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Sharpest PC decline yet

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market suffered a sharp year-on-year decline of 25.6% in Q2 2015, marking it as steepest decline ever recorded in the region for a single quarter.

The latest market insights from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC) show that overall PC shipments for the quarter fell to 3.3 million units. Desktops were down 21.2% year on year to 1.4 million units, while the notebook segment declined 28.6% to total 1.9 million units.

“Two of the biggest declines were seen in Turkey and the ‘Rest of the Middle East’ region (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Palestine),” says Fouad Charakla, research manager for personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “Both these territories carried over high inventory levels from the previous quarter as a result of a slowdown in demand. This factor was an inhibitor of PC shipments in other parts of the region as well, including the UAE. Currency fluctuations also had a negative impact on supply and demand in several key markets across the region. In the UAE, a slowdown in tourism spending – primarily from Russia and Europe – continued to inhibit PC demand.”

The top three vendor positions remained unchanged from the last few quarters, with each of the leading vendors suffering significant year-on-year declines in their shipments to the region. HP continued to lead in terms of market share, but saw its shipments fall 26% year on year. Second-placed Lenovo suffered a 19% decline, third-placed Dell posted a downturn of 10.3%, and fourth-placed Acer recorded a decrease of 29.3%, while Asus maintained its position at number five but experienced a decline of 26.7%. Once again, local desktop assemblers suffered significantly in comparison to the previous year as demand for their devices continues to be cannibalized by the growing availability of refurbished PCs.

2015 as a whole is expected to be the region’s worst ever performance, with overall PC shipments for the year set to fall 15.7% year on year to total 15.2 million units. “Currency fluctuations both inside and outside the MEA region will remain largely responsible for the slower demand, particularly in key markets such as Turkey and Nigeria,” continues Charakla.

“Low oil prices are also impacting those countries whose budgets rely strongly on oil revenues, ratcheting up the pressure on governments to control their spending. At the same time, the cannibalization of PC demand by tablets and smartphones continues to hamper the market’s performance.”

In the longer run, IDC expects the MEA PC market to experience a partial recovery in 2016, with shipments tipped to grow 10% year on year during those 12 months. The following years are forecast to remain close to flat in terms of shipment growth. However, as previously reported, there will be a gradual shift in the weight of demand from consumers to the commercial segment as a growing proportion of home users switch from PCs to tablets and smartphones and commercial end users maintain their loyalty to PCs. As a result, commercial demand for PCs in the region is expected to surpass that from home users by the year 2017.

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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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