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Magic & Simplicity: An Interview with Soft Potential Director, Giancarlo Stoppani

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre December Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/K6F4j

Soft Potential, a company set up to design and develop software solutions and IT services for Healthcare, Document Management, Money Transfer and Cloud-based solutions, was founded by Riccardo Stoppani, Roberto Stoppani, Elisabetta Dalle Mese and is run by Giancarlo Stoppani as a Director. They started working together in 1995 and their skills include software engineering, system engineering and workflow management in the healthcare.

Originally based in his picturesque homeland Italy, Giancarlo – with the professional assistance of the International Digital Services Centre – is lean scaling his business and relocating in Dublin, Ireland.

I met with Giancarlo to talk about the reasons behind his move from Italy, capital of the renaissance, to Ireland.

Leaving Paradise
 

In recent years Italy has become notorious for a host of negative connotations when it comes to business-deals, politics and economics. “Business in Italy today is highly complex” said Giancarlo, “the way everything has to be managed in business takes up an unnecessarily large amount of resources. At any one time multiple personnel must be dedicated to the sole process of bureaucracy.”

Italy has found itself restricted by a lack of a digital culture. Levels of digital confidence within the country’s population are among the lowest in the EU, at below 30%. This has left them using outdated methods, and confounded by administrative/bureaucratic red tape in their tax system.

It was not always this way however, “In the 1990’s it was different, better than today. Everything was simpler for business. Now it has become complex and overly-complicated”. This was the key impetus behind Giancarlo’s decision to relocate his business elsewhere.

Economic difficulties in Italy have seen worsening credit conditions and rising interest rates, making it harder for companies, particularly SME’s requiring vital funding, to secure much needed bank loans. Any application for funding from an Italian governmental body requires struggling through a long and tedious, drawn-out process.

A hard story for Giancarlo to tell, one where his much loved homeland of Italy: a country full of rich intellectual history, passionate people, iconic food and a beautiful profound culture, is no longer the right place to host his business. “It is a hard thing for me to speak badly of my country, I love it, but it is the truth.”
 
 
Scaling New Heights
 

Giancarlo was introduced to the International Digital Services Centre in April of this year, by Enterprise Ireland.

Asked for the reason behind choosing Ireland, a country which differs environmentally from Italy in almost every way, Giancarlo stated: “It is because it is simple”. The Irish business culture has provided him with a much needed breath of fresh air in contrast to the classic Italian way of doing things.

Through lean scaling his company and consultation with the IDSC Giancarlo was able to find a cost-effective solution and scale his business in an efficient manner.

The IDSC framework defines lean scaling as:
“The act of growing your business internationally, utilizing tried and tested scaling processes, using appropriate digital technologies and iterating effectively in response to local requirements on a global scale.”

This process of lean-scaling provides businesses with company incorporation, bank account set-up, a plug-in and go office space, directorships, and professional consultancy services for revenue operations.

“Business is so much easier. There is a better tax system, one which any business-person can understand.” Ireland currently enjoys a rate of 12.5% corporation tax. Italian corporations must pay up to 50% and even more, made up of a number of taxes, that drain out any possibility for investments. Moreover the 25% Irish tax credit on Research and Development expenditures is also a crucial help for software development companies who continuously innovate their products and services.

Italy’s rich, complex, layered history has meant that it has become convoluted over so many years, and it is now easy to get lost inside the system. Companies are made to process more than 15 tax payments a year, taking on average 269 hours to deal with.

When asked how this tax system compares to that which he experienced in Italy, Giancarlo described it as equal to comparing “Black and white”, or similar to comparing the differences between Italian and Irish weather.
 
 
Talent Pool
 

Ranked fourth in the world by the World Bank for the availability of skilled labour and openness to new ideas, Ireland also gives companies access to a young, vibrant, multilingual and well-educated workforce.

“English-speaking countries are pragmatic; they have a way of making something that appears complex simple and practical”. Although this meant that Giancarlo could quite easily have chosen to base his company in England, he decided against it. “In England the system is much more Aristocratic. Irish people work from the ground up. This attitude appealed to me because it is similar to my Italian cultural roots. In Italy we admire those who have worked their way up from the dust”.

On a more personal level Giancarlo describes the transition to Ireland as being “sweet and sour”. Looking back on his first big move Giancarlo said “In some way I have the same feelings I had when I was 18 yrs old, when I moved from Macerata (a small town in the centre/east of Italy) to Rome, to apply for university. The only difference is that at that time I was young and essentially without any responsibility. Now at 46, with a family and great responsibilities in the business, I have to take more mature decisions”.
 
 
Gateway to New Markets
 

Currently in the middle of the move and hoping to become settled by summer 2014 Giancarlo is aware of the benefits it will provide. “For the business opportunities I am obviously happy, because I understand that this is a great opportunity for the company and even for me, my family and my brothers,” says Giancarlo

The move has strengthened already existing ties with American companies and expanded the possibility of access to new international markets.

“However, it’s not straightforward to move from your home country, especially if you have a family with children and a thriving business… Luckily the fact that Italy and Ireland belong to EU makes a number of those points easier to understand and apply for”.

Ireland’s membership with the EU, and the availability of international travel from budget flight company Ryanair, means that Giancarlo is easily able to visit family and friends back in Italy, or other business contacts in other countries.

Once completing his move to Ireland Giancarlo’s dream is for his business to reach the international market. “Other countries may bog you down in the complexities of their internal systems, preventing you from any global potential.” But for Giancarlo and Soft Potential in Ireland, the future looks bright. Giancarlo and Soft Potential are ready to prepare themselves for business worldwide.

PennyPress2

“Tweet all about it!” How Has Digital Revolutionised Newspaper Publication in the 21st Century?

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre December Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/K6F4j

Gone are the days when men would walk to work along dusty pavements followed by the chorus of a 12 year old boy singing “Extra, extra! Read all about it” from a street corner. The rise of the digital transformation has changed this altogether. 

Today those businessmen are reading their news from an Iphone and that boy is running his business online. His cheerful cries would be operating from a social media platform, probably Twitter.

It might present itself as something along the lines of this:

Breaking News Kid (@NewspaperKid): “Extra, extra! Get all your live news here! #ReadAllAboutIt”
Read All About It, All of the Time

Many consumers and newspaper publications alike are lamenting over this decline of the printed newspapers. But is the fall of print and the rise of the digital publication something news companies should fear, or is it an opportunity?

Online publication has opened up a whole host of new channels linking the newspapers to their readers. Smartphones, tablet devices, Kindles, websites and social media mean that the reader is now connected to the news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No longer do people wait until tomorrow morning for yesterday’s news; they expect their updates to be live.

This illustrates one of the necessities in the digital age. There must be anywhere, anytime access. The website should be accessible at any time on devices such as laptops, computers, and smartphones. The popularity and potential of apps should also not be ignored. Many of the most successful publications have their own apps that send live news updates to a person’s smartphone or tablet, or they collaborate with services such as the Windows 8 Bing News app.

It cannot be forgotten that these new channels between the reader and the newspaper are flowing both ways. The reader is now the newspaper’s unofficial reporter. Instead of waiting for postage, tech-savvy newspapers can take advantage of email, online article comments, social media (in particular Twitter and their hashtag facility) to directly interact with readers. It is commonplace for news websites to have an “Opinion” section and comment facilities under stories.

So how can companies keep up with these expectations?

The digital reporter undoubtedly should be connected and digitally enabled in order to function effectively in today’s world. Many publications have begun equipping their staff with iphones, tablets and laptops. This allows their reporters to tweet (and if it calls for it, upload a photo) live from the scene, then write an online article, all before writing their full story for tomorrow’s print.

Digitise for Success

Newspapers must move away from focusing on a completely traditional mindset of printed media and adopt digital.

Advertising revenue has accounted, on average, for 80% of total income. The revenue from printed advertisements however, dropped by 44% between 2005 and 2009. The only advertising revenue to rise was online.

The process should be taking advantage of the digital tools now available, and using these tools to improve the customer’s experience. In the digital transformation the customer is the co-creator.

A culture has developed whereby it has become the norm for news to be free. Almost all major news publications have all their news freely available on their website. Experiments have been made with paywalls, but these are short-term fixes and have been relatively unsuccessful. People no longer expect to be charged for online access.

Measuring Loyalty

Now the barriers that were once present in the form of overhead costs for printing equipment, paper and distribution have been removed, almost anyone can set up an online newspaper. As such, many newspapers struggle to generate online loyalty amidst the ever expanding population of digital publications.

In the face of this tidal wave of small and independent digital newspapers, companies need to transform their articles from one-click wonders into a gateway to the rest of their website.

To help enable this, one of best digital tools available comes in the form of analytics and big data.

Google analytics allows companies to measure traffic and track the popularity of different pages and articles on their website. This data is vital. It tells the company which areas are working, and which are not. Through proper analysis the data can be used to direct focus on areas that show success or promise, and to help locate exactly where to stimulate and direct traffic. Well analysed and organised data can also be used to promote precision advertising from relevant sources on the website.

Through this analytics provide an essential advantage exploiting the full potential of online advertising. Data, data, and more data can be used to compile information and statistics to help work out where to improve. This includes such information as the number and demographic of those visiting certain pages.

Bringing all this together can provide a company with essential pointers, directing where to target resources. It also provides evidence to those wishing to advertise, that the right kind of people are visiting the page where their advert will be hosted.

This is just a taste of what digital has to provide. There already is, and will not cease to be, many more tools created by the transformation which can aid any company’s development.

The Future of Print

In the end, the question everyone is really thinking is simply: will print media survive?

It is quite possible that it will, after all, radio survived television. Then again it may not; the cassette tape did not survive the CD or the MP3. It all depends if consumers still find something convenient in print. The radio survived television because people still like listening to music and talk shows, and for this video is not needed. The cassette tape however, did not provide anything not found in CD/MP3 apart from inferior quality and digital restrictions.

Companies must realise the division between print and digital. They must not be afraid to adopt digital as simply an extension of their publication, rather than fearing it as the death of their printed paper. Digital opens up their company to a huge new market, without (as many fear) destroying the market for their hard copy.

geoghegan

“Sales, Cash, Profitability”: An Interview With the IDSC’s Global Revenue Operations Consultant, Paul Geoghegan

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre November Newsletter –  http://eepurl.com/I2j3r

With a distinguished career in Financial Operations, including working as Google’s EMEA Revenue Operations and Global Process Manager, Paul Geoghegan has joined the IDSC team to help our clients implement new cost-effective Revenue Generation and collection strategies in their own enterprises.

I sat down with him to talk about what his role involves and why it is critical to the survival and development of businesses today. 

 

“It all comes down to methodology”

Head of Global Revenue Operations at the IDSC, Paul’s role centres on optimising a businesses  Revenue Generation and collections processes. “It all comes down to methodology, my role includes refining the ways companies interact with their customers, and making sure that the companies receive their payments”.

To optimise the payments and collections process, Paul works closely with companies providing a focused consultancy and creating a unique collections strategy tailored to the individual needs of each business. Current processes are identified and, in close partnership with the key stakeholders across the organisation, Paul builds and directs a refined, efficient and cost-effective revenue model. The partnership approach is essential, as all strands of the organisation must be committed to the final strategy, from legal through marketing and sales to finance and production. The priorities will always be company reputation and revenue generation, then customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. This ensures that payments are efficiently received, and that billing procedure standards and customer satisfaction remain at a high level.

Paul acutely understands that no one company is the same. Each enterprise demands a unique type of strategy and collections process. Both SME’s and Multinationals will always require a watertight methodology.

“Recently I have been working with a small company dealing with a telecom giant”. Paul’s experience working at both ends of the spectrum has left Paul with essential knowledge in business relations between smaller and larger companies. “It allows me to help smaller companies navigate their way through the minefields that appear when dealing with business giants”.

The company in question was engaged in a contractual arrangement where due to its size, the larger company had a legal upper-hand. Paul’s expertise from working with larger companies allowed him to figure out what he describes as “which areas were flexible and which were inflexible”.  His work with larger companies educated him in the “tricks of the trade” to help the smaller company to negotiate the best deal available.

Critical Thinking

For businesses, the importance of efficient revenue operations is about being pre-emptive. If you get the process right from the start, you will avoid the inevitable pitfalls that may appear further down the line.

“Over 90% of start-up companies fail within the first year to 18 months, simply because they just cannot collect enough cash to get them through this period.”

The problem is not uncommon: “Two out of three companies have cash difficulties, and with Irish start ups, it is more likely three out of four”.

If you are delivering your service and not receiving all of your financial returns, then you are not getting the maximum potential out of your company. “The focus is about how to release that cash” says Paul.

The potential payoff from reviewing and optimising revenue operations and collection processes is significant. “Whilst I was working at Google I we asked the question in relation to many of our acquisitions: “Why are we not collecting 50% of what we build?””. Paul’s expertise in refining their revenue operations increased Google’s collected revenue from about half to over 95%. This not only reduced losses and increased cash flow, but more importantly, helped ease relations to allow revenue growth and further build the reputation of the organisation.

“This is where methodology comes into play.”

The Psychology behind payment evasion

Paul advocates a holistic approach to understanding the underlying reasons behind payment evasion.
He focuses on turning the traditional collection process from simply chasing up those who had not paid on time to a service that discovered why people were not paying. This revolutionary approach to the payments and collections process engenders great success. Collected revenue increases as does customer satisfaction.

“We really understand what it is that is hurting the business, and can give real time feedback. It is hard to get this kind of feedback from any survey, we get valuable feedback on product, on billing, on marketing and on sales techniques, because people simply won’t pay if they don’t like what they are getting.”

Paul maintains that directly linked to revenue operations is the importance of customer satisfaction. Payments are left outstanding for a number of reasons, one of which could be customer dissatisfaction with the current payment procedure. “Providing customer service that clarifies why money has not been paid will allow you to build a strategy counteracting this and simultaneously improve the quality of the billing system,” he says.

Maximising Potential

“People don’t just hold back money, they do it for so many different reasons. Sometimes the billing isn’t correct, sometimes they don’t understand the product, the contract or the basis of charges, or sometimes the data just isn’t correct.”

Paul maintains that the payment platform infrastructure should regularly be checked and analysed from a user perspective. The client payment experience should be closely monitored. To illustrate, Paul referenced a previous project, where a relatively small percentage of credit card transactions were not being completed. This had initially been disregarded as an acceptable credit card loss level, but when dealt with, it provided an additional source of revenue which was tapped. The problem was not always with the customer failing to pay, It actually was sometimes caused by technological faults or customer confusion in the payment process. “Through reducing the difficulties involved with credit card transactions, and recovering a large set of disgruntled customers, I was able to increase the company’s generated revenue by over 100million, at almost no extra cost” he says.

Times have changed

Paul strongly advocates CFO’s to reassess their existing payment platforms and to analyse the ways in which customers relate to them. Social Media and payment platforms should ultimately come under the umbrella of revenue operations. Accounting departments should no longer be seen working in isolation from rest of the business and departments should not be working alone in silos.

The leveraging of new technologies can connect all departmental sectors in a business so that they all work collectively under one integrated system and that none are left working within a vacuum.

Global Digital Revolution

“In a digital world it is always global, it has to be Global Revenue Operations.”

The digital revolution has transformed revenue operations from a national to an international experience necessitating financial relations on a global scale.

Paul’s experience working in the global market has allowed him to become accustomed to the international sourcing of money.“ The core difference in the digital revolution is the global nature of it. You are dealing with different people in every country of the world, and have to be aware of it and the differences.”

“Revenue operations is one of the many complexities that businesses must navigate in today’s globalised, digital world. The IDSC facilitates enterprises scaling internationally through digital transformation and assists them overcome the unprecedented challenges that digital presents to traditional business processes.’  Paul maintains that all enterprises should begin to reevaluate their existing practices and reassess if they exploiting all potentials that the digital world offers.

‘Revenue operations must play an integral part in a businesses digital transformation strategy…’

The IDSC provides expertise and operations management, handling such vital areas whilst allowing you to keep focus on your business’s development.

UK Unemployment Drops: Why It May Not Be A Sign To Celebrate.

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Official figures have stated that finally the rate of unemployment in the UK has dropped. But before you leap out of your chair to yank your nearest job-hunting graduate away from their computer to tell them everything is going to be okay, bear in mind that the drop was from 7.8% to 7.7%, a measly 0.1%.

The Bank of England has however informed the public that this fall will most likely continue to drop until it reaches 7%, whereby it will (according to Bank of England governor Mark Carney) rise again.

This news was twinned with the information that those claiming jobseekers is at its lowest since early 2009, dropping by a total of 32,600 claimants.

Unemployment statistics have always been a matter of confusion. Throwing every UK citizen into one of two pots, one marked “Employed” and the other “Unemployed” does not tell the whole story. A more interesting statistic is that at the same time as unemployment figures have dropped those employed part-time has risen by 25,000 to 1.45million, the highest it has been since 1992. Also interesting is that fact that wages are still rising at a rate far behind that of prices. Average pay has risen by 1.1% compared to last year, whilst prices are rising at a rate of 2.8%.

It is obviously true that many people employed in part-time labour are happy with their job, but just as that is true that many are employed in this fashion because they are unable to find full time work and with rising costs are forced to take whatever they can.

This is something that is not noticed by looking at unemployment figures alone. In fact, there is a whole plethora of areas missed by the official statistics. Placing people into one of two camps means they are unable to look any deeper into a person’s individual situation. Statistics cannot tell whether the individual is employed in part or full time but is unhappy because they are working well below their pay grade. Likewise they cannot tell if the individual is registered unemployed but is employed illegally, finding income through prostitution, drug sales or gambling.

It is not the fault of the official statistics, they are simply relaying what the data says, and it is not as if they do not tell us anything. Yet it is important not to assume that because official statistics have stated unemployment figures have dropped that this alone is the story. There are many reasons the unemployment figures could have dropped. The statistics could be telling us that unemployment is dropping and we are on the road to recovery, or they could be telling us that people have given up looking for the full-time job they want and are taking whatever they can grasp a hold of.

Official figures have stated that finally the rate of unemployment in the UK has dropped. But before you leap out of your chair to yank your nearest job-hunting graduate away from their computer to tell them everything is going to be okay, bear in mind that the drop was from 7.8% to 7.7%, a measly 0.1%.

The Bank of England has however informed the public that this fall will most likely continue to drop until it reaches 7%, whereby it will (according to Bank of England governor Mark Carney) rise again.

This news was twinned with the information that those claiming jobseekers is at its lowest since early 2009, dropping by a total of 32,600 claimants.

Unemployment statistics have always been a matter of confusion. Throwing every UK citizen into one of two pots, one marked “Employed” and the other “Unemployed” does not tell the whole story. A more interesting statistic is that at the same time as unemployment figures have dropped those employed part-time has risen by 25,000 to 1.45million, the highest it has been since 1992. Also interesting is that fact that wages are still rising at a rate far behind that of prices. Average pay has risen by 1.1% compared to last year, whilst prices are rising at a rate of 2.8%.

It is obviously true that many people employed in part-time labour are happy with their job, but just as that is true that many are employed in this fashion because they are unable to find full time work and with rising costs are forced to take whatever they can.

This is something that is not noticed by looking at unemployment figures alone. In fact, there is a whole plethora of areas missed by the official statistics. Placing people into one of two camps means they are unable to look any deeper into a person’s individual situation. Statistics cannot tell whether the individual is employed in part or full time but is unhappy because they are working well below their pay grade. Likewise they cannot tell if the individual is registered unemployed but is employed illegally, finding income through prostitution, drug sales or gambling.

It is not the fault of the official statistics, they are simply relaying what the data says, and it is not as if they do not tell us anything. Yet it is important not to assume that because official statistics have stated unemployment figures have dropped that this alone is the story. There are many reasons the unemployment figures could have dropped. The statistics could be telling us that unemployment is dropping and we are on the road to recovery, or they could be telling us that people have given up looking for the full-time job they want and are taking whatever they can grasp a hold of.

Spoof News: MET Office Annouce When Records Actually Began

The MET office has finally released details as to when records actually began.

“It’s all bollocks really” said the MET Office’s Chief of Staff, “we stopped keeping records years ago.”

“We had to make room in the office for a slushie machine and that require binning a lot of filing cabinets. We don’t really know what things were like before 2009.”

When asked why the MET office has continued to coin the phrase “The [insert climate condition of day] since records began” the Chief of Staff responded:

“Oh we just say that to spice things up a little. The truth is that talking about the weather is sodding boring, and here in Britain it is all anyone ever talks about. So we had to make it sound more interesting, y’know?”

“I just wish you lot would find something else to talk about and stop blaming us for this shit. It’s hot outside now, what more do you all want?”

“Bloody British.”

Spoof News: Edward Snowden Presented with 2013 International Hide and Seek Community Award

The International Hide and Seek Community (IHSC) have presented Edward Snowden with their prestigious 2013 IHSC award.

The 30 year old international fugitive has caught the attention of the organisation in charge of all things hidden.

The IHSC award has experienced much controversy over their past decisions. Their nominations of the 2003 winner Saddam Hussein and 2004-2010 winner Osama Bin Laden brought them into strained relations with the US government.

“I got my best men on it, the CIA or whatever” said ex- US President George W. Bush “We tried to slap them with a big ass fine and call an end to this hogwash, but we just couldn’t find them anywhere”.

The President of the IHSC, Rebecca Cropper, was unavailable for comment. She is currently located somewhere in Kuwait as part of the 2013 International Hide and Seek Championship Games.

When questioned on how he felt about the award Snowden replied “It is an absolute honour, I have been trying to be recognised for this all my life. When I found out about the Prism surveillance program I knew I finally had my chance for recognition. I just took it.”

Unfortunately Snowden was unable to comment further. “I am sorry I have to leave, my flight for Norwich is about to leave…I mean Moscow, yeh Moscow.”

Spoof News: Olympics Committee says it will “Find a place for drugs in sport”

The International Olympic Committee has announced that it will allow drugs in many of its events in light of the recent scandals.

Sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, who were recently tested positive for performance enhancing substances, have provoked the International Olympic Committee to find a radical new way to reduce the amount of drug-use in sporting events.

The International Olympic Committee have made the decision to find a place for recreational drugs within professional sport, and to implement this by the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I can’t be bothered with all these scandals anymore” said Committee President Jacques Rogge, “it’s getting on my nerves. If you can’t stop them, you may as well just let them do it.”

“It would be pretty wicked anyway, don’t you think? Watching athletes high of their faces flinging a massive great iron Frisbee across a field.”

The Committee has also looked into creating totally new drug-only sports. Events such as the 50cm Snort and Drug Mule, where the competitor must attempt to insert the biggest bag of weed up inside their colon and smuggle it through US customs.

This will also be used as a chance to reintroduce some old events. Games that were once a part of the Olympics, but which over the course of history had been removed will be brought back with a new twist.

Competitions such as poetry will be restored amongst the Olympics schedule of events. “Competitors will first be fed a great big bag of magic mushrooms before they begin writing” says Rogge.

“How awesome does that sound?”