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Demystifying the (ERP) cloud

By DANIEL VAN ECK, strategy director at Epic ERP

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Thanks to the recent arrival of multi-national data centres in the country, the cloud has become a business priority. It is an essential tool in how a company remains competitive in a continually changing digital environment. Within this context, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have a critical role to play.

And this is reflected in the momentum of the cloud worldwide.

Gartner estimated that the global public cloud services market will grow 17.3 percent this year to $206.2 billion, up from the $175.8 billion in 2018. But this does not mean the cloud is a silver bullet that can solve all organisational challenges. There must still be a fundamental strategic value in making the transition, whether it is through ERP solutions or simply accessing documents collaboratively.

In South Africa, with its growing small to medium enterprise (SME) market, ERP has become something of an anathema. Thanks to how it has been positioned in the past, ERP is viewed as expensive, cumbersome, and inflexible solutions that integrate different business components. And while there is some truth to this, the modern ERP environment is quite a different one, 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 more secure solutions more cost-effectively using more computational power than what a business can afford to have on site. Even so, SMEs do not care about the cloud or even ERP as a concept. They just want to get business value as cost effectively as possible with the minimum amount of disruption to existing operations.

If anything, ERP in the digital landscape (within the focus of the cloud) should be viewed as a more intelligent way of managing a business. Irrespective of whether a company is using public, private, or hybrid cloud services, 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, by that year, 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

Furthermore, the much-touted cost benefits of going the cloud route is not something to ignore. With corporate budgets under pressure, everything from human resources to IT spend need to be managed. And with cloud providers offering all these services in a hosted environment, companies can focus less on spending resources on hardware and software upgrades, and more on delivering strategic objectives.

Another significant advantage of going the cloud route, is its ability to scale up or down according to the needs of the business. Instead of purchasing additional servers or expanding an on-site data warehouse, the cloud provider has the required functionality to add capacity.

An ERP world

One of the advantages of migrating to the cloud is that the solutions (irrespective of what function they fulfil) will automatically be updated when new features become available. No more worrying about patching or updating software.

A cloud-driven ERP environment provides a more secure way of benefitting from a digital approach to business. Given the complexities of regulatory compliance, it is all about keeping data safe, available, and online using dedicated resources tailored to the specific needs of the business, irrespective its size or industry sector.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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