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How culture builds risk

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In 1987, a London Underground ticket seller was alerted to a burning tissue on one of the escalators. They duly put it out, but didn’t report the incident. If they did, the slowly-building inferno under the station might have been discovered in time. Instead, several hours later 31 people were dead and over a 100 injured in the King’s Cross Fire, a notorious blaze that consumed one of the train service’s biggest and deepest stations.

The ticket seller wasn’t lazy or ignorant. Instead, by this stage the bureaucracy of the Underground had created a culture of Chinese firewalls. Everyone knew their place. Health and Safety was not the business of the ticket office. Subsequent investigations found that this problem occurred consistently across the Underground’s bureaucracy, even at the highest levels. A fire quite literally burned under the floors, but the company’s culture made people blind to seeing it.

Why culture matters

Culture is a collection of habits. People who share a culture have similar ways of doing things. For example, driving on the left side of the road is a culture. People who don’t do that seem weird and can even be a danger. Company cultures are no different: they represent the collective habits of the employees, reinforced by the vision of leadership. This is why, when leadership and reality are not aligned, staff become disenchanted.

What does this have to do with risk? According to Deloitte, an organisation’s culture determines how it manages risk when under stress. For some companies, their risk culture can be a liability. For others, it can provide both stability and a competitive advantage.

Risk is a goldilocks force: you don’t want too much or too little, the latter meaning less reward. But many companies don’t look at risk as a strategic ingredient – they simply avoid it as much as possible. It becomes a sideshow, one that shouldn’t include the employees.

Yet risk is all about intelligence, and who better to be the eyes and ears of the company than its people? They interact with customers, suppliers, processes and inventory every day. They can feed insight into risk measurements, which risk managers then present to the leadership.

It stands to reason that a good risk awareness culture is incredibly valuable to a business. Deloitte lists the following as crucial to risk culture:

●             Commonality of purpose, values and ethics,

●             Universal adoption and application of risk,

●             Learning from risk, and

●             Timely, transparent and honest communications

Giving staff the right tools

How can that be accomplished? The answer lies in the tools that employees use. Risk should have a functional value to the employees. This can be done using data culture and risk integration platforms. By deploying a cloud-based risk capturing system, you can reach across the silos that employees and departments use to secure themselves. It can also be scaled conveniently to adapt as the company does. This helps create a proactive-risk culture.

You can already see the tangible impact of cloud platforms by their sheer dominance: few major companies still do without a service such as Salesforce or its peers. These technologies are transformational, so it stands to reason you should tap them to transform risk culture. This is what we’re doing with Riskonnect.

Such a platform extends the flow of data to beyond the business silos, enabling risk professionals, managers and the exco to have a single truth and up-to-date view of the company’s risk profile. It also encourages employees to wield data for their own insights and creates a sense of risk as a strategic tool, not a curse.

An errant match caused the biggest fire in the London Underground’s history. But the real shock was how silos created a risk-averse culture that cost lives. Since then the London Underground has improved remarkably: today its main risks are not fire, but effective modernisation. London’s transport risk culture now tackles new problems such as commuter stagnation and pollution from vehicles. That is a big step up from ignoring the embers of an underground inferno.

Don’t wait for a fire to show you the strategic potential of risk. Invest a little today and start growing that culture that will ensure the business’ future.

* Riaan Bekker, Riskonnect Solutions Manager, thrive

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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