Archive for November, 2012


By Aruna Ware, Regional Director for Africa at Sage Accpac, part of the Sage Group plc.

Aruna Ware

Aruna Ware

Sage Accpac recently opened an office in Kenya.  Due to its location, Kenya presents itself as a growth hub for East Africa.  The addition of a Sage Accpac office in this dynamic landscape therefore makes a great deal of sense.

Accpac has been distributed via a number of qualified and highly skilled business partners to mid-sized companies in East Africa for more than twenty years.  In addition, we have a large number of companies successfully managing their businesses using Accpac as their core ERP system. Sage ERP X3 is relatively new to the market and is ideally suited to large companies and companies with complex financial, distribution and manufacturing needs. Our recent launch of Sage ERP X3 Standard Edition into the East African market enables rapid implementation following predefined methodologies.

The social and physical infrastructure within Kenya is well-developed, which lends itself to positive economic prospects.  The workforce within Kenya is a large, technology savvy entity that comprises of graduates who display a high level of IT skills.  Several international technology and hardware companies are already present and established in the country, which will provide a large pool of potential business partners that we can collaborate with to expand our footprint into the region.

Our Kenyan partners will benefit tremendously from having a local Sage office to assist with sales, marketing and product development.  The product range that will be available includes Sage ERP Accpac, Sage ERP X3 and Sage CRM.  Customers will now have direct access to local Sage representatives in addition to product support and development that will be specific to the Kenyan market.

Most BI thought leadership articles these days include a fairly significant section on mobile data consumption, and how trends are heading in this direction. The predictions from analysts suggest that by 2013, as much as 33% of business intelligence functionality will be consumed via handheld devices.

This inherently sets out to challenge the thinking of traditional BI vendors in terms of how their solutions become relevant in the mobile space. It can be tempting to re-invent the wheel in an effort to lead the charge with something really cool, something that demo’s well, without carefully thinking about what device the majority of customers are likely to use, and how they will consume or interact with the data on this device, and of course, what makes practical sense to add value to their day to day operations and decision making.

Vendors need to understand their customers’ needs implicitly before investing in a mobility strategy so that the right type of information is staged for a particular device, and that the right device is used for that purpose, otherwise it just becomes another useless trend/fad that doesn’t really serve its purpose.

Another key consideration is whether to create an interactive proprietary app that is native to a specific device, or to stage static data to the cloud that can be consumed agnostically on a wide variety of mobile devices. In most cases the former provides a richer user experience, but is this practical in light of how fast the mobile device market is moving?

One could argue, at this stage of the game,  that 80% of consumer needs are satisfied by staging static data via the cloud because it is so much more than what they are accustomed to getting anyway. The reason I say this is that in my experience in providing BI solutions to SMB customers over the last decade, I have seen that sophistication sells, but very seldom does it get implemented to the same degree. Sad but true.

By Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Softline Netcash

Charles Pittaway

Charles Pittaway

There’s a story about the owner of a fancy private art gallery in London, who was once asked why he went to the trouble of treating even the scruffiest student who walked through his doors with the same courtesy as a rich and well-known buyer.  “You never know who they’re going to marry,” he replied. “Or who they’re going to be.”

There are plenty of consultants out there who will give you exactly the opposite advice about customer service today. 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue, they will say.  Treat that 20% like gold: offer them special deals, ask their opinions, remember their birthdays and pamper them with golf days.  The other 80%? Do as little as you can get away with and hope they go away.

This is not really an exaggeration. Here’s a professor of management at Rice University in the US, approvingly describing what happens at a large bank:  “Though customer satisfaction is important, the goal is to increase customer and corporate profitability… First Union estimates that its ‘Einstein’ system will add at least $100 million to its annual revenue. About half of that will come from extra fees and other revenue from unprofitable customers, while the rest will flow from pampering preferred customers who might otherwise leave the bank.”  The rich pay less, and the rest pay more, in other words.

I suspect most people reading this article have experienced being on the wrong end of this calculation.  Whether it’s a bank, a cellphone company or a restaurant, we’ve all been overlooked in favour of someone with a bigger (apparent) bank balance.  “We’re only interested in your money,” these businesses are telling us. “The more money you have to give us, the more attention we will pay you.”

This is not a classy way to treat people. Even worse, it’s not good business. Customer X may not be worth much today, but you have no idea who her friends and family are.  She could be the one who refers your biggest client of the year. And then again, where might Customer X herself be in five years’ time?  And when she finally makes that big deal, who is she going to take her business to – the people who saw her potential from the start, or the ones who only started paying attention when she had cash?

At First Union Bank, customer profiles are flagged red, yellow or green so service representatives know how well to treat them. At Netcash, we’ve made sure our service staff have no way of telling how big a client is – we want every client to be the most important one we have.

I’m with the gallery owner. If you care even the slightest bit about serving your customers well, you will treat every one with exactly the same care and respect. It shouldn’t matter how much money they’re worth to you today.

Sage Business Index by Softline shows local confidence in business prospects remain stable, but confidence in SA economic prospects dips

8th November 2012, Johannesburg: Softline, part of the Sage Group PLC, today released the results of The Sage Business Index – Local and International Business Insights.

The Index is a global measure of confidence across small and medium sized businesses. Nearly 11,000 small and medium sized companies in 15 countries across Europe, North America, Brazil, South Africa and Asia responded to the survey. The Index shows that whilst there is a general decline in confidence in global and local economies, businesses remain cautiously optimistic in their own growth prospects.

In South Africa, confidence in both individual business prospects and the outlook for the global economy remain largely unchanged, down slightly from March 2012 (Index scores: 64.44 to 64.19 and 44.71 to 44.54 respectively). Confidence in South Africa’s own economic prospects has fallen slightly further from 46.11 in March 2012 to 43.03 in September 2012.

South African Index Scores* September 2012 March 2012 September 2011
Global economic confidence 44.54 44.71 45.92
SA’s Country economic confidence 43.03 46.11 44.10
Own business confidence SA 64.19 64.44 62.58

(Below 50 is decline/less confident above 50 is improvement/more confident, 50 is no different)*

The research, which included 1 879 South African small to medium size businesses, was carried out by Populus, a UK based opinion and research consultancy firm.

Economic confidence – local concerns in line with macro-economic trends

All countries, with the exception of Brazil, registered an index score below 50 showing that respondents generally feel that the global economy is continuing to decline. Unsurprisingly, the Eurozone countries feel the most negative, with fears of a “double dip” recession having risen sharply.

In South Africa, businesses surveyed are feeling less confident about the prospects for the local economy, with the index declining from 46.11 to 43.03 over the past 6 months. This, however, is in sharp contrast with how they feel about their own business prospects which scored positively at 64.19.

Commenting at the official results presentation in Johannesburg today, Ivan Epstein, CEO (and co-founder) of Softline and Sage AAMEA (Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa) said, “Looking at the results against an international backdrop, South Africa scored the second highest index rating of all the countries polled in terms of individual business confidence. Entrepreneurial spirit and business culture is identified by businesses as one of the most important aspects for doing business successfully in South Africa. This endorses my strong belief that South Africa is a fertile environment for successful entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

Image

Business performance and challenges – revenues maintained, cost challenges

There are some positive signs in the global survey with 63 percent of respondents saying that over the past 6 months revenue has either increased or held steady whilst 82 percent have either increased or maintained employee numbers.

South Africa achieved a similar score with 65 percent of businesses polled showing either steady or increasing revenue and 84 percent of businesses either increasing or maintaining employee numbers.

Rob Wilkie, CFO of Softline and Sage AAMEA commented that “72 percent of South African businesses said that they have adapted to the challenges of the current economic climate. The agility and resilience of businesses in South Africa is testament to a strong entrepreneurial business culture and strength of South Africa as a place to do business”.

Increasing costs are the number one concern of businesses surveyed in South Africa. Wilkie commented that “this was expected given that CPI is on an upward trend with the main drivers being food prices, fuel and electricity. In addition, an inevitable consequence of the recent high wage increases seen in the mining and transport sectors is going to be higher inflation, particularly when decoupled from increased productivity”.

Image

Government – businesses call on government to do more

All countries participating in the global survey feel that their governments don’t provide sufficient support for business, with the exception of Singapore where 54% of respondents indicated that their Government provides adequate support.

In South Africa businesses are calling for skills development and education (46%), the reduction of bureaucracy and legislation (40%), a reduction in business tax (34%) and currency stability (28%).  Wilkie commented, “in order to enhance its competitiveness, government must address the quality of primary education, particularly in view of a very high unemployment rate. Over-regulation and red tape is a further obstacle, specifically firing and hiring practices, wage determination, public sector tender procedures and enforcement of contracts”.

Image

Investment for growth – future prospects

In considering the year ahead, 29 percent of South African businesses surveyed said they were looking to diversify into new markets, 28 percent would invest further in marketing and sales within their existing markets and 27 percent would invest in skills development and training.

According to Epstein, “economic and political reforms in Africa have resulted in an improved business environment and offer an attractive opportunity for South African businesses to diversify and expand across their border.”

Image

In conclusion Epstein said, “ We’ve seen evidence in this research report and others, that small and medium sized business in South Africa require more focused attention from our leaders. The future of the South African economy, and most importantly, the ability to create employment in this country will be dependent the stimulation of more businesses that are sustainable over the long term. Private business and Government have a pivotal role to play in the economic growth and development of small business in South Africa.”

To view the full article, please visit http://businessindex.sage.com/

For more, please follow Softline on Twitter http://twitter.com/SageGroupZA

Pastel Mobility in Motion

Why use Pastel My Money?

Manage your personal finances online, for free!

Track your spending: Use our expense categories or add your own. Pastel My Money will remember these every time to help you analyse your expenses.
Control your budget: Easily create a budget based on your historical spending. Compare your actual spending to your budget so that you know what is left.
Get total visibility: See all your bank balances and transactions in one place. With Pastel My Money you finally get the entire picture.
Reach your goals: See how your spending decisions affect how much you have left each month. You will know what you can do today to save more tomorrow.

https://www.pastelmymoney.co.za/

 

Softline Pastel, South Africa’s leading developer of business and accounting software, today launched a portal for its range of online applications. The platform, known as Sage Pastel Online, provides the entrepreneur on-the-go one central location to access the company’s bouquet of cloud-based business tools, making running a small business a little easier.

Pastel Accounting launched South Africa’s first online accounting program, My Business Online, in May 2009 and since then has brought several online innovations to the local SME market.

“Times have changed,” says Steven Cohen, managing director of Pastel Accounting. “We have entered an age where technology is pervasive, allowing us more mobility than ever – and business has to be part of the revolution to remain competitive.”

The portal can be found at www.sagepastelonline.com and offers online accounting, payroll and marketing services – allowing business owners the freedom to run their businesses at any time from anywhere. Additionally, Pastel’s BEE one-stop-information-hub, BEE123 and brand new free-to-all-users personal finance applications are also available in the same location.

Pastel My Business Online is a full-function accounting program, designed specifically for the small business owner. All accounting lingo has been changed to simple English, so even the layman can manage the business’s books. It’s a multi-user system with dashboards, graphs and drill-downs to source transactions that provide a bird’s eye view of the business. The system allows users to manage customers, suppliers and inventory items and keeps track of sales and purchases. It comes with a comprehensive list of reports so that month-end management packs are quick and easy to create.

Pastel My Payroll Online is a simple payroll solution that allows SME owners to pay their employees anywhere, anytime.  It’s a SARS compliant system aligned to even the most complex legislation, including PAYE and UIF. Users can also process leave online with leave types already defined according to the BCEA requirements. Like, My Business, My Payroll contains no confusing jargon.

Did you know 70% of SMEs don’t have a website, or at least one with limited marketing capabilities or integration with smartphones and social media. Pastel My Webspace is an online marketing engine for SMEs with an HTML5 website builder designed for optimal marketing and e-commerce capabilities. In addition My Brand will manage users’ search engine optimisation, and mobile and social media integration. My Brand effectively integrates everything for the user and provides an all-in-one e-marketing service with analytics, social media insights, and creating and mailing a fully dynamic newsletter with marketing feedback.

“Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery,” said Cohen at the launch event that celebrated the mobile business of the future.

As part of Pastel’s drive for business mobility, it has also formed a relationship with Samsung Enterprise Mobility. Selected Samsung devices will now come preloaded with the My Business Online Android app and Pastel is a reseller of Samsung’s SIII, Note and Tablet devices; all preloaded with a year’s free access to Pastel My Business Online. The devices will be available for purchase via the Pastel Webstore.

By Keith Fenner
Senior Vice President of Sales for Africa at Softline Accpac, part of the Sage Group plc.

Keith Fenner

Keith Fenner

Supply Chain Management (SCM) involves the supply of goods or services required by a customer.  The process involves many connected parties that are involved in the goods or services reaching their final destination. APICS defines it as the design, planning, execution, control and monitoring of supply chain activities.

The supply chain management cycle in Africa is vital for our customers to remain competitive with the ability to measure and monitor performance globally.  Planning and visibility is the key requirement in any successful SCM module from a logistical point of view and pre-costing from a financial point of view.  This visibility must extend to your suppliers and all the connected parties in that process in order to land goods at the right time and the right cost.  The visibility will lead to a lower stock holding which in turn will free up working capital to use elsewhere in the business.

How does SCM fit into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?

Many ERP solutions only cater for a product once landed and costed but this is the first time the costs are known and stock is visible which does limit planning and cash-flow.  Typically goods can end up in stock and then additional costs are apportioned afterwards from a financial costing perspective based on weight, volume or value.  This is a very basic option and can lead to discrepancies when reviewing the gross profit on item level as these additional costs typically alloy across many stock items in a container.  A true SCM solution has a dedicated module where shipping routes, tariff codes, manage rules such as FOB and additional cost categories can be created and used to manage the true costing of goods in detail.  A module like this allows businesses to plan the costings and apply provisionally to stock before the additional cost invoices arrive, as often the stock has already been sold which causes further discrepancies. Once the final costs are known, the module will reverse the provision and add the correct apportioned costs to stock.  Moreover, in a modern web based ERP with SCM, you can simply give access to parts of the module to your suppliers to complete data relevant for shipping again improving collaboration.

When does is the right time to consider an SCM system?

Typically when importing starts to become a major problem in costing is the time to consider this solution.  When the frequency and volumes increase as well as the costs of warehousing, this is the time to review a proper integrated SCM and ERP.  It will massively reduce costs and deliver a better experience and service to their customers.

Advice

The best advice we can give is that SCM is not simple.  A distinction needs to be made between apportioning costs to landed stock which is the most basic requirement for a small business and what an importer looks for in order to better manage costs, improve service and delivery collaboration across the supply chain.  The key to the latter topic is a fully integrated SCM with ERP that has touch points across purchasing, suppliers, stock, warehousing, customers, customer service and costing that also talks directly to the supplier and customer with web based portals.  Luckily Sage ERP solutions have a scalable set of solutions for all sizes of businesses.

 

Companies have until 15 January 2013 to compile and electronically submit their annual employment equity returns to the Department of Labour. The deadline for manual reports has already passed.

The easiest and most efficient way for companies to complete the forms is to visit the Department of Labour’s website (www.labour.gov.za) and make use of the Online Services to capture EE reports.

Philip Meyer, technology director at payroll and HR specialist Pastel Payroll, part of the Softline Group and Sage Group plc, says companies should be aware that once submitted, the forms may not be changed or amended in any way. “However guidance on how to correctly complete the forms is available from the Department of Labour’s website.”

Meyer adds that companies need to have a formal employment equity plan in place which provides the base for any EE report and consultation should take place with all relevant stakeholders before the forms are completed. The prescribed reporting forms are the EEA2 and the EEA4. Large employers are obliged to report every 12 months and small employers every second year. Chief executives are required to approve and authorise the EE reports before they are submitted.

“Companies should also note that the EEA2 and EEA4 forms must always be submitted together or the submission will be rejected and returned. Copies of these forms should be retained for the company records and to present to Department of Labour inspectors who may visit the company.”

The report also requires tables relating to numerical goals and targets, which essentially provide the workforce profile that the employer aims to achieve by the end of the next reporting period.