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Technology's impact on SA's supply services industry

Delivering exceptional client value imperative to business survival.

"Technology is disrupting all areas of enterprise, driving myriad opportunities and challenges." This is as per the recent ‘EY Megatrends 2015 – Making sense of a world in motion' report that highlights the top six megatrends having a far-reaching impact across business, society, culture, economics and individuals.

It goes on to say we live in a world in constant motion, with goods and services particularly travelling at a faster pace than ever before, and with technology innovation rewriting every industry. "It really is about adapt or die," says Eugene Olivier, Business Development Director, 4most – a leading supplier and implementer of SAP Business One and ERP software and technology, with a specific focus on the supply services market.

"We see this among our customers, particularly within the supply services market, where the lack of a single integrated platform can seriously hamper day-to-day operations and quality of service, having an enormous impact on its ability to grow," continues Olivier.

In the face of this ever-changing and increasingly fast-paced world, companies – particularly service and supply-based organisations, are also having to cope with growing customer demands. "It's the world of the customer," continues Olivier. "Consumers are demanding quicker responses and faultless service." To remain competitive, while allowing the opportunity for growth, businesses of all sizes need to be able to respond to these challenges.

Olivier goes on to cite additional challenges specific to the supply services market. "It's a marketplace heavily reliant on ensuring the seamless management of the talent supply chain." Businesses need to ensure they are dispatching the right people to the right projects at the right time. "But it's even more than that," he continues. "To ensure client satisfaction, and in that, client retention, managing service delivery needs to extend beyond the client's on-site requirements. It needs to be faultless and smooth from point of first engagement right through to administration process and correct billing." This is further compounded by the escalation in customer data. The increasing pervasiveness of digital has seen a boom in the amount being generated, with companies using as little as 80% of what is available. "It's simple," says Olivier, "know your customer, grow your business."

In a recent Circle Research survey, 64% of respondents stated the growth of business and revenue as their most sought-after goal. "But the only way to retain and grow business is to be in control of what you are doing," stresses Olivier. This is of huge significance in the supply services industry, where field workers and remote locations increase the need for mobility. "Access to data, anywhere and any time, allowing for the seamless flow of operations leading to greater management control and a holistic hands-on view of the business is critical."

But, how to cope with ever increasing change, while at times struggling for business survival? This is particularly challenging within the medium-sized business arena, where changes in internal processes and infrastructure is often viewed as cost prohibitive.

SAP Business One, designed with flexibility and tailored to the individual business, is proving itself a highly credible and successful solution to the many operational issues facing these organisations. "It is providing our customers in the supply services industry with the infrastructure for seamless growth, greater visibility leading to improved controls, but most essentially, increased customer satisfaction," says Olivier.

Such was the case with G4S Security Solutions, Zambia. Following a series of mergers and acquisitions, G4S found themselves with a legacy system not meeting requirements, leading to a lack of data integrity in international reporting and inefficiencies across local business processes.

Dawda Bobb, G4S Zambia's Finance Director, turned to SAP Business One from 4most. "The initial implementation gave us at least 95% of what we wanted, with a slight customisation providing the additional functionality needed for reporting and improved efficiencies between different business systems," says Bobb.

Key benefits for G4S have included integration with the procurement module providing a full audit trail of the entire life cycle of 600 fixed assets, from purchase request to disposal. As a services business with retainer clients, recurring billing has also automated monthly invoicing. "SAP Business One has yielded a 20% time saving across business processes," continues Bobb. "But, most importantly, it has provided us with clarity. We are now able to drill down into detail previously not possible, giving us the visibility and ability to really see what is happening in our business."

Tendani Holonga-Wotho, Director of Corporate Services for Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH), whose lack of an automated infrastructure was impeding both operational efficiencies and the smooth running of daily business, agrees. "We needed a system to empower future growth, seamlessly take care of key business and accounting functions, while saving us time and eliminating human error," she says.

With SAP Business One, BIH now enjoys remote access to accurate information and reports, allowing senior management to make crucial decisions without delay. Further, it is able to run a journal inside SAP, easily, with real-time access to age analysis and 100% accurate figures. And all at the touch of a button. "We needed to take our business to the next level," says Holonga-Wotho. "And with SAP Business One, we've accomplished exactly that."

Similarly, surface engineering company Aklin Carbide is benefiting from improved efficiencies and highly reliable data access following its implementation. "There was a lot of data repetition, with linking and the sharing of information difficult," says Mark Stewart, Financial Director. "Errors were starting to creep in and it was fast getting to the point where the reliability of our data was suspect.

"The benefits post SAP Business One implementation have been numerous," says Stewart. Data input is now done once and is easily and very reliably available to multiple users within the company. All pertinent information is readily available, with business and customer issues quickly and easily dealt with. Further, Aklin is able to access the system via laptops from multiple sites or any location. "We are a high growth company," he continues. "SAP Business One has enabled us to start managing the business in a highly professional manner."

"It's easy to lose focus when one has disparate pieces of information on different systems," adds Olivier. The best run service and supply companies are those delivering on time and excellent service to demanding customers irrespective of location – efficiently, consistently and of a high quality. "We feel confident that SAP Business One is providing our customers, particularly in the supply services industry, with exactly that," concludes Olivier.

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