Archive for Wrzesień, 2011

Mira Networks’ airtime recharge a customer favorite

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

Mira Networks’ GM, Deon Odendaal, points out that Airtime Recharge is the perfect application to enable Mira’s customers to offer airtime as a prize or incentive to their own client base.

“Basically, the way that Airtime Recharge works is as a virtual wallet, created by ourselves for our clients. These customers then utilise the virtual wallet to push airtime to their own customer bases. While this product has many potential applications, the one we are finding is most popular at present is to provide airtime as a reward in various loyalty programmes,” he says.

While many companies have launched loyalty programmes as a means of retaining existing customers, not all of these have been particularly successful. This is because there is quite often a lack of tangible loyalty scheme benefits on offer. If a loyalty programme is supposed to keep current customers coming back for more, says Odendaal, it needs to offer them returns that are both instantaneous and useful.

“This is where Airtime Recharge really comes into its own. After all, with the massive proliferation of mobile devices in the country, airtime is one benefit that anyone can quickly and easily make use of. In particular the youth market and the less well-off will find such an incentive not only valuable, but a sure sign that the company understands their needs, since it is providing them the kind of rewards they want from a loyalty programme.”

“The goal of such programmes should be to increase value to the beneficiaryand respond directly to customers’ needs. The best way of doing this is by compensating customers for their loyalty as soon as you can, with benefits that they can actually use. This is clearly why airtime is such a popular choice – South Africans’ love of everything mobile means that it is the one reward that will truly be appreciated by everyone,” he states.

Mira Networks is a mobile services aggregator and is recognised as a leading provider of connectivity and billing tools between business and mobile networks. The company provides platform and message bearer services to a number of key players within the mobile technology sector. Mira Networks is also a member of the Wireless Applications Service Providers Association (WASPA), the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the GSM Association (GSMA).

National Health Insurance System and how it affects you

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

The National Health Insurance (NHI) System that has been proposed by the South African Government is set to be implemented in 2013 and will span a 12 year implementation period, says Rob Cooper, a Payroll tax expert at Softline VIP.

According to a policy paper that was released by the Health Department, the rationale for introducing National Health Insurance is to eliminate the current tiered system where those with the greatest need have the least access and have poor health outcomes. National Health Insurance will improve access to quality healthcare services and provide financial risk protection against health-related catastrophic expenditures for the entire population. Such a system will provide a mechanism for improving cross-subsidisation in the overall health system, whereby funding contributions would be linked to an individual’s ability-to-pay and benefits from health services would be in line with an individual’s need for care. Moreover, by significantly reducing direct costs for health care, families and households under National Health Insurance are less likely to face impoverishing health care costs.

NHI will ensure that everyone has access to a defined comprehensive package of healthcare services. The covered healthcare services will be provided through appropriately accredited and contracted public and private providers and there will be a strong and sustained focus on the provision of health promotion and prevention services at the community and household level.

The system has quite steep ambitions and will most likely serve as a method to curb ever-increasing medical costs, one of the major advantages of the project.  “The funding of the scheme is however proving to be quite a contentious issue,” says Cooper.  “There are potentially three methods that government can use to fund the project.  One is to increase the VAT percentage that South Africans pay, another is to implement a super tax on higher income earners, or lastly to implement a levy that is raised on payroll systems.

In addition, government proposes a monthly contribution to NHI, starting not earlier than 2013. The value has not been specified directly, with speculation placing contributions between 1 – 8% of an employee’s remuneration that will scale according to income,” explains Cooper, saying that Government is being vague about it.

“No matter which way you look at it though, the National Health Insurance Scheme will boil down to the employed workforce subsidising the unemployed, which presents itself as quite a political hot potato at the moment,” says Cooper.

Cooper does however question the consequences the NHI system will have on existing medical aid schemes.  “The public at large will start to vote with their wallets once they are obligated to pay the NHI contribution.  It poses a very real threat to the sustainability of medical aid schemes in the next few years, which will necessitate the need for companies to reinvent themselves through top-up medical cover above the minimum health benefits from the public service, for example.”

According to reports, the NHI will utilise R120 billion to upgrade the public healthcare system.  “It begs the questions whether this will be enough to upgrade the ailing and neglected public healthcare facilities across the country.  Another question is how the NHI system plans to address the level of service and prevailing skills shortages in the industry that is a major cause for concern,” says Cooper.

As far as private healthcare is concerned, Government has stated that the changes are not intended to close private healthcare facilities and systems down but to make them more affordable.   “There is however no question that the NHI system will place pressure on both the private healthcare industry as well as medical aid schemes,” says Cooper.

Cooper says at present, employees that contribute towards a medical aid, receive some tax relief on their tax return.  Government however envisions this tax relief to fall away in time, which will make the NHI contribution more expensive in the long run.  “We can expect medical services and benefits to go through a number of dramatic changes in the next ten years.  The question to ask is whether South Africa will be able to afford it.  This is a well-intentioned project, but expensive,” concludes Cooper.

New Companies Act eases audit burden for companies

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

“The purpose of an audit is to protect the interests of shareholders,” says Professor Geoff Everingham of UCT, co-author with Bowman Gilfillan corporate lawyer Carl Stein of The New Companies Act Unlocked. “But when the shareholders also manage the company and sit on its board, that protection isn’t really needed. It makes good sense to lift the legal requirement that such companies be audited every year.”

But, warns Everingham, there are some tricky questions of interpretation. “In practice many companies have a trust as a shareholder, typically a family trust. Does that mean the company must be audited? Ultimately this will have to be tested in the courts.

Stein and Everingham are presenting a series of day-long seminars on the new Act around the country during October. Seminars are due to be held in Cape Town on Monday October 17, in Durban on Tuesday October 18 and in Johannesburg on October 25 and 26.

Everingham says that a desire for greater disclosure and transparency is a general theme in the new Act. “The requirement now is that if you do have an audit, you must file the financial statements with the Companies Commission and any member of the public may have the right to access this information. This creates a huge incentive to companies not to have their accounts audited if they can, so in some ways the provisions are counter-productive.”

Other significant changes in the new Act include a provision that public companies may issue summarised annual financial statements. “This will save a lot of paper,” says Everingham. “Instead of having to send a 300-page annual report to every shareholder, public companies can now send a summary statement in electronic form with a link to further information.”

The problem, adds Everingham, “is that nobody knows quite what is meant by summarised financial statements. In practice that means there is going to be some variety in what companies’ issue and it will take some time for a common best practice standard to emerge.”

He does note, however, that “the quality of financial reporting in South Africa is actually quite exceptional on a global scale. We are in the forefront when it comes to integrated reporting of financial, environmental and social results. So we already have a mindset where listed companies strive to produce a really useful annual report; that isn’t going to change.”

Online training to boost employee skills

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

A recent Ambient Insight Research report stated that the worldwide market for e-learning products and services was $32.1 billion in 2010 and is expected to rise to $49.9 billion by 2015.

However, Andre Joubert, GM MWEB Business says that the availability of media-rich, interactive e-learning content on the Internet – and the advent of uncapped, business-strength ADSL connectivity, is changing the face of e-learning in South Africa.

“It has opened the way for budget- and time-strapped businesses to promote the development of employee skills that are so essential in today’s fast-paced, constantly changing and highly competitive business environment,” he explains.

According to Joubert, e-learning has long been recognised as offering considerable advantages over conventional classroom-based training when it comes to training employees and management quickly, efficiently, and conveniently.

Today, virtually any type of training is available on the Internet – some paid for; a great deal of it free. Much of it incorporates media-rich, interactive content. Click on the “help” button on your Microsoft Office application, and you could receive the support you need via a video clip.

There are online courses that offer recognised and accredited qualifications in everything from Human Resource Management and Marketing to Project Management and software applications development.

There are also short programmes that give advice on everything from how to enhance your presentation skills to decorating the office, changing a plug and arranging flowers in the office foyer.

Using these online resources, however, requires fast, uncapped connectivity.  With Uncapped Business ADSL starting from as little as R629 for an uncapped, unshaped and unthrottled service, local businesses can reap benefits such as:

  1. Convenience – Online training allows employees to learn anytime, anywhere and at their own pace.
  2.  Relevance – Since course content includes the most current topics, e-learning ensures training is applicable to a person’s career path.
  3. Immediacy – Delivery over the Internet enables training to begin with just a few mouse clicks.
  4. Affordability – many courses are free while the elimination of travel expenses and time out of the office makes even paid-for courses an attractive option.
  5. Ease of use – Open an Internet browser and employees are up and running quickly.

CA Southern Africa delivers VMware vSphere 5 capacity management solution

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

Companies can facilitate their migration to VMware vSphere 5 by using CA Virtual Placement and Balancing, a new solution that helps consolidate virtual machines, hosts and clusters for decreased upgrade costs and streamlined operations.

VSphere 5 allows VMware customers to take advantage of more computing capacity and memory in their virtual environments. This is an opportunity for customers to get better economies of scale from their virtualisation investments.

“It’s important for customers to use current capacity as efficiently as possible to maximise their virtualisation investment,” says Andrea Lodolo, CTO at CA Southern Africa. “Consolidating workloads and designing clusters for performance is difficult. CA solutions automate the process using unique, predictive analytics. This is important to customers either consolidating their workloads or migrating to a new environment.”

Customers who plan to upgrade to VMware vSphere 5 stand to benefit from consolidating their virtual machines, hosts and clusters, as this will help optimise the cost. However, they cannot predict how their hosts and workloads will perform through consolidation.

CA Virtual Placement and Balancing uses advanced predictive analytics designed to accurately project how resources will be affected as transaction volumes or other circumstances change. Using these predictions, the solution automatically produces a prescription for configuration of the virtual landscape.

“CA Virtual Placement and Balancing helps customers safely consolidate and rebalance their virtual environments as they prepare for a successful and economical migration to VMware vSphere 5,” says Lodolo. “The solution identifies over- and under-utilised resources and prescribes specific changes to optimise the use of existing resources. It also helps automate design and configuration of virtual clusters, a very difficult and time consuming effort.”

With virtualisation being a common element in most networks and VMware often the technology of choice to implement it, the new CA solution provides essential support for customers aiming to obtain the best results from their investment.

Samsung top in tech industry sustainability

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has been named the world’s most sustainable technology company in the 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) annual review.

Samsung received a total score of 86, the highest sustainability assessment of 52 companies listed in the technology supersector, which combines five sectors including semiconductors, communication technology, computer hardware & electronic office equipment. The company led the technology supersector in the Environmental and Economic dimensions – two of the three key sustainability areas assessed.

“Samsung is delighted that our sustainability efforts have been recognised in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index,” Byungsuk Choi, executive vice president and head of the Partner Collaboration Center, Samsung Electronics. “This result is a reflection of Samsung’s belief that we can deliver positive value by protecting the environment and contributing to communities in which we operate, while generating economic performance.”

Recognising Samsung’s enterprise-wide eco-management initiatives, the DJSI review particularly highlighted the company’s leadership in Climate Strategy, Environmental Reporting and Product Stewardship. As of the first half of 2011, Samsung has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions at its manufacturing facilities by 38% on a sales-normalised basis against 2008 levels, putting it on-track to exceed its target of a 50% reduction by 2013. The company also operates recycling and take-back programs in more than 60 countries worldwide, with its Samsung Recycling Direct program now spanning more than 1,150 locations in North America.

In the Economic dimension, Samsung received the technology supersector’s top assessment for Product Quality and Recall Management, Risk & Crisis Management, as well as Customer Relationship Management.

Samsung was first listed in the DJSI in September 2009 and received a gold class listing in the semiconductors sector in September 2010, indicating its total score was within 5% of the sector leader.

Opinion: Telephone management systems

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

By Rob Lith, Director of Connection Telecom

“Telephone management systems (TMSs) have been largely under-utilised by many companies,” says Rob Lith, Director of Connection Telecom.

These applications are often procured, sometimes at considerable cost, with only one objective in mind – to identify and cut unnecessary costs, while ignoring the invaluable business intelligence they can deliver.

TMS systems as cost cutters

TMS systems are most often used to identify when a call is being made to a Telkom or mobile number, and to route it via the appropriate call origination device – a cellular or VoIP gateway or even an analogue switchboard.

It is a legitimate use of the software as it gives companies a proper appreciation of their call patterns and helps them identify what they need in terms of least-cost routing infrastructure and solutions that guide calls down the cheapest channel.

However, when their use is limited to cost-cutting, such applications don’t reach their full potential.

TMS as policing agent

Another cause of high enterprise calls costs that can be stopped with TMS systems is an excessive incidence of private calls using company telephony.

Again, identifying the culprits of such incidents is a legitimate use of TMS systems, but in many cases, companies can achieve much more by using it to go beyond policing and policy enforcement.

Instead, such solutions can used as a basis for offering staff discounted private calls – a far friendlier approach, enabled by business intelligence.

Better decisions

Indeed, business intelligence or analytics is the main value of TMS systems, as it can help companies make more scientific decisions, for example concerning customer interaction, marketing, product launches and so forth.

A retailer with multiple branches proved a case in point. Instead of clamping down on misuse (pure monitoring), the company used its TMS to manage phone calls.

-          By integrating telephony with its HR system, the company began requiring PIN-code entry with every call and was thus able to monitor private calls and deduct their cost from salaries. In addition, they were able to offer discounts on private call costs and incentives on telephone-based customer service, thus turning a negative experience into a positive one.

-          In addition, the company integrated its telephony system with its retail point-of-sale system, which helped the POS support company to sharpen up its workforce management, based on the calling trends from certain retailer locations.

-          The retailer further used caller identity to ascertain the probable destination of calls from within the retailer to the switchboard of the group financing provider, thus leading to a change in normal IVR processes to facilitate in-house credit authorisation.

-          Finally, TMS is used by the retailer in the ordinary way, to effect least-cost routing.

In the final analysis, TMS systems can be the source of rich, valuable data, which should be used by companies to influence business direction.

Philips 241P3 LED monitor available from DCC

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

Tilt, pivot, swivel, adjust your viewing height or even change your screen display from landscape to portrait quickly and easily. All features available on the new Philips 241P3 24-inch LED monitor.

This large, eco-friendly professional monitor features an ergonomic base with built in stereo audio and an onboard USB port for added value. It delivers brilliant full high definition (FHD) display with a super high contrast ratio and superior colour reproduction thanks to consistent brightness across the screen.

“This product has been designed with the professional user in mind. The height adjustable base allows for 130mm of vertical movement, and the screen angle can be pivoted on both the x and y axis to achieve the ideal individual viewing angle. With the 90 degree screen rotation the display can also be switched to portrait should this be required, and a host of added features enhance the user experience,” says Tyrone Young, Country Manager, Philips Monitors.

SmartImage technology analyses the content displayed on your screen and gives you optimised display performance. At the touch of a button, you can dynamically adjust the contrast, colour saturation and sharpness of images and videos for ultimate display performance. The Economy mode option offers superior power saving capabilities, with running consumption as low as 12 watts.

Touch controls respond to your lightest touch to adjust monitor settings, and the on-board USB port allows you to conveniently connect your plug and play multimedia devices such as USB memory devices, cameras, portable hard drives, webcams and printers. Dual VGA and DVI connectivity allows dual screen display to be set up in a matter of seconds.

“The Philips 241P3 addresses an underserved market segment. The majority of today’s large screen LED displays have a fixed base, and are aimed at the consumer market. This monitor offers the ergonomic features desired by the professional user with value adds such as built in speakers and a USB port and all of the environmental, power saving and viewing benefits of an LED screen,” says Bruce Byrne, Visual Communications Specialist at DCC.

The Philips 241P3 is EPEAT Gold and Energy Star 5 rated, mercury, halogen and lead free and ships in 100% recyclable packaging to minimise carbon footprint. It is available immediately from DCC’s resellers.

Opinion: Video telephony in Contact centres

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

By Paul Fick, Divisional Managing Director: Jasco Enterprise Communication

Video telephony is in our future. It combines video, audio and sometimes telestration (on-line drawing) and will utilise wireless, cellular and broadband devices and channels to enable face-to-face collaboration regardless of location. Are South African enterprises and contact centres ready and able to offer this, and do consumers and business users want it?

The short answer is: not yet, but it won’t be long now.

There’s video everywhere, more and cheaper broadband, and fast 3G. In the corporate arena, video conferencing and telepresence make a good business case for video telephony – face to face communication is desirable, improving the quality of interaction while cutting down on travel costs and time, enhancing both the businesses eco-footprint and staff productivity.

But it’s really consumers that will drive this wave of technology adoption.

There is a desire for ever richer interactions and experiences. Adding video to voice, along with the capability to share documents or even drawings during the interaction is no longer science fiction. Video enabled mobile phones and tablet PCs are just the end devices. Already any number of online corporate ‘meeting places’ offering full collaboration. It’s just a hop, skip and jump before consumers too are using these platforms.

Contact centres, which are increasingly the main touchpoint between business and consumers, need to be ready to cater to this need. Enterprises who are not already doing so, need to be leveraging this trend in-house for business, but also to make staff familiar and comfortable with the technology and this form of direct interaction.

How to get there? It will take some transitioning and change management.

From a technology point of view, video is just another communication channel that needs to be integrated and contact centres everywhere are now introducing Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based technologies.

Increasingly, consumer devices are also SIP enabled and SIP functionality is being added into applications. What this means is that any communication silo (video, audio/voice, email, instant messaging) can be unified into a tailored ‘session’. But it’s really not about a technology interaction – is about customer interaction.

Training staff – by adoption of video telephony internal to the contact centre or enterprise – is a very important part of the equation. As the customer base changes, with younger, more tech savvy users becoming prime clients, their preferred communication needs must be accommodated. Right now, cost, demand and capability (bandwidth) constraints positions us at the ‘ready’ mark in South Africa. We need to ramp up to ‘steady’ because, as with so many other technologies of late, video telephony adoption rates could be surprising.

MTN Business launches new range of enterprise applications

By admin, 27 września, 2011, No Comment

Says Nomalanga Nkosi, the General Manager for Business Marketing at MTN Business; “If you can think it, someone’s App’ed it. It’s all the rage as smartphones and tablets become proliferated and consumers look for personalised always on the go connectivity. But what if we could turn the Apps market on its head – and rather than focus on the consumerisation of such tools – use them to drive business efficiencies and change the way we do business? That’s exactly what we are doing!”

Today’s mobile workforce needs ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to corporate intranets and critical data and applications and this is driving the growth of mobile enterprise applications. In fact, according to Forrester* 30% of enterprises are using app stores to deploy some of their applications at some level.

In fact, Gartner has placed mobile applications and media tablets within the top ten technologies to significantly impact businesses over the next three years.  In developed markets, already 65% of workers use a tablet:

  • 27% use a tablet for work;
  • 36% to send and receive email;
  • 35% to surf the internet;
  • 12% to read newspapers, eBooks and magazines; and
  • 7% to watch video content.

“We expect these international trends to soon be a local reality. The opportunity exists for local businesses to utilise these devices and platforms, not only to keep their workforce productive, but even to increase their productivity,” adds Kanagaratnam Lambotharan (Lambo), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), MTN South Africa. “For example, a national public services provider saves up to R50 000 per day on date entry labour costs with one of MTN Business’s mobile enterprise app, while in the healthcare industry, preliminary solution testing has shown that health practitioners could increase daily productivity by as much as 5 300 hours with MTN Business’s Remote Medical Diagnostics enterprise application.”

Having started on the consumer side, applications are evolving, and fast moving into the enterprise space. However, having generic “enterprise” apps on an App Store will not provide businesses with the capabilities and opportunities that complex, tailor-made enterprise apps have to offer. Says Lambo; “A lack of awareness about the availability of such applications and concerns about security and confidentiality, from the consumer legacy, are limiting their uptake, but today, through our seamless network and the significant investments that MTN has made in upgrading this network, we are demonstrating our commitment to growing a secure enterprise applications market, enhancing user experience and enabling our customers to get the most out of these apps based on business demands and efficiency needs.”

MTN Business’s range of Enterprise Apps include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Remote medical diagnostics
  • Device security and call recording
  • Device backup and sync
  • Asset Tracking
  • Transport and Logistics
  • Mobile Surveys
  • Mobile Learning
  • Cost and expense management
  • Cloud Storage

“Through real time applications that drive business efficiencies and deliver to the market the ability to connect on an innovative platform – specific to the business sector – there is no doubt that the uptake of these enterprise applications will continue to increase and that businesses will start seeing the larger benefits and competitive market opportunities that can be derived going forward,” concludes Nkosi.

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