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Automation Apps For New Businesses

It is absolutely crucial that a business owner use every tool at their disposal to make sure that their business is as successful as it can be.

Josh Althuser

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Starting a business is one of the most harrowing endeavours a human can undertake. It is rife with hazards and forks in the road. Decisions must be made constantly and the work never truly ends. Why then would a new business owner want to take the entire responsibility of a company upon their shoulders alone? Even when the company is made in partnership, or with a group, the tasks that must be completed to assure the business is a success are daunting and tedious to say the least.

Luckily, technology has progressed far enough to automate some of these essential tasks for us and let us focus purely on running a business. Steps that need to be taken at the outset of a business include marketing, meetings and leads. These tasks can get in the way of perfecting your product or designing a service that can provide a fully realised experience. In this article, we are going to explore automation applications that can assist you in starting your business and running it for the future. There should never be anything in the way of a successful idea from being successful. No one who has a good idea or product should be limited  by the mundane activities that come with starting a business.

Related: How Automation Can Transform Your Start-up

The first thing that any business owner should be concerned with is marketing and design. Without good marketing your product or service will never reach the eyes and ears of a customer base. Without customers there will never be a business that succeeds or generates profit. So, it can be said, that without marketing there is no business.

Luckily, there are a number of companies who focus on automating marketing tasks so that you can focus on delivering your product in the best way possible.

Firstly, the company HubSpot centralises your needs and tools so that you can run an effective campaign automatically. This service uses automation to generate appropriate marketing materials and publishes them to the correct social media platforms. They also act as an entire marketing team that helps you to come up with a brand and image that accurately represents your business. In the same vein, there is the company MailChimp. Their goal is to create email blast campaigns on your behalf so that you do not have to scour for email addresses or constantly write up new email marketing materials.

MailChimp also helps with SEO and brand development so that you do not have to be bogged down with ideas for marketing. Services like these  automate the marketing process so that you do not have to undertake the tedious task of writing new email marketing materials everyday. Though it is an essential task, it is very much a laborious slog. In the early going, new owners typically do not have budgets to hire people that might specialise in marketing or advertising. MailChimp and HubSpot make it so that a new business does not suffer from being without a marketing team.

Website design is a crucial facet of business as it is your portal through the internet into people’s homes.  Luckily, companies like Squarespace and WordPress make web design easy and simple. An owner can use these services to create nice looking websites that are easy to navigate in a day or less. The simplicity, combined with the efficacy, make these services absolutely invaluable to new owners who are in dire need of a website. The services also come at fairly low price points and have elegant looks that can constantly scale with the size of your business. Having a website that can grow alongside your business gives you a better opportunity to reach the customers you need to reach. Web design is such an important facet and these services can make sure you are not left in the dust.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

Finally, we have one of the most important tools a new business owner can have and that is a personal assistant. Devices like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa allow new business owners the opportunity to have a personal assistant with them at all times. This is absolutely invaluable to new business owners as they are usually incredibly busy and need to be reminded of important events at all times. These automated digital devices can help to keep you organised and informed constantly so that you are never left in the dark. These devices provide assistance to new business owners that need constant reminders so that they do not fall behind on any work.

They are absolutely incredible pieces of technology and can prevent a company from failing. The services and devices listed above can help a brand new business owner to be successful in their business without the risk of failure due to a lack of funds. Because the technology continues to grow, and is reasonably priced, business owners around the world are finding running their businesses to be much easier than ever before. It is absolutely crucial that a business owner use every tool at their disposal to make sure that their business is as successful as it can be.

Josh Althuser is a tech entrepreneur and open source advocate specializing in providing mentorship for startups. You may connect with him on Twitter.

Technology

GDPR Is Coming – And SA Firms Are Not Ready

SA SMEs face fines of up to R300m for poor customer data management processes under new EU law.

Tracy Bolton

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data protection

On 25 May this year, a new piece of legislation comes into effect in Europe that could have severe consequences for non-compliant South African businesses. The General Data Protection Regulation – or GDPR for short – is a regulation under European Union law that aims to give control over personal data back to EU citizens.

The regulation applies to any organisation that collects or processes data from EU citizens, even when that citizen or organisation is based outside the EU. The European Commission defines personal data as “any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life”. This includes names, home addresses, photos, email addresses, bank details, social media posts, medical information, or even a computer’s IP address.

The fines for non-compliance are severe and could spell the end of a business practically overnight: the maximum fine is as much as €20-million, or nearly R300-million. What’s more, the regulation is far-reaching: any company with an EU citizen among its workforce, or a customer based in the EU, or even if only one of the subscribers to a company newsletter is based in the EU, that company can be held liable under GDPR. Few if any mid-sized South African firms could afford such a steep sanction, and legacy issues compound problems around compliance, increasing their risk and potential liability.

Related: Are You Protecting Your Customer’s Data?

In response, local firms are taking unprecedented steps to ensure they and their customers remain within the confines of the new regulation, especially considering the volume of trade and collaboration between African countries and their European counterparts.

Legacy processes add complexity to compliance

Most mid-sized firms have deliberately or inadvertently built up internal siloes related to how customer, business and other operational data is stored. For example, in a typical retailer’s marketing department, the data storage systems that processes newsletter subscriptions via email may be entirely removed from and non-integrated to the WhatsApp number where much of the customer communication takes place.

This means a customer that unsubscribes to a newsletter via WhatsApp may still receive the newsletter until such a time as the retailer can integrate the two sets of data.

When GDPR comes into effect, companies will not only stand liable for fines should the above scenario play out, but they need to be able to provide customers with complete clarity on how their data is stored and managed at any point in time. Any costs incurred in the process of showing how customer data is stored is also for the company’s own account, which adds not only complexity to standard business processes but also potentially additional costs.

Considering the prevailing trust deficit between consumers and brands, the potential of being exposed for treating confidential customer data poorly is immense. Once trust is breached, affected customers are unlikely to engage with the brand again, and will leave a searchable and public trail of comments on social media for all to see. The recent case of Facebook – which now faces a fine of as much as $2-trillion – has brought this to the forefront of consumer consciousness, but other examples of poor customer data management abound. Closer to home, the leaking of 31 million records at the Master Deeds Office revealed the ID numbers, addresses and income estimates of millions of South Africa citizens.

On the basis of consent

For South African businesses, however, new technology tools could play an invaluable role in mitigating risks associated with GDPR and its South African counterpart, POPI. A recent investment by SAP into Consent is simplifying the business processes associates with creating trusted digital experiences within the limitations of GDPR and POPI compliance.

Part of the SAP Hybris suite of applications, Consent enables SMEs to centrally manage customer preferences and consent settings throughout their full lifecycle, while putting them in control of their own data. Consent enables companies to be transparent, gain loyal customers and protect their business from costly fines as well as potentially disruptive business processes related to proving to customers how their data is being stored and managed.

In line with modern business demands, Consent is also provided in the cloud, making it quick to implement and easy to prove ROI. Every time a policy changes, customers can receive an automated notification that they actively accept, with a record of such forms of consent stored centrally to allow SMEs to quickly and accurately prove responsible customer data management.

Whether you run an online retailer with customers around the world, or a news website where a European citizen may occasionally offer a comment on an article, GDPR holds inherent risks to your business. But with the correct technology tool, a potential R300m liability can be transformed into a competitive business advantage that furthers the cause of trusted and trustworthy digital customer experiences.

Related: Five Tips for Effective Marketing that Complies with the POPI Act

Here are five immediate steps South African companies can take to limit their GDPR risk:

  1. Educate staff: Make sure everyone in your company understands what GDPR and POPI means and what is recognised as personal information.
  2. Understand the current state: Ensure you understand what data is being stored – and where it is stored.
  3. Inspect the data: Get to grips with exactly what personal information is being stored where. Categorise data (for example names, email address, ID numbers) and delete data that is not needed.
  4. Implement processes: Put in processes and systems to handle all data, including acquiring, accessing, maintaining and disposing of information.
  5. Improve reporting: Regular audits will be needed to ensure the processes are being followed, and to know at all times where data is being stored, who has access to it, and how a potential breach of data will be handled.

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The Role Of Trust Now And In The Future

How will technology, such as blockchain, impact contract and business?

Nicolene Schoeman-Louw

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The basis of our entire legal system has been that people who contract with one another do so inherently based on the existence of trust.

It is true that in order to conclude a legally binding contract, certain requirements must be met:

  1. Consensus between the parties;
  2. Intention – offer and acceptance;
  3. The parties must have the legal capacity to contract;
  4. Certainty in the contract;
  5. Formalities must be met;
  6. Lawfulness; and
  7. Possibility of performance.

Underpinning all of the above is the aspect of trust. The fact that we have, in practice, seen contracts, that comply with all the requirements, being breached is testimony that without trust, there are no prospects of full uninterrupted performance.

Some underlying theory of the causes of breakdown in trust

Over the years, many theories have debated why exactly trust lacks even when it seems that trust is resent. Many experts including Dr. Demartini, has stated that it is all based on shared values or in the case of trust never being present in the first place or where it lacks, the lack of shared values. In essence, where people consider the same things as important, they will collaborate in a mutually acceptable manner to achieve the joint contracted and desired outcome, whether it be in the employment space, ownership or between customer and supplier or stakeholders.

Related: What Is The Legal Impact Of Acknowledgements?

How does technology build or reward trust

Be that as it may, maybe these notions and the recipe for failure or achievement is something of the past. With the introduction of blockchain and similar technology, many experts are of the view that trust would become superfluous. Technology such as blockchain creates an irrefutable, uneditable record and therefore provides that trust whether present or not can no longer adversely affect the performance of agreements.

So, the human question remains – will this make us more or less ethical in our behaviour? Will this make our relationships less or more value driven?

The supporters of token-based incentive schemes, would say that one of the inherent aspects of this technology and blockchain is that it is all reputation based and that users are motivated by points-based incentives. Incentives and point scoring based on good behaviour and reputation. Taking the concept of reputation capital to another level.

In my view, technology could be an enabler rather than another reason or diagnosis for the breakdown in trust and therefore, in contract. Legal practitioners and businesses should, in my view, closely monitor the developments in this space and embrace it as it becomes more developed, familiar, regulated and accessible.

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Technology

Building Organisational Wealth With Accurate Data For Enhanced Decision-Making

In order to be relevant, the information extracted from data must be trustworthy, provide appropriate insights and be available anywhere and at any time.

Craig Johnston

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We live in a highly digitised world, where we are connected through multiple networks and devices, generating masses of data. To build a responsive business, SME’s must turn these insights gained from data resources into meaningful information that can contribute significantly to building organisational wealth.

To capitalise on this potential pool of facts, a business first needs to understand the difference between data and information. Data is generated almost non-stop, and can be  considered a raw-material of sorts. By analysing and processing data, useful information can be derived to action decision-making based on facts and not assumptions. Peter Drucker, explains that “information is data endowed with relevance and purpose”. So, by defining the “what” (relevance) and the “why” (purpose) of the data, you will be able to optimise its inherent value. In order to be relevant, the information extracted from data must be trustworthy, provide appropriate insights and be available anywhere and at any time.

Related: Lead The Charge By Building Your Business Momentum

Trustworthy data

Insights from data is as much about quality as it is about quantity. Gathering data from multiple sources, including both structured and unstructured data, must be consolidated without jeparodising the integrity of the data. It must be complete, consistent and accurate.

This data needs to then be processed and analysed to identify key bits of information which is immediately accessible to employees to use for enhanced decision-making. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system such as SAP Business One, with embedded and predictive analytics, brings information from multiple databases into a central reporting platform. This allows employees to access information and insights in real-time which contributes to speedy, factual decision-making.

Relevant insights

Information must have integrity and be readily available providing:

  • A unified and reliable infrastructure offering employees and partners access and insight
  • Employees real-time, direct access to key performance metrics
  • A means of presenting information intuitively, leading to deeper insight
  • A platform for predictive analytics. 

Timely delivery

To stay ahead of your competitors, decisions need to be made quickly in order to respond to rapid environmental changes and shifting market trends. Having real-time visibility into financial and operational capacity, available resources, inventory, sales figures and key performance areas is crucial. An ERP system with mobile capabilities, such as SAP Business One, is a must-have tool for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to effectively and accurately consolidate and generate valuable information on-the-go.

Benefitting from data

Informed decision-making optimises operational adeptness, allowing for greater agility in response to market forces and continuous innovations that are symptoms of a rapidly changing business environment. It forces a more customer-focused approach as information about your clients are shared between departments. Data impacts the profitability of an organisation as management needs to accurately track revenues, costs, and cash flow to asses the financial position and take quick corrective action based on data output.

Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?

The take-away

According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, there is clearly still a lot that needs to be done in terms of how businesses use available data effectively.  Less than half of most organisations’ structured data is actively used in making decisions and less than 1% of its unstructured data is analysed or used at all. Research also shows that organisations that tap into these valuable sources of information consistently show higher levels of innovation, efficiency and the ability to predict outcomes and act on those predictions.

The right ERP solution enables SMEs to harness the untapped information locked within its data. Converting this raw data into meaningful and actionable information has a positive impact on the daily running of a company, contributing significantly to increasing its organisational wealth.

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