Monday, 29 June 2015

Cloud computing could be worth $500bn by 2020

According to Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners, the global market for cloud computing could be worth as much as $500bn by 2020. His report into the technology industry predicts that much of this expansion will be down to CRM systems, which will be responsible for 62% of all cloud computing traffic by 2018. The expansion will be led by Salesforce, who Deeter thinks will have a majority share of the CRM market as early as next year.

You can watch the full report here.

Cloud computing is a great solution for CRM systems. It's a much easier way to manage the databases required to store all the CRM information for small companies than having their own servers - not to mention a lot cheaper. And, when you're starting up, you often have to work in a lot of different places, so being able to access your systems no matter where you are is really useful.

Our CRM expert, Artur Oganov, had this to say, 'Deeter has invested in cloud computing pretty heavily, so it's worth taking his words with a pinch of salt. But even so, I agree with him when he says "the overall trend-line will be up and to the right." CRM is a big business and it's expanding. Cloud technology is a big part of that. It's easier than ever to set up a system and get it online.'

If you're still not sure if it's time to move your CRM system to the cloud, get in touch with us and we'll explain the benefits.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

How NatWest could get more out of its CRM system

Are you making the most of your CRM system?

Let me back up a bit and tell you a story. NatWest has been in the news again recently because of a technical glitch that has caused problems with payments to and from customer accounts. What's more, this isn't the first time some of its customers have been struck with exactly this problem. We think it's fair to say that a bank account that has trouble with sending or receiving payments on such a frequent basis is really no bank account at all.

With NatWest's IT department and banking associations blaming aging systems that are too expensive to overhaul, I'm sure some customers feel they're owed more than a refund for overdraft fees, late payment charges etc.

NatWest and RBS need to address the problems these continual glitches are causing to their reputation. If they can't afford to replace or fully fix the systems, they have to fix their reputations by owning up to that. Some well-placed adverts claiming responsibility for the mistakes and apologising, simply and honestly, would go a long way to repairing the damage.

But apologies are just the start. Our consultant, Artur Oganov, had this to say, 'Perhaps NatWest might want to use its CRM system to identify which customers have had trouble because of the glitches - recently and longer ago. It could use this data to give them special perks to help compensate them for the poor service they've received. This would help them convince customers that they really sympathise with their frustrations and hopefully keep them from switching to another bank.'

NatWest isn't really making the most of its CRM system. And the question remains, are you?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Protobase Labs partners with Alpha Capital Compliance

We're pleased to announce that we're now partnered with Alpha Capital Compliance. ACCL specialises in helping financial services startups get FCA licences and deal with all their compliance needs. This includes helping companies set up Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism processes, helping with template documents, and explaining how to deal with their Knowing Your Customer data. ACCL wants to make the whole process much quicker and less of a hassle than it is at the moment - just like we do with CRM. That's why we're a natural fit.

ACCL's managing director, Paul Sawyer, has worked in financial services for nearly 40 years, so he's well placed to offer advice and help startups avoid common pitfalls. If you're thinking about setting up a new company, visit the ACCL website, get in touch with Paul and he'll see what he can do.

Monday, 22 June 2015

SF1 shows there's plenty of enthusiasm for Salesforce

We went along to a conference all about Salesforce a couple of weeks ago. SF1 was a huge gathering of vendors, developers and experts that focused on the best ways for people to:
  • get more value out of their CRM systems
  • expand what they use their systems for
  • use their systems to solve specific problems with their businesses in other areas

The people at SF1 talked about using CRM systems as a focal point around which other business activity should be built. CRM activity should be built into each stage of the marketing and sales process, especially as more and more people are working outside of the office.

People thought that without consistent processes, CRM systems aren't any use. So it's also really important to make sure that users get a good experience. And - again, because so many people are working in different places - the experience on smartphones and tablets is the same as it is on the desktop. This is the best way to make using the CRM system part of normal working practices.

Finally, we were left with a question about how the industry should innovate, especially as the economy has started to turn around. How should companies capitalise on opportunities to grow and steal a march on their competition?

The consensus from SF1 attendees was that the best way to do this was by using your CRM systems better than other people use theirs. Part of this involved automating some elements of the CRM process so it was quicker and easier, and part of this involved developing new features that would expand what the system was capable of.

Mark Ghahramani, one of our business development managers who attended SF1, said, 'It was a great event. I think we all learned a lot about the future of CRM and about how improving your systems can make a real difference to your bottom line.'

If your CRM system isn't up to scratch, get in touch now and we'll discuss how we can help you.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Should Amazon open a physical store? is a household name, and a massive online success. But it has always shied away from the idea of opening physical shops. However, with the recent expansion of its Locker service (where people can collect things they've ordered online), the setting up of a 'pickup and drop-off' centre at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the acquisition of a 470,000 square foot office block in Manhattan 'primarily' for office space, they're clearly expanding their ambitions.

A recent survey suggested that 53% of people would be open to the idea of visiting an Amazon store on the high street. And Amazon are famous for making low profits, because they put the bulk of their revenue into expanding their market share - certainly going 'offline' would be one way to do that. Maybe physical stores are the next logical step.

So, if they did decide to open a network of high street stores, what would they need to do?

Managing a big change like this would need to start at the top.

Here's what our consultant, Artur Oganov, had to say: 'This would be a huge project. Amazon would need a comprehensive plan with clear goals. They'd have to undertake a thorough analysis of what the physical stores should sell, how many to set up, where they should be and how to make these enormous changes without disrupting their current successful business model. If Jeff [Bezos] is reading this, he should give me a call, and we'll have a chat!'

If you aren't the CEO of Amazon, but still want help with expanding your business into a new area, we'd love to be involved. Get in touch and we'll see what we can do.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Why did poor compliance checks damage Plus500?

Plus500, an online forex trading company, was recently bid for by Playtech, an Israeli online gambling company. Shortly before the takeover bid, Plus500's share price had plunged by 60 per cent, so Playtech are likely to get a great deal. Why did it fall so much? Because the Financial Conduct Authority had frozen the accounts of their subsidiary Plus500UK.

So why did the FCA do that? Well, it all comes down to KYC. KYC is Knowing Your Customer and, while it sounds like it might be a sales mantra, it's actually about fraud. Or, more precisely, stopping fraud.

Companies like Plus500 have to collect data on their customers that proves they are who they say they are. It's the same as taking your passport and a utility bill along to your bank when you open a new account. But the FCA said that Plus500UK's checks on these pieces of KYC information were inadequate, and that there was a risk of money laundering or other fraud. Plus500UK weren't able to allay their fears, so the FCA instructed them to freeze the accounts of most of their customers, in effect shutting them down.

If Plus500 had been able to store their KYC data more easily, or if they'd been better able to keep an eye on Plus500UK, it's possible they wouldn't have had so many problems with compliance, and would have stayed safe from the FCA.

We offer automated services to help you manage your compliance data and risk assessment. If you're worried about how your company is handling this or think you could benefit from doing it better, get in touch and we'll see how we can help.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Is the sun setting on fossil fuels?

Mark Moody-Stuart, former Chairman at Shell, made a perhaps unexpected remark about fossil fuels last week, saying '[fossil fuel] divestment is a rational approach.'

Granted, it's not the most reactionary language, but it's still startling to see a prominent person from the oil and gas industry admitting that it's time for a change. And it's clear that shareholders are realising it too - resolutions tabled by some of the industry's harshest critics have starting finding their way onto some shareholder meeting agendas.

We think this represents a great opportunity for fossil fuel companies to prove they can listen to their investors and make changes that will ultimately benefit everyone on the planet. They need to seriously consider the future and start developing processes that will change their businesses from being almost exclusively about oil and gas to being all about renewable energy. A big industry-wide change is not entirely unprecedented. After all, the fossil fuel industry moved away from coal in the 1980s and 1990s - the very fuel that had been its backbone for over 100 years.

Redesigning and re-engineering processes of this scope across several enormous multinational companies (some of which are state-run) requires co-operation from governments and workers at every level of the business. And many companies see little point in deliberately hamstringing their profits. In spite of Moody-Stuart's comments, they must worry that shareholders will be concerned only with the size of their dividends and are keen to stick to what they know.

That's one reason that change has been so slow. And the other, of course, is the difficulty of managing our existing ways of living. Electric cars have come a long way, but they're still relatively rare compared to fossil fuel cars. If the world's governments banned driving petrol and diesel cars tomorrow, you can be sure that only a few people would obey.

But the change remains worthwhile, if less popular and profitable in the short term. And, in the end, change is inevitable. The sooner Shell and others start to make concrete plans to deal with the biggest change their industries have ever seen, the sooner that they'll regain investor confidence.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Ringfencing means banks need better risk management

Last week, the Bank of England announced that it plans to publish new rules in 2016 on how retail banking should be ringfenced and protected from investment banking in large British banks. These proposals have been on the cards for a while. They're mostly designed to prevent the kinds of bank failures that end up with ordinary depositors losing their money, as happened at Northern Rock in 2008.

The Bank of England's measures can be seen as a form of risk management. The new rules are designed to protect the government as well as depositors. This is because the Financial Services Compensation Scheme guarantees individual deposits of up to £85,000 - so if a bank collapses, the government (and, ultimately, the taxpayer) picks up the bill.

I'm sure most of us would rather that banks that make poor investment decisions punish their shareholders rather than people who've deposited money with them - or us taxpayers.

These ringfencing changes mean that the investment arms of banks will be investing more of their own money. If you work in an investment bank, you're obviously not investing your money, but you do assume some of the risk. After all, if the investments the bank makes are bad, you're likely to lose your job. So you need to be responsible, and to make sure that your colleagues aren't taking on more risk than is safe.

Improving your automated risk management system could help with this. You'll be able to easily monitor what your colleagues are doing and get a look at your risk profile across the business. We've got expert developers who can help out, so get in touch if you need us.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Is Salesforce worth $70bn?

Last week, Microsoft bid a huge $55bn (£36bn) for The CRM leader rejected the bid, putting its value closer to $70bn (£46bn). Only Microsoft, or one of their competitors in the sector - Oracle or IBM, perhaps - could manage such a large figure.

So why does Salesforce think it's worth so much? Well, one answer is that Salesforce understands CRM much better than these old and traditionally dominant tech giants. Microsoft, Oracle and IBM are all trying to offer more services using Cloud computing and this is an area where Salesforce is extremely strong. The giants are used to buying out smaller companies that do things they haven't got a handle on yet.

Beyond that, Salesforce is inventive and isn't afraid of trying new things. It's won Forbes' Most Innovative Company award for the last four years. Part of that is down to how it's championed Cloud computing. This has meant that many small companies have been able to harness the resources of large companies, without paying so much.

But Salesforce famously hasn't made a profit since it was founded in 1999. Is it really such an attractive potential purchase? Well, like Amazon, it's mostly unprofitable because it reinvests most of its revenue into growth. Last year, Salesforce spent nearly half of its revenue on marketing. This strategy means the company pays less tax, while still looking like a good investment, because its revenue continues to grow.

If you're looking to get started with Cloud computing using Salesforce, we've got a great range of solutions to boost your revenue and growth.