Collaborating with Absa to Offer Clients Secure Digital Solutions

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– featured in Absa’s media centre – 

 

Absa Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) has collaborated with two major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers in the manufacturing and legal sectors Epic ERP and AJS respectively. This collaboration is to implement integrated seamless payment solutions which will reduce inefficiencies and minimise fraud and operational risks which are common with online banking payment systems.

 

John Molanda, Head Product Innovation, says many business clients perform their financial transactions using an online banking system, which creates inefficiencies due to recapturing data and increases the risk of payments files being intercepted. While the alternative is to create a host-to-host connection to transfer data between their line of business systems and the bank, this invariably results in high costs and is technically challenging.

 

The bank has been working with the two collaborators to launch seamless banking solutions like integrated payments and reconciliations. Furthermore, with the advent of Covid-19, this latest innovation is yet another example of how Absa is responding to adopting digitised interventions to limit manual processes, and enhance the client experience.

 

AJS is a leading provider of trusted business software applications for the legal and corporate markets. Justin Perfect, Support and Project Manager of AJS, says he is delighted to be associated with a financial partner like Absa, and looks forward to unlocking even more synergies that will naturally benefit both AJS and Absa clientele.

 

“Not only have we as a software development house embraced the integration with Absa, but more importantly our clients have too. They have experienced first-hand the motto of “more for less” bearing fruit, as a task that took more than twenty minutes, now takes five minutes to complete. Added to this is the reduction in risk to the firm that has put them at ease. As we continue our journey with Absa, we are excited by the value that we will be able to offer our clients,” says Perfect.

 

EPIC ERP is the master reseller for EPICOR software in Africa. Epicor primarily focuses on manufacturing clients in the mid-market segment.

 

Stuart Scanlon, Managing Director of Epic ERP, says the company is proud to be associated with a bank like Absa, whose ambition is to become the leading Pan-African corporate and investment business, through placing focus on collaborations at the core of creating innovative solutions and gaining access to new markets.

 

“We look forward to working with Absa as this relationship represents a powerful opportunity for Epicor and Epic ERP customers to not only improve banking processes but help in reducing fraud,” says Scanlon.

 

“Leading up to this collaboration, the Absa Transactional Banking teams conducted extensive client research, which substantially enriched our understanding of client operating environments. Through this research, we discovered that while bank platforms are pivotal in helping run a client’s business they can also be points of inefficiency and risk. With this understanding, we deliberately looked for organisations with whom we could collaborate to offer our clients an even more secure and efficient way of doing business,” he says.

 

“We have used bank API’s to connect to the ERP’s in this way we can ensure that we personalize the client experience and that the relevant bank response is real time. We are excited with the collaboration and this gets us closer to making sure that our clients can get business done,” says Molanda.

 

Absa’s transactional banking strategy is to build digitally scalable solutions for corporate clients. “This initiative forms a critical part of our digitisation journey. We are investing in critical API infrastructure to be able to offer our clients seamless banking experience. Working with a technology like Epic ERP and AJS, has been great for us to be able to push the boundaries of our technical capabilities. We are excited with the collaboration and this gets us closer to bringing our clients possibilities to life,” says Molanda.

Custom ERP is dead

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– also featured on IT Online and Digital Street – 

 

Custom Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is dead, says epic ERP strategy director, Dr Daneel van Eck.

 

When it comes to ERP there has long been debate around whether to custom build or buy a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) system. While it did make sense to custom develop an ERP in the past, in most instances that is no longer the case, insists Van Eck. In the past COTS ERP software was often expensive and difficult to customise, and if you had a unique requirement it made sense to custom develop.

 

His background includes close to three decades of commercial software development and experience in designing and maintaining custom ERP systems. With one foot in COTS and the other in software development, he has strong opinions on when each are applicable.

 

“A COTS ERP will often have at least 20 000 customers paying either subscription fees or annual maintenance fees and this income can provide funding for more than hundreds or even thousands of developers continuously improving the software,” says Van Eck. “There is no way that an internal (or outsourced) team of even 10 or 20 developers focused on enhancing a custom system could compete or even keep up, considering the budget for innovation that a COTS system will have available. This doesn’t even take into account cloud enablement, adoption of IoT, and architectural and platform changes released from large players like Microsoft.”

 

The problem, he says, is that a small custom team can’t easily innovate or achieve the breadth of functionality that a COTS system can achieve. “Typically you’ll find a custom team continually trying to prioritise with an ever extending list of requests and features that often get shelved,” he explains. “And the long-term costs of maintaining a custom ERP can be prohibitively expensive, even while the custom solution is falling further behind over time. The reality is that the business environment changes and with it a company’s needs. This means that the ERP system has to be continually adapted. The result is that it’s very hard to meet the business’ objectives and achieve long term value.”

 

Modern COTS ERP systems utilise best practice technologies to provide significant breadth and a myriad of options around functionality which can be switched on when they are required, he points out.

 

“When you need additional functionality you just purchase the additional module. The functionality is immediately available making a modern COTS system surprisingly agile. A customised system, on the other hand, typically requires significant time, and budget, to design, develop, and test that additional functionality. An example would be where a product-focused company moves into providing services and finds that their custom software needs to be extended to support project management, resource management, and services billing. Turning on this functionality on a modern ERP and then configuring the modules will enable the company to rapidly change to support the business model change, where the development could take at least six months just to get the basics in place.”

 

Based on years of conducting ERP evaluations, facilitating selection processes, and shortlisting some key vendors such as Microsoft, Epicor, and Sage, Van Eck maintains that a key differentiator among them is the true cost of ownership over time.

 

“A truly modern ERP solution shouldn’t require expensive ERP consultants on site for the long term,” he says. “Companies should be empowered to take ownership of their ERP and they should be able to easily adjust processes and create new ones by dragging and dropping components – keeping abreast of changing needs, in most cases without requiring custom development.”

 

However, he concedes that there are times when a COTS solution won’t be viable. Obviously when there is no commercially available solution then one has to be developed. In addition, if a monopoly exists it may be more cost-effective to build since the lack of competition could protect inflated pricing. There may also be times when it could be possible to obtain a competitive advantage by developing a unique solution.

 

While ERP systems may be seen as a grudge purchase, implemented correctly, modern ERP systems will provide a strategic advantage and provide real value by keeping businesses agile and allowing for faster decision making, says Van Eck. “The competitive advantage it allows depends on how you configure it to enable your unique processes and how it enables you to proactively make more informed decisions.”

 

Build-or-buy is still not a simple choice and certainly needs significant thought, however with modern, configurable COTS ERP’s in existence it certainly tips the scales in that direction.

Digitalisation Doesn’t Have to Be All-Or-Nothing

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– whitepaper also featured on ITWeb

 

One would be hardpressed to find a distribution executive who doesn’t agree that the future of their industry is digital. Business-to-business distributors have long been behind the times when it comes to technology innovation—and slow to adopt it. Nonetheless, distributors have gradually been implementing or upgrading software and business tools and hiring more tech-savvy employees to increase the digital element of their culture. As a result, both their customer-facing operations and back-end functions are becoming more efficient.

 

We look at the journey to digitalisation, its benefits, and tools to help the process in this whitepaper by Epicor. Click here to download the whitepaper.

8 Habits of High-Gross-Margin Distributors

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The ultimate goal of most companies is to improve their profit margins, and distributors are no
exception. In fact, distributors may focus on this more than manufacturers or retailers, since they
effectively connect the two sectors and don’t have the control or influence over raw materials
and suppliers that manufacturers and retailers possess.

Distributors are also at the mercy of logistic elements like transportation costs that fluctuate
and impact an already tight gross margin. With increased competition and market pressures, it’s
a smart time for distributors to examine what they can do to improve their margins and learn
from others who are doing it well.

In this Epicor white paper, we cover the top eight habits that distributors showcase to achieve high
gross margins. Click here to read more.

Why Cloud Security Must Be Prioritised

the importance of prioritising cloud security

-By Stuart Scanlon, MD of epic ERP, and featured in IT Online

South African businesses are now facing the truth that the cloud is an indispensable part of standard operating procedures required for the digital landscape.
The arrival of multinational data centres in the country, means more decision-makers are experimenting with transitioning their solutions and data to this online environment. However, the essentials of cyber security must never slip.

 

Data is fundamental in the connected environment and now more than ever companies rely on data analytics to draw insights and customise offerings. End-users must be comfortable sharing their personal information and safeguarding this information must be a business priority.

 

Data sensitivity

 

The reality is that nobody is safe, and no organisation can afford to assume they will not be targeted. According to the 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study, the average cost of a data breach globally is more than R56 million. Given the complex regulatory environment when it comes to data protection, businesses can ill afford to only pay lip service to security.

 

Statistics show that almost a quarter of files in the cloud contain sensitive data. This can range from financial records to business plans. The same research found that sharing sensitive data with an open, public link has increased 23% over the past two years. Companies must do more to educate users on the risks associated with this.

 

The reality is that while the service provider takes responsibility for the data once it reaches their servers, the path the data takes to get there puts the onus firmly on the organisation. Companies must investigate the opportunities that private and hybrid cloud solutions provide.

 

Changing approaches

 

Going the private or hybrid route provides a range of benefits. These offerings typically deliver automated, real-time, and exception-based options for organisations to carefully manage sensitive data.

 

According to Gartner, the biggest problem is not in the security of the cloud but rather in the control of technology. One of its most concerning statistics is that by 2022, at least 95% of cloud security failures will be the fault of the organisation and not the service provider itself.

 

These failures can link back to clicking on malicious links or misconfiguring servers and network devices. In fact, this has been classified as ‘inadvertent insiders’ (employees who unwittingly cause security incidents through negligent actions) accounted for nearly two-thirds of all data records that were compromised in 2017.

 

The human element

 

Human error being one of the most notable contributors to a lack of security, means that organisations must assess how they approach internal user education. Worldwide, most organisations admit that traditional security solutions do not work in cloud environments. Prominent risks are data loss, leakage, threats and breaches of confidentiality.

 

Clearly, anti-virus and firewall solutions are not comprehensive enough to protect against these threats. Everything from educating employees, encrypting data, implementing multi-factor authentication, limiting access control, testing security measures, and other elements must be considered indispensable.

 

By taking time to assess and strategise effective protection measures, organisations will be able to mitigate the risks inherent to data. Don’t be left open for attacks that can potentially result in the business having to close its doors.

Demystifying the (ERP) Cloud

demystifying-the-ERP-cloud

-By Dr Daneel van Eck, software architect at epic ERP, and featured on ITWeb, BusinessIT and Gadget –

The arrival of multi-national data centres in the country makes the cloud a business priority. It is an essential tool in how a company remains competitive in a changing digital environment. It’s here that enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions play a critical role.

 

Gartner estimated that the global public cloud services market will grow 17.3% this year to $206.2 billion, up from the $175.8 billion in 2018. The transition to the cloud needs to be logical and made either through an ERP solutions or collaborative assessment.

 

Traditionally ERP is viewed as expensive, cumbersome and inflexible solutions that integrate different business components. But the modern ERP environment is quite different, especially for the small business sector.

 

Cloud first

 

Part of this can be attributed to the success of the cloud when it comes to delivering cost effective secure solutions and more computational power. SMEs do not care about the cloud or even ERP as a concept. They just want to get business value with little disruption to operations.

 

ERP in the digital/cloud landscape should be viewed as a more intelligent way of managing a business, irrespective of a company’s size. ERP must be able to integrate data and deliver on business expectations with an all-in-one solution that transcends IT knowledge.

 

ERP is vital in the modern environment driven by data. Consider some of these statistics. By 2020, every person will generate approximately 1.7MB of data per second. Also, the accumulated volume of big data will increase from the current 4.4 zettabytes to approximately 44 zettabytes (equal to 44 trillion GB). Google now processes more than 40 000 search queries per second. According to InternetLiveStats.com, when the company was founded in 1998, it was serving 10 000 search queries per day.

 

Cost-effectiveness

 

With corporate budgets under pressure, everything from human resources to IT spend needs to be managed. The cloud has the ability to scale up or down according to the needs of the business. Cloud providers offering all these services in a hosted environment, so companies can focus less on spending resources on hardware and software, and more on service delivery.

 

An ERP world

 

By migrating ERP systems to a cloud-environment, organisations can free up internal IT resources. These employees can focus on delivering value instead of performing ongoing maintenance. Now IT can be geared towards the growth of the business.

 

ERP in the cloud means that solutions always stay up to date. Updates in the cloud happen with minimal disruption. Some service providers offer sandbox functionality for customers to test out significant new features before they are rolled out.

 

A critical benefit of ERP in the cloud is mobile access. Given the growth of mobility in South Africa and the rest of the continent, linking mission-critical data to professionals in the field, in real-time ensures business value is delivered as close to the source as possible. All relevant information is accessible from the convenience of a smartphone or tablet.

 

A cloud-driven ERP environment provides a more secure way of benefitting from a digital approach to business. Those organisations willing to embrace it will be the ones to gain a significant competitive advantage.

Digital is disrupting the traditional CFO role

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The role of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has conventionally centred on financial planning, data and reporting, but in an increasingly digital world, this responsibility is beginning to change.

Digital transformation has ushered in technology like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and augmented and virtual reality. Not only does the CFO of today need to understand what these new technologies mean but also how they impact every aspect of the business, the investment required to implement them, how they affect other business functions and how they can be used strategically to drive business growth.

But that’s only the beginning.

In this new multifaceted role, the CFO isn’t required to be a technology specialist but must have a confident and comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of new digital technology. The CFO’s responsibility is no longer a back-office function, where reports are compiled on past financial activities, instead it’s about looking forward to uncover new sources of revenue and to help strategically shape the long-term financial future of the business.

In addition, the new CFO is expected to:

  • Recognise the value of real-time data in order to make faster, smarter decisions
  • Pinpoint technology that will improve internal efficiencies
  • Bring attention to the legacy systems that expose the business to risk
  • Embrace the role of change agent and drive change in people and processes
  • Identify emerging digital technology trends that will add value to the whole business
  • Empower CEOs with strategic digital insights
  • Shape the customer experience
  • Reduce digital risks

While the CFOs of the future will need to collaborate more with their CEOs, to identify technology investments that will drive new business, they must also engage more with operational leaders, using financial data to guide operational decision-making.

Take the example of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), new software technology that is beginning to replace repetitive manual functions such as balancing a company’s books. CFOs must investigate and implement digital technology solutions, such as robust enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, that will streamline and simplify operations, reduce costs and improve the quality of the financial data being produced. In an evolving finance department, the CFO needs to also prepare staff, so that they embrace – rather than fear – digital technology changes.

With their unique bird’s-eye view of the business, the modern CFO should be at the centre of digital transformation, identifying opportunities, collaborating on strategy, building value and ultimately driving top-line growth. In a world where competition is becoming global, organisations must embrace digital transformation – with their redefined CFOs taking the lead.

 

Image source: Blackline

Manufacturing for Tomorrow

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Smart machines, IoT and Industry 4.0 are enabling manufacturers to digitally transform their operational processes and evolve into faster, leaner businesses. Those manufacturers that aren’t making any moves to implement these technologies and strategies run the risk of falling further behind their competitors.

Here are six industry trends for the year ahead:

  1. Smart machines

Small to mid-size manufacturers will increasingly be able to afford smart production machines, enabling them to run unattended, for longer shifts and with increased safety. Being better connected and operating more efficiently will mean businesses are more competitive, flexible and ultimately more profitable, compared to traditional machinery and automation.

  1. Mobile ERP

The ability to access business information from anywhere and at any time through mobile ERP, is providing manufacturers with a major competitive advantage. The benefits of this enabling technology are many, including the ability to capture data more accurately, better inventory management control and improved operational efficiencies. With a mobile ERP solution, business owners can make better decisions when it comes to potential threats and potential opportunities.

  1. Real-time monitoring

While real-time monitoring reveals actual productivity on the shop floor and current progress towards goals, the rich data also allows manufacturers to improve operations and positively impact inventory reconciliation, scheduling accuracy and production line performance. Real-time monitoring is driving success in the manufacturing industry.

  1. Products must be smart and connected

Widely available wireless connectivity is providing the platform for innovative manufacturers to move towards smart, connected products, which will replace legacy products. These smart, connected products not only provide opportunities for new functionality, but they are more reliable, efficient and create a leaner, more cost-effective manufacturing ecosystem.

  1. Analytics and business intelligence (BI)

With a wealth of valuable data created through real-time monitoring, manufacturers will increasingly rely on scalable analytics and BI to improve production and resource planning. By gathering and intelligently analysing data, manufacturers can see patterns that would otherwise be impossible, allowing them to also streamline operations and save costs.

  1. The Internet of Trusted Things (IoTT)

Businesses around the world are investing billions in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which has the potential to revolutionise all industries, including manufacturing. While IoT has grown rapidly in the past few years, one of the biggest challenges it faces is that of security. Enter the Internet of Trusted Things (IoTT), which, while it still faces many challenges, is intended to secure a company’s ecosystem. This will be done, for example, through smart contracts that ensure access to important data is restricted to certain people who meet specific requirements.

Early adopters of these trends will likely surpass their competitors by improving business operations, streamline efficiencies, reducing production delays and generating greater revenue.