Why Choose Magento for Your e-Commerce Solution?

Contributed by Curotec.

Remember in high school when some kids would do the popular thing because lots of other people did it, and others avoided that same thing, for the same reason? When you got older, you discovered that the popularity of something wasn’t a good reason to do (or avoid doing) a thing. 

Yet, sometimes, even in business, there is wisdom in crowds. When an application is superior to others – when it’s more stable, has more features, and increases opportunities – it’s not uncommon for many companies to flock to that solution.

So when more than one-quarter of the e-commerce sites in the world turn to a specific platform, it’s worth it to take notice. 

In other words, if you’re implementing an e-commerce site, it’s worth it to pay attention to Magento. Giants like Coca-cola, Ford, and Nestle use Magento for their businesses. And unlike many other enterprise solutions, it’s possible for small business owners to use as well as Fortune 500 corporations with the Magento Opensource and Commerce options. 

If you’re wondering why you should choose Magento, that’s just the start.

Purpose designed for e-commerce

E-commerce functionality is available on nearly every web platform today. Whether you’re using WordPress or Wix, there is an e-commerce plug-in or add on available.

Those platforms were not built specifically for e-commerce, however, and that means that they are limited in what can be added. Worse, it’s difficult to ensure that those plug-ins are completely secure.

Magento was built as a an e-commerce solution from the very start. The result? Functionality to support a seamless customer experience and ease of use on the backend were built with intent, not added on later. Magento doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It does one thing, and it does it very well.

Mobile Ready

It’s never been more important that an e-commerce site be mobile-ready than it is today. Mobile searches have surpassed those completed on a desktop computer, and SEO algorithms return sites on a mobile search with a preference for sites that are mobile optimized.

Without a mobile shopping experience, merchants are willingly walking away from a lot of sales. In 2018, e-commerce resulted in $6.2 billion in sales with nearly one-third of that coming from smartphones.

With Magento as your site’s platform, there is no need to customize and adapt your site for mobile. With HTML5, image scaling, and more, Magento sites are inherently responsive, ensuring customers get a great experience no matter how they access your site.

Extensible, customizable, and scalable

Magento made the choice early on to be open source, and developers have responded well. Not only does this give companies a free option for use of the software, but it also created an environment where developers can and have created additional modules and extensions so that the platform works the way you want it to. Also, the community is always testing and enhancing the platform, keeping it secure and bug-free.

Magento is also customizable to match an organization’s branding, look, and feel. From colors to layouts, the style of a site can be completely defined by the merchant. If customizing either front end or back end is outside of your abilities, there are experienced and skilled Magento e-commerce agencies with the ability to help you get exactly what you want.

But probably one of the biggest features of Magento is the availability of APIs. Using these application interfaces, Magento can be integrated with a multitude of other applications, including billing, CRM, and 3rd party logistics.

Expert developers and support

If customizing and extending your e-commerce site is outside of your abilities, you’re likely considering hiring experts to help. The process of finding the right partner to stand up your e-commerce site can be nerve-racking.

Magento has been around long enough for developers to have gained expertise in implementing the platform. Magento also offers a certification exam, giving developers an opportunity to prove their knowledge to potential clients. Finding a reliable e-commerce agency or consulting firm that offers Magento e-commerce support services is less daunting when you know that they have proven themselves by attaining certification. 

Whether you’re just launching your e-commerce business or considering migrating to a new platform to give you a secure, scalable, and extensible solution, Magento is worth looking at. Almost 200,000 online storefronts can’t be wrong.

If you’re looking for a Magento agency in Philadelphia, contact us. We’d love to hear about your project and let you know if we’d be able to build a flexible and well-designed e-commerce site for you that your customer will love using. 

Future of Caregiving is Here

Written by Joe Cellucci, Founder & CEO, Xverity, Inc.

Support for care-dependent older adults has basically remained unchanged and largely disjointed for generations. The usual care circle has included a physician who diagnoses and prescribes medications and unpaid family member(s), possibly supplemented with professional home health and social care aides who help with daily needs and routine tasks. Traditionally, there has been little or no communication among them often resulting in confusion and conflicting care protocols.

Although the principal players haven’t changed, the conventional caregiving model is being challenged by the convergence of unprecedented forces building to a perfect storm:

  • Aging population – 76 million Baby Boomers will be older than 65 by 2030 and older Americans will make up 21% of the population.
  • Multi-morbidities – Nearly 80% of Medicare beneficiaries have at least 2 chronic conditions, more than 60% have at least 3 and estimates are that 26% of the US population will be living with multiple chronic conditions by 2030.
  • Aging in place – 76% of Americans age 50 and older prefer to remain in their current residence and 77% would like to stay in their community as long as possible.
  • Rising health care costs – Medical expenses for the elderly more than double between the ages of 70 and 90, exceeding $25,000 annually for a person in his or her 90s based on Medicare data.
  • Families are half the size they were 50 years ago, and adult children are employed, making caregiving difficult. In addition, nearly half of adults live, on average, 700 miles from family.
  • Looming caregiver crisis – Experts project that by 2030 there will be only 4 potential caregivers available for each person 80 or older, down from a high of more than 7 in 2010.

The fallout from these forces has placed a heavy burden on the historically disconnected, inefficient US healthcare system, creating a need and opportunity for innovation. In response, rapidly emerging assistive technologies deployed within the hospital and beyond its walls are now enabling healthcare providers to assure older patients with chronic conditions an uninterrupted, efficient continuum of quality care at lower costs.  The new model also emphasizes the criticality of engaging and empowering the caregiver, the care recipient and other members of the care circle.

This scenario illustrates the utopian vision for digital home care: Charlotte Wilson, 70, a tech-savvy diabetic who lives alone in her “smart” home, is awakened each morning by a housekeeping robot when it detects that Charlotte is in her lightest sleep phase.  She takes her 3-D printed medication containing all the drugs prescribed for the day; puts on biofeedback clothing made of fabric that continually monitors her vital signs and moods, indexes her overall health well-being, and enables her to move about without a walker; beams her three grandchildren into her home for a quick visit using holographic technology, and rides to her doctor’s appointment in an autonomous vehicle available on demand. Charlotte is digitally connected to an interactive, personalized ecosystem that anticipates and adapts to her needs, is accessible on demand 24/7, and is designed to assure safety, security and peace of mind for her and for the members of her caregiving circle. Sensors are continually monitoring her for problems with balance, signs of depression or prolonged periods of loneliness so that appropriate remedies can be dispatched.

Plausible?  Absolutely! From my vantage point as a serial entrepreneur in solutions technology and founder of Xverity, Inc., a technology-enabled caregiving services company, I believe it’s  conceivable that under the right circumstances, AI and robotics will make it possible to provide care for seniors without a human even being present.

At Xverity, we’ve created CAREGIVERASSIST SM   , a high-tech/high-touch caregiving ecosystem to support caregivers and care recipients. Our primary goals are to help relieve some of the stress caregivers experience, especially those who hold full time jobs, and avoid the feelings of isolation and dependency that lead to bouts of depression among older adults. Addressing the social determinants of health is at the core of our solution for continuous, quality caregiving.

Subscribers access the CAREGIVERASSIST  Services Hub built on a SaaS platform for on-demand, direct access to an array of needed services such as transportation, home delivery of prepared meals and groceries, home maintenance and repair, medication alerts and refills, in-home monitoring and communication devices and a host of other social services to keep the care recipient engaged, comfortable, safe and secure with dignity.  Also available is a prepaid card to pay for transactions, keep track of purchases made through the Hub and mitigate fraud risks by people who prey on older adults.  A monthly statement of transactions is a useful record of eligible expenses reimbursable under Medicare. Recognizing the value of non-clinical services, CMS now offers social determinants of health benefits such as meal delivery, rides to the grocery store, or a service that would make a care-dependent older adult’s home environment more conducive to healthy living.

For added peace of mind in the event of a question or a need for an intervention, CAREGIVERASSIST  provides 24/7 access by voice, web or text to a Help Center staffed by trained advisors.

The Internet of Things Genie is out of the bottle, allowing communication pathways between devices, timely sharing of actionable data and remote command and control of multiple diagnostic, monitoring and telemedicine treatment systems.  Much of the futuristic technology needed to help reduce hospital readmissions and avoid unnecessary visits to the ER by older adults already exists and is being applied at an accelerated rate in virtually every area of caregiving for adults with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

How To Choose A Mobile App Development Company That’s Right For You

According to the Pew Research Center in a report from June of 2019, 96% of Americans now own a cellphone, and 81% have a smartphone. For an entrepreneur, that’s a huge potential audience for a mobile app.

If you’ve got an idea for a mobile app – whether it’s to promote your brand, provide mobile access to an e-commerce experience, or offer a charitable solution to a community challenge – you’ll likely find yourself needing help bringing your vision to life. Finding the right mobile app development company is as important as coming up with a great idea.

How do you choose the right development company? Here are a few tips on making your search as productive as possible.

First, get your ducks in a row

One of the most important steps needed in finding the right mobile application development company for your idea is to flesh out the idea first. Knowing what you want to create, and what you need help with to do that will narrow your search.

If all you have is the initial concept and the goals you’re hoping to achieve with the mobile application, that’s ok. Your search should include full-service companies that can help you carve out your requirements and define the features, as well as design and develop the product. You may need to go as far as to find an organization that can help with marketing and testing, but you’ll also need to be prepared to pay for that kind of end-to-end product development.

If you have the product well defined, you may be looking for a development firm that can help with design, usability, and development. If you have a design or have worked with a designer to outline the look and feel and user interface, you may only need a partner that can execute the development work.

Whatever stage you’re at with your application, be honest with yourself on where you need help. Understanding where you’re short in planning and development will guide you in choosing the right partner or partners to build what you envision.

Locating the right company

Once you know what help you need, you can better identify the right firm. There are a few ways to go about that.

Ask your network

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve likely got a network of like-minded individuals who have explored similar projects. Reach out to your trusted network and ask for recommendations. Your network can steer you to – or away from – companies they have worked with or those that they have networked with.

Referral Sites

A boon to entrepreneurs who don’t know where to start, referral sites like Clutch.co can help uncover highly qualified companies with the capabilities you need. Many of these sites allow you to filter results by ratings and reviews. If you’re looking to work with a local company that you can meet with face to face, you can also filter by zip code or location.

Online Search

Telling you to “Google it” might seem like obvious advice, but it’s less about searching and more about what you search for. Again, if you’re looking for a local firm that you can meet face to face, you’ll want to try searching for something like “mobile application development in Philadelphia”. 

Another thing you can try looking for is something like “web application development in Philadelphia”. Many web development companies have capabilities in mobile development as well. However, as we’ll discuss in the next section, you’ll want to be sure that they have actually created mobile apps and not just mobile-ready websites. The upside is that a web development company with mobile development capabilities should also be able to help you with a marketing site to support your mobile app’s release.

Ask the right questions

Once you’ve found a few mobile development companies to consider, it’s time to talk to them and ask the hard questions. At this point, you’ll want to share specifics with them, so it’s best to have an NDA ready to go that will allow you to share details of your application without the fear of losing your idea.

Before talking to anyone, prepare a list of questions that will uncover their experience in the areas most important to you. Don’t shy away from subjects like cost and cost containment. Here’s just a few potential questions to start with:

Have you built mobile apps from the ground up?

What is your application design process?

Once started, what will the development process look like for me?

How do you set feature priorities?

Talk about your experience with two very different mobile applications you’ve developed.

What is some of the most challenging features you’ve needed to develop?
How do you ensure that you stay close to your estimate?

How do you handle cost overruns?

What other services do you offer that would compliment my project?

How will you scope the project?

 

You should also request customer referrals. If available, follow up and talk to their former customers to find out what their experience was like. While a provided customer referral is likely to give a positive review, it will also give you the opportunity to dig into what it’s like to partner with the company.

The key to finding a great mobile application company in Philadelphia or anywhere else is to keep your eye on the ball. Understand what you’ve got and where you need help, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. A skilled mobile development company will be able to show you their work and speak confidently about your challenges and what to look forward to as you watch your vision become a reality.

The value of customers in the digital age

Contributed by Cigniti Technologies.

The digital age is marked by the advent of technology and its usage to make the lives of customers simpler and convenient. Businesses, by nature and design, is dependent on customers to succeed and the digital age is no different. Rather it has increased the level of competition and given plenty of choices to the customers in terms of access, quality of products and services, cost advantage, speedy delivery, and variety. In fact, the process of digital transformation undertaken by businesses is premised on offering value addition to the end customers. The various technologies leveraged by businesses in this regard include cloud, IoT, AI, ML, predictive analysis, and big data, among others.

In the competitive digital landscape of today, companies that look after the interests of their customers and provide prompt and qualitative support are able to achieve ROI. Any glitch or vulnerability in the product or service can have adverse repercussions on the psyche of the customers. They are no longer satisfied with giving a long rope to the company dishing out shoddy products or service but instead turn to its competitors. No wonder, businesses are adopting software development models like Agile or DevOps to bring out products that are not only qualitatively superior but are customized to the needs of the customers as well.

Digital transformation services are geared towards delivering value addition at cost effective rates. They do so by employing the Agile model wherein the QA process is conducted alongside development. In a move ahead of the traditional waterfall model, Agile helps in the quicker identification of glitches thereby eliminating costly and time-consuming corrections later. Moreover, given the demand for Continuous Integration and Delivery, businesses are looking at the DevOps model where the entire organization is made responsible for the final quality of the product or service. This approach of digital transformation services rightly encapsulates the importance of customers for businesses.

Delivering a better Customer Experience or CX has become the final arbiter for businesses to stay competitive and achieve ROI. It leads to a slew of outcomes such as better customer retention, increased sales, lower cost of customer acquisition, and reduced operating costs. Any digital transformation strategy should aim at leveraging the trending technologies to streamline workflows, innovate, add value, accelerate time to market, and deliver the best customer experience.

How good customer service can help businesses?

The digital transformation solutions implemented by enterprises should be underpinned on delivering good customer service. The benefits of implementing such solutions can be multifarious.

Customer retention: Customer acquisition can be a long drawn and costly affair encompassing running sustained marketing campaigns. However, customer retention is relatively cheaper and requires implementation of a robust customer service. Your digital transformation framework should be able to capture customer queries quickly and pass them on to the right business arm for redressal. Good customer service will help you retain customers, which otherwise can drift towards your competitors in no time.

Word of mouth publicity: Many potential customers are not swayed by the advertising blitz but listen to the feedback from actual users. Thus, if the customer experience is good, the business can gain immensely from word of mouth publicity. Happy customers can help to build trust among your potential customers. Conversely, bad customer experience can leave your customers unhappy, angry, and frustrated. The consequent bad-mouthing of your brand, product or service can be damaging to your reputation and profitability. Remember, bad customer experience can have a greater potential to damage your business’s credibility.

Competitive advantage: How do customers choose one product over the other when both have similar characteristics, quality, and cost? The answer is how well the business developing that product responds to the customer queries and complaints. In fact, customer experience can be the ultimate differentiator for customers to choose a product over its competitor.

Good customer service is better than price: A successful enterprise digital transformation should deliver good customer service. It should ensure the product or service functions to its optimum level in its end-to-end development cum delivery cycle and beyond. Remember, customers are willing to pay a premium for good quality service even positing it ahead of cost.

Conclusion

Customers stay at the core of every business and drive them to adopt new technologies, streamline their workflows, make their delivery systems hassle-free, and enhance their customer service. No wonder, every digital transformation initiative should be geared towards ensuring better customer experience.

5 Tips to Begin Your Digital Transformation Journey

Contributed by Cigniti Technologies.

Digitization has brought about a radical transformation in the way businesses operate and customers transact. Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile applications, cloud computing, AI and ML, big data, predictive analytics, and many others have ushered in improved efficiency, enhanced productivity, seamless workflows, reduced cost of operations, and swift delivery.

In a day and age where almost every human activity is being intertwined with technology, businesses cannot afford to continue in the traditional way. They are required to embrace digital transformation.

Digital transformation entails use of technology by businesses to enhance the quality and efficiency of their existing products or services. Enterprise digital transformation is a journey, that needs integral changes to the culture and business processes for successful completion. Its growing importance can be gauged from the fact that 40 percent of technology spending in this year, amounting to more than $2 trillion, will be towards achieving digital business transformation.

Businesses need to have an unobstructed vision, direction, and roadmap to pursue the objective of digital transformation. Unless these are followed to the T, businesses would end up focusing on the day’s problems alone without adding any substantial value to their clients or customers. The interweaving of IT into the very fabric of businesses needs effective implementation of digital transformation solutions.

Today, there are abundant digital solutions available for businesses to improve the efficiency of their operational workflows. But most businesses are wary of leveraging these solutions due to a lack of understanding about the processes involved. They feel overwhelmed from the sheer volume of data and analysis they have to deal with.

Let us discuss 5 tips businesses should consider on their digital transformation journey:

  1. Get everyone on board: Any enterprise digital transformation initiative, be it at the data entry-level or the management level, is bound to make a tangible impact on the nature of jobs and the people running them. Employees need to be convinced about the benefits that digital transformation solutions will bring to the table. It is important to make them understand that such initiatives will free them from mundane tasks, while allowing them to use their expertise in drawing and implementing innovative strategies.
  2. Training or hiring resources: Implementing innovative technology and tools would require training the existing employees or hiring people with the desired skill sets. For example, for executing mundane jobs like data entry, etc., conducting a few training sessions can suffice. However, for jobs involving coding, analyzing, etc., fresh hiring may be needed. Remember, to enjoy the fruits of implementing digital transformation solutions, a combination of the two is required.
  3. Delineate your KPIs clearly: For implementing any change, businesses should be clear about the outcomes or KPIs they are aiming to achieve. Thus, digital transformation services should identify the key KPI metrics for each process and department in the organization. These will help to monitor the transformation process and associated spending. Moreover, the clearly identifiable KPIs and benefits will justify the associated costs to the stakeholders.
  4. Execute a trial run: Before going about digital transformation implementation, businesses should remove the process bottlenecks and glitches that are inherent in the system. It is advisable to execute a trial run with the system’s beta variant or a sandbox and get the necessary feedback. It is only after the success of the whole trial run that the real system should be implemented.
  5. Stay focused: Digital transformation implementation can have its teething troubles. Hence, it is important for enterprises not to lose focus on the bigger goal, keep everyone motivated, and learn from the mistakes and keep moving.

Conclusion

The benefits accrued to businesses by implementing business transformation solutions can be immense. Although this transformation entails fundamental shift from physical to digital, care must be taken to go about the whole thing. Automating everything may appear like the obvious way to move ahead but be wary of the potholes that too much automation may dig on the way.

Join Paul Holland, Senior Director of Test Data Engineering at Medidata Solutions, for a meetup organized by Cigniti Technologies. Paul will discuss why “automate everything” approach will likely not be as successful as many people expect along with the details of an alternative balanced approach that will likely yield higher quality in the software.

Technology company value creation through optimized quote-to-cash

Written by Kim Susko, Director, RSM

Successfully scaling your business via integration and automation

In today’s competitive marketplace, speed, efficiency and automation are the keys to driving a successful organization. For growing technology companies, this is especially true whether your goal is to improve revenues and profitability or you’re eyeing an eventual exit. In fact, according to multiple studies across major research institutes and private equity firms, operational improvements that drive efficiencies contribute to nearly half of the value creation in private equity multiples.

For many emerging technology companies, these improvements and value creation can come from the implementation of an integrated and automated end-to-end process known as quote-to-cash. The critical success factor in leveraging this platform, however, boils down to actually designing the right quote-to-cash process that best fits your specific organization’s needs and growth goals. Let’s explore a little more on two types of quote-to-cash processes and their benefits.

Read full article.

Qualified Opportunity Zones- an Executive Summary

Written by Mark Sloan, CPA, Director, CFO Consulting Partners

There has been much discussion regarding Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QOZ”), the tax benefits of investing in a QOZ and how it should fit into a strategy of minimizing taxes on long term capital gains. This newsletter will provide an overview as to the rules governing QOZ and some practical considerations regarding investing in QOZ.

BACKGROUND:

As a result of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) passed in late 2017, a taxpayer may elect to recognize certain tax deferrals and exclusions on the gain realized from the sale or exchange of property to an unrelated party if the gain is reinvested in a qualified opportunity zone fund within 180 days from the date of the sale or exchange and the gain remains invested for a defined period of time. 

Opportunity zones are eligible low-income census tracts that had either poverty rates of at least 20 percent or median family incomes no greater than 80 percent of their surrounding area’s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey.  Such tracts have been nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury for designation as an Opportunity Zone. There are over 8,700 such tracts located throughout the United States. 

A qualified opportunity fund (“QOF”) is the vehicle to which gains must be invested in order to qualify for the tax benefits of the program.  In order to achieve the tax benefits, the taxpayer must invest in a QOF and not directly into qualified opportunity zone property.  A QOF is a corporation or partnership organized with the specific purpose of investing in opportunity zone assets.  The entity must invest at least 90% of its assets in qualified opportunity zone property.

Qualified opportunity zone property can be in the form of direct ownership of business property, or into opportunity zone portfolio companies through either stock ownership or partnership interest.  Certain businesses are precluded for consideration as property to be held by opportunity zone portfolio companies and these include golf courses, country clubs, massage parlors, tanning salons, hot tub facilities, racetracks, casinos or any other gambling establishment and liquor stores.  These limitations do not apply when a QOF is investing into the Qualified Opportunity Zone directly.

Upon the investment of qualified gains, the basis in the capital gains will be zero.  The gain will then be recognized into income on the earliest of the disposition of the opportunity zone property or December 31, 2026.  If the QOF is held five years, then the basis is increased by 10% of the original gain and then it is increased another 5% if held for another two years.  If the QOF is held at least ten years, then all gains attributable to the appreciation on the original gain will be excluded from income. 

BENEFITS:

There are numerous tax benefits attributable to the timely investment of capital gains into a QOF.

  • Deferral of tax on invested capital gains until December 31, 2026, at the latest;
  • Permanent exclusion of tax on capital gains of up to 15% if held for seven years, and;
  • Permanent exclusion of tax on any subsequent appreciation on the invested capital gains if held for more than ten years.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

There are other advantages to investing in a QOF that make it a more flexible option to Section 1031 as a means to shelter capital gains:

  • As opposed to Section 1031, which requires the investment of the full proceeds in order to qualify for temporary tax deferral on gains, only the gain portion of the proceeds needs to be invested, freeing up cash at the time of the original sale of capital assets.
  • Investment in a QOF can provide permanent exclusion of tax on a portion of capital gains; Section 1031 transactions will only provide for deferral of tax on capital gains.
  • As opposed to Section 1031, which requires the investment of proceeds into like kind assets, the only requirement for QOF is that the gains are invested into opportunity zone assets.  For example, if a work of art is sold at a gain, then the gain can be invested in a different class of asset such as real estate.
  • It should be noted that as a result of the TCJA, the use of Section 1031 is now limited to real estate assets and no longer other types of capital assets.

While there are significant benefits to investing in opportunity zone funds, there are certain caveats that need to be considered:

  • If the investment has not been disposed of sooner, the invested gain will be recognized in income at December 31, 2026.  This means that the taxpayer will need to provide liquidity for this event while the gain is still locked up in the investment.
  • To achieve the 15% permanent exclusion on the original gain, there must be a rollover of the gain no later than December 31, 2019 in order to achieve the 7 year holding period for this exclusion.
  • To maximize the tax benefits attributable to this program, the strategy is to lock up the invested gains for a period of ten years.  This could result in a lower IRR over the life of the project.
  • Although the census data used to designate tracts as opportunity zones is dated and there may be some areas that have gone through improvement, there can still be a higher risk attributable to investing in areas that are opportunity zones.
  • An investor may not contribute appreciated property directly into the opportunity zone fund.  Such property must be first sold (and begin the clock running for the recognition of a portion of the gain) and the amount attributable to the gain invested into the fund.
  • The regulations impose limitations on the amount of cash and intangible assets that can be held at any time by an opportunity zone fund.  This limitation can be mitigated through a structure where the QOF invests into an opportunity zone portfolio company (either through stock ownership or partnership interest).  Under this structure, the portfolio company can hold intangible assets that are used in an active trade or business and cash in an amount for reasonable working capital needs.
  • The investment in opportunity zone funds should be evaluated on the overall economics of the fund and its strategy, and there should not be disproportional weight given to the tax deferral/exclusion feature of the program as the basis for investing in the opportunity zone.

This newsletter is meant as a broad overview on Qualified Opportunity Zones.  There are many other details concerning the structure of funds, limitations on the type of assets that can be held by a QOF fund, determination of original use and subsequent improvements, etc.  CFO Consulting Partners has been following developments in this area and we stand ready to provide you with guidance in navigating through this new and challenging area.  In addition to helping you understand the details and advising you if this program can fit into your investment strategy, we also have relationships with various sponsors and service providers who can offer you opportunities with various funds that they have established.  We also have relationships with law firms who can evaluate that the funds are structured in accordance with Treasury regulations.

In a World of Data, Ethics has No Substitute

By Lloyd Adams, SAP

Traditionally, the relationship between companies and their customers has been simple and symbiotic: customers seek solutions, in the form of goods and services, from companies that are eager to provide them. Early in my career, creating personal relationships with customers was the key to success. While the product always opened the door to a prospective customer, authentic and personal relationships proved to be most valued by the customer.

New and emerging technologies have enhanced this relationship, allowing for precision as the gap between company and consumer begins to dissolve in the digital age. Tools and methodology — such as artificial intelligence and machine learning — enable companies to predict customers’ needs and deliver a more personalized consumer experience.

But with these advancements comes a new ethical responsibility for companies. To maintain consumer trust and grow fruitful business relationships, ethical and transparent data treatment must be a priority.

While many companies are leveraging data to benefit consumer experience, others see the temptation to misuse the data and circumvent vital, personalized relationship-building. The European Union adopted GDPR as a means of establishing regulatory footing to deal with the growing amount of data and its commercial uses. While this regulation provides guidelines for companies on data use and misuse, it should not be the only guiding light in the new digital landscape. Rather than forming compromises based on legislation, ethics should be the arbiter of customer data usage, and put pressure on both individual and corporate accountability.

At SAPPHIRE this year, we unveiled a new customer relationship management tool, SAP C/4HANA, that has a slew of capabilities that help us and our customers better understand consumers. We were confident that we could release an offering that is so heavily reliant on data on the heels of a high-profile data privacy scandal — where consumer data was mishandled — because we have a proven record of collaborative partnership with our customers. We’ve only been able to reach this level of hallowed ground by creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Privacy is a basic human right. Companies must prioritize creating data landscapes and digital environments that are not intrusive. Companies must not sacrifice ethical standards for a bottom line. As we prioritize personalized consumer experiences that evolve with customer preferences, we must also prioritize customer privacy and sensitivity. Companies need to hold themselves accountable for their use of privileged information in a time when business strategy can toe the line of corruption.

The key to building strong customer relationships is establishing trust at the onset. Especially on the topic of data, transparency is critical to developing a successful partnership. When you’re upfront with customers about how and why their data is used, they become more likely to work with you.

With the ubiquity of data and the cognitive tools it fuels, companies are eager to implement tools that will benefit their bottom line. However, the companies that will succeed are those that don’t lose sight of customers’ preferences for privacy and transparency, and blend technology and soft skills to create the lasting customer relationships that will prove mutually beneficial.