difference to the performance of an organisation.

Digital Strategies Which Redefine the Industry

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Digital Strategies Which Redefine the Industry

Zen Ex Machina (ZXM) is a professional management consulting company, specialising in digital transformation, agile coaching and training across government and commercial entities. We profiled the creative coaching team before speaking to Mia Horrigan to find out more about the company and its extensive achievements.

From the onset, ZXM look to help their clients achieve the best results possible by devising business agility strategies to implement, which will be of benefit to staff to improve their delivery of programs and for external customers, creating a client experience that delights.

As a sign of the organisation’s success, ZXM boasts a wealth of high profile clients, including the Australian Taxation Office, Department of Industry and Innovation, Department of Human Services, Origin Energy, Nestle, eBay and Australian Bureau of Statistics.

ZXM has coached over 65 teams across 20 organisations and trained over 600 people in the last five years. The company’s agile coaches and trainers are experienced practitioners, who have worked collaboratively with government departments and agencies to help organisations, portfolios, programmes and teams to be as effective as possible. Mia discussed the team’s overall mission, as well as what steps the firm is taking in order to achieve these results.

“Here at ZXM, we help our clients improve their digital business’ products and services by using Agile, Lean and UX methods.The digital economy has transformed the way both small and large businesses operate. Competition, government policy, industry standards and regulations all require smarter, faster, leaner ways of working. To meet the challenges that modern organisations face, ZXM consulting services focus on helping our clients solve complex business problems with solutions of elegant simplicity. Our goal is to support clients from strategy through to implementation.

“Essentially, we work with executives to define a strategy for portfolio delivery using agile frameworks including Scrum, Kanban and Lean and align initiatives to strategic themes for the organisation with a focus on delivering business value and value for end users.” Mia explains that Agile isn’t just about technology, it’s about Business Agility and these software frameworks are now being applied in non-software environments such as government policy, change management, marketing and creative services.

Continuously delivering results, these agile frameworks have proven successful for Mia and her team. Working with new clients and on new projects can sometimes prove to be difficult, but it is a seamless transition for the staff at ZXM.

Mia explains, “A key element in ZXM’s approach to supporting our clients to achieve the best outcome, is focused on developing capability and knowledge and delivery of valuebased products through the use of user-centred design methods, including Design Thinking, combined with Agile frameworks such as Scrum to drive improvement cadence and Lean to improve efficiency. We establish our approach to new projects and engagements based on an understanding of the problem, practices needs of business and end-users, the current organisational context of service and product delivery, and the gaps to establish an agile learning culture that is usercentred at its heart.”

Boasting a team full of experienced Agilists, the team’s professionalism, knowledge and ability to rejuvenate and transform various entities has been crucial to the success of the company. Additionally, ZXM has a proven track record of working alongside clients and forming long-term relationships with trusted partners, and it is this quality which helps it to differentiate itself from its clients, according to Mia.

“Here are ZXM, our first goal is to build a strong, collaborative relationship with our clients. ZXM’s team of consultants provide pragmatic advice on bestpractice agility based on practical experience across Scrum, Lean, Kanban, and scaled frameworks including Nexus and SAFe.

“Agile methods are at the core of our practice. For us, agile means a disciplined use of methods like Scrum and Lean to achieve goals quickly, collaboratively, with minimal waste, and with high repeatability. As a result, we learn faster, deliver better, and continuously improve our practice. Our team are highly skilled practitioners who do not just teach you about Agile and Scrum, they provide guidance and knowledge based on years of experience in implementation of large scaled scrum initiatives across enterprises.”

However, an essential part of standing out within the industry is being able keep on top of any developments which are constantly arising across the sector, and working hard to monitor which strategies are effective. This is something that the team at ZXM is able to do with great effect, as Mia explains when providing us with a brief overview of the industry at present.

“One of the leading causes of failure of agile initiatives, is the lack of experience in implementing the frameworks and practices. Our aim is to improve the agility of our client’s program teams by focussing on building capability and enablement through coaching support, as the team develops their capability in using agile frameworks.”

“Importantly, our frameworks enable our Agile Consultants to focus on supporting the creation of enterprise agile capabilities, organisational change and supporting the digital transformation of products and services and that meet the DTA’s Digital Service Standard by integrating UCD methods, tools and practices into agile processes, including the ‘Definition of Done’, and how best to describe and define a Minimal Viable Product (MVP).”

Internally, the thriving working environment and team culture within ZXM has contributed significantly to the success of the company. Mia comments on the values which are embedded in the company ethos, and how they contribute to staff being able to deliver an excellent service.

“We really live our values of Simplicity, Agility, Collaboration, Sustainability and Value. Additionally, we value simplicity, as ZXM uses 21st century, digital, agile techniques to understand complicated business problems. Furthermore, Beginner’s Mind and minimalism is always at the forefront of our thinking and our practice. Agility is ZXM’s passion as it encourages incremental improvement through transparency, inspection and adaptation, strong leadership, and a disciplined use of frameworks such as Scrum to achieve goals faster and collaboratively with business and stakeholders”.

“In terms of collaboration, and we love working side-by-side with our clients. This helps us to build a love for our customers’ needs, create empathy, and generate insights. Also, this means we work in multi-disciplinary teams. Furthermore, the team focuses on Sustainability, as when a team hums along, time just passes by quickly without you realising it, you’ve got flow as well as a high-performing team. This comes from embracing sustainability, planning work so that it flows better, and most importantly not overloading our teams.”

Providing value to clients is important to ZXM, and Mia believes they are only as good as our last engagement. “The focal point of simplicity, agility, collaboration and sustainability is nothing if we do not deliver a high-value outcome for our clients. This is what ZXM always strives to deliver.”

In her concluding comments, Mia is clearly excited about what the future holds for the firm, and there are many reasons for this, including the continuous success that the company has achieved recently. Additionally, this success has resulted in the team being well placed to embrace any challenges that come their way in the future and turn them into opportunities.

“Moving forward, we have grown significantly over the past two years and now have a depth of capability to support our large enterprise clients as they continue to innovate and transform their digital services. One of our clients recently won an award and we were thrilled to be part of their team, but also seeing them be recognised for their fantastic work and achievements in digital services over the past two years.

“Ultimately, Business Agility and demand for agility in non-software environments is a growing trend in our Industry, and ZXM has been at the forefront of providing Business Agility services to large government and corporate clients over the past five years. Throughout the years, we have helped executives in creative teams, marketing, policy and program offices improve their process, as well as seeing efficiencies in delivering services to staff and clients through adoption of agile frameworks such as Scrum and Lean.”

Telephone: +61 (0) 412 821 852

Website: www.zenexmachina.com

Helping Businesses Expand Globally

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Helping Businesses Expand Globally

Elements Global Services (EGS) is a direct Employer of Record service provider with international reach. It has offices in Chicago, London, Delhi, Barcelona, and Hong Kong, but its team of 50 employees can cover 135 countries worldwide. We spoke to Dany Rastelli from Elements Global Services, as we looked to discover more about this innovative firm.

Elements Global Services (EGS) work with large and small companies alike: from start-ups and SMEs looking to make their first forays into international markets, to global corporations embarking on the next stage of their global expansion strategy.

The firm’s main offerings are: Employer of Record (EOR) services. If a business isn’t a registered entity in a country that it operates in, EGS serves as the legal employer in their stead. The team takes care of all international fees, regulations, and other requirements, while ensuring that companies maintain full control over hiring policy, salary payments, and benefits. With their EOR service, businesses can focus on their international strategy – free of any unnecessary bureaucracy or red tape.

EGS are one of a very few companies operating in their space offering a direct EOR model. All specialist knowledge is kept in-house, meaning the client receives a completely cohesive experience without having to worry about how we manage any third parties. They also receive their own dedicated account manager to collaborate on strategy, and ensure that everything’s ticking along as it should be.

If a client is looking for a more a la carte offering, EGS offers an Administrative Services Outsourcing (ASO) – which allows clients to select what they want EGS to manage and what they want to keep in-house – and Global Human Resources Organisation (HRO), a general consultancy solution ideal for managing difficult situations and ensuring business continuity. Client satisfaction is EGS’ top priority, and the team takes a number of steps to ensure it, as Dany explains.

“Firstly, our direct model is designed to guarantee that everything we do is kept strictly in-house. We have lawyers to handle regulatory issues; finance experts to take care of payroll and accounts; and HR specialists to maintain the satisfaction and wellbeing of a business’ global workforce.

“At EGS, we take great pride in our end-to-end service. Companies may outsource certain functions to us, but we’ll never outsource anything to any other entity. You can’t guarantee client and employee satisfaction if you’re not fully responsible for the service you provide. A direct model keeps us accountable and compels us to continuously improve our offering.

“To that end, we also provide comprehensive account management to take care of the evolving needs of each client – and to make them feel valued on an ongoing basis.”

When discussing the company’s overall mission, Dany informs us of the steps the team at EGS takes to achieve their goals.

“Here at EGS, our mission is to help our global clients grow as quickly and as cost-efficiently as possible. It’s a task that requires us to communicate the value of our services as clearly and effectively as possible – and to clarify the different ways in which they can support each business’ international objectives.

“Long-term, we want to expand our global client roster across the 135 countries we serve, and a significant part of this is working to ensure that our current clients are as happy as possible. When they become advocates for our services, we’re better placed to attract new customers.

“In terms of our more immediate goals, we’re looking to build our presence in European countries such as Spain and the UK, and send more in-house staff to different countries around the world”

It is no secret that behind every successful company, is a team of dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to ensure that the firm reach their goals. As for EGS, Dany takes time to tell us more about the internal culture at the company, as well as highlighting how they ensure all team members are equipped to provide the best possible service to its clients.

“Maintaining a uniform company culture across our multiple locations is certainly difficult, but we manage it. It requires discipline, commitment, and – of course – hiring the right people.

“In fact, all staff are directly hired by or through Rick Hammell, our CEO. From the moment they join, they all have his full support, and because of that, they’re all on the same page. Also, we make sure to maintain a scrupulous awareness of our strengths and weaknesses: we want to know where we’re doing well so we can build on it, and we want to know where we’re falling short, so we can correct it. It’s not all rigorous process improvement, of course: a keen sense of fun is essential to any company culture, and we try to ensure that employees enjoy our workplace environments.

“Although we’re now an international business, we know how important it is to think globally, but act locally. We’re an American business, but we don’t want to be an Americanised one when we’re operating in the UK, Spain, or Hong Kong.”

Staying on the topic of the staff, Dany shares EGS’ approach to hiring new team members, and how they attract the very best talent in the industry to their company.

“The first rule of creating a global business is simple: hire local. It might make sense to parachute in high-fliers from a different office at first, but if they don’t understand the region they’re operating in, they won’t get the best results. Hiring people who speak the cultural language is allimportant – as is attracting them by highlighting the company’s potential to disrupt its field. You want to offer good salaries and a positive culture, but you also want to present the company as an intellectually exciting environment.

“Also, of course, we make sure not to hire anyone who doesn’t have the full support of our CEO. Rick’s been involved in the interview process for every one of our hires, and that isn’t going to change soon.”

Bringing the interview to a close, Dany reveals the developments within the industry that he foresees, and the firm will adapt around these.

“More players in our space will adopt the EOR model. As previously mentioned, we’re currently one of the only providers who offer this, but we don’t expect to be for very long: the challenge is to keep innovating and keep providing superior service even as competitors attempt to muscle in on our territory. We’re more than up to it. Plenty of companies that pretend to provide full end-to-end EOR will be weeded out by the rise of genuine EOR businesses. The quality of service across the industry will therefore rise.

“It’ll come just in time, as well: rising geopolitical volatility will serve as a real barrier to companies looking to explore new markets – and EOR services will allow them to avoid setting up registered entities in potentially fraught regions. This will considerably mitigate their risks.”

Moving forward, the future for EGS looks bright, as Dany explains how the firm will have doubled their workforce, as well as starting to branch out and establishing themselves an international brand.

“By the end of 2018, we intend to double our global workforce from 50 to 100 employees. What’s more, these employees are going to be very busy because EGS fully intends to make a significant impact across each region of the world we operate in. Lastly, we’re perceived in some quarters as a primarily American company, and we intend to move further and further away from that. In future, we’d like to be thought of as a truly international brand.”

Company: Elements Global Services,

Contact: Dany Rastelli

Address: 42 Corsham Street, London, N1 6DR, UK

Telephone: 0203 405 8282

Website: www.elementsgs.com