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Promising year in tech predicted for SA

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The arrival of hyperscale cloud data centres in South Africa, the commercial maturing of new interactions such as Augmented Reality, and the rise of the intelligent edge paint a promising picture for 2018, writes DOUG WOOLLEY, General Manager of Dell EMC.

But these are not just local events – globally the next year holds a lot of promise. As highlighted in the Next Era of Human-Machine Partnership report from Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future (IFTF), some profound new realities are just around the corner.

Mega clouds are a very notable prediction from this report. ‘Mega clouds’ are so-called because they will span multiple cloud vendors. Companies and individuals will start expecting to shift workloads, data and other assets between those vendors, avoiding lock-ins and ‘cloud silos’ that are emerging as the migration away from client-server concepts continue.

In South Africa this will be preempted by the arrival of Azure hyperscale datacentres, a clear reflection of the country’s growing demand for cloud’s efficiency and innovation delivery. But the impact will be felt beyond our borders, reaching out to the rest of the SADC region. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC South Africa, is particularly excited about opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa:

“It’s one of our fastest growing regions. We will look at getting more potential investment for the SADC and Indian Island territories. We see a lot of upside, we see a lot of partners engaging with us and also a lot of customers having conversations. And we’ve had good, significant wins in the territory in the past six months. I am very happy with the rate and potential there.”

With this growth of cloud will come the distinct rise of the intelligent edge. This speaks of more decision-making capacity being shifted to devices located away from the core of cloud systems. The sensor on a security system or environmental monitor will not have to wait for feedback from the central hub in order to act, thus drastically reducing response times for all types of situations. Called the IQ of Things, this revolution is already evident in our cars – where sensors feed information to local systems inside the vehicles.

Such systems will start hosting certain levels of artificial intelligence, a force that continues to reshape the world. In 2018, Dell EMC predicts this trend expanding into ‘thinking tasks’ at businesses. Using data, AIs will help companies significantly reduce time spent scoping, debating, scenario planning and testing every new innovation.

AI will also play a growing role in recruiting the right people and skills, which the report refers to as ‘bias checking’. This is the use of AI to get around human shortcomings. Not dissimilar to ‘blind’ auditions where musicians perform behind a screen, AI will be utilised to help inform hiring and promotion decisions without the unseen prejudice of humans.

Numerous companies are already using such practices. But they are the outliers. In 2018, we will start regarding them as the pioneers. Those include companies that will be using Augmented and Virtual Reality for remote interviews of candidates and engagements with customers. As digital entertainment such as e-sports grow in popularity, that tech-savvy audience will also drive the adoption of AR and VR in 2018.

Dell Technologies chairman and CEO, Michael Dell, had sight of this future when he launched the most ambitious technology merger in history between Dell and EMC, a future he has often articulated: “I think it’s nothing short of the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution, and the plot for us is being the essential infrastructure company.”

Today Dell EMC is a true end-to-end provider, from the vital infrastructure in the back to the point devices that people use to realise their ambitions. Even in South Africa, the shift has been near seamless. Less than 5 percent of employees had left the merged companies, shares have grown in key market segments, and a new partner programme is making waves with unmatched returns for everyone involved. These are things Woolley recounts with pride:

“It is always a challenge to bring two cultures together, even if they share similar outlooks. Over the past year, at a local level, we’ve managed to integrate the sales and product teams very well. On a technical level there has also been a lot work to integrate the guys under one infrastructure and leadership. From that people perspective I am very happy.”

Dell EMC believes 2018 will be a significant year in humanity’s progress and it is ready to be an active participant in that evolution, said Woolley:

“We are definitely riding that wave and having those conversations. Without sounding arrogant, I think we have positioned ourselves as the cloud infrastructure player. There is still, as an industry, work to do on how do we move effectively to the next level of cloud, and that is more around the application conversations. Dell EMC is very well positioned to have a meaningful conversation with customers on how do we cloudify their apps and get it on modern infrastructure.”

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It’s printing, Jim, but not as we know it

Selling printing services is not only about the hardware anymore, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The seminal science fiction series Star Trek generated many catch-lines, like “The Prime Directive” and “Live long and prosper”. One of its most parodied lines, however, is Doctor Bones McCoy’s words to Captain Kirk on encountering an alien species: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”

That’s exactly the way one could describe the printer industry today. Every time an HP, Epson or Konica Minolta releases a new machine for this sector, one can sense the puzzled frowns of people taken by surprise that it still exists.

The difference is that it has evolved from a focus on paper to an emphasis on document management.

One of the first companies to spot that shift in the market, Japanese-headquartered Konica-Minolta, pioneered the concept of a dedicated printer company introducing its own software development division.

“We’ve always believed our role is solving problems for the customer, and not just to provide print, copy and scan solutions,” says Marc Pillay, CEO of the company’s South African division. “Our primary focus is multi-functional devices, but we always look at adding value to clients. Our real job is to assist in achieving a better return on investment.”

The proof of the pudding is that the local division is one of the biggest Konica-Minolta distributors in the world. The reason is simple: unlike most other countries, the South African operation has both a direct and indirect channel. That means it is able to supply companies through its reseller network, while also having a presence on the ground in the form of a dealer network across the country. That, in turn, has given it access to municipalities and other organs of state.

“Our value proposition is based on quality products, service and an unparalleled supply chain,” says Pillay. “When everyone was afraid to do business with government, we thrived on it. It comes from being located in areas where it’s easy to do business with us.”

One could call that the secret of success for existing demand. The coming era, however, will require an appreciation of the next big shifts in printing, says Pillay.

“We’ve seen the big shifts from analog to digital, from monochrome to colour, and from decentralisation to centralisation of printing. The next shift is unbundling printing into a hybrid approach, using both cloud and managed solutions. It’s all going to become subscription-based, and it will be print-on-demand. The high-end customers go into that very quickly, but we still have to cater for people who just do copying.”

Pillay believes that the opening of Microsoft’s Azure data centres in South Africa in March has already made a difference.

“Now you can scan from a device into Microsoft’s SharePoint online or Google Drive. It’s not about screen size anymore, but what you can do to make an impact.”

Where people don’t print, says Pillay, they’re absorbing documents digitally.

“We have to make sure that, where we lose the print, we are gaining the management of the scan, digitisation of the document or management of the workflow. Our income will come out of the workflow.

“Clearly, we’re not just focused on selling a piece of hardware anymore.”

  • 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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SA chooses most loved local businesses

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A new World Wide Worx research report identifies and names South Africa’s 12 Most Loved Local businesses, and places the spotlight on the vital role commercial businesses play in the South African economy. The country’s favourite local businesses include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay – famed for its calamari, celebrity chef David Higgs’ Rosebank eatery Marble as well as Rouge Day Spa with branches in Kenilworth and Constantia in Cape Town run by a dynamic mother and daughter duo.

The aim of the Most Loved Local report was to celebrate those businesses South Africans love the most and to investigate exactly what makes consumers big fans of these entities. It further offers these enterprises insights into what it takes to succeed in business, highlights the qualities that convert clients into fans and encourages more South Africans to ‘shop’ local.

Report results

Commissioned by Santam, results were compiled using a combination of digital listening tools and traditional research. Social media listening using organic search analysis looked into which business categories were being searched for most. This was followed up with a trend analysis to assess whether a business category was growing in popularity, keyword volume analysis to refine the categories and finally social listening within the categories which businesses were being spoken about in the most positive terms. Thereafter, a poll was conducted among 2 489 respondents to find out what made them love a local business – or not. The sample was nationally representative and aligned to the economically active population per province. A respected independent research house World Wide Worx conducted the research.

The full list of businesses that came top across 12 categories are:

  1. Place to Stay: Chapmans Peak Hotel (Cape Town) – the one with the perfect calamari
  2. Eatery: Marble (Johannesburg) – the one with the celebrity chef in the kitchen
  3. Butcher: The Butcher Man (Cape Town) – the one that people cross town for
  4. Bakery: Fournos (Johannesburg) – the one that is way more than a bakery
  5. Spa: Rouge Day Spa (Cape Town) – the one run by a dynamic mother-daughter team
  6. Entertainment Spot: Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)  – the one with the heart of gold
  7. Gym: Dream Body Fitness (Johannesburg) – the one that is completely unintimidating to work out at
  8. Interior Designer: By Dezign Interiors (Johannesburg) – the one that really, really gets its clients’ style
  9. Market: Bryanston Organic & Natural Market (Johannesburg) – the one that was an organic market before it was trendy to be an organic market
  10. Laundromat: Exclusive Dry Cleaners (Johannesburg) – the one that treats every single client like family
  11. Car Wash: Tubbs’s Car Wash (Johannesburg) – the one that cleans your car while you have a haircut
  12. Construction company: Radon Projects (Pretoria) – the one that is ready all day and all night

Delving into what makes a consumer go from ‘client to fan’, the key factor standing out above all others was service. Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, says it seems South Africans will forgive a multitude of ‘sins’ if they are treated well. “Good service was the number one factor that makes 40% of those surveyed support a local business. This was followed by quality products at 18%. Third place went to value for money at 10%, proving the old adage that competing on price alone is not a sound business strategy,” said Goldstuck.

When asked what makes them loyal to a local business, some interesting views across age groups emerged. “Younger clients are more swayed by quality, while older ones are impressed by service. This seems to fit with younger people wanting the status of nice things, and older people wanting to feel valued and respected,” said Goldstuck.

Unsurprisingly, all 12 Most Loved Locals called out service as one of their guiding lights and core pillars when interviewed. Theo and George Parpottas, owners of Exclusive Dry Cleaners, the selected company in the laundromat category, believe when someone walks into their shop, they should be greeted with smiling faces and courteous people. “We don’t care if it’s the president or a beggar, from the moment they walk in, they are a client. We greet them, we are courteous, and we treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what they bring.”

For Gary Karycou, who co-owns Marble in Rosebank with celebrity chef David Higgs, it is all about attitude. “You can teach someone anything if they want to do it, but we employ on attitude. You get the basic skills but if someone really wants to learn, you can transform them.” He continues, “Giving the best service to our clients, is our motto. It’s something that’s lacking in South Africa and even globally. Businesses just become a bit complacent.”

Famed Green Point butchery and restaurant, The Butcher Man, is owned by Arie Fabiani. He says people will drive past other butcheries and come all the way to the Butcher Man because “we deliver a great service. Good service is critical, and our team knows it.”

Another key finding was that people are more likely to recommend a business if there is a good deal or excellent value for money. Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam, says this is an interesting finding. “Perhaps we are more likely to share a good deal with others and keen to help others find great nuggets of the positive trade-off between value and price. So, it is worth ensuring that, in addition to service and quality, your clients feel like they are getting value for the money they spend with you. That way, they are more likely to tell family and friends the good news!”

Dilotsotlhe added that the report’s release has been well-timed as the need to stimulate sectors of the economy which can create jobs has never been more vital. Commercial enterprises are responsible for a significant percentage of the labour-force in South Africa, and the impact thereof is significant. Due to the fact that these enterprises remain a largely underinsured sector, the campaign also seeks to highlight the need for insurance as a vital aspect of business continuity. When they thrive, it benefits the whole nation, and from a Santam perspective, this translates into sustainable growth for our business.

To download the full report, click here.

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