3 things successful leaders do differently

Written by: Steve Sawyer

Not all leaders have the right tools in place to become successful. Here are 3 simple tips to help you achieve your goals.

1. Trust your intuition

Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and intuitive thinking. There is a science behind it. If you are ever in a situation where there are conflicting facts or a lack of information, your intuition really counts.

       

2. Empower your workforce

Enable your team to collaborate and take ownership of tasks by providing access to data. Setting up the framework to allow information to flow freely between teams is essential in achieving your overall goals.

       

3. Embrace technology

With the right software to help support your business decisions then you are on the winning road to success.

 

What can we really learn from successful people and their stories? Download The Little Book of Success and find out what inspires us.

Download The Little Book Of Success

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The Ideal Host

Written by: Rob Barr

As any guest knows, the best hosts always offer a range of choices. This should be no different whether you’re at a hotel, a dinner party or in partnership with a software provider. But surprisingly, sometimes it can be hard to find a provider that offers flexibility in how its’ solutions are delivered.

When we launched Access thankQ CRM we decided to open up all options for our customers to fit their requirements - whether that’s keeping software locally on-premise, hosted by us or by a third party supplier. After all, hosting is all about choices.

Would you expect any less from any other supplier? Take cars as an example, whether you’re looking to buy a Fiat, a Ford or even a Ferrari, they come with a gargantuan range of options. Walk into any Starbucks and there’s an array of choice designed to give you exactly what you want… so why should your software provider be any different?

As an organisation you might have long standing relationships with a current hosting provider. We wouldn’t want to get in the way of that, after all at Access Group we’re all about building strong partnerships. Having talked to many of our not-for-profit customers we realised that there are many reasons why an organisation might choose one path over another, and we didn’t want to preclude anyone from benefiting from thankQ CRM because of the delivery mechanism.

For some organisations it was important that their CRM system was on their own premises; they didn’t want it hosted elsewhere because this approach quite simply works best for them. Equally other not-for-profits, welcomed the fact that they could keep their current hosting provider, whilst other want the simplicity to deal with one provider for their whole software/hosting solution.

Since the Group acquired hosting specialists StratoGen last year, we’ve been able to add an invaluable, robust hosting service to our offering. Having everything under one roof, brings many advantages for our customers because it means dealing with a single point of contact. Coupled with the Access personal touch, provides the opportunity to build a stronger working relationship. One where we can both understand what you want from your hosting and from your product. 

Offering flexibility in the solution’s delivery helps to ensure that the whole package is right for the individual organisation. When you’re choosing a CRM system it’s an investment – and one that shouldn’t be about compromise. So, when it comes to deciding on which package to go for, it’s important to consider what options are important to your organisation – and not what the software vendor thinks is right for you.

This article is the third in a series of seven blogs relating to our 2015 Manifesto.

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Project management, technology and information sharing

Written by: Steve Sawyer

Technology is transforming the way projects are managed. One of the most fundamental advances technology has made in relation to project management is its ability to provide access to real-time data. This ultimately provides increased visibility of a project to enable it to be managed more efficiently and effectively. 

One of the most common mistakes that can lead to an unsuccessful project is a failure to keep control. Businesses can only ensure a project is successful (and profitable) through both current and forward visibility, and technology is key to this.

Businesses need to instil building blocks to effectively monitor projects in terms of both time and workforce arrangements. One way technology achieves this is by making finance systems and timesheets available electronically.

For example, employees are now able to complete timesheets online and, more importantly, do this in real-time rather than filling in a paper version at the end of a busy week at work. Meanwhile emerging finance systems enable employees to instantly record every purchase order and invoice that is made, while also tracking project changes on a daily basis.

This real-time information is absolutely vital to a successful project as it alerts a business when things are going wrong. It is therefore easy to review and react instantly by changing tactics or strategy if necessary. Having the ability to review progress around the clock also means results can be easily presented to a customer or client to show regular progression or help explain any changes that have occurred.

Within the next five to ten years I fully expect that emerging technologies will continue to create drastic changes to the way projects operate – and for the better. The improvements in mobile technology means workers will have the chance to become increasingly field-based, with paper documents becoming a thing of the past. For example, a mobile phone can be used to capture the time committed to a certain project, approve invoices, revise a timesheet or even record a travel expense wherever and whenever.

Technology is essentially removing the potential constraints of project management by enabling real-time business insights to be shared while also allowing people to easily and efficiently work on multiple different projects in the same online space. This not only creates both time and cost efficiencies, but it ultimately means that businesses have the ability to operate, and grow, on a global scale.”

News

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Fourth relaxation in the RTI penalty regime

Written by: Kate Upcraft

This week HMRC announced a fourth relaxation in the RTI penalty regime. Let's recap on the history...

 - February 2014:

      - the introduction of late and non-filing penalties delayed until October 2014

 - August 2014:

      - a phased introduction of late and non-filing penalties for PAYE schemes with 50+ payees beginning in October 2014 and all other schemes beginning in March 2015

      - automated late payment penalties to be introduced in April 2015

 - 17 February 2015:

      - late payment penalties to be risk-assessed, not automated, from April 2015 and a 3-day easement introduced to the 'on or before' rules for filing introduced retrospectively to October 2014 to reduce the number of penalties that would be incurred. Penalties that had already been sent for the period October - December 2014 could be appealed  

 - 17 June 2015:

      - automated late and non-filing penalties scrapped for 2015/16 and moved to risk assessed (the same as late payment)

This week's announcement is at pains to point out that schemes that file late ie outside the 3-day easement, are non-compliant and risk a penalty. 

The announcement came in the middle of the quarter 4/month 12 penalties being received by agents and employers. I have seen a number of these over the last two weeks and would make the following observations:

 - A significant number have not been preceded by a GNS warning message as should be the case

 - The first default in the period October 2015 - March 2015 for a scheme with 50+ payees should be unpenalised. Any penalty notice where the first default has a penalty shown is wrong and should be appealed. Some do correctly show a zero as the first default, but this is not consistent

 - Only schemes with less than 50 payees are penalised for the first default which cannot be before tax month 12 i.e. 6th March to 5th April

 - There is no requirement to pay the penalty if you intend to appeal even though the notice says you must!

The Penalty and Appeals Service (PAS) can be accessed by employers through their PAYE Online Id and by agents through their portal. HMRC confirmed in the Employer Bulletin published on 18 June 2015 that where the 3 day easement is the basis for the appeal then 'Reason code A' must be selected for the appeal with ‘Return filed within 3 days’. This is a change of policy to the original instruction about these appeals that asked for the ‘other’ reason to be selected and the same text to be inserted in the free-form text box.

It now appears that any appeal where ‘other’ is selected causes the appeal to be referred for clerical investigation. This will be an issue for HMRC as they do not have the resource to consider these appeals just as they cannot handle SA appeals, as all resources are now focused on tax credit renewals. So wherever possible use the specific appeal codes for your reasonable excuse as this appears to lead to an automatic penalty cancellation. You should look for the GNS message that will arrive within a couple of days and the postal cancellation of penalty notice that will follow.

If your referred appeal is subsequently refused you can still request an internal review of the decision and HMRC should tell you this but appears to be omitting to do so. 

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Digital predictions: will you meet customer expectations in 2015?

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Access Group’s recent whitepaper, ‘Mind the Gap - Next stop: customer satisfaction’ uncannily correlates with Deloitte’s ‘What are the next digital trends set to disrupt the consumer market in 2015?

The whitepaper looks at systems that give all parts of an organisation, its partners and its customers, a fine-grained, real-time and synoptic view of total inventory in a connected supply chain which enables the delivery of true customer satisfaction. See Access Groups’ previous blog: Getting true customer satisfaction

Deloitte look at consumer connectivity and device convergence as it continues to challenge and disrupt the market. This has accelerated with the emergence of new digital technologies and platforms. Deloitte’s predictions are:

- Mobile: payments and proximity

- Click and collect: fragmented fulfilment

- Smarter machines to serve the connected consumer

- The internet of things

- 3D printing goes mainstream for business

Access Group touches on similar themes to Deliotte’s recent whitepaper, suggesting that in fact these digital predictions are going to become ‘digital changes’. Elements of customer expectation that impact and drive innovation on the supply chain industry, as noted in Access Group’s whitepaper, include:

- Ordering: streamlined and automated

- Choice of delivery: flexibility for customer

- Speed of fulfilment: process management

- Accuracy and fulfilment: stock management

- Sustainability: increasing expectations of supply chain operations

These trends follow as ordering technology becomes easier, more accessible and powerful. The promise of availability and delivery at the time of ordering and the ability to modify the order subsequently; choice of delivery location– and again the ability to vary that; speed of fulfilment – the right goods are in the right condition to the right location at the right time.

The expectation of the ordering process, noted in Access Group’s whitepaper, correlates with Deloitte, “Mobile technology has empowered consumers by giving them access to information in real-time and on-the-go, allowing them to make better decisions.” The ease of ordering ‘on-the-go’ is easy for the consumer, but for organisations to keep up they need speed and accuracy during fulfilment. This is achieved via modern solutions that integrate and automate processes in real-time.

Businesses are introducing new technology (software solutions) that allows them to better fulfil orders, to the customer expectations. This is thanks to systems that allow intelligent distribution of information, for example, ‘click and collect’ – understanding, integrating and automating ‘smarter machines’ (systems) to serve the connected customer – full consumer utilisation of ‘the internet of things’. However, businesses need capable infrastructure to meet these expectations.

Furthermore, Deloitte’s prediction of ‘3D printing goes mainstream’ correlates neatly with the expectation of ‘sustainability’. Consumers and businesses, who have to meet their own consumer’s expectations, increasingly have expectations about the impacts of supply chain and fulfilment operations. 3D printing could disrupt supply chains in the sense that an order could be made, rather than having stock in a regional warehouse, an order could be made and stored locally reducing the negative impact on a large supply chain – this allows businesses to manufacture in real-time and potentially reduce delivery time for the consumer.

For this system to prove effective, it will then be reliant on the ability to integrate key order, delivery, financial and fulfilment information that integrates into a manufacturing solution that can automate the creation of productions, and quickly adapt planning and scheduling during manufacturing to accommodate abrupt changes.

Ultimately the introduction of local 3D printing, would have the potential to cut logistics costs (along with environmental costs), create efficient and sustainable manufacturing operations locally, shortening the supply-chain and improve customer service.

For these ‘digital predictions’ to transform into ‘digital changes’, it will be critical for businesses to keep up with rising expectations and daunting futures by strengthening and streamlining processes,  and infrastructure to accommodate an ever more connected supply chain. With the right solutions businesses can exceed expectation.

To find out more about the infrastructure needed to compete with growing customer expectations read Access Group’s recent whitepaper; 

Mind the Gap - Next stop: customer satisfaction

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Getting true customer satisfaction: the connected supply chain reaction

Written by: Daniel Chapman

Exceeding customer expectations is an obvious business imperative. But with large elements of satisfaction lying in the processes that deliver the product: i.e. in the supply chain, satisfaction is far from guaranteed if those processes – and their underlying IT systems – are fragmented, isolated and inefficient. 

Factors that directly affect customer satisfaction are at the top of the priority list for improvement in the supply chain yet solutions are less well understood than the problem.

Fragmented systems are often, at least in part, still based on manual or spreadsheet processes. Where S&OP, Warehouse Management, Supply Chain Management, Transport Management, Planning and Scheduling and the related financials exist in some modern form, they are typically islands of IT and automation, confined to their individual functional silos.

Among the many factors contributing to customer satisfaction, the key is availability of inventory, which makes it even clearer why silo-defined systems don’t work.

To supply the customer, all the relevant systems need the same detailed, item by item, visibility of all stock locations, what they contain and in what condition, whether they are available for sale and what timescales are attached to fulfilling an order from that location or pool of stock.

Satisfied customers will have been served by companies whose software authors understand not just the requirements of the particular application, but can work at the interfaces between systems (their own and others) and between companies.

True customer satisfaction needs a system that gives a company, its partners and its customers a fine-grained, real-time, synchronous and synoptic view of total inventory. 

Find out how an integrated supply chain management solution can allow you to make intelligent decisions to deliver greater customer satisfaction in Access Group’s latest whitepaper:

Mind the gap: next stop customer satisfaction 

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P11D time: countdown to the end of an era?

Written by: Kate Upcraft

As we approach the 6th July P11D deadline once again, will employers and agents be wistfully thinking about the imminent end of the need for many P11Ds or celebrating? For agents that make money out of P11D completion I’m sure it’s the former, but for employers and those that have to pay for that service it may be the latter.

Of course we don’t know what the take up will be of the move to payrolling benefits from April 2016 but if the Office of Tax Simplification’s figures are right even if employers simply moved to payroll medical insurance alone, 95% of the 3.7m P11Ds would disappear.

For once there is a joined-up government approach on this initiative. HMRC want to see the back of P11Ds to reduce the processing overhead and to increase the immediate tax take from a deferred one that also involves coding adjustments. DWP would like non-cash benefits to be processed through the payroll so they can be reported in real time on the FPS alongside cash earnings be taken into account for Universal Credit. For employers who are already payrolling benefits, and there are many that do, the value included in notional pay are stripped out when reported to HMRC so that DWP do not take them into account. This is important to ensure that all Universal Credit claimants are treated as if they were P11D candidates, but it means that the government is paying out more Universal Credit than is necessary and with £12bn of welfare savings to find this has to be an easy win.

The move to the voluntary of payrolling of benefits was announced last year and is now targeted to come into force in April 2016. Employers who wish to move to taxing one or more of the following benefits through the payroll will have to register with HMRC from this July. The available benefits are:

 - Medical or dental insurance
 - Taxable subscriptions such as gym membership
 - Cars and car fuel

The registration is done online through a newly developed portal that will also allow employers to exclude some employees within a PAYE scheme that is selected for payrolling, for example directors or inpatriates. On receipt of the registration HMRC will remove the selected benefits from an employee’s tax code for 2016/17 and instead the employer will add an appropriate portion of the benefit to taxable but not NI’able pay each pay period. Most employers will do this via an in and out entry on the payslip so that the employees can see that the tax has been paid on the benefit but the cash equivalent value is not part of net pay. At year end Class 1A NICs will still be payable by the employer and a P11D(b) will support the total amount of Class 1A paid over.

Unlike the current voluntary payrolling that employers operate, the ‘official’ system removes the need for a P11D for the benefits that have been payrolled.

It is expected that over time, HMRC will consider what other benefits can be offered with a payrolling option although some will require a change in the law to calculate the taxable value each pay period rather than annually - for example loans and accommodation.

 

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How a construction company proposes to spend £250,000 on an ERP solution

Written by: Steve Sawyer

A construction company proposes to spend £250,000 on an ERP software solution. The owners agree that benefits will accrue from a reduction in outstanding debts from creditors. (2 or more hours a day were wasted on chasing debt) Benefits totalled £18,000 per month but the supplier would charge an extra £2000 per month for the service. Over a 36 month review period and a good 10% cost of money….is this a good deal? 

By using the three key economic measures, we can calculate:

• Payback of 16 months (company standard is 18 months, so meets this investment criteria)

• IRR 89% per annum (fantastic, much better than money in the bank)

• NPV £249,000 (a solid increase in shareholder value) It’s now plain to see this makes sense and the decision to invest in the new financial system is now supported by the financial language that the board will understand.

Be careful as many business cases fail at this stage due to a lack of confidence in the underlying benefit calculations. If the savings or benefits are not fully researched, or exaggerated, this will undermine confidence in the overall ROI, and it will be rejected.

Find out more in 'The Professional Services FDs' Atlas - A guide to choosing and implementing the right financial software for your organisation: Part 1':

Download the whitepaper here

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The benefits of advanced planning and scheduling (APS

Written by: Ian Roper

APS benefits extend beyond traditional manufacturing. Lufthansa Technik Landing Gear Services, as the name suggests, repairs and overhauls aircraft landing gear, a process involving up to 3,000 parts and 30-45 days. Accurate scheduling is not possible until after initial stripping and inspection, and although airlines schedule their overhauls these are frequently changed, and there are also unplanned Aircraft On Ground (AOG) repairs. 

The firm had previously run with each department maintaining its own scheduling spreadsheet, with consequent lack of coordination and without regard to the commercial and financial consequences. Within just a few months on Access Orchestrate, planning time had been reduced by 20-30%, with further potential, and build to schedule throughput has improved from 70-80% to 95%. Customer confidence, especially in AOG situations, has been greatly improved because of the ability to visualise how the job would be completed in the time.

The ‘Golden Age’ may never reappear, but as these examples show, it is possible to plan, schedule and reschedule in a timely, accurate, and trusted manner despite the increased complexity of the business environment, meeting objectives and KPIs far beyond mere machine utilisation: optimising labour, materials and even suppliers and subcontractors to meet and exceed commercial and customer goals.

A new age for machine and materials management

Patterns and volumes of demand are increasingly unpredictable and no longer necessarily respond to marketing. While ERP is fine for the higher-level discussions, it is essentially unaware of events and consequences at a daily or weekly level.

Download the whitepaper here.

 

News

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OpenStack Kilo: Build Hyper-Scale Applications Quickly And Easily

Written by: Karl Robinson

Use of open source is soaring in the enterprise and especially in the datacentre. The likes of Google, eBay and Facebook run their global web-scale systems on open source software (OSS), and Linux is now the foundation for 75% of enterprise systems, according to a report from the Linux Foundation.

There are good business reasons for this. With many eyes on the source code, OSS is more secure. The code can be tested and bugs spotted by thousands both inside and outside the company, and so quickly fixed. If you are unsure about a codebase's vulnerability, its openness allows you to check.

 

By the same token, developers working on OSS code influence its direction, improve its quality, and can make it deliver what they want. Its openness ensures that there is no vendor lock-in. Other advantages include auditability, interoperability as a consequence of adherence to standards, and a range of support options. In short, OSS is and has for a long time been a highly viable contender for mission-critical enterprise deployments.

 

OpenStack Kilo

A case in point is OpenStack, an operating system for the cloud that allows cloud services users to manage and control resources – such as compute, networking and storage – using a web-based dashboard, and backed by a rich set of features that allow you to build hyper-scale web applications quickly and easily.

 

OpenStack has just seen the release of its latest version, Kilo, the 11th release. Kilo offers nearly 400 new features to support software development, big data analysis and application infrastructure at scale. As a testament to its OSS roots, 1,492 individuals employed by more than 169 organisations contributed to the Kilo release, whose focus is on interoperability in the market, raising the bar for driver compatibility, and extending the platform to fit workloads with both bare metal and containers.

 

Among the many new features is the Ironic bare-metal service, for provisioning workloads that require direct access to hardware. It supports existing VM workloads and adoption of emerging technologies like Linux containers, PaaS and NFV, and allows users to place workloads in the best environment for their performance requirements.

 

It enables greater cloud interoperability too, as Kilo's identity federation enhancements work across both public and private clouds to support hybrid workloads in multi-cloud environments.

 

OpenStack Kilo's new object storage system, aka Swift, now supports an erasure-code (EC) storage policy type, allowing deployers to achieve very high durability with less raw capacity as used in replicated storage. However, because it is transparent to end users, there is no API difference between replicated storage and EC storage. Container-level temporary URLs now allow a private object storage container to be publicly available for a specified period of time. And Kilo offers improvements to global cluster replication, storage policy metrics and full Chinese translation.

 

Kilo's load-balancing-as-a-service API is now in its second version, adding support for NFV, such as port security for OpenVSwitch, VLAN transparency and MTU API extensions.

 

The StratoGen difference

From DevOps to Global Enterprise Deployment, StratoGen is your one stop shop for OpenStack Cloud Hosting. Our OpenStack Private Cloud solution gives you increased security, control and performance without the burden of designing, deploying and managing your own infrastructure.


StratoGen's OpenStack Private Cloud is the perfect solution for hyperscalers. Find out
how and why it will benefit you and your organisation.

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