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Ten things every CEO must know in 2018

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The world is changing and unless companies change their ‘purpose’ to something other than executive remuneration and stockholder returns, they will lose their licence to operate from the stakeholders that actually matter, writes JESSICA YELLIN, founder of It’s a Shovel.

South Africa is well behind the curve, but the good news (or bad, depending on where you sit on the issue!) is that the money is moving into ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and the recent Steinhoff disaster has proved to the local market that pesky governance and compliance issues are important!

So, like it or not, it’s time to get with the programme. Here are my top ten things every SA CEO needs to know this year:

1.      Leaders with a sense of purpose are more successful 

For your company to embrace #ReputationWithPurpose and reap the benefits, you need Purpose! And it’s not just good for the company, it’s good for you too.

New research has shown that actually having a sense of purpose, not a specific set of characteristics, is the key to successful leadership. However, according to a report in HBR, less than 20% of leaders know what their individual purpose is and even less can actually spell it out.

“The process of articulating your purpose and finding the courage to live it—what we call purpose to impact—is the single most important developmental task you can undertake as a leader.”

Finding your purpose and / or properly interrogating that your stated purpose is ‘real’ is a process, but before you rush off to your closest quack coach consider this: if you’re clever enough to be ‘at’ or ‘close to’ the top of the pile, you’re probably clever enough to figure it out yourself! It just needs time, brutally honest introspection, curiosity and an open mind.

 

2.      Hurry up and find your purpose because the CEO Activism trend isn’t going away

South African CEOs have since 1994 become conspicuously silent beyond a couple lame attempts via Business Leadership SA. And as they say, silence implies consent so no wonder that memes like #whitemonopolycapital get as much traction as they do!

Internationally, the Activist CEOs are not only shaping policy but also driving revenues for their businesses because, surprise surprise, consumers respect leaders and by extension their organisations, for being brave, taking a stand and making change happen!

In his piece, The New Politics of Business, Doug Randall, CEO of The Protagonist, sums it up best: “The days of businesses operating in a silo are over. Consumers have grown to expect that the brands they interact with participate in conversations happening in the world at large. Brands are powerful, and they can significantly influence the narratives they engage with. Getting involved in controversial narratives makes brands, and the communities around them, stronger. It’s just imperative you understand how those narratives may impact your organization, for better or for worse and be prepared to answer for them.”

It’s time to find your voice and weigh in on the many, many, many issues that confront our country… but of course this implies that you have to be doing something too!

 

3.      All of the above is the Millennials’ fault, but best you learn to love them because they going to make or break you!

So much has been written about the Millennials that I’m not going to bore you with the demographics or even the psychographics. Their impact is now in the numbers! According to The Reputation Institute, Millennials now represent 27% of global spending power (and increasing daily!), 15% of them define themselves as Activists (#ahem) and 85% of them use their phone more than 40x per day (although I bet your usage is similar!).

Even more relevant here is that reputation is more important to them than previous generations! Top reputation ranking companies score 2.5bps higher amongst Millennials.

Translate this into bottom line: 1 bps = 2.6% increase in market cap… you do the maths on your own business… Ka Ching, Ka Ching!

 

4.      Sustainability is now an economic issue and not just a bunch of greenies

How much research do you need to see to prove the point that sustainable companies deliver better financial results? Well, my friends at Arabesque Asset Management have done the hard work for you and commissioned the University of Oxford to review 200 pieces of academic literature on the topic. Their report From Stockholder to Stakeholder makes for fascinating reading, but I know you don’t have the time, so here are the highlights:

a.      Sustainability is one of the most significant trends in financial markets for decades.

b.      90% of the studies on the cost of capital show that sound sustainability standards lower the cost of capital of companies.

c.      88% of the research shows that solid ESG practices result in better operational performance of firms.

d.      80% of the studies show that stock price performance of companies is positively influenced by good sustainability practices.

e.      Based on the economic impact, it is in the best interest of investors and corporate managers to incorporate sustainability considerations into their decision-making processes.

f.       Active ownership allows investors to influence corporate behaviour and benefit from improvements in sustainable business practices.

g.      The future of sustainable investing is likely to be active ownership by multiple stakeholder groups including investors and consumers.

Still not convinced? Well then I suggest you cash out those stock options and go far, far away!

 

5.      A poster in the toilet cubicles is not going to turn your business into a sustainability-driven, purpose-led success story.

Once upon a time, internal communications consisted of your PA putting together a weekly company newsletter full of clip art and comic sans.  Most companies have moved past this, but still the internal comms function is generally the “Cinderella” of the Communications Team with the sexier corporate communications and marketing sisters getting the glory and budgets.

But there is now too much at stake. Make sure your internal communications professionals fully understand your business and objectives; can pick up and respond to the nuances within the business; and can deliver sound, strategic and creative internal communications that is able to shape the culture you need to get ahead.

I suggest you point them to this fantastic resource: Disrupting the Function of IC

 

6.      Sadly, however, great internal comms isn’t good enough either! You need HR and IC to work together to deliver Employee Engagement 2.0

Employee Engagement… the Holy Grail! How much kak have you read on the topic? How many surveys have you done? How many ‘ interventions’ have you wasted money on?

Everything you’ve seen or heard to date is a load of bull.

There’s a simple formula*: Employees must feel “in flow” in their jobs + they must have a deliberate career path + they must feel attached to at least one other person in the organisation + they must feel like a mentor / ambassador + you need to have active, functional social networks through which relevant, honest, timely communication must flow.

Only when you have personally fulfilled, connected employees can they function together to deliver the ‘employee engagement’ that you dream of. Because you really do need it, especially if you are going to be steering a new course!

* I developed this with a former colleague who is way cleverer than me and you’re welcome to   chat to her if you need some help in this space.

7.      Has anybody actually read King Code IV?

No, it’s not a new Dan Brown novel.

Yes, it applies to you too!

Nothing like a good corporate scandal to wake everyone up! We should actually be thanking Mr Jooste. Well, maybe I’ll consider it if my Pension Fund recovers.

Point is, there were blatant lapses in governance at Steinhoff for years and no one raised an eyebrow because they were all too busy counting the cash! Well, the chickens have now come home to roost and going forward, best you are able to recite King IV in your sleep. I can’t tell you how many listed companies’ websites still reference King III… hello!!! And as for unlisted companies… whatever!!!

I’m sure you have read it, but just in case you need a refresher, here you go: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iodsa.co.za/resource/resmgr/king_iv/King_IV_Report/IoDSA_King_IV_Report_-_WebVe.pdf

 

8.      A big, fat corporate burp is sometimes exactly what is required

To my horror when I shared my #ReputationWithPurpose deck with someone recently he said it looks like “corporate indigestion”. Eventually I got over myself, but he makes a valid point. It is a lot to swallow… but consider it an Eno’s: fizzes in your nose going down but makes everything better by releasing a big, fat burp!

In fact, it’s nowhere near as bad as Eno’s. You don’t need to implement the whole lot at once, it’s designed as a process. Baby steps will get you there.

But it will probably result in the expulsion of hot air. Maybe that means you need to change some people in your organisation? More than likely you will need to change the culture. And you will certainly need to get rid of waste. All of these are good things. Don’t be scared!

 

9.      You need to learn to manage your shareholders

I’ve read the most interesting articles recently on Agency Theory and the implications it has for corporate governance. Once again the Harvard Business Review explains it way better than I ever could so please take out half an hour to read the whole article.

The basic premise is that the traditional agency theory model is flawed. Shareholders do not ‘own’ the company and therefore shouldn’t direct what the company does. It argues for a company centric approach in which the executive team and Board are responsible for creating value for all stakeholders. The only problem with this view is that is depends on competent and ethical executives and we have seen clearly that this is not always in place.

I believe we are moving into a time of increased shareholder activism which sounds like a good thing but isn’t always. Fund managers are not always right and they also have bonus targets to meet.

So I guess the only adult thing to do is to engage actively with your shareholders, within the bounds of the applicable regulations, and if they don’t get your #ReputationWithPurpose vision then do as Howard Schultz of Starbucks recently did and tell you shareholders to invest elsewhere .

 

10.  If it’s not fun anymore, quit

Sustainability and #ReputationWithPurpose refers to you too… your life needs to be sustainable and it must have purpose (as per point 1). If what you are doing isn’t delivering this, then either change it or leave. I did, and I’ve not looked back!

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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