SMS remains the best channel for business messaging: Some commentators on the state of the SMS messaging industry point to the death of SMS as
Talent Leadership Audit Compeition Banner
A+ A A-
Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:22

Payroll in the cloud – making life easier for SMEs

Payroll in the cloud – making life easier for SMEs

Five years since its inception, the cloud is making life easier for start-up businesses and SMEs according to Sandra Swanepoel, director,Softline VIP, a leading HR and payroll software and services provider in South Africa and across the Africa continent.

Payroll legislation is often a challenge for small businesses especially during tax season. Swanepoel says payroll software’s move into the cloud, and the affordable pricing of cloud applications, has enabled companies to access a payroll system even if they employ two people.

“In the past, most startup businesses would utilise manual processing until they reached at least 10 or 15 employees. A downside of this approach was the added stress of managing E submissions and issuing of tax certificates. As a result, the average size of a company now using a cloud –based payroll solution has come down to as little as 5 people,” says Swanepoel.

She says that ease of use is definitely one of the drivers for a small business when considering a payroll application. “We offer SMEs a “try before they buy” option for the first month. This gives them the opportunity to experience the ease of use and tremendous time they save when using an online payroll application compared to manual calculations.”

In addition, tax calculations and printing of professional payslips will reduce a significant burden for the small business owner and assist them to focus on managing costs and running their operations. According to Swanepoel, the biggest value for small companies lies in the time they save and peace of mind they are guaranteed when using software that is compliant with all legislation. She cites an example where VIP added leave functionality to its payroll application, allowing users to be instantly compliant with the basic conditions of employment where it pertains to annual, sick, maternity and family leave. “Companies can now also load leave transactions and link sick leave notes and applications to employee records. This will save them money and time as well as reduce the immense stress caused by managing manual leave systems,” concludes Swanepoel.

Published in Accounting & Payroll
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 09:49

Should your company move to the cloud?

Should your company move to the cloud?

Cloud-based communications has clear benefits, but whether those benefits will accrue to your organisation depends on a number of factors. If your enterprise answers to any of the questions in the checklist below, you may be in the market for a hosted PBX.

Are you likely to expand?

Entities with significant potential for branch-like expansion – such as a medium-to-large-footprint bank, a retail chain or a service station franchise – can derive the most value from cloud telephony. Every time a new branch of franchisee comes on-line, the expense of an on-site PBX has real potential to sink the business case. With cloud, the franchisor or corporate head office can offer hosted telephony into the bargain, significantly lowering the entry barrier for local businesses. In addition, this model of telephony is much easier to roll out and manage for uptime, and the "on-net" savings possible with cloud further lift the business case.*

Are your employees mobile?

Is a significant portion of your workforce mobile, either by virtue of being constantly on the road or remotely stationed? A cloud communications configuration can provide satellite working units with full enterprise collaboration and unified communications at low cost. Even user administration tasks can easily be done via Web portal, from any operating platform (device).

Do you need flexible communications capacity?

Cloud computing operates on a "virtualised" design principle, where physical separations between resources like disk drives or servers are irrelevant – all the computing power represented by these resources are pooled together in an amorphous "cloud" of divisible capacity. In such a scenario, you're not bound by the limitations or excess capacity of discrete servers; you can simply procure just enough virtual capacity for your use in any given month (or shorter time increments). This makes sense for campaign call centres or varying seasonal demands on your business communications.

Is your power supply unpredictable?

Cloud data centres are amply provided with protection against power surges and cuts. The alternative is unappealing – a high-end UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that only keeps you going for so long, or costly on-site power generation.

Does your business rely on collaboration?

You may want to employ cloud techniques to give access to at least some applications, such as hosted enterprise resource planning (ERP) for managing suppliers, or hosted collaboration applications for shared workflow. It is also highly advisable to have hosted communications to cheaply bring partners "on-net" if there is a business relationship requiring constant communication. This applies, for instance, to retailers getting purchasing authorisation from a customer's credit card institution.

Do you need to standardise?

Cloud also makes sense where you want group businesses to standardise on certain applications, such as financial and ERP.

These scenarios are by no means exhaustive, and new usage cases are constantly emerging. Chances are that you will discover a few of your own if you see benefit in having access to shared or centralised ICT infrastructure with best-in-class business continuity assurance.

* On-net savings can accrue between branches, to head office, and even to business partners if the installation provides for it.

Published in Software
Next-generation software (and how it will change your business)

There is a fundamental shift occurring in the technology industry. Household name brands are being usurped by start-ups. End users are dictating development. Companies are finding themselves struggling to compete in markets that they've dominated for decades. And most importantly - technologists are no longer driving the technology. Consumers are. Even in the business to the business space, technologists will find that their clients are concerned with tailoring their business practices to meet the needs of their end users. As a result, the nature of the so-called "business app" is changing.

There are 5 key imperatives that technologists have to cater to if they hope to succeed in the marketplace today.

#1 Cloud

Next-generation applications are going to be deployed on-premise, cloud and hybrid. It's a well-known fact that cloud-base solutions are growing at a faster rate than on-premise solutions. Think of the implications for development. Very few languages will fit all three, particularly with Big Data thrown into the equation. And how will one scale up an application to be resilient when there are outages (seeing as how downtime is not an option)?

Next-generation business apps will have to support elasticity on demand and it will be impossible to build them from scratch. Software developers of the future will compose their applications through mash-ups, consuming other people's services and software in order to be a success.

#2 Mobile

Modern applications are taking a mobile first approach. About half of the world's population are already carrying handsets capable of rich, mobile commerce. Mobile devices are becoming computers in their own right and with that, ability to use location, motion and context to market to customers has been unlocked. There is a race to push out applications as a competitive tool to improve relationships. Retailers want to be able to detect their customers when they enter a shopping mall, send them marketing messages via SMS, equip them with the means to pay on the spot via their mobile, and then tweet about the experience...after which sentiment analysis surrounding their twitter activity should be conducted. Next-generation business applications have to cater to the mobile market across any device, any language, any platform.

#3 Big Data

The volume of digital data has grown to 2.7 ZB in 2012 up 48% from 2011, and is heading towards 8ZB by 2015. More data is being created and stored than ever before...and thus far, companies do not know what to do with it. That is going to change soon as more and more companies are exploiting big data to generate new revenue sources. Retailers, according to IDC, using big data to the fullest, could increase operating margins by 60%. Business applications of the future have to offer a single entry point to all sources of big data, with real-time analytics. Companies that can automate decision-making by slicing and dicing the overwhelming volume of information will ultimately conquer the market.

#4 Social Media

Approximately 40% of users access social media from their mobile devices and 80% of all mobile apps developed will integrate with social network services. We tend to forget though that the social media platforms that we're seeing are still early entries to the market – Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram are all in their infancy. Social media, however, remains at the heart of new applications that are being developed. People are conducting sentiment analysis on social media and are trading based on sentiments found in twitter! How do you connect to your customers and exploit the data in a comprehensive way? Modern apps must plan for social network analysis and tracking if they hope to be successful.

#5 Ecosystems

The ecosystems that support technology are becoming as important as the technology itself. Time-constrained ISVs will primarily chose their paths based on the popularity of a platform with users, and the ones who will succeed will be the ones that are driven by the entire ecosystem. Mash-ups and partnerships will spawn new ecosystems, discover resellers in new countries and markets. The future will see the formation of joint projects and collaborative forums that can propel companies forward faster than ever before.

Businesses hoping to reach their target markets will need greater access to information and the ability to speak to their customers across a variety of technologies. Technologists of the future have to start changing the way they approach business applications today if they want to continue doing business tomorrow.

Published in Software
Monday, 13 August 2012 10:21

How to iron out your call centre issues in 5 easy steps

How to iron out your call centre issues in 5 easy steps

There is no excuse for poor customer service – whether online, in person or on the phone. Here are tips on how businesses can iron out the wrinkles in their call centres and ensure a better customer experience for all.
The call centre is often the first point of contact for customers, which is why it is crucial that the experience is a positive and satisfying one. Here are a few guidelines that explain how companies can make that happen.

1. Don't skimp on technology

There is no use spending money on advertising to lure people to phone your call centre if all your customers are faced with when they dial in is a set of shoddy welcome message or poor call quality. Opt for a provider that has economy of scale and can take away the headache of tech support and upgrading to maintain quality control, but never settle for second best when it comes to the tech that is responsible for customer service delivery.

2. Outsource the tech headache

Investing in the best systems available does not always make financial sense. If you are not handling huge volumes of calls, you cannot offset the initial capital cost. Since technology can become obsolete or in need of upgrades in a fairly short period of time, you are left with the problem of trying to integrate different pieces of equipment and keep up with patches and updates. By using a hosted service, you are buying an integrated suite of services that is always up to date – and it's cost-effective enough for even the smaller contact centres to use.

3. Don't shy away from implementing a cloud solution as you grow

If a call centre experiences rapid growth – increasing call volumes, diverse queries – they are often hard-pressed to meet the demand. Agents stay on the phone for longer and enquiries take longer to resolve. Resources in terms of both staff and technology are pushed to the edge. The call centre could address that by undergoing a costly expansion in terms of hardware and software...but there are no guarantees that the demand will remain high, leaving the centre stuck with the empty seats. The cloud offers the ability to provide just enough capacity for your business peaks and troughs, with flexible charges to match this "elastic" delivery.

4. Spend time on your staff

70% of call centre costs are your people – the agents and their managers. The industry has grown, and the quality staff that you want to retain has become more demanding. Call centres aim to hire agents that are capable, professional, reliable, sensible, hard-working and committed – and it is important to hang onto them. They want to work in a facility where their workday is pleasant and they aren't forced to use terrible technology that makes them (and the customers they're trying to serve) miserable – such as scratchy voice quality, dropped calls, no integration of customer management and telephony systems. Make sure that your staff are happy – and your customers will be a lot happier too.

5. Choose the right partner

Choosing the right service provider is as important as choosing the right solution and service delivery model, since it influences everything – basic set-up of the technology, operation, trouble-shooting, quality assurance and technology refreshes. By choosing a partner with a service-centric, consultative approach, customers can be sure that core issues such as their call routing and queues are set up with the help of the experts, reports deliver the best possible analysis for their business type and goals, and their system functions with optimal quality and productivity.
Your call centre does not have be one that everyone loves to hate. Following these simple steps can turn your call centre around, cut costs and improve service delivery.

Published in PR & Communications
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 10:45

Public, private or hybrid cloud PBX?

Public, private or hybrid cloud PBX?

Market preferences tracked from two perspectives

As cloud-based PBX deployments show accelerating growth, a fascinating sub-plot is unfolding, with public, private and hybrid installations all finding favour*. The question is – which configuration will gain preference as the market matures, and in what circumstances?

Industry perspective

From our point of view, public cloud installations are preferred in more than 56% of deployments, and private and hybrid installations in 22% of cases respectively.

When measured by extensions, the picture is reversed. Close to 60% of our extensions are private, while 12% are hybrid, and 28% public.

A clear inference can be made from this. Large companies, which represent a small base of our install base but the majority of extensions deployed, prefer private hosted solutions, while a large number of smaller customers, representing a comparatively small number of extensions, favours public.

Large companies prefer private cloud deployments because it allows them to leverage their considerable investments in high-end network and data resources and equipment, thus retaining control over the running and support of their deployments.

Connection Telecom’s hybrid install base is made up of a small but growing base of large customers, whether measured in customer numbers, sites (which may involve multiple branches or chain stores) or extensions.

These customers are planning to grow their solution footprint significantly, so in extension numbers they might in time get close to the number of private extensions out there for us.

Research view

Research has shed further light on this question, in the form of the ITWeb Unified Communications 2011 user survey.

The survey finds that, over the next two years, 23% of respondents will look at hosting private voice installations themselves. 28% will look at serviced provider-hosted private solutions; 16% at publicly-hosted solutions; and 32% at on-site least-cost routing installations (non-hosted). The private-public split is therefore 51%-16%, with no provision for hybrid implementations.

While it is impossible to compare the findings from ITWeb’s user-centric survey to Connection Telecom’s customer, site and extension metrics, the ITWeb sample base provides broad correlation of my observations.

Close to 25% of respondents of the survey represented small companies, while nearly 75% were from large enterprises. In that light, it is not surprising that a majority felt private installations were the way to go.


As cloud PBX adoption continues to accelerate, the above findings appear indicative of a market-wide trend. Depending on the customer split of a particular service provider, we think it is quite predictable what the public-private-hybrid weighting will be.


Public cloud implementations reside in off-site data centres owned by the service provider (SP). Private cloud implementations reside in customer-owned data centres, hosted by the customer or the SP, on- or off-site. Hybrid implementations reside in customer-owned data centres, and calls are carried out over a virtual private network via a public switch.

Published in Mobile
Call Centre
Technology – follow your needs, not the crowd's

There is no safety in numbers when it comes to contact centres - history shows us that the crowd can make mistakes that are as bad, or worse, than those made by individuals. The technology you choose for your contact centre is critical, and the costs of heading down the wrong road can be enormous and protracted. It's not just money wasted when you get it wrong - the planning and implementation can set your organisation back years.

The future also needs to be seriously considered when technologies are being assessed. Today you might need simple functionality, but tomorrow could require a lot more, or even less. Given the pace of change in the market it's often impossible to figure out what your future requirements might be. Structural flexibility is the watchword, if your vendor can't start over or change course in quick time, your technology could damage your brand.

Contact centres aren't just for the big guys

Cloud based services have cracked the contact centre open for smaller organisations, who in the past simply didn't have the budget to compete with larger rivals. The barrier to entry has lowered significantly, so if your instinct is that you can't go there just yet, you might be surprised at what's possible via the cloud. 

It's your best practice that matters

Benchmarking against global best practices always sounds very good, but the reality of the exercise is a little more nuanced than the catch phrase suggests. Every business views best practice through a different lens and how you define a best practice depends on your type of business. When you are working towards setting your best practice benchmark, make sure you're comparing apples with apples - it's your context that really counts.  

Outsource - ignore track record at your peril

Outsourcing all elements of a contact centre, including the crucial customer service interactions, can be a cost and resource saver. But if you make this choice, remember that the track record of your provider must be very strong. It must also be relevant to your specific industry. If you're satisfied that your provider's credentials are top notch and appropriate to your industry, the other critical factor is negotiating an air-tight service level agreement. If you choose to outsource the full contact centre there is no margin for error on service levels. 

Skill defines the quality of the blend

The division between inbound and outbound contact centres has all but disappeared. Most modern brands need to operate a blended centre, with inbound and outbound functions operating as part of a greater communications whole.

Strong management of a blended centre involves two key elements. 1) Predicting interaction volumes accurately 2) Ensuring staff are adequately trained to deliver in critical areas. Weakness in either area can see the blend between outbound and inbound hurt the business, rather than help it. Which makes a focus on skills levels across the centre vitally important. Skills development has to be viewed as part of the company culture, rather than an intervention. 

Look to the future

Powerful new tools are emerging in the contact centre space, and contact centre strategy development should take place with these in mind:

Speech analytics – Some 10, 000 voice recordings are taken per day in a contact centre, but much of the potential value in these conversations isn't realised, because the content itself is not analysed. New speech analytic systems investigate the recordings for key words, and then offer significant analysis to decision makers. Equally, some new systems are tracking tone of voice in real time and escalating calls to supervisors when there's too much heat coming down the line. Either way, speech analytics tools are quickly changing the status quo.

Mobile – With the youth and high income professionals now carrying sophisticated smartphones as a matter of course, brands are developing applications that deliver a new self service paradigm. No more mind numbing IVR menus and holding in contact centre queues. Mobile Apps mean efficient and personalised service, at the customer's convenience.

Content management – Back in the day a document was scanned and simply filed, but today's companies require seamless anytime, anywhere, anybody access to workflow details that incorporate staff, customers and suppliers. New object orientated contact solutions allow attributes to be assigned to an item that determine how it is stored, who has access to it and what future action must be taken.

Published in CRM & Direct Marketing
Friday, 15 June 2012 13:11

Virtualisation, the silent hero of call centres in the cloud

Cloud Call Centre

Eliminates wasteful infrastructure practices and improves customer service

Call centre satisfaction surveys – both from a customer and owner’s perspective – frequently point to frustrations that can be resolved with the use of sophisticated technology,
says Rob Lith, Director of Connection Telecom.

In this regard, virtualisation deserves special mention as a crucial enabler of modern call centres. It allows flexible scaling of capacity that reduces customer service frustrations, as well as cloud-based models that reduce the ownership burden of costly, complex resource management.

How does virtualisation work?

According to Wikipedia, virtualisation is the creation of a virtual rather than actual version of a computing resource for purposes of centralising resource management, improving scalability and improving utilisation.

Hardware virtualisation

For instance, a host computer running Microsoft Windows may host a virtual machine (VM) that simulatesguest computer hardware running, for example, an Ubuntu Linux operating system – thus allowing it to run Ubuntu-based application software.

The advantage of this is that a call centre isn’t restricted in its choice of application, or alternatively, doesn’t have to install dedicated hardware if it doesn’t want to compromise on the preferred solution.

Desktop virtualisation

Another form of virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, entails separating the desktop function in its entirety from the physical machine.

Using this model, users interact indirectly (via a network) with the host computer via physically different devices (another desktop or even a mobile device). Multiple different users can log in to the remote computer simultaneously.

Call centre benefits

For the call centre owner

In both these instances, virtualisation enables consolidation of data centre resources, allowing call centres and other enterprises to take advantage of the ease of management and improved utilisation of standard, rationalised infrastructure.

This has several spinoff advantages; including the ability to deploy a small IT team to manage the much smaller, standardised data centre footprint, as well as a smaller carbon footprint.

By contrast, non-virtualised call centres are by their very nature over-provisioned to cater for times of peak performance. They are therefore routinely underutilised, incurring immense upfront capital expenditure and on-going operations and maintenance cost.

Virtualisation can further be deployed on the client’s premises by simply slotting into the client’s virtual environment, with the benefit of greater control over infrastructure for the client.

For the end customer

In the case of desktop virtualisation, call centres can make use of virtual agents who can work from home in flexible working arrangements that cut down on travel and base camp real estate.

In peak business cycles, remote agents can be roped in on demand, with obvious spin-offs for customer satisfaction. And multinationals can deploy a follow-the-sun call centre competency spread across multiple geographies, again with customer service benefits.

Finally, desktop virtualisation also places less of a burden on client devices, as all the processing happens on the remote server. This has significant cost benefits.

No more frustration

Virtualisation is the silent enabler of cloud computing, bringing with it a multitude of benefits for the modern call centre and its customers.

With it, wasteful infrastructure practices and ponderous customer service are things of the past.

Published in Software
Copyright © 2013 gdmc (Geoffrey Dean Marketing Corporation cc). All rights reserved. Material may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. External links are provided for reference purposes. is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

Login or Register