Tag Archive: cloud computing


By: Christophe Letellier, CEO for Sage ERP X3

Christophe Letellier

Christophe Letellier

When approaching the subject of the Cloud, there is a choice between being strongly positive or enthusiastic. The wave in favour of the Cloud is so strong that views which attempt to even mildly address the need or even the relevance of the Cloud could make you look like a supporter of the past. But this has always been true with new technologies or business models; just look back to the early 2000s.
Cloud technology is not a revolution; it’s an evolution that materialises the maturity of the Internet. By definition the evolution will take time, a long time, when in contrast a revolution could change our world in weeks or months. As customers and suppliers, it has already taken us 15 years to get to where we are today with the Internet. I would bet it will take even longer before everything runs from the Cloud
The Cloud, in my opinion, brings many good things to the software industry. It means solutions can be developed more quickly, agile development becomes standard and seamless upgrades a given. Software vendors are changing and the Cloud is the trigger, but the change is embraced because it creates value for customers.
On a similar note, the Cloud implies a different business model that is based on usage. The ‘per month, per user’ pricing model is the first step that will evolve into fully consumption-based pricing. Once again, it’s good for our customers. The Cloud will also open the ERP world to many more users than today. Because it’s more flexible and web based, we can expect that the Cloud will provide much easier access to an ERP system. C-level executives will, at last, benefit from the mine of data that is created by their ERP system. This is particularly true in mid-sized companies where the CEO is in the operational driving seat and today drives almost blind! Casual users will also be more at ease and will be able to contribute more. This is true for occasional internal users, but also for external users like partners, suppliers or customers. The 25-year-old concept of an extended enterprise now becomes a reality.
All these changes can bring great value to our customers and it’s important that we aim to deliver on these promises. The Cloud is not the means to get there, but only the trigger. It has changed mindsets and offers a technical solution, but we can deliver the very same value to our customers via other delivery mechanisms. If I look at the ERP world for instance, there are many examples of strong adoption of financials in the Cloud when manufacturing, that requires significant customization and close connection to shop floor control systems, looks less attractive. Does it mean that our customers should be put on the side of the road? Today a vast majority of mid-sized companies do use their ERP systems on fat clients without web access, when such systems have been available for over 10 years now. Why should we expect that adoption of full cloud solutions will be that much faster? And does this mean that our customers shouldn’t have access to the benefits listed above?
Adoption of the Cloud is a long journey. Cloud will become a standard in one or two decades. What do we do for our customers in the meantime?
My conviction is that although the Cloud will not dominate for some time in the ERP space, it will profoundly change mindsets and drive software vendors in a new direction. Having sold web-based products like Sage ERP X3 for over 10 years, Sage is not afraid of this evolution. On the contrary, we welcome this change towards flexibility and openness. This has always been our motto. Building hybrid systems and leveraging the best of the on-premise and cloud worlds will help the transition, drive adoption, and create true value for our customers. Our customers are pragmatic so we have to be inventive.

By Himanshu Palsule: Sage Chief Technology Officer and Head of Product Strategy,

Himanshu Palsule

Himanshu Palsule

There are two distinct global trends shaping the technology landscape. Although the Internet has disrupted the value chain and workflow, as we know it today, it has created immeasurable opportunity and is shaping customer requirements.  Choice and flexibility top the list of most users today.  We no longer have a classic business model within a structured workday.  Customers are often remote and disconnected, thus demanding access anywhere, any time and on any device.

This has lead to a significant transformation strategy for the Sage group, if not the entire technology industry. It has also accelerated innovation and brought about a new way of thinking.  We get accounting and we get ERP. The challenge we set for ourselves was to understand our customers even better and what they wanted going forward.

Taking complexity out was a key requirement.  A testament to the new way of doing business was our customers asking us to stop doing things.  There is clearly a case of feature fatigue and despite having asked for the numerous features, customers now want simplicity.  Whether this is a result of a slowing economy or global complexity is unclear, but customers want simpler workflows and we will give it to them.

In Sage we have brought together a team of product design and experience professionals hailing from companies such as Google and AOL.  We didn’t need this level of innovation in design before, but the world has changed and we do now.

Tasked with bringing the required innovation, consistency and simplicity to all Sage products, the team spent four months interviewing hundreds of CEOs and it was clear that it was time for a change. There were two obvious trends: mobility and cloud computing, both of which have already had a positive impact on our current product roadmap.

In North America smartphone usage went from 49% to 77% and the same trend exists in South Africa with 75% of companies in South Africa using smartphones.  From a cloud computing perspective, IT budgets went from 10% to 24% in 2012. This not only shows a distinct shift, it is also proof that we have indeed entered a cloud-first culture.

In going forward, all Sage products will be built with a mobile and cloud strategy in mind.   This is not a trend with an end in sight; it is a new way of life. There are industry-wide predictions that by the end of this year, there could be more smartphones on the planet than humans, and that by 2016 there could be 10 billion smartphones.   We cannot underestimate the impact of mobility, nor can we see it as a technology.  The simple truth is that technology is just an enabler to a connected, simpler way of life.

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.

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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.

Payroll and HR software specialist Softline Pastel Payroll has a Connected Services division that enables SME companies to extend their desktop payroll with an online solution that will ease the growing burden of HR managers and payroll administrators.

Connected services includes a web-based self-service tool that enables employees to manage and maintain their own information online and thereby carry some of the overall HR administration responsibility as they are able to make on-line applications for leave, loans, bursaries, travel claims, view their payslips and update personal information no matter where they are so long as they have an internet connection.

“The internet is here to stay and its capacity and connectivity have tangibly improved recently, providing an increasingly compelling service at progressively competitive prices although South Africa still has some way to go in terms of truly competitive pricing,” says Philip Meyer, technology director at payroll and HR software specialist Pastel Payroll, part of the Softline and Sage Group plc.

“Generally accepted standard online applications – those which many people are comfortable using on a daily basis such as internet banking and online flight reservations systems, news feeds and social media sites are all being complemented by steady streams of new online business applications and services.”

Meyer says the adoption rate of online business software for new entrants into the market is increasing, posing the question of how to bridge the gap between the growing trend towards online software adoption and the traditional desktop application users in the same market segments.

“The adoption of what many consider to be commoditised uses for the internet is seen as a steady evolutionary process and the switch from legacy desktop applications to the cloud is proving to be a gradual adoption rather than a rush to jump on the bandwagon.”

The advantages and conveniences of connected services can aid and expedite the many benefits of dual-deployment business software models such as client-side hosted applications with significant connected services capabilities and functionality together with a seamless upgrade path to ultimately complete cloud-based models facilitated by vendors.

Connected Services has workflow capabilities based on the organisation chart or a specific workflow order per online form. Once an employee applies for leave online and the manager approves it, the payroll system is automatically updated. The software also provides for leave scheduling, which is particularly practical over traditional December holidays when “skeleton staff” are required. The program helps to manage minimum staff levels by providing system warnings.

Meyer reckons frictionless updates are another example of connected services that enable traditional desktop applications to seamlessly update over the internet with minimal intervention from the end-user of the software. “Customers no longer need to visit a website to download and install updates manually and install CD versions, the software now does it all for them. The days of CD-based updates and disruptive installation and implementation cycles are over.”

Another component of Connected Services allows HR managers and payroll administrators to receive RSS feeds to their desktops notifying them of legislative and tax changes and new system software releases so that the company is always on track and up to date.

“The internet and, more specifically, cloud-based and online business applications constitute some of the most compelling opportunities for streamlining the way business is conducted in the 21st century. It is reassuring that the optimisation of internet capabilities will almost certainly not amount to a one-size fits all models.

“It is rather the incremental evolution of traditional desktop software, leveraging the internet where it is appropriate and business enhancing, that will play an important role in the evolutionary shift to complete cloud-based business software provisioning, billing and deployment. This will provide a flexible and extensible migration path to the cloud taking into account preferences of individual business requirements, as will pure cloud-only offerings,” concludes Meyer

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

Accounting in the cloud

Accounting in the cloud is exactly the same as the accounting we’re all used to; the only real difference relates to where the software application is hosted and where the client’s data is stored.

This way of working will not fundamentally change how the core business process is conducted but it will certainly make it easier for businesses to manage their accounting processes, particularly with an increasingly mobile workforce and the growing number of external corporate consultants. Accounting in the cloud gives accountants and business owners alike the ability to conveniently access records and transact from remote locations with little or no advanced setup.

But working online is about far more than just accessibility; the cloud makes the lives of users considerably easier. It removes the need for manual program installations, and the array of associated hassles. It also means that users never have to worry about upgrades or backups as the system will automatically be the latest available version that is, by its nature, backed up as information is saved.

So for those willing to embrace accounting in the cloud, the result will be a streamlined book keeping and accounting process across every client that feeds into a central database and minimises the risk of data errors, or worse, losses. The more tangible benefits are felt when new legislation or tax rate adjustments, for example, simply feed into the system without the cost or aggravation of having to buy and install new programs.

Safe as houses

Our survey also tells us that security concerns are a major driving force preventing the uptake of cloud-based services amongst SMEs. I hear this kind of commentary from our clients all the time. And I repeat myself at every opportunity that security concerns shouldn’t deter users from embracing the cloud because service providers in this sector probably offer better security than regular IT vendors, leaving your vital business information safer in the cloud than on your local network.

For example, the security for our online accounting solution, Pastel My Business Online is iron clad. It includes physical armed security and restricted access to our data centres. We have firewall and intrusion detection with ongoing system reviews to identify possible weaknesses and new vulnerabilities. There are also technologies in place to ensure that if server errors do occur we can minimise downtime. And we back up data daily and store that information in two separate locations.

Making the move

Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery. The fact that the cloud assists with streamlining internal business processes is also a good reason to make the move!

While users remain apprehensive about all of their data and activities taking place in what they consider to be cyber space, I’ve started recommending a hybrid approach to tackling the move online. A less scary approach is to keep certain applications on your actual server while others run in the cloud. This allows users to remain in control of the majority of their work but can slowly familiarise themselves with the way online services work.

I would suggest that there is one of two ways to split the application locations. The cloud is either for the mundane yet necessary activities that end users spend disproportionate amounts of time getting right on their own or for highly specialised services that require outside expertise. The heart of the system –client and financial data – should sit on your mainframe in the office.

Technology: adapt or die (Part1)

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

Image

I recently realised that the term ‘cloud computing’ is not as broadly understood as I had assumed. Maybe it’s because I work in the tech sector that these buzz words are part of my everyday vocabulary but I was surprised to discover that 77% of professional accountants claim to have no understanding of what accounting in the cloud is.

This statistic comes from independent research we recently conducted. And what is interesting to me is that while a large proportion of professional accountants don’t know what cloud computing is, 53% would recommend an online accounting product to their SME clients. So, there’s obviously confusion out there because cloud computing and working with an online application is exactly the same thing. And accountants are clever people, so if they are grappling with the principles of the cloud, so must many others!

Cloud computing 101

When we refer to the cloud we’re talking about where the program is hosted, or stored, and the answer is that it lives on the web and not your computer. It’s the same as your Facebook account where all your information is stored ‘somewhere on the internet’.

Facebook (although I am not an avid user) is a great example. When you’re using it, I guarantee that you don’t think about whether it’s the latest version or if the information you see is the most current. You just know that the answer is yes and that somebody clever ‘out there’ is taking care of everything!!

Well the ‘out there’ is the cloud! Perfectionists will criticise me for this – but the heart of the argument is that the cloud refers to the web or the internet – they’re basically the same thing.

So, what are the advantages of the cloud?

I’m finding that in my personal life, things are getting messy. Between my desktop, laptop and iPad, my data is stored in too many places and I’m struggling to remember which version is the most current. But I firmly believe that this is the transition phase of migrating from the traditional way of doing things to having all my stuff working from the cloud. And I’m starting to make the shift by storing the documents that I work on regularly in Dropbox; a data keeper in the cloud. Dropbox makes sure that my data is always up to date and I can access it from anywhere, so I’ve already solved two main issues – my data is current and safe!

The anecdote: encyclopaedias go electronic

Remember Encarta – Microsoft’s excellent encyclopaedia that was around in the late 90s and early 2000s? I love this analogy. Let’s trace it from the beginning: For hundreds of years leading up to the 1980s, encyclopaedias like World Book and Britannica were actual physical books. There were usually 24 hefty books in a set; one for each letter of the alphabet as well as the annual year book which intended to keep the base information relevant.

Then a massive shift; encyclopaedias went electronic and two meters of shelf space in every home were freed-up. Encarta was available as a disk and offered something like 60 000 pieces of reference material including interactive images, timelines and maps. The ability to simply click links and jump around topics was great; you got the info you wanted quickly and knew it wasn’t dated. But can you believe that Encarta – this great invention – couldn’t have lasted for more than 10 years because the whole thing shifted to the cloud and is now called Wikipedia.

Books were our point of reference for several hundred years and now we just don’t use them anymore.

The moral of the story?

The world has changed – there’s a new way of doing things. Using the encyclopaedia example, no one questioned the shift to online – in fact it was a welcome progression, so why are we apprehensive about cloud computing when we make so much use of it already?

If businesses do not adapt to this new, and better, way of working, they run the risk of very quickly becoming prehistoric in their service delivery which is just not a sustainable strategy for success.

To read Part 2, click here

By Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Netcash, part of the Sage Group plc.

Charles Pittaway

Charles Pittaway

Connected Services is a buzzword in the industry at present, though many people are still grappling to understand just how important it will become.  I strongly believe that any business or personal solution simply cannot afford to operate in isolation.  In order for software, handheld devices and hardware to offer something of real value, they will have to be developed to interact with one another.

In the face of the information explosion that is changing the way that we communicate at core level, I feel it necessary to take a step back and investigate where it all started.  When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it was initially intended as a voice communication tool.  The realisation that the telephone was able to transfer data set the wheel in motion for the evolution into the telex and faxing sphere.  The connection of the humble telephone into cellular networks ultimately formed the foundation for the internet, which was the big game changer.

We now had the ability to transfer information and data across multiple platforms, which has had a tremendous influence on how we do business.  An example is internet banking, which essentially allows two different banking systems to connect in order to perform a transaction.  The user then receives a notification via SMS or e-mail, which brings two additional platforms into the equation, beautifully illustrating the concept of connected services.

The question however remains as to what further evolution may be on the cards for connected services and the ramifications it may have.  There are currently two very different schools of thought in play.  The advent of the cloud led to the creation of Software as a Service (SaaS), which essentially allows us to utilise software such as accounting and payroll solutions through the web on a pay per use basis.  The traditional business model is however application based, where the software is downloaded onto a personal computer and utilised from your desktop or laptop.

I foresee these two schools of thought merging in the next five to ten years into hybrid solutions.  In order to evolve into true connected services, both online and offline solutions will need to change its platforms to allow inter-changeable communication to take place.

The international business economy was non-existent 20 – 30 years ago.  Countries were isolated and restricted to trade within its own borders.  It has since developed into a global economy that is interlinked:  Whatever happens somewhere in the world has a knock-on effect elsewhere.  If you bring that same analogy back to connected services, then hardware, the internet and software has given rise to a global economy of technology.  All the different vendors cannot operate in isolation and truly successful vendors and service providers will be the companies that get that right.

Inter-operability is already well on its way to becoming the next buzzword, paving the way for strategic alliances and agreements that will allow every application or software solution to be accessible from any device.  Business Intelligence (BI) will become a key aspect in the process of collating all the available information in such a way that it will assist users to make intelligent decisions about their business.  Imagine if you had your order system, warehouse, banking, accounting, distribution and every other aspect you can think of, connected with one click of a button?  The vendors that can ultimately get all the links in the chain connected, will be king.

Connected Services allows for transactions to be owned by various vendors, whether it is a banking system, order system, e-mail or SMS.  It is ultimately not about the number of systems to be linked in a supply chain, but how these systems interact to automate a total solution.

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director, Softline Pastel Accounting

Did you know that only 53% of professional accountants would recommend an online accounting product to their SME clients?

This statistic comes from independent research we recently conducted relating to accounting and business solutions for the SME sector. What was interesting for me was that a lack of understanding and experience is one of the main reasons preventing the uptake of cloud-based services.

Accounting in the cloud is exactly the same as the accounting we’re all used to; the core difference relates to where the software application is hosted and where the client’s data is stored. So, when we refer to the cloud, we mean that the accounting program is hosted on the web and not on your computer. It’s the same as your Facebook account where all your information is stored ‘somewhere on the internet’.

Accounting in the cloud will not fundamentally change how the core business process is conducted but it will certainly make it easier for businesses to manage their accounting processes, particularly with an increasingly mobile workforce and the growing number of external corporate consultants. Accounting in the cloud gives accountants and business owners alike the ability to conveniently access records and transact from remote locations with little or no advanced setup.

But working online is about far more than just accessibility; the cloud makes the lives of users considerably easier. It removes the need for manual program installations, and the associated hassles. It also means that users never have to worry about upgrades or backups as the system will automatically be the latest available version that is, by its nature, backed up as information is saved.

So for those willing to embrace accounting in the cloud, the result will be a streamlined book keeping and accounting process across the business that feeds into a central database and minimises the risk of data errors, or worse, losses. The more tangible benefits are felt when new legislation or tax rate adjustments, for example, simply feed into the system without the cost or aggravation of having to buy and install new programs.

Our survey also tells us that security concerns are the other major driving force preventing the uptake of cloud-based services amongst SMEs. I hear this kind of commentary from our clients all the time. And I repeat myself at every opportunity that security concerns shouldn’t deter users from embracing the cloud because service providers in this space probably offer better security than regular IT vendors, leaving your vital business information safer in the cloud than on the local network.

For example, the security for our online accounting solution, Pastel My Business Online is iron clad. It includes physical armed security and restricted access to our data centres. We have firewall and intrusion detection with ongoing system reviews to identify possible weaknesses and new vulnerabilities. We have technologies in place to ensure that if server errors do occur, we can minimise downtime. And we also back up data daily and store that information in two separate locations.

But users remain apprehensive about all of their data and activities taking place in what they consider to be cyber space. So, I’ve started recommending a hybrid approach, where certain applications sit on the actual server while others run in the cloud. This means that users can still feel in control of the majority of their work but can slowly familiarise themselves with the way online services work.

I would suggest that there is one of two ways to split the application locations. The cloud is either for the mundane yet necessary activities that end users spend disproportionate amounts of time getting right on their own or for highly specialised services that require outside expertise. The heart of the system –client and financial data – should sit on your mainframe in the office.