Saicom AnyCloud transforms multi-cloud management

26 June 2020, Johannesburg – In a move designed to provide organisations migrating to a multi-cloud environment with a more user-friendly and cost-effective management platform, Saicom has introduced the Saicom AnyCloud hybrid multi-cloud management portal.

Using Saicom AnyCloud, companies of all sizes across industry sectors can rapidly deploy and manage any workload irrespective of the cloud environment it is hosted in. This gives technical teams the ability to manage physical infrastructure as well as manage and deploy virtual machines, containers, and software services from a single cloud portal.

“The cloud journey started with many companies adopting a public cloud strategy. This evolved to encompass a hybrid environment providing the best of public and private cloud services. However, the past several months has seen the growth of the multi-cloud where companies can cherry-pick the best workloads for a specific business function whether that is on Google Cloud Platform, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or on any other service provider platform. But this has introduced a layer of complexity to the management environment,” says Joshua Grunewald, cloud hosting manager at Saicom.

Saicom AnyCloud replaces the plethora of tools and portals with an approach that sees teams gain complete visibility of the entire organisational cloud infrastructure from behind a single pane of glass. And because this is a local solution, companies get the full benefit of multinational cloud offerings at competitive local rates and from a service provider that understands the challenges of the South African market.

“With Saicom AnyCloud, a business can quickly spin up a virtual machine or containerised workload from any cloud environment. The portal delivers the capability of seamlessly working across any cloud. It is all about enabling developers and cloud teams to serve the needs of business more efficiently and with a higher success rate.”

This standardises the management and governance of virtually any cloud or application platform, bare metal, virtual machine, or container. Saicom AnyCloud facilitates faster self-service provisioning and even gives developers the ability to push their code through an API so that there is no need to log in to the portal.

“With Saicom AnyCloud, companies can centralise the reporting function and get the oversight needed to maximise the performance of their multi-cloud environments,” concludes Grunewald.

COVID-19 pandemic requires rethink of IT sales strategies

The lockdown many countries around the world are experiencing has changed the way IT services providers engage with their customers. Even though the long-term business impact of the coronavirus is yet to be determined, Saicom believes this will likely result in the re-emergence of the traditional break/fix fee-for-service approach of IT organisations.

Traditionally, this model is built around IT companies performing services as needed and only billing the customers for work done. The pandemic will change the way IT products and services are sold, how they are priced, how contractual terms are assessed, and what a sales strategy for the new normal will require.

Given how organisations have been driven into a virtual work environment, additional need has been created around access to video applications, faster and more reliable bandwidth, cost management, and a fundamentally different way of managing employee productivity.

And while the break/fix model holds economic appeal in these uncertain market conditions, this is the ideal time for IT organisations to evolve their sales strategies into something that is more nuanced.

There is no change management recipe or simple process that can be referenced to ease organisations into the new normal. Critically, sales teams must realise that now is not the time to cash in on opportunities. Instead, they must appreciate the customers they have and gain a better understanding of what those customers’ challenges are. Further to this, it is important to come to terms with the value of relationships instead of finding new ways to cross-sell or upsell products and services.

This requires IT services providers to work with their customers to forge a trusted client-provider relationship. Part of this entails becoming more honest, factual, and authentic in their customer engagements. Here are several ideas that can help in this regard:

Look for buyers and not people to sell too – Buyers will need to save money, consolidate, and strategise how their business will need to operate from here on out.

Re-evaluate what you can do financially and commercially – IT companies must assist clients with cost savings, elastic terms, and flexible contract durations.

Engage and connect more using social media – It is all about networking. There are buyers looking for immediate fixes, solutions, products, and ways to save money. Buyers and businesses must become more efficient and need to directly increase productivity and enhance the work from home value proposition.

Be patient – While it might seem counter-intuitive, sales teams should not stress about targets, making budget, or cashing in on commission. Instead, they must reset, re-establish, and re-evaluate their sales techniques and salesmanship.

Experiment – Salespeople should experiment with using different tools, methods, and tactics. It is all about trying something new. They really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

These are difficult times. Selling in a financially-depressed market is certainly not easy. But by changing one’s mindset and re-creating how products and services are sold, IT companies can improve the performance, productivity, and profitability of their customers. The rest will take care of itself.

As the adage states – there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.

David Cooke, Sales and Marketing Director at Saicom

Saicom completes migration to G Suite to drive productivity

Saicom Voice Services has been appointed as a Google Cloud Partner (GCP) in South Africa and has completed its own migration to G Suite that has resulted in enhanced productivity and team collaboration in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement to work from home during the lockdown in South Africa.

“Our clients continue to look for ways to collaborate online and our appointment as a Google Cloud Partner means we can assist them to bring their teams closer together in a digital world,” said Saicom Chief Technology Officer, Greg de Chasteauneuf

Since its migration to G Suite, Saicom has seen productivity increase between 20% and 30% and the ability to have multiple people collaborating on a document simultaneously, across any device, has been an efficiency game-changer. This coupled with the seamless integration into existing cloud platforms like Zendesk, Pipedrive, Monday.com and Trello has ensured a more fluid workflow.

“Our migration to Google G Suite meant we could move from working in the office, to working from home almost immediately after the lockdown was announced. Coupled with our UC-One offering, we have enabled our team to work from anywhere, seamlessly and, more importantly, securely,” de Chasteauneuf added. “And we are on standby to do the same for clients.”

Google Meet is available for free until September 2020, to clients migrating to or rolling out G Suite across their organisations.

Editor’s Question: What are the current barriers to Digital Transformation?

Security is a big issue for employers when dealing with Digital Transformation. Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Saicom, explains how there is no such thing as a 100% safe network.

Today more than ever, security can be seen as one of the biggest inhibitors of Digital Transformation because it relies on CIOs opening up their networks and relying on employees not to unwittingly expose their business to cyberthreats. In too many organisations, there is still a belief that if employees are sitting in the office behind the firewall, that they are safe from security threats.

The reality is that employees, whether in office, or working remotely, click on links that they shouldn’t; inadvertently install malware, get access to and move laterally within the networks. Today, there is no such thing as a 100% safe network.

CIOs need to work on the basis that security is no longer a point of demarcation and the perimeter firewall is dead. Applications and content can be accessed from any device, from any network.

The days of cybersecurity being available only to the elite, centralised few is rapidly diminishing. The democratisation of cybersecurity is happening and security is rapidly moving to the Edge device, branch and application itself.

What this means is that CIOs need to embrace the changes and realise that security can no longer remain a hurdle to Digital Transformation.

We believe that security needs to be embedded into every single thing that businesses do. Not just in one layer but in multiple layers and in every single application. Ensuring that business applications check the right boxes are paramount and non-negotiable. Simple considerations like end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA), trust tiers and having a clear view of who owns which machine in the network are key.

Most modern SaaS applications today address these security concerns. It is however antiquated applications that still require users to “Remote VPN” into head office or a data centre.

CIOs need to be taking a serious look at how they move away from remote VPN access for employees and other third parties. They need to adopt a zero-trust, perimeter-less model.

Who is to say that a remote user’s machine won’t be compromised. And when it does, the bad actor has access back to the mothership.

Saicom Receives Global Routing Certification

30 October 2019, Johannesburg – Local service provider, Saicom has become one of only five ISPs in South Africa to become MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security) compliant, and in so doing, assuring its clients that the internet is a more secure place.

The Internet’s routing information is exchanged between network operators (also known as autonomous systems or AS’) using a routing protocol initially designed in the 80’s,  the BGP routing protocol is to a large degree a robust reliable protocol, however, it is often the poor implementation of this protocol by network operators which leads to outages and security breaches worldwide.  Not a day goes by without incidents affecting the Internet routing system.

Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) is a global initiative supported by the Internet Society that aims to reduce some of the most common routing threats associated.

Says Greg de Chasteauneuf, CTO at Saicom, “our commitment to providing world class services and solutions includes finding ways to comply with the global standards.  This certification adds a layer of routing security and stability to our Internet solutions set.”

As part of the compliance to MANRS standards, Saicom has implemented filtering, co-ordination and global validation measures that will not only prevent the propagation of incorrect routing information; facilitate global operational communication and co-ordination between network operators, but also facilitate validation of routing information on a global scale.

“Even accidental routing errors, can have far-reaching impact,” adds de Chasteauneuf, “like in June this year, when a small company in Northern Pennsylvania became the preferred path for one of the world’s largest network operators Verizon (AS701).  This is like routing an eight lane highway of cars down a small dirt road in Zeerust. The Internet came to a grinding halt.”

While this example was accidental in nature, of more serious concern is that of sovereign nations who are intentionally hijacking parts of the Internet for surveillance purposes, and have been suspected of doing so, for several years.

‘China’s Maxim – Leave No Access Point Unexploited: The Hidden Story of China Telecom’s BGP Hijacking‘, by Chris C. Demchak (US Naval War College) and Yuval Shavitt (Tel Aviv University), say they analysed data from a special route-tracing system hosted at the University of Tel Aviv that is capable of detecting unusual patterns of BGP ‘announcements’.

During the state visit on September 24-25, 2015, President Xi Jinping of China and President Barack Obama reached a Cyber Agreement.  Known as the voluntary Xi-Obama Cyber agreement, its intention was to stop military forces from hacking commercial enterprises for economic gain.  The paper by Demchak and Shavitt show that whilst technically still adhering to the agreement, China has been seen quietly redirecting (or hijacking) parts of the internet through its numerous strategically placed, Chinese controlled internet ‘points of presence’ (PoPs) across the internet backbone of North America. 

The implementation of the MANRS Actions is geared towards improving both routing security and operational efficiency amongst network operators and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and send a security-forward approach, and value added service to clients.

By looking for MANRS-compliant infrastructure partners, enterprises get increased security and service reliability, at the same time, eliminating common outages and/ or attacks.

Concludes de Chasteaueuf, “It is no longer a case of if, but when route safety will be compromised and it occurs almost daily. Route hijacking, route leaks, IP address spoofing, and other harmful activities can lead to DDoS attacks, traffic inspection, lost revenue, reputational damage, and more. These incidents are global in scale, with one operator’s routing problems cascading to impact others.

By working alongside MANRS and its partners and affiliates, we believe we are a step closer to curbing the severity of the attacks and giving our clients another layer of defence.” 

Building A Data-Driven Business

If data is the new oil, then grab yourself some cans before things get messy.

The most successful organisations understand the potential of their  as a competitive lever to gain insights into their customers. “However, any effective data management plan must be founded on an acknowledgement that data types have different needs for , storage, and management, even as priorities around data usage change quickly,” says Rupert Brazier, country manager, Pure Storage.

According to Kate Mollett, regional manager for Africa, Veeam, the challenge for organisations is creating an integrated data management strategy that consolidates disparate  services, automates the movement of data across multiple workloads when and where it’s needed, and ensures the right data is available to the right decision-makers to add business value.

“We often find that people in charge of managing data sit in the security team where they’re responsible for data access, security and governance, or they sit in an infrastructure role where they’re responsible for data storage, backup and archiving. There seems to be a grey area in terms of who the ‘landlord’ of data should be. There’s also a third stakeholder to keep in mind, the people mining the data who sit in sales, marketing and even HR. The challenge currently is that everyone is operating in a silo and none of these roles form part of the same team.”

She says many local companies are using the cloud to automate processes. “However, for this to work effectively, data must evolve from policy-based to behaviour-based. Data must have built-in ML and AI to keep getting smarter about the best actions to take in any given situation. Automation improves the responsiveness, security and business value of data while reducing the cost and time that staff spend on manually managing and storing data, empowering the IT team to focus on getting real insights from their data and adding value to the business.”

Tailored to fit

“It’s important to think about what your business needs from a data management plan and take into account when and how data is backed up and stored, how often, and how it is then accessed or managed once backed up,” says Joshua Grunewald, cloud hosting manager at Saicom. “Businesses need to consider how they use their data, how quickly they want to be able to restore data and how long and how far back they keep data. The plan should be a blueprint for the organisation – data management should never be seen as an insurance policy in the event of data loss or corruption, but as an opportunity to test, run reports and do integrity checks in an isolated environment. The plan also needs to make provision for storing multiple copies of data. The risk of a single copy is that if it’s compromised, there’s no backup available.”

 

“Data management should never just be seen as an insurance policy in the event of data loss or corruption, but as an opportunity to test, run reports and do integrity checks in isolated environments.” – Joshua Grunewald

 

Brazier adds that a properly executed data management plan must be built on a modern IT environment, consisting of data strategies based on flexible consumption models across on-premises, hosted, and public cloud, aligning application workloads with the most effective infrastructure. “Most importantly, a modern IT environment should work harmoniously with a common management interface, 100% non-disruptive architecture and proactive and predictive support services. It must also address today’s need for backup and recovery.”

However, the ‘big data’ trend has had a significant impact on data management. According to Mollett, the explosion of big data makes traditional backup and recovery inadequate. “Data availability is something that has become a business necessity. Companies can ill afford not to have access to data, especially when customers expect products and services to be available to them around the clock. To meet the challenges of this complex environment, businesses need a new approach to data management. Good data management practices need to ensure that data remains accessible and secure no matter the device being used to access it,” she says.

“I think the two biggest points here are that big data has created a much bigger need for finding more effective ways of doing data deduplication and compression because we’re storing so much of it,” adds Grunewald. “That technology has to stay ahead of the game and keep improving – otherwise you’re consuming more and more disk. And while it’s getting cheaper, it’s not endless or free, and moving things into the hyperscalers only works to a point. It’s important to do deduplication, but once you restore from it, it can be slow, so ensure that the hardware you’re using is purpose-built and can restore at speeds that match your business requirements. The second and biggest point is now that we are collecting so much data, what are we doing with it? How are we using it to make better decisions and how can we apply business intelligence to the sheer volume of data available.”

Dark data

This brings us to dark data. “With the exponential increase in data volumes, it’s predicted that by 2020, every human will generate 1.7MB of data per second,” says Brazier. “Despite the growing recognition of data’s importance, only 0.5% is analysed and used. The remaining data, known as ‘dark’ or ‘cold’ data, is a big issue for companies.”

Rezelde Botha, business unit manager at Axiz, says this dark data represents a massive, untapped opportunity, as well as a major threat. “This data must be classified, managed and analysed appropriately to gain business insights and identify any data that might be putting the business at risk. If this doesn’t happen, they can’t use this data to gain a competitive advantage, and have little hope of remaining compliant in an increasingly harsh regulatory environment.”

Botha cites a recent report by Veritas, which showed that mobile and public cloud environments are two of the weakest chinks in a business’ information security armour, as the majority of data within these environments remains unclassified. “A large part of the problem could arise from the inability to assign responsibility for this data. The report revealed that a staggering 69% of global companies believe that data privacy and protection are their cloud service providers’ responsibility. This isn’t the case. Most contracts with cloud providers put the responsibility of data management squarely in the hands of the business. The problem isn’t helped by the fact that modern workforces are becoming increasingly mobile, and data increasingly distributed. Strengthening data security is key, as is gaining data visibility and control. You can’t protect what you don’t know you have, or what you can’t see.”

 

“You can’t protect what you don’t know you have, or what you can’t see.” – Rezelde Botha.

 

Botha says if dark data is giving bad actors a doorway through which to compromise the network, businesses could find themselves in hot water. “The better the business understands its data, the better chance it has of lowering its risks. Given the flood of data drowning enterprises today, there’s no way that billions of files can be manually checked and classified. Luckily, there are good data management tools that employ intelligent algorithms, machine learning, and advanced policies to do this for you.”

Brazier says implementing a modern infrastructure and utilising today’s leading-edge technologies such as hybrid cloud, flash and NVMe can ensure that hot and cold categories are eliminated and all data can be considered hot.

Balancing on-prem and cloud

But while hybrid environments can help get a grip on dark data, to ensure effective data management across a hybrid environment, a lot of work is needed, says Brazier. “Businesses need to make strategic decisions about which cloud environment to leverage based on the type of data they’re dealing with, and the applications making use of that data. For example, if you have a mission-critical application that runs consistently every day, an on-premise configuration is best. It’s less expensive than running these kinds of apps in the cloud. On the other hand, workloads that typically spin up or down with some frequency, and that require lots of distributed compute, may be better suited for the public cloud, where they can take advantage of the economies of scale. In short, effectively managing a hybrid environment is all about leveraging the right cloud for the right use case.”

For Grunewald, when it comes to hybrid environments, establishing a good framework to ensure that the data lives where it needs to is key to accessing data when it’s needed as quickly and seamlessly as possible. “Data required for long-term retention doesn’t need to live on-premise, because it’s accessed far less often. If you’re going to have a hybrid environment, only keep close what you need frequent access to, everything else can live in centralised environments in the cloud.”

Sean Hurwitz, BU lead: Insights at Trackmatic, says: “Hybrid data management is a mantra for a successful digital organisation. The strategy isn’t to move to a total, single environment, but to end up with a hybrid architecture and, possibly, multiple services and solution providers. Organisations need to move from CAPEX step changes to software, computing, storage, and resourcing on an elastic model. They also need to manage the explosion of data with increased governance while ensuring appropriate levels of data security and privacy. The future architecture of the digital organisation rests on a multi-cloud, hybrid DevOps platform underpinned by connected and trusted data. Hybrid environments try to compromise on the ownership of data versus the high costs to maintain the infrastructure. Companies opt to store less sensitive data in the cloud, while maintaining internal servers for critical data. To produce good analytics, centralisation of the disparate sources should be initiated and even a central reporting database be made, parallel to production servers, so data in any environment can be stored in a central location and managed from there.”

The future

So what can we expect from data management in the next five years? Hurwitz believes there will be a huge focus on data ingestion and storage. “The impact on structured data ingested is the loss of the associated metadata and data lineage, combined with a reduction in data quality, and lifecycle management for the data being ingested. In addition, the next-generation data platform needs to have the ability to ingest and govern data at speed, supported by a bimodal IT application/product development model.”

Research suggests 80% of worldwide data will be unstructured by 2025. For many large companies, it’s reached that critical mass already. Unstructured data creates a unique challenge for organisations wishing to use their information for analysis.

 

“Deploying the right software can have the same effect as employing a team of highly skilled IT professionals.” – Rupert Brazier

 

Brazier believes that in the next five years, we’ll see more AI and a greater degree of autonomous management of data through cloud-based software. “As we continue to generate more data, the importance of software can’t be overstated. According to Gartner, 2019 should see worldwide spending on enterprise software reach $439 billion, an increase of 8.3% from 2018. Cloud-based management software that monitors data storage and the underlying infrastructure is the key to taking infrastructure to the next level, building in automation that saves time and money, speeding up innovation and insight for the benefit of the organisation and end-user. This also allows companies to access their data from anywhere, with 24/7 predictive support that can autonomously find and fix issues before you’re even aware of them. Also, due to the nature of SaaS, upon every login, you will automatically be using the newest version of the software to benefit from the latest features and improvements. Given these benefits, it’s not an exaggeration to say that deploying the right software can have the same effect as employing a team of highly skilled IT professionals.”

Data management is not only an imperative, but an end-all since data will be the driving currency of future businesses as to how they shape their growing needs and products. “All industries will benefit from the universal skills of data management and analytics because all industries will just be creating more data,” concludes Hurwitz.

Saicom adds Data Management solution to stack

2 September 2019, Johannesburg – Saicom has added a data management solution to its evolving product stack, driven it says, by customer demand for world class services that are customisable to local business requirements and realities.

“Our clients have come to rely on us for customisable solutions that deliver best-of-breed capabilities, and our data management solution is no different.  We bring a customer-first, consultative engagement approach to our data management offering that goes beyond just back-up,” says Josh Grunewald, cloud hosting manager at Saicom.

The company believes that while data backup is a critical business requirement, it is only as good as the last restore, and that the key to successful data management, is understanding what you can do with your business data.

Says Grunewald, “we wanted to make sure that our clients are clear on how their data can be used to make their businesses better through testing in non-production environments; mitigate risks by eliminating ransomware in backed up data and using that to restore production environments.”

Grunewald adds that before embarking on data management Saicom works with clients to develop a plan that addresses issues like when and how data is backed up, how often it is accessed and managed once backed up, how they are planning on using their data, and most importantly, how quickly they want or need to be able to restore data.

“The plan should be a blueprint for the organisation and should not be seen as just an insurance policy in the event of data loss or corruption, but as an opportunity to test, run reports and do integrity checks in isolated environments,” adds Grunewald.

Saicom data management is built on Veeam Software capabilities, and is backed by highly skilled technical support services and data management engineers.

Concludes Grunewald, “we want to ensure our clients get the most out of the services and solutions they partner with us for, and we believe that differentiates us from many of the larger providers.  We are here to help!”

Saicom bolsters voice services offering with intelligent virtual agent solution

18 June 2019, Johannesburg – Saicom has launched an intelligent virtual agent offering to automate common interactions between its clients and their customers. Developed by Inference Solutions and integrated across its Cisco Broadworks platform, the virtual agent platform allows Saicom to couple services with its Cloud PBX that are not natively provided or usually expected from a cloud-hosted PBX.

“Automation, especially on repetitive tasks, is becoming a business requirement, and the integration of Inference Intelligent Virtual Agents on our platform means we can assist our clients to redeploy live agents elsewhere in the customer service cycle,” says Charl van Vollenhoven, Infrastructure Manager at Saicom.

Available to all Saicom clients, the Inference Solutions integration currently leverages Text to Speech (TTS); Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities, all geared towards making it easier for businesses and their customers to interact with the system. Furthermore, Inference Studio makes it easier to add services without having to go through subsequent development cycles.

“We’re pleased that Saicom chose to build its intelligent virtual agent capabilities on the Inference IVA platform,” says Callan Schebella, CEO at Inference Solutions. “Saicom can now offer its business customers a ready-made virtual agent solution to automate common interactions, with a drag-and-drop workflow that enables them to further customise their customers’ IVA capabilities without the need for additional development resources.”

Biometric capabilities enable customers to authenticate users without requiring a passcode, or asking multiple security questions.

“In addition to the interaction capabilities, the ability to run outbound campaigns enables notifications and reminders to be sent to a customer base. For example, using outbound campaigns Virtual Agents could notify customers of a network outage, as well as capture their response to the notification and/ or transfer them to another agent (virtual or live) based on their response,” adds van Vollenhoven

Saicom selected the Inference Virtual Agent solution because it is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant and as such are able to collect sensitive customer data without revealing any information to human agents.

Concludes van Vollenhoven, “we are all about finding a better way to help our customers automate parts of the business, which in turn drive cost and resource efficiency and ultimately deliver client service excellence. If we can do this through the technologies that we integrate onto our platform, then we believe we have delivered a success trifecta.”

The synergies of sales and cycling – the will to win and the currency of consistency

Having recently competed in, and won the veterans category of the Sani2C and the 167 km Race to the Sun adventure mountain bike race, I came to the conclusion that sales, like cycling, has a fair amount of science behind it.

Successful sales, like cycling, starts with preparation.

The good old days of selling where you just pick up the phone are almost extinct and in most industries, a non-starter. Today, you need to know your customer – understand their current supplier; their pain points and requirements. It is about asking the right questions and understanding if there is an opportunity to sell, or not.

Cold calling, or shotgun selling has its place in the sales mix but needs to be dovetailed with a rifle approach. This is a cherry-picked vertical or horizontal approach and matches products and services to industries and businesses. Not dissimilar to picking races – having an A and B race, and having clarity on who is competing and how best to tackle the course.

Sales people, like cyclists become creatures of habit – and not in a bad way. Consistency is critical. Just like you can’t stop training or competing, sales teams cannot stop calling, or having meetings or engaging with clients or importantly, not use the tools at their disposal. If you are consistent, the one out of ten ratio will yield leads; it will become a sale and it will mean a race win.

The currency of successful sales (and winning races) is consistency.

Any successful cyclist will tell you that success is about using the right tools. For riders, this is the right bike, the right tyres, suspension setup and nutrition (amongst others) and for successful sales teams, this is everything from effective lead generation to CRM; white space planning and incentives, it is about identifying the right commission structures.

I remember when I started racing, it used to be a case of packing five bags before a big race to account for EVERY eventuality – today, it is a single bag, packed with the essentials, and knowing a work around or a make-do situation may be required. The same applies to sales. Organisations will give you access to a range of tools that are geared towards success – and you might need to think on your feet, to make the most of these.

From an ‘in race’ perspective, there is the same type of will to win and that is how you push yourself as hard as you can to make it to the finish line. It is the same in sales – ask yourself what it will take to close a sale, to win over a client. Is it pricing; the proposal; solution or technology? How and when do we push and when do we back off? In racing terms, it is a case of when do we sit up on the bike and say, today is not my day.

Cyclists talk about cadence all the time. Cadence is in cycling terms, the rate at which a cyclist pedals (or pedal revolutions per minute) and it can quite easily be applied to sales. It is about repetition, building a rhythm, momentum and speed. In sales terms, cadence talks to using all the tools at hand, often and consistently. And this cadence effect means deals start closing quicker; the sales pipeline remains optimal and the sales team works in sync with the business and its customers.

When the cadence is off, or the sales team can’t find its rhythm, it might mean the business is looking in the wrong places for sales, or not generating the right types of leads for success. We call it wrong gearing. And you if you leave it for too long, it is that much harder to find the cadence again.

It is imperative at this point, to do a mental reset. You don’t win all the deals (or races); you can’t win them all. By taking a step back and evaluating the sales cycle; the leads and the processes, the team can learn critical lessons for future success. It is always important to have clarity on which parts of the process you can control – and have you done the utmost to maximise those.

Successful sales, like cycling takes endurance, persistence and an ability to reset the parameters of what it takes to succeed.

American cyclist Steve Larsen said it best – “you can’t get good by staying home. If you want to get fast, you have to go where the fast guys are!”

Post written by
David Cooke,
Sales Director at Saicom

Architects of the future required – apply within

Whether the market (or country) is ready for it or not, the fourth industrial revolution is here and the pace at which technology is moving is astonishing. And according to Greg de Chasteauneuf, chief technology officer (CTO) for Saicom, software developers are the architects of the future.

But why does that matter to South African businesses?

According to Ekanekt Recruitment, the most high-in-demand skill and one of the most difficult to secure is software developers. And the increase in skilled resources leaving the country, especially in the 25 – 35 year age group, is contributing to the scarcity of the skills.

The software developer brain drain can be likened to the exodus of doctors, teachers and accountants. Unlike these professionals, developers have easily transportable skills, with no bridging qualifications or entrance exams required to work.

For companies that know that in order to scale up, they need to automate, and in order to automate, they need developers, this presents a catch-22. One could say that you can match salaries in Euros or dollars and let the developers do what they do, from abroad. But, local businesses transact in Rands, and it becomes unsustainable.

Some businesses forego the developers and the automation and hire more people to continue with manual processes. For the short term, this is perceived as a good thing, because employment is being created, but it doesn´t offer the scale a business may need which inevitably means it cannot be sustained.

The flipside, is that many organisations, ours included, go the outsourcing route to alleviate immediate business pressures and enable some scalability through automation.

What we gain in expertise and skills, we lose in fluidity and on-the-fly creativity and innovation. Water cooler discussions and impromptu whiteboard brainstorms are replaced by scheduled meetings and project managed interactions.

You just cannot schedule innovation.

Businesses that want to cultivate an in-house development ecosystem, just don´t have access or the means to find, attract and retain the right skills. Instead, businesses try to bootstrap it by hiring one developer, who does as much as possible and when he/ she is at capacity, the hiring cycle starts again. The downside, is that younger developers will look for senior skills and expertise to learn and grow, and when they can’t find that, they look to move organisations, or consider emigrating.

Aside from the reality of emigration and the challenge of a workforce that continues to move for growth and opportunities, there is a need to build a deep, broad skills pool for the future. And despite the initiatives that are in play and being rolled out, training the next generation of developers is tough.

Lynsey Chutel, in an article for Quartz Magazine said it best: ¨while many talented programmers are trained by South Africa´s globally competitive universities, the gaps in South Africa´s public education system means so many potential geniuses may never get to code a single line.¨

Industry and government has to find a way to retain critical skills in country – it is not just about creating a digital economy, it is also about enabling the kind of innovation that put South Africa on the map historically.

For now, businesses are grappling with ways in which to maximise the skills that are locally available, retain them and cultivate an ecosystem that will enable the true power of the fourth industrial revolution.


Written by
Greg de Chasteauneuf
Chief technology officer (CTO) at Saicom

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