How Small Irish Businesses Avoid the GDPR Sting

Accountants providing chartered accounting services and tax advice are alerting smaller Irish companies to the consequences of the pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They believe these are going to feel the most pain come 25 May 2018, if they do not implement GDPR by then. We are trying our best to help avoid this situation by providing advice.

How to Kick the GDPR Ball into Play

The Irish Information Commissioner?s Office has produced a toolkit regarding where?s best to start. They suggest beginning with an information security assessment to determine the gaps companies need to close. Once quantified, this leads naturally to a plan of action, and resources needed to fulfil it. Here?s how to go about it:

1. Start by assessing your current ability to identify, assess, and manage threats to customer data security. Have you done anything at all to date? You must be holding some customer information surely, and it is highly likely the GDPR applies to you.

2. Next, review your company?s current customer data security policies. Are they documented and approved, or do new employees discover them sitting next to Nellie? Rate yourself on a scale where ten is successful implementation.

3. Now consider how well you have pinned responsibilities on individuals to implement policies and take the lead on GDPR. The latter should be the business owner, or a board member with clout to make things happen.

4. By now, you should have a grasp of the scale of work ahead of you, remembering the EU deadline is 25 May 2018. If this sounds overwhelming, consider outsourcing to your accountant or a specialist provider.

5. Under the General Data Protection Regulation you have only 72 hours to report a breach of customer data security to the Information Commissioner?s Office. Do you have a quality assurance mechanism to oversee this?

Tangible Things to Bring Your Own People on Board

With all the changes going on, there is a risk of your employees regarding GDPR as ?another management idea going nowhere.? Thus, it is important to incorporate the new EU regulations in staff training, particularly with regard to data security generally. They may fully come on board only once they see tangible signs of progress. You should in any case put the following measures in place unless you already have them:

1. A secure area for your servers and for any paperwork your customers provided. This implies access control on a need-to-know basis to protect the information against loss, damage, and theft.

2. A protocol for storage media and record disposal when you no longer require them or something supersedes them. You are the custodian of other people?s information and they deserve nothing less.

3. Procedures to secure customer data on employee mobile devices and computers: This must extend to work done at home, at consultant sites, and by remote workers.

4. Secure configuration of all existing and new hardware to minimise vulnerability and storage media crashes. These quality assurance measures should extend to removable media and remote backups.

So Is This the Worst of the Pain?

We are at the heart of the matter, although there is more to tell in future articles. You may be almost there, if you already protect your proprietary information. If not, you may have key company information already open to malware.We should welcome the EU General Data Protection Regulation as a notice that it is time to face up to the challenges of data protection and security generally. The age of hacking and malware is upon us. The offender could be a disgruntled employee, or your competition just down the street. It is time to take precautions.

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Operational Reviews

IT OPERATIONAL REVIEWS DEFINED
An IT operational review is an in-depth and objective review of an entire organisation or a specific segment of that organisation. It can be used to identify and address existing concerns within your company such as communication issues between departments, problems with customer relations, operating procedures, lack of profitability issues, and other factors that affect the stability of the business.
Operational reviews allow the organisation members to evaluate how well they are performing, given that they perform appropriately according to the procedures set by them, allocating their resources properly, and performing such tasks within time frame set and using cost-effective measures. More importantly, it also shows your company how well it is prepared to meet future challenges.
Simply put, the goals of an operational review are to increase revenue, improve market share, and reduce cost.

THE BENEFITS OF AN IT OPERATIONAL REVIEW
The main objective of IT operational reviews is to help organisations like yours learn how to deal with and address issues, instead of simply reacting to the challenges brought about by growth and change.
In such review, the information provided is practical from both a financial and operational perspective. Using these data, the management can then come up with recommendations, which are not only realistic, but more importantly, can help the organisation achieve its goals. The review recognises the extent to which your internal controls actually work, and enables you to identify and understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

To be more specific, let’s list down the ways wherein an effective operational review can contribute to the success of the organisation.

The review process can:
– assess compliance within your own organisational objectives, policies and procedures;
– evaluate specific company operations independently and objectively;
– give an impartial assessment regarding the effectiveness of an organisation’s control systems;
– identify the appropriate standards for quantifying achievement of organisational objectives;
– evaluate the reliability and value of the company?s management data and reports;
– pinpoint problem areas and their underlying causes;
– give rise to opportunities that may increase profit, augment revenue, and reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the product or service.
Thus, each operational review conducted is unique, and can be holistic or specific to the activities of one department.

Our Operational Efficiencies cover the entire spectrum:

  • What to buy
  • Optimising what you’ve already bought e.g. underutilised servers, duplicate processes, poorly managed bandwidths
  • Making your team comfortable with the changes
  • Instilling Best Practices

UNCOVER WAYS TO DRIVE YOUR PROFITS UP, THROUGH OPERATIONAL REVIEWS

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Implementing Matrix Management

Matrix management is a culture change. More than the hierarchical structures, lines of responsibilities, modes of communication and channels of decision-making, it is a concept that needs to be planned ahead and managed appropriately over time.

Implementing matrix management to any organization can be confusing. It is essential to ensure that it fits right to your business strategies, skills and competencies. With this, realizing matrix management should not be taken lightly. Careful stages should be considered, instead.

Here are the steps to proper implementation of matrix management:

Consider Your Business Context

You need to evaluate your organisation to analyse what are your development needs with regards to skills, products, services and market environment. This will help you decide on what type of matrix structure you will apply in your organisation. Consider the following questions in building up your context:

  • What is our strategy?
  • Where are the demands in our business?
  • What are the structures that our competitors currently employ?
  • What are the talents that my people possess?
  • What are other business organizations doing?

Set Your Implementation Scope

Next, you need to define the parameter and set the scope of your implementation. What area in your business do you think matrix management will successfully work? There are several things that you need to consider in setting your scope. You have to make sure that it works well with your overall business strategies, that it can be excellently communicated and easily understood. Also, you must ensure that you acquire the necessary talents and skills in the business to deliver the new system of responsibilities.

Implement the New Structure

When you have already decided what structure type you will implement, you are ready to give it a go. You will need to establish new communication channels so you can monitor the progress and receive feedback effectively.

Here?s how to apply the matrix structure:

  • Highlight your development needs
  • Define roles based on outputs and not inputs
  • Line up procedures and systems to support the structure and the behaviour that comes with it.
  • Invest in training and development
  • Support the key people in the structure by coaching them to better adapt in changes
  • Communicate regularly
  • Monitor progress and make necessary adjustments

Review the Matrix Structure, Roles and Responsibilities

Organisations that successfully implement matrix management adapt to the changes in their environment. With this, they do regular evaluations to highlight the need for changes and revisions. The review can either focus on the structure only or to the entire process as a whole. The results can alter the structure, the roles involved and the responsibilities taken.

The process of implementing matrix management follows a step-by step method. Each stage is equally important with the rest. Hence, if you plan to exploit it in your organisation, you have to recognise the purpose of each step and follow it appropriately. Balance is the key. And when you achieve stability in matrix management, amidst the complex changes in the world of business, then your organisational success is just around the corner.

Spreadsheet Risks in Banks

No other industry perhaps handles such large volumes of critical financial data more than the banking industry. For decades now, spreadsheets have become permanent fixtures in the front-line reporting tool sets of banks, providing organised information when and where needed.

But as banks enter into a period of heightened credit risks, elevated levels of fraud, and greater regulatory scrutiny, many are wondering if continued reliance on spreadsheets is a wise decision for banks today.

The downfall of Lehman Brothers which eventually led to its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008, served as a wake up call for many institutions across the globe to make a serious examination of their own risk management practices. But would these reforms include evaluating the security of user developed applications (UDAs), the most common of which are spreadsheets, and putting specific guidelines as to when they can – or cannot be – used?

Banks and Spreadsheet Use

Banks have been known to utilise spreadsheets systems for many critical functions because most personnel are well-acquainted with them, and the freedom of being able to develop customised reports without needing to consult with the IT department offers flexibility and convenience. In fact, more than having a way to do financial budgeting and analysing customer profitability, even loan officers and trade managers have become reliant on spreadsheets for risk management reporting and for making underwriting decisions.

But there are more than a few drawbacks to using spreadsheets for these tasks, and the sooner bank executives realise these, the sooner they can adopt better solutions.

General Limitations

Spreadsheets are far from being data base systems and yet more often than not, they are expected to act as such, with figures constantly added and formulas edited to produce the presumably right set of reports.

In addition, data integrity is always a cause for concern as most values in spreadsheets are entered as manual inputs. Even the mere misplacement of a comma or a negative sign, or an inadvertent ?edit? to a formula can also be a source of significant changes in the outcome.

Confidentiality risk is also another drawback of the use of spreadsheets in banks as these tools do not have adequate?access controls to limit access to only authorised individuals. Pertinent financial information that fall into the wrong hands can lead to a whole new set of problems including the possibility of fraud.

Risks in Trading

For trading transactions, spreadsheets can prove to be of immense use – but only for small market volumes. As trade volumes increase and the types vary, spreadsheets are no longer a viable solution and may likely become more of a hindrance, with calculations taking longer in the face of bigger transaction amounts and growing transaction data.

And in trading, there is always the need for rigorous computational functions. Computing for the Value at Risk (VaR) for large portfolios for instance, is simply way beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets. Banks that persist in using them are increasing the risk of loss on those portfolios. Or, they can be opening up?opportunities for fraud?as Allied Irish Bank (in the case of John Rusnak – $690 million) learned the hard way.

Risks in Underwriting

Bankers who use spreadsheets as their main source of information for underwriting procedures also face certain limitations. Loan transactions require that borrowers? financial data be centralised and easily accessible to risk officers and lending officers involved in making decisions. With spreadsheets, there is no simple and secure way of doing that. Information can be pulled from different sources – individual tax returns, corporate tax documents, partnership documents, audited financial statements – hence there is difficulty in verifying that these reports adhere to underwriting policies.

Spreadsheet control and monitoring

Financial institutions which are having difficulty weaning themselves from the convenience and simplicity that spreadsheets offer are looking for possible control solutions. Essentially, they want to find ways that allow them to continue using these UDAs and yet somehow eliminate the?spreadsheet risks?and limitations involved.

Still, the debate goes back and forth on whether adequate control measures can be implemented on spreadsheets so that that the risks are mitigated. Many services have come forward to herald innovative solutions for better spreadsheet management. But at the end of the day, there really is no guarantee that such solutions would suffice.

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