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Rise of the sales platform

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A brand is no longer just an identifying mark, but something that customers have a relationship with which is why businesses are considering how to use technology to more effectively manage their brand, writes QUINTON PIENAAR, CEO of Agilitude.

According to Harvard Business Review, a brand is not something you manage over time. It’s something you deliver in the moment and is no longer just an identifying mark. In my view, it is something that customers have a relationship with, and is the reason why businesses are considering how to use technology more effectively to manage their brand and its customer relationships.

IDC forecasts spending on CRM applications will reach $31.7B in 2018, attaining a CAGR of 6.9%. The forecast splits the spending across contact centres, customer service, marketing automation and sales automation.

The development of the brand, its relationships and the central role of the customer has placed a renewed focus on the role and investment into customer-related software. The rise of salesforce automation (SFA) is one area that has grown in importance and relevance, as businesses grapple with its brand and getting to know the customer on a deeper level.

In congruence with this brand shift, IDC has reported that CMOs are starting to redefine the direction of marketing spend based on customer inquiry calls and their analysis of the CRM market. I think that this is exactly what should be happening, as industry should be listening to customers and adapting business strategies accordingly, while at the same time looking at ways to more effectively utilise software to assist in the process.

Understandably then, it is no surprise to learn that over the last ten years, marketing has seen what could be the greatest explosion of technology of any business function in history.

IDC has also correctly predicted the trend and fundamental shift from point solutions to platforms. While it is a significant departure, the rise of the platform is powerful. It creates a single, connected experience for every user. It’s a truly connected platform, built for a connected world.

There is no doubt in my mind that the future of software and technology lies in platforms. According to www.platformthinkinglabs.com business leaders are developing platforms that connect diverse participants with one another and enable them to interact and transact. This means, that on the Internet, anyone can be a producer. Today’s network platforms aid the creation of entirely new markets by connecting producers and consumers with each other.

This makes the job of the brand and its custodians even tougher and the role of platform technology all the more important.

It is the use of this powerful platform that makes salesforce automation so significant moving forward, as it is ensuring it is part of a digital transformation, which is taking place globally. The businesses that embrace platforms and the resulting technology will be drivers of innovation, and will have a very compelling competitive advantage.

  • Quinton Pienaar is the CEO, Agilitude, a Salesforce platinum reseller and customer experience evangelist.

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Fibre critical to SA

By JACQUES DU TOIT, CEO of Vox

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It has been almost a week since South Africa joined several other countries around the world in locking down to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But beyond the impact this has had on people’s lives, it has highlighted how essential access to reliable, high-speed fibre infrastructure has become for the economy to keep going.

It should come as no surprise that the government has identified it as a critical service. Fortunately, many people are still able to work remotely and fulfil most of their job requirements, albeit in a digital-centric way. Broadband penetration is critical to the economy – in a study conducted by the World Bank it was proven that for every 10% increase in broadband penetration there is an increase between 1.19% and 1.35% rise in GDP. South Africa is in desperate need for all kinds of economic stimulus and hence the importance of keeping these services running during a Lockdown period,

Of course, this entails more than just video conferencing and sending more emails. It reflects a fundamental shift in business approach that will enhance how companies operate. Once the lockdown ends, the landscape would have evolved to such an extent that nothing will return to normal.

This push to allow for working from home, has put pressure on IT departments to ensure systems still run smoothly. If anything, it has illustrated that aging connectivity such as ADSL can no longer be relied upon. And while much is made about the user-friendliness of wireless technologies such as 4G, LTE, and 5G, the high cost of mobile data and the incapacity of the networks to deal with the influx of demand does not make it a viable option either.

One of the challenges mobile operators face is high contention rates. This means that the more users are on their networks, the slower access becomes. We have seen  LTE users experienced a speed decrease from 20Mbps to just 0.6Mbps when people started flooding video streaming sites rendering them virtually unusable. And beyond zero rating data to limited educational resources, the mobile providers have given little by way of a fresh value proposition to consumers during this difficult time. The recent price reduction was long overdue and is still not close to rates offered by the fibre operators.

For their part, many fibre operators have provided consumers with upgrades that automatically doubled their line speeds, free installations, increased capped products by as much as 3 times. This faster access is essential given how consumer usage patterns have now changed from download only to needing to upload data as well.

These changes have seen application marketplaces experience a significant shift in focus. During the week of March 14 to 21, business apps topped 62 million downloads globally, an increase of 45% over the previous week. Furthermore, Google has made the premium features of its Hangouts Meet application available for free and Microsoft is offering a free six month subscription to Microsoft Teams, to name just two examples of how changing consumer behaviour is changing the market dynamics of connectivity solutions.  

One of fibre’s strengths is its scalability and capacity – it is virtually unlimited. This means users’ line speeds can be upgraded in real-time with no disruption. And because it provides a smooth transition to the cloud, fibre also enables companies to automate many administrative-intensive processes thereby freeing up users to deliver more strategic value to the business.

Embrace the new

It is now an opportune time to look at embracing new ways of working and engaging with one another.

Take schools and institutions of higher learning for example. The situation has forced them to start working on distance learning options. If learners cannot return to school, e-learning becomes essential to help them keep up with work. This highlights the significant digital divide in the country where millions do not have access to the systems to allow for this to happen.

This requires educators to think differently and look for viable alternatives. It could very well pave the way for SMEs to come up with more innovative ways of educating and working in this time of crisis.

On the corporate side, the lockdown has forced many companies’ hand in getting them to examine how best to use cloud-based business tools. This is critical if remote workers are to be empowered and help organisations remain fully functional during the lockdown.

Some of these tools can encompass everything from transitioning the PBX into the cloud that redirects company calls to employees’ mobile phones, embracing unified communication solutions such as Microsoft Teams to ensure team members are still in touch with one another and can deliver on their project deliverables, and even using the Adobe Sign e-signature service to send, sign, track, and manage signature electronic document processes.

But irrespective of the solutions used, the common denominator is having a fast, reliable connectivity infrastructure. Therefore, fibre network operators have a critically important role to play in the country and must take this responsibility seriously.

Vital to adapt

Agility has become essential for survival. Society must work together to address the critical needs in the country. To this end, people must collectively take ownership of the issues faced. For example, parents need to be more involved in their children’s education and employees accept the responsibilities that come from working from home and ensure that they are disciplined.

South Africa is already starting to see this change. Fewer vehicles are on the road meaning people are spending less money on petrol, there are reduced emissions that benefit the environment, and fewer traffic officials who can be used to assist police and the military with other, more essential services. Small entrepreneurs will start to broaden their target markets placing pressure on large corporates to improve their value proposition. 

Once the lockdown ends, fibre would have shown how it can create a better life for people while still enabling many to continue to do their work. There are lessons to be learnt from this as the country starts accepting this more effective way of working instead of trying to return to how things were.

Fibre has evolved from a luxury to becoming a utility such as electricity and water – one that has become essential to help grow the economy. Fibre will allow customers to accelerate the migration to cloud based services as it provides higher speeds, no contention ratios, and higher reliability. As a fibre network operator, Vox is taking its responsibility very seriously and will use this period as an opportunity to continue serving in the best interests of the citizens of the country.

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DStv Now adds free education to ‘lockdown channels’

In its response to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, DStv is offering 16 free channels on its streaming app

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Two new channels have been added to a free service being provided on DStv Now, the online version of DStv. 

In response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, DStv owner MultiChoice worked with local and international news channels in mid-March to add 24-hour news coverage to the DStv Now free service.

The company says the intent was to help all South Africans stay up to date with announcements and developments, and the results so far are encouraging. Usage of the service has increased 20% since the lockdown began, and peak usage is up 80% compared to pre-crisis peaks. 

 Now, in another step to help families through the lockdown period, MultiChoice has added additional educational content to the free service with the Mindset PoP channel. This channel features educational programming covering the entire General Education and Training (GET) phase, including Early Childhood Development (ECD), as well as a key focus on the Grade 4 – 9 curriculum. 

The channel aims to prepare children for when schools reopen. Mindset PoP will deliver live lessons daily, with six fresh hours every day. A website is available for parents to download worksheets and information sheets to work through with expert teachers. Lessons are based on the South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and are also aligned to the Cambridge curriculum.

“We’re extremely grateful to all of the channel providers for being so willing to work with us to help all South Africans through this unprecedented lockdown period,” said Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. 

“Thanks to their support we’re able to keep people informed, keep kids’ educations going, and keep people entertained.”

The full list of channels available to non-DStv customers on the DStv Now free service is:

100 – DStv

180 – People’s Weather

238 – SuperSport Play

313 – PBS Kids

317 – Mindset PoP

320 – Channel O

343 – TBN

400 – BBC World News

401 – CNN

402 – Sky News

403 – eNCA

404 – SABC News

405 – Newzroom Afrika

405 – AlJazeera

414 – Euronews Now

417 – africanews

To sign up for the DStv Now free service, go to http://now.dstv.com 

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