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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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Celebrating The Best Of The Best In Black Business

The 2019 Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards, held at Emperor’s Palace on Friday, 15 March 2019, celebrated the champions of transformation of the South African economy.

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Established in 2002, the BBQ Awards 2019 honoured the best of the best in black business. South Africa’s top black business owners and rising stars arrived to the red carpet for a night full of glitz and glamour. Celebrity TV presenter, socialite, radio personality and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo led the festivities as the evening’s programme director. He was joined on stage by A-list celebrities and prominent politicians.

Jeff Radebe, Minister of the Department of Energy, celebrated 25 years of South Africa’s democracy in his opening keynote address and emphasised the importance of transformation.

“Transformation is well recognised as a change management strategy, which aligns people, which aligns processes and technology initiatives, irrespective of the industry you come from, in order to survive and evolve in this business environment. Changing the structure of the South African economy will result in it being more inclusive, more sustainable… with opportunities for all, integrated value chains, and less barriers to entry. In South Africa, the transformation agenda is very critical in all our endeavours and all our decisions.”

Radebe congratulated the winners of the 15 transformation categories on this recognition of their inspiring dedication:

  • Platinum Award: Dr Nobuhle Judy Dlamini, founding chairman of Mbekani Group, is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. Her passion for creating and adding value to society and humanity provided her with the overall platinum award for the evening, as well as the Comair Outstanding Woman of the Year Award.
  • Hennessy XO Businessman of the Year Award: Sthembiso Elton Nkomo, CEO of Abalandi Risk Management, was recognised as a professionally qualified, dedicated, and respected professional in the forensic investigation and security services environment.
  • The Innovation Hub New and Innovative Business Award: AET Africa, a manufacturer and supplier of energy efficient and clean technology products, developed various products targeting the commercial and residential sectors.
  • Emperors Palace Community Builder of the Year Award: Emmanel Bonoko, Founder of EBonoko Holdings and a social entrepreneur. He founded EBonoko at the age of 21 with the aim of serving others and fostering leadership, youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship.
  • Dormehl Phalane Property Group Transformation Champion of the Year Award: ICT-Works, an organisation that provides innovative technology solutions. At its core it also enhances the lives of millions of people.
  • Best Employer of the Year Award: Maredi Technologies CC, an 100% black owned ICT infrastructure solutions provider for the private and public sector.
  • Trade & Investment KZN Young Business Achiever Award: Pravashen Naidoo, Founder and CEO of e-Waste Africa, established Africa’s first light bulb recycling business at the age of 30.
  • Bentley South Africa Public Sector Visionary Award: Dr Ayanda Vilakazi, CEO of Lama Marketing and Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He published numerous articles on how to improve services and operations in South Africa. As a seasoned Executive he has expertise in corporate governance, financial management and budgeting, enterprise risk management and strategic development.
  • BET New Entrepreneur Award: Ms Thobile Nyawo, Director of Nyawo Civil construction. The 19-year-old construction entrepreneur founded her company in 2015 with no start-up capital.
  • CSI Ubuntu Award: Vukani-Ubuntu Community Development Projects, a non-profit organisation that is the largest mineral-beneficiation organisation in the jewellery sector in South Africa and a network off grassroots development projects across the country.
  • NHBRC Iqhawe Mentorship Award: Musa Zulu, Creative Director of Valhalla Arts, as well as published author, international artist, celebrated motivational speaker, and prominent disability activist in South Africa.
  • NYDA Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Muhammad Simjee, Founder and CEO of A2D24 with a passion for building gadgets and writing software.
  • Nedbank Group Individual Transformation in Leadership Award: Karen Rademeyer, Fundraiser and Communications Manager at Go for Gold, having worked in the non-profit sector for 17 years She is passionate about education: Go for Gold as a dynamic Education-to-Employment programme that recruits school students from some of South Africa’s poorest communities and transforms them into technically qualified graduates.
  • LTE Holdings Best Established Black Business Award: Thata uBeke Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd, which offers turnkey solutions by designing, developing, manufacturing and assembling electronic and electro mechanical components for a variety of applications including aerospace, telecommunications, mining, commercial, and military specifications.

The BBQ Awards continue to be South Africa’s most prestigious transformation awards. For more information on the 2019 BBQ Awards, visit http://www.bbqawards.co.za/ or follow them on Facebook (@BBQAwards) and Twitter (@BBQ_Awards).

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Why Just Having A Great Idea Won’t Make You The Next Richard Maponya

Tilldan Bunagni – Brand Manager for Firstwatch Whisky shares some insights into what will help you on the road to business success.

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All entrepreneurs have hurdles to overcome on their path to success, and it takes guts and fortitude to survive the journey. As self-made publisher, William Feather said, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

Richard Maponya has been described as a living legend, and while his first business idea to retail directly to consumers in Soweto proved successful, it was his incredible determination and work ethic that saw him overcome an extremely hostile business environment for black business under the Apartheid Government.

Today’s up and coming entrepreneurs face different challenges and while there is support for SMEs from Government to Corporates, the reality is that starting a business and seeing it develop into a highly successful entity creating wealth for the owner, employees and other stakeholders, is the exception rather than the rule.

So, what are some ideas that will help you pave the way for a successful business providing for yourself, your family, your community

Ensure you don’t neglect the business while chasing the money

One of the worst mistakes a small business can make is not having a good admin system in place. Without booking keeping records, SARS compliance and financial records for example, you will at some point hit a brick wall.

Whether it’s because you are growing and need to access funding – which will prove very difficult without business documentation – or you have neglected your SARS payments and compliance, the wall be there. From the start, learn how to manage your admin yourself, or employ the part time expertise of a professional. It will be well worth the initial spend.

Don’t be scared to ask for money

Many successful businesses have become so because they sought funding when they needed it. Whether this is at the start-up phase or when the business is already established but ready to be fast tracked to the next level. While there seems to be a lack of understanding of how many and what options are available to SMEs in SA, the truth is there are literally hundreds of funding products available. Search Google with keywords such as: Access to finance in South Africa and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the what is actually available.

Don’t be scared to look for support

Success often comes with support. Being an entrepreneur or small business owner can be a very lonely existence. Whether you seek the backing of a Mentor or join a support programme, improving your business skills and having a cheering squad behind you is empowering.

Another form of support can be found in initiatives and competitions geared towards developing and rewarding entrepreneurs. Look out for ones that talk to the genuine needs of an entrepreneurial business – such as financial support backed by business training and support.

The journey for entrepreneurs is really tough, but certainly well worth the effort in the long run.

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How Firstwatch can help you!

Firstwatch is currently running the ‘Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge’. This serves as a platform to move business ideas and concepts to the next stage of growth for the 100 applicants selected to join the two-day workshop.  The training programme is chock-full with robust, hands-on experiential learning with some of the country’s leading business experts.

At the culmination of the programme, entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to pitch their business or business idea to a panel of judges – where the top 10 will be selected. All entrepreneurs will be invited to attend the closing ceremony on the 19th May, where the top 10 will pitch to the entire audience and a final panel of celebrity judges and successful entrepreneurs.

The overall winner will walk away with R50 000 support for their existing or start-up business.

The entry closing date is the 31st of March with workshop dates on 27 and 28 April 2019.

For information on the initiative simply call or send a Whatsapp, SMS or “please call me” to 072 391 9937 or e-mail info@firstwatch.co.za.

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Digital Transformation Should Be A Priority For Small Businesses In South Africa

With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

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When a water pipe bursts in your home one morning, your initial reaction will probably be to grab your smartphone and search Google for a plumber nearby. Perhaps there is one just around the corner, but you wouldn’t know about them if they don’t show up in your search results. This scenario sums up why a good digital presence has become a must for small businesses in South Africa. The internet – and almost any business opportunity – is where the customers are.

According to the 2019 Global Digital Report prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, 54% of the South African population are internet users. This means there are 31 million people in South Africa who are searching for products and services online; 29 million of them are active mobile internet users. With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

First step on the road

We believe the journey of digital transformation starts with creating your own online identity. This is creating a place of your own online, starting with a website, and letting people know who you are, what you do, and what you offer. Think of it as your mobile storefront or your online business card. Start small and grow over time: no need to over-engineer or over spend.

Website builders like GoDaddy Website Builder can help you get a professional-looking website up and running in a short amount of time, even if you don’t have a big budget or any technical skills. And it will look amazing on a smartphone, not just yours! Once you’ve created your website, you can start looking at using tools like social media, search engine optimisation, and e-mail marketing to help reach new customers and stay in touch with existing ones.

Thanks to the internet and the digital tools available today, it’s not as hard or as expensive to create and promote your brand as it once was. First, a solid strategy is important, and it should include ways of showing your target audience what makes your brand and products unique.

Here are some other tips about how you can get value from your digital presence:

  • Mobile continues to rise: As we’ve mentioned before, more than 90% of internet users in South Africa are mobile. You should focus on improving site speed, navigation structures and readability on mobile devices, and look to optimise your website from the start for the mobile experience.
  • Simple design: This is an extension of creating mobile-first experiences, and it’s important that your website looks and works great on all screen sizes. This year, web design will focus on relevant and catchy content as well as design to help ensure you catch your users’ attention.
  • Feature “platforms”. What do I mean by platforms? This includes maps, payment solutions, food delivery services, and shared rides fall into this definition. Our friend the plumber might not need these for his website, but a restaurant could truly benefit from adding maps, partnering with a booking or reservation service and even a customer rating solution.

With an increased number of data breaches occurring, protecting your new website and your customers’ data has become even more important for companies of all sizes. Whether or not a website has an SSL Certificate, it can affect your search rankings, so you should ensure your site has the added SSL Certificate protections.

Voice search and chat – are they in your business’s future?

Looking to the future, we can expect to see the digital world evolve at breakneck speed. Two trends to be on the look-out for in the not-too-distant future are voice search and chatbots. Currently, one out of every five internet searches come from voice queries, which means people are speaking their searches into their smart devices.

Therefore, while optimising your website and content for search engines, it will be important to do it for voice searches, keeping in mind the growing use of virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana. We can also expect to see more businesses using chatbots powered by AI on their websites, as well as social media profiles and applications, to provide instant assistance for their customers.

Perhaps your small business is planning to start implementing these tools during the year. Or it could be several years before these features are on your radar. Either way, they highlight some potential ways your evolving digital presence can allow you to find and interact with customers in new powerful ways.

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