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Embracing Technology For Business

The technologies that can boost efficiency in your organisation.

Greg Morris

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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

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.

what-can-you-do-to-integrate-ai-into-your-organisation

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.

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Company Posts

Protect Your Business – Let The Right MSP Manage IT Security For You

Don’t let IT Security add to your pressures — let the right MSP manage it for you and have peace of mind while protecting your bottom line.

Kaspersky Lab

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With smaller teams, pressure always mounts and there is seldom enough time in one day to give all areas of a business the right focus. SME owners are required to appropriately apportion their time. Innovation and a commitment to growth are always priorities, along with the areas within a business that seek the most attention or ‘shout the loudest’ — but this should never shift the owner’s focus from the core principle of protecting their business.

IT security intimidations — malware, viruses and threats — are designed to go ‘under the radar’ and often don’t shout until it’s too late. Dispersed focus, along with a lack of appropriate resources has resulted in IT security within SMEs not getting the consideration it requires. However, considering the constant increase in the number of cyber-security incidents and the damage these cause — especially to reputation — a relaxed attitude towards IT security is no longer a viable option for any SME.

Related: A Cloud Is A Cloud, No Matter What Business You’re In, Right? Wrong!

Rectifying this doesn’t need to add more pressure to the list of priorities a SME owner manages. Rather, the situation calls for a reliable third-party investment to take care of the business’ IT security needs. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offering security services that will adequately protect the business and take the worry of IT security on board could be that helping hand. But, outsourcing IT security components of the business requires investment into the right solutions as well as trust.

Therefore, SMEs should seek the services of providers that offer best-in-class, affordable, worry-free and integrated security solutions that pass on the right protection and benefits to their client’s business.

In 2017, Kaspersky Lab launched a specialised MSP partner programme to equip service providers with tools, training and expertise, to become a reliable partner for businesses, including SMEs. Given the success of the partner programme, Kaspersky Lab is constantly expanding its offering to MSPs, including solutions that fit the profile of what an SME needs to achieve effective protection.

Top benefits of outsourcing your IT security to a trusted MSP

  • Advice on your organisation’s current security posture, identifying gaps that need to be ‘plugged’
  • Access to IT security knowledge — MSPs take the worry out of IT security by offering solutions that best meet your IT security needs
  • Support for adequate protection against the myriad threats continually facing businesses. The right MSP knows how the cyber-threat landscape is evolving and keeps up to date with the latest threats, filtering this into your business operations for effective protection of your sensitive assets.

Related: Is Data Protection One Of Your Top Concerns? It Should Be

Kaspersky Lab not only supports the protection of SMEs through the solutions on offer, but it also aims to support and assist MSPs in growing their services to accommodate the needs of the SME market — ensuring all businesses can take the right steps towards effective IT security.

For more information on Kaspersky Lab solutions please visit: www.kaspersky.co.za

MSPs interested in joining Kaspersky Lab’s programme can visit: www.kaspersky.co.za/partners/managed-service-provider

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Technology

What’s The Best Products To Sell Online?

If you’re selling online or thinking of starting an online business then you’re probably wondering what’s the ultimate product for you to sell. Read on to find out how to pick a winning product…

Warrick Kernes

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So I’m not talking about the top selling product of the year and if you were looking at that product then you’re probably too late anyway. What I am referring to here is the best suited product for you to sell online from an ease and profit point of view. Here are five key aspects to consider:

1. Product weight and size

Your courier fee is calculated on either the volumetric weight or the actual weight of the product – whichever is the larger number. A large box of feathers would be charged using the volumetric weight whereas a similar sized box of bricks would be charged on the actual weight. This means that large and heavy products attract higher shipping fees, which you or your customer need to cover.

Some couriers do ship bulky items at fair rates but your customer will need to compromise on having a slower delivery timeframe. Another factor to consider is that your warehousing fees will be significantly higher for bulky items. So your ideal product in this regard is a product which is small and lightweight.

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

2. The selling price

Products which sell for over R5 000 tend to require more customer engagement which results in time costs and a possible requirement for in-house product expertise. Products selling for lower than R500 can leave you with a profit margin which is not high enough to sustain the direct costs of completing the sale unless you are selling high volumes. Ideally your product will sell at a price point between R500 and R5 000.

3. Product support

Technical products attract a lot of pre-sales questions and also after-sales support. This means that you’ll need trained up team members permanently ready and available to help your customers. Having this in place is vital for ensuring great customer service but don’t forget about the time-cost of having your team members constantly engaging in pre and post sales support.

Be sure to also research the failure rate of potential products. Some of the best brands in the world still have an acceptable failure rate of 3%. The costs here include your time to arrange the replacement, courier fees to collect and re-deliver plus you might need to use your own inventory for the replacement until the supplier issues your replacement units.

The ideal product to find would have low or no technical support and a low return rate.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

4. Local regulations

Products that require local certification through regulatory bodies such as ICASA, NRCS and MCC could result in extra costs, administration and possible delays on launching your product in the market. Being aware of how these kind of regulations will impact your product in mind is vital when choosing your products to sell. Ideally if you can find a product that doesn’t require regulatory certification will be the easiest to bring to market.

5. High margins!

There is a perception that online retailers don’t need high margins because they have such low overheads. This can be true if you’re running a lean operation; however, if you sell products with less than 20% margin then you’re setting yourself up for a challenging operation. Higher margins can give you the cushioning for the mistakes of your learning curve. Once your business is running smoothly you’ll have more to reinvest and ultimately you’ll have a more successful business if you can find a product that sells well and has high profit margins.

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