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Top 10 Business Continuity Issues for 2012

What should businesses be worried about in 2012? And how can they overcome these risks?

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On 12 December 2012, the current cycle will come to an end—according to the Mayan long count way of reckoning time, that is. Opinion is divided on what this will portend. Spiritual enlightenment ? Or apocalypse?

Doomsday scenarios aside, just what are the risks that companies and their boards should be factoring into their planning for 2012?

“In 2011, we felt a certain cautious optimism based on the fact that the recession seemed to be nearing its end,” says Michael Davies, managing director of ContinuitySA, Africa’s leading provider of business continuity and disaster recovery. “However, that now appears to have been optimistic.

The global economy is not recovering as quickly as hoped and our currency continues to be volatile—in fact, on balance, we think that the risks of social and political turmoil have actually increased. The danger is that hard-pressed companies may be tempted to cut spending on business continuity. However, given the risks and the new Companies Act, that’s exactly what they should not do.

“The good news is that the rapid maturation of business continuity hosting is making a much more sophisticated offering available. By tapping into the infrastructure-as-a-service model, companies can now begin to turn business continuity capacity from a dormant asset to one that generates value for the IT environment.”

Davies and his team at ContinuitySA have identified what they believe are the top-10 issues facing business in 2012 that are likely to impact on business continuity strategies.

1. Socio-economic challenges ratchet up a notch

Last year, it seemed as though we might be coming out the recession, but now the talk is all about the dreaded double dip. Economic hardship is exacerbating social and political tensions, especially as retrenchments swell the hordes of unemployed. Too many people without work or the prospect of it places a huge burden on the state, provides the climate for crime and is likely to fuel tension between the haves and the have-nots.

2. Government performance and service delivery still lag behind expectation

Ongoing service delivery and corruption issues have continued to fuel widespread social unrest. Some commentators are even talking about popular uprisings comparable to those that occurred earlier in the year in North Africa. Instability in the ruling party continues to unsettle political and social life, and this will only get worse as the ANC’s leadership conference approaches. Meanwhile—no doubt fuelled in part by the economic problems mentioned above—strikes and social protests seem to be getting more prevalent.

For business, one direct consequence is frequent work stoppages, with staff actually finding it hard to get to their places of work.

“It seems that South Africa is coming to a crossroads again, faced with the choice between the high and low roads,” says Davies. “We have to have confidence that our leadership will make the right choices but, meanwhile, prudence demands a renewed focus on safety measures, including proper business continuity plans.”

3. National infrastructure remains weak—and the middle class is feeling the pinch

While Eskom contrived to come through a very cold winter with relatively few blackouts, concern remains high as summer is the time for planned maintenance. Another concern is the availability of skills to maintain the aging infrastructure at Koeberg, and to operate planned new nuclear power facilities. On the positive side, recent moves to introduce independent power generation and green power into the South African energy market are welcome.

That said, there are worrying reports that lack of additional energy capacity at present is affecting the ability of some data centres to expand.

Other infrastructural challenges include the new toll roads around Gauteng and the new national health insurance system. While both are desirable, they are placing additional financial burdens on the middle class—i.e. the small tax base on which everything rests. Is the middle class coming close to feeling as squeezed as the poor and unemployed and, if so, how will it make its distress known?

4. Water remains a concern

Water security remains a problem in this country, exacerbated by the pollution of our existing water stocks.

Although the government finally woke up to the problem of acid mine drainage and made R400 million available, media reports indicate that little action has actually occurred. If substantial progress is not made in finding a solution, the acid water is expected to begin decanting into the Johannesburg basin in March 2012—it is already decanting on the West Rand. Companies with IT equipment in basements need to remain on high alert.

5. Worsening business climate

The risks mentioned elsewhere will continue to weigh on risk-averse foreign investors, while the volatility of the rand will encourage destabilising capital movements. The socio-political challenges we have mentioned are also taking their toll on the outlook of local business. With the business confidence index declining, investment in equipment and people will be curtailed at a time when they are more necessary than ever. Militant unions and demands for increases that are significantly above inflation are further worsening the business outlook.

With revenues under pressure, many companies will be tempted to skimp on business continuity but this approach is short-sighted.

6. Regulatory burdens and responsibilities increase

Promulgated during 2011, the new Companies Act has made the directors of companies personally liable for the outcome of their decisions. The legislation is new and untested, making compliance even more risky than it might otherwise have been.

In combination with the recommendations of the King Commission, the new act has made risk management a much more important item on the board agenda—and this includes IT risk.

Boards are increasingly accountable to all stakeholders rather than just shareholders. In this regard, environmental issues are becoming more prominent, which may add impetus to the move towards cloud computing, which has the effect of greening the IT department.

7. The sting in the supply chain tail

Recent natural disasters like the volcanic eruption in Iceland and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have emphasised the flipside of global interconnectedness. In order to ensure business continuity, companies must increasingly consider their entire supply chains. Adequate consulting around the business continuity threats originating outside of the organization is imperative.

8. Cloud computing blurs vision

As predicted, 2011 saw considerable movement in cloud computing. While it’s clear that cloud computing has real benefits, non-specialist public cloud offerings should not be confused with specialist business continuity, which is also making use of cloud-based approaches.

“The need to have absolute quality assurance and security in terms of your business continuity remains, especially in light of boards’ enhanced accountability,” Davies notes. “On the other hand, the greater availability of bandwidth and improvements in technology are changing the model.”

9. Mobility is creating huge new data risks

The growing range of smart mobile devices, and the explosion in useful applications, has made mobility a fact of life. At the same time, there is growing awareness of the value of a company’s data, hence the emergence of “data as a platform”. Securing and backing up the corporate data on mobile devices usually owned by employees rather than companies is raising CIOs’ temperatures worldwide.

10. Business continuity is still not integrated into corporate strategy

Given the scale and magnitude of the challenges business faces, the danger remains that business continuity is marginalised and siloed. In many instances, financial pressures are causing companies to cut back on business continuity. For example, banks which have retrenched large numbers of people now have excess office space which they tend to use to provide their own workplace recovery—and this may lead to a business continuity solution that is less than optimal.

A related issue is that the long-term viability of smaller business continuity providers is looking less certain in this climate. We think this will prompt a “flight to quality” in many cases.

As indicated above, the emergence of new opportunities to remodel business continuity using a private cloud approach is a game-changer, offering cost savings, a much more effective product and the opportunity to get a return on your business continuity investment.

“The outlook is less optimistic than it was 12 months ago, and the ANC’s leadership conference during 2012 will unfortunately distract government’s attention from its real job. On the positive side, companies that understand the risks can plan accordingly—and troubled times also create tremendous opportunity for those with their wits about them,” concludes Davies.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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Team Resolutions: 11 Tips To Uncover Passion And Potential In New Hires

If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires.

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If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires says Michelle Seko, Talent Acquisition Manger at Sage Africa & Middle East.

The importance of a good candidate experience cannot be underestimated. Research has shown that 88% of job applicants are more likely to buy from a company if they’ve had a positive experience when applying for work there. Research has also shown that candidates talk about their experiences with a company, regardless of whether they got the job. Some candidates would even refer a friend to the company and others will re-apply for a future role, if the experience was a good one.

Research also found that:

Related: Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People

Win-win

Businesses enter into a relationship with a new hire the moment they sign on the dotted line. And, as with any relationship, it will only flourish if built on trust, respect and a commitment to self-improvement.

When you set new hires up for personal success, the outcomes naturally feed into your business’ success, which means you both win.

Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your new hires:

Make them feel welcome

Introduce them to the people they’ll be working with as soon as possible so that they immediately feel part of a team. At Sage, we partner new hires with a buddy, or Sage Ambassador, who helps them settle in and meet new people, contributing to the positive on-boarding experience.

Focus on the benefits

Compelling benefits not only attract the best candidates but also boost loyalty and job satisfaction. People are motivated by different things: one person might value flexi-time while another could place more importance on growth opportunities or bonuses. Focus on the benefits that align with the individual’s values when onboarding.

Set goals early and outline a plan to achieve them

This keeps your team focused, especially if they will be rewarded for achieving their goals.

Assess performance

Monthly, at least. Adjust goals and plans where necessary, reward good performance, introduce new challenges and deal with issues promptly.

Show genuine interest

Regular catch-ups and remembering children’s names, for instance, makes people feel appreciated.

Empower them

Let your new hires apply their knowledge to business challenges and offer training opportunities outside of their comfort zones. Reward ideas that help you do things better and faster.

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

Encourage collaboration

People thrive when they can learn from others and when they can share their knowledge. Involve experienced team members in the new hire’s training. This is a great way to recognise and appreciate their loyalty and skills.

Be transparent

Do you have difficult clients? Will the new hire have to work overtime? What are the business’s goals? New hires should know what they’re getting into.

Provide solid training on everything from company culture and benefits, to opportunities for growth

The biggest cost associated with training people is the time it takes for them to become productive. But rushing through on-the-job training could lead to a host of other problems, including repeated mistakes and a lack of confidence.

Openly communicate any changes in the business

Manage your team’s expectations and be clear about yours. Allow new hires to question and understand how you do things and to point out errors – their past experience probably gave them new ideas and ways of working that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity.

Be upbeat

Your mood sets the tone for everyone else. You can have the best product in the world but unless your team is passionate and enthusiastic about that product, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

Keeping people motivated and productive is hard work

But if you provide them with the tools, knowledge and support to do their best work and to contribute their best ideas, motivation and productivity will come naturally.

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