Winner of the 2018 award for
Excellence in the Management of Systems, category for large enterprises
Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of De Beers Group Technology
Even ‘trivial’ details matter with systems thinking
In most workplace settings, the
swing of the doors is probably not a particularly important parameter. That
changes dramatically in confined spaces such as ships, aircraft and underground
mines where a door with a large swing can be a serious and expensive drawback.
“In isolation, the door swing
is not a big deal, but when space is at a premium, it becomes really important
and can add significantly to your capital costs. From a systems perspective, we
have learnt not to underestimate even the most trivial parameter,” says Gordon
Taylor, Operations Manager, at De Beers Group Technology.
Understanding the bigger
picture and the detail of how everything fits together is what systems thinking
means at De Beers Group Technology, which designs and produces specialised
mining equipment such as sorting machines.
It’s this kind of thinking that
the organisation strives to encourage among its employees through programmes
such as the internal innovation system, known as Boost.
The idea behind Boost (named after
the first staff-inspired innovation to receive a boost) is to encourage
employees to think and contribute beyond their immediate jobs. “If you have an
idea in your head, use Boost to translate it into something practical,” Gordon
says. The organisation provides seed funding of say R3 000 or R4 000,
and time is set aside to experiment towards translating that idea into
A substantial amount of time and effort has gone into fine-tuning Boost so that it produces real results and doesn’t just fizzle out. The reason is that it’s important to generate new ideas internally. “The innovation industry is a multibillion-rand industry and we know we can go outside (for innovation services) but we want ideas created internally and we want to do this at a grassroots level,” says Gordon.
This means everyone in the
organisation is encouraged to be involved in idea generation, from artisans and
tradespeople to administrative staff and engineers, cutting across all age
groups. “You must have diversity and inquisitiveness to succeed, and you need
to get out of the siloes,” he says. “People should be willing to try things
that are out of the ordinary and management should make it clear this is okay.
Employees shouldn’t think, ‘Don’t worry, the management team will take care of
this’. That stifles innovation.”
The message behind all this is
that nothing happens in isolation. Everyone has a part to play in making an
organisation work better and no detail is too trivial – including the door
Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for small enterprises
When there’s a big competition, it’s all systems go
Probably the biggest competitive advantage of a small engineering
development company like Air Blow Fans is agility and responsiveness compared
to larger rivals in the industrial fans field. Agility is not necessarily a
question of size, however. Rather, it’s a matter of achieving that end-to-end
seamlessness that is so talked about but so challenging to actually accomplish.
“Everything has to tie up. It’s all those interconnected
things that feed into each other so that we can act fast and respond to
clients’ unforeseen needs,” says Gavin Ratner, managing member of
multi-award-winning Air Blow Fans.
The operative word here is “unforeseen”. There is no set
formula for fixing the massive centrifugal and axial flow fans that mining
houses, power utilities and the like use to keep their plants running smoothly.
Every situation is different and every solution has to be approached on its own
merits, making those interconnected processes and systems all the more
Technology is a big part of this, but so is the human element,
Most plants have remote monitoring systems so that pre-emptive
maintenance can be scheduled before there is a breakdown, but in practice,
relatively few companies do regular checks. So when their mission-critical fans
start vibrating more vigorously than they should, or some of the moving parts threaten
to malfunction, Air Blow Fans will receive an emergency call.
That often means racing off to the client’s site for an
on-premises, eyes-on assessment, after which technology can take over. “We feed
the information from the site visit into a computational fluid dynamics package
so that the computer can run different scenarios and devise a mechanical
engineering solution that is reliable and fit for service,” Gavin says.
Next comes the design of the system, ordering of the
materials, manufacture and installation of the equipment, underpinned by
quality assurance. Air Blow Fans has ISO 9001 certification, which is unusual
for a small engineering company.
Let’s not forget the people management part. “In a small
group like ours, we are all interdependent. While a big organisation can
compensate for one or two rotten apples, we cannot and it’s really important to
have the right people working together for a common cause.”
With all the moving parts in synch, human and machine, it’s
all systems go and no spanners in the works.
Our adjudicator Chipa Maimela shares with us their experience of Avantcore (Pty) Ltd
Winner of the
Excellence in the Management of Systems award for 2018, category for emerging
Love it or hate it, digital assets are here
Whether you love
to hate it or love to love it, digital assets are not a fad. There are billions
of dollars in digital assets already being moved around the digital universe
every day and the industry is only going to grow, says Nicholas Allen, CEO of
fintech research and development (R&D) house Avantcore, based in Kloof near
financial universe is currently in the process of being established; a paradigm
shift is going on,” he says, referring to the host of fintech exchanges,
platforms and products springing up around the world and turning traditional trading
and transactional models on their heads.
traditional models, there always needs to be a third-party intermediary.
With the emergence of digital assets, value can be transferred between two
individuals, without any intermediary,” says Nicholas. “This is uprooting the
way business is done, not just in banking and financial services but in many
other industries too, because end-users can interact directly with each other.”
is a vast gap between the conventional centralised world and the new
decentralised world of digital ledger technology (DLT) – or blockchain as it is
more commonly known. The niche that Avantcore occupies is right in the middle;
it seeks to build products for businesses to bridge the gap between the two
There is risk in
the DLT space, of course, just as there is risk in the old centralised
financial world, and businesses understandably tend to be both eager to and
apprehensive about crossing the digital divide.
is to get the balance right by staying agile and nimble while keeping control
of processes,” says Nick. “this is why everything we do involves identifying
what possible failure modes there could be, understanding the repercussions and
preventing failure from occurring.”
For example, one
of the products Avantcore has developed for a client is a digital asset
management engine that draws on and analyses massive volumes of data from
multiple sources, checking and double checking its accuracy and reliability.
implements rigorous processes and systems for conceiving the required architecture
and developing and testing DLT solutions and products, including thorough
design processes, structured development models, code reviews and evaluation
This balance between creativity and
innovativeness, on the one hand, and structure on the other, is starting to
resonate with businesses considering taking the next fintech steps. There is
still a long road to travel before this fintech finds general acceptance in
business, Nicholas says, but progress is evident. “We have been pleasantly
surprised to see how large corporations are interested in and working to get
clued up about DLT and the emergence of digital assets as an asset class. They
may not be advertising it but they are interested.”
Winner of the 2018 award for Excellence in the Management of
People, category for large enterprises
Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of Netstar
Why face time is so
important in this digital era
In this age of digital communication, there is less and less
need for face-to-face communication. More accurately, perhaps, there is a perception
that there is less and less need for it.
Not at Netstar, where management by email or app has not
replaced good, old-fashioned face time.
At least on a quarterly basis, the company’s MD and other senior leaders participate in “employee townhalls” at their head office in Midrand and conduct “leadership roadshows” in their regional offices across South Africa with their 1 200 employees with the objective of keeping employees aligned to the company’s purpose and strategy.
“It is the way of life where employee engagement is
concerned”, says Pamela Xaba, Head of Human Capital at Netstar.
While Skype or the like would be easier, quicker and cheaper
(and is used for other types of company communication), feedback from employees
is that the roadshows and the quarterly townhall meetings are enormously
popular and make a meaningful difference in the company’s efforts to deepen
“People can see what we look like and sound like; it makes
us approachable and human as senior leaders,” Pamela says. “As senior leaders,
we need to tell employees what the strategy is and why decisions are made so
that they don’t hear it from others. If people aren’t sure of the strategy,
they don’t know where you are going. People shouldn’t second-guess the company.
They should know what it stands for.”
While keeping employees abreast of company strategy and
direction is a prominent part of the townhall meetings, Netstar’s senior
leaders do as much listening as talking at the townhall meetings, she adds.
“If you ask people what they think, and if the environment
is open and transparent, they will come up with solutions – really good ones,
too – and get excited about being part of the journey,” says Pamela.
Just as important as listening to people’s ideas is,
following up and seeing them through is also key. “So at the next townhall meeting, we will give
feedback on the input that came out of the previous round,” says Pamela, adding
that this is part of putting the Netstar values which include openness, honesty
and integrity, embracing diversity and
inclusion, getting things done and enjoying doing it into
So even in this digital era, face time matters, and is here
Winner of the Excellence in the
Management of People award for 2018, category for medium enterprises
Our adjudicator Abe Wakama shares with us their experience of Accsys.
number 1: get feedback and act on it
What works for a 50-year-old
might not work for a 25-year-old. What works for a computer programmer might
not work for a human resources practitioner. What works for an introvert might
not work for an extrovert. What works today might not work next year. With so
many variables in the people management mix, there is only one hard-and-fast
rule for Teryl Schroenn, CEO of multiple award-winning Accsys.
“Constantly ask people for
feedback and when you realise that something is working well, make sure that it
happens on a regular basis as opposed to by accident,” she says. “If the
feedback shows that it isn’t working or no longer works, adapt.”
This very morning, while having
a breakfast session with nine new employees – only one of whom was under 30 –
Teryl asked what was working for them and what wasn’t.
“They gave very positive
feedback on the culture we are trying to put in here,” she says. “One of the
things they commented on was that ‘the CEO actually knows our names’.”
Accsys has about 90 employees,
which means quite a few names to remember, and Teryl goes beyond that if she
possibly can. “I try to remember how many children people have and what their
interests are. People are not resources. It’s important to me to connect with
the people here.”
What people do sometimes find
surprising, she says, is her preference for an office with four walls and a
“Some people say management
should get away from the ‘corner office’ and make everything open plan. I’m not
a fan because we work with a lot of confidential documents. I do spend a lot of
time in the open-plan space, though, and also going out with my salespeople on
appointments. That’s always a good time to strategise with people about what
they are going to say. We try to empower rather than manage.”
Something new at Accsys is the
mentorship programme that was recently introduced. “We’ve been doing mentoring
all along but this is a bit more structured,” says Teryl.
In fact, the mentorship programme is the perfect example of what she means about turning spontaneous or sporadic successes into a regular process or procedure. “In business, sometimes good things do just happen and they are lovely but informal, so they create pockets of excellence without spreading. People management and agile leadership are about picking up on those good things and making them happen regularly.”
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award
for 2018, category for small enterprises
Our adjudicator Kenneth Mabilisa shares with us their experience of Air Blow Fans
How to use people’s strengths and avoid unproductive personality clashes
It takes different personalities and talents to build an effective, cohesive team but if the individuals in the team don’t understand each other’s differences, tension can result. Air Blow Fans has found a way to get the most out of a diverse bunch of people so that they complement rather than frustrate each other.
It starts with recognising the value that different personalities and viewpoints bring and, conversely, the dangers of attempting to stamp a culture of clone-like uniformity on business, says Gavin Ratner, managing member.
was like me, the place would fall apart. It takes all types to be successful,”
he says, explaining: “I’m not a detail person at all but my sales manager is
extremely detailed. He knows it’s not personal and that he has to make sure I
give him everything he needs to do his job properly. We understand each other.”
understanding is not based on telepathy or even years of working together. It
stems from the conscious effort that Air Blow Fans makes to ensure its people
are aware of each other’s different personalities and how to work together
productively despite – or perhaps because of – those differences.
uses professional personality profilers to interview each and every team member
and then consolidate the results on a group graph that shows the team’s
collective strengths and weaknesses, as well as the personality dynamics at
“We also use
profiling before we hire anyone to make sure there is the right fit between the
person and the position. If the position needs detail, then the person filling
the position must have detail,” says Gavin. “As Jim Collins said, you must get
the right people on the bus in the rights seat before you decide where the bus
right people on board, in the right positions, they tend to get on with the job
– and with each other. “It means you don’t have to manage people,” he says. “Technology
is simple and intuitive and growing the business is the easy part. People
management is the hardest thing in business. It takes just one bad apple to
create turmoil and dissension.”
doesn’t claim to have all the answers but, judging from its staff turnover,
it’s doing something right. “We lost one person two years ago and we have
grown, gaining three people in the past year,” Gavin says. “Understanding each
other’s personalities helps me and others to interact well. It makes things a
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises
Our adjudicator Dr Mthandazo Ncube shares with us their experience of Passion4Performance.
Free to make mistakes and accountable for fixing them
On a good day, the
only person you can control is yourself, so attempting to control anyone else
is futile. Rather let people manage themselves, have the freedom to make
mistakes and be held accountable for their actions and decisions.
This is the essence
of people management at online learning assessment company Passion4Performance
– and while it might sound simple, it’s anything but.
“Our culture limits
us in terms of who can work for us. It’s really difficult to find people who
can work this way. At school and in their studies, people are not taught to
think. Then they come here and have this freedom, and it’s very uncomfortable,”
says Darryn Van Den Berg, founder and Visionary MD of Passion4Performance.
part is that there are only two golden rules for the company’s employees.
“First, you must be able to ask if you don’t know. Second, you must know if you
are about to drop a ball,” says Darryn. “Our culture is that if you drop the
ball, you have to pick it up.”
In other words, it’s
all about consequences and accountability. “We have lots of conversations about
our culture and we tend to dive into the consequences, and this is causing the
uncomfortable conversations to become closer to the norm.”
Darryn recalls the
time he and a young developer went to pitch for a large contract from a
prospective client. “This youngster saw me as the boss and he would never say
“no” if I asked him to complete a task. He said he could do the job we were
pitching for and we took the risk that he could. On the pitch day, we took him
with the potential client but the work was not completed and the pitch fell
apart. Holding him accountable in front of the client to fix the challenges –
as we were experiencing them.”
After the experience
of having to explain his misjudgement to the client, this particular employee
was no longer a people pleaser. “Immediately, he started saying no,” says
“Micromanaging is easy but I’m a firm believer
that people must manage themselves. As far as possible, we try to create an
environment where people set their own goals and targets and make their own
decisions. We like people to be free from fear to make mistakes, ask for help
and pick up the balls they drop.”
Netstar were the tt100 2018 winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology award, for large enterprises.
Our adjudicator Ann Naicker shares with us their experience of Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron.
accelerator on innovation-led business
Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. To survive in
today’s highly competitive environment, organisations need to be more agile and
innovative. A key driver in boosting such a culture is fuelled by a willingness
to invest in research and development, as well as the ability to learn from
previous wins and potholes along the way.
For many years, Netstar’s basic business has been stolen vehicle
recovery, and a solid business it is. Today it is also a driving force in Asset
Tracking and Insurance Telematics.
“Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron, delivers innovation that matters”,
says Pierre Bruwer, Group Managing Director for Netstar. “One of our key
strategic objectives is to grow our market share within the IoT and Data
Analytics space. With Netstar’s Insurance Telematics, insurance companies can
now perform accurate driver behaviour analysis allowing them to manage their
risk more effectively. Both solutions rely on our IoT and Data Analytics
platforms”, he continued.
industry is multi-layered and offers an array of business opportunities.
“Netstar provides protection to over 700 000 vehicles and
have recovered in excess of 80 000 stolen and hijacked vehicles,” says Quintin
de Kok, cloud solutions architect at Netstar. “Every day, our devices stream between
250 million and 300 million messages to our insurance clients – some of whom
base their whole insurance model on the data we provide.”
Usage-based insurance is one of the fastest-growing
data-driven trends. This is where drivers are rewarded or penalised according
to their driving behaviour.
incentives to drive better
“According to an analysis we did for one large company, the
behaviour score of drivers who were incentivised improved by 4% to 5% on
average, and 17% more had a 100% score,” Quintin says. “Incentivised drivers
drove better than those who knew their score but were not incentivised and
those who did not know their score and were not incentivised.”
Netstar has been making major inroads into the user-based
insurance market on the strength of a combination of factors including: the
huge number of Netstar devices installed in South African cars, its highly
scalable technology platform, the ability to attract and retain top technology
skills and their strong investment in R&D.
“We are constantly investing in new technology, spending 3.6%
of our annual turnover on Research and Development,” Pierre says. “Our
technology strategy is tied to our business strategy of improving revenue
growth, profitability and customer experience, as well as employee excellence.
To this end, we have entered into new markets in terms of our local technology
offering and global presence. Our Asset Tracking solutions allow our customers
to monitor more than just vehicles, but their high value possessions as well.”
Cycling is a growing sport in South Africa with cyclists on
expensive bicycles becoming easy targets for criminals. To help foil them, Netstar has partnered with
CycleSense to offer cyclists a tracking and recovery solution for their
bicycles. A first in the South African market.
Further to local technology growth, Netstar recently entered
the Indian car market.
“As stated in McKinsey’s July 2018 report profiling India’s passenger-vehicle market, the country is predicted to become the world’s third-largest passenger-vehicle market by 2021; and we intend on maximizing this opportunity from both a consumer and commercial perspective.”, Pierre concludes. There’s little chance that Netstar will be pressing the brakes any time soon.
Accsys were the tt100 2018 winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology award, for medium enterprises.
Our adjudicator Marilze Schwar shares with us their experience of Accsys.
Six out of six is hard to beat
Talk about making a clean sweep.
Payroll and people management company Accsys entered six tt100 award categories
in 2018 and walked away with all six, including excellence in the management of
“We were surprised,” admits CEO
Teryl Schroenn. This is not because Accsys is a newcomer to winning awards – it
received one tt100 award in 2017 and four in 2016 – but rather because it had
just emerged from a challenging period.
Transaction Capital acquired Accsys
in December 2017 after it had spent several years in the Telkom/BCX fold. “As a
subsidiary, we had been hampered by corporate restrictions and it was only
quite recently that we felt we were back on track,” says Teryl.
Six tt100 awards seem to confirm
that, but truth be told, Accsys’s business and technology model is built for
resilience across short-term wobbles. As payroll veterans who have seen more
change than most, Teryl and her COO Cathie Webb know that nothing is more
important to people than their salaries. Being paid the right amount, on time,
is non-negotiable, and a payroll provider worth its salt makes sure that if
there’s one thing its clients’ employees can bank on, it’s their salaries.
So the backbone of Accsys’s
business is extremely reliable technology. However, that’s not enough. This
technology also has to be highly flexible so that all those deductions can be
made, error-free, and salaries paid via whatever channels the client and its
employees prefer. For the most part, 21st century employees receive
their salaries electronically but there are still many unbanked people in
Africa (Accsys’s clients are active in 19 African countries) whose salaries are
paid in cash.
Teryl says Accsys is able to adapt
its proprietary software relatively quickly and easily to cater for those
preferences, not to mention the differences in various countries’ tax
frameworks, employment laws and data privacy requirements.
The company is also keeping a close
eye on the rapid changes in the world of work, where digitisation is ushering
in new types of employment, embodied by the gig worker who chooses to work
here, there and everywhere. Such trends are bound to change what, when and how
people are paid, with major implications for the future of payroll.
Here, systems integration and data
protection are key requirements, she says. “Software, while having to be
protected to ensure data confidentiality, must still be able to contribute data
to other products and accept data from other products.”
“The digital economy is still in
the embryo stage but we need to be agile enough to adapt to whatever it
brings,” says Teryl. “We have a team of bright young people adding depth to our
very experienced team, looking at things
to add on or take off what we are already doing and making it cutting edge.”
No one knows quite how payroll will change or
even what currencies will exist in the digital future, but when people need to
be paid, Accsys is putting its money where its mouth is.
Winner of the Excellence in the Management of Technology
award for 2018, category for emerging enterprises
Our adjudicator Chipa Maimela shares with us his experience of FetchThem
Find and fetch
customers who are most likely to close the deal
It’s a scenario with which every business is familiar: many
potential customers express interest in a product or service but only a small
percentage of those queries are converted into actual sales. Finding and
fetching customers who are more likely to close the deal is the forte of Cape
Town-based digital data marketing company FetchThem.
“In a subtle and non-intrusive way, we influence the
purchasing decisions of our clients’ customers by making sure the brand is
exposed to their decision-makers,” says FetchThem CEO Chris Witthoft.
Here’s an example.
Company A wants exposure to certain chartered accountants in
Johannesburg. Company A then gives FetchThem a list of the names of CAs it
wants to reach. FetchThem locates them and makes sure that Company A’s display
adverts are in front of the selected CAs wherever they go online.
“The important thing is that we integrate all the digital
touch points and have a central view. The ads don’t pop up only when the person
is on Facebook or Google, but everywhere they go online – across social media
and other platforms,” Chris says. “This enhances the brand and keeps it top of
It’s important not to bombard the target audience, though,
so the ads will run for a limited period and frequency, usually between seven
and 20 times a month – often enough to be noticed but without becoming
FetchThem’s technology model is cloud based, integrated into
the leading digital platforms and running off Google Infrastructure. It
connects to the cloud and clients through its own application programme interface
(API), which Chris says can interface with almost any software tool.
One of FetchThem’s biggest successes to date has for a large retail distributor in South Africa, which is 2018 was experiencing that familiar challenge of converting quotations into sales.
“They receive thousands of requests for quotations every month, and were looking for an innovative way to increase quotes to sales,” Chris says. “So we took their offline data online and, within a month, they reported a dramatic increase in sales.”
FetchThem can take at least some of the credit for such
successes as its reporting tools track the progress of each campaign and its
return on investment (ROI). “Because our API can be integrated into point of
sales, we can pick it up when someone is reached online and has actually bought
He refers to FetchThem’s business model as “account-based
remarketing” because it is so targeted. While Chris would not call it a trend
yet as account-based remarketing is still in its early stages worldwide, he
sees it as one of the ways to solve the marketing challenges of the digital
“Digital touch points are all over the place and
business lacks a central view of what is working best. This helps us to solve
that problem; it’s one of the ways that helps integrate all those touch