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AI Will Probably Be Running Your Business Better Than You In 2028

Many local businesses, especially SMEs, consider AI “Tomorrow’s problem.” Failure to prioritise its adoption, though, could hobble your organisation in an increasingly competitive, fast-moving and disrupted business environment.

Rob Lith

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The average South African may be familiar with AI (artificial intelligence) via virtual assistants like Siri, but the technology – where algorithms are applied to data for findings that greatly improve decision-making, customer experiences and products – is already at play in business locally.

In the financial services sector, AI is assisting investment bankers in their product recommendations as it’s unaffected by human emotional bias and memory lapses. The same analysis could be used by a cellphone retailer to pinpoint the best offer for a customer by cross-referencing their profile with the business’s full catalogue. In both cases, AI is not making the final decision, but deepening the decision-making process.

From a telecommunications perspective, AI chatbots can summon credit scores instantly and enable real-time automated transcription of phone calls. In future, it will be possible to detect customer emotion through voice analysis – using Google Cloud Natural Language API, for example – and alert call centre agents.

AI has uses beyond customer-facing interactions too. For logistics companies it effortlessly optimises delivery routes, helping to save time and fuel spend.

The future of business requires a balance of proactivity and rapid reactivity. Without AI to enhance operations, an organisation runs the risk of becoming too slow – giving advantage to more agile competitors as greater efficiency becomes the customer expectation norm.

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What can you do to integrate AI into your organisation?

Use what’s available

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google have thousands of developers working on AI. You could invest in proprietary systems but there’s already a massive selection of micro services available from major providers and other developers. Leverage off them.

Even if you aren’t ready to fully embrace AI, any decisions you make now, especially around your CRM platform, should consider the ability to connect to AI services. A rigid standalone system will prevent you from taking advantage of AI functionality. And as each provider has specific strengths, your software should be able to integrate with multiple AI services.

Related: Can Computers Replace Human Accountants? We Doubt They Can

Embrace the cloud

AI and its companion process, machine learning, crunch massive amounts of data. Unless your organisation is well-resourced, you may not be able to store and process all this information. The vast majority of analytics-focused solutions are cloud-based, removing infrastructure burden from your shoulders. To take advantage of this, you’ll need a reliable high-speed internet connection to transmit information to and from providers.

Educate and equip your workforce

Given the claims that AI will cause job loss, it’s important to get staff accepting of AI. In some spheres, it’s likely employee numbers will increase to handle the greater number of enquiries made possible by AI. Even in industries like mining and automotive assembly – where the integration of robotics and AI seems more likely to cost jobs – new positions will appear, and coding will become essential. The best thing a company could do today, then, is to start educating and upskilling employees for an AI-enabled future.

In short, there’s no reason to be intimidated by AI. As its analytical capabilities becomes more sophisticated, it’s likely to become even more beneficial in business, evolving from a useful tool to a reliable partner, drawing without emotion on a wealth of information to advise, but always leaving the final decision to the business owner. Companies right now should turn to solution providers to bring this invaluable colleague on board before it’s too late to catch up.

Co-founding Connection Telecom in 2003, Rob Lith is an ICT industry heavyweight and Internet specialist who has been involved in the industry for the last 20 years. His lifelong interest in technology has contributed to his in-depth knowledge of Internet markets, technology and products. Rob and Stephen Davies have long been collaborators, since their days at Internet Africa, which became UUNET, then WorldCom and now Verizon.

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Set Up Your SME For Success With Fibre

Boost your business potential when you plug into fibre. It offers unprecedented benefits, taking your business to the next level of connectivity.

Ignite

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More South Africans are turning to fibre for fast Internet access. We’re witnessing a boom in fibre expansion and as a result, it’s becoming a more affordable option for SMEs. Once businesses connect to fibre, they can access a reliable, ultra high-speed connection that unlocks the full advantage of cloud-based processing.

Cater to usage demands

A slow Internet connection can derail your business. It’s imperative for business owners to prepare their networks to handle additional usage requirements. Failing to do this might lead to interruptions, slowdowns and a potential impact on your bottom line. An Internet connection should be a tool that supports innovation and uninterrupted productivity.

Shift to the cloud

More businesses are accessing cloud-hosted information via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools and other platforms. In 2018, nine out of 10 companies in South Africa said they had increased spending on cloud computing, according to a report by World Wide Worx and F5 Networks. Running your day-to-day business on the cloud requires you to have a more powerful Internet connection.

Support video and VoIP

Some businesses make use of video capabilities for training and meetings, and VoIP for sales and marketing. On a fibre line, businesses can ensure they meet these demands without putting a strain on the network. With fibre, business owners can run voice and Internet data on the same line but may look at installing a second data connection for redundancy.

Get what you pay for

There’s no denying it, fibre provides exceptional speeds and offers a brilliant price-to-performance ratio. You won’t receive the same contention ratio as other connection mediums – you will get what you pay for. Bandwidth caps are less of an issue with fibre because there’s a choice of affordable uncapped deals on offer.

Make the right choice

  • Before you decide on your fibre deal, ask the right questions, understand exactly what you’re paying for and match your business requirements with the right amount of bandwidth.
  • Choose a provider that allows you to manage growth for the long term – one that allows you to choose your deal, scale when necessary and not throttle your fibre line.
  • You’ll also want an ISP to have your back further down the line. Insist on obtaining a comprehensive list of services along with the monthly fee. Ensure you are provided with a full service including all necessary support and equipment to deliver optimal fibre performance.

Ignite’s drive and purpose is to be the spark that inspires SMEs, which is why the Ignite Fibre service is structured to put you in control. Ignite offers you tailored packages that take into account your daily Internet and business startup needs.

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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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How Sasfin Bank Is Beyond A Banking Platform – The Evolution Of B\\YOND

From opening a business bank account in one day to advanced business analytics at the touch of a button, B\\YOND is asking business owners what they need most from a banking platform — and delivering on it.

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Vital Stats

Imagine you pay millions each month in rebates. The thousands of transactions are batched and go out on the first of each month. What happens if a few are incorrect and the entire batch is rejected and needs to be recaptured?

For one business owner, the entire process meant that he always needed to be available at the beginning of the month and customers were often paid late, creating a reputational risk for his business and limiting his opportunity to grow his portfolio with existing clients.

It was a huge pain point that many entrepreneurs share, and one Sasfin’s online banking platform, B\\YOND was determined to fix. “We asked real business owners to tell us what the banking issues were that they either hated the most, or that affected their businesses the most,” says Rodger Dunn, Head of Transactional Banking at Sasfin.

“This is just one problem we’ve solved, and since joining our platform, that same entrepreneur can now work remotely, knowing that his rebates will be paid on time, even if a few transactions need to be fixed.”

The Evolution of B\\YOND

What do business owners need most? What are their pain points and what tools will help them make money, save money and be more efficient? How can we deliver these solutions in a simple-to-use, intuitive way?

These are the questions that Sasfin’s B\\YOND team sat down to answer when they began working on their new online banking platform. In addition to offering business owners a platform where they can transact online, they wanted to build a strategic business tool that solved real everyday problems for entrepreneurs.

“We launched in March this year with a platform that offered much more than the normal functionality of online banking,” says Rodger.

“Through B\\YOND, our customers are able to apply for a business bank account online; perform their own payroll management; create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform; manage revenue and expenses; and connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing Cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.”

For B\\YOND users, this was just the beginning. “Customers already on the platform will find additional functionality being added regularly,” explains Rodger.

“We have a vision, but we are also listening to our customers. Within the core team are two business owners who bring key insights to the product, but we also have a closed group of businesses that regularly test new functionality.”

B\\YOND’s key competitive advantage is how the entire platform integrates traditionally disparate functionality into one portal. “Everybody offers an accounting package, transactional banking, a credit card and so on,” says Rodger. “However, B\\YOND’s platform integration and how we make everything work together is our advantage, because that’s how we save customers the most precious commodity: Time.

“Let’s use Xero as an example. Instead of manually populating payments, with Xero you get secure, direct daily feed integration from your Sasfin bank account into your accounting software.”

Related: Sasfin Is Gearing Your Company For Growth

Removing banking barriers

roger-dunn

“B\\YOND’s Cloud platform enables us to take any manual process and make it digital. The benefits of this are endless, but we started at the beginning of a banking journey and worked our way up from there,” says Rodger.

“If you want to open a business bank account, you generally need to meet with your banker or stand in a long queue at a branch. If there’s more than one shareholder or director in the business, multiple parties need to be at that meeting. Once the bank has laid out its value proposition and you agree to go ahead, you then have documentation to fill in, which everyone needs to sign.

“As a result, setting up a business banking account can take up to a few weeks with multiple in-person engagements. We saw an opportunity to change that by creating a seamless, online process. If you have everything you need, you can have a business bank account up and running on the same day that you begin your application.”

How has Sasfin managed to fundamentally change this time-consuming and paper-based process? “We’ve taken something that’s serial in nature and split it into parallel processes,” explains Rodger.

“Our objective is to remove as much of the friction and barriers of opening a business bank account as possible. We’re a technology-based business, but we’re also high-touch. Technology should be an enabler, it shouldn’t take the place of people or complicate processes. We understand that business owners don’t only want to deal with a platform. They want consultants who understand their business and needs.”

Thinking out the box

As an alternative bank, Sasfin has looked for ways to make business banking more efficient and supportive of entrepreneurial needs, while lowering the costs for clients.

One way this has been achieved is through a branch-less and ATM-less environment. Sasfin customers can draw money for one flat fee from any ATM across the country.

“You’re paying for usage, instead of an entire infrastructure you hardly ever use,” says Rodger.

B\\YOND plays a key role in this value proposition. “Instead of migrating businesses onto different platforms as they grow and evolve, we’ve kept things simple. More people and money generally means more controls. As businesses grow and more people need access to the banking platform, the system becomes complicated and more expensive. Those platforms were designed for large corporates, not growing entrepreneurial businesses.

“We have reduced the costs and complexities that corporate-focused platforms often come with. Our platform allows you to bank in a manner that supports your particular type of business, for example the platform caters for one or many users in a business with view access that aligns to the person’s role in the business.”

Another key functionality that B\\YOND has added is client classifications. Everything can be tagged and categorised. At the click of a button a full recon can be pulled, showing what was spent. All recons can be done directly from B\\YOND’s banking platform.

Related: Raising Capital In A Worsening Macro-Economic Environment

Looking to the future

There is a lot still to come. “We are building one single platform that you can run your entire financial management through.

“Our three-year goal is for B\\YOND to be a business analytics tool that entrepreneurs can access through their Internet banking platform,” explains Rodger.

Bank outside the box

The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs that want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform sweats the small stuff, but also helps manage and grow their business.

  1. Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
  2. Does your bank pay you market-leading interest rates?
  3. Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
  4. Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
  5. Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide tools to help run your business successfully?

Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of better banking for your business.

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