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Technology As A Platform For Organisation Wealth

How embracing technology can lead to all-round business efficiency.

Craig Johnston

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Organisational wealth can mean different things to different people, but holistically, organisational wealth means that every part of the business is running optimally. This includes business systems, internal processes, staff morale, job satisfaction and, of course, financial success. Technology is arguably more integral today than it ever has been before – if businesses don’t take advantage of, and embrace, the technology that is available to them then they are very likely to fall behind the competition.

In today’s fast-paced world, technology is an essential tool and this rings true for small to medium businesses (SME’s) too – it can enable them to thrive and remain agile in an increasingly turbulent environment. Technology can be quite intimidating, and it may seem too costly for an SME, but in actual fact there are many ways to use technology in a cost-effective way to promote holistic organisational wealth.

Having the correct business systems in place means that your employees are more likely to feel productive, less frustrated and more efficient. These are all important factors for ensuring employees are satisfied and morale is positive within the company.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Leasing Your Technology Equipment

If we look at the business systems that are essential for SME’s, business owners agree that having a good accounting system is essential to ensure a healthy cash flow. However, in order to effectively manage a growing business, the correct business management system has to be implemented to control and integrate key business functionalities that drive a holistic and profitable operation. An accounting-only system will not suffice and/or promote growth. A comprehensive business management solution makes it possible to gather, store, integrate and analyse information for increased productivity and profit; all key components of promoting organisational wealth.

For SMEs, this technology comes in the form of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, meaning that key business functionalities are integrated under one flexible and responsive system. Smaller companies can benefit greatly from using ERP software to streamline their internal processes and reduce the time taken on admin tasks. Management are now able to instantly access accurate and real-time business information, so that they can respond to customers faster and increase their profitabilty.

If SME’s implement the correct ERP system, they can see substantial benefits for the organisation. The biggest of which is increased efficiency – by automating tasks less time is spent on admin, and more time can be devoted to growing the business. This also ties into greater profit margins. Having better control over the processes within your business will lead to an increase in output and a decrease in inefficient overheads, therefore improving sales and profit margins.

Another important advantage is greater organisational control. Having insight into operational activities and traceability over stock means that managers are able to control the workflows and utilise resources more efficiently, without having to resort to micro-management. This leads into another very important advantage: uplifted staff morale. By removing the need for micro-management and by automating certain processes and workflows, the likelihood of human error is greatly reduced and employees will become more efficient and confident in their capabilities.

Related: How To Help Your Team Shift Their Mindset To Embracing Technology For Business Management

Perhaps the greatest benefit is having access to real-time insights and data, whereby accurate and informed decisions can be made to respond to environmental changes effectively and quickly. Enhanced decision-making using up-to-the-minute information means that managers can ensure correct decisions are being made at the right time, and in the right context.

All of the above advantages lead to one road: increased customer satisfaction, which is, after all, the end goal. By having the entire sales process optimised and tracked from the initial lead stage, through to managing sales orders, customer data and streamlining after-sales support, customers will be more satisfied. This operational integration and increased proficiency leads to greater sales and profits, which ultimately increases organisational wealth.

Craig Johnston, Marketing Manager at Bluekey Seidor, has been in the marketing industry for almost a decade. With vast experience in marketing strategy and campaign execution, Craig has developed a solid foundation in both traditional and digital marketing. As an expert his field, Craig has successfully made Bluekey Seidor one of the fastest growing SAP Business One Partners in Africa.

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How Lexus Is Emphasising Quality And Taking Craftsmanship To New Heights

The seventh generation Lexus ES is crafted to the last millimeter and is the essence of comfort​.

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The seventh generation Lexus ES ushers in an era of performance, mirrored by design that stirs the soul. The exceptional body rigidity allows for incredible design freedom, resulting in design that has the confidence to stand out. The brave new design that is lower, wider and sleeker, giving this sedan a coupé-like silhouette.

The 2018 Lexus ES range has no space for mediocrity – every vehicle excels and provokes. The petrol ES 250 EX and hybrid ES 300H SE set a standard of excellence with unparalleled levels of sophistication, elegance and performance. The Lexus ES range places all available performance in the driver’s hands for an intimate experience. It is performance that can be heard and felt.

The new Lexus ES has a profile that is impossible to ignore. The striking signature spindle grille is a significant feature, a sculpted form that speaks of inherited architecture and meticulous craftsmanship. It is the embodiment of provocative elegance, of finesse and sophistication.

Every curve builds from the grille. Athletic headlights flow from the spindle grille, emphasising the sleek lines of the three-dimensional front-end while tracing the outline of the lowered roofline.

The Lexus Takumi craftsmen embody the quest for perfection by carefully refining design elements. Boldness is balanced with elegance, and innovative design characteristics are made possible by the new chassis platform that allows the New Generation ES to be longer, wider and more spacious than ever before, but with a sleeker and lower silhouette. The fastback roofline captures the glamour of a coupé and emphasises the low stance, while the interior roominess is all premium sedan.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

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The meticulous attention to detail of the Lexus Takumi craftsmen is evident in every inch of the Lexus ES interior. In a physical manifestation of Omotenashi, the Japanese philosophy of warm hospitality where your every need is anticipated and catered for, the Lexus ES offers a personal comfort zone, an escape from the ordinary.

The ES seduces you with details such as embossed stitching on semi-aniline leather-trimmed* seating and real wood trim*. The door panels flow into the instrument console, creating a sense of spaciousness, and at the same time placing all controls of the navigation*, Multi-information and entertainment systems within your grasp, while all driving related functions, as well as those for communication, are controlled from the leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Define your own personal climate with automatic dual zone climate control. The innovative nanoe air-purifiers cleanse the air and moisturise your skin, which is why stepping out of the new Lexus ES, is just as invigorating as stepping into it.

For further individual comfort, the front seats of all ES models have adjustable lumbar support, with standard heated and ventilated seats.

At Lexus safety is of paramount importance, which is why the new Lexus ES features the most advanced passive and active safety and driver support systems available. This is the most technologically advanced Lexus ES ever, with traditional measures of comfort merged with cutting-edge technology for all-encompassing driving pleasure.

* Available on ES 300H only

Read next: 10 Dynamic Black Entrepreneurs

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3 Things Africa Must Get Right If It Wants To Leapfrog Into The 4th Industrial Revolution

Dr Sharron McPherson, who lectures on the MCom in Development Finance at the UCT Graduate School of Business, is optimistic that the coming technological revolution can benefit Africa – but that education, government buy-in and targeted support of small to medium businesses will play a critical role in determining if the continent sinks or swims.

Dr Sharron McPherson

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“The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Future Proofing are current buzz-phrases in business, but what we are really looking at is the emergence of an entirely new economy,” says Dr Sharron McPherson, who, as co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Disruptive Technologies, “has over 1 000 disruptive techies around the globe on speed dial.”

Disruptive technology, that which is significantly changing the way business operates – a literal game changer – is seen as the spearhead of 4IR and it has people scrabbling for skills that will future-proof their careers and keep them ahead of the game. It’s a topic McPherson tackled, along with the impact of technology on finance, at Finance Indaba Africa, which took place on 3 and 4 October at the Sandton Convention Centre.

“We have to look at technological acceleration and the need to upskill youth as part of a whole,” says McPherson, who has studied the market in depth on behalf of governments and corporations using a substantial team. “Change is happening so fast it is hard for any one person to be an expert.”

McPherson comes as close as anyone to the role of expert in this fast-changing field. A lecturer on the MCom in Development Finance at the UCT Graduate School of Business, she argues that a new economic paradigm is emerging, and it is not driven solely by technology, but by global pressures such as climate change – with its very real implications for food, water and energy security – booming populations and the knock-on demands on land and resources, and rising terrorism, populism and nationalism as systems get stressed and people start saying “us first”.

“What differentiates 4IR from former revolutions is the quantum of change and the convergence of global factors of a magnitude quite unprecedented in human history. It is sobering, and yet I am encouraged by the time I spend with young people and those who are investing in future generations and the future of work,” says McPherson.

Related: A Perfect Storm: Business, Creativity And The 4th Industrial Revolution

Born in the US, McPherson came to South Africa in the mid-90s armed with a doctorate degree in law from Columbia University, New York, to serve as a volunteer in the offices of legendary Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs in Johannesburg. She also has an honours degree in finance from the University of Toulon, France, and a BA Economics from the College of William & Mary.

“I was divorced, a single mom to a six year old, and I volunteered for two years,” she says. “I’d been working on Wall Street on mortgage-backed securitisations and I saw the light! In the mid-90s South Africa was the most exciting place on earth – the youngest constitutional democracy. I got bit by the African bug. It gets into your blood and makes it difficult to leave,” she says with a laugh.

Passionate about the continent, McPherson believes in the power of education to shift the future and wants all young people to have access to a high-quality STEM education (science, technology, engineering and maths) to ready them for 4IR.

“This is an opportunity that needs to be recognised,” she says. “Africa is uniquely positioned to leapfrog into 4IR, but we need make changes so that we can realise that promise. We have a choice to invest in the education of 200 million young Africans – it is a position of promise or peril.”

Unfortunately, as things stand, South Africa is “way down” on the list of the countries that are getting STEM education right. In an effort to democratise access to a STEM education, the Centre for Disruptive Technologies has invested a lot into the development of an artificial intelligence teaching platform that will have intuitive sensitivities when it comes to learner abilities.

But as important as investing in education is, it will not be enough to prepare youth for a world where many will not be able to get a job and will need to create their own work opportunities. The second issue that needs attention therefore, believes McPherson, is entrepreneurship and creating the right start-up ecosystem.

“We need to revisit ideas around enterprise development and how to get it right.”

One of the traps South Africa has created for itself is to bundle micro businesses with small and medium enterprises but these businesses often have vastly different needs – and prospects.

“By pooling these businesses with micro businesses you are limiting results. Small and medium businesses are the real drivers of growth and need to be specifically catered for, with defined objectives around their needs, driven strategies and allocated resources to make sure their potential is maximised. Start-ups and SME are also not the same. We need to understand and appreciated these differences if we want to develop the right ecosystems.”

This brings McPherson to her final point, the essential need for government to assume its role as a key stakeholder. “Everything we have done at the Centre for Disruptive Technologies we have done in collaboration with the private sector because we simply haven’t been able to get traction from government. To really prepare for 4IR we need meaningful private / public partnerships and African solutions,” she says.

Working with such macro challenges is all in day’s work for McPherson, who is also a keen runner, getting up between four and five most mornings to run. She also meditates – “taking time to reconnect with my values and helping me to not sweat the small stuff” – hikes, and speaks seven languages.

“I am a chronic over-achiever,” she says with a laugh. But she deems her highest achievement her daughter’s respect for her work in education and empowering women. “It is really lovely if your kid thinks that what you are doing is hot. That for me is good. I am so encouraged by the young folk who are so tech savvy, take a lot more risk than our generation and have a different compass. Their true north has a much stronger social conscience.

“It gives me hope for the future.”

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Harnessing Value-Based Delivery To Create Customer-Centric Solutions

By embracing a transparent, VBD-driven model, savvy companies can leverage the benefits of increasingly advanced technology, developed in an agile, cost-effective way to better serve customers’ real needs.

Wayne Zwiers

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Today’s business ecosystem is fuelled by the ongoing digital disruption. Now, agile start-ups with progressive methodologies are taking on monolithic companies that find it difficult to pivot and adjust to a highly competitive, customer-first world. For companies to survive and thrive, in their respective industries and sectors, they need to embrace technology and products that serve their markets in new and innovative ways.

With IT spending in South Africa forecast to reach R276.6 billion in 2018, a 4.3% increase from 2017, there is certainly not a lack of will. Arguably, where there is a lack is in understanding what customers really want and need – and thereby delivering a product or service that sticks. To solve this challenge, innovators and technologists are moving to adopt a methodology called ‘Value-Based Delivery.’

This approach is designed to accelerate and streamline the process of developing products and services that truly serve the end user.

Defining Value

To understand how this approach is implemented within the enterprise sphere, it’s important to first define value. Naturally, the value could mean very different things to different individuals and/or companies. By removing any focus on money, it could be argued that the real value of something lies in its capacity to enhance or add meaning to one’s life. This form of value could manifest in various forms, such as saving time, cutting costs or improving one’s day-to-day lifestyle.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

Yet in a world that now defines itself by speed, competition, efficiency and productivity, achieving such value is no small feat. However, if a company can solve this for their customers, chances are the customer will be happy to part with money, time or data in exchange for such widely beneficial solutions. Notably, the total global spend on information technology is projected to rise by 6.2% to $3.7 trillion this year, according to Gartner, the highest annual growth rate that the research firm has forecast since 2007. Executives clearly understand the need for technology – but not always how to reach the right technology solutions that can achieve the value they are seeking.

Today, the real challenge is finding out what that value actually is – in the context of the customer’s unique reality. This is a problem that is made worse by the undeniable fact that many companies don’t even know who their real customer is – let alone what their needs are. And, even if they do, chances are the ‘understanding’ of customer identity is based more on what the brand perceives the right solution to be, and not on what the core customer requirements really are.

Overall, there is a clouded view of what the customer actually represents, and consequently, what the customer truly requires.

Accelerating Development

To get around this very common, and very persistent challenge, it is imperative to launch technology solutions as quickly as possible with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This enables the developer to quickly obtain key user feedback, and to thereby ascertain whether the solution actually added value, or not. This proactive approach forms the essence of Value-Based Delivery (VBD).

Importantly, the VBD ethos enables a small team of highly skilled developers and technologists to deliver defined customer-valued products in a Rapid Time to Market.

It avoids wasting time and resources on solutions that don’t fit the problem, or that don’t fit in with the overall company culture and design. Indeed, it is estimated that 35% of all software-developed solutions are rarely, if ever, successfully implemented in the enterprise.

Related: Dealing with Difficult Customers

Embracing Agility & Transparency

While there is growing awareness amongst C-suite executives of the need to invest in world-leading technology, there continues to be a sharp disconnect when it comes to how – and why – certain solutions are developed. For example, even within companies, depending on their levels/roles, people have a different perception of value when looking at solutions or working with partners. Questions such as ‘how much time did we spend developing this?’; ‘what were the costs involved?’; and ‘what were the associated timelines?’ all reveal the varying expectations and perceptions of value.

To get around this, both business leaders and technology innovators must work to ensure that the process is fully transparent, with timelines and deliverables agreed upon from the beginning. Also, both partners must work to ensure that there is understanding of the technology itself, and how the end solution will be implemented. By embracing a transparent, VBD-driven model, savvy companies can leverage the benefits of increasingly advanced technology, developed in an agile, cost-effective way to better serve customers’ real needs.

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