36 —Vanguard, TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 Sage solutions help companies stay y agile The growing enterprise software market has entered an era of boom. The unprecedented development has been attributed to the convergence of significant events in the marketplace. The constantly evolving enterprise software market now cuts across an assortment of commercial off-the-shelf products ranging from corporate databases to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions and from Cloud-enabled productivity tools to mission-critical vertical applications. For decades, these enterprise software products have been the catalyst to increased workplace productivity. The products have also largely simplified an array of business tasks through groundbreaking technologies from easy-to-use accounting packages to powerful middleware and from cyber security tools to indispensable spreadsheets. Sage Group, one of the world’s largest suppliers of enterprise software products has continually pushed the frontier of enterprise software market since David Goldman, Paul Muller and Graham Wylie founded the company in 1981 to build estimating and accounting software to automate routine business transactions. In accelerating further adoption of enterprise resource planning soft wares, (ERPS) Pieter Bensch, the executive in charge of Sage Africa operations, finds that old school enterprise resource planning has a mixed reputation in the market. In the aftermath, his strategy is to show clients how monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have given way to new-age business management solutions that are architected for an era of mobile, cloud, and big data technologies. He is keen to drive home the point that these next-generation platforms are designed to support modern ways of working. What do you hear from decision-making executives that forms the basis of your strategy at Sage? Business builders and entrepreneurs tell us they didn’t go into business to manage admin and red tape, which is where automation makes a difference. Our vision is to make tasks such as payroll and accounting administration invisible by 2020 so that they can focus on business strategy, workplace satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and other areas of their business that give them a competitive advantage. To what extent are companies working with Sage to accelerate value creation through technologies? Many companies are choosing our next-generation enterprise and accounting business management solutions to help them stay agile and grow faster. Our platforms help them run their businesses better, with a cohesive, enterprise-class solution to manage all core business processes— from purchasing to manufacturing, inventory management, sales, customer service and financials—locally and internationally. Sage solutions also accelerate collaboration and reporting, and deliver real-time insight into costs and operational performance. They are simple to manage, and highly configurable to adapt to customers’ unique processes, roles and preferences. Can you tell us about a compelling use case using your ERPS? Since its establishment in 2001, Fouani Nigeria Limited has experienced phenomenal growth and it’s not hard to see why. As the sole distributor of LG products in the country, Fouani is on the cutting-edge of electronics; assembling, distributing and providing aftersales support for LG branded appliances ranging from air conditioners, to refrigerators and TVs. Today, with 40 retail outlets, Fouani’s reach extends across Nigeria—including Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt—and throughout Africa too, via subsidiaries in Liberia, Gambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With such incredible growth, however, Fouani Marketing Director, Mohammed H. Fouani, often found the organisation struggling to keep up with the demands associated with running a large, end-to-end business across multiple sites. This issue was further compounded through the use of different software solutions and diverse managerial styles (designed to cater to Nigeria’s eclectic population) at Fouani’s many retail branches. The result: a business with no defined processes to consolidate and track data, or manage business operations. How have you adapted your software applications to the technologically underdeveloped markets like Nigeria, for example? Product localisation is a priority for Sage. We have tailored our software to cater for local tax and labour regulations in more than 62 countries in Africa and the Middle East. We have customised our solutions to meet the specific needs of the Nigerian business environment, including comprehensive support for VAT, PIETER BENSCHI Executive Vice-President, Africa & Middle East, Sage Group payroll and other Nigerian laws and regulations. Four years ago, Sage opened an office in Nigeria to get closer to our customers. We are also investing heavily in our network of local partners, which assists us in the delivery of our solutions to end-users. We take feedback from our field experiences and from our partners to improve our products for the local market. The benefits of Sage in the Nigerian market are numerous. Firstly, our solutions are easy to implement. Secondly, we tailor our solutions to the legislation of Nigeria and so our customers are legally compliant. Thirdly, our solutions are adapted to different industries in Nigeria, with a vast number Our platforms help companies to run their businesses better, with a cohesive, enterprise-class solution to manage all core business processes of tools with personalised user experiences. Finally, our solutions do not require customers to make expensive IT infrastructure investments. How do youencourage local participation in software engineering? Our local office in Nigeria is led and staffed by Nigerians. We continue to invest in our network of business partners and their skills. We are also focusing on building professional services and a development team that works on localisation of our solutions for the Nigerian market. Our partners have written addons and third-party solutions that support the value delivery to end users. We are helping more Nigerian companies to acquire the skills they need to consult on complex projects and develop add-on solutions that plug directly into Sage. We also welcome third-party developers into our tech-hubs or development team to improve our offerings. In addition, we work with industry associations and professional bodies on skills transfer and development programmes. For example, we have signed a partnership agreement with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in Nigeria. This partnership will see our organisations work together to provide training and skills development opportunities to finance and accounting professionals in Nigeria. We will also promote each other’s brands to - and share information with - our respective communities. Which products are your biggest market movers? Over 90 per cent of businesses fall into the Small & Medium Business segment, so that is where we focus much of our effort. Sage has solutions for all categories of organisations from start-ups to Small & Medium Businesses as well as large enterprises. Our success in Nigeria is attributable to the fact that our solutions address every tier of the market, from a small trader to a large gas & oil company. Each solution is performing well in the market. Sage Accounting, for example, is perfect for start-up businesses (food sellers, online traders, technicians, artisans) who need basic online bookkeeping. In 2017, we released an entry level cloud solution for the start-up and small businesses in Nigeria, called Sage One Accounting & Payroll. This solution was built by accountants for nonaccountants. It affords end users the opportunity to run their business from the palm of their hands, while allowing them to concentrate on their core competency. In your opinion, what are the greatest obstacles to the introduction of ERPS? Legacy systems: To create a solid foundation for digital processes and systems, companies need to modernise their core business applications and automate their business processes - yet they fear the costs and time involved in Enterprise Management solution implementation. New deployment methodologies and cloud solutions, however, can accelerate the implementation of a new business system. Lack of skills: There is a lack of software skills and talent in Africa, across areas such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, enterprise applications and data science. Many organisations’ IT departments have a strong base of legacy IT skills, yet struggle to find and retain professionals with the next generation of digital skills. Addressing this demands that companies think about which skills they will access through outsourcing partners, which ones they’ll develop inhouse, and how they’ll manage issues like skills transfer with external vendors. Is Sage focused on a particular industry? Our solutions are tailored for nearly any industry. Sage Enterprise Management solution for example, has builtin functionality for process manufacturing, distribution and services tasks, adjusts to accommodate any company’s unique rules and processes. How do you characterize the current stage in ERPS adoption in Africa? A growing focus on promoting sound corporate governance and enforcing regulatory compliance from the Nigerian government, paired with growing foreign investor interest in the country, is driving interest in enterprise management solutions/ applications in Nigeria. Nigeria is becoming an increasingly important player on the global economic stage, and one consequence of that is we are seeing a much bigger focus on compliance. Government understands that a stable regulatory compliance framework is essential to attracting business investment and growing the economy, and there is also a concerted focus on growing the tax base.The consequence for enterprises is that they need to pay more attention than ever to getting their reporting standards, governance, and risk management up to international requirements. This is one factor behind the rapid growth in demand for IT solutions in Nigeria, across all sectors of business. How do you view the connection between strategy and corporate culture? The world is changing at a rapid speed as new regulations come into play, customer expectations change and global competition grows. Addressing this challenge demands close alignment between strategy and culture as organisations put in place digital solutions to improve their agility and competitiveness. The hard part is not transforming processes through technology, but transforming the organisation and its culture. The future will belong to the organisations who are better at embedding the technology in business processes to drive radical improvements, and who do this not just once, but over and over again. This can only be achieved by sponsorship and leadership from the C-suite level, along with change management, training and focusing on recruiting the right people.
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