The Lost Year 2020: Focusing on the fundamentals for solutions DURING and POST-COVID-19.

How do you plan for a smooth re-opening and manage increased uncertainty?  

First, as the world continues to struggle and cope with the effects of COVID-19, we hope you and your team are doing well. With the increased possibility of a second wave, precautions to help protect the health and wellbeing of your staff, clients/customers, stakeholders, and your local communities remains a priority.

COVID-19 began as a health pandemic, quickly evolved to a global recession, and continues to create economic challenges disrupting businesses and cause financial hardship to households. While we all wait for an effective medical solution (vaccine and treatment), COVID-19 continues to impact your business—value chains, employees, stakeholders, and customers in different ways.

What remains hard to accept is the rapid pace of change—a reality that is not only difficult to understand, but equally tricky to admit, as we all make the best of 2020. As lockdown restrictions get relaxed and most states and nations struggle re-opening for business, you need to re-evaluate your value-chain, and find solutions to your current customer problems and challenges. It’s time to re-visit the fundamentals and plan for the future.

Eight Value-chain considerations as you plan to re-open



(1) Understand changing customer expectations and shifts in demand. 

a. How is COVID-19 affecting your customers and their supply chains – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity?

b. What trends have you seen, and how will these continue during and post-COVID-19?

c. What additional solutions can you provide to help your clients/customers during and post-COVID-19?

(2) Construct scenario plans and apply lessons learned (you can’t help your customers if your business is struggling).

a. Think of a “Best-Case” and “Worst-Case” scenario, and apply lessons learned to plan for the next 3 to 6 months. How should your business function during and post-COVID-19? 

b. What decisions must you make to manage cash and credit? 

         c. What cash flow challenges are you and your customers facing, and the impact on receivables?

d. What expenses must you re-negotiate?

(3) Manage uncertainty Few experts can predict an economic and fiscal solution to a health pandemic like COVID-19 unless there is an effective vaccine or treatment.  

a. What must you do to survive in uncertain times?

b. Re-evaluate your customer personas. How would you prioritize your ideal customers during and post-COVID-19?

c. What customers can you afford to lose, and what new customers should you target?

         d. What new skillsets will your team need to address current challenges?

         e. Where can you reduce headcount to save money without exposing your organization to new risk?

         f. What roles are critical towards providing essential services and address current challenges? 

(4) Prepare a contingent plan for your “worst-case” scenario.  

a. Increased economic and geopolitical uncertainties impact visibility and demand planning.  Assuming no revenue, how long can your business survive the next 6 to 12 months? 

b. Does it make sense to pivot into other areas? 

c. Your “best-case” scenario can’t be totally ignored either. Some businesses have struggled to manage unprecedented growth during COVID-19 due to a lack of planning.   

(5) Embrace technology.  Select the right technology and tools to support your employees and clients. 

a. How can you improve your digital presence to connect with and engage customers in ways they see as valuable? 

b. What new technology must you embrace and make it easy for current and new customers to work with you?

(6) Manage health and safety concerns. 

a. What health and safety controls must you implement and communicate to your employees and customers to address their concerns during and post-COVID-19?

b. What additional costs and resources will you need to address all health and safety concerns as your business re-opens?

(7) Stay on top of the changing regulatory and risk environments. 

a. What are the fundamental regulatory changes impacting your industry? 

b. What are some of the emerging and rapidly evolving risks you should be aware of during and post-COVID-19?

(8) Update your critical processes, policies, and procedures and train stakeholders.  

a. What changes must you make to your critical processes during and post-COVID-19 to continue delivering exceptional customer experiences?

b. How will you maintain processes, policies, and procedures and communicate the changes to stakeholders?

While these eight steps are not the totality of items management should consider, your internal audit department or an equivalent function, can provide valuable support to management, and insights in helping the organization create value.  However, adding or creating value is not enough.  As you make changes based on available data and other factors, think of ways your internal audit function should evolve and provide timely assurance, expertise in a consulting capacity, and insights to help your organization succeed.  By supporting management to achieve strategic goals and objectives, perform audits and reviews that matter, your internal audit team can quickly adapt and continue not only to add value, but to help management capture and sustain value over time.

Conclusion

“Get the fundamentals down, and the level of everything you do will rise.” Michael Jordan

The lockdown restrictions could be tightened if the number of COVID-19 infections continues to increase.  Your team can take appropriate steps to get the fundamentals right to ensure your business succeeds.  When our favorite athletes encounter difficulties, they often turn to the fundamentals. As your team struggles to cope and adjust to the COVID-19 challenges, some modifications to your strategy and fundamentals are essential to not only adapt, but to thrive during difficult times, and continue to meet your clients’/customers’ expectations. 

By re-evaluating your current end-to-end customer support process, your team will discover a way to make timely changes to continue providing value-added solutions during and post-COVID-19.  Modernized solutions and processes are needed to deliver exceptional customer experiences, increasing their willingness to pay for your products and services. 

Stay Safe!

Jonathan Ngah, CISA, CIA, CFE, CGFM, is a principal at Synergy Integration Advisors, a professional services firm providing internal audit outsourcing and internal audit co-sourcing services to government institutions, private-sector, and not-for-profit organizations in the US and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions.

Arm Macs and AMD rising: How Intel’s endless 10nm struggles cost it so much

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Intel’s endless 10nm nightmare has cost it so, so much.

It all started on September 5, 2014. That’s the day Intel introduced 5th-gen Core M chips based on “Broadwell,” the company’s first processors built using the 14-nanometer manufacturing process. Despite some manufacturing woes that pushed Broadwell back from its expected 2013 release, Intel’s offering served as the vanguard of processor technology. AMD remained stuck on the 28nm process with its abysmal Bulldozer architecture. A mere month later, the Apple iPad Air 2 launched with a custom A8X chip that couldn’t quite hang with Intel’s older Haswell CPUs in Geekbench—but it was getting close.

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Going back to fundamentals. Why re-evaluate your Current and Post-COVID-19 Strategy?

Why must you re-visit your business fundamentals now?

“You go back to fundamentals when things start to go awry.” Bill Cowher      

We have all seen our favorite athletes, entertainers, leaders, and teachers encounter and overcome challenges. In difficult times, they often turn to the fundamentals.  Your strategic plan is formulated on core business principles—or fundamentals.  As your teams struggle to adapt and cope with the disruptions from COVID-19, early emphasis between February and May 2020 was about surviving.  What immediate changes must management make to survive in uncertain times? 

As things settled, visibility on the impact such as loan defaults, canceled orders, increased refunds, etc., became apparent.  The new reality surrounding your business has changed. COVID-19 has fundamentally impacted your employees and customers in different ways. Now is the time to re-visit the fundamentals—your strategy to understand the following:

  • What went wrong? 
  • How where we blindsided? 
  • What must we do differently to plan and adapt to the new reality?

Unless, in extreme circumstances, COVID-19 did not and will not change your mission. The fundamentals—your business strategy needs to be evaluated.  How you continue executing your strategy should change to help your teams identify and resolve misalignments, plan, and adapt to the current and post-COVID-19 business environment.

How do you get there?

Going back to the fundamentals requires a simple view of your strategic planning, strategy-formulation, and strategy-execution as an ongoing process.  A designated and neutral Point of Contact should coordinate the re-evaluation process and provide support towards accomplishing the following:

  1. analyze the current environment and identify metrics, 
  2. facilitate collaboration with management and stakeholders and learn during strategy formulation, and 
  3. provide tools and support as needed for your management teams to execute the strategy during and post-COVID-19 and improve.

Mistakes to Avoid – Misalignment Misfortune

We’ve all heard the many clichéd ways to describe when multiple components are aligned in their goals or strategy: “We’re all in this together,” “we’re operating on the same wavelength,” “we’re rowing in the same direction.” And there are plenty more. Achieving alignment in a common goal is critical to the success of any group endeavor. Even one person marching to the beat of a different drummer can threaten the success of the entire group. This dynamic plays out in all facets of business activity.  We’ve seen countless examples of when a business unit impacts strategy execution due to different objectives, not in alignment with the enterprise goals.  

  • Such misalignments (strategic misalignments) probably existed across organizations pre-COVID-19.  
  • Strategic misalignments further complicate the ability to develop and implement a plan to respond in the short-term and long-term to the COVID-19 challenges and other future events.

This quote by Sun Tzu, author of the Art of War, captures the difficulty in achieving success without getting what we call in the modern age “buy-in” from all those involved in the endeavor: “Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is a waste of time and general stagnation.”  

  • Why does strategic misalignment exist and remain unresolved? 
  • What is the actual cost if not resolved over time?
  • How will this impact your ability to implement long-term sustainable changes to adapt to the new realities during and post-COVID-19?

There are eight reasons why strategic misalignment occurs and why management and internal auditors fail to resolve those imbalances when they do occur. They include:

  1. Lack of awareness – No one recognized the misalignment.
  2. Management is aware and can’t resolve – Lack of adequate processes and controls with oversight.
  3. Competing and conflicting priorities – Lack of sensitivity towards resource constraints (capacity).
  4. Inappropriate tone and corporate culture at the enterprise or business unit and departmental levels.
  5. Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) projects, internal audits, and reviews performed, are not aligned with strategic goals and objectives.
  6. Inability to identify and mitigate risks – This includes emerging risks and the rapid pace of evolving risks.
  7. Lack of visibility understanding the long-term compliance implications and added cost from regulatory fines.
  8. Inability to execute strategy and meet changing customers’ expectations.
Conclusion

These eight-steps can help your teams identify misalignments between enterprise strategy and business unit priorities, as you re-evaluate and develop a long-term plan to adjust to the new realities during and post-COVID-19.  Strategic misalignments should be identified and resolved as soon as possible to avoid long-term financial losses, reputational damage, and improve responsiveness to the changing business environment.  

Our next post will elaborate on how you can continue re-evaluating your fundamentals, especially in difficult times. The post will provide suggestions on what your teams should focus on as the lockdown restrictions get relaxed, and most states continue re-opening for business.

Jonathan Ngah, CISA, CIA, CFE, CGFM, is a principal at Synergy Integration Advisors, a professional services firm providing internal audit outsourcing and internal audit co-sourcing services to government institutions, private-sector, and not-for-profit organizations in the US and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions.

Acer Predator Triton 500 review: A truly portable gaming powerhouse with 300Hz G-Sync

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I’ve tested a lot of gaming laptops over the years, but the newly refreshed Acer Predator Triton 500 is the best one I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing on.

For many years, you could only coax enthusiast-class performance out of mammoth gaming laptops that threatened to throw out your back while you carried them around in your bag. The introduction of Nvidia’s energy-efficient Max-Q technology resulted in more portable play-worthy notebooks, but the truly totable ones usually topped out with graphics options below the upper echelon of performance. Gaming on the go always required some sort of compromise.

No more. The Acer Predator Triton 500 brings it all, pairing a 6-core, 12-thread Intel Core i7-10750H processor with Nvidia’s potent new GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics chip. All that power somehow squeezes into a sublime 4.6-pound aluminum chassis with a lightning-fast 300Hz G-Sync display that offers drop-dead gorgeous contrast ratios. Is it perfect? Not quite. But hot damn, I love it.

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Acer woos desktop gamers with 360Hz G-Sync and a gaming chair that rubs your neck

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Acer’s Predator overhaul isn’t just for laptops. During the company’s next@acer event on Tuesday, the company unveiled a slew of desktop gaming products sure to entice DIY enthusiasts and folks who prefer the simplicity of prebuilt systems alike, spearheaded by a G-Sync display capable of hitting a ridonkulous 360Hz, and a gaming chair that can give you a massage while you frag.

The Acer Predator X25 enters the fray after Nvidia announced 360Hz monitors at CES 2020 earlier this year. This 24-inch, 1920×1080-resolution display would be plenty smooth on its own thanks to its preposterous 360Hz refresh rate, but Acer also includes the latest iteration of Nvidia’s G-Sync technology. Together, every game should feel impressively smooth if you’re using a GeForce GPU.

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Acer’s $999 Swift 5 could be the first Tiger Lake ultralight laptop

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Acer’s Swift 5 appears to be the first laptop containing Intel’s expected “Tiger Lake” microprocessors, which is in turn Intel’s first chip to bring its “Xe” graphics to PCs.

Acer didn’t formally identify the Swift 3’s microprocessor as “Tiger Lake,” though referring to it as being powered by the “next-gen Intel Core processors with powerful integrated graphics based on Intel’s new Xe architecture” is a tipoff—Intel announced Tiger Lake last year, in conjunction with the Xe graphics technology. 

Acer announced the new Swift 5 at its “next@acer” event Tuesday morning, which was livestreamed due to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions. The company didn’t reveal many details about the new ultralight laptop, though it will be available in North America for $999.

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Windows 10’s Linux subsystem gets GPU compute and an easier install in new preview

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Microsoft released improvements to its Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL) in a Windows 10 preview build on Wednesday, with features benefiting newcomers and developers alike. As part of the update, WSL2 can now perform GPU compute functions, including using Nvidia’s CUDA technology. 

The new additions deliver on the promises Microsoft made at May’s Build 2020 conference, where the company also teased graphical user interface support for the Windows Subsystem for Linux. We’re still waiting on those capabilities. 

WSL’s improvements are part of Windows 10 Build 20150, part of the Dev Channel of Insider builds. Formerly known as the Fast Ring, the Dev Channel is devoted to testing new features which aren’t necessarily tied to any upcoming Windows 10 feature release.

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Windows 10’s May 2020 Update borks pooled Storage Spaces

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If you’re a fan of Windows 10’s Storage Spaces technology, Microsoft offered you a piece of advice on Wednesday: don’t update to the Windows 10 May 2020 Update yet.

Storage Spaces is a feature that was introduced years ago, dating back to Windows 8.1. The nifty storage technology takes a collection of internal and external hard drives and/or SSDs and creates a shared “pool” of storage between them. It essentially offers some RAID (Redundant Array of Disks) protections, mirroring content on one drive to another to help save it in case it fails.

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