Sunday, 30 October 2011

That's Technology: Are your staff killing your business? “Recreationa...

That's Technology: Are your staff killing your business? “Recreationa...: Analysis of client audits carried out over four years by Intergence Systems , a leading independent IT optimisation consultancy, has revea...

Fast drying screed causes minimum disruption to retailer

New fast drying screed for
The floor of a large Tesco supermarket near the centre of Birmingham was causing problems for customers pushing shopping trolleys. The underlying sand/cement screed had failed, causing the floor tiles to lift. This not only made it difficult to push a trolley across the floor but also presented a safety hazard.

Tesco management understandably wanted to avoid disruption to the shop opening hours, so any repairs had to be permanent and quick so that the store was closed to trading for as short time as possible.

A special Ronafix modified screed was supplied ready mixed by RMC Mortars Limited of Lichfield, Staffordshire. The contractors, Telling (Midlands) Limited, then used a Putzmeister pump to pump the mortar through a 75 metre line to raise the mix from basement level to each of the two trading floors, where it was laid to a thickness of 65mm.

Within twenty-four hours the screed was able to accept foot traffic, and tiles were laid four to five days later, keeping to the strict time schedule, so the store could soon be re-opened and back in business.

Ronacrete screeding range

Global Economic Forecast

The following report is written by staff at the EIU and is carried in its entirety by That's Business for the benefit of our readers:- 

The Economist Intelligence Unit has reduced its 2012 GDP forecast for the euro zone. We now expect the economy to contract by 0.3% compared with our previous forecast of growth of 0.8%. The debt crisis in the euro zone periphery shows little sign of prompt resolution, despite greater efforts from political leaders in recent weeks. Stress on euro zone banks is deepening; a much-discussed bank recapitalisation, if it happens, will be positive for sentiment, but it is likely to be a contentious process. Most euro zone economic indicators have turned negative, and a recession seems inevitable.

• We have also lowered our forecast for US economic growth in 2012 to 1.3% (from 2% previously). Contagion effects from the euro zone crisis, mainly on US financial markets and banks, will curb business investment and consumer spending. We now expect only some elements of Barack Obama's jobs plan, which would have been supportive for the economy, to be enacted. Unlike in the euro zone, though, most US economic indicators remain mildly positive, suggesting a measure of resilience by consumers in the face of severe economic shocks.

• Following on from our downgrades to euro zone and US economic growth next year, we have also reduced our growth forecasts for most emerging markets. Countries with significant trade exposure to the large Western economies will feel the greatest impact. We have lowered our 2012 GDP growth forecast for China to 8.2% (from 8.6% previously). China's government has the motivation and the means to stimulate the domestic economy if external demand falls too sharply.

• Asset markets continue to veer almost daily from a risk-tolerant to a risk-averse posture, based largely on developments in the euro zone, but also on economic data, especially from the US and China. Our forecast for slower growth in most countries next year implies a strengthening of safe-haven assets, such as the US dollar and developed-country bonds, and a weaker performance for risk-related assets, including equities, commodities and commodity-related currencies.

Global Economic Forecast, November 2011 is available to download, for free, at

That's Technology: iPhone 4S & iPhone 4 Deals & Prices Drop at Phones...

That's Technology: iPhone 4S & iPhone 4 Deals & Prices Drop at Phones...: The new Apple iPhone 4S may be one of the most expensive smart phones released in 2011 but Phones Limited are helping their customers save...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Customer Services: They won the argument but lost the customer

Picture the scene: It is a branch of a major supermarket chain. A customer has a query. He believes that he has been over-charged by £2.50 so he seeks out the Customer Services point in the shop.

There used to be a proper Customer Services point with a Customer Services Manager who would be able to resolve problems quickly and efficiently.

However, someone decided it would be a good idea to get rid of the Customer Services point and the Customer Services Manager and have the Customer Services point as a cramped addition to the cigarette and lottery kiosk, so that customer service is carried out by whomever can be bothered to tear themselves away from either selling fags and Lotto tickets or skulking round the back chatting with colleagues about the latest soaps.

On this particular occasion the Customer Services point operator was someone who had joined the supermarket staff as a sulky and somewhat graceless teenager. Fifteen years later she has developed into a sulky and somewhat graceless woman. Only someone with a particularly dark sense of humour would have allowed her anywhere near a customer, let alone actually give her responsibility for customer services!

She rudely told the customer that he was wrong. He queried this and she responded in an ill-tempered (and graceless) way by saying: "I will fetch the supervisor!"

The supervisor arrived. And appeared to be a student of about 18. The wisdom of leaving an 18 year-old student responsible for a store of that size is open to debate. She confirmed that the answer that the customer had been given was right. She gave him this news in a way that was irritating in that she told him this in a rather triumphalist way. Both the student manager and the queen of sulk seemed to think that they had won against the customer.

And in a way, that was true. They had won the argument. But they had lost the customer. They had either lost the vision of excellence in customer service, or never had it in the first place.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Aspect Enterprise Solutions To Unveil Cloud-Based Physical Operations Solution For Bunker Trading Companies At IBIA Annual Convention

Aspect Enterprise Solutions, a provider of multi-commodity trading and risk management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications delivered in the Cloud, will unveil its new physical operations functionality for bunker trading companies at the IBIA Annual Convention, November 2-4 in Barcelona, Spain.

This powerful new physical operations functionality has recently been released to its established trade and risk management platform, AspectCTRM, which includes a bunker-specific edition.

AspectCTRM for Bunkering has long featured customized functionality for the unique trading scenarios of bunker companies which includes: company-wide visibility of stocks; management of bunkering sales and controls; consolidated risk management; and flexible multi-product support for spot and term bunker deals from contract through settlement.

Newly released functionality features the storage component of AspectCTRM Physical Operations which adds an on-screen inventory workbench that includes planning and actualization of movements into, out of, and between storage locations; stock and ullage projections; stock reconciliations; stock valuation tracking; and cost allocations. Capacities and constraints, together with storage-related contract costs, can be tracked and managed.

Trade and risk controls together with strong inventory capabilities provide a real strength and competitive advantage in a market where spreadsheets have long been the norm for managing trades, and have created blind spots in the supply chain. Leveraging the right trading and risk management system helps bunker traders manage trades and understand profits and losses and exposure in real time against changing inventories.

According to Aspect President and CEO Steve Hughes, this solution provides competitive advantage and an affordable solution. “For many bunker companies, large trading and risk systems are often too complex. This can scare companies away from trying to implement a solution, leaving them to continue managing their inventories in the way it has been managed for many years – with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets don’t allow collaboration between traders, inventory managers and accounting. Spreadsheets don’t provide good visibility, or the capability for scenario analysis,” says Hughes.

AspectCTRM for Bunkering combines all the required core functionality required for trading together with ultra-fast speed of implementation – typically a few days, not weeks or months – and a scalability that makes it cost-effective for small operations right up to the heavyweights that dominate the world’s bunkering hubs.

The addition of the AspectCTRM Physical Operations module makes Aspect the first wholly Cloud-based solution of its kind to offer true end-to-end processing for oil trading firms. It integrates front office trading, middle office storage and physical operations, with back office business and financial operations into one common system.

Components for physical shipment operations will follow later this year, adding workbenches for allocations, shipments and operations.

See information for oil traders which includes details for pricing and editions.

See information for bunker storage on the Aspect Website.

Aspect Enterprise Solution is the leading global provider of Web-based, multi-commodity trading, risk management and data management applications with more than 500 customers and thousands of users in 90 countries. It’s the only integrated, all-in-one platform delivered Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in the Cloud, which enables rapid deployment, controlled costs and immediate ROI. Aspect applications include AspectCTRM®, a full-featured commodity trading and risk management enterprise suite for front, middle and back office.

It’s available in 3 Editions: Lite, Standard and Enterprise, seamlessly expanding in functionality according to the needs and budget of clients. AspectDSC is its oil market data product for traders offering oil, metals and agricultural market news, prices, futures and analytical tools on desktops and mobile devices including Apple® iPhone® and iPad®, BlackBerry, Android and Windows-based mobile phones. AspectPM is its Price Manager solution which provides consolidation and support for the global oil price forecasting process and forward curve management.

Lenny Henry to Host the itSMF UK 2011 Conference Awards Dinner

itSMF UK, the UK’s largest service management user group, today announced that Lenny Henry, award winning comedian and founding member of Comic Relief, will host the itSMF UK 2011 Conference awards dinner on 7th November at the Novotel London West. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s greatest Paralympic athlete with eleven gold medals and six wheelchair marathons under her belt, will open the Conference itself which takes place on 7th and 8th November.
Now in its 20th year, the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition is the annual event for IT Service Management professionals, offering education and networking opportunities along with its highly popular annual awards dinner.

Over 40 educational sessions are scheduled ranging from practical experience-based sessions in the Lessons Learned, Softer Skills and Tips and Techniques streams, to interactive workshops and sponsor-led presentations.

High-profile case studies will include Tesco Bank on building a 50-strong service capability from a team of one, the Met Office on its role in the global MyOceans project, and Heineken UK on driving ITSM transformation to support business change. Leading ITSM vendors, consultants and trainers will also be on hand to discuss the latest tools, techniques and trends.

The closing presentation will be given by Mark Hall, Deputy Chief Information Officer for HM Revenue & Customs, who will discuss ‘IT Service Management in times of austerity’, focusing on the issues facing the public sector amid unprecedented cutbacks and the likely impact on service management.

Ben Clacy, Chief Executive, itSMF UK commented: “The itSMF Conference is an opportunity for the industry to celebrate commitment,dedication and innovation in service management. We’re very grateful to our sponsors and exhibitors including platinum sponsor Pink Elephant, gold sponsors Axios, Service-now, APMG and Intel, and all the other vendors who have supported us throughout the year. We are also happy to welcome companies such as PeopleCert and Serena, who are joining us for the first time this year.”

The IT Service Management Awards recognise outstanding achievement and significant contribution to the world of IT Service Management, showcasing the people and organisations that are at the forefront of the industry. There are eight award categories this year including two student awards for ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000.

The Project of the Year category will see the three finalists give 15 minute presentations at the Conference itself, and the Service Champion on the Year award will focus on one inspiring individual who has been outstanding in their field. Other categories are Trainer of the Year, Submission of the Year, Service Innovation of the Year, and finally, the prestigious Paul Rappaport award for Outstanding Contribution to Service Management.

Barry Corless, Chairman, itSMF UK commented: “Every year I walk away from our awards ceremony thinking we can’t top that next year. I continue to be proved wrong.”

For more information on the itSMF UK 2011 Conference, please contact or call 0118 900 1134.

Established over 20 years ago, the itSMF UK boasts over 12,000 members, 60 percent of which are from FTSE 100 companies spanning all vertical markets in the UK. The itSMF UK’s raison d’ĂȘtre is to help organisations and individuals deliver operational efficiency, service improvement and best practice in IT Service Management.

The itSMF UK connects IT professionals with appropriate knowledge, networks and training programmes to help them better understand complex evolving IT infrastructures. Through the itSMF members can gain and learn from the experience of thousands of their IT peers. itSMF UK members are entitled to significant discounts on the latest ITSM publications and events, including seminars and an industry-leading Annual Conference, plus free attendance at Regional meetings and Special Interest Groups (SIGS). To find out more please go to or call 0118 918 6500.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

That's Education: Learner Management Solutions Make Apprenticeships ...

That's Education: Learner Management Solutions Make Apprenticeships ...: The availability of software solutions to efficiently manage and supervise the progression of le...

Quasar Online Videos Help Improve Business Efficiency

Although, in the current challenging economic climate, many UK businesses may prefer to only sanction mandatory - compliance and regulatory - training for their staff, Quasar's Michael Shane believes that this strategy is one of false economy.

Shane, whose company has developed the Quasar 'Anytime' range of online video learning materials providing practical, on-going advice and guidance for those using Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, explained: "When you talk to businesses about 'training', they often say that, because economic times are hard, they're only budgeting for mandatory training.

"Yet, if they don't train their staff to be more productive and reduce inefficiencies - and they continue to employ those people - their work-based inefficiencies will proliferate! And, in the current economic climate especially, inefficient businesses are the ones that are most likely to go under."

In Shane's opinion, the Quasar Anytime online learning videos enable organisations - especially small businesses and budding entrepreneurs - to maintain these so called 'non-essential' training programmes, keep their skills current and buck the economic trend.

"Using Anytime, you can get more - and exceptionally valuable - information from your business by getting the best out of your standard Microsoft Office software, for example, via exploiting the numerous functions and options in Excel," Shane said.

He added: "If you're not sure what tools exist in the Office suite of products that enable you to get the business information you need, you can go to the Anytime library of online videos and browse the titles available. You'll be amazed at just what you can achieve - easily!

"In these harsh economic times, individuals and businesses need to do whatever it takes to survive and you'll be surprised just how much products like Excel and the Microsoft Office suite can help," he continued. "The thing is that people think they know how to use this software - but they don't - and they regard this type of training as non-essential.

"This means that, while most, if not all businesses, have these tools available, they remain unexploited. Using Quasar's Anytime online videos as part of an overall business strategy for growth is a cost-effective way to increase your skills and buck the trends.

"Let's face it, in this day and age, any help is worthwhile and, if it's inexpensive, that's a real bonus," he added.

According to Government figures, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for some 99.9 per cent of all UK enterprises; some 59.1 per cent of private sector employment and 48.6 per cent of private sector turnover.

Shane said: "These businesses are the backbone of the UK's economy and, increasingly, the people working in these businesses need computer literacy skills in order to survive in today's world. Through Anytime, Quasar can provide access to a learning method which is designed to help people develop and hone these skills - and improve their work efficiency."

Quasar is a training company that specialises in delivering end user IT training, along with customer services training. Early in 2011, it launched Anytime: a wide range of online videos delivering e-learning on the Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 suites of products to businesses and individuals.

Further information: Linda Shane, Quasar, 08458 626265;

Why Most Companies Look And Sound The Same (And The Customer Decides On Price)

Everyone is saying the same thing - and no one is listening.

That's the reality in most industries. And when this happens the only way to choose is on price.

In this situation it's tempting to throw money at marketing in the hopes of differentiating yourself. But if you're not saying anything different - then no one will be listening.

And this applies whether you're spending £40 a month on promoting yourself at a networking meeting, or £4,000,000 a month on cross media marketing campaigns.

It sounds simple - and obvious. So why do most companies fail to stand out? It's because they aren't distinctive.

Most companies know they need to be distinctive, but they give it precious little to thought.

So what can we learn from the companies that have managed to stand out from the crowd - those companies that we'd immediately spring to mind for a certain product or service?

The one thing they all have in common is a unique voice.

Roderic Michelson is a Company Growth expert at Aralex Consulting. He believes you can learn a lot by looking at those companies that really do stand out.

For example:

1) If you are a chocolate lover, there are few outlets where you can buy higher quality chocolate - the boutique chocolatiers. But what about daily chocolate? From a labour of love Green & Black grew into a strong brand riding on a smart USP: organic, luxurious but affordable, ethically-produced chocolate.

2) With a loyal following at home, built over 300 years, Twinings is one of the quintessentially British brands. It keeps growing abroad and it's now sold in over 100 countries. What makes people in non-tea drinking countries choose Twinnings when they want tea? Their USP: Proper tea steeped in tradition, a little taste of Britain.

3) When was the last time you made a fresh juice yourself or mixed a smoothie? There was a need in the market for an easy way to have a healthy fruit drink. And Innocent Smoothies in the UK successfully grew from a stall to a sizeable company in a very tough market category. The USP: Convenient, naturally functional fruit drinks from an ethical supplier.

4) Finding a consistently good blend of coffee especially for espresso-based drinks is not an easy task. But Illy Coffee is well on its way to becoming the first global brand coffee in the world. Their marketing is based around: outstanding taste, authentic Italian experience in every cup, the choice of connoisseurs and coffee lovers.
Your USP is the distilled essence of what you are offering. Make it sound fast, easy and low-risk. Your USP should be so compelling that it can be written on a board in front of your shop, if you had one, and can be quoted when meeting potential customers.

How to create a USP? Roderic has a simple 5 step process;

Step1: Write down the list of benefits that your product/service offers. They could be centred around your price, technical excellence, taste, specialism, exclusivity. Think about the end result your customer wants from such a product. The best way is to pair each feature of your product with the benefit it brings.

Step 2: Quick market research: Sit down at your computer and find out who your most prominent competitors are. What are they saying on their web sites, in their marketing materials, in their ads? Which benefits do they emphasise? What are their messages? Again, try to match product features to their stated benefits. Once you compare your own notes to competitor messages it will be easy to fine tune your own positioning so you have a unique voice against the rest of the market.

Step 3: Look at areas of underperformance or customer needs/pain points in your industry. Which of these are addressed by your product? Make sure your USP ties in with a market need.

Step 4: Strengthen your claims, if you can. Do you have some proof, testimonials, research results to overcome the apathy and scepticism of today's over-marketed consumer?

Step 5: Synthesise your USP into one to two sentences. Write down and rework versions until it sounds right. Don't assume you will do it in one sitting. The USP should answer the customer's question "why should I choose your product?"

Your USP is not a simple slogan or tagline. It is the mainstay, the common thread of all your communications and no message should go out from your business without your USP in it, or emphasising one of the elements of your USP. Your USP will spark interest and single you out as the best choice in your prospects' eyes.

Roderic Michelson is a company growth expert for Aralex Consulting Ltd. Roderic's expertise is in being able to assess quickly a company's growth potential, as well as areas for improvement. Working closely with his clients, he helps them prepare and implement a project plan to position them for sustained growth. Roderic holds an MBA from London Business School. He is author of "The Recession-Fighting Guide" and publishes the Business Growth Blog. Roderic is also frequent speaker to professional groups across London. He can be contacted at: /

Are you a business owner or a firefighter?

How To Stop Firefighting And Get Calm Within Your Business

Many business owners and managers find themselves caught up in a constant round of fire fighting - never managing (or only temporarily managing) to get their head above the ever rising water.

Hilary Briggs is a management consultant with over 20 years of industrial experience having held senior management positions at Rover Group, Whirlpool Corporation and The Laird Group plc.

Early in her career she found herself in the role of Production Superintendent, responsible for over 80 people working on the door build for the Rover 800 at Rover Group's Cowley Assembly plant.

Hilary was running round desperately juggling problems. Her colleagues seemed to be doing much the same, and it would have been easy to assume that "this is how it is". However, at the time they were working closely with Honda, and it struck her that there seemed much more calmness in their approach - she vowed to create some of that in her section before she and her team burnt out.

Within 3 months Hilary had tangible results, and has continued to use these techniques in every subsequent position, and now in her own business and with her clients.

So what is Hilary's advice?

1) First thing is to be aware of where you are on the continuum of "firefight to calm"; think of it as a 0-10 scale, and keep track of changes.

2) If you're in the firefight side, the second action is to build a strong visualisation - including feelings - of what the "calm" version would be like.

3) Then build a detailed plan of what's required to deliver that. Identify where things are off-track at the moment and why.

4) Identify specific actions, and break them down into small pieces. Try to find 5 minutes today to make tomorrow better.

5) Take action to prevent the fires happening in the first place. Involve all the relevant people and ensure a continuous improvement loop is established.

6) Monitor the progress.

7) Look for signs of trouble - e.g. if a customer or supplier becomes difficult to contact/not returning calls - it's a sure sign that there's a problem. (EDITOR: They might, for example, be fighting their own fires?)

8) If you find yourself constantly uttering the "I don't have any time" excuse, then go back to your vision of the calm state, and break the actions down into tiny pieces so at least some progress can be made.

9) Finally, establish a 100 day plan to help focus your activities on moving up the scale towards calmness. Keep monitoring the data and adjust the plan as you go.

Overall the key to help any business owner or manager move from firefight to calm is to take action to improve the situation. Constantly firefighting will leave you for ever in that mode. You need to put out the fire and then, very importantly, stop a new one from igniting.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

That's Travel: Choice Hotels announces opening of new Comfort bra...

That's Travel: Choice Hotels announces opening of new Comfort bra...: Choice Hotels has announced that the Royal Hotel Luton has been re-branded as Comfort Hotel Luto...

Brands Need to Prepare For the Upcoming Boom in Commerce Through Facebook, says Punch Communications

With social networking giant Facebook announcing a number of changes to its open graph platform at the recent f8 conference, brands should be ready for a change in the way e-commerce will be implemented on the site, says integrated PR, SEO and social media agency Punch Communications.

Due to this development and the ability to now not only ‘Like’ something on Facebook you will soon be able to ‘Want’, ‘Love’ or ‘Recommend’ things. This development has caught the eye of e-commerce heavyweight eBay and its developer arm X.commerce, as they announce an upcoming partnership that will make Facebook the market place of the future.

A recent study into social commerce by the e-tailing group found that 59% of users rated customer reviews as the most important impacting factor on their buying behaviour. Social shopping aims to capitalise on this by creating visibility and feedback for products and services from the people you trust the most, your friends and family.

Brands using Facebook to promote their products will soon be more in control of the message they push to potential buyers and fans. Using the open graph platform, developing more descriptive and appropriate interactions such as a ‘Want’ button will become easy to implement and promote. This type of functionality coupled with the real time news feed of friend activity provided by the Facebook Ticker will propel the social shopping experience.

Pete Goold, Managing Director at tech PR agency, Punch Communications said, “Facebook provides an important platform for brands and companies to reach and interact with their fans and customers. Social commerce will appeal to an audience who are already familiar with the functions and features of the platform to recommend and create visibility for promoting products and services to their friends and connections.

“Social recommendation carries much weight when acting as a basis for a purchase decision and with the new developments in the f-commerce area users will be instantly notified of their friends purchases; this will encourage them to look at the product and it may influence decision to buy”

Social commerce will become a fully integrated service within social media and e-commerce platforms now that the tools are available to developers. With predictions that more business will be carried out through Facebook than Amazon, brands would be wise to begin developing their strategies and apps now to get a head start and take full advantage of the opportunities that social commerce will afford them.

If you are currently talking to PR and SEO agencies then contact Punch Communications to find out how an integrated campaign would benefit your business. For more information regarding Punch's services, please visit, or call 01858 411 600.

(EDITOR: I have worked with Punch to help promote some of their clients for some trade magazines. A nicer, more professional set of people you could not hope to meet. I can recommend them thoroughly. If you need a PR firm, then Punch should be on your list.)

That's Technology: Fasthosts voted 'Best Web Host'

That's Technology: Fasthosts voted 'Best Web Host': Fasthosts Internet Ltd has announced that it has won 'Best Web Host' in the Computer Shopper Mag...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Prontaprint in national hunt to find “Entrepreneur of the Year”

Britain’s longest established network of print centres has launched a search for the UK’s top entrepreneur.

The hunt is on for the individual whose business idea has been so inspirational they can be crowned “Prontaprint Entrepreneur of the Year 2012”

In the difficult economic climate, it’s designed to show that behind the doom and gloom headlines, Britain’s entrepreneurs are alive and kicking – or, rather, thriving, and just need to be unleashed.

The judges – including Andy Bounds, of the Financial Times, and Dragons’ Den winner Levi Roots - are looking for flair in any form, something which stands out from the crown, or the “eureka” moment which paid off. In short, inspiration for others.

Sara Jamison, CEO of Prontaprint said: “At Prontaprint we see and hear many original and outstanding commercial ideas, and we get asked for the most amazing display ideas, logos and direct mail campaigns. We really operate ‘at the sharp end’ and see lively ideas on a day to day basis, and want to share this with others.

“Maybe someone has are shown real growth in a competitive environment; strong return on investment; had an innovative advertising or marketing campaign; an inspired direct marketing or online campaign; or found a gap in the market that’s now soaring.

“Entries open today and close on December 12. Judging begins in January and the winner will receive a £5000 cash prize; an engraved glass trophy; and, of course, huge kudos for their business.”

Entrants can apply online via or pick up a form in their regional Prontaprint centre.

Sara said: “We really want to identify the people who are helping Britain out of the recession while others like politicians just talk about it.”

That's Technology: New report shows how governance can help informati...

That's Technology: New report shows how governance can help informati...: A new report from the independent information security body, the Information Security Forum (ISF), provides organisations with a clear pi...

That's Technology: Jumeirah and bigmouthmedia win Digital Impact Awar...

That's Technology: Jumeirah and bigmouthmedia win Digital Impact Awar...: Global digital marketing company bigmouthmedia's effective partnership with luxury hotel and res...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Micro-business beats software giants in customer satisfaction

The Payroll Site, a family business employing just four people, has won the Software Satisfaction Award for SME Payroll Software. They were up against some much larger companies, including IRIS Software and Sage UK, who won the award in 2010.

Managing Director Steven Tucker was presented the award by Alastair Campbell, who compered the ceremony at the Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on 18 October.

The winner was chosen by a survey of customers using the 15 products in the payroll category. Most were traditional software packages, but The Payroll Site beat the competition with their innovative online payroll system.

Steven said, "Sometimes, being small can be an advantage, especially where customer satisfaction is concerned."

Over 10,000 customer surveys were completed across all 14 categories, with nearly a quarter falling within the SME payroll category. Steven said, "Based on previous years, we expected about 500 surveys in each category, but we were out by a factor of 5. It's a good job we have lots of happy customers, who kindly took time the time to complete the survey."

Steven's brother Kenny (who is Technical Director) said, "I love running a small business, and we're all really proud of the award. I'm going to put up a new shelf in the office, just for the trophy. I'll make it big enough for next year's award, just in case."

More information about The Payroll Site and the awards can be found on their websites and

Experian data shows identity fraud attempts double in first half of 2011

Experian, the global information services company, has released its latest Fraud Index which reveals that identity fraud attempts doubled in the first half of 2011, compared to Q4 in 2010. This pushed up the overall level of application fraud attempted against UK financial services firms for the third successive quarter. Experian also predicts a nine per cent increase in application fraud attempts during 2011.

The analysis, published at Experian's annual Identity & Fraud Forum, reveals that identity fraudsters were responsible for eight in every 10,000 applications made in Q2 2011 (April - June 2011), double the number of fraudulent applications recorded in the final quarter of 2010. This was driven by a 340% increase in current account identity fraud, from five to 22 in every 10,000 applications.

Experian's analysis also highlights that 18 in every 10,000 applications for automotive finance, credit cards, insurance, loans, mortgages, current accounts and savings products made in the second quarter of 2011 were found to be fraudulent. These were five per cent higher than January to March 2011, and up nine per cent on the year.

Over the same period the number of first-party fraud attempts - where a genuine individual misrepresents their circumstances - remained constant at 10 in every 10,000 applications.

42 in every 10,000 applications for current accounts were detected as fraudulent between April and June 2011, up 20 per cent on the first three months of 2011 and 59 per cent higher than during Q2 2010. For the second quarter in a row, current accounts were the most targeted financial product by fraudsters.

Experian's Fraud Index collects data from both the National Hunter and Insurance Hunter fraud prevention systems, which are managed by Experian on behalf of its clients. Both systems provide a way for financial organisations to protect against fraud by comparing applications with previously submitted ones and pinpointing inconsistencies.

Nick Mothershaw, Director of Identity & Fraud at Experian UK & Ireland, commented: "Identity fraud is back with a vengeance. Our analysis shows that we are witnessing a surge in the number of detected identity frauds, with current accounts the number one target in the UK. Fraudsters see the current account as an easier option, giving them a springboard for money laundering and from where they can also target more lucrative credit products such as mortgages, credit cards and loans."

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That's Technology: House of Lords Acknowledges Value of High-Technolo...: International manufacturing software specialist Applied Computing & Engineering Ltd (AC&E Ltd) h...

Advanced Business Solutions announces partnership with RealFlair

Partnership provides Advanced’s customers with improved workforce rostering functionality

Advanced Business Solutions (Advanced) has announced a partnership with RealFlair Limited, which is a resource management development company providing optimisation and rostering software. RealFlair’s Workforce Optimisation solution will now link into Advanced’s human resource (HR) and payroll solutions, enabling improved and more cost-effective workforce rostering.

Realflair’s Workforce Optimisation is a flexible web-based rostering solution that is ideal for businesses with complex staff rostering needs, such as care homes, airports, travel operators and retail organisations. Complementing Advanced’s existing portfolio of time and attendance and rostering solutions, Workforce Optimisation enables visibility of a comprehensive staff roster at a touch of a button, reducing the time, frustration and costs associated with traditional scheduling methods.

Using Workforce Optimisation, managers are given the necessary information and foresight to assign the most cost-effective employees to certain shifts and/or tasks, thereby minimising costly overtime and agency usage. The solution also matches available staff resources to business demand, further cutting labour costs.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director of Advanced Business Solutions (Commercial), says, “In the current economic climate, organisations are looking at ways to cut costs and to utilise staff more effectively. We are teaming up with RealFlair so that we can offer customers a smart workforce scheduling solution that increases productivity, improves staff utilisation and delivers a high return on investment.”

John Thornewill, Managing Director of RealFlair, says, “Having proven our optimisation technology with a number of direct clients, we felt that the time was right to approach a larger business with a view to forming a partnership that could expand our customer base. Advanced’s broad range of clients and flexible approach to partnerships really appealed to us and the two companies are already working extremely well together.”

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fraud in YOUR business or organisation? Ten Early Warning Signs Of Fraud

 Trueman CEO of
Leading anti-fraud consultancy ( has published a list of ten common early warning signs which could alert management that fraud may be occurring in their organisation.

The list draws upon’s substantial experience across an international client base, ranging from major financial institutions, public sector bodies and corporations to SMEs and non-profit making organisations.

The list works on the assumption that whatever tools they use, be it IT based cons and false accounting or other traditional scams, the warning signs are often the same. As believes that awareness of the signs and a sound approach to countering them can often deter many opportunistic incidents of fraud, they have published the list here to help executives benchmark their own operations.

In the list suggested actions that can be taken to counter the risk of fraud are given following each sign. The early warning signs can include:

1. ERRATIC REPORTING: This sign is just as applicable to suppliers and contractors as it is to internal departments and functions within the organisation. Erratic, incomplete, late or excuse laden management reporting is often a classic sign that something is wrong. One of the possibilities is the existence of fraud. Further investigation will reveal that lip service and increasingly tenuous explanations are given assertively to thwart follow up activity. Common excuses used are often the frequent occurrence of IT failures, technology compatibility issues between different company systems or international systems. It is also often the case that once reports are complete; there are typically delays in them reaching those who need to review the data.

ACTION: Insist on up-to-date reporting, within a set timetable and then build this into the internal GRC (Governance Risk and Compliance) systems. Wherever appropriate adopt an enterprise-wide approach to technology to help with systems issues.

2. APPARENT PROCESS LAZINESS: A weakening of anti-fraud and data security systems can happen naturally, over time; and is normal – especially when things get busy. This occurs where the sage precautions and risk-avoidance measures get by-passed or ignored in practice as time goes by. This could just be the natural adjustment of systems to the practicalities of working life and busy peaks or it could be deliberate and sinister. However, with the seemingly right processes in place, top level management are often lulled into a false sense of security that they are actually being used, whilst the fraudster is busy at work getting around them.
ACTION: Make sure you implement the suggestions of your internal compliance managers and organise appropriate training to reinforce attitudes and practise. Ensure that the control processes, especially in tendering, purchasing, invoicing and customer controls and identifications are ALWAYS kept strong, managed and regularly reviewed. Where systems/processes are under pressure when used in practise, introduce a review process – and then adapt them promptly.

3. ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE AND THE DESIRE TO DUMP DATA: A major indicator can be the act of deletion or pressure on staff to delete, remove or otherwise dump past records following a restructure, a new division launch, a JV or acquisition. An excuse of, “oh I’m sorry those files were destroyed.” should be cause for alarm. It will be an even bigger problem where international operations are involved as it’s far harder to find or recreate evidence in a foreign territory.
ACTION: Take care to establish and log where paper documents are and when they should and should not be stored. Identify who is in control of the system processes and who is responsible for and has ownership of the records. They are not always the same person of course. Ensure that scanning, and indexing works properly and that no-one can intercept/edit documents. Also ensure that storage capacity is enough and controlled properly. Where acquisitions and mergers are concerned, ensure that all documents are available and stored appropriately and securely, especially those that relate to IP protection, IP development records, audit trails and staff contracts. In particular, if you are acquiring a business make sure that you have indemnities/penalty clauses built into the acquisition agreements that relate to the availability of data, logs, audit trails and so forth.

4. DATA INCONSISTENCIES OR ABSENSE IN THE ARCHIVES: Whether it is archive data or cross reference checks that are missing or wrong; factual inconsistencies will also occur naturally. The cheats who seek to defraud an organization will use the possibility to explain such inconsistencies and hide their fraud.

ACTION: Make sure that all files are electronically stored, with appropriate back-ups as part of your compliance systems and that no-one has the access to any files that include a DELETE capability. It is also worth having internal or external auditors sample check key files from time to time as a part of the audit programme. In addition arrange for the HR department to make it a gross misconduct issue to destroy data without recorded approval from above. This may not deter the fraudster but if nobody else is doing it the fraudster is more likely to be spotted at an early stage.

5. AUDIT-TIME DELAYS: Excuses, confusion or wild goose chases when disclosing to auditors, be they internal or external, can be a telltale sign too. We need to remember though that the audit team is not there to find fraud, rather to ensure that the correct processes are in place that will deliver appropriate protection.
ACTION: Ensure that everyone treats audits as important and make sure that they are completed on time and properly, and with appropriate audit skills. Where there have been delays or difficulties investigate why this was the case by drilling down into the detail. Make sure that the business critical and financial exposure areas take a priority and act upon all failings both quickly and completely; with follow-up audits if necessary.

6. BEHAVIOURAL ANOMALIES: These can range from acute defensiveness and resistance to attending review meetings, through to blaming strategies or even aggression when specific questions are asked about processes or figures. These behavioural anomalies have probably already been noticed through the assessment process or by HR staff. Research shows that internal fraudsters are most likely to be either ‘youngsters who cut across the processes and systems’ or ‘middle aged executives with the authority and a gripe’. ACTION: Get HR more closely involved. Then if you still have concerns about such people upon closer inspection, all the relevant files need to be pulled and checked, or you might even consider a private investigator to look deeper into the processes used by such high risk people.

7. GOSSIP MONGERS IN OVERDRIVE: Staff whispers and rumours “that all is not right” should always be taken seriously. These are, however, so often overlooked by senior management.
ACTION: Listen, take all such rumours seriously and investigate the reality.

8. TWITCHY NON-EXECS: Good non-execs provide a considered, independent and external perspective. Often they bring in specific expertise from outside the board’s immediate experience and their skills can vary from financial knowledge through to IT. When their comfort factor ‘goes south’ or when they have a ‘bee in the bonnet’ about something that does not add up or make sense, they often have good reason to worry. So must you.
ACTION: It is always good for the business to maintain a fresh supply of new thinking, new approaches and new concerns. Thus if non-execs have concerns about particular issues, one should fund their thinking by allowing them to bring in the appropriate specialist experts that can investigate matters more deeply.

9. UNOFFICIAL IT WORK: Technical staff working around the enterprise conducting unsupervised IT activity, often outside normal hours can also be a worrying sign, both from a risk and a cost perspective. Not every company is large enough to have a full IT department that might spot such issues through system audit trails. This is more common in smaller organisations where some are working more to help themselves than to help the organisation that is paying for their IT equipment and the software they use.
ACTION: Do the IT security staff look and think further than just password expiry issues? Make sure that someone is on the look out for data-theft, IPR theft, time theft (people spending all day on facebook etc.), or simple theft of IT assets. Make sure you have a proper asset register and IT audit system in place.

10. SCAPEGOATING: Where people are given a title but without actual responsibility, it can effectively cover up what is going on with those who do have responsibility or power in a situation. The fraudster’s hope is that should the balloon go up the scapegoat takes the blame, at least long enough for records to be destroyed and evidence removed.
ACTION: Make sure that you have strong and cascaded accountabilities. Ensure that people know what they should be doing, and that they are doing what is required of them. Make sure that everyone is contributing to the business objectives. Make sure HR is involved in creating or reviewing job specifications. believes that by introducing a series of straightforward and cohesive processes and systems, organizations can greatly reduce the risk of fraud and in doing so, alert management to the early warning signs, should they be prevalent.

Says Bill Trueman CEO of “My first question is always to ask executives ‘do you really know how safe your own organisation is? Some do reply confidently. Most do not. Fraud can happen anywhere, anytime, but it is relatively straightforward to deter or discover at an early stage with the right systems and procedures in place.

"However, putting those systems in place and more importantly maintaining and updating them over time is the hard bit. There are always conflicting priorities and constraints in any organization. By averting or saving fraud losses though, organisations can protect their bottom line from taking an unexpected hit.

But only by having a cohesive anti-fraud strategy as part of the core management culture of the organisation is this be possible. There are generic anti-fraud processes and systems systems that can help support any strategy introduced and consultants such as are on hand to help introduce the required checks and procedures if required.

"It is our hope having published this list, that those who read it might at least ask themselves if they recognise any of the signs in their own organisations. We hope too that it might help make things that much harder for the fraudster.”

Those companies who have read the list and are worried that fraud may exist in their organisation can contact’s help-centre by sending an email to

FACTFILE: is a leading UK based consultancy, with an impressive international track record of eliminating the risk of fraud. Its founder Bill Trueman is widely accepted as one of Europe’s leading fraud experts and a frequent commentator and writer on the issues involved. Trueman has extensive experience of the banking, insurance and the financial services sectors and is a thought leader at the forefront of many industry wide and international debates.(

(EDITOR: Some of the above ten points can also be attributed to incompetence or laziness. Best to nip them in the bud, too, as they will cost your company money, also)

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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bruntwood leases remaining office space at 14 King Street, Leeds

Commercial property company Bruntwood has concluded a pair of deals for 14 King Street in Leeds, which means that all of the available office space at the building has now been filled.

Barton Willmore LLP has decided to lease 1,322 sq ft of floor space while 3Volution LLP has taken 1,507 sq ft. They will join high-profile existing occupiers such as the Co-Operative Bank, Healthcare Locums and Charles Stanley.

The fact that 14 King Street is now at 100 per cent occupancy demonstrates the success of the refurbishment programme undertaken by Bruntwood several years ago. Acquired by the commercial property company in 2007, 14 King Street was then given a brand new reception facing onto Quebec Street and King Street as part of a major overhaul. Prospective customers were invited to look around from late 2008 onwards.

The modern office space at 14 King Street has been equipped to the highest specifications. There are raised floors, suspended ceilings, lifts and even bicycle storage. The building also benefits from 24-hour access and a dedicated onsite customer service team.

Adam Selka, sales surveyor at Bruntwood, stressed that the company views every property as a long-term investment. He explained: "Our aim is to develop vibrant and well-functioning places that create the right environment for the success of our customers."
In related news, Bruntwood has progressed details of the redevelopment plans for another Leeds property. City House, which is situated directly above the city's main train station, will offer 120,000 sq ft of Leeds office space when it is completed in 2013.

Craig Burrow, Director of Leeds at Bruntwood, explained: "We want to produce an iconic building that Leeds can be proud of."

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Opus Energy marks The Sunday Times Top Track listing with creation of 100 new jobs

Opus Energy
Independent energy supplier to UK businesses, Northampton and Oxford based Opus Energy, has today announced the creation of 100 new jobs as it celebrates making The Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 250 league table of Britain's leading mid-market private companies.

Published on Sunday 16th October, the Top Track 250 league table ranks Britain's private companies with the biggest sales. Opus Energy's success in achieving a placement in the Top Track 250 was based on sales figures to March 2011 which show 31% growth on the previous year to £198 million.

A typical Top Track 250 company is owned and run by established families and entrepreneurs, and has between 100 and 13,000 staff. Currently employing 360 staff at both its Northampton and Oxford sites, Opus Energy has continued to see a rapid rate of growth for the first six months of this financial year and expects to create 100 new jobs by the end of 2012 to meet the demand.

Charlie Crossley Cooke, Managing Director, Opus Energy, comments: "We are extremely pleased with this recognition of our performance over the last year but are now very much focused on the future. We are creating these new jobs to meet our continued level of growth."

He goes on to say: "We're proud of our workforce in both Northampton and Oxford and expect that most of the new jobs will be filled by local people."

Opus Energy is working with local recruitment agencies and is also encouraging people with relevant industry experience and a customer focus to visit the company website at

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Advanced Business Solutions scoops Payroll/HR Software Product of the Year at CIPP Excellence Awards

Advanced receives CIPP Award
12 October 2011 - Advanced Business Solutions’ pioneering human capital management (HCM) system was named Payroll/HR Software Product of the Year at the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) Payroll and Pensions Excellence Awards in Glasgow on 4 October 2011.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director of Advanced Business Solutions (Commercial) comments, “The CIPP Excellence Awards are considered by many to be the most sought after awards within the payroll industry. Our user-friendly HCM system is already the product of choice for many HR and payroll teams across the UK and winning this prestigious award demonstrates our leading position in the UK payroll software industry.”

Advanced Business Solutions fought off stiff competition from five shortlisted companies to have its HCM system recognised at the Excellence Awards. The Awards acknowledge and honour payroll and pensions professionals together with HCM software providers for their achievements and contributions to the industry over the past twelve months.

According to the CIPP judges, the glowing customer testimonials from The Brendoncare Foundation, Oxford Instruments and Denby Pottery helped Advanced Business Solutions to win the award.

Vickie Moss, Associate Director of Marketing and Business Development at the CIPP said, “Advanced Business Solutions won the software product of the year award based on the ease of use and flexibility of its human capital management product. The supporting testimonials from clients were very strong and this made the company a deserving winner.”

Advanced Business Solutions’ HCM system has been developed with the customer in mind. It can be easily customised to address the complexities of a particular organisation or industry, streamlining HR and payroll whilst cutting costs.

Roofing company enters new REALM to sustain growth

Weatherproofing Advisors Ltd, a UK roofing contractor in commercial roofing, has recently seen their new roof management system REALM® surpass 300 clients.

REALM®, which stands for Roofplan Estate Asset Lifecycle Management, is a new approach to managing roofs in the digital age. All data concerning the proper maintenance of the roof including survey reports, roof condition index, and CAD drawings are managed through a secure online portal which clients have access to at all times. Weatherproofing believe the system will help their clients save money and get maximum performance from their property portfolios.

Weatherproofing’s Managing Director John Kelly says: “We have always strived to be a forward thinking company and we consider it especially vital with the tough economic times we find ourselves in. The best way to predict the future is to create it, and that is exactly what we hope to achieve through REALM®.”

As the construction industry feels the full impact of the slow economic recovery it is the companies who are seeking out new and cost effective methods of servicing their clients who are continuing to prosper. Despite difficult conditions Weatherproofing Advisors can definitely be considered one of the roofing contractors who are pushing the envelope.

Weatherproofing Advisors have been in business since 1987 focusing mainly on industrial roofing and have depots in Glasgow, Newcastle, St Helens and a new office in London with the ability to serve clients all over the UK. Clients who have thus far signed up for the REALM® management system include schools, shopping centres and large industrial complexes across the UK.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cutting-edge fashion designers and heritage brands win prestigious export awards

Winner: Mary Katrantzou

The Banqueting House in Whitehall played host today to the 25th annual UK Fashion & Textile Export Awards where “print master” Mary Katrantzou was named winner of the designer business category and heritage brand Johnstons of Elgin, which has been producing fine cashmere and woollens since 1797,claimed the Gold Award, sponsored by HSBC.

“The past 25 years have shown a boom for fashion and the wider creative industries driven by global demand for UK creative talent. From heritage brands to the high street powerhouses, British style is sought after for its bravery, irreverence and innovation,” said Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

“The eyes of the world will be on the UK next year as we deliver the 2012 Olympics. This is our chance to show that Britain is the leading force in the global creative economy, and this year’s UK Fashion & Textile Export Awards are a timely reminder of how central the fashion industry and fashion exports are to this ambition.”

UK designers export two-thirds of the clothing that they produce and the UK footwear industry sells over 90% of its production around the world.

“Most fashion designers have to look at exports very early on in the lifetime of their company,” points out Paul Alger, director of international affairs at UKFT,the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), the event’s organisers.

“Today, international buyers, in particular, are searching for collections that combine creativity with a heritage status; if they are also made in the UK, they are even more in demand," he added.

According to brand expert Allyson Stewart-Allen, founder International Marketing Partners, there has been a “resurgence in popularity for British-made heritage brands”, particularly in the US - the second largest market for fashion exports after Europe - as they are “synonymous with quality, luxury and craftsmanship”.

“Successful British fashion exporters are companies that recognise the elements that enable their brands to travel well - adapting to suit local markets if necessary,” commented Stewart-Allen.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the competition and entries reached a record level. More than 300 industry guests attended the awards lunch at which the trophies were presented by HRH The Princess Royal, president of UKFT, and hosted by TV’s Claudia Winkleman.

Among the guests were Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, British Fashion Council chairman Harold Tillman and Dragons’ Den investor Deborah Meaden, owner of Fox Bros, the UK manufacturer behind the West of England tweed brand.

Other winners were:

Young company Butterfly Twists, which has enjoyed huge international growth in recent months with its stylish, practical ballet pumps, won the New Exporter trophy, sponsored by DHL Express.

Yorkshire-born designer Karl Donoghue was recognised for his collections that use the finest shearlings, leathers and furs and took the Great Brit award.

Brand of the Year was awarded to UK street wear giant Boxfresh, which looks set to become a household name nationwide, with new fans in Europe and Asia.

Young British fashion designer, Christopher Raeburn whose collection is made from reappropriated military fabrics collected the Rising Star category for his meteoric success in exports.

Creator of high-end luxurious woven accessories Alex Begg & Co is constantly pushing the boundaries to create original products and was the recipient of the Textiles award.

Winner of the Retailer/E-tailer category was ASOS, the UK’s largest online-only fashion and beauty store which has launched to shoppers worldwide in the past year.

About UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT)

On the export side, UKFT offers practical The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) is the umbrella organisation that represents the fashion and textile sector both domestically and overseas. Its members include major suppliers to high street retailers and brands.

The sector employs 141,000 people, contributes £8.6n to the UK economy (factory gate prices) with retail sales valued at £50bn.

Facebook ad spend up 25 percent and cost-per-click up 54 percent in Q3 2011

Facebook ad spend has increased by an impressive 25 percent during the third quarter of 2011, according to research by performance marketing company, Efficient Frontier. The cost of advertising on Facebook has also increased, with cost-per-clicks up by 54 percent in Q3 over Q2. Search spend has increased by 16 percent year-on-year in the UK (20 percent in the US).

Efficient Frontier’s quarterly Global Digital Marketing Performance Report, out today, includes the following findings:

• Facebook ad cost-per-clicks (CPCs) increased 54 percent in Q3 over Q2, and are predicted to continue rising. This indicates that advertiser competition in Facebook marketplaces is rising. Facebook has become an essential marketing channel for many brands. Increased cost per clicks reflect both a higher volume of advertisers and more price competition on the platform. Prices are predicted to continue to rise between 30-40 percent quarter on quarter.

• Facebook ad spend increased 25 percent in Q3 over Q2. Advertisers see the value in significantly increasing investments in social. Strategies that are contributing to spend growth include maximising fan reach with Sponsored Stories and acquiring new fans with Facebook ads. 84 percent of Facebook engagement can be attributed to Likes which are credited to Facebook advertising. Today brands increase their fan count by, on average, nine percent per month, doubling their fan base year on year. Facebook is emerging as a significant part of the marketing mix.

• Facebook fan engagement increased in Q3, with engagement (Likes, comments and shares) per post increasing by 31 percent on average, and impressions per post increasing 24 percent on average, over Q2.

• Search spend increased 16 percent year on year in the UK and 20 percent year on year in the US. ROI from search spend in the UK rose by 18 percent in Q3, having been fairly level in the earlier part of the year. This increase is likely to be the result of a rise in ad spend and late bookings from the travel sector. In the US, however, the opposite was true, with advertisers increasing budgets but seeing a decrease in ROI.

• The UK travel industry showed a 15 percent increase in search spend and a five percent increase in ROI year on year, the result of a late booking market. Impressions on Google have risen by 22 percent for travel advertisers, and clicks have increased by 130 percent. This is likely to be the result of a combination of changes in user behaviour, more targeted and relevant ad copy, and Google’s continued efforts to make paid search look more like natural search.

The net result is an increased click-through rate (CTR) of 6.5 percent, year on year. This improved CTR has resulted in an 11 percent decrease in cost-per-click year on year, which contributes to improved ROI.

• Google continues to dominate search spend in the UK, as it demonstrates higher ROI for advertisers over Yahoo. Google’s higher spend share (which increased by 2.5 percent year on year), combined with efforts to improve CTRs and ad formats, results in greater ROI for advertisers over Yahoo. UK advertisers will move search spend towards Google; Bing and Yahoo need to implement the Search Alliance to reverse this trend, though the European zone financial crisis could dampen overall growth. Both Yahoo and Bing exhibit a higher click share than spend share, signifying less expensive CPCs.

This may also imply lower ROIs on Yahoo and Bing, meaning a greater share of clicks are being driven by brand terms with lower CPCs as the ROI from building out extensive generic campaigns is minimal.

• Google regained market share in the US for the first time since the Yahoo/Bing Alliance was implemented. As search spends increase and advertisers look to scale in volume, Google wins back market share because of its ability to offer more inventory, despite Yahoo/Bing’s power to produce higher ROI. In contrast to the US and UK, Google is losing market share to Yahoo in France, Germany, and Australia because of a disparity in relative CPCs between search engines and between different countries.

Jonathan Beeston, Global marketing director for Efficient Frontier, says: “Facebook is the real success story. Ad spend is growing and as a result, costs are increasing, but despite that, Facebook still offers great value to brand}. Used well, Facebook advertising integrates to search and social engagement to give a combined result that is better than the sum of its parts.”

The report is free to download from

China Crisis? Business Monitor International warns of China's economic slowdown

Business Monitor International (BMI) has released the latest special report, "China 2012: From Miracle To Meltdown" outlining a case for a severe growth collapse in China driven by declining money supply growth rate, accelerating inflation and external slowdown with a threat of a double dip recession in the US.

According to BMI, the bearish outlook for China's economy is more credible now than at any point in recent history. With China’s housing market exhibiting characteristics typically seen at the end of a bubble, a steep drop in house prices as developers offload inventory would pose a risk of a cash crunch to businesses operating in China, especially property developers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). As the repayment capacity of loans given to local government investment vehicles increasingly comes under threat, BMI also expects a pronounced correction in investment spending and instability in China’s banking sector.

From banking sector exposure and weak fiscal and monetary position, the report also focuses on China’s consumer market and its ability to shoulder the burden of growth should Chinese export growth fall due to a weakening US dollar and lower import demand from the US and Europe.

Moreover "China 2012: From Miracle to Meltdown" assesses the impact of a Chinese hard landing on the regional economy. While no country would be immune from a Chinese hard landing, BMI argues that Australia is most precariously positioned to suffer the consequences of this severe economic slowdown. A Chinese hard landing would push the Australian economy over the edge, likely ushering in a recession and potentially triggering a financial crisis.

Given the importance of China to the global economy, the report enables global investors, strategists and decision-makers across the corporate spectrum to identify business growth opportunities, avoid market risks and aid strategic planning activities over the short, medium and long term.

Business Monitor International (BMI) established in 1984 with headquarters in London is recognised as a leading independent source for analysis and forecasts on Country Risk and Industry, spanning 175 countries. BMI provides research to multinational corporations, banks, funds, research centres and governments in 140 countries around the world, including over 00 of the Fortune Global 500 companies.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Perspective to Attend Welfare to Work Conference 2011

Perspective, the Midlands-based pioneers of real-time education tracking software, has announced it will be attending this year’s Welfare to Work conference on the 19th October at London’s Business Design Centre to showcase its suite of student management system software.

Welfare to Work 2011 will bring together over 350 delegates, 20 service providers and 20 high level speakers to discuss the key issues facing the welfare sector today. Now in its fourth year, the conference is one of the most prominent of its type in the UK and provides the perfect platform for these businesses and individuals to come together and discuss the significant policy reforms and service delivery transformations that are currently going through parliament.

The changes, if agreed and implemented, it could drastically alter the way the system is delivered throughout Great Britain.

Paul Davis, managing director of Perspective, commented: “The reformation of the welfare system is high on the political agenda for the coalition government and the Welfare to Work conference is the foremost event where business leaders and decision makers can discuss the transformation, how the welfare system can be simplified, incentives to work improved and how they can adapt and thrive under the new changes.”

Additional areas of discussion will include linking skills to employment, overcoming health related barriers to work and the reform of Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance, and working with the private and voluntary sectors in ‘payment by results’ contracts.

Skills for employment is also a large element of discussion and Perspective will be showcasing its learner management software, Sunesis, demonstrating how it provides costs savings and an innovative approach for both the Public and Private sectors alike.

Paul continued: “Much like the welfare system, Sunesis is an evolving entity, and our team works tirelessly to ensure that it accommodates the needs of the user to make their lives easier and, productive.”

For more information about the conference or Perspective’s suite of products, please visit or call 0121 506 9667.

Do not give up on marketing and PR

Just because times might be a little tougher than we would like is not a reason or an excuse to stop marketing or promoting your business.

It's  always the first to go when a recession looms. The marketing budget is slashed, the PR spend is cut to ribbons. And everyone just waits for the next customer to waltz through the doors, pockets bulging with orders.

Here's some news for you. That will not happen. Because if you do not tell potential customers that you are still in business, if you do not get a Public Relations firm to help you blow your own trumpet, nobody else will!

Here is a story related to me by a friend who is an advertising manager for a small local publication: She had two clients, both in the same line of business. At the start of the recession one of the clients (Client A) listened to the siren call that he must stop spending money on advertising and marketing. And this is what he did.

The other client (Client B) continued to advertise, always managing to get just enough money together for an advert. Even if it might not always be the usual size, his advert was always there in the publication.

Client A met one of his customers in the street. He asked his customer if he required his services. His customer said: "Oh! Sorry! I gave my business to Client B. When I noticed you weren't advertising in the paper any more and I saw that he was still advertising, I assumed you'd gone out of business, so I went to him, instead."

There's an old adage in marketing. It says: "The man who beats the biggest drum makes the most noise and draws the most attention to his business."

So, what will you do? Put your drum away and hope that, almost by magic, people might find their way to your business? Or will you beat the drum and draw attention and customers to your business?

For ideas on how to promote your business you can visit  and it will not cost as much as you might think.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011