Amazon puts roots in SA

While global online retail company Amazon.com widens its net with online food shopping and walk-in bookstores, its Web services division is making inroads in South Africa.

Amazon Web Services says it is recruiting 250 people for its offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The company offers cloud computing for other companies. Cloud computing refers to the on-demand delivery of IT resources and applications via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.

The head of technology and solutions architecture at Amazon, Attila Narin, says the company had recognised the potential for growth in South Africa where Cape Town and Jo’burg acted in perfect unison.

“Cape Town is ideal for the technical side of things, and Jo’burg is perfect for the customer-facing side of things. In fact, some of the core technology for Amazon’s cloud computing used across the globe was built right here in Cape Town,” says Narin, who is based in Luxembourg but worked in Cape Town from 2006 to 2008, and was back in the city this week.

“This city has an amazing pool of talent, as universities like UCT and Stellenbosch produce some of the finest engineering students on the continent. That is the main criterion for choosing our development centres, so Cape Town ticked the boxes.”

Narin says that Johannesburg, which opened its Amazon Web Services office last year, is “the economic heart of the country and the continent too, so it made sense to have our customer-facing presence there”.
Narin says the company’s successes in South Africa included Entersekt, Travelstart, and Medscheme.

Stellenbosch-based Entersekt developed South Africa’s first security solutions for mobile banking, resulting in a decline in credit card fraud.

Travelstart, an online booking service for flights and hotels, “shows how you go beyond the normal borders with cloud computing. It is now present in all of southern Africa and the Middle East”.

Medscheme uses cloud computing to keep patient records, making them “more accessible to medical service providers”.

Narin says South Africa was a “highly innovative and creative space for start-ups”.

By Tanya Farber for www.timeslive.co.za

Barclays puts Absa up for sale

UK banking group Barclays Group has made firm its intention to sell its 62,3% stake in Barclays Africa Group (formerly Absa).

The global banker listed as part of its rationale for the sell-down that, despite a strong returns profile locally, Absa’s contribution is significantly diluted at Barclays Group level.

The bank also carries 100% responsibility with only 623% benefits, it said at its results presentation.

Barclays said the sell-down will lead to further simplification of the group, resulting in cost reductions.

Barclays said it intends selling its African business over the coming two to three years “to a level which will permit us to deconsolidate it from an accounting and regulatory perspective”.

The intended sale is subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.

Barclays Group said Absa is a well-diversified business and a high quality franchise.

“However the stake in BAGL presents specific challenges to Barclays as owners, such as the level of capital held in respect of BAGL, the international reach of the UK Bank Levy, the GSIB buffer, and MREL/TLAC and other regulatory requirements.”

Barclays Gropup Africa on Tuesday reported a 17% return on equity for 2015 in its standalone local currency results versus the 8,7% return reported for Africa Banking in Barclays’ results, the group said.

Source: www.fin24.com

E-commerce spending by South Africans via their mobile devices is set to grow by 70% in 2016, says a survey.

According to research organisation Ipsos, this figure is set to outpace overall e-commerce spend in SA which is forecast to grow by 29% this year.

E-commerce spending via mobiles accounted for 25% or R7-billion of all online transactions in 2015, says Efi Dahan, the Africa and Israel regional director for PayPal. Payment service PayPal commissioned the Ipsos survey.

The survey further reported that South African shoppers spent R28,8-billion online in 2015, which is expected to grow to R46-billion by 2017, of which mobile will account for R19-billion.

“There is no doubt that the rapid penetration of smartphones in South Africa will continue to be the driving force of online shopping in the upcoming years,” says Dahan.

Most South African online shoppers (59%) buy locally, with 37% buying both local and cross border and 5% buying exclusively from international providers.

The most popular online shopping destinations for locals are the US, UK and China, but Dahan warned that security was a challenge.

“I believe that the smartphone shopping experience will continue to evolve as consumers feel greater comfort and security.”

Security firm Trend Micro recently reported that hacked PayPal accounts with a guaranteed balance of $500 (R7 941.54) were traded for $6.43 (R102.51) on the Deep Web.

And Check Point reported that giant e-commerce platform eBay had failed to fix a security flaw dubbed “JSF**k” that allows cyber-crooks to use the platform as a phishing and malware distribution platform.

Dahan says that the online space made geographical borders irrelevant.

“Though international shopping is still less popular locally, with the growing variety of products, larger range of prices, improved shipping options and increasing confidence in e-commerce, we believe that South African consumers will continue to purchase online, regardless of physical borders.”

PayPal is the most popular online payment method for South Africans who shop internationally at 68%, followed by Visa Credit card at 37%, the survey showed.

By Duncan Alfreds for Fin24

Technavio has released its latest report on the global office stationery and supply market, providing an analysis of the key trends expected to impact the market through 2015-2019.

The global office stationery and supply market is likely to exceed $2-billion by 2019 as the developed markets for office stationery and supply products are growing at a very high rate. These markets include the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, France, and Japan. Major growth is also expected from developing markets like China, Brazil, South Korea, and India.

Technavio announces four important emerging trends impacting the global office stationery and supply market through 2019.

Multichannel marketing: manufacturers and retailers are now using various channels to market their products through the online or offline medium. In this era of online shopping, the office stationery and supply market is also putting their product offerings on the online platform with the help of e-tailers. Some manufacturers and retailers are now also coming up with their own online portals. For instance, Staples has become the second largest online retailer for office supplies with its online portal Staples.com.

Growing demand for computer/printer supplies: one of the major emerging trends in the global office stationery and supply market is the growing demand for computer/printer supplies. IT integration and industry automation has driven the market for this segment. The toner cartridges category has become the largest contributor in this market as their demand is rising, growing at a CAGR of more than 9% through 2019.

Business expansion through mergers and acquisitions along with packaging innovation and green products are the other key trends highlighted in the report.

Source: www.office-times.com

Stationery brand Moleskine has reported 18% constant-currency sales growth for 2015.

Full-year sales for the Italy-based firm were €128,1-million ($143-million), 30% up as reported.

There was growth in all of Moleskine’s reporting divisions.

Growth summary

• Wholesale: +6.3% to €79.4-million
• B2B: +41.3% to €28.9-million
• E-commerce: +29.4% to €5.8-million
• Retail: +59% to €14-million

On a geographical basis, EMEA grew by 12.3% to €55.4 million, Americas increased by 18.1% to €50 million and APAC jumped 37.8% to €23 million.

Other highlights for the year
• B2B sales in the APAC region more than doubled due to an exceptional flow of large projects.
• The EMEA wholesale channel increase of 4% reflects the difficult market conditions in Russia.
• Moleskine added 17 directly-owned stores during the year, taking the total worldwide to 58.

In December, Moleskine opened a branded coffee show in Geneva Airport, Switzerland.

By Andy Braithwaite for OPI.net

Paperworld draws mixed reaction

Paperworld, the annual stationery and office products show in Frankfurt, Germany, kicked off on Saturday 30 January to a mixed reaction from vendors and attendees.

Certainly this year, with Hall 3.1 closed and the Paperworld Plaza concept not taking place, there is a much stronger emphasis on the creative, hobby, craft and social stationery sectors where, to be fair, the halls seem vibrant and busy.

Office supplies are pretty much grouped into just one hall (3.0), in addition to suppliers from the Far East that are located in another area of the exhibition centre and the RemanExpo show for compatible and aftermarket ink and toner products.

Traffic in 3.0 was generally fairly quiet on the first two days of the show, although – as usual – some vendors were happier than others with the number of appointments and visitors to their stands that they had. More international buyers are expected on Monday and Tuesday, however.

Interestingly, some important OP resellers have either reduced the number of purchasing people they are sending to Paperworld or not present at all, which will be a concern to organiser Messe Frankfurt.

A strategic meeting between Messe Frankfurt officials and members of the Paperworld working group took place this morning, and they will no doubt be looking at next year’s Plaza programme and what can be done to boost the show in the intervening, non-Plaza years.

By Andy Braithwaite for OPI.net

Paper still rules the enterprise

A new study shows just how much business is still being done on paper via printers, scanners and other office equipment. But is that such a bad thing?

The concurrent studies, released this month, show that 73% of the “owners and decision-makers” at companies with fewer than 500 employees print at least four times per day, according to Wakefield, which focused on small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The InfoTrends study focused more on corporate workflow and found that on-boarding, invoicing, and printing notes are still common occurrences, especially in paper-centric departments like human resources, legal and accounting.

InfoTrends found that a company might spend as much as $27 000 per year on document-management systems and maintenance for an average of 5 000 pages per month.

Workplace trends

One of the most interesting trends when it comes to printing, according to Brother International spokesperson Jeff Sandler, is that corporations are relocating printers from the central hub across the hall and from the employee’s own desk and making them more accessible in workplace pods for a smaller group of workers.

“In a lot of cases, folks eliminate local devices at their desks and the centralised multi-function device (MFD) because they don’t want to travel that far to get to those devices,” says Sandler. “We’re not advocating that you get rid of all copiers and MFDs. We’re seeing smaller groups of employees using smaller devices closer to where they work.”

Randy Daso, group director at InfoTrends, says that paper is still a major part of a corporate workflow. “Companies use paper as part of their workflow and transactions for legal processes and compliance with internal and external standards,” he says. “Paper is the lowest common denominator to capture and store this information.”

He says the modern workplace falls into two distinct categories. Employees use printing and scanning for unstructured activities and ad hoc businesses processes. They might use a centralised MFD for this because it is more “in the moment” to scan a receipt for expenses, convert a printed business document to text for a meeting, or even scan a printed email.

The other category is for “transactional” processes in a more structured setting, such as HR, accounting and legal departments. In those settings, printing and scanning tend to be part of a daily workflow, such as scanning purchase orders or printing out invoices.

Going paperless? Not so fast

Another interesting trend when it comes to printing, scanning and copying is that there was an initial rise in all of these activities when online access became so prevalent. Ken Weilerstein, research vice president at Gartner, says that printing levels in particular went higher because there was so much more content available online.

Today, he says employees print an average of 400 pages per month. He says many companies have figured out the easiest ways to “go paperless” by digitising storing documents online, but it wasn’t possible to eliminate all printing and scanning completely.

“Paper is portable, universal and familiar way to share and annotate documents,” says Weilerstein. “It is easier to read long documents on paper than on-screen. Paper is universally accepted as valid for contracts and other legal documents, and the signatures are familiar and accepted to a greater degree than any sort of digital signature.”

Keith Kmets, program vice president for imaging, printing and document solutions at IDC, says that many companies have implemented a “paperless light” concept. It means, almost all internal processes are entirely paperless, but external processes still involve printing and scanning as a way to integrate into a digital storage system.

Another trend that Brother’s Sandler points out is that the rise of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has made larger companies more dependent on printing and scanning, not less. Employees need a way to move documents easily onto mobile devices.

Sandler says companies are still scanning insurance forms, turning printed slide-decks into a PDF you can use on an iPad, and importing signed contracts. The proliferation of mobile devices has created a new need to digitise documents and make them easily available.

The fax machines lives

Along with the printing and scanning trends, faxing is still another part of the corporate workflow, although it is diminishing rapidly. Weilerstein says there is still a divide between larger organisations and SMB, and that faxing is still used to bridge that divide.

“Before you can do away with fax, both parties have to agree on how they will communicate, and enterprises lack the clout to force their customers to abandon fax,” he says. “As is the case with other ways eliminating paper, they just don’t always find it worth the trouble.”

Last year, IDC’s Kmets conducted a survey to find out why companies are still using fax machines. Overall, he found that some companies are faxing a little less and some a little more, but the trend has stayed relatively flat. In most cases, faxing is still part of a workflow because of the low costs, simplicity, ease of tracking, and security. It’s definitely not going away, he says.

That could mean rethinking some strategies about centralised document management. Employees in those structured settings such as accounting and legal might still rely on faxing and need a device that supports that, while “ad hoc” activities might not use fax.

Sandler says that’s why it’s important to do a yearly review of processes within a company and find out whether that MFD in the corner is sitting idle most of the time, if employees are still faxing and scanning in most departments, and if printing is increasing or decreasing.

Additional trends

Gartner’s Weilerstein notes a few other trends related to printing, scanning and copying. He says there has been a push lately to go “paperless” when it comes to digital signatures, although some industries such as real estate and legal have resisted this surge.

Colour printing is on the rise. He says companies are now printing about 20 percent more in colour than black and white in recent years, mostly due to a price decrease in colour printing supplies.

Printing legal documents has come under more scrutiny as well. Tuan Tran, general manager and global head for LaserJet hardware and enterprise solutions at HP, says there is a trend with “pull printing” where the user prints a document but then has to authenticate his or her identity at the printer in order to generate the print job.

“Organisations have been deploying software that allows users to issue print jobs and then pick them up at any printer or MFP in the office, rather than having them default to the one nearest their desk,” says Weilerstein. “The printer pulls the job from the server at the time it is needed, rather than the printer server pushing the job to the print at the time it is used.”

He says the main driver for the timed printing and authentication is that it prevents another employee from picking up the documents. Weilerstein says there has been a dramatic increase in timed printing, print server use, and pulled printing in recent years.

In the end, workplace trends shift – sometimes edging over to the paperless office or moving to more localised printing in work-pods. All of the experts agreed: It’s important to compare industry trends against the actual needs and processes for your own employees.

By John Brandon for www.cio.com

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