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CITI’s warm welcome for women in business

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The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), an incubator for local tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs in Cape Town, launched its Women in Business programme and welcomed a group of 41 successful applicants. 

The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), an incubator for local tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs in Cape Town, has recently launched its Women in Business programme.

CiTi welcomed a group of 41 successful applicants who own and operate a diverse mix of businesses across industry sectors, from agriculture and travel, to construction and IT.  The 10-week programme will provide valuable support through weekly meetings and networking, learning through story-telling, practical how-to’s, as well as exposure to tech tools that will help grow these businesses.

“We all know how difficult it is to launch and run a successful business in this economic climate,” says Phillipine Francke, an entrepreneur herself and one of the programme’s chief facilitators, “even with the support of government and top incubators like CiTi. However, female entrepreneurs often face hurdles unique to women that are seldom addressed. The topics covered in this programme will give women insight into some of the tools, apps and software available to them that could propel their businesses through tech.”

CiTi, a tech-focused incubator for entrepreneurs in Cape Town, has a clear vision for developing women through tech in business. “CiTi has always led the way in supporting the development of women in tech,” says Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi, “with some of our participants, like WomEng, even reaching international success. The Women in Business programme is geared towards growing these promising businesses and setting them up for sustainable success.”

The Women in Business programme has been running for nine years and has seen more than 200 women pass through successfully. “As a Women in Business alumni,” says Dylan Kohlstädt, a successful entrepreneur and one of the chief facilitators of the programme, “I know how valuable this programme was to me when my ad agency was in its start-up phase. Back then, I was choc-full of determination, but light on strategy and tools. Not only did I make long-lasting connections with other entrepreneurs like me, I also learnt out about practical ways to improve my business operations and bottom line.”

The launch event saw keynote speaker Tracey Steyn, founder of Nomad Marketing and author of online tech publication, TechSalad, address the delegates. Tracey spoke on how to work smarter and build a better business through outsourcing and encouraged the delegates to get help with tasks they are probably not skilled with anyway. “It is a lot more productive to outsource work that is not revenue generating, but essential,” says Tracey.  She covered what tasks can and should be outsourced and gave some practical tech tips on what resources are available.

“We are very excited about this year’s mix of candidates,” says Michelle Matthews, head of innovation and enterprise development at CiTi, “especially those whose businesses can benefit from their interaction with the other business owners on our programmes, and their intersection with our traveltech and fintech innovation hubs.”

With businesses like EventRoom, Janine Binneman Jewellery Design, and The Almond Creamery in the mix, the engagement with the speaker was lively and animated. “I thoroughly enjoyed spending the morning with these awesome ladies,” says Tracey. “No matter how varied the businesses are, the key underpinning values and challenges faced by these – and other – female entrepreneurs are shared, binding us all together in a community that offers support.”

“Women have a great inborn capacity for building community and encouraging team play,” says Dylan Kohlstädt, “that is often pushed aside in our efforts to become successful in a man’s world. Instead of linking arms, women might feel they need to compete with one another; sort of as if there is a quota on the number of successful women allowed. We hope to turn this thinking around in South Africa and encourage a more collaborative and generous way of thinking.”

The ensuing nine sessions will see guest speakers cover topics such as Top Tech Tools for financial management and growing your business through direct and digital marketing. “I am so looking forward to getting to spend time with these amazing women, while learning how I can use these great tech tools to improve the impact of our organisation,” says Karen Brooks from Ispirato, another of the participants on the Women in Business programme.

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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