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Embracing Technology For Business

The technologies that can boost efficiency in your organisation.

Greg Morris

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technology

The world is dominated by technology. So if you haven’t yet heard terms like ML, AI, VR, and the wave of other acronyms used to address the new developments in this modern age, you will soon. Because, the era of big data is here. And resisting it is futile. We have to embrace new technologies to survive, let alone compete. Luckily, a lot of today’s tech helps make business more streamlined.

Here are a few that make all the difference:

FOR ADMIN

WebVault

WebVault is a digital ‘vault’ for securely storing documents, emails, certificates, voice files, and other data in the cloud. WebVault Achiever can even load completed trainee certificates into the vault, without your needing to vet or track them.

Related: Silulo Ulutho Technologies Tackles Tech Target Market

EFFICIENCY

Asana

Asana is a tool for managing team-based projects. It allows users to break projects into tasks, assign them to individuals, add followers, and schedule deadlines. This ensures transparency, accountability, and helps to streamline and track deliverables.

Slack

Slack is like a WhatsApp group for business. You can sort interests by topic, and use the search function for anything, including old discussions and shared files. The most notable benefit is that Slack stops back and forth email discussions, decluttering your inbox. It also integrates easily with platforms like Twitter and Dropbox.

ACCOUNTS

Wave

Wave is accounting software that offers small to medium-sized businesses access to helpful tools. Through mobile and web-based platforms, users can build and send professional cost estimates and tax invoices, accept credit cards, keep track of payments, administer payroll, and streamline expense tracking.

LEARNING

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (also known as AI) is created from technology called machine (or computer) learning (ML). In other words: by using complex networks, computers can learn without the need for human direction or oversight.

One of the most exciting ways that AI affects learning is by identifying overlaps between different industries and subjects. Connections that would take humans many years of study to discover, can now take computers less than a day to unveil, revealing complex subjects that we may never have realised existed without it.

Virtual & augmented reality

Most people learn best by getting involved. But, where the stakes are high or expensive, like the military, medicine, and mining, this isn’t feasible. By digitally influencing how learners see their environment, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) allow them to safely, cost-effectively practise the impractical.

Related: Trends To Fast Track Your Business In 2018

SECURITY

The modern technologies we’re seeing today are fascinating, but they aren’t always fool-proof. Indeed, for every new technology, there are thousands of hackers spending all of their time looking for ways to break in.

For example, consider how you can monitor your home on a device. This is convenient for you, but it defeats the point if a hacker can access the video feed. There are even organisations online that provide malware and phishing as a service.

If you’re stepping into new technological territory, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. The best protection against threats like this is to hire an ethical hacker yourself; one who can tell you where your weak points are and how to protect them. 

DISRUPTION

Blockchain

Blockchain technology is controversial thanks to its association with Bitcoin. But it is critical to differentiate the two. Bitcoin, on the one hand, is a digital currency. Blockchain, however, is the technology it uses for its distributed digital ledger.

Because a blockchain is both distributed and transparent, it allows digital peer-to-peer transactions to be executed safely and stored securely. And because the technology isn’t limited to finance, it has the potential to disrupt the way many companies do business. Notable leaders in this space include WalMart, IBM, and Nestlé, who are using blockchain technology to improve their systems.

The age of the digital innovation is here, and that means the world is changing rapidly. The best ways to be prepared are to be aware and to adapt quickly.

Greg Morris is the Chief Executive Officer of MICROmega Holdings Limited. Greg joined the group in 2000 and was appointed CEO in January 2011. Responsible for the day-to-day operations, management and corporate finance transactions of the Group, Greg holds a Bachelor of Accounting Honours Degree and is a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Technology

Small Business Owner? Why You Need Computer Skills

Having computer skills is vital to all of these aspects, and taking IT courses can help to equip you with these much-needed skills.

Amy Galbraith

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Being the owner of a small business means that you need to stay (way, way) ahead of the curve if you want to beat your competition. This means that your marketing strategies need to be fresh and unique, your customer service should be stellar and you need to be up-to-date with technology. Having computer skills is vital to all of these aspects, and taking IT courses can help to equip you with these much-needed skills.

It supports entrepreneurship

The whole world is literally at your fingertips, including valuable resources for entrepreneurs. Being computer literate by taking one of the many IT courses in South Africa means that you will be able to experience new ideas, build your self-confidence and help you to innovate in your own business.

To grow your small business, all you need is a PC or laptop and an internet connection to put you miles  ahead of your competition. Entrepreneurial minds in the twenty-first century are finding it easier to innovate in their business and in the SME community. The resources you will find online will help you to grow your business, but you will need to have the skills to do online research and networking.

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

Communication skills will improve

The world is digital, there is no getting around it, and consumers today expect to be able to communicate with any business in a digital capacity. Not having the right computer skills for effective online communication means that you are already two steps behind the competition.

If you take one of the IT courses in Durban, you will be taught effective communication skills, including how to type up, send and receive emails. This is arguably one of the most vital computer skills for small business owners,as email, IM’s and other messaging platforms are how your customers will be getting in touch with you regarding products and services. Your own communication skills will also improve as you continue to use email and instant messaging on a daily basis.

Work performance will increase

Being computer literate will enable you to work efficiently and effectively, which improves your work performance. Notes from client meetings can be taken via laptop or speech-to-text programs and you can use spreadsheets to effectively display ideas and budgets for clients and partners.

IT courses equip you with basic computer knowledge, and if you practise these skills on a daily basis, your work performance will increase and improve as well. If you work on your computer on a daily basis (and in this digital world, who can afford to run a business that is not online?) then you will need to be able to work quickly and without too much delay in customer service replies.

Business processes are streamlined

Owning and running a small business takes time and effort, but with computer skills, you will be able to streamline your business process in order to save yourself from spending hours answering emails and drawing up invoices.

If you sell products, sending someone your banking details for a payment is as simple as sending an email or setting up a Paypal account. If you have employees, nowadays you do not have to go around the office with a physical, written-out memo for them to sign, you can simply email it to them or send an IM that there is a meeting that day, cutting down time spent on unnecessary communication. If you have customer service to deal with, you could build a chatbot for your website to deal with simple requests that will then be passed to you for a final response.

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

Social media marketing can improve

Anyone in business knows the power of social media marketing, but not all of them understand how to do it. The larger companies will often hire social media marketing experts but as a small business owner, this may not be a feasible expense for your situation, which is where computer skills can come in handy.

You will be able to use Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to reach your audiences in a more effective way, engaging in a conversation with them that builds brand trust and leads. Without the knowledge of how to operate a computer, you will not be able to log into your social media accounts to create posts and build traffic. You will also learn that you cannot simply post about what you sell or the services you provide, but you need to give consumers relevant and exciting content.

Technology is the future

Small business owners need computer skills to stay in the game. If you are not up-to-date with all the latest business trends, you will fall behind your competition and lose out on consumers who prefer working with digitally aware providers. Embrace technology and use it to your advantage. You will see your communication skills improve, as well as your business performance, both of which contribute to a better customer experience.

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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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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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Technology

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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contract

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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