Thursday, 28 May 2015

Monitor your data better to stay out of trouble

The foreign exchange markets were rocked by fraud again last week. UBS was fined £350m by the US Department of Justice for manipulating exchange rates. Although £350m is hardly pocket change, the fine was less than it could've been because UBS went to the DoJ and admitted what they'd been doing. They were only able to do this because they had detected the fraud themselves by spotting irregular patterns in their data.

Having compliance rules and procedures to stop fraud and money laundering, and to manage risk is obviously important. It's not just a legal obligation, but a moral one too. But, in this case, it seems that a group of people decided to break the law and there is precious little that rules can do when people deliberately ignore them. Instead, as a compliance manager or business owner, you need to understand how your business operates and what is normal for it.

You need to monitor your data very closely to be sure that there aren't any telltale signs of bad behaviour. Our CRM systems come with some automated tools to help detect fraud, but that should be only the first step in the process. It's just as important to have a human being looking over the data to spot the subtle shifts that could indicate a problem.

This isn't the first time that UBS have been in trouble for exchange rate manipulation. It's clear that they took the lessons they learned from their previous experience and used them to develop better systems and improve their fraud-detection methods. If it's impossible to stop people from manipulating exchange rates, the least you can do is to ensure you detect the manipulation as quickly as possible. That's why UBS is only facing fines of hundreds of millions of pounds, not billions.

If you are struggling to manage and understand all your data, get in touch with us and we'll discuss how we can help.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

CRM is booming. Does your system do everything you need?

The CRM industry is increasingly big business. It grew 13.3% last year, according to a recent report, and the whole industry is now worth nearly £150bn.

The company spearheading new ways to think about CRM systems is Salesforce.com. Over the last year, they've increased their share of the CRM market to 18.4%, but there's plenty of room in the industry for smaller companies to carve out a niche.

We think the flexibility of Salesforce's platform is what's pushed them further ahead of their competitors over the last year.


In a competitive market, you need to be able to distinguish yourself from the competition by properly understanding your customers. A good CRM system can help with this because it allows you to store all your customer information. This makes it easier to access and to understand similarities between different customers. This will help you target your marketing more effectively, run more successful promotions and, ultimately, deliver a better service to your customers. The more you know, the more you can do to help them.

If you want help with a CRM system based on Salesforce, SugarCRM or another system, get in touch with us to discuss it.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Instant Articles - a smoother business process from Facebook

Facebook recently introduced a new way for people to view content. People using the Facebook app on iOS will be able to read articles without leaving the Facebook app. The first nine companies to be involved with these Instant Articles are: The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.


The advantages for them are that they get to use Facebook's platform, but keep their design, branding and ad revenue. The advantage for Facebook is that the app user won't have to wait for a
n external website to load, which tends to be the point that most people stop using their app.

This idea of saving time is the really important part about instant articles for us. For many users, a good interface is more important than accurate information. Take Google, their simple logo + text box design has barely changed in nearly 20 years because it's simple and it works. The minimalist layout meant that in the slow days of dial-up internet, their page loaded quickly, so people could search faster. And they still include the amount of time a search takes (even if it's now down to fractions of a second), because speed is and always has been important to their users.

If your CRM system has a user interface that you find clunky, slow or difficult, it lowers your productivity. We can help improve it. We'll take the same approach as Facebook did with Instant Articles: we just need to understand where the bottlenecks are and to remove anything that's slowing you down.

This could be as simple as changing information boxes that are mandatory - but end up filled with 'N/A' most of the time - so they're no longer mandatory. Or it could be as complicated as carefully going through the whole process and working out exactly how much time is spent on each part of the it and what takes longest and why.

Whatever is slowing your processes down, we'll make sure our solutions don't damage the process in a different way. You'll have faster, smoother processes and more time to spend on your customers.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Change management in the Cabinet

The Conservatives' majority at the election led to a Cabinet reshuffle from David Cameron. We said goodbye to several Liberal Democrat MPs and hello to some lesser-known Conservatives. Although Cameron hasn't moved many ministers to different departments, it'll still be a change for them all.

We think this is a good opportunity to talk about change management. Whenever anyone joins a new organisation, they have to adapt to new ways of working. Or, if you're a manager taking over a team, everyone has to co-operate to find places where the existing methods work well, and where you can bring in new ideas that have been successful for you in the past.

Big changes can be disruptive. And you could argue that the country as a whole will be dealing with some big and disruptive changes the government has proposed: repeal the Human Rights Act, devolve more power to Scotland and some English cities, cut the welfare bill by £12bn, hold a referendum on EU membership, expand the Right to Buy scheme and offer more free childcare to working parents.

The civil service, local councils, the NHS and the education system will all have to adapt to these changes. We suggest they think about:
  • How changes in one area are likely to affect other areas and how to avoid conflicts and problems.
  • The long-term impacts of certain changes. These are often difficult to predict accurately, but being aware of the range of possibilities is important.
  • The risks that changes might introduce, for the public sector and for the people they are serving. Full risk assessments will help to mitigate these.
  • The best ways to explain the changes and the reasons for them. Clear communication will make the transition easier.
If you need help with managing changes, big or small, give us a call.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Why your people need to understand your processes

We often encourage people to re-examine their business processes to ensure they're still working the best way they can. But that's very different to trying out something new based on little more than a gut feeling.

There was nearly a serious rail crash in early March. The cause isn't certain yet, but evidence suggests that the train crew ignored an alarm and signals warning them to stop. Then they seem to have turned off the train's safety systems.

Fortunately, they appear to have realised the danger in time and stopped the train before it crashed into another train.

If the safety systems were working as intended, but the crew decided to use their own judgement to override them, that suggests they didn't trust the processes that were in place. And instead of assessing the potential risks when the alarm went off, they went ahead and made a decision that could've been fatal.

It's safe to say that when you're in the engine room, it's hard to see the bigger picture - whether that's driving a train or working in a certain part of your business. It's difficult to stop and think, take a step back and properly explore the possible consequences of your actions when you're at the coal face.

That's why we recommend getting an outside consultant to come in and help you understand your business processes. We get a thorough understanding of how they work so we can be sure that we can suggest suitable changes. Analysing and testing thoroughly in a safe environment is the only way to be sure that big changes won't cause problems.

If you find that your business processes aren't being followed properly, maybe we can help you make them more user-friendly. After all, if the theoretical process doesn't match up with the practical experience, it's valueless and it needs to change.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Could political parties benefit from better CRM?

Last week's election delivered a few shocks. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour lost a lot of seats. We're just speculating, and we're not entirely serious, but maybe they'd have been more successful if they'd applied some of the principles of good Customer Relationship Management to how they ran their campaigns. In fact, maybe more MPs could use CRMs to manage the relationship with their voters more generally.

What do we mean? Well, many candidates deliver flyers to every house in their target constituency. This obviously costs quite a lot. They might be able to make better use of their resources by working out who they should target with mass mailings.

They'll know who else is standing and maybe some of their assistants, so those names can be safely removed. Then anyone who's donated large amounts to other parties - you're unlikely to swing them either. It's a start, but it's saved you a few dozen leaflets.

The next step might be to exclude everyone who's a member of your party already from the mass mailing (obviously excluding your volunteers and anyone else whose vote you can be certain of). Then maybe design a special campaign for them. This could talk about your core values and try to appeal to them personally. People appreciate feeling like they aren't just another name in a mail merge, so addressing their interests and concerns could help get them donating or volunteering - as well as their vote on polling day.

Candidates could use a CRM system to store all this information and use it to manage who to approach and how. We think this could really help you make your money go as far as it can if you're in a marginal constituency and are expecting to do several rounds of flyering.

Another example of poor political CRM: in Scotland,  the progressive-left SNP was much more popular than centre-left Labour, who had advocated retaining the status quo by opposing an independent Scotland. Labour's 'marketing' in Scotland could have been better targeted to appeal to voters who wanted more powers devolved from Westminster. Or Labour could have made more of the party's history as the home of many Scottish political heavyweights. Or maybe they made the wrong decision by sharing an anti-independence platform with the Tories in the first place.

Labour also lost votes in northern cities to UKIP. By trying to appeal to potential UKIP voters, they may have lost part of the non-white vote and other liberal pro-immigration voters. Or maybe they failed to understand and address local voters' worries in other areas. In both cases, it seems Labour failed to understand its existing 'customers' or its potential new ones.

Knowing which groups you're marketing yourselves for is just as important for political parties as it is for companies. Alienating your core vote (or market) by trying to diversify can often hurt more than it helps. Maybe managing campaigns with a great CRM system could help decide who to target and how to target them.

Finally, we think there's a lesson to learn from the election for pollsters. The pre-election polls were all rather wide of the mark. This may have been because they used outdated methods and nobody has looked at how they're done in a long time. Pollsters need to analyze their processes, make improvements and to ensure they're more accurate next time.

So what do you think? Are CRM systems the future of political campaigning or not?