Tag Archive: business technology


Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom. The Sage Group, the leading global provider of business management software to small and medium sized companies, today announced the formation of a Technology Advisory Group.

The group, consisting of external, prominent technology industry leaders and internal experts will act as a sounding board for the company and as a source of independent thinking on a wide range of technology issues. Meeting four times a year, the group will act as a collaborative body, keeping abreast of developments in the wider technology sector.

Joining Sage Chief Executive, Guy Berruyer; Chief Technology Officer, Klaus Michael Vogelberg; and Chief Marketing Officer, Amanda Jobbins, on the Technology Advisory Group will be:

  • Rajat Taneja, EVP and CTO of Electronic Arts, the gaming organisation, and
    previously CVP for Microsoft’s e-commerce, online services and SMB
    offerings, who will act as Chair
  • Alex Gounares, CEO of Concurix Corporation, and previously the CTO of
    AOL and Microsoft’s Online Services Division; and
  • Pierre Samec, EVP and CTO of The TriZetto Group and previously EVP and
    CTO of Expedia, Inc.

Guy Berruyer commented, “The formation of this group provides a powerful combination of independent, external perspective and internal expertise. The group’s knowledge, vision and foresight will support our technology strategy and our internal talent to ensure that we capture the opportunities that technology presents. I am delighted to welcome Rajat, Alex, and Pierre to the Sage community and look forward to the valuable input they will be able to bring to our business.”

Rajat Taneja commented, “I am truly delighted to be joining Sage’s Technology Advisory Group. Sage has a great technology strategy and I am confident that as a collective body we will bring a wide range of experience and perspectives from across the technology sector that will really add value to the organisation.”

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!

By Jeremy Waterman, MD Softline Accpac and Sage MMD Africa

Part of the Sage Group plc

Image

Jeremy Waterman

Enterprise ERP and CRM solutions were historically designed for large corporations and typically come with appropriately large price tag.  Many ERP software vendors have adopted that same approach in the African market, not realising that they are entering a different playing field where the average African company is no larger than upper mid-market in size.

For a continent that doesn’t have a large enterprise ERP requirement, we have not really seen suitable mid-market solutions that have been able to establish the critical mass in the African market in order to compete effectively.  Our Sage ERP X3 and Sage ERP Accpac solutions are specifically designed to support the upper and mid-market companies, this presents a big opportunity for us to dominate the space in Africa that has been falsely dominated by large enterprise ERP players.

Due to the lack of credible upper mid-market software vendors in the African market companies have, in the past, had to compromise and buy lower mid-market products or overspend on solutions that are better designed and suited for very large global enterprises.

We are particularly excited about the launch of our Sage ERP X3 Standard Edition that is targeted at the heart of the mid-market and is delivered with a set of implementation methodologies that guarantee an effective solution in a short period of time.

The African market is hungry for technology and demands that new features are made available a lot faster than before.  We are moving into the age of intelligence and companies in Africa are well ahead of much of the world in embracing the mobile revolution.  As a result, the average African business is driving their business in the mobile direction and we need to be able to provide ERP and CRM solutions that are able to adapt and address the needs of this growing market.

Companies ultimately want the ability to ‘listen’ to everything and they want solutions that will allow them to react in real time.  How quickly and flexibly we, as product developers, can deliver that information in a usable and mobile format is the name of the game.

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.

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.

Connected Services

Grant_Lloyd

Grant Lloyd

There’s very little doubt that the internet has arrived and is here to stay – for better or for worse…..

Not only has the availability and the capacity of internet connectivity improved markedly of late, but, the price of such services has shown increased (albeit very gradual) signs of commoditisation in the past year, providing an increasingly compelling service at progressively competitive prices (although South Africa still has a LONG way to go in this regard).

Generally accepted “standard” online applications i.e. those which we are (largely) comfortable using on a daily basis, such as online shopping, internet banking, flight and hotel reservation systems, news feeds and the ubiquitous social media sites, are increasingly being complemented by a steady stream of new online business applications and services.  One has only to consider the initial launch success of both Pastel MyBusiness Online and VIP Liquid Payroll to confirm that the adoption rate of online line-of-business software is on the rise for new entrants into the market segment.

How then does one bridge the gap between the inexorable trend toward online line-of-business software adoption and traditional desktop application users in a similar segment?

In the same way that the adoption of what we (today) consider commoditised uses for the internet (listed above) has been a steady evolutionary process, so too will the switch from legacy desktop line-of-business applications to cloud-based services prove to be a gradual yet inevitable “chicken-little” adoption process rather than a single cataclysmic “big-bang” event.

It is in this evolutionary shift that the advantages and conveniences of connected services can not only aid, but expedite the considerable benefits of dual-deployment business software models i.e. client-side hosted applications with significant connected services capabilities and functionality, together with a vendor-facilitated seamless upgrade path to ultimately complete cloud-based models.

Consider frictionless updates as one example of connected services enabling traditional desktop application to seamlessly update itself over the internet, with little or no intervention from the end-user of the software.  New updates are made available by the vendor on a periodic basis and are shipped invisibly to the end-user leveraging the internet as a transport mechanism.  Gone are the days of CD-based updates and often disruptive installation and implementation cycles.

Imagine to a world of connected payment and financial services where both desktop and cloud-based line-of-business applications offer tightly integrated and yet transparent payment, reconciliation and receipting functionality without the use of traditional front-end banking software in a “clunky” 2-phase approach, once again leveraging the internet as bi-directional transport facilitator.

Whilst the internet and more specifically cloud-based and / or online business applications present some of the most compelling opportunities for re-imagining the way one conducts business in the 21st century, it is reassuring to observe that such leveraging of internet capabilities will almost certainly not be a “one-size-fits-all” model.  Incremental evolution of traditional desktop software, leveraging the internet where appropriate and when business-enhancing, will play as important a role in the evolutionary shift to complete cloud-based business software provisioning, billing and deployment, thereby providing a flexible and extensible “to-cloud” migration path as deemed preferable by individual business requirements, as will pure cloud-only offerings.

-BY GRANT LLOYD, CTO Softline and Sage AAMEA

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