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5 Apps To Simplify Running Your Business When You’re Managing It Alone

Running an SME has never been easier with apps engineered to make your business smarter, more efficient and productive.

Greg Tinkler

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Problem solver, accountant, marketing manager, tea lady…. Running an SME involves wearing a lot of hats. If you’re looking to increase productivity and organisation, or just make your life as an entrepreneur a little easier, a good app might be just what you need.

There’s an endless sea of business apps out there, some good, some bad, some expensive and some free to use.

Below is a list of business related apps I’ve recently reviewed and tested on my businesses (All available on your iStore or Play Store).

When I Work Employee Scheduling

Scheduling can be an especially difficult part of running an SME, particularly as the number of remote employees increases. The ‘When I Work’ app makes it possible to easily view a company’s schedule, the availability of each worker and the overall hourly budget. When scheduling conflicts arise, or a worker has to cancel at the last minute, it’s easy to quickly and seamlessly contact potential replacements.

Related: 3 Ways To Build A Mobile App With No Tech Skills

Slack

slack

Getting employees on the same page can be extremely difficult, especially when team members are in different locations or on the road. We use Slack at Cre8tive to manage staff and division tasks, notify everyone on important developments and schedule internal meetings. The app offers chat rooms, private group spaces and direct messaging.

Hootsuite

hootsuite

Social media is an essential tool for any business looking to gain exposure and attract customers, but regularly managing a number of different channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, can be a hassle and take up a lot of resources. This is especially the case if you’re taking the DIY marketing approach.

Hootsuite’s social media management app provides a time-saving solution. Using the app, you can share and schedule posts from your business’ Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts — all in one app.

HeadSpace

HeadSpace

Science is starting to understand the effect meditation can have on reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep. It’s not hard to see how a business owner could benefit from Headspace; the world’s leading meditation app.

Describing itself as a ‘gym membership for the mind’, Headspace provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training that can be accessed online or through the app.

MailChimp

mailchimp

MailChimp is a veteran in the world of email marketing and offers users an easy-to-use, yet advanced service, suitable for the entrepreneur.

MailChimp remains the go-to service for business owners looking to follow up on purchases, nurture leads and provide product information to their mailing list. Email Marketing is still thriving in 2017!

Related: 3 Ways You Can Use Mobile Apps To Improve Your Customer Experience

Expensify

Expensify

There’s nothing more tedious than dealing with expenses. But, thankfully, the days of holding onto that crumpled receipt from your last meal is now a thing of the past.

Utilising SmartScan technology, you can simply use travel expense app Expensify to take pictures of receipts, upload them, and leave the software to do the rest.

Dealing with expenses can be a real headache for business owners and employees alike. Workers can become rightly frustrated if they feel they haven’t been reimbursed and it doesn’t reflect well on you as a boss either. Expensify will help you manage expenses and automate the entire process.

Greg Tinkler is a serial entrepreneur and owner of the Cre8tive Group, one of SA’s top brand activation and marketing agencies. He has launched many of SA’s top sports supplement & pharmaceutical brands from start-up to multi-million rand brands.

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(Video) TomTom Telematics – Let’s Drive Business (UK)

TomTom Telematics

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WEBFLEET provides you with the right information at the right time to make smart decisions and achieve your goals: Lowering cost, reducing time on the road, supporting drivers and delighting customers. Running a business can be hard. So let’s make it easier. Request a demo and find out more at telematics.tomtom.com/webfleet/landingpages/launching-the-new-webfleet.

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Making The Case For FTTH With BDCOM

Successfully making the case for FTTH with BDCOM, Miro offers tangible solutions when deploying last-mile fibre connectivity through cost effective PON technology.

MiRO

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bdcom-miro-south-africa

As a service provider, deploying a fibre network may seem daunting, expensive and unappealing; this stems from the capital expenditure required, as well as the added risk of the civil work needed during application. With the gaining popularity of fibre amongst various sectors; from service providers, to the end-users who demand high-speed internet, the demand for fibre is only gaining continuous traction; from the rising use of video-streaming platforms, to the ever-stable demand for reliable connectivity solutions, both for business and home use.

Given these facts, as well as the lingering hesitancy of expanding with fibre, the possibilities of this much desired optical connectivity can be realised through PON. Passive Optical Networks are currently transforming the face of last-mile fibre deployments. A world where sending data happens at the speed of light is now tangible at a tenth of the cost with PON. All the advantages which arise from optical fibre are now available in a cost-effective solution.

The demand for cost-effective, last-mile fibre solutions are also increasing due to the high bandwidth requirements of households and businesses; the large expenditure on active equipment and the on-going challenges of delivering high-capacity internet in densely populated areas are only some of the existing concerns. These, amongst other challenges faced by service providers, are accelerating the interest in deploying fibre optic networks to provide higher bandwidth delivery, reliability and lower latency levels.

The hesitancy of deploying fibre within a service offering stems from the myth that a fibre roll-out, especially in last-mile applications, can be a great expenditure in terms of infrastructure and operating costs. This myth can now be proven false with our FTTx solution from BDCOM.

The solutions available with PON (Passive Optical Networks) have been proven to reduce installation cost by up to 70% with the use of simple reflective devices, known as splitters.

applications-of-bdcoms-fibre-solutions

Related: Embracing Technology For Business

PON, completely negates the need for active equipment (such as switches, boosters etc.) because it allows the light, to be reflected towards the intended receiver (ONU) which then talks back to the light source (OLT) which is situated by the POP (Point of Presence). PON take up less physical space and consume less energy than traditional Ethernet because of the reduced number of active equipment. PON deployment costs up to 50% less than Ethernet, this includes components, labour as well as materials. The requirements for cooling are also less than with Ethernet, offering the client a saving on their utility costs.

Furthermore, fibre optic cables have a lifespan of up to 50 years as opposed to the 15 year lifespan of Ethernet copper. By analysing these facts, PON technology is arguably the only cost-effective solution to a fibre roll-out because of the major decrease in deployment and maintenance cost; therefore, there is also no surprise as to why it has become increasingly embraced by hospitals, government agencies and universities, amongst other industries.

bdcom-miro-south-africa_smallFor more information on the best last-mile PON solution for your fibre application, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced sales team; introducing you to the possibility of FTTx, together.

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The Curious Case Of AI And Legal Liability

AI is no longer a futuristic ideal from sci-fi movies. It’s here, and it’s affecting the way we do business. Have you considered the legal implications of the fact that the future is now?

Andrew Taylor

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While we couldn’t hope to provide an exhaustive analysis of the circumstances in which the use of artificial intelligence could result in legal liability, it is the intention of this article to provoke some thought about the way in which we integrate AI into our lives and, significantly, into our businesses.

While South Africa lags behind the western world in terms of technology adoption and diffusion, it is without question a matter that warrants a good measure of foresight. This was made particularly relevant when Uber’s autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian in the US earlier this year.

Nowhere are these concerns around the intersection of artificial intelligence and legal liability more applicable. However, it bears mentioning that we have already been living with software systems which, to a greater or lesser degree, have artificially subsumed the role of a human(s) in a given process.

Consider the mid 1980’s case of Therac-25, a Canadian-designed radiation dosing machine that incorrectly dosed six patients with a fatal cocktail of radiation.

Moving forward

Conversely, however, the use of modern artificial intelligence and software processes to assist humans in their endeavours has yielded untold gains in efficiency and efficacy across innumerable areas of application.

Related: How Automation Can Transform Your Start-up

Indeed, the uncertainty surrounding liability in our overly litigious society is likely to have hindered the development and commercialisation of many AI solutions that could have been revolutionary, for fear of the possible liability that could ensue as a result of their use. Little doubt, then, that sci-fi has not done very much to aid the cause of the AI evangelists. How then, do we attribute liability to AI?

The problem with conventional criminal and civil liability is that it relies, in large measure on the application of objective standards — criminal liability in South Africa specifically calls for the act (or omission) of a human being and must be a voluntary act. Attributing this standard to AI means that criminal liability cannot ensue for an AI system. Naturally, there are other forms of liability, but this — at its core — calls for a re-examination of the standards of what constitutes conduct for purposes of criminal conduct. This does not even begin to touch on the hurdles encountered in establishing ‘fault’ on the part of the AI.

Governing AI

The answer lies in the detail of the rationalisation of the decision-making process of the particular application of AI. Perhaps, if we are able to tease out the way in which the AI arrived at the decision as opposed to a black box approach that examines only the result, then we are making some strides to ascertaining whether liability should arise in a given circumstance.

What is clear, is that we need to have a framework in place for the promulgation of appropriate laws that would govern the proverbial Skynet and when liability should arise. The European Union has made some progress in this regard, having called for an EU-wide legislative framework that will govern the ethical development and deployment of AI, and the establishment of liability for actors, including robots.

It may sound far removed from your day-to-day business, but this may impact your business sooner than you think — from chat bots that enter into contracts, insurance AI that quantifies your risk profile and premium, and legal AI that diagnoses your legal cases using historical case law, to AI that aids judges avoid inherent biases and mete out appropriate sentences, the future is very much here.

Related: Why AI Won’t Replace Direct Marketing

From the leading edge

South Africa has an opportunity to lead the regulation of this new frontier and prevent the all too familiar lag of legislation in the dust of technology. It requires a regulatory approach where various formulations of product liability, design and programming liability can be negotiated by informed stakeholders to cater for these new forms of technology and the situations where they go awry, and to more accurately reflect the ethics and concerns of our society.

It is undoubtedly a tricky and murky road, where no system is error-free and wrongfulness of AI is a hard sell, but nevertheless, one which must be explored. In the interim, companies need to ensure that sound corporate governance is practised in all decisions that involve AI, to record the risks identified and to carefully manage its execution and implementation.

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