Posts Tagged ‘Business’

When start-up follies come back to bite the mid-market growth business

June 6th, 2014

When you’re starting your own business, every cent counts. Most start-ups only survive the first few months or years if they’re run on a diet of austerity and hustling (they don’t call them lean start-ups for nothing). But if you plan to rapidly grow your business, you need to bootstrap with an eye to the future – by which I mean ensuring that your early decisions and processes are also able to scale.

Take the issue of business applications. Enterprise software counts among an organisation’s most important assets – it runs business operations and literally keeps the gears of business turning. Like any other strategic asset – if the business fails to effectively manage its software, there can be dire consequences financially and operationally. And small companies need to understand that software is one of the most difficult and complex of assets to manage.

Evidence of software management challenges can be found in recent research. Working with IDC, we ran a survey amongst Aussie firms with $100 million or more in annual turnover: the sort of businesses most entrepreneurs hope to grow their start-ups into one day. It turns out that nine in 10 of those businesses have been hit with remunerative penalties (what we call “true-ups”) for not complying with their software licences in the past two years – and of those, 65 percent were for a million dollars or more.

Most of these businesses, however, haven’t been intentionally breaching the terms of their licences. They’re what I think of as “accidental pirates”: organisations that have grown faster than their due diligence processes can keep pace with. As a result, things slip through the cracks: someone procures a tool on the wrong licence, someone else shares an app to a few too many staff members. Or a company uses an application in a virtualised or cloud environment – not realising the licensing implications of using the software in that way. And before you know it, you’ve got a million-dollar penalty on your hands.

This isn’t just about software, either. Rapid growth can be fatal if your operations and culture don’t keep up. Some entrepreneurs manage this by deliberately limiting growth or pacing their expansion, but that’s not always an option when getting first-mover advantage is critical. The trick, then, is to think about how easily your current business setup can scale up to match revenue and turnover growth, and do so from the beginning instead of retrospectively.

Let’s go back to the example of software. A typical start-up will gravitate towards free or almost-free applications, usually SaaS tools which allow members to collaborate and share information with only an internet connection. These apps, however, typically also have enterprise licences which kick in after you add a certain number of users to an account, and their costs are often significantly higher than free.
Proactively managing

This isn’t to say you should eschew a piece of software solely on this basis, especially if it meets a critical need in your business. But if you’re a founder, you should be putting processes and technology in place to manage your critical assets, before they get out of hand and potentially hinder growth. This is doubly so when dealing with SaaS apps, where remote storage of your data creates an additional layer of lock-in than traditional software.

In other words, your choice of software tools in the bootstrapping days can have a big impact on how your business matures. You also need to be proactively managing your software now – demonstrating that you are operating your company like a world-class organisation even before an IPO. And you should be considering the effect and frequency of compliance: almost one in two of the businesses we surveyed, for example, had been audited three times or more in the last 18-24 months.

I’ve talked about software licensing because it’s what I’m most familiar with, but the same issues apply to every aspect of the entrepreneurial process. Infrastructure, process, and compliance – these are the things which don’t usually worry start-ups, but can cause major stress for mature businesses. If you want to get your start-up to the big league, it’s worth making sure those bootstrap foundations can take the weight.


SAP Makes Fiori Free in Push for ‘Beautiful Business Software’

June 5th, 2014

In February, SAP AG chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner nodded toward the firm’s need to do “some crazy things” and take more risks. “We have to be a little more like Google,” he said.

Ed DePrimo, CIO for North America at Landis + Gyr, thinks SAP should perhaps take its cue from another major tech firm. “If SAP needs to be ‘more like’ any other company it needs to be like Apple,” he told CIO Journal in an email last week. “The SAP user experience is appalling.”

SAP’s existing customer base, he said, “is eroding because we can no longer make excuses for this retro user interface.”

It looks like SAP listened. In a victory for end users, the firm said Tuesday it will offer customers both the Fiori and Screen Personas software for free. It’s welcome news to customers, who have been vocal about their displeasure at having to pay extra for a better user experience.

Fiori offers a set of apps that improve the user experience across multiple devices, while Screen Personas helps businesses simplify SAP software so that employees only see data that correspond to their specific needs.

SAP will give existing customers a software credit redeemable against future software sales, the company said in a statement. The announcement came on day 1 of its Sapphire Now customer meeting, where now sole CEO Bill McDermott is pitching his vision for SAP as a company that will beat back complexity and continue to innovate.

When asked if SAP should be more Apple than Google, Mr. McDermott told CIO Journal it was a “fair point.” In an interview last week, he said he recognizes the need to get user experience right. “This is the future. If you can take beautiful business software and make it easy to consume on a device like an iPad, you can change the game.” As SAP looks to serve a millennial workforce that demands a clean UX, creating applications that are easy to consume and easy on the eyes will play a key role in the company’s evolution.

The announcement about Fiori was a welcome one for Mr. DePrimo. “No additional fees for a great user interface,” he said in an email. “I’m impressed.”


5 reasons why Africa hasn’t embraced social business software… yet

May 19th, 2014

Africa’s adoption of social business software (SBS) has been at a much slower pace when compared to other continents. In fact, a recent visit to the US lifted the lid on a maturing market for SBS, a trend local businesses would do well to take note of. Enterprises across industries are using this approach to business supported by class software for high-impact engagement of various corporate audiences, unlocking huge value in doing so.

Whether they’re sourcing ideas, gathering market intelligence or managing company content, communication and collaboration, the upshot is very often, as it promises, increased productivity, efficiency and innovation.

No one knows the African market better than Africans. This is a great opportunity for local developers to introduce social business platforms that cater to our local needs like the prevalence of feature phones; and is a great platform for Africa to show the rest of the world, especially emerging countries, that we are capable of developing world class technology solutions suited for local consumption.

Not entirely held back by a lack of willingness to engage in social business, we are, as a continent, still restricted by a number of factors:

Lack of connectivity:

Behaving in a connected way requires a high value being placed on connectivity at all levels. Companies are still restrictive in their access rights to staff using bandwidth in the office, Wi-Fi is growing but is not freely available (accessible and free) and expensive cellular connectivity is most often a private expense and people are not willing to use their data bundles for work related communication.

Social business does not keep to office hours and we need to accept that the best idea might come from a dinner conversation, an insomniac moment, or a casual stroll — being able to capture the idea that instant, share it and invite people in to collaborate ensures a 24/7 innovation cycle that doesn’t keep office hours. Why would you want a lack of connectivity to get in the way?


Locally we still suffer from the traditional boss vs. worker mindset — and it is pervasive across industries. As a result, C-suite executives are more inclined to seek answers from external consultants and board meetings than they are from their employees. Hierarchies and divisions are clearly divided and siloed.

Social business requires a shift in thinking to ‘we’re all in this together working towards common goals’. It is entirely possible that what the mobile technician is experiencing could radically change your customer service approach or technology strategy.

Lack of awareness:

Social Business is a relatively new concept in South Africa. And just when companies felt they were starting to understand social media (or avoid it due to lack of return) and how to remove social surfing from internal networks, something new comes along. Social business seems a step too far into the unknown. It’s feared that it will still hamper productivity according to a traditional structure of job descriptions, KPA’s, lunch hours and tea breaks.

Lack of local skills-:

-Specifically with regards to consulting and providing appropriate software tools to help companies through the process. Large global software companies have recently purchased collaboration tools and packaged them as part of their offering. However meaningful collaboration involves a change in management process. Having access to the tools does not guarantee usage and certainly not success. The older generations that still pervade companies today are largely resistant to trying new ways of operating.

Resource restrictions:

To do social business properly is going to take wide scale adoption from everyone in an organisation and probably needs a person to drive the social business strategy that delivers according to the company’s priorities and direction.

It’s an engine that needs constant fueling and a process to get the very best ideas out of the system and into action. It’s not yet clear where this position/responsibility fits within an organisation — is it social media, marketing, communication or tech — how high in the rank should it be? Companies are watching costs and headcount freezes or retrenchments make investment in new resources a limiting factor.


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