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SA’s Virtualisation Challenges

Virtualisation and cloud based communications – a question of how, not why.

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Cloud based communication systems are steadily gaining traction in the South African market, in spite of bandwidth challenges. “This evolution reflects a reality taking shape across the global economy – namely, that the business case behind cloud based systems is extremely strong, no matter where you are doing business,” says Elingo CEO, Ian Goss-Ross.

While bandwidth will remain a frustrating complication for local organisations for some time, it doesn’t confine in a fundamental way the cloud business case.

Fast deployment

When people talk about ‘the cloud’, virtualisation technology plays a major role and is deployed as part of a private cloud, public cloud, or in some hybrid form.  “Virtualisation allows for fast deployment of new services thanks to inherent scalability and enhanced data security, whereby tenants can be segmented easily and customer data contained within their own unique environment.

“At a strategic level, consolidation and virtualisation allows a company to take control of the very challenging and highly fragmented customer communication interfaces. In a world where communication platforms and methods morph daily, the ability to adapt along with customers is crucial for brands seeking to maintain competitive advantage on the customer service and relationship front,” says Goss-Ross.

“It’s important to note, however, that virtualisation can be a capital intensive process. Moving to a cloud-based communication structure requires budget, along with significant planning ability.

“To cite just one example, in order for virtualisation to be beneficial, servers with a great deal of memory are required, in the form of RAM as well as advanced Storage Array Network technology. Not only is a great deal of storage required, but fast access to this storage is mission critical for certain real-time or near real-time applications. Then the Applications that go hand in hand with the technology (such as fail safe back up Apps, snapshots and recovery point functions) are equally important, and costly.”

Lower operational costs 

The recovery of the capital outlay is certain – businesses across the world have proved this decisively as they take advantage of the cloud to achieve strong growth and lower operational costs. Simply put, leveraging the cloud as an operational platform significantly improves the notoriously tricky interplay between business strategy and the capabilities of the IT department.

“As decision makers move toward the cloud, the key factor to consider is flexibility. Given the capital outlay and the logistical effort involved in the move, it’s essential that if the company decides at a later date to move certain services back into its own environment, it is able to do that. Things change over time, technologies evolve, and so do customer behaviour patterns. Organisations need to be able to control their own destiny at all times, and shape their technologies accordingly,” says Goss-Ross.

“Custom developed cloud solutions are frequently proprietary, and in this kind of technology context it is very hard to change and re-shape the system. Conversely, systems that are open and modular in their design have been purposefully developed to allow for a variable future. With the right technology you can take an image of the existing cloud-based system and deploy certain elements within your local environment quickly and easily. Likewise, that deployment can be fully or partially reversed when the time is right.”

According to Goss-Ross, South African companies have to consider a wide range of cloud options, and in many cases still need to fully develop their understanding of what the full range of choices actually offers.

“Smaller companies are likely to use so-called Public Cloud Applications, while larger players often feel they need more control over access to data and security, and consequently deploy private cloud systems. And then there is the hybrid cloud model, which typically only utilises certain cloud services, such as email management and mail archiving,” he adds.

“Regardless, the time has certainly come for South African businesses of all shapes and sizes to take stock of what their future communications structure could and should look like. The first step, as always, is carrying out a full audit of the status quo.

“There is no other way to move forward than to define exactly where you are currently situated. Even for established companies with extensive IT departments, this can be a daunting process. Companies should start with a consolidation process before being able to take advantage of cloud and virtualisation technologies, which is all the more reason to get moving now.”

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Win R80 000 In Cash For Your Biz

Running your own business? Want to run your own business? Either way, ENGEN Pitch & Polish is the platform you need to launch you on the path to success!

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Now in its ninth year, ENGEN Pitch & Polish is a national entrepreneurial workshop and competition that – so far – has helped around 10 000 entrepreneurs improve the way they pitch their businesses to potential investors. A perfectly polished pitch is key to growing and succeeding in business! Magic always happens when investors hear a well-rounded pitch, as seen at the 2017 final where the winner was offered R2.5 million in potential funding.

This year’s programme is hosted in partnership with Engen Petroleum Ltd, Nedbank and Raizcorp, with the Johannesburg workshop taking place on Saturday 13 October. You can register to attend as a delegate or – if you feel you have what it takes – you can complete an online entry form to be considered as a contestant.

During one exhilarating, exciting and fun free day, participants undergo comprehensive and interactive entrepreneurial training on how to pitch like a pro! The session is facilitated by Justin Cohen, best-selling author, international speaker and TV talk-show host.

After the training session, the pre-selected contestants can pitch their ideas or businesses to the whole audience. This is where things get really interesting, with both the facilitator and the audience providing feedback on how pitches can be improved.

Book now to ensure your place in Johannesburg on Saturday 13 October. SMS “Pitch” to 43719 (SMSs charged at 50c) or visit www.pitchandpolish.com to complete an entry form.

Related: 3 Components Of The Perfect Elevator Pitch

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Engen Helps Tackle Unemployment Through Learnership Programme

In an attempt to address skills shortages in SA, Engen has trained over 500 artisans and professional drivers. Engen encourages all interested parties to apply and send their CV’s to check for available positions.

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In response to increasing unemployment rates in South Africa, Engen are running various campaigns to recruit candidates for learnerships, which are based on business and industry needs. To date, Engen has trained over 500 artisans and professional drivers, who are now licensed to trade in various fields.

Engen invites interested people to email their CV’s to Learnerships@engenoil.com and to check for available learnership opportunities on the company web site.

South Africa has an unemployment rate of approximately 27%, yet at the same time, the country has a shortage of suitably qualified people. In an effort to help address this anomaly, Engen offers a variety of learnerships in technical fields to help educate and upskill school leavers and unemployed youth.

A learnership is a work-based learning programme where classroom studies at a college or training centre are combined with practical on-the-job experience. Research shows that we learn far better, when we practice what we have been taught in the classroom in a real workplace environment.

Engen aligns its learnership recruitment to its business needs. Those who complete their learnerships are often employed by the company or within the broader petroleum industry.

“In this way, the introduction of learnerships is making a good contribution towards solving the skills shortage in the industry,” says Mmalenyalo Galane, Skills Development Facilitator at Engen.

“By physically performing tasks in the workplace that are learned in the classroom, you canput into action what you have learned and also what you did not understand. This allows youto ask the trainer to explain that part of the lesson again until you fully understand it.”

Related: How To Start Your Own Artisan Business

Galane says the learnerships offered by Engen form part of a nationally recognised qualification and are directly linked to an occupation.

“A learnership does not only teach skills for a particular job when you complete your training, it also forms part of a higher qualification towards which you can study by undertaking other learnerships or short courses.”

Adds Galane: “Each learnership has a specific level of qualification. For example, if you want to become an artisan, you must complete four separate learnerships (levels 1, 2, 3 & 4). There is no set period to do this, as each level counts towards the full qualification.”

Engen offers learnerships in Chemical Operations, Professional Driving, and Production Technology, as well as various trade occupation apprenticeships such as diesel mechanic, fitter and turner, instruments and electrical.

The 12-month learnerships offered by Engen pays a monthly stipend to successful candidates. Engen is also passionate about the development of people with disabilities, says Engen’s head of Human Resources, Chwayita Mareka, and has partnered with an N.P.O. in Cape Town for learnerships specifically designed for people with disabilities.

In addition to the learnership programme, Engen also funds bursaries for students studying Engineering and Finance-related degrees, with the aim of creating a pipeline of talent for the Engen Graduate Development Programme.

“In all these ways, Engen is surely doing its part in helping reduce the country’s high unemployment rate by developing the unemployed Youth and further upskilling them on the job,” says Mareka.

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4-Sure – The Cutting-Edge Insurance Platform That Is Revolutionising The World Of Insurance Claims

A multi-sided, digitally-driven business platform that has been wholly-developed and launched in South Africa is ‘uberising’ the local short-term insurance industry by transforming the traditional claim fulfilment landscape.

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Developed locally by Insuretech sensation 4-Sure and headed up by actuary-turned-entrepreneur Shalen Moodley, the 4-Sure platform seamlessly connects the claims ecosystem consisting of the customer, broker, insurer, service providers and suppliers and manages all complex interactions and sequencing required to deliver superb customer experience, optimal claim cost and fast turnaround times.

“The new system, which eliminates virtually all the manual processes and “waste work” involved in dealing with a claim, also provides enhanced opportunities for small businesses to compete for insurance claim work traditionally only available to a select few. Simultaneously, it reduces the fraud risks associated with the manual allocation of claims, and reduces costs across the board”, says Moodley.

“There are several weaknesses inherent in the traditional insurance panel and the outsourced claims fulfilment models”, says Moodley. Relationships between the insurer’s agent and supplier base can result in some contractors being favoured above others. The payment of “incentives” by service providers as a reward for getting work can also skew the allocation process and drive massive cost inflations. Furthermore, costs can vary for similar jobs and the use of assessors for approval of routine jobs results in time delays and increased administration costs.”

“Most seriously for most insurers, is that one-on-one contact with the customer is lost during the claim fulfilment process – they are disintermediated. Often, the result is dissatisfaction on the part of the customer, disrupted processes, unnecessary delays and often the possibility of an unhappy customer withdrawing their insurance and other investments with the associated brands of the insurer.

Related: I would like to start an insurance business. What are the basic guidelines?

After extensive discussions with the industry regarding problems faced with settling claims, 4-Sure concluded that reformation of the system should be based on shorter, effective communication structures, the ‘democratisation’ of the panel system and the strategic use of technology to improve process efficiencies and, most importantly, customer satisfaction levels.

The answer was the building of an entire digital ecosystem based on the use of sophisticated regressive algorithms that made the ‘Circle of Service’ between insurer and claimant transparent and frictionless. Creating an extensive database, making software available to service providers and connecting suppliers of raw materials as well as early payment mechanisms completed the service circle. As well as speeding up claim response times, the process was also efficient and fundamentally more effective.

Taking inspiration from successful platform businesses around the world, the insurance platform includes a vastly increased list of vetted and rated service providers. In order to warrant superior service levels and build customer trust, becoming listed requires that several stringent criteria and checks are met by service providers. When a claim is registered – including the time when the customer requires assistance – it drops into the platform. Appropriate service providers listed can then respond and confirm their availability. They are then required to be on site at the time stipulated by the customer, undertake the work and then complete a Mobile App-driven reporting process for the insurer’s records (including before and after photographs, assessments and costings).

To participate in the platform a service provider must have a smartphone and the software, provided free by 4-Sure. Part of the package includes a service provider ‘scheduler’s’ desktop package that enables job scheduling, field technician allocation and all the information relating to the job to be collated and electronically submitted for payment to the insurer.  ‘

“For a sole trader or SME, one of the greatest challenges to building a sustainable business is controlling cash flow. Service providers on 4-Sure do not have to carry an extensive array of raw materials or cash to fulfil allocated insurance claims work. Once they are on site, have assessed the repair work and had it rapidly approved, the service provider is able to visit a 4-Sure-approved partner supplier (Builder’s Warehouse, Penny Pinchers, Buco, Plumblink and others) and pick up the required stock.

“They are using their 4-Sure Mobile App to get the necessary materials and the outlet then bills the insurance company concerned directly through the 4-Sure software for the expenditure. Because of the volumes involved, we have been able to negotiate favourable prices for these services which are now on offer at more than 400 service points across the country.  The service provider bills only for the time and labour spent on the job at the agreed rates. Their bills are then submitted using the 4-Sure software, go directly to the insurer and are generally settled within 24-48 hours.”

“As smaller operators are no longer waiting between 30 and 60 days for their money, they are very happy to complete routine jobs for a set fee.  Depending on the service they deliver and the customer ratings they receive, they are in control of just how much work comes their way.  As a job is loaded on the system and service providers then bid for the work, competition is assured and opportunities for work are equal across the spectrum of service providers – a new paradigm which rewards performance with more work and consequence-manages the non-performers off the platform.”

Related: Insurance Company Sample Business Plan

Further value is added to service providers by free access to geo-positioning systems, which not only plots their way to their closest parts supplier but also to the customer’s property.  Jobs that appear on their systems also cover the areas in which they choose to operate. Those closest to the customer can make their presence known and compete for the work. Those who feel the costs of reaching the site do not make a job worthwhile simply do not accept the job alert and wait for the next job to come along,” says Moodley.

For insurers, who can track the response times of service providers in real-time and contact them electronically if they are late on site, the major benefit is that the loss of customer contact at the point of handing over a claim to the traditional incident manager no longer exists.

Explains Moodley, co-founder of 4-Sure and one of the innovators behind the home-grown platform that caters specifically for local needs and is believed to be the leading services of its type anywhere in the world:

“4-Sure has succeeded in becoming the first, fully-digital insurance claims platform to provide a truly customer-centric experience. The system is flexible and although the present focus is on non-motor claims, other avenues, including motor insurance and non-insurance opportunities are being investigated and developed,” says Moodley.’

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