VOGSY and Incentro partnership to boost productivity and profitability in the services industry in Africa


VOGSY
, the quote-to-cash Professional Services Automation solution built for Google Workspace users, and Incentro Africa, the Nairobi-based branch of the full digital service company called Incentro, announced today their new partnership.

Through VOGSY’s global Partner Program, Incentro Africa will help its customers across Africa harness VOGSY’s unique Google Workspace integrated platform to run their quote-to-cash operations and enhance productivity and profitability. The partnership will also expand VOGSY’s global reach.

A Google Cloud premier partner, Incentro Africa specializes in enterprise work transformation services enhanced by Google Cloud. Incentro Africa is proactive in always looking for new partnerships and solutions to benefit customers and boost their productivity even further. Many of Incentro’s existing customers were looking for a fully integrated solution at an affordable price and Incentro aims to provide this through its partnership with VOGSY. According to Dennis de Weerd, Incentro Africa’s CEO, supplying VOGSY’s ERP system to Incentro Africa’s customers represents a major advantage in transforming their productivity, team collaboration and efficiency. 

“VOGSY gives our customers the ability to streamline and manage their quote-to-cash processes from all sales, operations and accounting sides with a single tool that integrates with Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides, achieving the ultimate real-time collaboration and transparency throughout service delivery,” de Weerd said.

As the only Professional Services Automation platform created for Google Workspace as well as the leading quote-to-cash ERP solution, VOGSY is a singular tool that packs significant value for services firms. Elimination of destructive work silos, intuitive UX, real-time business data including project budgets, margins and financial KPIs as well as built-in scalability and security are some of the main benefits VOGSY’s CEO Mark van Leeuwen aims to bring to Incentro Africa’s professional services customers.

“As professional services firms undertake digital transformations, they require forward-thinking partners and access to tools that provide actionable data and real collaboration whether they’re two feet or continents apart. VOGSY is proud to align with the like-minded professionals at Incentro Africa and work together to ensure the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of services firms in the digital era.”

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With over 10 years of proven expertise in technical consultation and related services, Incentro, the only Google Premier Partner in East, West and Central Africa has become the go-to partner for successful business transformation in the continent.

From Enterprise Collaboration, Cloud Migration and Smart application development, we proudly serve over 26 countries in Africa and are growing. Whatever your ambition is, we’ll aim for maximum impact. We dive deep into your organization, challenge your plans, build solutions swiftly and make sure they work.

Please feel free to visit our website or send an email to Customer Success Manager Elizabeth Akinyi – liz@incentro.com.

www.incentro.com
www.vogsy.com

Siemens and Google Cloud partner on AI-based solutions in manufacturing

Google Cloud and Siemens, an innovation and technology company in industrial automation and software, have announced a new cooperation to optimize factory processes and improve productivity on the shop floor.

 Siemens intends to integrate Google Cloud’s leading data cloud and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) technologies with its factory automation solutions to help manufacturers innovate for the future. 

Data drives today’s industrial processes, but many manufacturers continue to use legacy software and multiple systems to analyze plant information, which is resource-intensive and requires frequent manual updates to ensure accuracy.

 In addition, while AI projects have been deployed by many companies in “islands” across the plant floor, manufacturers have struggled to implement AI at scale across their global operations.

For more than 170 years, Siemens has built its business on pioneering technologies that have led the manufacturing industry forward. By combining Google Cloud’s data cloud and AI/ML capabilities with Siemens’ Digital Industries Factory Automation portfolio, manufacturers will be able to harmonize their factory data, run cloud-based AI/ML models on top of that data, and deploy algorithms at the network edge. This enables applications such as visual inspection of products or predicting the wear-and-tear of machines on the assembly line.

Deploying AI to the shop floor and integrating it into automation and the network is a complex task, requiring highly specialized expertise and innovative products such as Siemens Industrial Edge.

The goal of the cooperation between Google Cloud and Siemens is to make the deployment of AI in connection with the Industrial Edge—and its management at scale— easier, empowering employees as they work on the plant floor, automating mundane tasks, and improving overall quality.

“The potential for artificial intelligence to radically transform the plant floor is far from being exhausted. Many manufacturers are still stuck in AI ‘pilot projects’ today – we want to change that,” said Axel Lorenz, VP of Control at Factory Automation of Siemens Digital Industries. “Combining AI/ML technology from Google Cloud with Siemens’ solutions for Industrial Edge and industrial operation will be a game changer for the manufacturing industry.”

“Siemens is a leader in advancing industrial automation and software, and Google Cloud is a leader in data analytics and AI/ML. This cooperation will combine the best of both worlds and bring AI/ML to the manufacturing industry at scale. By simplifying the deployment of AI in industrial use cases, we’re helping employees augment their critical work on the shop floor,” said Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing and Industrial at Google Cloud. 

www.siemens.com

cloud.google.com

Absa launches cloud computing skills incubator across its operations in Africa

Absa Group has launched a cloud incubator initiative in collaboration with Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), a leading cloud services provider, to enhance its cloud computing skills across its operations in Africa.

As one of the largest cloud adopters in Africa, Absa says is promoting cloud fluency as part of its broader efforts to promote learning, experimentation and innovation across the organisation to enhance the banking experience for its customers.

By migrating to the cloud, companies can eliminate the expense of building and managing on-site data centres while gaining the ability to reduce infrastructure costs and scale up and down rather than paying for excess on-premises capacity.

“Cloud is rapidly becoming the norm for large companies, a trend that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a step-change in digital solutions,” said Andrew Baker, Absa Group Chief Technology Officer. “Using cloud allows us to store much more data cost-efficiently, compared with physical data centres. Cloud has already improved our ability to manage and access data and will enable us to bring products to market faster.”

World Wide Worx’s ‘Cloud in Africa 2020’ report reveals that 84% of African organisations surveyed viewed cloud computing as cost-effective. Cloud investment is expected to increase significantly this year, with 56% of respondents estimating that a quarter of applications will have moved to the cloud by the end 2021, according to the report.

To support its cloud transformation, Absa has launched an internal cloud incubator programme to participate in AWS’s Skills Guild initiative, a comprehensive cloud skills training programme designed to help large enterprise organisations accelerate their cloud adoption journey and build cloud fluency for their employees. The cloud incubator initiative will equip more than 1 500 staff across Absa’s African operations with advanced cloud computing skills this year.

“The AWS Skills Guild offers enterprises a comprehensive approach to organisation-wide cloud enablement, and is designed to not only impart cloud skills, but create excitement, momentum, and accelerate paths to innovation. AWS Skills Guild is based on our experience building enterprise-wide skills transformation plans for our customers across the globe, including National Australia Bank, Deloitte, Kmart Group, and many more,” said Chris Erasmus, Commercial Sector Leader for AWS in South Africa.

A key outcome for Absa’s internal cloud incubator participants is that they will be able to identify cloud opportunities within their businesses, and create more efficient, scalable services and solutions. Employees will have the confidence to innovate faster and experiment more to drive broadscale digital transformation across the business.

“Accelerating cloud adoption will have a significant impact on Absa’s ability to innovate, offer new value propositions, and play a meaningful role in our customers’ and clients’ experiences,” said Baker.

www.absa.africa

[Column] Anthony Njoroge: The importance of flash storage for the cloud

As cynicism about the benefits of the cloud give way to rapidly embracing digital transformation, companies are finding themselves in a position where they must optimise their infrastructure.

While the modern cloud environment delivers improved performance and more responsive use of resources, it must be configured properly with the relevant hardware in place. This is where flash storage becomes an enabler to help unlock the business benefits arising from effective digital transformation.

There is no arguing about the speed advantage flash provides over more traditional storage options. But perhaps, more importantly, it results in improved productivity and responsiveness within the organisation. Because of the higher input/output operations per second of flash, it can deliver faster response times for those IT services that support the business. It makes it possible for insights to be extracted in real-time from the data warehouse further aiding the decision-making process.

The resultant enhancements in efficiencies that come from flash storage means companies will use fewer CPU cores and cloud cycles. Given how most cloud providers work on a pay-per-use model, there will be a significant cost savings that can be reinvested in other parts of the business.

According to the rule of thumb, flash storage can deliver approximately 10 times the performance of traditional storage arrays with just one tenth of the power consumption. It is therefore not difficult to understand why companies are increasingly adopting flash in their cloud architecture.

Storage flexibility

IT departments have also been exploring using NVMe to reduce response time and storage latency. For its part, NetApp was the first enterprise storage vendor to deliver NVMe/FC on all midrange and high-end all-flash A-series storage. This innovation allows customers using a 32Gb fibre channel to immediately see latencies drop to under half a millisecond.

All-flash arrays also enable storage tiering capabilities. After all, one of the ways to reduce cloud costs is to tier infrequently used data to less-expensive storage formats. However, the public cloud providers only offer data tiering between classes of their object storage offerings. This means that as storage requirements become more dynamic, companies require options in matching the fastest storage with the most critical applications.

By moving this less critical data to more affordable alternatives using a cloud-agnostic solution, such as the NetApp AFF, companies can tier data more strategically to meet both cost and access requirements.

Modernisation

Combining flash performance and application integration, while leveraging the power of the hybrid cloud, organisations can extend the capabilities of their data centres. These combine to make up part of the data fabric that help users unless the full potential of the data at their disposal.

Consider how consistent and integrated data management services and applications facilitate data visibility and insights, data access and control, and data protection and security. Together, these technologies will accelerate digital transformation and allow the business to address its highest imperatives.

All-flash storage has become a vital component in the cloud migration journey. It is something that companies must consider if they are to be effective in their digital transitions and leverage the agility that come from the high performance computing capabilities delivered through the cloud.

Anthony Njoroge is the Product Manager for NetApp at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

[South Africa] Nedbank enables business continuity and employee remote work with Nutanix

Nutanix, a player in private cloud, hybrid and multicloud computing, has announced that Nedbank, one of Africa’s largest financial institutions, is leveraging the Nutanix cloud platform to improve and facilitate the rapid delivery of its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling employees to work from home.

To ensure that the banking industry was able to provide its services and meet customer needs, Nedbank had to find a way for employees to work safely and productively from home.

When the initial COVID-19 lockdown stages were introduced, South African companies were forced to mobilize quickly with only a one-week period for preparation before a complete country lockdown. With approximately 30,000 employees serving more than 10 million clients, Nedbank needed to quickly scale its end-user computing systems to continue serving customers. With Nutanix already implemented, the IT team was able to seamlessly and rapidly extend its VDI solution.

“During the sudden switch to a work-from-home requirement because of the pandemic, we did not have to increase our infrastructure but rather optimize the way VDI is delivered to new users on the same platform,” said Johan van Tonder, End User Computing Senior Innovation Manager at Nedbank. “Using Nutanix, we can now maintain and upgrade mission-critical infrastructure during business hours without impacting any of our operations as well as enable employees to work from anywhere.”

Prior to deploying the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)-powered Nutanix cloud platform, Nedbank had a three-tier infrastructure that was siloed and required dedicated IT teams to solve specific problems when they arose. It would take a significant amount of time to fix or restore functional problems, which resulted in a large amount of downtime that negatively affected their customers’ experience. Nedbank knew it needed an environment that would increase performance speed and simplify infrastructure management.

In the past, the IT team would have to schedule overtime on the weekend when no users would be accessing the system to complete updates. Now, the IT team can perform firmware updates during peak office hours with minimal disruptions, if any, to the VDI environment or client systems. Additionally, Nedbank was able to simplify the management of its different clusters across separate physical locations, all from a single management console.

With more than 8,500 virtual desktops in its 160-node environment, it is crucial that Nedbank has an infrastructure in place that can enable employees to continue to work even during a pandemic.

“The method and speed at which Nedbank approached these challenges is a testament to the team’s understanding of the power of a hyperconverged infrastructure software and the downstream operational impact it can have on a business,” said Dom Poloniecki, General Manager, Sales, Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa at Nutanix. “Today’s clients don’t want their technology partners to approach their problems with a basket full of new technologies. They want to leverage their existing investments to find incremental value and leverage they are looking for. By leveraging its Nutanix solution, Nedbank is doing just that, stretching and truly deriving value from an existing investment.”

www.nedbank.co.za

www.nutanix.com

Elaraby leverages cloud to deliver efficiency across businesses in Egypt, Africa and Middle East

Riverbed has announced that Elaraby Group, an Egyptian manufacturer and retailer of home electronics, has maximized the value of its Microsoft Office 365 investment by deploying Riverbed® SaaS Accelerator.

 In an effort to enhance user experience and employee collaboration as it advances its cloud-first strategy throughout its vast geographic operations, Elaraby has enabled a faster, more responsive Office 365 experience for its employees by reducing network latency and empowered its teams to be more productive and better equipped to serve customers by deploying Riverbed SaaS Accelerator.

Elaraby has also invested in Riverbed® Cloud Accelerator to speed migration and access to workloads on Microsoft Azure. As a long-standing customer of Riverbed® SteelHead™, the market-leading WAN optimization solution worldwide, Elaraby is now accelerating applications from on-prem to cloud to the client and end-user.

Elaraby is a player in developing and manufacturing consumer electronics and home appliances in Egypt, the Middle East and Africa and the company’s products are widely accepted in more than 60 countries.

The Elaraby business has more than 40,000 employees, 16 commercial and industrial enterprises, over 3,000 sales partners, 17 trade stores across Egypt and approximately 600 after-sales service centers.

Elaraby is leveraging the cloud to deliver the efficiency, agility, and scalability its business demands. To ensure all locations and all employees are seamlessly connected, the company has migrated to Office 365. “Our use of the cloud is significantly growing,” said Medhat ElAraby, Vice President of Elaraby Group. “We have already migrated one of our data centers to Azure, and we are leveraging both PaaS and SaaS.”

While the company had successfully implemented Office 365, issues with network latency, congestion, and last-mile delays were restricting Elaraby ‘s ability to realize the full potential of its investment. As latency could potentially impact many aspects of the business – from direct sales and production, to store management and marketing – Elaraby turned to Riverbed to reduce data transfer costs and optimize speed across the enterprise, compressing data before sending it between sites.

With the support and expertise of Riverbed’s local partner, Global Brands Group, a leading provider of Consulting, Technology and Outsourcing services, the IT team recently extended its Riverbed SteelHead solution with the addition of six new appliances and one software instance in Azure.

 In addition, the company has deployed 3,500 licenses of Riverbed SaaS Accelerator, which accelerates popular SaaS apps up to 10x, as well as Riverbed Cloud Accelerator. In total, 6,000 users at Elaraby now have access to Office 365 and the improved performance across email, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service and Field Service, and SAP, and it has had a direct and very positive impact on retail and production.

“We could immediately see with Riverbed how we could address network latency,” explained Medhat ElAraby. “Since the deployment, Elaraby has reduced data transmission between sites by 60% with, on average, 900GB less data per day. We are now far more efficient in the way data is consumed which is delivering significant cost savings and improving connectivity and collaboration between sites and teams. Riverbed has also helped us improve our data management. The encryption of data is very important to us because all the data transferred in our organization has value, whether it’s sales figures, product designs, or customer insights. Securing our data has helped us maintain our competitive advantage.”

“With its workforce spread across such a vast geography, and its focus on having a cloud-first IT strategy, Elaraby has benefited greatly from the joint value proposition of the Microsoft Office 365 suite and the Riverbed acceleration solutions,” said Mirna Arif, Country General Manager, Microsoft Egypt. “Microsoft and Riverbed have a long-standing partnership globally, and at a regional level this has meant a strong collaboration between our local sales and technical teams. This has ultimately translated to a robust solution that enables Elaraby to offer its employees a consistent and impressive user experience across their collaboration and productivity applications.”

“Cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools such as those in the Office 365 suite are becoming increasingly fundamental to the modern business. The effectiveness of these solutions and their adoption by the workforce ultimately depends on end-user experience which can be easily impacted by poor performance,” said Mena Migally, Regional Vice President, META at Riverbed. “Elaraby ‘s success with Riverbed underpins the value that our solutions bring to the new breed of cloud-first organizations who are looking to enjoy the flexibility and scalability that cloud offers, while ensuring performance remains unaffected by the network latency, irrespective of where applications are hosted and how they are accessed. Elaraby is an innovative enterprise that continuously adopts and implements the latest technologies to accelerate and maintain their leadership regionally. As one of our first customers in Egypt, with a strong decade-long relationship, we are proud to continue to partner and support them on their digital journey.”

www.elarabygroup.com

Fieldcloud SAS joins the Smart Africa Alliance

French-based technology firm, Fieldcloud has joined the Smart Africa Alliance

Smart Africa is an alliance of 31 African countries, international organisations and global private sector players tasked with Africa’s digital agenda. The alliance is empowered by a bold and innovative commitment by African Heads of State to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent and usher Africa into the knowledge economy through affordable access to broadband and use of ICTs.

“An essential part of how we work is that we seek to put the private sector first. We believe that our partnerships with companies like Fieldcloud are essential in ensuring that we deliver cutting edge technologies in Africa and move toward creating a single digital market. ”, said Mr Lacina Koné, Smart Africa’s Director General / CEO.

Founded in 2009, Fieldcloud is an edge computing, network connectivity and Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure solutions specialist systems integrator focused on energy, resources and telecom market sectors. Fieldcloud SAS works with enterprises to deal with the challenges of moving data between the field, legacy devices, factory floor and the cloud.

Today, fieldcloud’s activities are in IoT hardware design, systems integration, legacy systems digitization, embedded software applications, connectivity solutions, strategic business advisory and consulting. Fieldcloud continues to develop competencies in cutting edge technologies in global satellite IoT communications, IoT systems integration and LPWAN solutions to support projects in energy, telecommunications and resources sectors.

“Multistakeholder collaboration is essential to enable Africa’s single digital market, sustainably. The Smart Africa Alliance fosters a powerful and growing ecosystem of public and private members and fieldcloud is delighted to be of service as we partner together to build capacity, connect people and digitize industry.”, said Mr Matthew D. Smith, CEO fieldcloud SAS.  

With a vision to create a single digital market in Africa by 2030, the Smart Africa Alliance brings together Heads of State who seek to accelerate the digitalization of the continent and create a common market. Launched in 2013 by seven (7) African Heads of State, the Alliance now has 30 member countries, representing over 750 million people and over 40 Private Sector members committed to the vision and the advancement of Africa.

Other private sector members of the Smart Africa Alliance include Facebook, Intel, Orange, Ericsson, Econet, Microsoft, Inmarsat and Huawei among others.

www.fieldcloud.com

www.smartafrica.org

Box appoints former Google Cloud Executive Sebastien Marotte as President of Box EMEA

Box, Inc., the Content Cloud, has announced that Sebastien Marotte will be joining the Box Executive team as President of Box Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), effective June 7, 2021.

The appointment underscores Box’s continued commitment to the region where the Company recently announced a new office opening in Warsaw, Poland, and its recent acquisition of SignRequest, a European electronic signature company.

“Sebastien is joining at an exciting time for Box, as we’re continuing to grow our international presence and amplify the power of the Content Cloud,” said Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box. “Sebastien has comprehensive knowledge of the EMEA business landscape, and extensive experience leading in multiple markets. We’re thrilled to welcome him to lead our EMEA operations.”

Over a 30+ year career, Sebastien has held executive roles at some of the world’s highest-profile software companies including Google, Hyperion, and Oracle. He most recently led Google Cloud’s EMEA Channels as Vice President, having previously served as Vice President of Google Cloud EMEA for eight years. As an early leader at Google Cloud, Sebastien was responsible for much of the foundational growth and development across EMEA, including the launch of G Suite (now Google Workspace).

“The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change for just about every company on the planet, and the move to the cloud has never been more urgent,” said Sebastien Marotte, incoming President of Box EMEA. “As more companies realize that their businesses run on content, the demand for a secure platform for managing all of that content in the cloud will continue to grow. I strongly believe that Box has the strategy and team in place to capture this amazing opportunity, and I’m incredibly excited to join at this important part of the journey.”

Sebastien holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Business from ESLSCA Business School Paris. He also serves as a board member at Temporall.

www.box.com

Incentro Africa becomes first company in Africa to achieve Google Cloud Partner Work Transformation Specialization

Incentro Africa, an IT service provider delivering custom build software solutions for the European and African market, is leveraging its novel cloud solutions to enhance the capacity and efficiency of businesses. This, as it migrates thousands of employees into integrated suite of applications as they adapt to the new normal in the wake of disruptions occasioned by COVID 19.

As demand for solutions that embrace remote operations burgeons, Incentro Africa has been working with banks, government institutions and businesses by deploying cloud-based solutions like Google Workspace and Chromebooks and Cloud infrastructure that have bolstered security and enabled companies to cut operational costs.

To showcase its expertise, Incentro is proud to announce that it has  achieved the Google Cloud Partner “Work Transformation” Specialization, a development that gives any organisation looking to deploy collaboration solutions, the confidence that  with Incentro, they are in experienced hands and best placed to provide  services across all project work streams – such as technical implementation, change management, training and ongoing premium support.

The Google Enterprise Work Transformation Specialization is the highest level of technical achievement for a Google Workspace Partner.   The specialization indicates success deploying Google Workspace to Enterprise organizations, which includes providing services for establishing governance, technical implementation, training people, processes, and support.

Dennis de Weerd, CEO, Incentro Africa: “Being a Google Premier Partner is great, because it shows top level expertise on Google Cloud. Having a Specialization is even better, since it really proves our domain knowledge. While Google Cloud is very broad, this specialization emphasizes our expertise in guiding enterprises to a cloud-native workplace, so customers know they are catered for fully according to Google Cloud’s high standards. It embodies the investments and dedication from an experienced team.”

Customer success

At the height of the pandemic, Incentro Africa, working with the Africa Google Cloud Distributor Digicloud Africa, partnered with The Central Bank of West Africa States to roll out Google Workplace in seven days for the 1300 employees located across eight countries without interrupting service or productivity. This resulted in increasing customer and employee satisfaction with a more connected but remote workforce.

Tiéguélé A. Coulibaly,Chief Information Officer, Central Bank of West Africa States: “Google has given Central Bank of West African States employees a different way to work. Remote workers now have expanded and highly efficient ways of accessing and collaborating on the go. We’ve saved 40% on total per-user cost, reduced IT hours spent maintaining our environment, have had 60% fewer email related tickets, complied with our Industry’s data protection regulations, and on top of that we’ve had no downtime in the last 6 months.”

Kenya’s Kilifi County was among the first to record cases of COVID-19. To tame further spread the county government encouraged its staff and the public to work from home.

Partnering with Incentro Africa, the County  government introduced Google collaboration solution that enabled its workforce to collaborate efficiently irrespective of where they were working from. To ensure that the governor was in constant communication with his staff and updating the county on the steps the government were taking to manage the virus, he seamlessly leveraged the power of Google hangouts to hold virtual meetings with his cabinet, with impressive results.

Hon. Amason Kingi, Governor, County Government of Kilifi: “This enabled us to quickly make decisions and resolutions on where to set up the Isolation Centres for COVID-19 victims, brief the publicH on our Corona preparedness, and how we can join hands to curb the spread of the virus.”

African financial services provider SBM Bank Group upon its entry in Kenya in 2017 and acquiring Fidelity Bank and Chase Bank explored ways of consolidating domains into one. Collaborating with Incentro, the bank moved 950 users from Chase Bank and 160 from Fidelity Bank to SBN Bank in less than a week.

Sahil Arya, VP and Head of IT, SBM Bank of Kenya:“The G Suite experience is seamless, the ease with which the products are integrated gives our employees the power to achieve anything they needed.” .

As more companies embrace cloud computing due to its proven record in fostering business continuity during a time of crisis, Incentro Africa is looking to work with partners in addressing the future of work needs.

Gregory MacLennanCEO, Digicloud Africa: “Cloud computing is pivotal in empowering many organizations to continue operating through an unprecedented crisis that could have easily brought many to their knees. Overnight, companies had to adapt to a completely different way of working.  For many organizations, cloud technology has been vital in facilitating the shift to remote working. Without the cloud affording employees the ability to securely connect business continuity would simply not have been possible.  Cloud computing enabled companies across Africa to survive, and is now a catalyst for those same companies to thrive and innovate.”

www.incentro.com

Isuzu Motors South Africa extends SAP landscape to drive sales and customer experience

In today’s Age of the Customer, companies that can offer a consistent, positive customer experience will often outperform their less agile peers.

For one of South Africa’s motoring brands, a divestment by a global parent company sparked a digital transformation process that has helped it break down internal silos and gain a real-time view over each customer to help it deliver a consistently superior customer experience.

“We had been reliant on the systems and processes of our US-based parent company until they divested in 2017,” says Loren Meyer, Department Executive for Information Technology at Isuzu Motors South Africa. “We had to build local capabilities, and since it’s our aspiration to be a leader in the manufacture and supply of vehicles, and to exceed customer expectations, we needed a technology solution that would support our growth plans. We chose SAP technology and Dimension Data as our implementation partner, and have achieved outstanding results to date.”

Isuzu develops, produces and sells commercial vehicles, light commercial vehicles and diesel engines, of which it is the world’s largest producer, having sold more than 85 million diesel engines in the year to date. Isuzu sells vehicles in more than 120 markets and has manufacturing facilities in 30 countries.

Following General Motors’ (GM) divestment from South Africa in 2017, Isuzu was restructured, with Isuzu Japan buying out GM’s production facilities. A new company, Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSAf) was formed, which today employs 1000 people locally and boasts a network of more than 115 dealers across Africa.

“During the GM divestment in 2017, an agreement was signed to allow Isuzu Motors South Africa to utilise certain GM systems for a period of time,” says Meyer. “However, as part of our localisation we had to develop our own local systems and in-source our resources. We had been working on a locally hosted Isuzu enterprise SAP system that incorporates both the commercial vehicle and light commercial vehicle business processes, and wanted to complement this with an extended landscape that includes a unified SAP Service and Sales cloud solution.”

Previously, Isuzu’s sales team were relying on Excel spreadsheets, CRM tools, emails and portals to log, track and manage customer enquiries. This left them without a complete view over each customer and unable to accurately track the progress of the sales pipeline.

“We wanted an integrated service solution with a single point of reference to create, update and track a customer enquiry,” says Meyer. “We chose to implement SAP Service Cloud, which helped us reduce the number of systems an agent has to use to resolve a call, and enables our teams to resolve customer enquiries more quickly. The built-in analytics tool has empowered our managers to get a real-time view of each call to allow for personalisation according to each user’s preferences or role.”

The project was not without its challenges. The previous system that GM used was isolated outside of South Africa, and the local teams had little control over the data. “We consolidated all our data in an SAP master database that is applied through to the call centre,” says Meyer. “Working off our own data set that we control and can access in real time has been one of the great outcomes of this project.”

Isuzu chose the cloud solution as it forms part of the business’ longer-term hybrid cloud journey. This provides the benefit of automated upgrades and patching provided by SAP. The full integration into the existing SAP system also gives call centre agents real-time access to accurate customer data.

“From a sales point-of-view, SAP Sales Cloud has given us up-to-the-minute information about each customer as well as insights into their preferences,” explains Meyer. “We now have full visibility over private buyers as well as our direct customers, and can take a closer look at precisely who is in our system and who is interacting with the business.”

The Isuzu team were supported throughout by implementation partner Dimension Data. Natasha Govender, SAP CX Manager at Dimension Data, says the implementation has enabled Isuzu to reduce the number of legacy systems and improve the overall customer experience. “By empowering users with a 360-degree view of each customer across both the sales and service teams, Isuzu is now better placed to deliver a seamless and consistent customer experience.”

Meyer says the support from Dimension Data has been invaluable. “Having partners that understand our landscape, business challenges and pain points has been hugely beneficial, as we can collectively discuss, analyse and take action on any changes, allowing us to make more efficient decisions while minimising risk to the business.”

Enabling business continuity in ‘new normal’

While there are still further developments and innovations planned, the implementation has already produced outstanding business results.

“Our implementation coincided with the global COVID-19 outbreak and South Africa’s first lockdown, which meant our user community were required to work remotely,” says Meyer. “Call centre agents could access the SAP Cloud Service solution from their offsite working locations and seamlessly continue to provide the high levels of service and support to our valued customers.”

 Other benefits provided by the SAP Service Cloud module included:

·      The ability to effectively manage increased activity and numbers of customers showing online interest in Isuzu products and aftersales services;

·      The ability to offer financial relief options as well as introduce several service support campaigns relating to vehicle warranties, roadside assistance and other technical services;

·      The ability to route all enquiries and requests directly from the website into the Service module where each lead and service request could be recorded, qualified by a customer care agent, and sent through to the nearest or most convenient dealer.

“This proved invaluable to our national dealer network, who were able to cotact and continue to service our customers during a challenging time when normal business was regulated by the national lockdown protocols,” says Meyer. “The solution also afforded our fleet sales department the ability to continue engaging and building key relationships with. Our direct customers remotely during what is now a completely different – and very challenging – business environment.”

Meyer adds that flexible accessibility and the abilty to work off a centralised customer and product platform has greatly benefited the operational teams. “As a company we are pleased that our business operations have been able to continue uninterrupted during these extraordinary times, resulting in a strong finish to the year.”

Cameron Beveridge, Regional Director for Southern Africa at SAP, points to Isuzu’s ability to understand each customer at an individual level and in real time as a true differentiator. “In today’s Experience Economy, companies that can consistently meet and exceed individual customer expectations will outperform their less agile peers. The outstanding implementation achieved by Isuzu and their implementation partners Dimension Data will serve the business well as it looks to build on its proud legacy in South Africa and beyond.”

www.isuzu.co.za

www.sap.com