Tag: tech

The end of the age of e-mail

E-mail and I were born at roughly the same time, and like me, it’s beginning to show its age.

ARPANET contractor Ray Tomlinson is credited with sending the first mail – to himself – around 1971. He can’t even remember what it said. “Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP or something similar,” he’s been quoted as saying.

Tomlinson’s innovation was to allow mail to be sent to users of computers on the ARPANET; he also chose the ‘@’ sign. Forty-six years later, we’re still @ it, but some bad habits, especially in organisations, seem to have crept in along the way.

Such as checking your mail. Too often.

Or using your inbox as a planning tool.

Or using e-mail as a substitute for the telephone.

And don’t even mention the tyranny of the out-of-office reply.

By some estimates, we spend a quarter of our day dealing with e-mail, and what with all this time spent on it, it still sort of works, such as when the boss sends out a company-wide announcement, or you need to communicate with clients.

E-mail is indiscriminate. Because it’s the de facto means of communication, everything is included, and it’s only after a healthy dose of deletions that you can really get down to work. Not to say a WhatsApp group is any better; there always seems to be at least one loudmouth.

But e-mail doesn’t work very well when you have a large number of people attempting to get something done, and this is where the tools known as workstream collaboration (WSC) come in. Here, communication is based around a task, which cuts the noise to a steady hum of productivity.

According to Gartner, this market is going to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 96%, reaching about $4 931 billion by 2021, up from about $171 million as of last year.

According to the research house, WSC creates a ‘persistent, shared, conversational workspace that assists teams with initiating, organising and completing work’. All this is achieved through messaging, alerts, activity streams and content sharing, among other things.

It’s not going away

But that still doesn’t mean that e-mail is dead, even if many WSC vendors will have you believe it.

E-mail, says Gartner, still represents the standard – though inefficient – channel for fulfilling work.

“Even if WCS tools are widely adopted, Gartner believes e-mail will continue to be a mission-critical application.”

Muggie van Staden, the MD of open source solutions provider Obsidian Systems, says everyone is getting too much e-mail, and there are more effective ways of communicating. “There’s going to be a movement soon where people are going to stop replying to e-mails, and say, ‘If you’re not connected with me on other platforms, don’t expect a reply’.”

Van Staden’s company is a solutions partner for Atlassian, which makes collaboration tools for, among others, software developers.

Since its beginnings in 2001, Lisa Schaffer, Obsidian Systems’ principal Atlassian consultant, says Atlassian has ‘eaten its own dogfood’, and they ‘understood the pains customers would have gone through’. These customers are most of the big banks and insurance companies, as well as business, finance and marketing teams. Even stockbrokers are all using the software, says Schaffer.

Companies that use Atlassian tools also end up sending fewer e-mails, she says. “You’re all working in the same space, chatting about the same things. With (another Atlassian tool) HipChat, you can quickly spin up a room and talk about the day-to-day operational stuff without having to send an e-mail.”

Earlier this year, Atlassian bought Trello, a project management app, for $425 million.

Mail trail

Schaffer says when she’s training people to use Atlassian, she suggests they use Jira, because there’s an audit trail.

“For every conversation you have around a piece of work, it will be kept within that piece of work.” This means people aren’t searching their e-mail inbox, trying to fi gure out where the mail trail started.

“If somebody changed the subject header, all of a sudden, that mail no longer belongs to that group of mails.”

Schaffer says e-mail isn’t dead, “but our clients are moving away from e-mail as a form of collaboration. They’re using tools to collaborate.”

E-mail, too, is useful for external communication, such as when a customer wants information about a product, or when you’re dealing with suppliers.

Before sending a mail, Schaffer says she’ll first go to a company’s website to see if she can find the information she’s looking for.

“I don’t think South Africa has caught on to the fact that your website is now your reception area. And if more people spent some money and time getting their websites up and running, that would reduce the amount of e-mails and phone calls they’d get.

“We’re into an age of self-service, but some people are in denial.” Schaffer says companies are realising that they can’t take a whole year to deliver value.

“My customers want value now. We live in a society of instant gratification. This is why agile is such an important part of software development because you can deliver a portion of value to your customers. They may not have the entire Ferrari, but at least they can look at the body.”

Nick Bell, the CEO of Decision Inc, a management consultancy, says increasing clients’ productivity has been a big part of their business this year.

Organisations create a lot of communication, says Bell, and if they’re able to simplify it using technology, “it generally makes it a thousand times easier for the person on the other side who has to engage the process?”

Even going on holiday becomes stressful because you know that you’re going to come back to 500 messages.

There’s also the assumption that everything needs to be done quicker, because ‘we’re a lot more impatient than we were historically’.

“Instant access and speed have become a very big part of everybody’s conversation about their business.”

Bell says Decision Inc still uses e-mail, and it’s still a large part of client communication. Some teams use Slack, and when the company moves to new offices in January, they’ll be using Skype for Business. It also makes use of WhatsApp groups when running large projects with clients, because this means more people can get visibility into the job at hand.

If you’re fortunate, the nature of work is also becoming more collaborative.

“In the old days, everyone was locked in their office with the door closed. Now we want teams near one another, so rather than the traditional inefficiency of sending an e-mail and waiting for a response, you can collaborate and communicate with the person and get the answer immediately.”

Bell says many people are overwhelmed by the number or e-mails they get every day.

“Even going on holiday becomes stressful because you know that you’re going to come back to 500 messages.

“We’ve got to get out of that particular way of working.”

By Matthew Burbige for Brainstorm

5 of the biggest South African start-up deals of all time

In early October, Cape Town GetSmarter concluded a $103-million (R1.4-billion) sale to US-based technology firm, 2U, making it one of the most valuable start-ups in the South Africa’s history.

The deal, which is believed to be the biggest ever for a South African edtech company, was first announced in May, and further bolsters Cape Town’s position as a leading technology hub in the country.

As not all sale prices are reported directly, it is difficult to say exactly how GetSmarter fits in compared to South Africa’s other most valuable start-ups, but it appears that the record still belongs to Mark Shuttleworth’s Thawte which sold for $575 million in 1999.

This is also the closest the country has come to having its own “unicorn” evaluation – a company valued at $1 billion, according to Jason Levin, author of a June report on the state of start-ups in the country.

“The total value of all the tech and innovation startups in Joburg and Cape Town together, is about $1.5 billion: a similar size to Melbourne’s, smaller than Lagos’, and half the size of Sao Paolo’s, said Levin.

He confirmed that Mark Shuttleworth’s Thawte is the start-up that has come the closest (its 1999 price tag of $575 million equates to about $850 million in modern money).

However South Africa has also lost out on start-ups which have chosen to move their business out of the country, said Levin.

“Mimecast, founded by South Africans Peter Bauer and Neil Murray, is a unicorn with a current market cap of $1.2 billion – but was created in 2003, a year after the pair left the country.”

BusinessTech looked at some of the other companies which have come close to this “mythical” evaluation.

Thawte – $575 million (sold in 1999)

While perhaps best known as the first South African in space, Mark Shuttleworth first made headlines for his 1999 sale of online security firm, Thawte, to Verisign for $575 million.

Run from Shuttleworths parent’s garage, Thawte was originally aimed to produce a secure server not fettered by the restrictions on the export of cryptography which had been imposed by the United States.

Using a “web of trust” model, Thawte would issue free email certificates, while the person’s identity was assured by meeting face-to-face with one or more “Thawte Notaries” who needed to see identification and keep a copy of it.

Kapa Biosystems – $445 million (sold in 2015)

Kapa Biosystems, co-founded by Trey Foskett, Paul McEwan, Ron McEwan and Chris McGuinness in 2006, pioneered the use of directed evolution to develop a suite of high-performance reagents for a range of life science applications

Their products are used by thousands of scientists around the world and cited in more than 4,000 peer-reviewed publications.

They are continuing to develop innovative solutions that accelerate genomics research that can impact the future ability to diagnose, monitor and treat cancer and complex inherited and infectious diseases.

Kapa Biosystems was bought by Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, for $445 million in 2015.

GetSmarter – $103 million (sold in 2017)

GetSmarter provides short, competency based online courses to working professionals around the world in collaboration with leading universities.

Founded by brothers Rob and Sam Paddock, 2U entered an agreement to acquire the startup for approximately $103 million, with an earn-out payment of up to $20 million in cash.

It has served more than 50,000 students since inception, with course completion rates averaging 88%.

GetSmarter’s portfolio includes over 70 courses offered with its university partners, and operates under a revenue share model with the universities.

Fundamo – $110 million (sold in 2011)

Fundamo’s platform enables the delivery of mobile financial services to unbanked and under-banked consumers around the world—including person-to-person payment, airtime top-up, bill payment and branchless banking services.

The company’s vision is for a truly connected financial services ecosystem that supports the ubiquity of mobile devices.

Fundamo had some 50 deployments in over 40 countries, including 27 countries in Africa and the Middle East and another 10 globally.

Prior to its sale, Fundamo was privately held by a group of investors in South Africa that included Sanlam, Remgro Limited, and HBD Venture Capital.

Nimbula – $110 million (sold in 2013)

In March 2013, Oracle announced it has agreed to acquire Nimbula, a provider of private cloud infrastructure management software.

Nimbula’s technology helps companies manage infrastructure resources to deliver service, quality and availability, as well as workloads in private and hybrid cloud environments.

It was founded in late 2008 by Chris Pinkham and Willem Van Biljon, who had developed the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Source: Business Tech

Gmail add-ons launched

Google has launched Gmail add-ons, a new way to work with business apps in Gmail.

Gmail add-ons make it possible to use apps within Gmail, removing the need to toggle between your inbox and other apps.

“With Gmail add-ons, your inbox can contextually surface your go-to app based on messages you receive,” said Google.

Google said that because add-ons work the same across web and Android, you only need to install them once to access them on all devices.

“Click the settings wheel on the top right of your inbox and then Get add-ons to get started.”

Source: MyBroadband

Office tech fails cost nine working days a year

UK workers are losing on average nine working days due to technology failing around the office, a new survey by Ebuyer.com has revealed.

The survey of UK office workers, conducted by the UK’s largest independent online tech retailer, revealed that one in ten workers wastes up to 30 minutes a day due to technology not working in the workplace, with the average time lost totalling 15 minutes and 17 seconds.

With 253 working days in 2018, this totals over nine working days being lost next year – a staggering number, especially for small businesses.

Workers in the legal sector lost the most amount of time each day due to technology issues, spending an average of 17 minutes and 10 seconds waiting for issues to be resolved. Those working in the IT industry lost on average 17 minutes.

Engineering and manufacturing workers also featured in the top three, losing on average 16 minutes, 44 seconds.

The industries that saw workers lose the most time due to office tech fails were:

• Legal (17 minutes, 10 seconds).
• Information technology (17 minutes, 2 seconds).
• Engineering and manufacturing (16 minutes, 44 seconds).
• Recruitment and HR (16 minutes, 26 seconds).
• Marketing, advertising and PR (15 minutes, 59 seconds).
• Accountancy, banking and finance (15 minutes, 40 seconds).
• Property and construction (15 minutes, 28 seconds).
• Healthcare (15 minutes, 23 seconds).
• Teaching and education (15 minutes, 9 seconds).
• Public services and administration (15 minutes, 8 seconds).

In an ever increasing digital world, it is no surprise that internet connectivity issues was the most common tech fail in UK offices, with 44% of workers claiming this has affected them in the last six months.

Computers and laptops crashing was the second most common tech fail (41%), followed by the printer breaking (40%).As businesses look to implement measures throughout the company in line with GDPR, which comes into effect from May 2018, a worrying amount of workers claim they have accidentally sent an email to the wrong person (15%), with a further 7% losing time at work due to the work system being hacked.

Over 6% of workers have accidentally clicked on a spam email – a sure fire way to cause a headache for the company’s IT team.

Dave Jones, product buyer at Ebuyer.com, said: “The research we conducted has revealed some really shocking figures. Over nine working days lost to technology is sure to have a huge impact on businesses, especially small businesses and start-ups.

“Making sure that technology is regularly updated will stop issues with computers regularly crashing, and having systems backed up on servers should keep time lost to a minimum. Keeping equipment around the office updated and replacing old and slow technology may cost in the short term, but the time saved will soon balance this out.

“Keeping office supplies stocked is also a quick and easy way to keep time lost to a minimum, as over one in seven (13%) workers lost time in work due to the printer running out of paper.”

By Nick Ismail for Information Age 

Is tech just for boys?

The gender stereotypes of parents and teachers play a large role in putting young girls off careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, a study has found.

The study found 53 per cent of girls in secondary school drop Stem subjects due to pressure from parents. Two thirds of girls surveyed (65 per cent) said their parents and teachers were the main influence over what subjects and career choices they made.

One third of parents and teachers (29 per cent) polled said they view Stem subjects and careers “as more closely fitting boys’ brains, personalities and hobbies”.

When discussing attitudes to science and tech careers, 82 per cent of girls said they wanted a career where they could help people, and did not see how a future in a Stem field could achieve that.

The research found the more extra-curricular Stem events or school day trips girls attended, the more likely they were to take at least two Stem subjects at Leaving Cert level such as science subjects or technical graphics. Out of girls who attended three or more Stem events or trips, 30 per cent chose to do two or more science or technology subjects for their Leaving Cert.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the research provided “much-needed insight into the under-representation of girls and women in Stem education and careers”.

He said addressing the lack of women and girls in science, engineering, tech and maths fields was a priority to be addressed.

The research involved 3,000 Irish students, parents and teachers who were questioned earlier this year. The survey was carried out by consulting firm Accenture Ireland and iWish, a Cork-based advocacy group involved in encouraging young girls to enter science and tech fields.

Co-founder of iWish Ruth Buckley said the research “points to the significant role that teachers can play as a gateway to Stem careers”. She said that “giving teachers and girls knowledge, information and access is key, we cannot leave girls’ inclusion to chance, we need to have a consistent and systematic focus on Stem through our education system”.

The report made several recommendations on how to increase the engagement of young girls with Stem careers. These include helping parents educate themselves on the subjects, and providing additional training and information to teachers on Stem careers so they can better inform students about potential opportunities in the field.

Source: www.irishtimes.com

South Africa can expect at least three big new banking options within the coming months – all of which will be entering a highly competitive market.

A poll conducted in August by BusinessTech, generating over 10,000 responses found that Capitec is far and away the bank most South Africans would switch to, garnering 44% of the votes.

Capitec said recently that it has added 400,000 customers since February 2017 to become the second biggest bank in the country by this metric.

Its success has forced South Africa’s other banks to compete more effectively, and has led to Absa and FNB in particular to launch entry-level accounts that target Capitec’s market approach.

However, Capitec will soon face stiff new competition of its own, through Patrice Motsepe’s Tyme which promises to cause ‘disruption’ of its own through a digital play.

Tyme joins insurance giant Discovery, which also plans to launch a commercial bank, while government has plans for a retail offering of its through the South African Post Office – all of which are expected to launch sometime between now and late 2018.

Each offering brings with it unique features which could entice customers from the current “big five”.

Tyme

Billionaire Patrice Motsepe made headlines last week after he announced that he was set to challenge South Africa’s biggest banks with investment company African Rainbow Capital (ARC) close to securing a banking license.

Tyme was granted a provisional license by the South African Reserve Bank in 2016, with Johan van der Merwe, co- CEO of African Rainbow Capital stating that the company expected a full licence before the end of September.

“The South African banking environment is due for a bit of disruption,” said van der Merwe.

“While Capitec has been able to play that role, the soon-to-be-licensed lender will be a disruption over and above that. This will be a complete game changer.”

“The regulator is looking at the cloud-based system that ARC’s fintech partner is using to make sure it works before granting a full licence,” he said.

Tyme is reportedly signing up 5,000 new customers each week, following the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s acquisition for a reported AU$40 million.

Arguably, Tyme’s biggest asset is its in-house developed “know your customer” KYC accreditation solutions.

These allow customers to open a simple bank account over their mobile phone, and open an unrestricted bank account from a remote location instead of having to enter a bank branch.

This form of unrestricted account access and cloud-based solutions is likely to tie-in with African Rainbow Capital’s July announcement that it invested in 20% of fixed and mobile data network operator Rain.

Discovery

In March 2017, Discovery said that it had received authorisation from the Registrar of Banks to establish banking operations in South Africa, and is on track to launch its banking products next year.

Discovery CEO, Adrian Gore first announced plans for a retail bank in 2015, and stated that it would act as a direct competitor to Absa, FNB, Nedbank, Capitec, and Standard Bank.

The insurer has reportedly seen great success with its Discovery Card joint venture with FNB, which would provide a launch pad for full banking services.

“We’ve got the capital, we’ve hired bankers, we’re building substantial systems. We want to make an offering that’s relevant and can win market share,” said Gore.

Discovery has an advantage over the big four traditional banks, as it does not have to maintain a country-wide network of branches and ATMs. This means Discovery Bank’s costs have the potential to be lower than its competitors.

Former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan also believes that the technology available to Discovery could make it a major disruptor in the financial sector as it uses its vast resources and lower cost base to offer clients lower banking fees and better interest rates.

The South African Post Office

While not as eye-catching as Tyme or Discovery, the South African Post Office (SAPO) could prove to be a large disruptor in the financial sector because of its ease of accessibility.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May, telecommunications minister Siyabonga Cwele said that the Post Office’s transition into a development bank will be government’s first big step in “radically transforming the financial sector and challenging the current banking institutions”.

“It’s not going to be a normal bank like the big four. It’s going to be a developmental bank to deal with the market that is not being served at the moment,” said Cwele.

He added that, despite the higher risks involved, the Post Office will also look at funding entrepreneurs with small loans.

“We are going to need a very strong risk management system. The issue of financial inclusion is part of radical economic transformation. We are not talking about reckless access to finance.”

Current SAPO CEO Mark Barnes will likely head up the new bank, which is expected to become a fully-fledged consumer bank sometime in 2018.

The bank could also be bolstered massively should it acquire the rights to distribute social grants to over 17 million South Africans from SASSA.

Source: BusinessTech

Loophole used to spy on more than 70 000 phones in SA

Law enforcement agencies are spying on at least 70 000 phone numbers each year, exploiting a loophole in South Africa’s surveillance policies that allow them to access phone records through a less rigorous process.

Civil rights organisation Right2Know Campaign (R2K) surveyed statistics from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, which revealed that government accesses sensitive communications information from tens of thousands of people every year using a loophole that bypasses South Africa’s primary surveillance law, the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).

Jane Duncan, founder of the Media Policy and Democracy Project, said statistics show South Africans’ privacy is routinely being violated. Yet there is very little sense of how this is bringing down crime.

“Privacy is not sufficiently protected in processes followed,” she said.

RICA requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to obtain permission from a special judge, appointed by the president, to intercept a person’s communications.

“RICA sets high standards, with a specialised judge appointed that reviews applications,” said Duncan.

But instead of using RICA, the government is turning to Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act which gives officials access to phone users’ metadata in phone records. This reveals who they have communicated with, when, and where.

The Criminal Procedures Act is not nearly as protected as RICA and definitely creates a loophole, Duncan explained.

Data from the four mobile phone companies shows that law enforcement received call records for a minimum of 70 960 phone numbers every year, from 2015 to 2017.

In contrast, the most recent statistics from the RICA judge’s office show that in 2014/2015, the judge issued 760 warrants for interception. At a minimum, in the same year magistrates issued 25 808 warrants in terms of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

These statistics confirm for the first time that the vast majority of ‘authorised’ surveillance operations are happening outside the RICA judge’s oversight.

Policymakers have wrongly assumed that information about a communication – such as the identity of the person communicated with, when, and the location – is less sensitive than its content, R2K said.

In order to apply for this warrant, applicants need to provide strong reasons because RICA is cognisant that such interceptions could threaten peoples’ right to privacy, it said.

Obtaining a warrant through Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act is far less rigorous, and R2K said as a result a loophole developed where Section 205 allows law enforcement officials to bypass the RICA judge.

According to this law, any magistrate can issue a warrant that forces telecoms companies to give over a customer’s call records and metadata.

Policymakers are wrong to assume that the metadata is less sensitive or private than the contents of the communication: metadata can reveal as much as, if not more, about a person’s contacts, interests and habits than what they say over the phone or in a text message, R2K stated.

Duncan said that despite RICA’s protection, case studies such as cops who spied on two Sunday Times journalists showed that abuses even happened there.

According to evidence before the court, South African Police Force intelligence officials received a warrant to monitor these phone numbers by lying to the RICA judge – they told the judge these were the phone numbers of suspected criminals who were under investigation. Under RICA, it is an offence to supply false information to the RICA judge.

“How much easier is it to abuse the Criminal Procedures Act, with even fewer checks and balances?” Duncan asked.

R2K said that when a person’s communications information is handed over using the Criminal Procedures Act, they are never notified, even if the investigation is dropped or if they are found to be innocent.

By Yolandi Groenewald for Fin24

Five inspiring South African women in tech

There are many women doing great things in tech in South Africa, making their mark with cool initiatives and strong leadership roles.

Gender diversity in technology is an ongoing challenge, and women have to constantly prove their capabilities and strengths.

Yet, more women are contributing innovative and even disruptive ideas, making meaningful change in people’s lives.

Here are 5 inspiring women in the ever growing fast-paced South African tech space.

1. Barbara Mallinson, Obami CEO

Barbara Mallinson is the founder and chief executive of Obami, a social learning platform being used by hundreds of schools across Africa, Europe and the United States.

She saw a gap in the SA market – schools were creating real-life networks, but they weren’t making use of online tools to take that further.

Obami was recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Technologies in the World in 2011 by Netexplo, Unesco and partners.

It was also identified as one of the Top 20 Start-ups in Africa by Forbes a year later, and Mallinson was featured on the Forbes 10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa list.

2. Karen Nadasen, PayU South Africa CEO

Karen Nadasen, the CEO of PayU South Africa, is a self-motivated professional with extensive experience working in both Europe and Africa for the likes of Microsoft and BP.

Nadasen joined PayU in June 2012 as a Product Manager; she advanced to Head of Product and Delivery Manager for MEA, before being appointed as CEO in June 2016.

She is passionate about direct, on-the-ground leadership and execution, fostering environments that promote visibility, hard work and dedication, that inspire and deliver results.

PayU is South Africa’s largest online payment gateway and part of the Naspers group. PayU has a 40% market share in the South African online payments market and currently services more than 1 500 of SA’s top merchants.

Globally, PayU has a presence across 16 high-growth markets, offering over 250 payment options to over 2.3 billion users.

3. Nisha Maharaj, Niche Integrated Solutions executive

Nisha Maharaj is the founder of Niche Integrated Solutions, an ICT solutions company that brings innovative solutions to Africa.

Niche Integrated Solutions provides software solutions, ICT managed services and training.

Maharaj has an accumulated service record of 20 years working experience within South Africa’s major listed companies.

These range from the top four banking and financial services companies, to the telecommunications sector – where for more than 14 years she served at either executive management, general management or COO level.

She is of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2015.

4. Annette Muller, DotNxt founder

Annette Muller is at the forefront of the South African tech sphere as the founder and CEO of DotNxt, a strategic innovation management firm in Cape Town.

DotNxt was established to bridge the gap between strategy (consulting) and delivery (project management) on a range of digital, mobile, social and next-generation branding projects.

Muller manages the execution and strategy of over twenty corporate clients, including some of South Africa’s largest companies, such as Nedbank, Primedia and Graham Beck, making sure there’s a clear line of communication throughout the company’s networks.

Muller was also listed by Forbes as one of the 10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa.

5. Baratang Miya, GirlHype CEO

Baratang Miya is the founder and CEO of GirlHype – Women Who Code, a not-for-profit that provides programming and app development training for girls and young women.

A self-taught coder, she has been sharing her skills and experiences with women and girls through her leadership at GirlHype.

Through GirlHype’s programmes, women and girls learn to code and create solutions, with fun, hands-on opportunities to get engaged with science, engineering, technology, arts and maths (STEAM).

Although she focuses on getting women into STEAM, Miya understands that this is about building women’s self-efficacy and confidence to work in tech or beyond.

By Vicky Sidler for BusinessTech 

Brave new world of retail bad for workers

South African grocery retailers are taking their cue from global players, and as a result the retail workforce may be under threat as technology continues to rattle the sector.

About three years ago the biggest retailer in the world, US-based Walmart, embraced smaller-format stores as its superstores began falling out of favour with customers, and signalled it would employ a more rationalised workforce.

This year, the group announced a further reduction in staff as it focused more on e-commerce business. About 18 000 people lost their jobs out of a workforce of 2.3 million employees globally.

Similarly, UK-based retailer Tesco cut 1200 staff jobs in its head office after cutting 1 100 jobs in its call centre.

Walmart competitor Amazon has only 34400 staff, although it said in January it expected to add 100 000 people to its workforce in the next 18 months.

Andre Roux, head of the future studies programme at Stellenbosch University, said technology had been a significant disruptor in recent times, but several other issues were influencing the way companies were seeing the labour force.

“Robots can work for up to 40 days in a row for 24 hours a day”.

Robots would gradually replace human labour, he said.

“No one owes anybody a job. There’s no entitlement. You are only going to be employed if you can make an efficient contribution,” said Roux.

The fastest-growing employment was self-employment, as opposed to working for one organisation for many years.

“The whole idea of cradle to grave or womb to tomb is becoming more and more outdated,” Roux said.

“In the future, people will probably work for 20 or more organisations during their careers – just a couple of years at a time.

“That has implications for how one builds up one’s pension fund. It becomes one’s own responsibility.”

But in a country such as South Africa, which was part of a developing region, there was a disjuncture between adopting first-world ways of doing business on the one hand, and dealing with issues such as an unskilled labour force on the other.

“Although we are a developing country, these days you’ve got to be as good as the best.

“We have to follow new trends but at the same time be aware of our own unique challenges.

“As it is we have a surplus of unskilled labour and a shortage of appropriately skilled labour.”

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, South Africa’s unemployment rate was 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017, the highest unemployment rate since September 2003.

In the current retail climate, Pick n Pay’s self-service checkout points may be the biggest threat of all to labour.

Bones Skulu, general secretary of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu), said the union was challenging the installation of self-service checkouts.

It would continue calling on workers to embark on industrial action in response to technology that had the potential to replace labour.

He added that Saccawu was expecting further job cuts by Pick n Pay across various divisions.

For those on the shop floor, the changes are telling. Perceptions among staff are that more work has to be done by fewer people.

By Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu for Business Live

Tech trends SA companies care most about right now

Dimension Data has released its latest digital workplace report, highlighting which technologies South African companies are currently developing and working with.

In South Africa, Dimension Data spoke to 73 respondents of companies with at least 1 000 employees, from large businesses with headquarters in the region.

The companies surveyed reported that mobility was still the most important area for supporting broader digital workplace initiatives.

27% of organisations said that embracing multiple-device-ownership models (BYOD, COPE, company-liable) is the most important technology trend, and 89% identify mobile devices and business applications as being technologies that support business process improvement.

This was followed by an embracing of the consumerisation of IT (25%) as well as an increasing demand to make video communication more pervasive (21%), said the report.

“Ensuring that employees are well-connected and empowered with mobile technologies and applications has resulted in enterprise mobility becoming a key theme of broader digital transformation efforts,” said Dimension Data.

“Those leading on enterprise mobility strategy development and implementation should therefore ensure that mobility initiatives map well against broader digital transformation business objectives.”

Cloud

South African organisations are also turning to the cloud as an alternative to traditional on-premise deployments of workplace technologies.

For communications tools, such as WebEx and desktop video conferencing, 34% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
For collaboration applications, such as SharePoint and enterprise social, 22% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
For business applications, such as ERP, 18% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
“A better cost model is the top reason South African organisations are moving to cloud applications,” said Dimension Data.

“In time, organisations will rely more on fully hosted services for a wide range of digital workplace technology. The opex model is attractive to companies trying to rein in capital expenses, and cloud-based applications are considerably easier to keep up to date.”

However, it noted that many cloud-based applications do not yet meet the security and compliance requirements of many organisations.

Organisations also have existing assets that they own, that work well, and that do not need to be retired, it said.

“For example, 62% of South African organisations host business telephony applications on-premise, with only 5% being deployed in a private cloud environment. For this reason, managed services remain attractive for large organisations, which rely on them heavily as a way of keeping IT costs to a minimum.”

Enterprises are also turning to hybrid deployment models to keep one foot firmly planted in the current world of premise based technology whilst taking their first steps toward the cloud.

Hybrid deployments let organisations move some workloads to the cloud whilst retaining others on premise.

“Organisations with security or compliance concerns can keep applications on site or in private data centres under their own management whilst moving other, less sensitive applications to the cloud. Enterprises with significant investments in systems and applications deployed on premise can transition them to the cloud over a period of years, retiring legacy technology slowly as it becomes obsolete.”

Looking forward

Consumerisation and migrating to the cloud may occupy the minds of CIOs focused on here-and-now issues around digital transformation. However, those keeping an eye to the future see the dawn of a whole new set of technologies that will shape the digital workplace for years to come.

These primarily take the form of augmented reality which has practical uses for field technicians and other specialists needing instant access to information and AI/machine learning which are helping organisations derive insight from vast quantities of data and helping get the right information to the right people at the right time.

Unsurprisingly, the Internet of Things is also dovetailing with – and increasingly driving – a greater reliance on automation in the enterprise, as sensors variously monitor and control lighting, door locks, vehicles, medical equipment, manufacturing machinery, surveillance cameras, and other systems.

75% of South African organisations say they will have a practical use case for augmented reality technologies within the next two years.

The percentage of South African organisations (26%) that say they will never have a practical use for augmented reality technologies aligns quite closely with the global findings, which show that 34% of organisations see no value in this technology.

“It is still very early days for augmented reality technologies, especially in the enterprise context,” the group said.

“The focus is still very much on the hardware, as opposed to the new business outcomes that the hardware could potentially help support. The value of augmented reality technologies needs to be better communicated and in contexts that resonate with enterprises. A more enriched app ecosystem that supports the core technology will be vital to its enterprise success.”

“As this develops, and as the use cases for the technology become better contextualised, the value proposition of AR will be better understood by organisations across industries.”

21% of South African organisations are investing in intelligent agents now, and 18% are investing in IoT, but investment will increase significantly in those
areas over the next 24 months.

“Undoubtedly, however, it is analytics tools that interest South African organisations the most. Strong investment is planned in the area of workplace analytics, with 94% identifying that some form of investment will be made in this area over the next two years.”

“The most important use case for these analytics tools will be in managing the employee lifecycle and improving the customers experience.”

Source: Business Tech

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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