Business Automation within the Business World

Business Process Management is a discipline in operation management where people use different methods and tools to measure, improve, optimize and automate complex business processes. It can help companies simplify their business processes, achieve digital transformation, and improve their service delivery. Business process automation (BPA), the most practical technology to optimize working process, can be implemented within various field including accounting, marketing, and supply chain management. BPA benefits one’s organizations from several aspects. Firstly, it frees up companies’ workforce from many repetitive actions that do not need much human intervention. After reducing human workforce, companies would have a chance to reduce the overall operation cost. Secondly, BPA also helps to improve collaboration. By tracking project process, updating different teams, and setting project deliverables, BPA can collaborate employees efficiently. In addition, BPA improves organizations’ working efficiency to a large extent. A well-designed automation process can finish all inputting and updating work by a sitting, which will reduce the time used in discovering and correcting human mistakes. Without the distraction of redundant working processes, employees would have more time to focus on things that matter the most.

A lot of tools in automation have been developed in recent years. PandaDoc is a Google Docs add-on program that helps busy entrepreneurs create, deliver, and sign sales documents. One can easily put their electronic signatures on all types of contracts and proposals and organize all of your documents in one easy-to-manage platform; Tracking expenses is perhaps one of the most time-consuming parts of running a business. The Expensify app enables entrepreneurs to track their expenses and create automatic expense reports. Managers can even scan receipts for expenses and the program will extract information, such as where the purchase was made and put it into the database for you. This means less time calculating and organizing receipts and expenses and more time growing business. Due is an accounting tool designed to help business owners keep track of their finances, especially when tax season rolls around. This program is meant to be a complete accounting solution and is filled with features that take care of automating virtually every part of the business’s financial record.

Business process automation is definitely a forward-thinking strategy that should be applied to our business world. With the help of business automation tools, business owners would be able to save time and cost within every single aspect of their businesses.



Businesses Brace for Brexit

In two months, Great Britain is scheduled to depart from the European Union, and no deal has been solidified to ensure a soft exit where trade deals can remain intact, and British businesses do not get harmed in the process. Some consider this exit better than remaining in the European Union at all, but businesses are acting more skeptical of the procedure.

On the surface, employment in Britain is higher than it has ever been, and so far, it has been hard to tell the outcome of Brexit. However, the way businesses are behaving suggests they may be more worried than initially presumed.  Banks such as Morgan Stanley are creating jobs in other European countries as a possible contingency, we still are unsure if these jobs come at the expense of British jobs. while this movement is smaller than initially predicted, the concept is still worrisome.

In terms of jobs on real terms, job growth has continued throughout the Brexit negotiation process, and it has been a boon to public sector jobs and the like. The British government has awarded £95 million in contracts and hired 20,000 new civil servants. Private sector jobs have also increased.

However, business investment has remained stagnant, and the uncertainty of the deal is only contributing to this stagnation. Businesses are holding onto existing workers and some have begun stockpiling resources in the event that a hard Brexit occurs in which tariffs could dramatically increase. In addition, companies such as Sony are moving their HQ to the Netherlands to avoid possible customs problems, and to avert future trade problems that could arise because of a poor trade deal.

A “no deal” Brexit could have huge implications for the country in an even more macroeconomic scale. This hard exit from a multinational trade agreement that could affect current trade deals with 70 different countries including South Korea, Mexico, and Canada to name a few. The key point here is that this kind of abrupt exit from the EU could affect trade deals with more than just EU member states, because some countries give the EU preferential treatment.

The impact of Brexit could ripple throughout the world in terms of trade. Increasing trade prices in Britain can cause businesses to relocate, and a poor relationship with the European Union can cause strenuous future politics between the two entities.



Trade Talks with China Set to Resume

On March 1st of this year, United States’ tariffs on Chinese goods are set to increase from 10% to 25%, marking an important escalation in the current Trade War between the two countries. This week Mr. Trump and Chinese officials are set to meet to discuss ways of possibly avoiding this escalation. Last year, the United States slapped an estimated total of $250 billion of tariffs on Chinese imports, while the Chinese responded with $110 of tariffs on United States goods. These tariffs have primarily provided the agricultural sector of the Midwest with the heaviest economic burden, and China has displayed a slower economy since the tariffs took effect.

However, critics of the Trade War claim that an increase in tariffs can escalate the trade war and put farmers out of business. Perhaps reaching a deal with China could help Trump’s political standing, after emerging from a 35-day shutdown with a low approval rating. His advisors seem to be divided on the issue, therefore it is almost entirely up to Trump himself which way he wants to go.

These tariffs have had, and will further have, major implications for American Businesses. At the most basic level, all of the tariffed goods will become more expensive to compensate for the newly imposed duties. As these goods become more expensive to Chinese consumers, supporters of the tariffs argue, the producers of these goods will become more profitable in the end. Indeed, American consumers will also be faced with the predicament of more expensive goods on the market, hitting their wallets pretty hard. When a product becomes more expensive, consumers have to pay more in literal terms, but also some forgo purchasing the product they otherwise would have (without an increase in price), therefore both parties are affected. Clearly, these tariffs are not just affecting the agricultural sector, but the retail sector as well. The broader economic impact of these tariffs remains to be seen, but certainly the business environment will not be the same.



All About The DAWIA

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) was enacted in 1990, following an internal review of the Department of Defense, commissioned by President Reagan, after the review indicated a great deal of mismanagement in the Department of Defense. Thus, the purpose of the bill was to ensure that future employees of the DoD were well equipped with the knowledge and the management skills to tackle future problems effectively. The requirements and details within the certification requirements are tedious and time consuming, yet they provide an important purpose. The Department of Defense is constantly under the microscope of the public and the press, and therefore mismanagement can soon become a public relations nightmare. Therefore, the difficulty of obtaining this certification is imperative to prevent these kinds of situations.

The benefits of getting DAWIA certified essentially are the fact that people with the certification are able to work in new fields and do more work in higher acquisition positions within the DoD. An additional benefit for people is that by taking the courses required for the certification, it is also possible to receive college credit for those courses and the time spent working on them. Essentially, obtaining this certification opens the door to new opportunities in the career field, and provides people with further knowledge and skills needed in public management.


The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On January 21st, America will be celebrating perhaps its greatest social hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In that interim since his untimely death, we as a nation have achieved many of his goals, yet his work remains unfinished. On the holiday commemorating the achievements of this great leader, we should also remember all of his timeless teachings, and consider how we can apply these lessons to modern society.

Dr. King’s most profound position regarding social change was nonviolence. He asserted that we must remain peaceful in our protest. Peaceful protest was King’s demonstration that he shall not bow to the ways of his oppressors, that he would display love and respect for those around him, and if his protests meant getting into trouble, it was worth it. Following the protests of Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, it seems that nowadays protests are becoming less and less nonviolent. We must be mindful that violence can hurt our cause, and we must raise ourselves above those who act unjustly towards us.

However, aside from these social stances, Dr. King’s other opinions seem to be often overlooked by society. The environmental movement we see today used Dr. Kings lines of argument when their campaign to address climate change took off shortly after his death. Dr. King often spoke of how all life is interconnected, and we therefore should be taking care of all of it. In addition, he also discussed economic transformation. He distrusted the American economic system, and, towards the end of his life, began discussing ways to address economic disparity. He argued for universal healthcare and education, and more public spaces and the nationalization of certain industries. He witnessed the segregation of his fellow protesters in the economy, and saw these as ways to address it.

Whether you agree with all of his points, or only a select few, Martin Luther King Jr. was perhaps the most influential figure of the twentieth century, and his speeches touched the hearts of millions. His presence the American story is so pivotal that we have a national holiday to remember his lessons. So, staying true to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, we should all be asking ourselves if his dream came true. Furthermore, we should be thinking about how each of us plays a part in making that dream a reality, and what we can do to play that part more effectively.



Economic Growth & Consumer Confidence

As of the month of October 2018, U.S markets have taken a massive hit going from “all time highs” to losing all gains in the entire year. While this is concerning to investors, most of Americans who do not own Stocks feel little to no change in their lives. In fact, most of the other economic indicators i.e. unemployment rate, wage growth, and job creation do not provide any sign of an economic recession or stagnation. While these indicators are important to understand the stability an economy, however one indicator which is normally not taken into account is consumer confidence.

Consumer confidence can be summarized as how confident people are in the economy based on how economically strained, they are. Majority of Americans, if they do not feel very economically strained tend to buy more goods/services. However, if times are very difficult similar to that of the 2008 recession, Americans tend to be more conservative with their money and spend less.

Following one of the worst trading days ever recorded on December 24th, 2018; December 25th however, showed a peculiar phenomenon. According to Amazon, “a record-breaking holiday season shopping spree” occurred where shoppers loaded their online shopping carts with a plethora of items ranging from top brand apparels to Amazon’s own devices. Amazons’ report also showed that in the U.S alone “more than 1 billion items were shipped for free using Prime”.

In addition, Amazon was not the only company which reported a massive increase in consumer spending for the holiday season. Other companies like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Nike, also had very similar reports which showed a very drastic increase in sales on December 25th. Aside from retailers, Credit Card companies also saw an increase in sales during the holidays. Companies such as Mastercard and Visa reported an increase of “holiday sales of 5.1 % to more than $850 billion this year, the strongest growth in the last six years”.

This increase of holiday sales enigma demonstrated that even though there was a massive sale off in the markets, the population as a whole do not feel an economic strained. On the contrary, these reports not only show that the U.S economy is still very much healthy, but also bolsters the information the other economic indicators showed.


New Year New Tech

The year 2018 has introduced many new technologies that could radically change the way people live. These technologies were seen as newfangled concepts, a pipe dream. However slowly but surely these technologies are beginning to take shape. For example, the IDC (International Data Corporation) anticipates that overall spending for AI technology will reach $57.6 billion by 2021. ISG, a global technology research and advisory firm, sent out a survey to 500 businesses and IT leaders. The purpose of the survey was to see what these businesses future plans were for applying automation and AI. The survey discovered that as many as 51% of the businesses surveyed will apply automation and AI by 2019.

Organizations have also been more educated in block-chain technology. Block-chain has been discussed extensively in media which in turn exposed this concept and improved the collective understanding of this technology. A number of major companies have implemented block-chain pilots however it has yet to reach its full potential. However, there is space for black chain technology to continue to innovate and improve. Another form of technology on the rise is VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) technology. With the introduction of VR products like video games, the technology has been consistently improving. VR Company Oculus will be releasing the Oculus Quest in Spring 2019. For AR technology, Economic Daily News gained insider knowledge detailing that the new iPhone for 2019 will have 3 rear cameras in order to provide an AR experience for the customer. One camera will have a telephoto lens while the other two cameras will provide depth mapping. For all these technologies, 2018 has been a testing ground to establish what aspects are needed to improve them.  What makes 2019 unique is that the knowledge gained in 2018 can be used to launch these technologies into the next stage of development. The potential benefits and impacts that these technologies can have on businesses remain to be seen but it’s safe to assume that they could only get better.


Consolidation of Schedules: GSA’s New Vision

The General Service Administration operates 24 Multiple Award Schedules with schedules being organized under industry or type of service. However, GSA has recently announced that it will change the current schedule and consolidate all 24 MAS to one schedule. This announcement will affect all contractors with this type of schedule contract. In addition, it will alter the process by which contractors apply for and government stakeholders buy from GSA schedules. Currently, GSA uses MAS for more than 10 million products that appear on GSA schedules. Reports indicate that an estimated $31 billion is spent each year through MAS contracts. The current system requires vendors to comply with different terms and conditions depending on the products or services they offer. This leads to a confusing and complicated system that frustrates the vendors. The new system that GSA is proposing would streamline the current process and allow vendors to consolidate their purchases to one schedule. GSA has not yet issued a timeline for the consolidation but they say that the consolidation should be anticipated to occur within two years. A GSA representative in a press call explained that the process will be down in two phases. The first phase will be completed in the fiscal year 2019 and existing contractors will continue to sell through their existing contracts while new contracts will be established on the new schedule. In the second phase, GSA will move existing contractors on the new consolidated schedule. This is not a new concept since the idea has been in the works as mentioned in June 2018 at Industry Day. At the moment GSA has not addressed what sort of impact consolidation would have on vendors with multiple contract schedules but what is clear is that this reform to GSA’s current system seeks to lessen GSA’s perception as excessively complicated. Whether this consolidation would be effective remains to be seen. More details would emerge during GSA’s Federal Marketplace Initiative Industry day on December 12 2018.

Government Shutdown Imminent?

The government is reaching a deadline to reach an agreement over seven outstanding appropriation bills. Currently, the deadline for these bills is December 21. Congress was able to pass brand new spending bills for various government organizations but were not able to finish the last seven bills before the midterms. As a result, Congress decided to package all seven bills together into a short-term continuing resolution that was set to expire on December 7th. The biggest issue with these bills is the funding for President Trump’s border wall. Trump has said that he’d allow a government shutdown if the spending does not include the 5 billion for the wall. The Democrats have compromised to allow $1.67 billion for enhanced border security.

The impact that this shutdown may have on federal contractors is tough to say. Going by the previous shutdown in 2013 only certain agencies were affected. The ones that were most affected were any agencies involved in disaster recovery, government research, and federal office buildings. For a federal contractor, the shutdown would affect them depending on the requirements and details of their contract. A shutdown can be seen as a nuisance by federal contractors unless the shutdown lasts for weeks. The longer the contractors are off work the more money their company will lose money. The scope of the shutdown will affect all contractors in different ways. Some will go about their day while others would be told to stay home. Essential personnel and federal programs will keep operating due to reserve funds and the Justice Department, which is reviewing the Mueller investigation, would continue operation. However, agencies like national parks would be affected. In the last government shutdown in 2013 the Republicans in the House protested against funding Obamacare. Potentially the shutdown might not occur due to Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer met with Donald Trump on Tuesday to discuss funding the government. The possibility of a government shutdown seems to be unlikely since Tuesday’s meeting can lead to a compromise. In addition, there is a risk for Trump to antagonize the public if he were to allow a government shutdown. Whatever the case the shutdown overall will not affect vital federal institutions.

Sales on Small Business Saturday

The Great Recession of the 2000s and early 2010 took a major toll on small businesses in the United States. Post-recession and small businesses are still struggling to support themselves. In response, American Express launched Small Business Saturday in the early 2010s. This special event takes place in between the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday rush. The event encourages Americans to shop at local retailers. As a benefit, American Express cardholders can get double credit points as an incentive. To aid and organize the local communities, American Express created a concept called Neighborhood Champions. These are “business associations, state and local chambers of commerce, small businesses, and other community organizers” who are tasked with rallying the community during that day. According to data from American Express, the number of Neighborhood Champions has grown from 1,400 to 7,200 (from 2013-2017). In support for this event, the US government passed a resolution supporting the event influencing businesses across the country to join the movement. Participating businesses are eligible to receive materials and resources free of charge from American Express to help drive business on the day and year-round. American Express also included participating businesses in shopping recommendations which are emailed to American Express cardholders. They estimated that Americans have spent $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants since Small Business Saturday was released.

Small Business Saturday benefits small local businesses by encouraging consumers to support their local businesses through deals and perks. Businesses are able to receive benefits and customers from American Express. For the rest of that weekend, these businesses are able to make a profit due to the increase in consumers. In addition, this event allows communities to support their local businesses in a more tangible and meaningful way. Hopefully, for future Small Business Saturdays, the number of consumer and business participants will increase.