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The Rise Of Digital In Shaping Business Terrains

There is pressure for businesses to become agile with many being pushed to innovate rapidly, and those that fail to adapt being blind-sided and left scrambling to survive.

ACCA

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The rise of digital is influencing the direction and conduct of business, large and small. It is challenging how entrepreneurs and their advisors, including finance professionals, produce and consume data.

The shift towards digital is transforming channels to market, customer preferences are shifting, product and service lifecycle is shortening and competition is merging from unexpected sources.

There is pressure for businesses to become agile with many being pushed to innovate rapidly, and those that fail to adapt being blind-sided and left scrambling to survive.

This changing business landscape is exerting pressure on CFOs and finance professionals to capture, measure, report and predict future performance in real time to support better decision making and business growth.

Related: Africa Rising: Contemporary Culture Revolution Presents Huge Digital Opportunities

It means capturing data at a granular level, processing massive amounts at the same time and visualising them to decision makers in real time through dashboards. This demands a massive shift in the CFO role to be a strategist, technologist and influencer.

ACCA has been championing research to understand the impact of digital on businesses, how emerging technologies are reshaping the economy and the impact on the finance profession. Research has identified the need to ensure that the shift towards digital is implemented as part of a broader transformation journey with clarity on how customer value is created, and how that is likely to change in the future.

Analytics, cloud, collaboration and robotics process automation (RPA) have been identified as the four pillars driving the rise of digital and bringing significant changes to how business is conducted, and will be conducted in the future.

Analytics is being spurred by the huge volumes of data generated inside and outside the organisation which is making it possible to inform evidence-based decision making.

Both businesses and consumers are generating tremendous amount of data that is easily accessible, whether free or paid, and capable of being analysed to extract insight. The rise of new technologies has made it possible to analyse huge volumes of data of all shapes and sizes including text, numbers, pictures etc in real time.

It’s making it possible for businesses to track sophisticated but useful key performance indicators. It is challenging the CFOs to understand the drivers of value, track performance and influence decisions.

A huge enabler of the shift towards digital has been the emergence of the cloud and the plethora of online applications accessible from anywhere in the world. The cloud has made it possible for small business to play in the big league without having to make the huge upfront capital investment normally associated with legacy systems. Cloud has made it possible for any business to have access to the very latest technology whether it is developed in Silicon Valley or Cape Town.

It has also transformed costs that were traditionally considered fixed into variable costs because of the revenue models of cloud based solutions. It has removed technology as a barrier to entry, creating competition and new possibilities. Business is driven by technological wave to think differently about business models, pricing and how to deal with competition.

The emerge of powerful online collaboration tools and applications, supported by improved access to broadband, has revolutionised how teams work together and made the gig economy a viable option.

Teams do not need to be housed in the same physical location to work together thereby lowering costs such as office rental and making access to skilled professionals more accessible and affordable.

Businesses can collaborate with advisors, such as accountants, online reducing consulting costs without comprising access to professional advice. On the other hand, professionals can service a lot more clients from the comfort of their office eliminating the need to frequently travel to client premises.

An emerging trend across the globe is the emergence of robotic process automation (RPA) to reduce process costs, increase control and standardisation.

While there may be moral questions around robots taking away jobs from humans in an economy with rising unemployment, the adoption of RPA can allow businesses to upscale rapidly and service more clients with the same number of resources.

While the financial services industry have taken the lead in the South African market, there is space for many industries and businesses of all sizes to adopt RPA.

Related: How To Thrive In The Face Of Digital Darwinism And Technology

The expected decline in technology costs will most likely make the cost benefit analysis tip in favour of RPA. It will challenge the world of business to streamline and standardise business processes and up skill staff.

Recent research indicates that even employees of SMEs and entrepreneurs see some good opportunities for innovation through technology. Whilst decision makers in the companies agree that technology will enable accounting and finance professionals to focus on higher value added activity.

The move towards digital raises the obvious questions around cyber-security and data protection especially customers and employees’ private information. Performing appropriate due diligence on potential partners, either for cloud or on-site options, is key as the consequences of a security breach could be fatal.  A recent example South African example is the breach of 30 million records containing sensitive information such as ID numbers‚ names physical addresses and property ownership details.

Businesses need a resilient cyber strategy to thwart and contain possible threats.

The rise of digital is here and the impact on businesses and the finance professionals will continue. What is certain that those who want to survive and remain relevant will have to adapt, fast.

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

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South Africa Seeks Innovative Solutions to Payments Systems

How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.

Harald Merckel

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News has been circulating that high-level players in South Africa are working hard to introduce structural changes in payments solutions. Some of the biggest players in the industry, including the Payments Association of South Africa, and BankservAfrica have begun work in earnest on facilitating expedited transactions settlements, by adding new payments systems and features into the market.

Financial technology, a.k.a. FinTech is powering the payments gateway to cost-effective solutions for South African businesses, consumers, domestic and international stakeholders. According to industry pundits, the payment system that currently exists in South Africa was formulated in the 1980s. At the time, it was highly regarded by world standards. However, the rampant innovation that has taken place with the Internet of things since then necessitates updating.

Various solutions have been touted, to rethink the infrastructure framework that currently exists in South Africa. The economy is rapidly changing, and mobile technology is being embraced across the board. The South African payments system is long overdue for an upgrade, as shifting priorities and the widespread digitisation of the economy take place. For starters, payments solutions across South Africa must factor in the large underbanked and unbanked sectors of society.

Related: 6 Lessons The Founders Of iKhokha Used To Launch An African Fintech Start-up

A key industry player, Bankserv which is owned and operated by Standard Bank, ABSA, and Nedbank among others is ringing the changes. Back in 2017, this financial entity processed R188.2 billion worth of ATM transactions. The total number of transactions numbered 452.6 million additionally. It processed 52.5 billion POS transactions valued at R290.9 billion in credit card authorizations in the same year. Electronic funds transfers (EFTs) to the value of R9.4 trillion were also processed by Bankserv. These are significant figures, and they point to a shift in financial transactions processing in South Africa.

Groundbreaking POS Systems to Debut in SA

The widespread innovation currently taking place in POS systems is reshaping retail industry, the food and beverage service, and other merchant networks across the board. One of the industry leaders in this regard is revel systems POS. It is fully integrated with a robust selection of features, the likes of which include superior reporting features, full kiosk functionality, and a modern kitchen display system for the thriving restaurant industry in South Africa. The technology was created back in 2010 by Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone as an innovative Apple iPad point-of-sale system. It was tested in the San Francisco Bay Area and became an instant hit.

Today, the Revel POS system sports 25,000+ terminals around the world, at high profile company such as Cinnabon, Goodwill, Smoothie King and others. South African restaurants and food industry businesses can enjoy monthly subscription fees, and the software license is included in the monthly subscription fee. Flexible pricing is another advantage of using this POS system. Plus, users get to enjoy industry-specific software and integrations that can be used by quick service businesses and restaurants.

It’s ideally suited to businesses that have 500,000 SKUs, although it’s equally adept at serving smaller SA businesses. In terms of ease-of-use, this POS is intuitive for front-end use, and training videos facilitate backend learning and integration. The backend management is particularly effective in terms of training regimens, navigation, and utilisation. All that’s required to get started is an Apple iOS device, and any standard barcode scanner is fully compatible with the system.

Related: How Fintech Zoona Is Solving Customers’ Real Problems

Among the many features include the following:

  • Fully Functional point-of-sale systems
  • Real-Time Inventory control of SKUs, including cost considerations, pricing, inventory, size, colour, style etc. Digital menu boards, kitchen display systems, and kiosk point-of-sale systems are also available
  • Purchase Order Management and QuickBooks integration
  • Customer Management in terms of purchases, details and personal data is also available.

What Are the Current FinTech Challenges in South Africa?

Contrary to widespread belief, South Africa has one of the most sophisticated payments infrastructures. This is certainly a feather in the cap for South Africa’s financial and FinTech sector. Given that Internet usage is widespread, and the telecom network that facilitates Internet functionality is highly developed, South Africa ranks on par with the best of them.

There are effectively 2 parallel economies operating in South Africa – the first world developed FinTech economy, and the informal economy which dominates the outlying areas. South Africa has a challenge on its hands: How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.

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Company Posts

Investing In Value Creation Tools Can Help Your Business Grow

ACCA on attracting new clients, establishing and strengthening commercial partnerships and accessing external finance to help your business expand.

ACCA

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The business journey of many SMEs is often characterised by a gradual change in internal management practices which develop as the business operations grow. The subsequent recognition of the business’s value creation, across all its operations – tends to emerge slowly but surely alongside this process.

Gaining an understanding of ongoing value creation can be challenging. This is because smaller companies tend to not have access to simple and understandable data sets on everything, which is and isn’t contributing to value across the business.

For example, customer and supplier relationships, human capital and intellectual property are all common examples of activities where SMEs regularly experience difficulties in determining the real contribution to the businesses’ overall value. These are areas that are not picked up by financial reports that are a focal point of many growing businesses, hence the importance of these areas in business is not given the proper attention it deserves.

Related: Achieving Business Success: How Walter Muwandi Gained The Edge

However, by improving trust and relationships between customers and those along your supply chain, this information can be used to attract new clients, establish and strengthen commercial partnerships and access external finance to help your business expand.

Key actions to consider when capturing the value within your business include the following:

  1. Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth;
  2. Create a business strategy which incorporates everything;
  3. Allow staff to use new technologies to innovate; and
  4. Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance.

These actions will help you succeed in developing a successful business strategy.

Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth

Purchasing relevant software packages could help you access the data you need to understand where and when value is being created. Cloud and data analytics technology can provide a real-time flow of information, offering detailed measures across workflows, whilst also complementing existing reporting processes.

More long term, this technology can provide you with greater flexibility when anticipating future periods of growth.

For example, when the time comes to up-scale your business operations, it could help your finance function adapt more easily to any additional demands being placed upon it and mitigate the risk of disruption towards ongoing operations.

At the same time investing in this technology doesn’t have to happen overnight. Software packages can be purchased in stages and tailored to meet the specific needs of your business.

Create a business strategy which incorporates everything

Business success will often be determined by how effectively you can combine the value of ongoing operations into the development of a single, overarching business strategy. Understanding of the key strategic themes by employees is critical in aiding future business expansion plans and growth. This integration can support planning processes.

By taking a short, medium and long-term view on how value creation might change across the business, you will be in a much better place to identify upcoming risks and opportunities related to your growth ambitions.

The practical delivery of this might involve regular integrated reporting across your business’s operations. The more data that is involved in this process, the more helpful it will be towards informing your management decisions.

Allow work teams to use new technologies to innovate

Companies might also want to consider supporting work teams in certain areas to come up with new ideas to enhance plans for business growth and learn from possible failures, without the personal risks that entrepreneurship entails.

Allowing employees to use new technologies could help to reduce costs and offer new revenue opportunities as your business expands. It could also help to stimulate a high growth business and to fully communicate business’s value to potential clients and commercial partners.

Related: The Rise Of Digital In Shaping Business Terrains

Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance

Investing in technology at an early stage can help attract external investors, as well as reducing the cost of raising growth finance. Such investors need to be able to understand the broader strategy of your business.

Lenders are increasingly using data to build up a broad perspective on the growth potential of SMEs. If you can provide real-time information – rather than just historical data – of your business’s performance, this could greatly increase the chances of obtaining the finance you need to grow.

However, there remains a gap and potential to co-create new approaches of raising capital amongst growing businesses and in creating agreed terms of sharing risks. This could bolster the advancement of entrepreneurial houses toward creating real economic equity in long term.

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Accounting & Payroll

Save Your SME Money With A Good Payroll Management System

Not only does an efficient payroll system enhance staff morale and boosts your reputation, it can also save your business significant costs.

Sage

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Payroll solutions are designed to help hone the strategic focus of your business’ HR department, by shifting HR and payroll managers’ from paperwork to developing and motivating employees.

“The biggest potential saving comes from full compliance with tax and labour laws and regulations,” says Ania Strydom, Compliance Specialist at Sage. “Avoiding the massive costs of fines, interest and penalties that a company risks if it doesn’t comply.”

Here are her tips for conducting payroll, saving money on a good system, and pitfalls to avoid that most SMEs don’t see coming:

Choosing a viable payroll management solution

  • Look for a scalable product that can grow alongside the business
  • Find a solution with full local support that is kept up to date with relevant labour and tax laws for the markets where the business operates
  • Make sure the vendor has a proven track record and local reference sites
  • Ensure that the solution is built on flexible modern technology that accommodates today’s trends — mobility and the cloud, for example
  • Consider a solution with integrated employee self-service functionality.

Related: Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

Vital considerations when conducting payroll

  • Ensure that the payroll department consists of people with a good knowledge of payroll and the required skills set to ensure success and compliance with payroll
  • Instil a payroll environment that does not need regular review
  • Conduct regular payroll compliance audits to ensure compliance minimises the risk of exposure.

How a good payroll management system actually save you money

  • Using automated payroll software with employee self-service functions can help organisations save time as it diminishes the need for manual data capture, calculations, reporting or returns
  • Rest easy knowing that automation reduces the possibility of human error, allowing businesses to focus on strategy, customers, and employee engagement rather than on red tape
  • Payroll can help businesses understand how employees are contributing to profitability, what resources are needed, the cost for major projects, and identifying gaps or surpluses in their human capacity
  • The risks of payroll fraud and incorrect payments are reduced by giving managers better visibility into transactions, providing an audit trail, and providing a set of controls, checks and balances
  • The biggest potential saving comes from full compliance with tax and labour laws and regulations – avoiding the massive costs of fines, interest and penalties that a company risks if it doesn’t comply.

Related: SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Avoid payroll errors SMEs typically make

  • The use of manual solutions due to tight budgets. They should instead, look at affordable, cloud-based solutions that are priced per payslip per month instead
  • Failing to enforce separation of duties. Different people should have responsibility for capturing payroll data and for managing access to the system as well as adding and removing employees from the payroll. Another person checking that the numbers add up could reduce risks of fraud and error
  • Not keeping abreast of changes to tax and labour laws such as the Employment Tax Incentive.

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