Tag Archive: small business


Ansie Snyders, Head of the Department for Training and Seminars at Sage VIP

Ansie Snyders

Ansie Snyders

Sage VIP has announced the launch of an e-learning option to its already comprehensive package of training solutions. E-learning is an online solution that enables a user to complete the outcomes of a specific learning program in their own time and pace.

It made business sense to develop an online training solution which is innovative and aligned with world-class technology. According to a 2012 Internet Access in South Africa study, conducted by World Wide Worx, the South African Internet user base had grown from 6,8-million in 2010 to 8,5-million at the end of 2011. World Wide Worx also forecasted in the same study that the strong growth would continue during 2012, and the Internet user base would pass the 10-million mark by the end of that year. Further to this point, the way in which we interact with technology every day is changing and it influences all aspects of our lives, including the way we learn.

E-learning is a cost-effective solution, saving on class fees and travel costs. However, it still requires a commitment from the learner in terms of time and actual completion of the course. The online assessment is an added benefit to Sage VIP’s e-learning solution and at completion of the course; students will receive a certificate of competence.

Furthermore, because this is online training you will need access to a computer with internet connectivity. Once you have registered for the e-learning workshop, a login name and password provided by Sage VIP, will allow you access to the specific workshop.  To be able to complete the course, you will also need Adobe v4.0.1.

Although the training is done online, it will still be practical, interactive and use real-life examples. Sage VIP’s e-learning tools will include online reading material and limited use of video, basically guiding a learner through the relevant screens of the payroll module. There will also be interesting exercises to test the understanding of specific topics and the learner will receive supporting documents for reference purposes.

In conclusion, Sage VIP’s e-learning will make the subject matter come alive in a way that textbooks and the classroom cannot.

Saul Symanowitz (Divisional Manager: Sage Pastel BEE123) , Hon. Rob Davies (Minister: Department of Trade and Industry), Thulani Fakude (Business Development Executive: Sage Pastel BEE123)

Saul Symanowitz (Divisional Manager: Sage Pastel BEE123) , Hon. Rob Davies (Minister: Department of Trade and Industry), Thulani Fakude (Business Development Executive: Sage Pastel BEE123)

Sage Pastel, has donated R7.5 million of software, training and other support interventions to the newly formed Black Management Forum (BMF) SMME Programme.

Launched this week by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, the BMF is extending its support for the development and empowerment of black businesses in the SME sector.

“With a 70% first-year failure rate amongst local start-ups, small business owners need as much support as possible,” said Saul Symanowitz, head of Sage Pastel’s BEE123 division. “Foundational business systems and basic business knowledge are not always part of an entrepreneur’s skill set and the Sage Pastel business toolkit will go a long way to providing that support.”

Sage Pastel will contribute to the BMF SMME Programme by donating 500 toolkits to participating small businesses.  This business support system, which is dubbed the BMF SMME Business Bundle, covers the key areas of accounting, legal, human resources, BEE and marketing. The retail price of the toolkit would be prohibitive for most small businesses.

Sage Pastel has been the leading developer of business and accounting software for small, medium and growing businesses for over 23 years and acknowledges the importance of this sector in building the local economy.  “This donation is part of our on going support for small businesses in South Africa. SMEs play a vital role in economic growth and employment creation. It is essential to ensure that businesses operating in this sector are viable and sustainable in the long term.” comments Symanowitz.

Minister Davies stated that his department supports the development of strong and productive enterprises, endorsing President Jacob Zuma’s position of the need to develop black industrialists. He also indicated the importance of encouraging symbiotic relations between small and big business, and using BEE codes to ensure small business development and the growth and expansion of a healthy SMME sector.

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.

The annual budget speech delivered by the Minister of Finance is often viewed with a healthy dose of foreboding by payroll administrators across the country. Sage Pastel Payroll and Sage VIP, regarded as experts in the field of HR and Payroll, will collaborate and embark on a countrywide roadshow during March and April 2013 at various venues throughout South Africa to provide guidance and support to payroll and tax practitioners and financial personnel. The seminar will be presented by Rob Cooper, a payroll tax expert at Sage VIP and part of the Sage South Africa.

“The seminar is regarded by many as a definitive guide to the changes in payroll and tax legislation and we endeavour to present it in a practical and interactive manner that does not focus on the legal aspects alone. The presentation will also aim at communicating future trends that can impact on payroll and HR officers,” said Cooper.

Topics to be covered at the Payroll and Tax Seminar will include:

  • A comprehensive review of the 2013/14 Budget Speech
  • Proposed changes and new legislation in Tax Administration
  • Possible impact of changes on businesses
  • How to be compliant with the legislation and remain one step ahead as a Company

Attendees will also take home a comprehensive, yet practical workbook for later reference.

Dates and Venues:

1, 20, 27 March: Sage Conferencing (Woodmead, Gauteng)

4, 12 March, 15 April: Emperors Palace (Boksburg, Gauteng)

5 March: Quest Conference Centre Vanderbijlpark

6 March: Windmill Casino (Bloemfontein)

7 March: CSIR Gauteng (Pretoria Gauteng)

8 March: Silverstar Casino (Krugersdorp)

11 March &16 April: Centurion Lake (Centurion Gauteng)

13 March & 9 April: Gateway Hotel (Umhlanga)

14 March: Grand West Casino (Goodwood, Cape Town)

15 March & 10 April: Sanlam Head Office (Cape Town)

18 March: NMMU (Port Elizabeth)

19 March: Garden Court Hotel (East London)

11 April: Golden Valley Casino (Worcester)

19 April: Meropa Casino (Polokwane)

22 April: Emnotweni (Nelspruit)

For more info, email: info_seminars@sage.com

Proudly brought to you by Sage Seminars
Powered by Sage Pastel & Sage VIP

By Jeremy Waterman, the Managing Director of Sage ERP

Jeremy Waterman

Jeremy Waterman

The Sage Insights 2013 Conference was a resounding success and a true celebration of the mobile revolution and the challenges it poses for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  More than 250 Sage ERP Africa’s business partners attended, which included 32 partners from East and West Africa.

The opening address focused on the mobile revolution and the challenges it holds for software vendors. It is not really the concept of mobility that is revolutionary, but more the reality of the delivery mechanism that has undergone an evolution.

Himanshu Palsule, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Product Strategy at Sage Group said in his keynote address that 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.

Benoit Gruber, Vice President of Product and Alliances Sage ERP X3, Product Marketing Europe and Sage mid-market, spoke about the road ahead for Sage ERP X3 and the planned release for version 7.0. This new technology update will make native thin client access to Sage ERP X3 a reality from any device, desktop or mobile.

Sean Mooney, the Head of Research and Development at Sage CRM assured partners that Sage CRM will remain at the heart of integrated business.

A strategic sales summary was delivered by Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President for Sales at Sage ERP Africa. He spoke about the Group’s extraordinary year and said that the success of Sage ERP x3 in Africa continued with triple growth digit growth in 2012. It is an ideal fit for many of the larger companies in Africa.

Another highlight of the conference was the announcement of Parity Software as the winner of the Sage National Solution Provider award for 2012. This is the highest recognition awarded by Sage for excellence in development, sales and technical expertise.

Parity’s managing director, Warren Williams said they are extremely pleased by the fact that after 30 years in business they continue to receive the highest industry accolades and that they still plan to provide top quality business solutions for Sage and other business partners.

Sage VIP’s latest generation product offering, called VIP People is now officially available to all South African companies, particularly for the enterprise market and offers a turnkey integrated payroll, HR and Employee Self Service Solution. “It is powerful, simple, flexible, feature-rich and highly customisable. The solution caters for diverse and often quite complex payroll and HR challenges faced by South African organisations, especially those with a large number of employees,” says Anton van Heerden, Managing Director of Sage VIP (previously known as Softline VIP).

Anton Van Heerden

Anton Van Heerden

Anton continues: “VIP People places the organisation on the forefront of yet another development. Innovation is one of the core values at Sage VIP and therefore we continuously develop software that is fresh, forward thinking and in line with world-class standards. The new offering combines state of the art technology with VIP’s existing, well developed infrastructure. It also effectively incorporates the Group’s extensive experience in the HR and payroll industry, ensuring that companies are legislatively compliant, while keeping focus on business efficiency and value. VIP People is the result of years of interaction with our clients, learning how they operate and incorporating best practices and procedures.”

Van Heerden says, “VIP People is one of the biggest research and development projects the company has invested in for the last five years. Development of the product was completed in August 2011. Systems were then sold into a controlled environment to a small number of companies, ensuring everything runs smoothly before the formal launch of the product.”

The first company that bought VIP People was King Price Insurance. Basil Song, financial director, says: “King Price Insurance embraces innovation and is proud to be the first live customer on VIP People.  We like the fact that the software is scalable, can grow and expand as our requirements change. Secondly, the software is extremely easy to use, I was put in a position where I had to submit Equity reports on short notice and, with VIP’s prompt assistance, was able to submit on time with ease. As expected, VIP lived up to its reputation as being a world class service company.”

Existing customers of VIP’s Payroll offerings will have the choice to continue with their existing software or to buy the latest offering, with full support from Sage VIP resources. The roll-out into Africa is scheduled for 2014.

Some interesting facts about VIP People:

  • Developed in .Net and runs on a MS SQL Server.
  • The real-time design that VIP’s products are known for, is also an integral part of the People system.
  • It employs a friendly and familiar user interface with the ability to customise the working space for each user as they prefer.
  • The payslip can keep track of, and manage details of external payments for example garnishees, bond payments, revenue services, etc.
  • It creates remuneration structures containing all the payroll definitions applicable to a specific individual or group of employees, which streamline processes.
  • Company management is also streamlined. For example, VIP People can create unlimited companies per database and employees’ pay periods can be viewed for two years in advance.
  • Customers can regularly receive all the latest statutory updates ensuring full legal compliance with minimal effort.
  • The reports allow for complex calculations and further manipulation.
  • Multiple Medical aid providers with their various options can be created.
  • The employees’ leave transactions can be viewed on an actual calendar and leave set-up is done according to company specific guidelines.
  • It is built on an extremely secure design which employs best practice principles to ensure maximum security and control.

For more information, visit www.vippayroll.co.za.

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 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.

A Legislative Look at 2013

By Rob Cooper, Director of Legislation Updates and Proposed Legislation at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc.

Rob Cooper

Rob Cooper

The dawn of 2013 brings a number of legislative changes that are looming on the horizon.

Proposed changes to the South African Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) are on the cards for 2013 in the wake of massive protest action that has crippled the country.  Some of the proposed changes include the fact that minimum wages can be prescribed by the Minister of Labour.  Public officials are also proposed to have the power to prohibit strikes in their sectors.  It is also proposed that Unions must ballot and get majority agreement to strike or picket, but there is strong opposition from Cosatu who see this as a curtailment of their freedom to strike and one wonders whether this will be in the final legislation.

Fortunately, the debate whether labour brokers should be closed down or regulated, seems to have gone the way of stricter regulation.  A decision has however been passed that ‘Atypical’ employees become ‘Deemed’ employees after six months.  The upheaval in the industry has seen the number of labour brokers dramatically reduce from 3,234 in 2010 to 2,685 in 2011.

These proposals have been pushed through Nedlac, despite labour and business differences.  Parliament’s labour portfolio committee is to finalise last ‘discussions’ with amendments to the respective bills having been published on 22 October 2012.  The effective date is yet to be announced.

Employment Equity Act proposals were recently released by Nedlac that will see the act continuing to focus on provincial targets instead of national demographic targets.  Increased fines and powers are proposed in addition to the introduction of the concept of equal pay for work of equal value.  These proposals could quite possibly be rolled out in conjunction with the BCEA and LRA amendments.

South Africa has a Total of 19,5 million unemployed people, of whom 4,5 million are ‘officially’ unemployed in addition to 60% not having a matric.  Of the youth under the age of 25, around 50% are unemployed.  Unfortunately the Youth Subsidy, which had reached a fairly advanced stage, was given the political boot at the ANC’s June policy conference, to be replaced by a ‘Job seeker Grant’, of which there are no details available.  It is expected that more information will be released at the Mangaung elective conference.

Tax Relief for Medical Expenses is expected to change in either March 2013 or March 2014, from a deduction calculation to a ‘Medical Tax Credit’ method of calculation. Contribution expenses for all taxpayers are to be defined, while an assessment method to calculate the tax relief on total medical expenses is to be tabled.  These proposals will result in a gradual reduction of the value of our current tax relief which has been the trend over the past two years.

The National Health Insurance project is set to be a fourteen year project of which the total cost is still being debated.  The Budget 2012 funding options were to increase the VAT rate; or to increase the surcharge on taxable income; or to introduce a payroll tax contribution.  Thus far the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement remained silent on the subject, though a Treasury discussion document is expected soon.

There will be a major move towards the standardisation of retirement funds and there are many reasons for the proposed changes.  The poor performance by some private retirement funds is a major catalyst as is the prevailing low retirement savings level in the country.  Also the tax and administration rules around retirement funds are simply too complex.

The purpose of the change is to ensure that all retirement funds have the same administration and tax rules.  The intention is to utilise the tax and administration rules that are applicable to retirement annuities and to replicate it for retirement funds.  There are many ‘vested interests’ to be protected and it will only be applicable to South African residents.  The roll-out is tentatively planned for March 2014.

Proposals for a National Retirement Fund have also been tabled, which will take the form of a mandatory statutory fund that provides pension, life insurance and disability benefits.  The fund is to be phased in over the next four years and will place pressure on the private sector retirement funds.

Proposed changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act will affect ‘Credit days’ which is proposed to be calculated as one calendar day for every four calendar days employed.  The proposal will also see an increase in the income replacement rate and may remove certain exclusions or limitations in the Act.

The introduction of the virtual UIF office system allows individuals to apply for UIF benefits electronically.  It effectively eliminates the need to queue at the labour office, reduces the cost of ‘accessing’ the benefit and reduces the benefit approval time from about four weeks to 48 hours.

These are just some of the changes lined up for 2013 and we will continue the discussion as we near the budget speech in the New Year.

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.