Tag Archive: Cloud

The Sage Insights 2014 conference provided inspiration to everybody part of the Sage ERP ecosystem. The annual conference was held at Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg and attended by more than 250 Sage ERP Africa business partners, which included many partners from Southern, East and West Africa as well as the Middle East.

In his opening address, Jeremy Waterman, Managing Director of Sage ERP Africa and the Middle East said: “The key to being a successful business player in the ERP sector is realising the existence of major disruptive trends and ensuring solutions adapt accordingly. Whether you are business owner, software developer, or a sales person, disruptive technologies, such as cloud, mobile and connected services are a reality and applying its principles will make you one step ahead of the competition. You need to find a way to be disruptive or you will be disrupted.”

Waterman noted that 2013 had been a very busy year during which Sage had rebranded from Softline and established itself as the brand leader in the supply of effective business solutions to small and medium size businesses throughout the African continent. Their presence in East Africa is on the increase and they have established a significant foothold in West Africa with the opening of a Sage office in Lagos, Nigeria. Further to this, Sage ERP Africa has also assumed the management of the Middle East region during 2013.

Himanshu Palsule, Chief Technology Officer at Sage North America, focused his keynote address on the impact of mobility and cloud as disruptive forces in the market today, and how the Sage 300 ERP business was leveraging these as an opportunity in developing the product roadmap. “Our markets are transforming, the web and mobility have disrupted the value chain and we need to react responsibly to the disruption by investing in purposeful innovation. We need to give customers flexibility and choice and therefore our roadmap for the future will include a total reimagining of the product, focusing not only on mobility and cloud but also modernising the user interface for an improved customer experience. Sage ERP 300 has been chosen as one of the select small to medium business (SMB) products worldwide that Sage is investing in to effectively position it as a competitive force in the cloud.”

In the keynote delivered by Amanda Jobbins, Chief Marketing Officer for Sage, highlights of Sage’s Global Brand strategy, were shared. “At Sage we are on a new and exciting journey with the development of our brand in the minds of customers. We want to ensure consistency in our visual identity and ensure that customers recognise us a global leader and a partner that will give them the freedom and confidence to succeed.”

Keynotes were also delivered by Christophe Vanackere, Director of international operations at Sage ERP X3, on the seven exciting new strategies for Sage ERP X3 V7 to be released June 2014 and Tom Nolan, Head of Sage CRM, focused on the road ahead for Sage CRM and the integration with Sage 300 ERP as well as Sage ERP X3.

A strategic sales summary was delivered by Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President for Sales at Sage ERP Africa and Middle East. “Our excellent growth figures show that as a company we are disruptive and contribute in building the economy in Africa by being innovation partners for businesses. In going forward and ensuring that we keep a customer for life, it will be important to accelerate disruption by ensuring the development of relevant and modern solutions.”

Waterman concludes: “Sage Insights 2014 was the most exciting conference in many years because it focussed on what was actually being delivered now. The conference in 2013 defined the way forward for our three core products – Sage 300 ERP, Sage ERP X3 and Sage CRM in terms of meeting the challenges of cloud and mobility. This year it was all about the actual execution of these strategies. There are particularly exciting times lying ahead for us, our business partners and Industry Solution Vendors (ISV’s) as we work together to deliver disruptive solutions to the customer. The conference was an excellent opportunity for us to network, share information and very importantly, have some fun.”

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.

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 Steven Cohen, managing director Pastel Accounting

Technology, like most things, operates in cycles; there are times when the changes taking place don’t really affect you and then there are times when so much is happening that it’s very difficult to grasp what can really benefit you.

And today, we find ourselves in one of those cycles where a fortune is happening and it’s all related to the internet, web, cloud, or whatever you want to call it.

With so much tech-activity, there’s a real possibility that you’ve chosen to shut out the noise and ignore it all but currently there are a number of trends that would benefit you and you’re probably missing out and starting to lag in you work environment.

I try and stay as current as I can. It’s easy for me because technology is one of my passions. So, what I’m going to do in this article is cut through the noise and tell you about some new technology I’ve been using that I think could be of benefit to you too.


It’s all in the cloud

Accountants are clever people, but I recently realised that the term ‘cloud computing’ is not as broadly understood as I had assumed. In some research that we conducted amongst professional accountants towards the end of last year it emerged that 77% of respondents have no understanding of what accounting in the cloud is but 53% said they would recommend an online accounting product to their clients. So, there’s obviously confusion out there because cloud computing and working with an online application is exactly the same thing.


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.


Online accounting systems

Being a chartered accountant gives me a decent understanding of how accounting in the cloud can make life easier for everyone: clients and accounting practices.

I remember the early days when we would have to go to clients to perform the audit function, test samples, review source documentation, etc. Sometimes we would back up the client’s data, take it back to the office to work with it and then once complete, process our adjusting journal entries on the client’s live data.

So, imagine an accounting system where you can perform a material amount of audit work on your client’s live data from your offices – while the client is working on the accounting system at the same time. By simply logging onto your client’s system from anywhere you could perform any task, and imagine; no more time in the traffic!

Think of the time saved by preparing provisional tax estimates and producing an income statement from your office. Or being able to produce management accounts whenever you choose and simply emailing them to your clients. And when it’s convenient for you, reconciling live bank accounts and producing VAT returns while your client processes invoices concurrently.

I remember when our client accounting department would receive documentation from our clients whereupon we would enter all of their transactions on our own internal client accounting systems. In the internet world, this is no longer necessary.

Depending on the client’s size and skills, the accountant (who in most cases is offsite doing the books) could do all the accounting work while the client produces customer invoices, concentrates on stock control, collecting money, etc . And you will all be transacting real time on the same live system.

Because all the information for all of your clients would be in the cloud you would be able to take a bird’s eye view of multiple clients at the same time.

What this means is: no more year-end or month end procedures – ever – so you would be able to produce financials at any point in time no matter how far back you wanted to go. And because the data resides in the cloud, you could work from anywhere at any time that was convenient for you.

Another huge plus factor is that no software needs to be installed on your computer; you simply login through your browser. So it makes no difference whether you choose to work on your computer at work, or your computer at home, or a computer at an internet café or airport.

Consider the difference this could make to your life, your practice and your client’s life.

And best of all, everyone would be on the same version of the software all the time. It’s the same as internet banking. When you logon to your bank’s internet site, you’re always logging onto the current version.

Ok, so that’s accounting in the cloud.


Money or the box

Another extremely useful tool that I use is called Dropbox; a data keeper in the cloud.

People often get confused with Dropbox because the concept is a bit weird – but once you understand it, then the possibilities appear.

Imagine carrying a briefcase of documents around with you wherever you go. What’s good about it is you know that the document you are looking at is the same – because it comes out of the same briefcase. Dropbox allows you to do this, but without having to carry the briefcase.

Pretend you have an expense schedule spreadsheet called Expense.xls on your work computer. As you save it, Dropbox will send a copy of it to your personalised Dropbox in the cloud. It will then make a copy of it to all your other devices (even your mobile phone or iPad or Samsung tablet) where you have Dropbox installed.

So effectively, on whichever device you choose to look at the Expense.xls spreadsheet, you will always be looking at the same version of the file.

If you are at the airport and update the spreadsheet to add a few new rows of expenses, as you save the file on your laptop, so it will be updated on all your other devices.

That’s the basic functionality of Dropbox, but it goes much further.

Let’s say you have 20 folders on your computer, but you want to share one particular folder with your associates. You can do this by making that folder a shared folder. And whenever you add or change a document in that folder, the people with whom you’ve shared it will be notified that the document has been added or changed. And vice versa.

So you could setup a folder for each client and they can put documents in the folder which updates the folder on your computer.

The benefit of Dropbox is that your data is always up to date and can be accessed from anywhere, so your data is guaranteed current and safe!

85 Percent of small-to-medium sized businesses surveyed opt to host payroll or accounting software on PC’s or local servers rather than in the cloud. This according to the Sage Business Index, which surveyed over 2,000 South African SME’s in late 2011. “The concept of the cloud, and the benefits thereof, are not yet widely understood by small business owners in South Africa,” says Ivan Epstein, CEO of Softline and Sage AAMEA (Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa).

Nearly half of the Index respondents say that they have some of the organisations software in the cloud, and Epstein says the main factors for the gradual move are broadband penetration and security concerns. “Companies are concerned about losing control when moving their data into the cloud, so it is clear that trust, transparency, understanding of the cloud and the options available, are key education and information points for our customers.”

According to the Sage Business Index, the two biggest reasons for introducing new technology in an organisation would be to help improve efficiency (64 percent) and help provide a better customer service (54 percent). Further to this, 38 percent said they would adopt new technology to save costs. “In any size business there is always a drive to reduce service and infrastructure costs and cloud based products and services offer this benefit. Rising cost pressure might force the hand of some business owners to adopt web-based solutions, but I believe that once they have made the leap they will be pleased with the result,” says Epstein.

In November 2011, the IP EXPO Corporate Cloud Survey 2011[1], a report by World Wide Worx commissioned for the IP EXPO technology trade show, stated that out of 100 large JSE-listed corporations interviewed, just under half (46 percent) were already using cloud computing. Interestingly, almost the same percentage of SME respondents in the Sage Business Index said the same. “Small business is not far behind large enterprise when it comes to technology adoption, but unlike larger companies, the expense to replace existing technology or systems is a barrier for SME’s (53 percent of respondents cited this as the biggest obstacle).”

Epstein says that web strategy is a big focus for Softline and Sage in 2012, “We are pursuing a two-pronged strategy based on ‘Connected services’ and ‘Online business solutions’.  Connected services bring the benefits of the web to existing users of desktop-based products by connecting and extending their desktop software and increasing their lifetime value. “The benefit for SME’s is that the deployment is swift, seamless, affordable and secure,” says Epstein.
‘Online business solutions’ have been developed to address a new way of working, either through new products designed purely for the web or adapting existing products to live online. “The strategy combines best of both worlds by offering the reach and convenience of the web with the richness, control and resilience of desktop solutions. It offers our customers a choice of solutions best suited to their needs,” comments Epstein.

[1] The full results of the IP EXPO Corporate Cloud Survey 2011 and analysis of its findings were presented at the IP EXPO conference on 15 November 2011. The research was conducted with 100 JSE-listed companies each employing 200 people or more. Download the presentation by clicking here.