What drives technology is time – specifically, not wasting it

Accsys, winner of the Management of Technology Award in the medium enterprise category 

Meet Teryl Schroenn, Director of payroll and people management software company Accsys and lover of poetry. One of her favourite poems is TS Eliot’s The love song of Alfred Prufrock, he of the immortal line, “I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled …” 

While Prufrock agonises over the passing of time and whether he will have enough of it to finally profess his passion to the subject of his admiration, Teryl and her team at Accsys know how to make the most of time.  

After all, this is what technology is all about: “The concept of not wasting time has driven technology. The human race is an impatient group and our expectations are just exponential,” says Teryl, pointing out that if something takes 10 minutes today, we want it to be five minutes tomorrow and then are extremely unhappy if it takes six. “The constant demand that we humans are not wasting our time has driven technology intensely in the last 12 months.” 

Being in the payroll business, time has always mattered to Accsys. Clients’ employees must receive their salaries on time and to the cent, and there is no tolerance for delays and mistakes. “If you can’t pay your people, you can’t do business,” Teryl says. 

So when the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Africa and the hard lockdown was announced, the pressure was on to ensure clients could continue to pay their people without skipping a beat.  

Accsys sprang into action.  

“In three days, we were able to move from an on-premises businesses to an at-home business in March 2020,” Teryl says. “Fortunately, a lot of our stuff was already in the cloud, so that enabled us to run everything from home, including our outsourcing department, services, sales, training – everything.” 

Even before the hard lockdown started at midnight on 27 March 2020, every one of Accsys’s 100-strong staff was working from home, equipped with computers, connectivity and SIM cards to ensure that clients could pay their people without skipping a beat. 

Then government introduced COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits and the Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS), followed by a quick succession of changes in regulations to adapt to the unfolding pandemic. “At that point, there was a lot going on and, along with managing the technology, we had to become experts very quickly in the statutory requirements because that’s what our clients expected.” 

Not content with that, Accsys started looking at what else it could do to assist its clients in coping with the fallout from the pandemic from a people management perspective.  

“What we saw immediately was that businesses were going to have to go back to work and their first challenge would be to keep their people healthy.” Realising that its biometric readers for access control could come in handy with this, Accsys worked with one of its partners, ZKTeco, to introduce thermal detector readers to the market.  

“These readers can detect whether someone is wearing a mask and their temperature, and is actually more accurate than those handheld temperature devices,” says Teryl.  

Accsys wrote the code to align with the hardware, and within six weeks, by mid-May 2020, the first installations were done. 

Hand in hand with this, Accsys and ZK hosted weekly webinars to demonstrate live how the software and hardware worked together. Hundreds of people attended. 

“What this experience showed us is how quickly we were able to come to market with a solution as well as advise companies in making people’s workplaces safer.” 

It also shows just how much can be achieved when time is of the essence and it is wisely used. Dream on, Mr Prufrock. 

‘Beautiful’ technological process underpins Cura’s success

Cura Risk Management Software, winner of the Management of Technology Award in the small enterprise category

‘Beautiful’ technological process underpins Cura’s success

Steve Jobs’ aversion to focus groups and surveys was well known but he was probably uniquely gifted in knowing what solutions would work for customers. For the rest of us, the more open we can be to quality input when designing our products, the better.

This doesn’t mean listening to whoever talks the loudest or longest, and of course you need to be able to “filter out the noise” and home in on the things that really matter. The important thing is having the right sounding board and a good roadmap – or three – to take you to where you need to go.

Cura Risk Management Software, winners of five tt100 awards for 2020, including Management of Technology, attributes its success – in the tt100 awards and its business performance – to its three-in-one roadmap and Product Advisory Board.

“We have three individual roadmaps that integrate into an overarching technology roadmap that includes a wide variety of inputs and data gathering, this would be the main differentiator for winning the Management of Technology award,” says Jessica Knight, Head of Strategy at Cura.

Cura, a software company focusing on governance, risk, compliance and risk-based audit solutions, manages technology across two fronts: as a technology solutions provider and as a business that itself consumes technology. “Our roadmap enables us to deliver technology and software platforms to the quality we would like and to align the business with best technology practice,” she says.

The overarching roadmap is an integration of the following three individual roadmaps:

  • Product suite roadmap – focusing on the user experience and guided by global best practice, regulatory requirements and advisory partners;
  • Functionality and platform roadmap – derived from the company’s Product Advisory Board, with input from customers, industry experts, thought leaders, internal innovators and subject matter experts; and
  • Technological roadmap – determined by global technology trends with the objective of maintaining Cura as a technological leader.

“Our solutions are the end result of the three roadmaps, all linked together and informed by the Product Advisory Board and external sources,” says Jessica, adding that Cura is continually making room for new solutions, improving existing solutions and retiring products that are no longer relevant.

“Cura’s model for managing technology is complex, detailed and fully functional,” she concludes. “It’s a beautiful technological process that we get excited about. It’s amazing.”

Cash and paper are a thing of the past for this technology-wise stokvel

BMP Properties, winner of the Management of Technology Award in the emerging enterprise category

Cash and paper are a thing of the past for this technology-wise stokvel

The stokvel industry in South Africa turns over R10 billion a year and almost all of this is paid in cash and recorded on paper, exposing stokvels and their members to all manner of risks. One that has broken the mould is Soweto-based Buhla Mahlo Properties (BMP), which has gone completely cashless and paperless.

“Yes, we are trailblazers in the use of technology in our industry, and introducing a cashless, paperless environment has solved a lot of problems for us,” says Archie Rantao, chairman of BMP Properties (which, as its name suggests, it more than a burial society – but more about that later).

Archie says the standard stokvel model is for members to pay their contributions in cash, often on a Sunday when the banks are closed. “The treasurer has to keep all that money until he can go to the bank on Monday, putting his life at risk.”

But safety is not the only challenge that cash transactions pose for stokvels.

“There also used to be a lot of conflict about members’ payments,” Archie says, explaining that proving who has paid how much and when is crucial for a stokvel.

“We are underwritten by a major insurer. If a member passes and their contributions are more than three months in arrears, the cover will not be paid. Before, members were always suspicious about the record keeping; now we can prove who paid and who didn’t, and there is no more conflict.”

Archie explains how this came about. “Cash puts your life at risk; you can lose it or be robbed. To mitigate the risk, we stopped accepting cash and asked members to deposit their contributions into the bank.

“We then downloaded the banking app to see who has paid and created a computerised spreadsheet to record the transactions. Once a month, the spreadsheet is circulated to all members on WhatsApp for everyone to see.”

Initially, there was some resistance to the new way of doing things. “In the townships, cash is still king,” Archie says. “It took some time to convert our members to cashless and paperless processes, but people see the benefit. It’s more transparent. Trust is key in everything we do in life. Without trust, there is no institution.”

Other benefits are greater efficiency and better client service. “Using technology, you can track and reconcile your earnings and you always know how many clients you have,” he says. “And why put your life at risk or expose people to temptation by working with cash?”

Having successfully introduced cashless, paperless business, BMP Properties is also expanding its scope of activities. It has purchased a stand at Protea Glen in Soweto and is seeking corporate partners either to establish a private school or build student accommodation.

“We decided we wanted to be more than a burial society and also contribute to access to quality education in the townships so that our kids don’t need to travel to the suburbs,” Archie says. “Kids have to wake up as early as 4.30am to get transport and they come home at 6.30pm or 7pm, tired. It’s too much for them. We want to bring services to the townships so that our kids can have a better life.”

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