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Technology - key enabler in a changing world

Knowing how and when your business is impacted by a changing marketplace – and the ability to respond.

A recent 4most customer survey aimed at highlighting the importance of knowing how and when your business is impacted by changes in the marketplace, revealed that 100% of respondents consider it either crucial or important to remain abreast of both local and global occurrences. However, a staggering 62.5% of respondents admitted they are not in touch with these market changes with a further 25% of respondents stating that they are either unaware of customer needs or find themselves incapable of adapting to changing market demands.

"The role of technology has never been more critical," says Marius Fabian, MD of 4most, a leading supplier and implementer of SAP Business One and ERP software and technology to the South African and African small and medium sized marketplace. The need to respond to changing market demands, enabled by access to real-time and accurate information, is key.

These market changes, defined as Megatrends, are large, transformative global forces that define the future by having a far-reaching impact on business, economies, industries, societies and individuals. With more change expected in the next ten years that the entire last century, as per Ernst & Young's recent survey, ‘EY Megatrends 2015 – Making sense of a world in motion', it really is about adapt or die.

"It starts with keeping your finger on the pulse of a dynamic and constantly evolving marketplace," continues Fabian. However, being aware of the impact of these changes on your business and industry is just the first step. "It is the ability to react, and adapt, quickly and seamlessly that is crucial not only to retaining one's competitive edge, but more critically to business survival."

Fabian goes on to add that technology is providing the global and local medium sized marketplace with the tools needed to do just that. "Access to key, real-time and business relevant information is providing business owners with an accurate and in depth analysis of their company and its position in the marketplace," continues Fabian. This, in turn, is providing them with greater insight into their own capability together with a realistic projected outcome should any of the required internal changes be implemented.

He goes on to cite the classic example of a new technology, product requirement or imminent trend that leaves a business with no choice but to adapt. "When faced with this situation, it is critical to be able to predict the profitability and impact of these changes," continues Fabian. Similarly, a business will also need to have a clear understanding of both the required steps and necessary resources. "It is only with access to the right information – both current and historical, that this kind of decision making is possible," stresses Fabian. "And this is as applicable to the medium sized environment as it is to larger business."

A recent Oxford Economics report, ‘SMEs: Equipped to Compete', agrees. Based on a study of 2,100 SMEs across 21 countries, and focused on how successful SMEs are reinventing global business, it states that ‘the SME environment is as affected by changing conditions as large multinational corporations'. It further adds that ‘in order to prepare for this new environment, SMEs are transforming themselves in fundamental ways … using technology to level the playing field with bigger companies.'

"The report makes mention of a number of forces affecting and changing the business landscape," says Fabian. In addition to economic uncertainty and shifting customer demands, other factors listed include rising labour costs, increasing global competition, growth opportunities in regional or wider markets, greater supply chain complexity and increasing regulatory and compliance issues – with the impact of these felt by all.

Further, the report goes on to add that the three most important factors and initiatives driving growth are innovation, cost reduction and efficiencies; expanding products and service offerings and strengthening customer relationships. "This reiterates the need for a solid enterprise management system," continues Fabian. "Our own experience in the market has clearly highlighted that the biggest requirement across all industries is implementing a solution to enable companies to achieve exactly that."

The Oxford Economics study also goes on to cite investment in business management software as the top budget priority (50.2%) across the global SME environment, followed by the need for efficient business analytics (43.4%). In addition, as many as one third of SMEs interviewed regarded themselves as ‘early adopters' with technology viewed as key to business success.

"We are seeing this, not only across the international and local landscape," continues Fabian, "but more specifically within the 4most customer base." Designed with flexibility and tailored to the individual business, SAP Business One is proving itself a highly credible and successful solution to the many operational issues and global influencers facing these organisations.

Craig Uren, COO of Isuzu Truck SA, concurs. Market leader and specialised truck provider, Isuzu Truck SA enjoy dramatically increased turnaround time to market post implementation of 4most's Enterprise Manager (EMA), powered by SAP Business One. "Business is about change and you need to be able to adapt and move with change quickly … However, to stay in touch with the real marketplace, a business must remain up to date. Part of this means that your enterprise management system cannot be a distraction and needs to help you address the fundamentals and goals of your business," says Uren.

"There is an old cliché – ‘the only thing that is constant is change'," adds Fabian. This is becoming more and more evident, with business no exception. The key is not to fear change, but to equip oneself to remain connected to and aware of what these changes are. "This enables a business to not only analyse the potential impact of said change, but to face it head on – responding dynamically and confidently," adds Fabian, leading to competitive advantage and business survival. "Technology is playing a critical role," continues Fabian. "It is providing the tools needed – not only for companies to transition its business from today into the next decade and beyond, but to do so fluidly and seamlessly."

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