Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Economy Slams Morale

Posted by Mark Brousseau

The cost-cutting actions that employers have been making to deal with the economic crisis have contributed to a sharp decline in the morale and commitment of their workers, especially top performers, according to an annual survey by Watson Wyatt and WorldatWork.

The 2009/2010 U.S. Strategic Rewards Survey found that employee engagement levels for all workers at the companies surveyed have dropped 9 percent since last year, and close to 25 percent for top performers. Additionally, 36 percent of top performers say their employer's situation has worsened in the past 12 months and the number who would recommend others take jobs at their company has declined by nearly 20 percent. Compared with last year, top-performing employees are 26 percent less likely to be satisfied with advancement opportunities at their company. They are also 14 percent less likely to want to remain with their company versus take a job elsewhere.

The survey also found that top-performing employees are 29 percent less confident in management's ability to grow the business. And 41 percent believe that pay and benefit changes made by their employer in the past year have had a negative effect on work quality and customer service. The survey was conducted in May 2009 and is based on responses from 1,300 full-time workers at large U.S. employers.

"The fallout from the actions employers have taken in response to the recession is now coming to light, and it is significant," said Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt. "Having less engaged and committed workers is a major concern for employers. This could have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on productivity, quality and customer service, as well as an increase in the risk of companies losing their best employees."

The survey also found that most top-performing employees say they aren't expecting to receive the same bonus or pay increase as they have in the past, even though historically companies have rewarded them with pay commensurate with their performance. More than six in 10 (61 percent) say their companies have reduced or suspended bonuses, while only 35 percent agree their employers reward top employees for performance. Additionally, 43 percent of top performers said individual performance expectations have increased since last year, while one-third (32 percent) say their company's financial performance goals have increased.

"One of the many challenges employers will face as the economy recovers is how to re-engage employees, and especially top performers," said Ryan Johnson, CCP, vice president of research at WorldatWork. "Taking a total rewards approach and looking at all of the ways companies can motivate and retain -- including compensation, benefits, work-life initiatives, and career development -- is going to be essential."

What do you think? Post your comment below.

Companies Eye Supply Chains

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Economic pressures are forcing companies to employ their supply chains, primarily the sourcing and procurement functions, to contain costs and boost revenue, according to the 2009 Global Survey of Supply Chain Progress from CSC, Supply Chain Management Review, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Michigan State University (MSU).

The survey, completed by supply chain executives representing more than 20 industries and every major geographical segment of the world, shows the extent to which the economy has impacted the supply management function. Survey respondents cited an immediate need to cut costs as the top economic pressure on their supply chains. An overwhelming 88 percent of respondents have set objectives for purchasing to generate cost savings in the next 12 months.

This enhanced focus on supply chain management (SCM) demonstrates its use as a counter-cyclical tool for improved business performance.

"The global economic downturn has impacted every aspect of business operations, and supply chain is no exception," said Chuck Poirier, author of several books on SCM and a partner in CSC's Global Business Solutions and Services group. "In the face of a renewed focus on cost reduction, supply chain management continues to show a positive impact on business performance. During the past year companies have turned to their supply chains to cut costs and grow revenues. To a large degree, the supply chain has delivered, helping companies get through some tough times."

The survey shows 33 percent of respondents indicate they leveraged supply chain initiatives to reduce costs between one to five percent in the last three years. Twenty-seven percent report realizing even higher cost reductions, ranging from six to 10 percent. "These results were comparable to last year's," said Poirier. "However, the most significant improvement over 2008 was in the number of respondents who reported no impact - or did not know the impact - of supply chain initiatives on costs. That number dropped significantly, from 22 percent in 2008 to 13 percent in this year's survey."

In spite of the difficult economy, 32 percent of respondents saw their revenues increase between one to five percent in the past three years as a result of supply chain initiatives, while another 24 percent identified revenue increases in the six to 10 percent range.

"That's a total of 56 percent, a significant number given the current downturn," noted Poirier. "We see this trend as evidence of the fact that supply chain is finally becoming entrenched as a company-wide improvement effort. Leaders are implementing strategic supply chain efforts to transform business processes to achieve near-optimum operating conditions. At the same time, most firms identified as followers and laggards have not reached the limit of what can be done to enhance financial performance with their supply chains."

While a majority of respondents indicate they are already using their supply chain to trim logistics costs, source more strategically and generate additional savings by leveraging the purchasing function, companies that are considered supply chain leaders are going a step further: accelerating revenue generation by integrating the supply chain organization with key internal groups such as finance, IT and product development. "The leaders, in short, understand the central role supply chain management can play in the company's business success and are playing that role to the fullest," said Poirier.

What do you think? Post your comment below.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

iPhone Users Doing Mobile Banking

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Mobile banking is quickly moving from a “techie” to mainstream capability that is changing how consumers manage their finances today, which in turn will change how consumers pay for goods in the future. That's according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research (

“Mobile banking is quickly moving from infancy to commonplace, which will help separate the winners from losers in banks’ ability to attract and keep technology-loving consumers,” said Mary Monahan, Research Director and Managing Partner. “Consumers are hungry for the ‘always-on’ and ‘real time’ ability to monitor and manage their money, and mobile banking serves that need better than any other.”

Among the findings of the report:

... Nearly half of mobile-phone owners currently have access to mobile banking today.
... By 2014, 45% of mobile-phone users will actually use mobile banking.
99 million U.S. adults will conduct mobile banking transactions at least once per year by 2014 – with 52% of mobile-phone users relying on smartphones.
... Mobile banking will rival online banking, with the former used as a “remote control” and the latter as a detailed form of control panel for more complex transactions.
... AT&T has the highest number of mobile bankers due to the iPhone’s influence, while Verizon Wireless has the lowest penetration for mobile bankers among the top tier U.S. wireless carriers.

“Mobile banking is quickly becoming an essential consumer capability,” said Mark Schwanhausser, Financial Services Channels Analyst. “Just as the iPod changed the music industry and their business models, our data shows that iPhone users are changing the banking industry by leading the way in monitoring and managing finances through mobile devices.”

What do you think? Post your comment below.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Improving Access to Government Data on the Web

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Diane Mueller passes along her thoughts on the holes in source data on the Web and how the government can help:

On September 4th, the President took another important step toward a more open and transparent government by announcing a new policy to voluntarily disclose White House visitor access records. Aside from a small group of appointments that cannot be disclosed because of their necessarily confidential nature, the record of every visitor who comes to the White House for an appointment, a tour or to conduct business will be released. As historic as the President’s announcement is, it is also a good illustration of what is missing from the administration’s technology infrastructure plan — a coordinated approach to providing data standards.

On the surface, this new disclosure of visitor data looks perfectly fine. The data made available in a simple Comma Separated Values (.csv) file is easily downloaded and opened into a spreadsheet for viewing purposes.

Take a step beyond simple viewing, and try to mash up this content to see where the visitor’s list collides with other interest groups and data sources — you begin to get an idea of the complex nature of data mapping. For example, think of mashing up this visitor information with the U.S. SEC filings that include the names and remuneration of executives of publicly traded companies tagged in XBRL.

Better yet, simply try to blog about someone’s visit to the White House and reference a snippet from the .csv content. Then go to Twitter and post a tweet with a link to your blog so you can have bragging rights about being the first to notice some VIP’s visit. If I then repost the information on my blog and one of my readers wants to get back to the source file to verify the facts without some form of metadata and URI associated with the content, there is no path back to the original source. Therefore, there is no validation that the information is accurate. When I repost your information on my blog, I am simply trusting your cutting and pasting skills and trusting that you accurately interpreted the information. This can be a potentially dangerous situation that often leads to a lot of misinformed “noise.”

So far, in the marriage of social networks and open government, there has been a lot of “noise” coming in, but there has been very little done in the way of creating constructive solutions for accurate and trusted citizen participation.

Without the metadata about the newly disclosed visitor content or any other government information, the accuracy with which data is interpreted is jeopardized with each reuse. Without a link back to the source, the authenticity of the content is no longer discoverable. Without this information, it’s all just more “noise” on the web.

Where Does XML Fit in?
XML industry standards bring metadata to the content. Even a simple XML schema and an instance document would have gone a long way to ensure that, regardless of what tool consumed the visitor data (including spreadsheets), the information would always be interpreted in the same manner. Furthermore, the use of an XML industry standard for identity would enable one to leverage existing tools to mash up the content with other data sources. The key benefit of XML is that consuming applications no longer requires someone to reinvent clever ways of mapping and representing complex data, so developers can expend their energies on solving higher level problems that have a greater return.

There are plenty of other examples across federal, state and municipal government agencies that build the case for leveraging XML industry standards to aid in creating greater transparency and to create efficiencies for the agencies themselves.

Where Do We Go from Here? and multiple other individual government agency projects have taken strides forward to granting the public access to government data. However, cross-agency conversations are still taking place to get some agreement on common data models for comparing and mashing up information from multiple data sources accurately.

Efforts such as the NIEM XBRL harmonization discussions should be applauded as this combined effort should aid in the accurate mapping of government financial data across agencies. There is still a long way to go before we can start to leverage the really interesting technologies like Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Semantic Web.

While everyone wants to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, designing the technology infrastructure to ensure that it is done in an open, transparent and accurate manner requires a lot of cross-agency collaboration. The administration’s goal should be to ensure that the public can collaborate on the analysis and dissemination of public information across the web in a manner that can be trusted, authenticated and redistributed without imposing a cost burden on the consumers or the producers of that information. That is no small task.

This all leaves me wondering if I am guessing correctly about what was being talked about in the White House on 7/14/2009 at 3:00:00PM and about who was in the room. If my assumptions are right — loosely based on about 22,200 Google hits for Stephen J. Hemsley, who was listed as visiting Aneesh Chopra, for whom there are about 1,170,000 Google hits — I’m guessing a lot of these same data topics were addressed with a slight healthcare twist. But then again, I’m doing the interpretations here and making the free associations, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turning over a New Leaf

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Vijay Balakrishnan, president of StratEx LLC (770-598-5747, passes along his insights on the recent acquisition of Goldleaf Financial Solutions by Jack Henry and Associates.

The recent announcement that Jack Henry and Associates (Nasdaq: JKHY) would acquire Goldleaf Financial Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: GFSI) is yet another marker in the clear trend towards consolidation in the banking and payment solutions space. While significantly modest in scale and scope than the Fidelity- Metavante merger, it fits the template du jour of core solution providers filling out their payments repertoires, with a particular focus on the check and ACH vehicles.

Goldleaf has grown through acquisitions: Community Banking Systems, Data Trade, Alogent, and the original Goldleaf to name a few. Many of these acquisitions were predominantly debt financed. Low revenue growth, an increasingly difficult EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) picture, and the debt load explain Goldleaf's decision to seek an exit through divestiture. At a purchase price of about $19 million (not including the retirement of some $42 million in Goldleaf debt), Jack Henry is getting value for its money, given that Goldleaf had paid $42 million for Alogent alone in January, 2008.

The less than stellar performance of Goldleaf does not vitiate the value of its component business units. Alogent was arguably the pace setter for distributed check capture in the run-up to, and in the couple of years following the passage of Check 21. They are the leaders in teller capture, and have implemented their solution integrated with varied teller systems like Argo, Getronics, Siebel, S1 and other in-house platforms. Their customers include JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust, Key Bank, HSBC, and international names like Lloyds TSB, Barclays Bank and Servipag- all with sizable distributed capture implementations. Less known is Goldleaf's strong presence in ACH solutions for small institutions. "It is the PEP+ for small banks", according to an industry insider, drawing an analogy with Fiserv's dominant big bank PEP+ solution.

The dark cloud in the Goldleaf story is the lack of exploited synergy between the business units. There are product overlaps- multiple merchant capture offerings between Goldleaf, Alogent and Community Banking Systems for example. The component companies appear to operate as independent units without the benefit of a cohesive brand and product strategy. The rationalization of overlapping Goldleaf product lines and those already existing within the Jack Henry family, and the development of a clear and consistent go-to-market strategy would be one of the immediate challenges at Jack Henry's doorstep.While a blog is not the right vehicle to articulate a comprehensive strategy, it is interesting to consider a few possibilities:

... Reducing the overlap in branch, merchant and other distributed capture offerings (both licensed and outsourced) makes eminent sense, from market messaging, cost of development and support perspectives.

... Exploiting the synergies between Goldleaf's strong ACH presence and Jack Henry's significant market share in small institution core processing is another obvious opportunity. Less intuitive perhaps is a possible link between the check and ACH lines of business as the convergence between imaging and ACH conversion plays out.

... It should be a no-brainer to integrate the Goldleaf (Alogent) teller capture solution and strong expertise with Symitar, Core Director and other teller platforms. As previously observed on StratEx Insights, teller capture will increasingly be brought to market bundled with teller platforms.

... The Data Trade division brings Document Management and Remittance Processing capability to the mix. There are multiple converging paradigms at play here. There is obvious synergy between the loan and deposit modules of Jack Henry core systems and document management. Remittance processing is headed in two directions. There is an emerging opportunity for retail "remote remittance" which dovetails nicely with merchant capture. Both "whole-tail" and wholesale remittance processing increasingly have a need for document management, within the ambit of a well thought out Content Management strategy.

... The Alogent part of Goldleaf brings international expertise to Jack Henry with customers in the UK, and Chile. Goldleaf is the dominant player in the UK check market. While it can be argued that the UK check market is declining rapidly, the account presence with leading banks can perhaps be leveraged to introduce other products from within the Jack Henry portfolio to markets beyond U.S. shores.

... While Jack Henry has historically served smaller institutions, Goldleaf (via Alogent) brings a Global 50 customer list. The peaks and valleys of whale-size deals, and the high customization needs of these institutions are radically different from Jack Henry's traditional customer base. With the opportunity to scale these heights comes the challenge of getting one's head around a very different business model.

Lastly, consider this possibility. As I said earlier, it is a no-brainer to integrate the Goldleaf teller capture solution with Jack Henry teller platforms. But what if they went the other way?

Goldleaf's biggest potential competitor in the teller capture market in the top 50 banks is Argo Data Systems, Inc.. Argo enjoys an 80% market share in big bank teller deployments. While Goldleaf has successfully integrated its solution with Argo's teller system in the past, Argo has in the past few years, hired away a team of check processing experts from Metavante to build their own capture solution. It is likely to be increasingly difficult to compete against such a bundled Argo offering. But what if Jack Henry went the other way, scaled up one of its teller platforms, bundled it with Goldleaf's teller capture, and took Argo head on in the top 50 banks?

Now.....that would be a turning leaf worth watching!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Banks Do Best

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Forty-two percent of treasurers responding to Treasury & Risk's 2009 Cash Management Survey say their bank's best attribute is providing online access to information. Ninety-six percent of treasurers who responded to the survey say they are satisfied with the online services provided by their primary domestic bank.

A whopping 90 percent of respondents to the survey handle more than half of their cash management operations online, the survey found. Interestingly, just 33 percent of treasurers say they use a treasury workstation -- meaning most treasurers are using the Internet for their cash management.

What do you think? Post your comment below.

The Surge in Interest for Remote Cash Capture

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Remote Cash Capture (RCC), the deployment of secure smart safes at merchant locations coupled with information reporting and provisional credit mechanisms, has been utilized in the United States for nearly 15 years as a means of improving merchant cash cycle control. Since 2004, when banks began offering provisional credit based on validated currency residing at the merchant location, the industry has witnessed a surge in interest and adoption of these devices.

The research paper “Remote Cash Capture—An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” authored and published by the international research and consulting firm Celent, thoroughly addresses this surge in RCC popularity with extensive research into remote cash capture demand, adoption, management, merchant cash logistics and potential benefits for both institutions and merchants.

According to the paper, the primary benefit of RCC provisional credit is that it facilitates wholesale reengineering of the cash cycle within merchants and between merchants, armored couriers and bank cash vault networks. RCC removes the substantial burden of cash handling typically carried by bank branch personnel historically, largely without the assistance of meaningful automation. In short, the paper states that RCC is a win-win-win wherever the merchant business case warrants.

RCC adoption however, has been slowed by both economic and systemic barriers. Armored courier systems are proprietary, meaning safes and information systems from different couriers do not communicate. This complicates adoption from interested financial institutions, which must invest in systems integration file validation and testing efforts just to participate. In addition, RCC is expensive, as both hardware and processing fees can make the solution unaffordable for a large number of otherwise interested merchants.

Celent predicts that economies of scale could eventually make the technology more affordable. For the foreseeable future, however, RCC will continue to appeal to a minority of merchants and be supported by a minority of midsized to large U.S. banks. As self-service applications continue to proliferate, banks will seek to participate with same-day provisional credit as is now being done with cash acceptor safes. Taking the form of self-service retail checkout and bill payment kiosks, these devices will further extend the reach of closed-loop cash cycle automation systems.

Hoping to take advntage of remote cash capture trends, Fiserv provides an integrated set of software solutions and industry-leading expertise to address the cash management challenges facing financial institutions, retailers and key service providers for these organizations.

CorPoint from Fiserv delivers cash order and deposit management with comprehensive tracking and service level management, all with a focus on expedited credit to retail customer accounts. Corpoint is designed to allow the bank to allow its corporate/retail customers to order and track cash orders and deposits via a bank-branded web portal or IVRU. This brings back the relationship that is sometimes disintermediated by the customer’s armored courier.

As a part of the Cash and Logistics suite from Fiserv, CorPoint:

... Supports any organization that accepts cash deposits from its customer base
... Supports any cash deposit mechanism including manual deposits or self-service cash devices such as Retail Recyclers
... Tracks retail customer deposits from source to destination
... Facilitates expedited customer deposit credit and deposit adjustments with single deposit process and data flow
... Eliminates geographic obstacles as banks pursue new deposit business outside of the current footprint

iCom from Fiserv offers cash supply chain management addressing cash requirements across the organization. iCom helps organizations achieve minimized cash holdings and reduced transportation expenses, with maximized availability of cash for customers.

As the cornerstone solution in the Cash and Logistics suite, iCom:

... Supports any organization with a cash supply chain, including financial institutions, retail organizations, ISOs and armored car couriers
... Supports any cash-point type: ATMs, branches, stores, vaults, third-party cash storage facilities and self-service cash devices
... Combines complex forecasting functionality with historical trends and known events to optimize cash holdings for the unique demands of each cash point
... Delivers accuracy in forecasting that allows organizations to optimize cash levels to avoid cash outages and eliminates excess cash holdings
... Enables management from one to thousands of cash-points supporting future additions obtained through mergers, acquisitions or organic growth

How is your organization handling remote cash capture? Post your comment below.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Choosing the Right Outsourced Services Provider

By Mark Brousseau

What distinguishes a quality outsourced services provider from the also-rans? According to Nancy Gessmann, senior vice president, Enterprise Solutions, for CDS Global (, a key factor is that they are constantly looking for ways to improve or enhance their clients’ business processes.

“Quality outsource providers understand and embrace the business needs of their customers. They are always on the lookout for value-added services and process improvements to help their clients,” Gessmann tells me. “These providers partner with their clients to become an extension of their business. They also reinvest in themselves and their clients’ processes, in turn, helping to grow the business.”

Gessmann adds that a good outsourcing partner should have at least a high-level understanding of a client’s business and their work processes. “There are some processes that don’t necessarily require an in-depth level of understanding, such as repeatable processes,” she says. “But with the right outsource provider, the outsourced services should be invisible to your customer or your customer’s customer.”

And there will be some business processes that an outsource provider may be better suited to fulfilling than your in-house operations, she said, noting an outsource provider might have advanced technology.

Other attributes Gessmann says companies should look for in an outsourcing partner include:

... Financial stability
... Staff experience and expertise
... Best of breed operational and technology systems

What do you think?

Document Management Market-Share Leaders

TAWPI's 2009 Document Management Benchmark study is now available! This is the third in a series of studies which over the course of a 9 year period tracks market trends in document management operations. The 2009 study looks at over 300 document management operations, their processes, tools, implementations, and market-share analysis.

Market-Share Highlights 2009 Study:

  • Kofax showed the greatest gain in market-share for front end capture software companies compared to our 2006 study (produced by Harvey Spencer and Associates and TAWPI) from 18% to 27%
  • EMC Captiva showed the greatest decline in market-share for front end capture software companies compared to our 2006 study from 19% to 9%
  • Fujitsu and Eastman Kodak represented the majority of production scanners in document management operations. Fujitsu (32%) and Eastman Kodak (33%) market-share .
  • In-house self developed repositories still represented a large contingency of the market (39%) with IBM (16%) Hyland (7%) and EMC (9%) rounding out the top repositories.

The 50 page Document Management Study is free to TAWPI members and can be ordered by visiting here.

Also find out about, end-user document preparation methodologies, hardware statistics, imaging production rates, key entry production rates, back end databases, off-shore utilization, document storage and destruction policies and much more.