The new SCCs – more questions than answers?
By Louisa Williams, legal director at TLT LLP
On Friday 4 June, the European Commission published the finalised version of the new Standard Contractual Clauses for transferring personal data from the EU to third countries (SCCs). It is nearly a year since the European Court handed down its judgment in the Schrems II case, so the publication of the new SCCs is welcome news for many organisations across Europe and beyond.
The new SCCs seek to address the complex requirements laid out by Schrems II, and lay to rest some of the speculation and uncertainty following the Schrems II judgment.
Key points to note
With that said, many questions remain unanswered. For organisations carrying out data transfers subject to the UK GDPR, the ICO intends to issue draft new SCCs for consultation this summer. In the meantime, UK organisations must continue to rely on the previous EU SCCs when undertaking data transfers that are subject to the UK GDPR. However, for organisations transferring data from both the UK and the EEA to a third country, like the United States, they may well be asking: how will these two separate forms of SCCs work together?
Given that this question and so many others remain unanswered for UK-based businesses, some may well be questioning whether it is permissible to wait until the UK version is published in final form before repapering existing contracts. However, for those businesses that are subject to the EU GDPR, it is clear that the publication of the new SCCs marks the start of a lengthy project of contract repapering, international data flow mapping and contingency planning for businesses, rather than a conclusion to the uncertainty which has prevailed for the last 12 months.
Given the uncertainty around the SCCs and the now invalid EU-US Privacy Shield (and any replacement to it, whether at a UK and/or EU level), we are seeing increasing numbers of global clients look again at submitting a Binding Corporate Rules application to protect their internal transfers, in the hope and expectation that it provides greater protection against what has become a fairly volatile area of law. We do not expect to see an end to the ongoing challenges against organisations which transfer data overseas in reliance upon the SCCs, and against the regulators which are responsible for enforcing compliance with the EU GDPR.
Appreciating the major task which now faces organisations of all scales, organisations may likely turn to their AI solutions where possible to read contracts and identify those which need to be varied to introduce the new SCCs. This could save a considerable amount of time for organisations undertaking a repapering project, and should allow businesses to significantly reduce the cost of ensuring compliance now that the new SCCs have been launched.
Louisa will be joined by TLT colleagues Emma Erskine-Fox, Grace Roddie and Gareth Oldale for a webinar ‘Delving into the new SCCs’ on Wednesday 14 July 2021. Find out more and register to attend via their website.
In my recent blog about technology in the accountancy sector, I mentioned how the introduction of cloud technology in the last 10 years has revolutionised the way that accounting firms consider technology, interact with and advise their clients about the use of technology. I think it is fair to say that the legal sector lags a little behind the accountancy world in terms of its digital transformation but there is a rapid digital transformation occurring.
There are several reasons why the legal sector is behind the accountancy sector when it comes to technology. Some of which is down to regulation. The Solicitors Account Rules have only in recent years moved from mandating prescriptive processes to a risk-based approach allowing for the use of tech solutions previously prohibited, for example, using fintech solutions like Shieldpay in favour of a traditional client account. The introduction of alternative business structures which has encouraged legal firms to merge with other professional services businesses or vice versa and this has helped to cross pollinate ideas and open the sector up to new ways to approach technology and client service delivery. Also, in some areas the legal sector has been subject to deregulation which has brought with it an element of competition which has naturally made some practices consider a different approach to stay ahead of new entrants.
Equally, I think there are many similarities with the accountancy sector. Law firms deliver their services in very defined ways, and this has the risk of adopting a “same as last time” approach without challenging the way things are done. In hindsight the accountancy sector was being underserved by their incumbent technology providers for a long time, until they were disrupted by new cloud players. I think the legal sector is equally underserved. The big technology providers for the sector have not really moved with the times failing to adapt to the latest innovations around cloud, open APIs, blockchain etc. This is coupled with the difficulty of connecting into other government organisations and agencies and there have been high profile issues with the Land Registry and access to the courts and case management systems. Finally, there is one other important thing to consider – data security. Often legal firms are dealing with highly confidential, sometimes intimate details regarding their clients and there can often be a well-placed fear that adopting new technologies may place this at risk.
A recent survey undertaken by Legatics, an app founded in 2015 that has funding from Innovate UK to increase the use of AI in legal sector, reported that there were four key pain points that stopped legal firms from adopting more technology in their practices. Those four key areas were:
1. Limited prioritisation of adoption of technology. Often firms could see the value but did not prioritise investment into technology due to a lack of time or ability to step away from client matters.
2. They also flagged a lack of knowledge about technology solutions which meant that partners were reticent to make investments, or to spend the time investigating their options.
3. They identified problems with training and the use of technology solutions. As a result, not maximising the value of solutions that were implemented.
4. There are issues around a lack of role models and leadership from the top in terms of making technology part of the strategic decision-making process.
Legal tech options
So, in recent years the key changes that we have observed for the legal sector had been a move to cloud-based practice management or case management solutions away from desktop or server-based systems such as Leap or Clio. These systems are more flexible in terms of their reporting, time recording, document management and client engagement processes. Their ability to enable remote working without any interruption in working practices has been critical through the pandemic. These solutions make use of digital signatures and client portals for the sharing of documents, for example, help to remove the administrative burden of engaging with clients. The other significant shift that we have noticed, referred to above, is the use of TPMAs such as Shieldpay for managing client bank account transactions transferring the administrative and compliance burden from practices. Trailblazing Tech Comparisons with the accountancy sector? John Toon, Senior Manager, Technical Strategy Lead
Going forward into the future, I am expecting there will be several significant changes or technologies that will become part of the mainstream for the legal sector. Blockchain, for example, often promises (but has failed to deliver convincingly so far) a way to execute and manage contracts in a more secure, effective way than the current processes. Open banking promises to improve the way that lawyers can deal with the transfer of monies, for example conveyancing funds released automatically on completion. One thing that is critically important for many professional service providers relates to client ID and anti-money laundering procedures. Open banking promises much to assist with client identification and the verification of the source of funds, a particular area of weakness that has been flagged by the SRA in the past. In addition to adopting blockchain for contracts the use of machine learning and optical character recognition software is being used to analyse and extract the key details from contracts, potentially flag issues that may have been missed in drafting and also identify areas of potential dispute that may need to be resolved. Finally, I expect that some of the technologies available in the accountancy space will be able to lend themselves to those legal firms that offer similar services, debt collection for example.
There are also challenges and new competition coming into the market. For example, apps like Farewill, will grow over time delivering niche areas of law in a much more scalable way than the traditional model of delivering a face-to-face service. Legal practices need to be aware of these potential challenges to their marketplace and react in an appropriate way.
On the flip-side legal tech can generally improve the service firms offer their clients. This results in deals and matters progressing more smoothly, with less risk and provide services and advice to a higher standard. Given the transactional nature of legal services, in comparison to the accountancy world, improved service is more likely to result in more instructions and positive referrals. One final thing to consider is that there is a move for legal fees to be priced on a fixed basis, rather than on a time basis, so if your technology investments allow services to be delivered more efficiently at lower cost then firms adopting tech improve margins and create more opportunity for investment in further improvements.
Over the past five years there has been a steady shift in businesses looking to adopt a “work from anywhere” strategy for their employees. And, whilst this has been happening for a while, the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought this to the fore, with offices and shared workspaces across the country being forced to close.
In fact, in a recent survey, it has been found that 82% of businesses are likely to stick to current remote working arrangements. (1 - Elite Business Magazine, 2020) With large enterprise all releasing statements that they intend to make the change for good, we know many will follow suit in the coming months.
As ever the landscape in telecoms is always changing and with the invention of 5G, the roll out of faster connectivity from #Fasterbritain and #CityFibre, as well as the ISDN Switch off which is fast approaching in 2025. We recognise that our customer’s requirements are also changing, and we need to adapt and diversify our offering to maintain our place in the market.
We are therefore incredibly proud to announce that MID Digital Solutions Ltd has been created on the back of an acquisition of Apeiron Communications into the MID Family. This is an incredibly exciting moment in our journey as we are now truly ‘more than mobile.’
With a vision to be a sustainable business from the get-go, we cannot wait to introduce you to our new portfolio of products which will continue to be backed up by the world class customer service that the MID brand has become known for.
Our Core Products include…
VoIP/Cloud Based Telephone Systems
As part of the merger MID Digital Solutions inherits a wealth of knowledge and expertise which enables us to really work with our valued customers in order to help them communicate more effectively and move with the changing world.
Through are strong relationships, the merger of O2 and Virgin further strengthens our proposition and our ability to support our customers, so it is an incredibly exciting time for all involved.
Enjoy your time at Trailblazing Tech this year, its my first time at the event and I am looking forward to meeting you all.
The traditional image of accountants has often been one of boring, stuffy technocrats who lack any real personality. However, in my experience that is rarely the case and in recent years accountants are increasingly dynamic, creative and customer service focussed. Technology has played a significant part in this change.
The accountancy market is unregulated, unlike the legal sector, and so the barriers to entry are low for new entrants typically those who worked at bigger firms frustrated with slow tech adoption and decision making, wanting to set up their own practices to challenge the status quo of the sector. The significant advantage of technology has been that for those new entrants where barriers did remain, they were now even lower. Small or start-up firms adopting SAAS no longer had to commit to significant upfront software and hardware costs and could provide client services that were the preserve of mid-size firms in days gone by. Equally, larger firms that adopted cloud technologies have been able to offer services, such as bookkeeping, that historically could not be competitively priced using desktop software.
The cloud technology revolution for the accountancy sector started just over 10 years ago although it can trace its history back to the mid-90s. Having said that, the technology available in the mid-90s was only suitable for large corporations with the release of ERP systems such as Netsuite and SAP. This is part of the reason why cloud accounting technology did not really take off until the late 2000’s when products like Kashflow, Xero, FreeAgent and later QuickBooks Online started becoming the mainstream and replace desktop equivalents. It is estimated now that over 50% of SME’s use a cloud accounting software package.
The new cloud accounting products that came to market placed APIs and integration with other products front and centre tied in with a great user interface/experience (UI/UX) and user engagement through gamification of tasks. This was in stark difference to their desktop equivalents which often operated as data silos and offered a steep learning curve for new users. The result of this was that for those early adopters and those who more recently adopted cloud you can experiment with the types of systems and software that you utilise and work with.
For the accounting sector the use of software such as CRM or direct marketing tools, such as SurveyMonkey, relatively unheard of 10 years ago suddenly came into the considerations as a core part of an accountants’ app stack. This experimentation with systems often built for other service sectors brought with it fresh ideas on how to do business including new ways of engaging with clients.
One other interesting area of the cloud revolution within the accounting sector has been the level of engagement and the identification of opportunities by accountants who have become developers and tech entrepreneurs themselves creating their own apps for the ecosystems we use. These founders have often focused on issues or areas they have faced themselves or areas where, for example, the accounting market is particularly underserved.
So where does the future lie for the sector?
In the accountancy world now, there are an interesting number of new technologies ready now, or are on the horizon, which will have a significant impact in the way that we work with our clients and their businesses.
We are already seeing the impact of open banking, launched just over 3 years ago, with new payment technologies and new consumer and business apps being built specifically as a result of this technological change. Open banking APIs provide new opportunities around audit and compliance and has the potential to turn this once reactive backward-looking service into something more proactive. Coupled with live data feeds from accountancy systems, HMRC and Companies House the provision of real time risk and fraud analysis could move into the SME space.
There will be increasing levels of opportunity for accountants to advise not just the businesses but the business owners in one holistic way as the transition from Open Banking to Open Finance occurs and we can for the first time get close to real time clarity and insight on not just business performance but the business owners personal finance position.
Digital invoicing recently became law in Australia and New Zealand and its adoption is also expected to become law in Italy with other countries likely to follow. This again is going to have significant impact on the way that businesses operate on the way that accountants provide advice and how their software works. Trailblazing Tech A brief history of the cloud boom John Toon, Senior Manager, Technical Strategy Lead
Furthermore, in the UK we are seeing Making Tax Digital being rolled out by HMRC. This is a three-phase development and we have already seen VAT move through MTD with personal tax coming in the next 12 months and then corporation tax going to be rolled out in 5 years’ time. Again, these will be significant changes for businesses and their advisors particularly in respect of the technology required to interact with MTD APIs.
We are also seeing a huge amount of interest in data analytics, processing, and reporting. Again, much of this is driven around APIs where we can now connect accounting and other business systems together drawing information from other sources and aggregating this on dashboards using tools like Power BI, for example, to present information in different ways, with different levels of context, in a way that has never really been possible before.
I love the final thing that we are also seeing creeping into the accountancy sector, which is of huge interest to me - Robotic Process Automation. This is really the next iteration and next level of enabling cloud technologies within a business but equally can be coupled with legacy desktop/server-based systems. Process mining and RPA have risen in popularity during the COVID pandemic as it has raised awareness about the importance of having efficient business systems and processes in place. The move to work from home highlighted that many businesses, including ours, have many repeatable, burdensome tasks that are not a good use of a human’s time. It has also been well publicised that the UK economy has one of the worst productivity ratings compared to our international peers and this is one tool that can help business compete both locally and globally.
Accountants are well placed to advise businesses about these opportunities with expertise and experience of critically appraising business processes, coupled with knowledge of the technologies to put people, process efficiency and knowledgeable insight first.
Senior Manager, Technical Strategy Lead
Let’s not get carried away. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you were working flexibly for a long time before Covid & lockdown. It’s just that we’ve now lived through a more extreme version of it.
So, the real question is: what does flexible mean now in 2021 and Beyond? After all, being stuck at home was hardly flexible. It was called lockdown for a reason. As everyone begins to look to the future as we now have the easing of restrictions and life is returning to some normality.
We’ve come up with a list of points to consider as you work out how things might change for you in a post covid world. Because there’s no doubt that something has clicked round in the psyche of many of the UK’s business leaders. Some of the substantial changes are here to stay.
For a start, the stats tell an interesting story:
About 70% of people say they got as much or more work done when working from home.
Of those, 29% said they were more productive.
More than one in 10 business leaders say they will move to permanent homeworking.
In the end, the basics of common-sense management have to apply. If your organisation has proven it can function more efficiently, productively and profitably with people working even more flexibly than they were, then it’s an obvious logical step to make a permanent change.
Already, the term ‘hybrid’ has moved into mainstream discussions about ways of working. Right now, there appears to be a consensus around a model where people come and go to the office according to the needs of the task in hand.
The IT impacts
This hybrid approach has been common practice for many organisations for a while. It’s the scale of the change that makes it such a hot topic at the moment. In particular, it’s the impact on the IT infrastructure that is sparking a lot of debate. Lockdown happened at such speed that many organisations had to piece together a make-do infrastructure that helped keep things running. Now that the hybrid approach seems to be becoming the norm, it’s time to invest properly in the technology that makes it work most effectively.
Here’s our list of things to think about:
Settle on a standard communication platform like Microsoft Teams
You can now have up to 1,000 people in a Teams meeting and 20,000 viewing things like corporate announcements. The integration with Microsoft Office 365 is also a big advantage over other comms platforms – it makes for true collaboration, with file sharing, integrated calendars and much more.
Consolidate and tighten up security, with a Zero-Trust approach
You need end-to-end protection, including full visibility and control of devices. O2 Unified Endpoint Management helps with this, bringing personally-owned devices into the fold – a big help when recruiting new people remotely.
Consider outsourcing device management altogether
Look at moving to a Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) or Device Lifecycle Management model. Hybrid working creates new priorities for IT teams, so offloading some of the routine management to a trusted provider can free-up valuable time and resources.
Make sure everyone has the best possible broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity at home
This may even involve contributing to the cost of an upgrade. As 5G rolls out, you might find that it covers all your connectivity needs anyway, in and out of the office.
Nudge people towards new behaviours
Help everyone make the most of the possibilities created by hybrid working. Discourage costly business travel by making sure they can get the best from platforms like Teams, with screen sharing, whiteboarding and real-time editing of files.The economics can make a lot of sense. The savings you make on travel costs, heat, light and other operational expenses can release funds for investment in the technology you need.
In the longer term, downsizing your office space could release even more cash for investment, or just to boost the bottom line.
We have always been champions of more flexible ways of working. We can see the benefits for ourselves through the loyalty and motivation of our people, our impact on the environment and, most of all, the delight of our customers.
That’s why so many organisations are making flexibility a permanent, When employees, finance teams and customers are all happy, the business case speaks for itself.
Have a great time at this years TrailBlazing Tech conference, MID Communications look forward to seeing you
Head Of Business Sales & Retention
Blog By Sarah Novotny, Head of Digital, Creative and Tech at GC Business Growth Hub
Like all great cities, Manchester has been built on its diversity, from its rich blend of cultures and nationalities, to the new wave of talent that arrives in the city each year, with a fresh intake of students.
In today’s complex, interconnected world, diversity forms the fabric of modern society from gender, race and ethnicity, to issues, around disability, political and religious beliefs and sexual orientation. And it’s a diversity that needs to be reflected in the workplace, too.
A diverse workforce is no longer just something that’s ‘nice to have,’ a box-ticking exercise that keeps various stakeholders happy; it’s a crucial part of a successful, profitable business that can give a huge competitive advantage, and encourage new ideas and ways of thinking.
Diversity is at the core of a business’s ability to be creative and innovative; put simply, there would be no trailblazing tech without it.
Over the last 18 months I have seen on the ground what a lot of research has been telling us - diversity brings resilience and improves a company’s ability to cope with what's thrown at it better than a less diverse one. Those businesses that have been championing diversity and inclusion in the workforce are now coming out of the pandemic with a pipeline of innovative new ideas and solutions.
The two age groups hit hardest by the pandemic have been 16-24-year-olds, and those over 50. Within the latter group, a lot of people are pivoting their careers, some through choice, many through necessity. And with so many companies now moving into the digital space, from online meetings to online shopping, more people are looking towards the tech sector for a new career, which gives us a unique opportunity to develop in a much more inclusive way.
We have seen a lot of success first-hand of businesses who have managed to attract diverse tech talent throughout the pandemic. Rosie Anderson from Honeypot Digital, our sector specific recruitment partner, echoes our findings. “Looking at different talent pools such as career changers, tech returners and candidates who are making the change to digital from other industries, they can quickly take on those middle tier positions, while also bringing diversity of thought to a business,” she says.
“This talent pool can draw on their alternative working experiences, to typically upskill and embed into the lower management of a business faster than a graduate.”
Greater Manchester has many organisations such as Tech Returners and Northern Coders who are helping to bring people from completely different backgrounds into the industry and give them the confidence and the foundations to start new careers.
And then there are Millennials and Generation Z, who are set to push diversity even higher up the agenda. When these young people are searching for a job, inclusion is a priority. They want to work for an organisation where diversity is a well-established part of company culture not something covered by an A4 sheet in their welcome pack.
By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce; they will be the people calling the shots and making the decisions. And they will bring with them a take on diversity that is far different from the traditional view that sees it through the lenses of race and equality.
Their views have been shaped by changing 21st century societies, with their diverse mix of different experiences and perspectives. They expect the workplace to be an environment that supports and welcomes these different views.
So, as we move forward into a post-pandemic landscape, what can businesses do to embrace these changes? Firstly, it’s important for companies to realise that they aren't alone. There is a huge amount of expertise, guidance and support to tap into, so they can avoid making common mistakes and take advantage of a real opportunity to build something better.
Digital tech companies can access specialist advice and guidance through the Hub’s Digital, Creative and Tech (DCT) team, where two key initiatives stand out. Greater Connected Exceed is a fully-funded programme aimed at the digital and creative sector that focusses on leadership, inclusivity and firing up growth again as we emerge from COVID-19. Alongside this, our Global Scale-Up programme - which is currently taking on the last in-take for the year - covers five key components, including the culture and structure of the business.
Businesses can make other changes, too. At a recent session on diversity and inclusion which I chaired as part of the Creative Leaders Festival, several simple yet effective ideas were put forward.
Recruitment is a key area where diversity can be improved, from ‘spreading the net’ when it comes to where and how you look for people, to making sure that job adverts are worded in such a way that they don’t automatically put off a large proportion of potential interviewees. Assigning budget to diversity and inclusion is another important factor, as it gives senior leaders buy in.
Take a look around your workplace, suggested one speaker, and see who is missing. Ethnic minorities make up 25% of Greater Manchester’s population but how many workforces actually reflect this figure and can honestly say they represent the community where they operate?
But what really came out of the discussion is that diversity shouldn’t be seen as a problem to be solved, but rather as the solution to the problem.
Sarah Novotny will be speaking on the Skills Panel session at 13.35.
Applications for Greater Connected Exceed close on 21 June. For more information, visit the website.
Plugging the ‘innovation gap’ in the race to Net Zero
Blog By Sarah Novotny, Head of Digital, Creative and Tech, and Amy House, Head of Green Tech and Services, at GC Business Growth Hub
The transition to a net zero economy is one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. Here in Greater Manchester, we are aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2038, twelve years faster than the UK as a whole. Achieving this will be incredibly difficult, but it also opens up incredible opportunities for tech businesses and start-ups to lead the way in developing new and exciting solutions that cut emissions, protect the environment and improve people’s lives.
Switching to existing technologies like renewable energy and electric vehicles will play a huge role in the net zero transition, but even if we use every measure currently available to us to the maximum extent possible, the science shows we will still blow Greater Manchester’s carbon budget (our fair contribution to tackling climate change) by around a fifth.
In other words, there is a gap between what we know we need to achieve, and what is currently possible with the technology available to us. Plugging this ‘innovation gap’ is the big challenge on the horizon.
Some of the issues we face include rapidly increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and manufacturing, significantly upscaling renewable energy and using it locally, reducing transport emissions and minimising waste. Data-driven digital technology can play a key role in solving all of these problems.
Thankfully, we have good foundations in place. Greater Manchester’s digital tech and low carbon sectors are the largest outside of London and the south east. Combine that with our ambitious climate target, our potent mix of manufacturing and service industries, the pedigree of our universities and strong local government support for both agendas, and we have all the ingredients we need to create a world-leading, tech-driven low carbon cluster in our city region.
We already have some excellent companies developing cutting-edge solutions. Take Qbots Energy, which is utilising Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to make buildings smarter in the way they use energy. Or Dsposal, which is using the power of data and digital technology to help businesses understand where their waste goes and how to manage it more effectively.
Both have received growth support through GC Business Growth Hub’s Green Technologies and Services Sector team, our dedicated support service for SMEs working in – or looking to diversify into – low carbon goods and services in Greater Manchester.
Our green tech support is backed up by a virtual Low Carbon Network, which connects members to local growth and collaboration opportunities. We are also able to link up solution providers with other local businesses receiving support from our Resource Efficiency service to improve their energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
Meanwhile, digital tech companies can access specialist advice and guidance through the Hub’s Digital, Creative and Tech (DCT) team, which is currently taking final applications for our wraparound support programme, Greater Connected Exceed. Delivered by experienced sector experts, Exceed has been designed specifically to help DCT businesses fire-up growth again as we emerge from COVID-19.
By combining the digital and green agendas together, the potential for innovation is endless. Most of that potential is still untapped and we need to get it flowing; digitalisation and decarbonisation will have to work hand-in-hand if we are to succeed. The climate crisis won’t wait, and neither should we.
Sarah Novotny will be speaking on the Skills Panel session at 13.35.
Daniel Dickinson from the Green Tech and Services team will be on the Green Tech Panel session at 11.00.
Applications for Greater Connected Exceed close on 21 June. For more information, visit the website.