Archive for January, 2013


By Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President of Sales for Africa at Sage ERP Africa.

Keith Fenner

Keith Fenner

The continued pursuit of mobility will fuel the uptake of Cloud solutions and requests for software on a subscription basis in 2013.

The sales of our solutions in the cloud have doubled in the last year, and I believe it is mostly attributable to the decline in bandwidth costs.  This trend has underscored the uptake of cloud in the last year.  A cloud solution can be tailored to meet the needs and pockets of the user, which makes it adaptable to suit the needs of the organisation.

A trend that will certainly continue to stamp its presence into 2013 is the demand for connected services, especially around service, sales and stock.  The days of spending hours to compile data and to debug excel formulas, are numbered.  Clients want to know what their key performance indicators (KPIs) are at the touch of a button and with a host of cloud enabled Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions you literally need an internet connection and a laptop, tablet, PC or smart phone to review your performance.  Slick and easy to use is the name of the game and that is why the uptake of applications for mobility has mushroomed.

Many vendors with modern architecture have easily adapted to the new challenges of mobility, but not all software is architected to allow for a rapid response to changing market conditions and that is something that the industry will need to work on in 2013.

Mobility will continue to gain traction well into 2013, in addition to the uptake of solutions in the cloud from both a consumer and enterprise point of view.  Devices, applications and social media are revolutionising the way that we communicate and it will have far-reaching effects on the South African IT industry going forward.

By Christophe Letellier, CEO of Sage ERP X3

Christophe Letellier

Christophe Letellier

Choosing an ERP system is one of the most strategic decisions for mid-market companies and their CEOs face a significant dilemma. Should I choose a system for today, or for how my company may look in five to ten years? Should I go for a full system or start small with a limited number of functions? Should I try to cover 100-percent of my needs or only aim for a fraction of them? Do I have to cover all my requirements with one single ERP system? Should I go for a comprehensive, full function system requiring a 12-18 month implementation, or for a simpler system with fewer functions that could be implemented in weeks? What balance will get me the best return on my investment?

I could go on and on with questions that are all relevant, but instead I would suggest reversing the thought process.  Rather than trying to solve all your outstanding issues with a new system, which will usually replace something that you are currently using, I would suggest thinking about how to improve what you already have. All of us would like to aim for the best in terms of ERP software, but in doing so we often ignore the ‘better’ solution.

The value of an ERP system lies in its integration across a company and the data gathered when using it. Start with a modern solution that is well integrated and covers 80-85-percent of an organisation’s functional needs. The last mile is by far the most costly and often the one that has the most problematic ROI.

Why look for perfection when 85-percent would help you make a giant leap in efficiency?  Go with as standard a system as you can to start with. Implementation will be significantly reduced, both in terms of cost (three to five times cheaper) and duration (up to ten times faster, in a matter of weeks). A properly integrated system will immediately make your processes more fluid, improve cross-functional collaboration, reduce operating costs; and most importantly, help you understand what you really need for the next step.

I encourage you to have a look at what our customer, Omega Refrigeration, did. They chose to go standard and not only did the company’s ERP system go live in just 44 days, but it started to see benefits just a few weeks after the implementation. Very soon after deployment, Omega Refrigeration was able to plan the expansion of the system.

One of the biggest mistakes often made is attempting to replicate existing business processes within a new system. It implies significant tweaks in the ERP system through customisation. On top of making life miserable for future upgrades, it also changes the way an ERP solution behaves, severely curbing the benefit that is derived from all the best practices that has led to the development of the built-in processes. Performance can also be dramatically reduced and future evolutions will be more difficult to leverage.

Implementing a new ERP system is a great opportunity to re-think processes. We love to think we are different, and guess what, it’s true! But being different doesn’t mean we are totally unique. Step back and try to honestly define what makes you better and more competitive than your competition.  This is what counts at the end of the day, and you will probably end up with two or perhaps three processes that are really distinctive. At most five percent of your system will recognise this difference, not 50-percent.

This past April, I had the privilege of visiting the Marussia F1 Team in Banbury, England, one of Sage ERP X3’s customers.  I spoke to Kevin Lee, their Operations Manager, and he lives by an expression that I often use, ‘walk before you run’. He applies this principle to everything he does to improve the team’s competitiveness in Formula 1.

Lee enacted this principle when he implemented his new ERP system and succeeded:

  • Implementation time – Eight weeks
  • Number of specific developments to address F1 needs – Zero

Go for standard solutions and after a period of usage, say 9 to 12 months, you will be able to make informed decisions on where to channel your investment to differentiate yourself in the market.  Once that is done, make sure you have as many people as possible using your ERP system.  ERP software is not a specialist play and it is certainly not only for accountants or plant managers. Everyone, one way or another, should use the system, starting with you. This is important because your ERP system will be your decision-making tool and based on the collected data, you will run reports, analysis or even simulations.

These activities will really add value if your database truly represents your business. To get there you need to ensure everyone contributes to it – the experienced and the non-technical alike. You can even open your system to those outside of your own organisation who also contribute to your business. Your customers, your partners and your suppliers can definitely enrich your data set, which will help you make better decisions.

Integration is key.  Integration means encouraging people in different functions to work together. This will open up a new field of efficiency through collaboration. ERP software will help you organise the social nature of your business and support a better, more natural and organised way of collaborating for greater efficiency, better problem solving, but also to promote innovation.

Before running like Usain Bolt, make sure you can walk.

Five tips to choosing the right ERP system:

  1. ‘Start small’ with a standard solution across your company
  2. Progress quickly within a few weeks,
  3. Learn through experience
  4. Encourage usage across and outside your organisation
  5. Make informed decisions for additional investments that will make you more competitive.

By Anja Hartman, HR Director for Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group Plc.

Anja Hartman-Weitz

Anja Hartman-Weitz

People are at the top of the agenda in many a company with the war for talent intensifying in many business sectors.  It is therefore crucial for the Human Resources (HR) department to recognise the value that it brings in terms of helping the business to compete in finding the right talent.

The future of HR however depends on its business presence.  You need to have the mindset of a business role-player first and then an HR professional to understand the contribution that HR can make to the bigger picture.  It boils down to how well you really know your business and who your clients are, may it be employees, line managers, Exco members, external clients or even investors.  Ask yourself the following questions, to establish whether you understand your business:

  • What are the top three priorities and concerns of your business leaders?
  • Who is your biggest client and why do they use your service or product?
  • Which product/service is the most profitable, and why?
  • What emerging technology trends can influence your business?
  • What socio-economic or political trends might be disruptive to your industry?
  • What is the company’s operating margin?
  • What was the revenue and profit for the previous financial year?

If you are familiar with the needs of the business, your HR practices will reflect that knowledge. The answers to the above questions can help the HR practitioner to achieve business objectives through informed HR desicions.

There are many ways in which HR practices can support business performance.  The principles and philosophies that you implement as an HR professional affect the workplace, the value chain, the company’s value proposition as well as the technology that the company uses.  The people represent the company’s image and its ability to adequately deliver its service or product and it is ultimately your responsibility to shape that image and to align it with the business needs.

The broader HR mandate far exceeds the mere administration of HR technology and policies alone.  The focus has shifted towards the management of talent which includes recruitment, training and development, performance management, talent assessment and succession planning.  As far as the organisation is concerned, HR practices will shape the business structure, rewards, internal communication and process design.

It is crucial that the organisation’s HR strategy underscores that of the business.  HR goals need to be consistent with that of the company’s and need to be designed to make the business strategy happen.  Likewise, HR also needs buy-in from management to mobilise its strategy.

It is therefore necessary to focus on building relationships of trust.  To make an impact in the business the HR professional needs to be confident, have a commercial point of view, be able to speak candidly and influence others. A positive investment in their own personal growth will help any HR professional in this regard.

The key elements to focus on are to create a business presence, to learn the language of your business and to continue with an HR mindset. The ultimate goal is to empower your people and to focus on business results as these are lifelines that keep your business alive.

By Anton Van Heerden, Managing Director of Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc.

Anton Van Heerden

Anton Van Heerden

Softline VIP clinched the title of ‘2012 Enterprise of the Year’ during the recent Capital City Business Chamber (CCBC) awards dinner.  The awards aim to pay homage to excellence within the Chamber’s membership base.

The Capital City Business Chamber was established in 2008 with the purpose of being a facilitator as well as a hub for business support and networking interaction in order to encourage business development within the greater Tshwane (Pretoria) region.  The CCBC focuses on marketing and networking efforts, strives to make a difference in its community and assists with business related information and support.

As a proud member of the Capital City Business Chamber, Softline VIP participated in the Chamber’s annual awards dinner and we are absolutely delighted with our new title.

On a winning streak, Softline VIP was also announced as the winner of the 2012 Deloitte Best Company to Work for Survey’s business and professional services category.  We continuously strive to identify practices and strategies that not only benefit our business but our people too – both employees and clients alike.  People are at the heart of our business and titles such as the CCBC 2012 Enterprise of the Year tells me that we are doing it right.  It will certainly take our search for excellence to new heights.

The judging of the CCBC award was done independently by chamber business partners.  The award took four major elements into consideration that comprised of entrepreneurial ability, marketing skills, the product or service offered by the contender and the management skills of the enterprise.  We proved to be the top contender amongst participating members such as ATA Training, the Waste Group, DFR Engineers and Legal Nexus.