Tag Archive: SMME


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.

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

Keith Fenner

Keith Fenner

This years’ annual Sage Insights 2013 Conference is taking place from 7-10 February at Misty Hills in Johannesburg and brings together local and international Sage staff, solution providers and third party developers.  The conference serves as a platform for players in the industry to network with the purpose of providing some insight into 2013 and what to expect in terms of trends and product developments in the fields of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Business Intelligence (BI).

An opening address from Managing Director of Sage ERP Africa, Jeremy Waterman, will kick the event into gear on Thursday, 7 February 2013.

Himanshu Palsule, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Product Strategy at Sage Group will address the roadmap that is planned for the launch of Sage 300 ERP, formerly known as Sage ERP Accpac, which is in line with Sage Group’s directive to consolidate its brand name globally.

Keynotes will be delivered by Sean Mooney, the Head of Research and Development at Sage Group, on developments that are expected for Sage CRM in addition to Benoit Gruber, Vice President of Product and Alliances Sage ERPX3, Product Marketing Europe and Sage mid-market, speaking on the road ahead for Sage ERP X3.

The launch of Sage ERP X3 Version 7 is also one of the big announcements scheduled for Sage Insights 2013.  This new technology update will make native thin client access to Sage ERP X3 a reality from any device, desktop or mobile.

For more information visit:  www.sageerp.co.za

Softline, a provider of business management software to small and medium sized companies, today announced that after months of planning they will be rebranding and will be referred to as Sage  South Africa, effective immediately. Softline is the holding company for prominent South African software products such as Pastel Accounting and Payroll, VIP Payroll, Sage 300 ERP (Accpac) and Sage ERP X3. Softline joined the Sage Group plc in 2003 after delisting from the JSE and is the central team of the Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia (AAMEA) region, a grouping of territories headed by Softline co-founder and CEO of Sage AAMEA Ivan Epstein.

The Sage Group plc, a FTSE 100 company, is a leading global provider of business management software to SMEs with over 6.5 million customers in 24 countries. Epstein attributes the rebranding in South Africa to the alignment with Softline’s parent company, The Sage Group plc. in the continued pursuit of a global brand. “Softline has been part of The Sage Group plc for many years and over this time we have continued to grow in prominence.  To move forward we believe that it is now time to leverage the global power of The Sage Group and align ourselves fully with the brand.”

Softline was founded in 1988 by Ivan Epstein, Alan Osrin and soon after joined by Steven Cohen. The company was established in the formative years of the business software industry in South Africa, and soon became a leader in the provision of business software and services to SMEs.  The move to Sage will bring about name changes across all of the divisions including Sage VIP (formerly Softline VIP), Sage ERP Africa (formerly Softline ACCPAC), Sage Pastel (formerly Softline Pastel) and Sage Netcash (formerly Softline Netcash) as well as the newest edition to the stable, Sage Alchemex (formerly Alchemex).  “Our current and future customers will continue to enjoy the benefits of our locally and globally developed products that they have come to know and trust, whilst this alignment creates further opportunities to leverage global insights and collaboration.”

Epstein says that while the company’s branding will change, it is business as usual for Sage South Africa. “Our continued vision in South Africa, and globally, is to be recognised as the most valuable supporter of small and medium sized companies, by creating greater freedom for them to succeed,” says Epstein. “This vision supports the path of providing local expertise and leadership combined with global learnings and experience of Sage.”

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 Michael Brennan

Sage has been carefully listening to its global market for Sage ERP X3 with regards to feedback and requests on the topic of Financial Reporting and is already making progress on integrating a powerful and flexible reporting technology based on cutting edge BI technology. The Sage ERP X3 core product team in France has embarked on a strategic partnership with our team with the intention of providing a modern Excel-based financial reporting designer and tools.

We have been in the business of offering robust Excel-based business intelligence tools for 11 years and have been working on Sage ERP products since 2005. Sage France’s move to collaborate closely with our team, mainly based in South Africa, is well aligned with Sage Group’s core strategy of consolidating group assets across regions and presents an exciting roadmap of consistent product and service offerings globally.

As global market BI market trends continue to evolve we have been investing heavily in new advanced technologies to power our next generation offerings and are pleased to announce Sage ERP X3 version 7 will include fully integrated financial reporting capabilities based on its next generation In-Memory Database BI Platform codenamed ‘LIME’. This new column based database platform has been engineered from the ground up to cater the needs of tomorrow’s businesses with a core focus on high performance, flexibility and great user experience. The new platform is able to accelerate performance by pre-calculating financial logic and place the results into its in-memory BI database to dramatically improve real-time query performance.

Expectations on this new offering include report design automation to cater for novice Excel users as well as flexible drag and drop formulas for capable Excel users. This approach allows both types of users to pull financial and analytical ledger data directly out of Sage ERP X3 v7 and arrange it within Excel using their existing Excel skills and save your Excel report securely back to the Sage ERP X3 server. In addition to utilizing cutting edge technology, we are also including major usability and modernization changes to our  report designer tools as we ramp up to deliver on ever increasing market demands for simpler BI and reporting software. This is great news for users who are already using Sage Intelligence Financial Reporting for Sage ERP X3 v6 and v6.5 who can look forward to substantial business value increases when moving to the integrated report designer within Sage ERP X3 which will be available as an option to all users using version 7.

Both French and South African teams are excited about the extent of new business value planned for Sage ERP X3 version 7 as a result of their collaboration and having a dedicated BI team focus on the Excel financial reporting capabilities of Sage ERP X3 allows the French team to ship more value to market each release.

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.

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

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

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

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

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