How to create a data-based decision-making culture


By Chester Liu, director, product sales enablement, QlikView


We can learn a surprising amount from animals, as I discovered recently on my first safari trip in South Africa. Consider for example the collaborative relationship between the zebra and giraffe, and the lessons this holds for agile, fact-based decision-making.


The giraffe has great height and expansive vision, but it cannot obtain sensory input from the ground. The zebra on the other hand can smell advancing predators at the ground level and see them under trees, but cannot see danger from afar. Conscious of this, the animals forage together, doubly secure in their collaborative defence effort. At the first sight or smell of danger, one will bolt, causing the other to follow.


The folly of top-down

By comparison, traditional corporate decision-making falls short in a number of respects. Firstly, corporates tend to make and drive decisions only from a “giraffe’s perspective”, i.e. from the top down. But companies are essentially two kinds of animals foraging together – executives at the top as well as workers at the bottom – and workers should have the ability to influence action based on their unique perspective of happenings “on the ground”.


Secondly, since top-down decision-making is a fact of corporate life, companies often make decisions based on opinion rather than on fact. Management and executive committees essentially obtain consensus on what actions are appropriate, resulting in lengthy and sometimes imprecise decision-making cycles. But because the facts are not always visible from the top, the executive relies on people on the ground to relay the summary facts to them, to assemble even more summarised, high-level views.


Successful behaviours

Research shows that most successful companies organise themselves in non-hierarchical ways and demonstrate other ways of ensuring participative decision-making. However, this success is not only dependent on fostering a culture of openness and collaboration, it is also dependent on the tools with which all workers use to analyse information and disseminate insights. Since knowledge is power, there is a strong relationship between a company’s treatment of information and the level of empowerment felt among its workers.


In the area of business analytics this means empowering workers with information. They must be given the tools to assess the state of affairs as relates to their area of the business, make the decisions based on the facts as appropriate to their level in the organisation, rather than on feeling, and communicate the findings to senior management.


This will allow one version of the truth to permeate throughout the organisation, making decision-making less of an argument and more of a fact-based, foregone conclusion.


Leopards that change their spots

Unlike their jungle counterparts, corporate animals can change their ways – although not, usually, without some digging in of heels. So how do we overcome the natural resistance to adopting a culture of distributed, fact-based decision-making?


          With encouragement from the top, a culture prone to territorialism can turn to openness.

          A willingness to take on responsibility at all levels of the organisation begins with giving people easy-to-use and –understand tools that let them discover the data they need to do their job and communicate answers up to senior management with effective collaboration and visualisation tools. Traditional BI tools do not allow this, as they are focused on reporting with inflexible predefined queries, and require serious skills to operate.

          Fears about data security and integrity often hamper efforts to spread the power of analytics throughout the organisation. But people who object to that perhaps don’t appreciate how widespread distribution and alteration of spreadsheet-based data is. It is important to note that business discovery tools using an app model don’t allow changing of source data, only additions – which, if incorrect, only affects that user. And unlike spreadsheets, apps are automatically updated when source data is updated or corrected via administrative intervention. In addition, the app model provides extra data protection in the form of rights-based access as well as other data security and -integrity measures.


Start small

The advice we usually give is to start small with business discovery tools that deliver quick results within a department or even workgroup, and to take it from there.


When the penny drops, it will be clear that there is no going back from a fact-based decision-making culture in which a far greater percentage of the organisation shares.


If information is power, getting rid of personal information fiefdoms by empowering a larger base of decision-makers will both allow better quality decisions and result in a more engaged work force, enjoying greater responsibility, clout and happiness in the workplace.

Engen Petroleum, the country’s biggest fuel brand, has added to a growing list of accolades with an award for Most Popular Fuel Brand in the prestigious Standard Bank People’s Wheels Award. It is the first time a fuel marketer is recognised since the award’s inception.


The company garnered 26% of votes in the 12 000-voter Owners Survey that provides the data for the awards. BP and Shell shared runner-up position with 17% of the votes each. Among the other contenders were Sasol (13%), Caltex and Total (8% each).


After leading the South African liquid fuels industry for many years with the largest share of the market, Engen has enjoyed increasing brand recognition among consumers, which it says is due to superior forecourt service and innovative service offerings.


In 2012, the company bagged the Sunday Times Top Brands survey – retail service station forecourts – for the second consecutive year, as well as the Sunday Times Generation NeXt poll to determine SA’s coolest petrol station brand.


Newly appointed GM for Engen Sales & Marketing, Joe Mahlo, says excitement runs high at Engen as the company continues to lead in market share as well as motorists’ hearts and minds.


“It is our DNA to want to know as much as possible about our customers and what they want,” he says. “It’s fantastic to be the people’s choice; we take it as validation of our current and evolving strategies to make motorists’ respective journeys on the road more enjoyable.”

My Office ipad competition winner

After weeks and weeks of anticipation, we are pleased to finally announce the winner of the shop-sa Facebook competition.

Marcia Gravett of Merpak, collected her new iPad and her Skullcandy earphones from the shop-sa offices and told us that this is the best prize she’s ever won.

Congratulations, Marcia, from all of us at shop-sa.

Keep checking WinThis for exiting competition

In line with its promise to operate in the most sustainable way – from an environmental, social and economic perspective – Bidvest company, Konica Minolta South Africa, has been supporting South Africa’s national greening and food gardening social enterprise, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), for five years and has most recently planted 2,013 trees at impoverished schools in the Polokwane and Kimberley regions.

This brings the total of trees donated by the company to 17,678 and illustrates its commitment to taking proactive steps against global warming.

According to Konica Minolta South Africa employees, Morne Etchell, Polokwane branch manager and Gerhard Kruger, Kimberley branch manager, FTFA selected nine schools in Polokwane, Limpopo, and 38 in and around Kimberley in the Northern Cape to receive the indigenous and fruit trees.

“Before the trees were planted, the school children were educated on the importance of proper ground preparation, planting techniques and aftercare.  This will ensure that the trees will flourish and will be enjoyed by generations to come.  This complemented the schools’ own teachings on nature and sustainability. Now the trees become the responsibility of the school – but, we will still remain involved, with both the schools and the community,” says Kruger.

“Konica Minolta South Africa employees got thoroughly involved with the planting of the trees along with the schools’ staff and children, and found it to be a greatly rewarding experience,” says Etchell. “The primary purpose of the trees is to provide shade for the school children, to sit and play beneath during the hot summer months, but they also beautify the school and its surroundings.”

The beautification of schools has been linked to improved academic performance.  According to a 2010 study, “Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links”, students performed better academically at schools with more nature around it; they were more likely to graduate and less likely to commit a crime.

The partnership with FTFA began in 2008 when Konica Minolta South Africa contributed 4,100 trees to Orange Farm, a large informal settlement located about 45 kilometres from Johannesburg. As a result of the success of the project, and the need to offset more carbon dioxide emissions, Konica Minolta South Africa committed to planting further trees in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Western Cape regions.

So far 11,000 trees have been distributed through FTFA’s Trees for Homes initiative, which is a registered carbon offset programme under the Carbon Protocol of South Africa. The remaining 6,678 trees have been distributed through the Trees for All initiative. By taking travel, electricity and paper usage into account, the FTFA online carbon calculator provides a high level estimation of a company’s annual carbon footprint as well as the number of trees it will take to absorb that amount of carbon.

Adds Alan Griffith, Konica Minolta South Africa MD, “As part of our corporate social investment initiative, we have committed to the FTFA Carbon Offset programme in an effort to further offset our carbon emissions and one of the best ways to do this is by planting trees. This initiative has proven to be so successful, that Konica Minolta South Africa reached ‘carbon neutral’ status last year.  In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the most important greenhouse gases, these trees provide many other environmental and social benefits such as preventing water runoff and erosion, settling the dust, providing shade and shelter, lessening noise and beautifying neighbourhoods.

“Plus, we know that a few trees planted around a school can boost academic achievement, diminish delinquency, and do so inexpensively. In isolation, it’s not going to solve the problems that plague many of our schools, but planting trees is so simple that it would be senseless to ignore,” he states. 

Makeover from the inside-out

Picture the scene: you’ve overslept by half an hour. Time ticks by as you rush to get dressed but can’t find anything that fits properly (despite the fact that your cupboard is completely overflowing), and anything that does fit is outdated and boring. The good news is that help is at hand, and looking and feeling good is really quite simple. All you need to do is follow a few easy steps.

Believe it or not, it starts from the inside. If you feel good about yourself, chances are you’ll look good too. It all begins with confidence. If you’re happy and confident, others will see it too – so be yourself and focus on your good points instead of wasting your time and energy focusing on your flaws.

Being healthy on the inside has a lot to do with what, and how, you eat. With the right ingredients, you can indulge in all your favourite desserts too – that is in moderation of course. The secret lies in looking for healthier alternatives to use in your cooking, of which there are many. For instance, Canderel Green, a low kilojoule sweetener, sweetened with extracts from the South American Stevia plant, is a useful alternative to sugar, and what’s more, it contains virtually no carbohydrates.  Other healthy substitutions include choosing whole wheat breads and pastas, swapping one whole egg for two egg whites to decrease cholesterol, and using canola or olive oil to replace butter but mimic the flavour.

So, you’ve worked on building a happy and confident attitude and made a few important changes to your diet, now there’s just one thing left to do – get moving. Exercise doesn’t need to take much time; in fact, it’s relatively easy to make a few changes to your everyday routine to keep you fit and healthy.


Starting the day with a walk is good start, even if you park your car in the furthest parking spot to increase the distance you need to walk to reach your destination. Forget about lifts and take the stairs whenever you can, it’s a quick way to get that heart pumping. Don’t be tempted to use your desk job as an excuse. A few buttock clenches will keep you looking firm and toned. Squeeze and release for five seconds and repeat 10 times, three times a day. There’s never a reason to keep still and you will be amazed at how much you can move your body, even when you’re talking on the phone.


The new you is almost ready to go, but you may just want to add a few new items to your wardrobe to complete the picture. Remember that shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. Get an idea of styles you like by reading magazines and browsing the internet, and shop with these in mind. The key to shopping is not to dress for fashion, but to dress for style. Buy classic, quality pieces that best suit your body shape, remembering that true style has nothing to do with shape, so dress to make the most of your good points.


Here’s to your new image. All it takes are a few small changes and the knowledge that it all comes from within.

With increasing workplace injuries and disorders due to bad postures from workstations, ergonomics and wellbeing within the workplace have never been so important. 

With a strong heritage in researching and designing products for the workplace for almost 100 years, Herman Miller has gained insight into what people need around them to make them work more efficiently, collaboratively and comfortably. As the demands placed on both workplace and employees increase, every element of the working environment needs to support the way we work more efficiently. 

The belief at Herman Miller is that it is possible to feel good at work by listening to the human body and understanding the link between comfort, health and productivity. Herman Miller has long led the field in ergonomic design by taking the time to understand working style and resulting health issues in the workplace.

The world renowned furniture company has unveiled a new portfolio of products that is set to keep businesses across South Africa performing at their best by helping their people Thrive in the office. 

Widely regarded as the pioneers in workspace ergonomics, Herman Miller revealed its new Thrive portfolio at showcases in Observatory, Cape Town and Sandton Johannesburg. Thrive brings together years of industry-leading research into how people work and features designs by global experts.


Designs that synchronise with the human body to help employees feel better and work better 

Herman Miller’s Thrive portfolio has been designed to address the pressures put on the individual from the reduction of their personal workspace and the increased role of technology in their day to day activities. 

Broken down into four key categories of seating, technology support, tables and lighting, Thrive combines these elements to promote healthy working.

Firstly, Thrive addresses ergonomic seating needs, through the most innovative office chairs ever produced with trademarked science that allows them to provide optimal support while eliminating pressure points. With iconic designs such as SAYL and Aeron chairs included in the collection. 

Secondly, Thrive offers solutions to help technology fit the user, from monitor arms to dynamic monitor supports, offering a solution to the bad postures that result from the increased use of technology in the workspace. 

Performance tables such as the Everywhere range allow people to switch their posture any time they like. 

The final key element in the Thrive portfolio is the task light. Personalised lights dramatically reduce eyestrain, and support attachments that enable people to tailor their workstation to their own personal needs. 

Rob Keddie, Herman Miller Regional Director – Middle East and Africa, commented, “Back in the 1960s, long before the term ergonomics was widely known, George Nelson designed a stand-up, roll-top desk for our Action Office line because he intuitively understood that he worked better if he was able to stand and move around. 

“This launch in South Africa represents a huge milestone on our journey to aiding businesses to help their people feel supported, comfortable and happy at work. But it is just one step, and at Herman Miller we’ll continue to work with best in class designers and scientists to keep leading the field in developing ergonomic solutions.”  

Herman Miller’s Thrive portfolio of ergonomic furnishings and fittings for the workplace will be available exclusively through All Office showrooms in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  

Herman Miller has a highly trained sales lead ready to conduct bespoke workplace evaluations and ergonomic training with support from the All Office sales team.

Bidvest sees mixed H1

South African conglomerate Bidvest has reported a challenging six months for its Office and Paperplus divisions.

For the half year ended 31 December 2012 Bidvest’s Office division achieved modest revenue improvements – up by 2.9% to R2.2 billion ($242 million) – and Paperplus saw sales rise by 2% to R2 billion. However, both units reported a drop in operating profit; Office operating profit fell by over 7% to R131 million while Paperplus’ operating profit was almost 6% lower at R175 million.

Within the Office division, Bidvest said that Waltons had recovered well and had enjoyed a good back-to-school season. The Technology group was hit by contract delays at Konica Minolta and Océ, but this should help the performance in the second half of the financial year. Losses were reduced in the furniture manufacturing business and the short-term goal is for this unit to break even.

At the Paperplus division, volumes in the stationery wholesale business were lower than expected and Silveray sales dipped, but there was better news from the labelling and packaging business where sales grew strongly, albeit at lower margins.

By Andy Braithwaite

Epson’s new installation projectors boast a range of innovative features ideal for business and education.

Epson, worldwide leader in the projector market, has launched a range of powerful installation projectors that deliver bright images and crisp quality. The Epson EB-G6 series includes eight models with features built specifically for their different target markets.

The EB-G6900WU and EB-G6800 projectors are ideal for rental and digital signage companies. Both models can project into corners and onto curved surfaced and automatically adjust to remove distortion. They include HDBaseT – a state-of-the-art technology used for the transfer of five signals, including uncompressed HD video, audio, power and control, at low costs over long distances of up to 100m using a standard cat5/6 cable.

Kelvin Reynolds, general manager of Epson South Africa, says, “Epson is one of the first adopters of this technology in the projection market. By providing a dedicated connectivity interface including video, data and Power over Ethernet that uses standard network cabling, it is expected to reduce complexity, time and cost.”

The EB-G6650WU,EB-G6550WU, EB-G6-6450WU, EB-G66250W,EB-G6050W and EB-6350 will suit medium to large corporate and high education institutions as these models have been designed for installation in auditoriums, lecture theatres and large meeting rooms.

Their high brightness levels – 4,500 to 7,000 lumens – and a range of resolutions ensure clean crisp projections, regardless of the environment.

Theses professional installation projectors are ideal for the corporate, educational and rental markets, thanks to the bright, powerful projections and innovative features.

All the projectors in the series are compatible with the Epson EB-G5 series lenses, which means they can be used to upgrade existing G5 installations. They feature Epson’s 3LCD technology for vivid colour and detail, and can be rotated vertically by 360⁰ so the display can be moved around the room easily and efficiently.

They also feature edge blending, which means a large; widescreen image can be projected from a number of projectors and stitched together seamlessly.

Each model is easy to set up and use, thanks to a variety of user-friendly installation features, such as pixel alignment, which allows you to fine tune the quality of colours for perfect image quality and convergence, and colour uniformity. These features ensure that once the projectors are installed, users can concentrate on delivering their content rather than adjusting screen settings.

“Our new range of business projectors offers bright, superior picture quality for truly remarkable projections,” says Reynolds.

“We’ve been the world’s number one projector manufacturer for over a decade, so businesses can be safe in the knowledge that their important presentations are showcased in the highest quality available.”

The Epson G-series will be available from March.

Epson has expanded its SureColor wide-format printer line-up with three cost-effective, high-speed, 4-colour printers for CAD, GIS and POS applications.

The three new models: Epson SureColor SC-T7000, SC-T5000 and SC-T3000 offer fast, reliable printing on coated and non-coated media up to 44-inch (1,118mm), 36-inch (914mm) and 24-inch (610mm) wide respectively.


Designed to fit seamlessly into the office environment, the printers feature sleek styling, small footprints and low noise levels, and are operated from the front to allow convenient placement against a wall. The printers are ideal for applications where speed and economy are paramount, such as printing architectural designs and plans, maps, presentations, posters and indoor signage. The printers take just 28 seconds to produce an A1 print in draft mode on plain paper, and offer optimised running costs with a choice of 700ml, 350ml and 110ml ink cartridge sizes.

Further improving efficiency, the printers are quick to set up with automatic photo and matte black ink switching, and are so easy to use that operators do not need special training. All controls are at the front of the printers while media is fed in at the top. The finished prints emerge at the front, stacking neatly into a basket. Tracking how much paper is left on a roll is simple thanks to media barcode printing. 


Vernon Mellors, Large Format Printer Business Account Manager of Epson South Africa, says, “When developing a new printer, we always ask our customers what they need and they told us they want a printer that fits easily into their current production environment, so we’ve added an HP-GL emulation mode. Another popular request was a hard disk drive (HDD) for print spooling, so we’ve given all three printers an optional 250GB HDD.”


The new range of printers use Epson’s new UltraChrome XD Ink, which has been developed to produce high-quality, durable prints with deep blacks, a wide colour gamut and crisp, dense lines with a minimum width of 0.02mm. Epson’s Variable-size Droplet Technology brings clarity to fine detail while delivering optimum efficiency for larger areas of colour.

Helping to reduce impact on the environment, the range uses water-based inks, and are qualified by Energy Star for their excellent power efficiency.

The Surecolor T-Series range are priced accordingly at R26,342.82 for the T-3000, R34,521.00 for the T-5000 and R41,722.75 for  the T-7000  series.

Hostex is back in Johannesburg in March next year, with its time-honoured line up designed to once again more than meet the high expectations of the catering and hospitality industry. The show, which has served the industry well for 26 years, will be held at the renowned Sandton Convention Centre from 17 to 20 March 2013.


Hostex has built a sound reputation for delivering an all-encompassing ‘one-stop shop’ expo that also guarantees valuable information-sharing, networking opportunities, excitement with the prestigious competitions that run for the duration of the show, and more. “The growing success of Hostex over the years is largely founded on tried and tested approaches that our industry has asked for and responded to positively,” explains Brad Hook, Portfolio Director of Specialised Exhibitions, organisers of Hostex.


Underpinning this statement is the fact that Hostex visitor numbers have continued to grow over the last couple of years, through the tough global economic situation. The show in 2011 saw 220 exhibitors and 11 500 visitors from across South Africa and neighbouring countries, and the Johannesburg visitor figures are expected to be higher all round.


Hostex will again be featuring the popular visitor attractions of the Global Pizza Challenge, the Barista Championship hosted by the Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa, the SA Chefs’ Village hosted by the SA Chefs Association, and many more. “We will be enhancing these and other visitor attractions next year to keep the appeal of the events fresh and up to date.”


Hostex is endorsed by a range of industry associations and organisations, which include the SA Chefs Association (SACA), Bed & Breakfast Association of South Africa (BABASA), Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA), Guest House Accommodation of South Africa (GHASA), National Accommodation Association (NAA), Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA), and Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa (SCASA).


The event, the only one of its kind in southern Africa, attracts decision-makers from across the spectrum of the catering and hospitality industry and provides exhibitors with the perfect opportunity for face-to-face product promotion. It will cover 12 000m² of floor space across two exhibition halls, enabling constant activities and feature events throughout the show.


Hook adds that experience has shown that when exhibitions offer good value and excellent opportunities for exhibitors to boost their sales prospects, they tend to be successful, even in recessionary times. “We’re finding that more and more, companies see leading industry exhibitions such as Hostex as an opportunity to create brand awareness and product or service preference through experiential marketing, which goes a long way towards creating a sound connection with customers and potential customers, possibly more so than other more traditional selling methods.


“The bottom line is that Gauteng is the business hub of South Africa – and the main centre for catering and hospitality industry activity. There is always an exciting industry buzz when Hostex is here; and we can see that it’s already starting in anticipation of next year’s show,” says Hook.


For more information on the 2013 show, contact Lindy Taylor on (011) 835-1565 or go to

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