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Risk gets a new face in the age of social

A reputational crisis can wipe out tens of millions of Rands from a company’s value. writes CHRISTELLE MARAIS, practice leader of enterprise risk management at Marsh Africa 

According to a study by the World Economic Forum, an average of more than 25 percent of a company’s market value is directly attributable to its reputation. This means that a reputational crisis can wipe out tens of millions of Rands from a company’s value. This risk has increased because the rise of online and social media means crises are now less predictable, can occur faster and with a more drastic impact. 

Companies are aware of the potential dangers that could negatively affect their reputations, but never have those dangers been as pervasive and immediate as they are right now.

As organisations strive to upskill their workforces and encourage responsible decision-making at all levels, the risk of immediate publication, financial flows and business impact increase with the use of technology, even if such activities are executed in good faith. This is why business leaders need to understand the importance of their companies’ reputations. From an employment perspective, organisations with strong positive reputations attract and retain better skills and are therefore perceived as providing more value, which allows them to charge a premium for their products and services. They also attract a more loyal customer base that is open to a wider variety of products and services from the firm.

Enabled by transformation and growth in the internet and mobile communications systems, global economic activity has grown exponentially over the last few decades. However, companies, and in turn brands, are constantly vulnerable to reputational risks that can arise from virtually anywhere, be it factors as diverse as product quality, social media, environmental impact, employee malpractice and outsourcing. Reputational risk has now become a potential threat on par with new competition, technology failures, talent issues and changing regulations.

Yet, there are still organisations that do not consider reputation management until disaster strikes. The job of managing reputations in general is mostly done when the company’s reputation has been affected negatively. Dealing with threats to your organisation’s reputation once it has already surfaced is crisis management, a reactive approach aimed at limiting damage, not risk management in terms of reputation.

Perhaps the greatest risk worth noting is the reputational risk in the age of social media. Before the advent of social media, the focus remained on risk avoidance or minimising asset or financial losses. Today, with over half of the world’s population connected to the Internet, companies need to relate enterprise reputation matters to strategic outcomes. In a world increasingly influenced by social media and instant global communications, managing customer expectations and perceptions is critical to success.

The use of social media by organisations to communicate its goods and services is augmented by the need for modern society to connect with the organisations they purchase from. At Marsh we offer risk management maturity and risk management culture surveys and implementation plans, informed by an organisation’s life-cycle position and its future aspirations. With effective support from organisations, these programmes align employee behaviour with strategy, organisational performance and risk management objectives, thereby empowering employees to make the right decisions when it comes to executing operational and financial activities as well as to communicate responsibly about their organisations.

Warren Buffett famously said that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. It’s no wonder that reputation is commonly referred to as a company’s most valuable asset. Reputation is not simply about a balance sheet, service offerings, social responsibility, or even corporate communications, marketing, and public relations – reputation is all of these and more.

Well embedded risk management and continuity management processes will prepare organisations to respond effectively in the limited time available to respond.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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