IT and automation propel growth for stressed local businesses

Transforming core people processes can help SA industry leapfrog growth during recession, say technologists.

As industries recover after 2020, businesses big and small are looking to drive growth with automation, cost containment and innovation.

In March 2021, SA Statistician-General, Risenga Maluleke, revealed that the South African economy had contracted by seven percent in 2020 on the back of stringent lockdowns brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With South Africans facing one of the worst downturns, technology and innovation will be critical to economic reconstruction, says Stephen Howe, the founder of Times 3 Technologies (T3T).

“Research by World Wide Worx shows that accountants have been real life-savers during the pandemic. The other unsung heroes of industry are the human resources practitioners who are creating new worlds of work, while containing cost, to bring growth to beleaguered sectors,” he says.

T3T is a national South African IT company that uses software to modernise accounting and people practices. It is seeing automation drive growth and productivity in the retail sector where Sage 300 People, an integrated payroll, HR and self-service solution, has helped Spar transform their accounting and people-management IT, and save cash.

“Chief information officers and human resources executives are under huge pressure to do more with less as remote work becomes the new normal, while businesses have been forced to accelerate digital-business-transformation plans,” says Stephen

He says the big push is to enable technology “that empowers productivity, manages growth, and allows human capital to work safely, wherever they log on from”.

Stephen adds that Spar is a shining light of what intelligent infrastructure can achieve in retail.

Velvani Pillay, payroll and people processes manager at The Spar Group, says, “With a workforce of 6,000 and with some 2,500 of our team working from home, the big crunch was teams not having immediate access to files. Getting people used to everything being electronic and having virtual meetings brought big technical challenges.

Velvani explained that modernising internal systems by bringing in an integrated payroll, and automating HR with self-service solutions for staff, increased productivity and drove growth: “This changed business for the better for Spar; after the pandemic employees felt that their days were much longer given how much time was being spent in meetings and on admin.

“What’s more important is that they’re set free from rote, routine and mundane tasks and can focus on what they do best, which is to care for our customers.”

He says that achieving digital transformation at speed is possible with a strong, representative team that includes project management, HR, payroll, finance, IT and management: “The best time to implement a project like this is at the start of a new tax year. At Spar we set up a parallel run to streamline the process, and were able to go live soon after.”

Stephen explains, “The huge value that Sage 300 People brings to business is that it eliminates paperwork, enables people to transact with the system easily using a mobile device, and allows managers to print their own reports.”

He says the system enables employees to more easily self-manage personal information. Teams want the ability to self-serve and print their own payslips and tax certificates. This saves companies time and money, and increases engagement and productivity.

He points out that what they are seeing in the retail and other industries, where they are implementing Sage 300 People software, “is that self-service becomes the new normal as businesses transform to smoother, accessible and easier digital services.

“As a function, human resources and the financial teams in businesses will drive cost optimisation by designing better structures, workflows and processes. The intelligence from data will help enable this. By using technology to better understand teams, and empower them to do their best work, business in South Africa can leapfrog growth at a time when they need it most,” he says.