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Beware IT scare tactics

It’s a common misperception is that SMEs using old software could put their companies at risk as many vendors maintain a range of platforms based on technologies ranging from legacy to cutting-edge, says STEVEN COHEN of Sage One.

It’s good practice to support customers using your older software as best you can. Even with vendors trying to frighten them into buying new software, many businesses know that these security risks are reasonably small once you quantify them.

Those that are concerned should remember Chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic books who worried the sky may fall on his head. Of course, it never did. As far as we’re concerned when SMEs are ready to upgrade to new technology, they should do so for the right business reasons, and not out of fear.

IT vendors have so often used scare tactics to move users onto new software that customers are disillusioned with the industry as a whole. The Year 2000 panic was one example. We all woke up on 1 January 2000 after the New Year’s celebration, only to find that the sky had not fallen.

A new horizon

The sad thing is that when something comes along that offers true transformation for the industry, many end-users are cynical. The cloud presents such a change, and it has already revolutionised our private lives, through the Apple iCloud, web-based email, Dropbox, and so many other online services we use every day.

Businesses are also using some of these services, but they are a little slower in moving their business processes to the cloud. All the fear they’re being sold by the industry leaves them unmoved; they want to know what the business benefits are. I believe there are three obstacles to them adopting the cloud more aggressively.

1.     Maturity

The cloud was an opportunity for software vendors to get a fresh start – cut away the bloat and the complexity of today’s desktop software, reduce clutter and improve ease of use. The downside is that cloud software – for example, an accounting and payroll solution – doesn’t contain as many features as their desktop equivalents.

That means some worry that a cloud offering won’t have a feature they have grown to depend on. While cloud software contains most features mainstream users need, it hasn’t had the benefit of maturing over 20 years. We have written documents for our 200,000 desktop users explaining the exact feature differences that exists between our cloud and desktop offerings and they make their decisions accordingly.

2.     Low speed and poor reliability of the South African Internet

This is still a concern for some business owners, but it’s increasingly a perception rooted in the past rather than a reflection of reality. It was unthinkable 2 years ago to stream a high definition movie to your home TV. Today, we have Netflix and we watch YouTube to our heart’s content. Users with a 2.5 Mb or better connection are good to go.

3.     Inertia

We all leave things to the last minute, whether it’s paying more for air tickets after booking an overseas holiday at the last minute or neglecting to upgrade our business software. Steven Covey talked about the “urgent but not important” quadrant; we spend so much time on “non-important issues” that seem urgent to us that we don’t get the important things done.

We think it’s important for our customers to use the latest technology to save money and be more efficient. However, we also know that with the challenges they fight every day, upgrading to the cloud from an accounting package that is working well is not an urgency for them.

Closing words

We recommend that our customers ask themselves two questions about their software: does it need to be done and will it become easier to do later? For most SMEs, the answer about upgrading their software and migrating to the cloud will be respectively yes and no.

Cloud applications can help SMEs to modernise their setup and access world-class security without needing to spend a fortune on hardware, consulting and software. I think that getting it done and being ready for the future offers peace of mind that makes it all worthwhile.

In a time of seismic technological change and digital innovation, Sage is using the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting. For us, today’s smartest technology is in the cloud. But we’d rather sell our users on the benefits of the cloud than try to scare them into moving. It’s time for the IT industry to move beyond fear as a sales tool.

* Steven Cohen, Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia and Brazil)

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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