Tanya Long Argility embraces Industry 4.0 tech

POPIA: Be sure to exercise an abundance of caution

It’s a long road to POPIA compliance and while the finish line is in sight, only one attitude will ensure your business crosses the line with confidence.

By Tanya Long, chief operating officer, Argility Technology Group.

With the deadline for the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) coming into effect in a matter of weeks, companies are driving towards compliance and have been hard at work to prepare for this − in most cases for years.

At the Argility Technology Group, we embarked on the compliance programme many years ago, which has left us in a confident position that our company has always taken protection of personal information seriously, and that the process would not turn out to be an onerous one.

The sheer volume of work required is, of course, still daunting in terms of the man hours necessary to get to the finish line.

Having appointed our CEO as the chief information officer who takes full responsibility for our compliance, we set out three years ago to strategically and methodically embed compliance across the organisation.

With the support of a team of 15 people and every department across the organisation committed to the management of their own compliance processes, the challenge of documenting every process and running gap analyses, educating staff and collating reports has usurped hundreds of man hours since we began the process in 2018.

When compounded with the normal commitments of running the business and meeting all strategic targets, this has been challenging, to say the least.

This process, while daunting when trying to articulate the Act and tie together the various components, has been a good one. In many instances, it was a matter of clarifying what is required and seeing it is already in place. The process also helps to identify gaps − going forward it unquestionably adds another level of governance and trust, both internally and for our customers.

Compliance demands a change in behaviour wherever a business works with data.

My advice to all businesses on the POPIA journey − and we are all in it up to our necks − is to exercise an abundance of caution, meticulously follow all the paths I have outlined in the foregoing and then commission consultants to verify you have not only done enough, but have done it correctly. This latter is more likely to produce a peaceful night’s sleep without POPIA nightmares breaking through.

Across the South African market, we encounter many large enterprises that − like us − have been on a compliance journey for years, but for many, the work performed to date will not be enough to meet the deadline.

Flurry of comms in run-up to the deadline

We are now seeing signs that the challenge isn’t over: many companies are already sending out their letters requiring confirmation of POPIA compliance, and this is set to become a flurry of mails between business networks across the country over the next couple of months.

Responding to these and attending to risk ratings for every department and every process will become increasingly time-consuming and is not to be taken lightly. We are all in the same boat, and of course, we are also sending out our mails to third-party suppliers and recording responses.

As with every business in the country, we must evaluate these responses in terms of risk ratings and compliance − the POPIA buck does not stop with your business but also applies to all your business associations. So, there will be questions that surface around responsibility and accountability for commercial implications, data on shared infrastructures and in transit via third-parties external to the entire environment, to name a few.

Third-party operators and vendors that process personal information must, in terms of POPIA, provide assurances of the necessary security and compliance measures, but we are all possibly set to encounter grey areas, such as when a customer processes data using a system built by a vendor, particularly if the agreement is a subscription model. If the data belongs to the customer, and is processed under the authority of the customer, should the developer of the system have any accountability?

Questions such as these will spark debate. In business today, there are many overlaps and ripple effects, and where one system impacts or integrates with another, the responsibility for managing and securing the data is not always clear.

Any company in the position of providing services to businesses is a data operator, but they are also a data processor within their internal structures and processes, raising a potential need to negotiate the impact of compliance and shared risk models. All organisations in this position will need to address the question of how to ensure third-parties they engage with remain compliant.

This is an ongoing process and will not end with the July deadline. Compliance demands a change in behaviour wherever a business works with data. It requires ongoing control and maintenance, with governance committees meeting regularly to assess and review measures. Compliance must become a part of your processes − across every department, partner, supplier and individual involved.

Indeed, it is already a culture at our organisation, and I feel this is how all companies must approach this daunting task.

Source: IT WEB

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Digital Fluency ATG

Google Workspace in ATG: An African Journey to Digital Fluency

By Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” this statement resonates across different facets of life and business alike. They often say that the white water of change is the only constant and the ability to adapt seamlessly is a testament to good leadership, regardless of industry or vocation.

With the world of work turned upside down, it has become even more critical for organisations to implement systems allowing collaboration with heightened security.  A few years ago, the Argility Technology Group (ATG) adopted Google Workspace (originally called G Suite) and the Google Cloud Platform. This decision was undertaken to ensure that ATG as a whole adopted digital technology in a progressive manner to achieve digital fluency over time.

What is Digital Fluency?

Digital Fluency is the ability to achieve certain outcomes, by leveraging the appropriate digital tools. The ability to nurture this is essential for any organisation looking to adopt agile internal operations.

With the Covid lockdown impact, the transition to working from anywhere for the ATG teams was seamless, and in hindsight moving to Google Workspace was one of the best operational decisions we made.

As we progressed with the implementation of Google Cloud, the benefits for our customers were a compelling reason for our development teams to embrace the Google tools available. We are pleased to announce that we have achieved Google Cloud Build Partner status. Argility is one of a handful of companies in South Africa to have been awarded this expert status.

Why ATG recommends using Google Cloud and Google Workspace within your business for managed services

Google Workspace was rated as the #1 most popular app among users on their Net Promoter Scores, outshining Microsoft Office 365.

Google Workspace transforms business because it is user friendly, easy to adapt to and simple to use. Real-time collaboration is powerful and effortless making the cloud benefits stand out and become a necessity.

The linked applications such as Gmail, doc(ument)s drive, calendar and other applications allows one to make work processes more cost-efficient and productive.
The use of Google Workspace is becoming increasingly popular. New companies are adopting Google Workspace at an overwhelming rate.

Team emails and accounts are managed by the organization allowing for greater control and when an employee leaves, removes the common pain point of uninterrupted access to information and emails.

Document Sharing

Online collaboration is key for businesses today and having a team drive is the way to go. Security access levels allows how files can be used, edited and viewed, ensuring that the right information is available to the right people at the right time, from anywhere.
Real-time editing and viewing of documents is an absolute pleasure for collaboration, plus the simple sharing function which gives complete control of whom can see and edit documents.

Increased file storage

Massive amounts of data can be stored in the google cloud drive allowing for full collaboration on all document types. Get up to 30GB cloud storage per user on the basic plan and tiered cloud storage on the business or enterprise licenses.

Multiple email alias’s and domains

All lead to the same email accounts

Single sign-on

Google Workspace allows for single sign-on for other cloud-based applications as well i.e. DocuSign

Seamless experience to all devices

All files are synchronized across all your devices (Microsoft, Mac or Android) – Desktop, table or mobile. Allowing for improved connectivity and responsiveness

Added security

With a 2-step verification process, user information is secured across devices and applications, securing data and information in the cloud. POPIA compliance is automatically catered for.

Have your own domain name

This is ideal for building your brand and identity. Previously always an additional investment which was required and sometimes out of pocket for smaller organisations.

Google meet and hangouts

Powerful tools for video conferencing and chats. A useful feature is having a VC diary dashboard, all meetings show on your screen without having to remember codes and search for diary entries.

Tools with Google Workspace

Automatically when using Google Workspace you have access to:

  • Gmail
  • Calendar
  • Docs (Word conversion)
  • Sheets (Excel conversion)
  • Slides (Powerpoint conversion)
  • Drive (for storage and collaboration)
  • Google Meet (for video conferencing)
  • Google Hangouts for chats (text and video)
  • Google Forms (a survey tool)

When using Google Workspace you can get rid of Dropbox / Office 365 / Onedrive / Evernote / Confluence to name a few….
A huge plus is real-time collaboration on the Docs/Sheets/Slides functions, with the added advantage of easy conversion to and from Microsoft formats if needed.

Migration across from existing mail, contacts and calendars is done easily allowing for a quick rollover time.

Are you looking for a way for your organisation to work and operate seamlessly? Then you should seriously consider contacting us to know more about Google Workspace and Google Cloud. Allow your business today to focus on what you do best, your business and let us handle the rest.

More Google case studies on Google Workspace 


For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

Brief Bio: Tanya Long – Chief Operating Officer, Argility Technology Group

Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya has 30 years of industry experience and is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Argility Technology Group.

Tanya’s career in the IT sector started in 1988 in IT Support for Point of Sale solutions. She moved formally into software development with UCS/Argility in 1989 as a developer and progressed through to team leader; account management; project, and development management roles.

Tanya is an internationally Certified Consciousness Coach, Enneagram Practitioner, and leadership speaker and facilitator.  She is considered a specialist in the fields of culture and engagement and often presents at conferences on the topic of engagement, leadership and coaching.  Her strengths lie in her exceptional people management abilities and dedication to precision and execution.

In 2017, Tanya was appointed Human Capital Executive at Argility where she reunited her Retail, IT, Leadership, HR and coaching knowledge to drive her zeal for transformation.  In her capacity as COO, she heads up the Sales and Marketing and HR teams whilst driving performance and processes within the group.

Tanya’s vision is to ensure that the Argility Technology Group is filled with engaged, skilled and innovative individuals delivering outstanding customer-centric solutions.

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Marko Salic, CEO ATG

South African ATG goes all-in with Google Cloud and reaps the benefits

Data is one of the most strategic assets a business has. Each customer sale, supplier transaction and product review provides the enterprise with information to learn from. Until recently, companies have focused on how to store and manage this data. Today, however, advances in technology allow coherent, strategic insights to be extracted from this deep and detailed data. For businesses, this means the discovery of patterns which enables them to make predictions about the future.

The Argility Technology Group (ATG) is a fast-growing, South African enterprise software company that is capitalising on this opportunity. It has built an impressive portfolio of six standalone tech businesses, all with different specialities in this emerging field. Through the use of data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, ATG is gaining a reputation as a disruptor in the retail and supply chain sectors. Its intelligent software solutions help its customers predict buyer behaviours, digitise processes and improve efficiencies, ultimately providing an edge over their competitors.

ATG’s history traces back over 30 years to retail software, and this deep sector expertise helps to account for its notable customer list, including Shoprite, Furnmart and Woolworths. Equally impressive is the sheer number of ATG’s long-standing, blue-chip customers ranging from Absa/Barclays to Anglo American and Bidvest.

The ambitious company is focused on continuing to grow by exploring new industry sectors and expanding further into Africa and beyond.

Breathing new life into old approaches to IT

As ATG’s business expanded, its two existing data centres started to struggle with the increased demands. Marko Salic, CEO at ATG, explains: “In addition to supporting more companies, the very nature of our data and compute-intense software solutions meant that a different approach to infrastructure was needed. We needed on-demand scalability that could keep up with our fast-expanding storage and computing needs.”

In running two local data centres, the ATG team dealt daily with issues such as insufficient capacity, failing hardware and inadequate power and cooling. The team travelled between the two data centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg, manually fixing problems on-site. They had to be available 24/7 and, with the added pressures of load shedding and cables being stolen, it was becoming unsustainable.

Japie Saunders, ICT Manager at ATG, elaborates: “There were a million complex intricacies involved in managing the two data centres – temperature monitoring, redundant power supply, generators, access control, service contracts, multiple vendors, backups and endless line items that needed to be checked and allocated.”

It was at this point that the ATG team felt they had crossed the cost to benefit ratio of running their own data centres.

Surprisingly painless migration to Google Cloud

ATG opted to stop running its own data centres and instead move its entire infrastructure to the public cloud. Google seemed a natural fit as it offers some of the best AI and machine learning tools for developers and data scientists.

After evaluating all the leading platforms on pricing, performance, scalability and security, the decision to move to Google Cloud was validated. Working with one of Google’s Premier Cloud Partners, Siatik, ATG set about migrating its hundreds of applications and data. Within 18 months, 90% of its estate was transitioned with no interruption to ATG’s customers. ATG expects to have completed the migration by the end of 2021.

Reaping the benefits: Less costs, more uptime and more innovation

The impact on ATG has been huge. Moving to Google Cloud has halved the cost of running IT, while greatly simplifying administration and management. The relief from Saunders is unmistakable: “I no longer have to worry about the backups, Google Cloud handles it,” he enthuses. “And as a team, we’re adding much more value to the business. We’re focused on customer support and developing new features instead of doing maintenance in the data centres. We can now do our work effectively from home and have been able to do so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For ATG, Google Cloud has been much more than just a cost reduction exercise or a way to improve uptimes. Google Cloud has been pivotal to enabling true organic organisational innovation at the group level.

For instance, ATG’s latest solution, PredictRetail, empowers retailers to anticipate shifts in customer behaviours and sales trends by using machine learning, data science and predictive modelling. The application was built on Google Cloud and uses a variety of its services like BigQuery, Cloud AI, machine learning engine and data flow. And as a native Google application, it can scale to any size of data sets or processing workload.

ATG has developed complementary solutions – PredictCustomer and PredictInventory – which are also cloud-native and all three comprise the PredictIT suite. They will soon be available in the Google Cloud Marketplace, speaking to the ecosystem of value that Google Cloud has created by allowing ATG to take their exciting solutions to a broader market.

Holistically, the shift to Google Cloud has helped the company respond to COVID-19 and simultaneously create new efficiencies. Salic elaborates: “The adoption of Google Workspace was key in transitioning employees to a ‘work from anywhere’ approach. The enhanced flexibility has been good for productivity and morale and we think a hybrid working model is the future. Knowing that we’re not going to fully return to the office any time soon, we’ve accelerated some of our internal projects like moving our ERP and payroll systems to the cloud. These systems run better now, take less time to use and free up our employees to do higher value tasks.”

The shared goal to innovate for Africa

After a successful 18 months, ATG is committed to exploring further possibilities with Google Cloud. “Cloud is the future and Google Cloud is our preferred platform,” says Salic. “We’ll keep upgrading our apps by integrating more cloud-native services like Google’s vision API, voice API, Kubernetes and so on. All our SaaS products will be hosted on Google and, where customers have the option to modernise their solution architecture, we’re recommending they embrace Google’s Cloud products. It makes scalability easy, minimises their risks and removes the significant outlays on hardware. We will always use Google Cloud unless there is a very good reason not to or there is a customer constraint.”

The easy collaboration with the partner Siatik, as well as Digicloud Africa, Google’s enablement partner in Africa, is highly valued by ATG. “We all share the imagination to see Africa’s unmet needs as opportunities, and to use these challenges to spur innovation. At ATG, we are proud to have a portfolio of African businesses which are developing solutions for the African market, and that are collaborating with African partners,” says Salic as he wraps up. “It would be the icing on the cake if Google opened an African data centre – that would drive more adoption of GCP which would be good for everyone.”

Source: IT Web

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Richard Knight CFO Podcast

All systems go with Richard Knight, CFO Argility

COVID-19 disrupted many companies on their digital transformation journey. Only to find out that they hadn’t really implemented a digital strategy that allowed their staff and operations to operate through turbulent times. Even the most flexible and resilient operations proved to be only as strong as the weakest links of their value chain. As we start 2021 off, many companies will have invested or are planning on investing in technology to speed up their digital journey in order to remain relevant, accommodate a hybrid of remote working and adjust their supply chain operations to changes in buying patterns. Financial leaders have had to ensure cash flow forecasts are robust and able to adjust for future unknown pressures to enable business to operate more efficiently in the future without jeopardising the liquidity position of the business.

It has been stated by multiple experts that Covid-19 accelerated the need for digital transformation by an estimated three or four years. At the forefront of this rapid transformation has been the move from clunky capital-intensive investment into private on premise data storage to pure cloud computing. Making use of economies of scale through efficient and effective offerings from the mega global cloud platform service providers. Business is now able to scale data storage and processing power at the click of a mouse once on cloud computing services. This is a game changer and a must for businesses that want to remain relevant in the future.

According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, the internet and mobile technologies drove the first wave of digital, known as the Internet of People. However, analysis carried out anticipates that the data generated from the Internet of Things (IoT) will outstrip the data generated by the Internet of People many times over. Experts are predicting dramatic changes in the IoT over the coming year. Key technologies are coming together for scalable networks of low-cost sensors that will enable the promise of the IoT. According to IoT Business News, “this is down to both key technology developments in low power wide area networks (LPWAN) and the cloud”. The integration with cloud technologies for the management of the vast amounts of data is vital, and this is one key area that will expand dramatically this year. Rapid development of solutions are being rolled-out to various industries due to wireless technology becoming seamless. These digitalisation advances will see the promise of industry 4.0 becoming realistic as the advantages from scale act as a catalyst for creating smart retail, smart factories, smart supply-chain and smart farming to name a few for the future.

The increased data created by the Internet of People and the Internet of things is already resulting in standardisation, which naturally leads to automation, and the personalisation of products and services, which is setting off the next wave of digital. According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, AI will exploit the digital data from people and things to automate and assist in what we do today, as well as find new ways of doing things that we’ve not imagined before.

PwC expects that global GDP will be up to 14% higher in 2030 as a result of the accelerating development and take-up of AI, the equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion. It is predicted that the economic impact of AI will be driven by productivity gains from businesses automating processes, productivity gains from businesses augmenting their existing labour force with AI technologies and increased consumer demand resulting from the availability of personalised and higher-quality AI-enhanced products and services. PwC predicts productivity gains in the near-term, to become the biggest potential economic uplift from AI. COVID-19 has propelled the need for Robotic Process Automation (RPA’s), which includes automation of routine tasks, augmenting employees’ capabilities and freeing them up to focus on more stimulating and higher value adding work.

In order to harness these key technologies for your business, the leaders of the business need to commit to a real digital strategy that doesn’t entail mere-speak, but entails real intent on implementation. Businesses that prefer to update their digital strategy management report rather than committing to the journey will quickly start to lose their competitive edge over their rivals. If not started already, in order to remain relevant and provide improved future shareholder returns, management will need to embrace technologies such as cloud computing, the IoT and AI in 2021. Digital transformation is not a buzz word or nice statement to have on a management report anymore. It’s a matter of remaining competitive and relevant in the new digital age post the start of COVID-19.

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Google Cloud Build Partner

ATG is now officially in the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program!

By Marko Salic, CEO of Argility Technology Group

It is not without some excitement that I bring this news to you. Really it was a natural progression considering the majority of our SaaS or web-based software solutions are already deployed inside Google Cloud Platform, making them highly scalable and cost-effective. We aim to continue delivering innovative software solutions utilising modern technologies to solve modern business challenges.

Every business will need to become more digital to flourish; we all understand that notion; Covid only accelerates it. If you are thinking 3-5 years ahead, Cloud is the way to go. Argility Technology Group has been around for over three decades, focusing purely on technology, software, hosting etc. You could say we have the experience and expertise. Over the last three years, we closed all our data centres and moved most of our servers, hundreds of servers and applications, into the cloud. The benefits are significant and risks minimised. Many blog posts are listing the pros and cons in great detail. I urge you to google this topic or reach out to our experts if you want to know more. The three leading cloud platforms are Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. And they are all great platforms; you can’t go wrong with either.

Marko Salic CEO ATG

Marko Salic CEO ATG

We prefer open-source platforms and utilise Linux and Java predominantly; it enables us to keep our software mostly 3rd party dependency and licence free. We use the Kubernetes engine for microservices deployments, and we utilise AI and data analytics cloud tools in multiple applications. We felt that Google is the most active contributor and integrator of our Linux and Java-based technology stack, and the Kubernetes engine pioneers. Google Clouds data analytics tools are top-notch and built to integrate and work as a useful cluster of services, making our platforms highly flexible and robust. The local and international Google teams we worked with were friendly, easy to work with, eager to help and committed to creating a joint success. These were the defining factors in our selection of GCP as our Cloud Platform of the future, and we are excited to work with Google’s team and our customers to create new and exciting applications on top of GCP.

Our PredictIT (PredictCustomer, PredictInventory and PredictRetail) data analytics products are developed using best-of-breed data analytics and machine learning services from Google, including services and tools such as Cloud AI, BigQuery, Data Studio, Data Flow, TensorFlow etc. The PredictIT product suite will soon be available in the Google Cloud Marketplace for rapid deployment and prototyping of existing and new machine learning modules and visualisations.

Finally, working with Google gives us access to high-quality ready-built services that enable us to leverage that invaluable insight to pioneer solutions that future proof our clients’ businesses confidently and rapidly – and deploy them in the most cost-effective way.

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Marko Salic CEO of ATG

Argility Technology Group becomes Google Cloud Build Partner

The Argility Technology Group (ATG), a leading developer of software and technology solutions, has become a Google Cloud Build Partner, and thus a member of Google Cloud’s Partner Advantage Program.

Marko Salic, ATG CEO, says this thrilling move was compelling for the group as it has long since embraced Google Cloud as a key platform in delivering innovative software solutions that solve real business challenges. “It made a lot of sense for us because the majority of our Web-based or software as a service solutions are already deployed on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), ensuring that they are cost-effective and highly scalable.

“With over 30 years’ experience in creating and delivering innovative software and technology solutions, ATG saw early on that cloud was a game-changer when it comes to digital transformation. COVID has shown us just how important that shift is to future success,” he says. “It is some years now since we moved the bulk of our servers and applications into the cloud – bringing significant benefits to our customers and minimising their risks. The cloud positions us to continue delivering our ground-breaking solutions utilising cutting-edge technologies to solve our customers’ business problems today and well into the future.

Salic says the main reason they entered this partnership centres on ATG’s strategic drive to build powerful cloud-based software, data analytics and AI technology offerings that draw on its immense intellectual capital reserves, which have been augmented through decades of development and supply of globally competitive innovative technologies. Moreover, ATG favours open source platforms utilising Linux and Java predominantly, and the group uses the Kubernetes engine for microservices deployments. “This provides great benefits for our clients, as it dramatically reduces implementation times. The holistic vision behind this approach is that it greatly assists with the elimination of licence costs and reduces third-party dependency.

“Google presented itself as the best fit because Google Cloud offers superior data analytics and machine learning tools that are designed to integrate as a cluster of services, making our platforms highly flexible and robust,” he explains. “In addition, Google Cloud is the most active contributor to and integrator of our current technology stack, and are the Kubernetes engine pioneers. Another big plus is that the international and local Google teams are both highly professional and easy to work with, sharing our commitment to creating the best possible solutions on top of GCP and fully committed to creating joint success.”

For example, ATG’s PredictIT products (PredictCustomer, PredictInventory and PredictRetail), over three years in the making, use best-of-breed GCP services such as BigQuery, Data Studio, Cloud AI, Data Flow and TensorFlow (open source machine learning platform) to deliver potent information that organisations can use to improve their bottom lines.

The PredictIT product suite will soon be available in the Google Cloud Marketplace for rapid deployment and prototyping of existing and new machine learning modules and visualisations.

“Working with Google gives us access to high-quality ready built services that enable us to leverage that invaluable insight to pioneer solutions that future-proof clients’ businesses confidently and rapidly – and deploy them in the most cost-effective way,” Salic concludes.

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Tanya Long, COO ATG retail trust

Trust is retail’s secret sauce

Retail longevity has always relied on trust. But the emergence of a new type of customer is changing retail, and how trust is earned…

Technology lies at the centre of this change. In our connected, digital world, consumers now have unlimited choice. Shopping habits are changing, and Covid-19 lockdowns have accelerated that change. It’s not enough for a retailer to offer good service and products reliably, now it needs to understand its customers deeply in order to earn their loyalty.

Consumer demographic

The other big factor driving this change in retail is demographic. Millennial/Generation Y and Generation Z consumers are set to become the dominant consumer group, and now account for 40% of consumers. Generation Y is generally taken to comprise those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, while the succeeding Generation Z were born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s.

Unlike the preceding Boomers, Generations Y and Z are internet natives, and see their cellphones not as communication devices but as remote controls for life. Research shows that more than 63% of Millennials spend at least six hours a day on their phones, and according to York/2016/05/31/millennials-check-phones-157-timesper-day Social Media Week, check their phones 157 times a day.

However, the people operating those devices are still humans, and so the human dimension of this technology-driven world remains key. For example, Generation Z still prefers to make the actual purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. But because they understand technology, they expect their retailer to be using it effectively to understand their needs and deliver the right experience; if their expectations are not met, they will move right along – and they rarely give a second chance.

Research shows that Generation Z spends on average $58.30 per transaction and Generation Y $54.91 – a little below the more established Generation X ($60.36) and the Boomers ($61.69). But the number of transactions they make is considerably higher.

The heart still rules

In the end, then, reason and technology are always trumped by the heart. Retailers must understand that the most important of these emotions in the retail value chain is trust. Trust is the critical core emotional driver of all downstream behaviour, and trust is what creates loyalty.

Charles Green’s Trust Equation reveals that credibility, reliability and intimacy are integral to trustworthiness, but the governing principle is what he calls self-orientation – the extent to which the customer believes that the retailer is putting his or her interests first.

As retailers, credibility and reliability are relatively easy to achieve, but intimacy and self-orientation, both connected to the emotions, are harder. In particular, if the customer feels that the retailer’s focus is exclusively on its profit or on not giving value for money, trust will be eroded and ultimately sacrificed.

Potential of 4IR

If technology was the proximate cause for this new and complex world, then it’s fitting that it also supplies the solution. In particular, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) holds the key with which retailers can gain the trust of their customers.

4IR technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to improve and streamline customer marketing, the supply chain, merchandising and all the nuts and bolts of retail, and thus enhance the credibility and reliability that contribute to trustworthiness.

But the real magic comes from the potential for AI and machine learning to take the data generated by all these systems and mine it for insights that deepen intimacy and build trust.

AI is key in all this because the amounts of data are mind-bogglingly huge (and increasing), and it can be processed fast and continuously. And, of course, AI doesn’t need to eat, sleep or otherwise be managed.

An important caveat: AI (or any other technology) is not a magic wand. No insight, no matter how good, is worth anything unless it results in an action. It is, therefore, imperative that you begin with a clearly defined business goal, and then use the insights you get to achieve that goal. Don’t worry if your data currently looks incomplete, use what you have and start taking the incremental steps that ultimately generate a huge competitive advantage.
On a practical level, there are three key areas in retail: demand, supply, and the customer. Your AI projects should fall into one of these areas.

One issue that always comes up when discussing AI, and the 4IR more generally, is the potential for dramatic job losses. The truth of it is that AI can only generate predictions and possibilities, it cannot exercise judgement as to which course to follow or how. Humans will always be needed to exercise judgement, and so retailers should be focusing on critical thinking skills when upskilling their people.

Retail is constantly changing, but what remains constant is the centrality of trust. AI and other technologies can be used to continue building trust with customers, now and in the future.

By Tanya Long, COO of The Argility Technology Group

Source: Bizcommunity

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website www.argility.com.

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Eamon McCann

Technology in the supply chain

Issue 7 2020 Logistics (Industry)

The logistics industry relied heavily on people in the past, and to a large extent still does today. As in every other sphere of life, however, the role technology plays is increasing rapidly, with a host of solutions available to streamline supply chains and increase the efficiency of logistics in general.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked two experts in the field for their insights into how technology can and is changing the game.

Eamon McCann, CTO of The Argility Technology Group:

The ongoing advances in IOT capabilities have positioned technology as a strong enabler in the management and security of assets. There are various devices readily available that leverage GSM, Sigfox and LoRaWAN technologies, as well as others including RFID tags/labels and BLE beacons. These are now all potential options to cost-effectively assist in the identification of the physical positioning of assets for both static and mobile security applications.

The potential areas that could benefit are extensive, and range across multiple industries, including construction, mining, manufacturing and agriculture. Moreover, associated assets such as vehicles, machinery, fridges, crates/produce etc. can be identified and tracked to a specific geolocation, enhancing visibility and providing an associated increase in security and assisting in loss prevention.

Argility’s SkyData IOT cloud platform enables these capabilities by allowing asset tracking and exception management, thereby enabling supply chain security and the efficiency of associated processes. Geofencing allows event and alert creation for entry and exit conditions, for example, automatically raising a proof of delivery when an asset reaches its predefined destination, as well as tamper and theft alerts when assets move location without authorisation.

Other applications like the tracking of pallets and cages with RFID capability when entering receiving bays or leaving dispatch areas can assist in reducing loss and driving efficiencies through the warehouse and the wider supply chain. Configurable alarms and alerts, with various levels of severity, can be routed to the appropriate level(s) within the organisational hierarchy to ensure visibility and auditability for any such event.

SkyData can integrate into any business operational system, feed from and to multiple data sources and deliver data sets to any mobile device. It provides for Web-based administration plus configuration and it includes mobile apps for both Android and iOS for remote access – anytime, anywhere. The bottom line is that this IoT platform is set to transform asset and resource monitoring management.

Shaun O’Brien, CEO of Cquential

If you are not considering technology within your business or do not at least have a strategy around implementing technology, the company may be at a disadvantage when compared to its peers. Technology is the name of the game. It’s not seen as a luxury anymore but a necessity to do business in a highly competitive environment.

Supply chains have been one of the business functions that have benefited the most when it comes to technology and the capabilities it has to offer. A modern supply chain is at the point where it will not be relevant or valuable to an organisation if there is no intention of implementing technology to keep up with industry standards.

Technology enables businesses to automate manual processes and get people to focus on other areas that can add value to the organisation. The company is also in a better position to handle complexity and meet the needs of a customer with high expectations concerning turnaround time and service. Information sharing and collaboration across partners and departments is also crucial when it comes to running an efficient operation.

Warehouse management is a specific function within the supply chain that has benefited from technology over the last 10 years. The technology has driven the following benefits:

  • Improved visibility across operations.
  • Driven collaboration and information sharing across different departments.
  • Driven labour/MHE efficiencies.
  • Improved capacity management.
  • Improved traceability of stock.
  • Reduced operational expenses.
  • Improved customer service levels.
  • Automation of manual tasks.
  • Improved scalability.

Technology is changing the way the warehouse operates for the better. It’s becoming more affordable and readily available to any size of business. The key is to have a digital roadmap and prioritise the different items based on operational requirements. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to technology. The first step is to understand the current business and processes. Once this is understood the next phase will be to understand the functionality and business proposition of the various solutions and how they can be applied to your specific use case. The last step will be to review and measure to understand if the business is achieving the business benefits that it set out to achieve in the beginning.

Source: Hi-Tech Security Solutions

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website www.argility.com.

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Marko Salic

Business analytics and big data to gain a competitive-edge

Business analytics and big data to gain a competitive-edge

The correct approach to business analytics and big data can help a company to remodel and enhance its customer experience, and boost its competitive advantage.

By Marko Salic, CEO of the Argility Technology Group

Gartner advises that IT can use advanced analytics to gain competitive business advantage and that with the right approach business intelligence (BI) can be a leading source of competitive advantage.

Certainly, it can be used to remodel and enhance customer experience.

Forrester notes that everyone wants to monetise their data, but the growing stream of data and analytics requests are overwhelming IT teams charged with gleaning insights from the material. While there is no crystal ball to see into the future, predictive analytics provide the means to make an educated guess.

Forrester goes on to highlight the 37 Major Machine-Learning Tools for 2020, noting that enterprises need more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions to drive value, transform their businesses and outperform the competition.

The starting point

Firstly, define clear and measurable goals and outcomes you expect from the data strategy. Without the ability to measure, uplift and estimate ROI, it becomes difficult to build stakeholder support.

Secondly, appoint a data analytics “champion” − an executive, or a person with authority, to spearhead the implementation of the organisation’s data strategy. Change management is crucial for success as the workforce transitions from using gut feel and experience, to using data and analytics to make better decisions.

Thirdly, select the correct technology partner to help implement the data analytics strategy. Ideally, the selected technology partner should have necessary data engineering, data science and development capabilities and subject matter expertise in the company’s industry.

As AI prediction capabilities improve, the value of human prediction decreases, and the value of human judgement increases.

The latter will mean that data is well understood with early detection of consistency issues. Moreover, it ensures the right questions are asked, and raw insight can be converted into actions.

Lastly, select the correct platform for the data lakes, extract, transform and load, analytics and machine learning. If the organisation’s data volume, velocity and variety are broad and/or it expects significant growth, cloud tools are the only way to go.

The alternative is to build and use own infrastructure and data analytics tools which require a team of data engineers and DevOps engineers to manage and support, inflating the costs and risks significantly.

The next step

Data analytics is about extracting trends and patterns in historical data and using that insight to make better decisions and influence future outcomes.

Analytics and machine learning have become highly effective in making predictions, but AI does not do judgement. As AI prediction capabilities improve, the value of human prediction decreases, and the value of human judgement increases. Ensure you are utilising both to maximise the benefits; don’t allow analytics alone to make automated decisions until the models have been battle-tested and polished over time.

Data tiering is a way to optimise how you operationally use the data and drive costs down. For example, data accessed infrequently or not mission-critical can be stored on slower and more affordable storage.

Analytics databases are different from operational, high transaction volume databases, and each comes with pros and cons. Understanding the business goals and how the insights will be used will help to tier the data and tools correctly.

The company will need to devise protection, governance and redundancy policies, and there are two ways of going about this: the easy or the hard way.

The easy way is to use cloud tools such as GCP, AWS and Azure. When using cloud tools data security, governance, and redundancy is a first-class citizen, simple to implement and manage.

I often hear concerns and questions raised regarding the security of the cloud. The answer is simple: read the security policies for your favourite cloud provider and ask yourself how long it would take to internally achieve that level of security compliance and standards if you decided to build it internally?

The hard way is to build and manage it all in-house. My advice is, only explore this option if there are regulatory or compliance reasons preventing you from using the cloud. In that case, the regulation would already specify how to manage security and governance, and it becomes a question of “how” to implement as opposed to “what” to implement.

How will the data be used?

If there were a one-size-fits-all approach, everyone would be following the same process. It’s crucial that there is a clear understanding of how the data will be used, what and how many sources there are, also how “clean” is the data, etc. Only then can you define the correct data ingestion strategy.

As a rule, start by building a data lake and dumping all the data, no matter how “dirty”, into the data lake. Then data teams can incrementally start building an “analytics” storage and data pipelines from this central lake.

Once the data is imported and analysed, the process of developing individual “use case”-driven data pipelines begins.

One of the hardest and most time-consuming steps in data analytics is data preparation and extract, transform and load processes, as it often happens that 80% of the time is spent getting this step right.

If the data is not clean, the results will be poor and inconsistent. Augmented analytics is the process of using technology and tools such as machine learning and AI to augment how data is ingested, transformed and analysed.

Natural language processing (NLP) is another tool or algorithm to be used in analytics pipelines. It’s especially useful in building chatbots and conversational utilities. But the principles of how NLP works can be used in various other analytics applications from recommended engines to data extraction and preparation steps.

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com 

Source: IT Web

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daniel

Cquential COO Appointment

Cquential Solutions, leading warehouse management software (WMS) specialist and part of the Argility Technology Group, has announced the appointment of an Operations Executive, Daniel Schotter, who will be responsible for the management of the company’s delivery team, with the goal of enhancing project deliveries in line with customer expectations.

“Daniel is a key team member in the business. We brought him into the company about a year ago to assist with business development with a view to growing our customer base. He proved exceptional in that arena and added value to the Cquential brand,” says Shaun O’Brien, CEO Cquential Solutions.

He notes that Schotter’s experience and in-depth knowledge of the WMS system and processes were key issues in his selection for this position. “We have tasked Daniel to assist with our operational challenges and in that regard he will be directing our delivery team to ensure we finalise assignments in line with strategic objectives of global service standards and improve our commercials on each project completed.

Schotter boasts 23 years’ experience in the supply chain industry – eight of which were in IT management. “I have been working with CQuential Solutions since 2010, when I commenced as an IT Manager and subsequently responsible for IT and support. I left in 2014 to pursue my own company, taking on various IT projects, while continuing with consulting services to CQuential. In 2018, I returned to the company in the role of Business Development Consultant.

“Given my experience and knowledge of both the industry and Cquential systems specifically, the executive management of the business felt that I could add value taking the lead in Operations – an opportunity and challenge that I am extremely excited to tackle,” says Schotter.

Source: IT Web

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DAMSense Argility POPIA Act

POPIA 2020 and Digital Asset Management

The much anticipated SA Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) came into effect on the 1st July giving businesses one year’s grace to get their compliance ducks in a row and align their controls and protection of customer sensitive personal information with the conditions of lawful processing of personal information. After the 30 June 2021 businesses will face severe penalties for non-compliance.

Whilst most of us have been aware of the looming PoPIA and have started to take the steps required to ensure alignment we can no longer hide behind the lack of finalised dates to formalise the internal actions required.
At ATG, the gap analysis and POPIA risk mitigation reviews have raised various streams for action, one of which is protecting the rights of internal data subjects, another is ensuring we comply on behalf of our customers and lastly looking at how we can assist our customers with their compliance needs.
A stark reality is that paper based customer credit applications, credit agreements, supplier take on documents and other contracts are still active in the South African business space. Many organisations are lagging in terms of secure digitisation of these artefacts.
The below documentation storage limitations come to mind:

  • Destruction
  • Lost or misfiled documents
  • Compromised information security and access control
  • Inefficiency in searching for documents
  • Labour intensive manual filing and administrative health checks
  • Manual document management restricted to one user working on a customer file at a time
  • Poor auditability of user activity related to sensitive information
  • Cost of physical storage space for manual storage.

These weaknesses and imminent implementation of PoPIA are a compelling reason for the secure digitisation of sensitive paper documents.
Digitisation of the documents alone is unfortunately not enough and should be augmented by a control system that complies with digital asset management/PoPIA standards.
The implementation of paperless processes is contributing to additional volumes of what needs to be stored in digital format. Digital assets are set to grow in sheer volume due to increased digitisation and the need for getting the balance right between security and cost savings requirements.

Argility’s DAMSense Digital Asset Management System is a trusted and optimised solution for the secure storage, search, and controlled access, to sensitive digitised assets. By utilising DAMSense on the Google Cloud Platform many boxes are ticked; from General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) compliance, from which POPIA has evolved; through to the flexible and cost-effective digital asset storage options.

DAMSense Features

Features & Benefits of the DAMSense system

Explore DAMSense as an innovative solution to making sense of your digital assets by visiting our website: DAMSense or by dropping us a mail to: info@argility.com

*** Source: IT Web

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PredictRetail Argility

PredictRetail accepts the challenge to improve business

Retail has faced many hurdles due to the economic climate which has been further compounded by the impact of lockdown. This, of course, is very challenging. Argility’s artificial intelligence predictive analytics tool, PredictRetail, is the answer.

This cost-effective cloud solution improves business insights, supports growth, plus it enhances your knowledge of your business and customers. It heightens shopper retention and empowers retailers with the ability to boost sales to current and new customers. All of this in turn leads to boosted profits and sustainability. Key dashboards enable you to keep operations running smoothly and maximise profitability.

Given the current COVID context and the fact that all patterns and consumer behaviours have changed, now is an ideal time to utilise analytics, based on machine learning (ML), to quickly pick up on the new trends. These tools are designed to aid business leaders to make informed decisions and as such to counter the disruption caused by COVID.

PredictRetail comes with several standard predictive models that are focused on key areas, these include customer: lifetime value; forecasting (propensity to buy); segmentation; product recommendations and more. There are extensive descriptive dashboards based on key forecasting models including: sales; stock management and selling patterns.

PredictRetail applies data science and predictive modelling based on historical data, to extract trends and patterns which will aid informed decision making.

Descriptive dashboards are created from existing customers’ historical data. ML models are then used to generate new data sources i.e. predictions/classifications etc., and then predictive dashboards are redeployed on top of the new datasets. This is a defining differentiator between PredictRetail and the average business intelligence (BI) tool which is designed mainly for visualising data and descriptive analytics without ML.

The power to slice and dice information at lightning speed by organisational and product hierarchies, is enabled through the Google Cloud Platform, allowing for a pay-as-you-use model, and alleviating the need for massive infrastructure investment.

Once we have transformed your data, and with a little training, you will be ready to take advantage of trends and patterns never before seen which could transform your business with dynamic effect.

Want more information as to how this can work for you – Contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com 

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Argility releases PropView4U

Connect, click and engage. Proximity-based mobile property marketing platform

The Argility Technology Group (ATG) has released its latest innovation – PropView4U. This is a mobile marketing platform for the real estate industry that aims to create a unique and enriched customer experience by merging the physical with the digital through the application of beacon technology.

The low-cost cloud-based solution facilitates buyers, renters, sellers and agents to receive opt-in communications via their mobile devices. Bluetooth connects users’ smart devices to notification beacons that are placed at nominated properties.

ATG’s CTO, Eamon McCann, says beacon technology enables immediate delivery of relevant content to interested parties. “PropView4U transforms the sales process by using digital technology to increase sales and provide an information service to sellers, buyers and agents. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical access to properties has become more challenging. This solution has the power to change the way agents, buyers and renters access information and personalises the relationships between realtors and their clients.”

PropView4U enables:

  • The positioning of smart beacons at designated property sites;
  • Rich content delivery to smart devices when in beacon range;
  • Digital media and content display on the PropView4U mobile app;
  • Consumer interaction with the information; and
  • Real estate agent’s acquisition of data analytics based on buyer interaction.

“Content is varied and contains welcome messages plus notifications, videos, images and voice clips. Basically, contextual information with multiple touch-points,” says McCann.

Key features include user registration, property specifications, property viewing, booking schedules and bookmarking for offline viewing. “Findings can be shared. Moreover, there is a mortgage/bond calculator and prospective buyers can also make direct contact with agents,” he adds.

The product can be white labelled for maximum brand impact. Once downloaded, prospects will have immediate access to any branded content when in range of the PropView4U beacon zones. McCann highlights PropView4U’s exciting business benefits for the real estate sector as it facilitates a unique consumer experience using rich content and property information.

“Convenient and easy access to information for buyers and sellers is immediately available. Realtors can provide information even without an agent being present. Efficiency is improved with remote updating capacity through controlling all information from a central point. The property searcher’s sales journey can be easily tracked. PropView4U forms a significant support for sales agents through responses to enquiries and decreasing lead times – to emphasise just some of the benefits of this exceptional technology,” he concludes.

Source: IT Web

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

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Tanya Long, COO Argility -retail concepts and resources

Lockdown leads to long-term retail behaviour changes

Retail Behaviour Changes

By Tanya Long, chief operating officer, Argility Technology Group

As people embrace technology more than ever before to support all aspects and consequences of isolation, there are bound to be new buying behaviours.

I’m sure you would agree that the ‘new normal’ is now so clichéd, I think we are all tired of hearing about it. But certainly, there are new buying behaviours being observed, and of course, strong indications that while people are afraid of getting sick, they are more fearful for their economic stability and future.

Research variously indicates that priorities, certainly at the beginning of the pandemic, centred on basic needs, sending demand for hygiene, cleaning and staple products through the roof. On the other hand, as lockdown continued and people were confined to their homes, there was an increase in searches for luxury, non-essential items or attempts to at least think about planning a travel for leisure trip, showing that people are increasingly in need of a means by which to spoil themselves.

Apparently, the factors that influence brand decisions are also changing, with a penchant for home-grown products being seen to escalate. One trend that is very likely to continue post-pandemic is the move to digital commerce for grocery shopping.

People are said to be embracing technology more than ever to support all aspects and consequences of isolation. The ways in which people spend their leisure time are changing with related social distancing measures, and again, these habits are likely to be sustained.

Surveys indicate that 61% plan to continue watching news channels post-COVID-19, with 55% prioritising family time. Entertainment, learning and DIY are also said to have risen. These trends are reflected in the types of apps that consumers are downloading, related to entertainment, news, healthcare and education.

Essentially, technology is playing a major role in how these interactions occur. Consumer packaged goods companies are urged to increase their focus on digital over traditional tools if they are to engage with consumers and improve experiences.

Calculating what kind of consumer is emerging from the current scenario may well become the difference between survival and growth, or closure.

The EY Future Consumer Index on behaviour across five key markets shows how the pandemic is creating new consumer segments.

While it is acknowledged that the global consumer was already evolving at speed pre-COVID-19, the process now appears to have become exponential. Calculating what kind of consumer is emerging from the current scenario may well become the difference between survival and growth, or closure.

It is emerging that there are key issues for retailers to consider if they are to remain competitive.

The EY index advises retailers to invest greater effort in distributing personalised content that engages potential customers and offers information that attracts their attention. Investment in better online and in-store experiences that address consumers’ interests are also recommended. E-commerce offers the potential to attract recurring purchases, as do well-structured loyalty programmes.

The EY report identifies four segments of consumer behaviour as follows:

  • Save and stockpile – 35% of those surveyed
  • Cut deep – 27%
  • Stay calm, carry on – 26%
  • Hibernate and spend – only 11%

Consumers in this last category − hibernate and spend – are said to be mostly aged 18-44 and are the ones identified to be most concerned about the impact of the pandemic. But only 40% of them say they are shopping less frequently.

While 42% say the products they buy have changed significantly, 46% say brands are now more important to them. However, it is well-established that brands need to realign with these changes in consumer spending behaviour.

The ones who deliver seamless authentic solutions and excellent customer experiences will undoubtedly emerge winners in a crowded marketplace.

What’s happening in SA?

Retail is the third-largest sector of our economy and is a labour-intensive industry in South Africa.

Statistics SA data shows the last time quarterly retail sales grew more than 3% was in the first three months of 2018, with consumer confidence slumping deep into negative territory in the third quarter of 2019 and consumer inflation at a 10-year low – this is all pre-COVID-19, of course.

An Investec report highlights the sectors of South African industry that have been hardest hit by closures and lockdown restrictions. Obviously, the restaurant industry and hospitality generally are the hardest hit.

In terms of retailers that will emerge relatively unscathed, the food sector is cited to be fairly untouched, with drug and pharmacy retailers being in pretty much the same position. Both are said to have retained a dynamic market share.

Of course, job losses appear to be an inevitable outcome of lockdown strategies, which in turn has a ripple effect as the fewer the jobs, the less the spending power and the more the damage to the economy.

However, as has been stated in the foregoing, the smart retailer that invests in targeted marketing will emerge triumphant. But to do that it will need to acquire the right technology that can take data and turn it into business advantage and get the retailer closer to the customer.

This is where data analytics has a major role to play. It is about extracting trends and patterns and using those insights to make better decisions and influence future outcomes, which ultimately leads to the ability to understand changing behaviours and satisfy new consumer demands.

Source: IT Web

Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya Long, chief operating officer, Argility Technology Group.
Long has 30 years of industry experience. Her career in the IT sector started in 1988 in IT support for point-of-sale solutions. She moved formally into software development with UCS/Argility in 1989 as a developer and progressed through to team leader, account management, project and development management roles, which led her into various industries and corporations.

In 2017, Long returned to Argility (having previously worked at the company in a technical capacity) as human capital executive, where she reunited her retail, IT, leadership and HR knowledge to drive her zeal for transformation.

In her capacity as COO, Long is responsible for overseeing operations, with a specific focus on human capital, sales and marketing, and ensuring the company culture and vision shows up daily for customers through an engaged technical team of experts.

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SkyData – Temperature Monitoring and Control for SA’s Pharmaceutical

SkyData – Temperature Monitoring and Control for SA’s Pharmaceutical sector

Eamon McCann, CTO, the Argility Technology Group, outlines some of the challenges facing the pharmaceutical and medical sectors with regards to thermolabile products.

The South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) strictly governs the procurement, storage, and distribution of thermolabile – defined as a product or substance readily destroyed or deactivated by heat – pharmaceutical products. These rules are in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) specifications.

Companies that store and distribute these products must ensure that they comply with SAPC GPP (Good Pharmacy Practice) regulations of ambient, fridge or cold room temperatures, making it essential that the temperatures are constantly monitored in order to remain within optimal range otherwise the efficacy of the products can be compromised and a broader range of pharmaceutical products cannot be stored.

It’s also necessary to guarantee adherence to compliance requirements including diligent temperature recording and history so implementation of an automated system capable of monitoring and raising timeous alerts is crucial.

The significance of the Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT has opened-up a world of possibilities in the medical and pharmaceutical arenas and Argility’s SkyData platform provides IoT remote monitoring and alert capabilities for devices at designated fridges and storage units.

What does SkyData do?

The platform empowers companies to connect devices and deploy applications that enable automated data collection and analysis, remote device management, contextual and real-time decision making. It permits businesses to monitor and manage any number of data points presented from various devices and may be used to scrutinise and administer anything on a dashboard from temperature; humidity to: utilities – electricity; water; gas usage and assets such as vehicles, billboards, machinery and more.

In the pharmaceutical use-case the platform monitors devices that are connected to the fridge to monitor the internal temperature and the external ambient temperature.

Once data is communicated from the IoT devices Argility’s Skydata platform will take care of device management, business rules, security, alerts, notifications, dashboards, and reporting as well as the storage and management of historical data.

Given the device agnostic nature of the SkyData IoT platform, any future business monitoring needs can be satisfied by deploying additional IoT devices and sensors into the physical environment which can then feed additional data points into the platform without requiring another software platform. SkyData can monitor humidity, pressure, CO2/air quality, gas, water and electricity usage, GPS location and more.

Multiple notification mechanisms are available allowing SMS, email and mobile app. push notifications to be configured for any level of alert severity, this typically managed from low through to critical levels of alerts.

Reporting – leading to compliance

Access to real time dashboard and daily/monthly exception reports are made available to designated people.

SkyData platform dashboards

SkyData platform dashboards

Three standard reports are distributed daily by email to either designated stores: regional or national facilities:

  • Exception summary report – provides a summary of min, max, average temperature per asset, including recent alarms raised.
  • Alarm report – provides a list of threshold breaches as per the defined rules
  • Daily temperature report – list of the temperature readings for the preceding 24 hours – compliance report for inspectors.

Data is stored on SkyData for a period of three years and can be made available when required.

Key Features and Benefits

  • Web based administration, configuration dashboard and third-party device management.
  • Secure User and role-based authentication and notifications.
  • Scheduled and automated extracts and reports.
    Multiple pre-integrated wireless and wired devices and sensors.
  • Communicate wirelessly via long range battery powered device.
  • No connection required to electrical circuit – fridge can be moved without affecting the device.
  • Cross platform mobile friendly data visualisation dashboards (Android and iOS)
    • Dashboard summaries and drill down features
    • Ability to view data across multiple stores
    • Ability to view detailed data points within a specified store/location

SkyData is functionally rich and an application fit for many environments including pharmacies; hospitals; clinics; veterinary clinics and more.

Click here for a detailed case studyInformed Decisions and SkyData partner to deliver greater efficiencies for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Laboratories.

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

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Tanya Long, COO Argility -retail concepts and resources

Changing behaviours post COVID-19: A retail challenge

A Retail Challenge


By Tanya Long, Chief Operating Officer, Argility Technology Group.

The virus is reshaping the consumer goods industry in real-time, rapidly accelerating long-term underlying trends in the space of mere weeks and months.

Let me begin by saying that like many of you, I’m feeling a tad COVID’d out. The retail sector must be so tired of reading about what to do to survive COVID-19: go online, be more diverse, etc.

What has struck me in the past three to four weeks is the need to endorse a spirit of hope. I feel many of us are tired of looking to essentials and are seeking to look to the future for ways to spoil ourselves – maybe poring over travel brochures, or splurges on non-essential leisure goods as opposed to necessities.

It is just five months since the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, which in turn has impacted every country on earth and hailed an era of uncertainty on both the economic and social fronts.

The retail and hospitality sectors took the brunt of the initial shutdowns. The retail sector has always been one of the biggest barometers of change – due to the adapt, or die, competitive aspect of this arena.

The closure of many brick-and-mortar outlets in favour of online offerings is just one example of how consumer purchasing patterns are changing the entire fabric of the industry. Therefore, retail has always had to evolve and to do it rapidly.

Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically, posing challenges for retailers that need to keep pace with the change or risk loss of trade and/or customer loyalty simply because they have not anticipated or made hasty preparations to satisfy new consumer demands.

I decided to do some homework and see what research surveys are revealing on this topic.

Research by Bazaarvoice − which boasts a network of over 6 200 brand and retail sites as its client base − reveals high demand for leisure goods during lockdown and not just basic necessities. It analysed different patterns and changes in behaviour, from increases and decreases in product page views, to orders placed, reviews submitted and questions asked. It reviewed this data globally across more than 20 product categories and compared it to the same period in 2019, as well as the earlier months in 2020.

People are responding in a variety of ways that are being manifested in behaviours and purchasing patterns, as they attempt to get to grips with a new normal.

Results reveal how people were shopping in March 2020 at the beginning of the lockdown and showed that customers started to really embrace online shopping, setting themselves up for what appeared to hail a long period spent at home.

The statistics showed a 21% increase in online orders in March 2020 versus March 2019, and in a survey conducted with over 3 000 members of the Influenster community, 41% of respondents said they were currently shopping online for things they would normally shop for in-store.

This would seem to confirm we are having to change our normal shopping habits and look to purchase more items online than normal. A comparison between March 2020 and the same period in 2019 saw a 25% increase in page views. This is said to be possibly because consumers must now search for new products because they are housebound. It is also possible they are purchasing brands they are not familiar with due to anticipated limited product availability.

An Accenture report notes COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behaviour, attitudes and purchasing habits, and predicts many of these new ways will remain even in post-pandemic times.

This survey reports that while purchases are currently centred on the most basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, embracing digital commerce and buying local. This latter trend, if reflected in the South African market, could be good for business here.

The report also notes that to manage isolation, consumers are using digital to connect, learn and play, and anticipates they will continue to do so.

One pattern reportedly being endorsed across the globe is the move to a virtual workforce as more people work from home and are enjoying doing so.

Consumers view products through changed eyes

So, in so far as we are all now living differently, buying differently and in many ways thinking differently – the pandemic’s economic and social impacts have been immense. Patterns include supply chain disruption and retailers closing their physical doors only to strengthen their online presence.

The virus is said to be reshaping the consumer goods industry in real-time, rapidly accelerating long-term underlying trends in the space of mere weeks and months. Accenture research is indicating that new habits formed now will endure beyond the crisis, permanently changing what we value, how and where we shop, and how we live and work.

Perhaps the next question in the evolution of retail specifically is for the sector to determine what consumer goods businesses should offer if they are to be prepared for what comes next.

Fear certainly fuelled the initial panic buying of staple goods – hence the shortages of items like toilet paper that ended up leading the social media memes.

Obviously, consumers are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19, from all perspectives, be it health, economic, continued availability of necessity goods, etc.

People are responding in a variety of ways that are being manifested in behaviours and purchasing patterns, as they attempt to get to grips with a new normal.

It is likely there will be a greater reliance on retail technologies incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, becoming the order of the day as companies attempt to familiarise themselves with their consumers’ reactions and develop personalised strategies to cope and retain the trade.

Albeit the days of one size fits all marketing have long been over – the need for strategies that reach out and capture the attention of this new complex consumer is now greater than ever.

* In my second Industry Insight in this series of two, I will have a look at what may be new and everlasting shopping habits.


For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

Source: IT Web

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Argility enhances capabilities of its retail driver delivery solution – MultiTrax

The Argility Technology Group’s retail driver delivery solution, MultiTrax, has been expanded to include an additional module that automates driver delivery scheduling (DDS). This is a powerful addition to this innovative product, especially in COVID-19 times, where retailers are scrambling to retain trade and move to online purchases with timeous delivery.

MultiTrax – developed in-house by Argility – empowers businesses with the ability to schedule deliveries and track drivers. This easy-to-use app permits efficient route planning, proactive customer notifications, enhanced proof of delivery (POD) processing and maximisation of driver availability. It is a comprehensive delivery system hosted in the cloud that enables drivers to effectively execute on deliveries allocated to them through their smartphone. Moreover, it achieves this with real-time visibility on a management dashboard that enables central planners to effectively schedule deliveries.

The latest DDS Planning module facilitates uploading of outstanding delivery lists – per store or across multiple stores; selection of available drivers; deliveries for selected drivers are added directly to their individual calendars via a drag-and-drop capability. “Through this feature-rich additional module, driver deliveries can be placed on an area map which automatically location tags customers’ addresses for easy route viewing. It also automatically calculates route and expected delivery time, as well as unload and assembly time. Driver progress can be viewed by planners via an online map view,” says Stefan Terblanche, Argility Retail Solutions Consultant.

The DDS module is not only valuable for warehouse transportations, but can also schedule supply on behalf of stores, or can be used directly within a store for management of its own deliveries.

“Integration with current retail or warehouse management solutions is available – removing the need to rip and replace current solutions to move business forward. PODs can be integrated in real-time, speeding up processing time and removing the need for POD data capture confirmation,” says Terblanche.

“Drivers using the MultiTrax app on their smart mobile devices are able to view clear route plans; delivery time targets and communicate directly with customers, via SMS. This latter in turn allows for proactive customer notifications of delivery times/delays, or requests for estate access codes. This is all achieved without intervention from central planners. It further provides contactless POD via image uploads and customer device SMS authentication,” he adds.

MultiTrax business benefits include decreased telephone costs from central planners; enhanced driver route planning and management; maximisation of customer experience through better notifications and direct driver contact negating unnecessary customer waiting.

“MultiTrax enables businesses to manage their delivery fleet efficiently while driving down operating expenses related to salaries and fleet cost. Elevated control is now possible when using owner-operated private transporters that are pre-vetted to represent the company’s brand on deliveries.”

Terblanche confirms that future releases of MultiTrax will include item dimensions for delivery vehicle space volumetrics planning.

“One of the most attractive features of MultiTrax is that it is hosted in the cloud as a software as a service solution (SaaS), allowing businesses to focus on operational excellence while Argility looks after the technology enablement,” he concludes.


For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com 

Source: IT Web

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As a retailer, isn’t it time to embrace artificial Intelligence?

As a retailer, isn’t it time to embrace Artificial Intelligence?

By Sonja Leoncini

Retailers need to stay current and with the impact of COVID-19 and downturn of the economy, the game has changed. Now, like never before is the time to keep competitive and sustainable; don’t wait, act now. Retailers are always scrutinising ways to improve profits and grow business and AI is an essential tool . You have data – yes? Then make it work for you in a way that will allow you to engage and improve your relationships with your customers through personalisation. Create loyalty by running targeted campaigns focussed on the customers’ preferences, improve stock management, cut costs, release capital. Ultimately, grow your business and improve your bottom line. Within 3 days of loading your data onto Argility’s PredictRetail solution, you can start to see results.

How do you do this, is it so simple? Start using Argility’s PredictRetail solution which has been developed to address retail and supply chain challenges and affordably make the best use of data both current and historical.

PredictRetail Solution

Argility PredictRetail Solution

 

What is this and how does it work? Let me elaborate:
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Data Science (DS) are all underlying disciplines of the PredictRetail solution. Modern technologies like AI, ML, DS and big data have become popular by words which everybody talks about but not everyone fully understands. People often get confused.

First let me give a view of what Artificial Intelligence is; simply put it is the simulation of the human thought process by machine. This is achieved by creating a neural network that is able to reason learn and self-correct. What makes AI attractive is that it does all this with lightning speed.

Machine Learning learns and improves itself without the need for direct programming. Instead ML focusses on algorithms which learn to understand things from structured data in order to get the insights that can be used to make predictions. In simple terms use the lessons of the past to predict the future.

Data Science is the ability to extract useful insights from the data which includes many skills including, mathematics, machine learning, statistical modelling, data engineering visualisation and pattern recognition.

To summarise; Artificial Intelligence is the simulation of the human reasoning by machines. Machine Learning is a subset of AI that focusses on a specific activity. Data Science uses ML to achieve its ultimate goal which is the real world application of Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to provide solutions.

Some common business applications include behaviour forecasting, recommendation engines, anomaly of fraud detection, personalised marketing, customer service and chat bots.

PredictRetail is a software solution that has been developed to provide decision support for retailers. It used the aforementioned skills to of AI, DS and ML techniques to provide actionable insight from data. PredictRetail is part of a larger ecosystem and aims to supplement business processes both existing and new.


Want more information as to how this can work for you – Contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com 

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MultiTrax retail driver delivery solution

MultiTrax – delivery and driver management solution

MultiTrax, delivery and driver management solution

By Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Planning deliveries, scheduling and tracking drivers have, at no other time in history, been more important as retailers jostle to retain and grow trade and move to online purchases with timeous delivery.

MultiTrax – developed in-house by Argility – empowers businesses with the ability to schedule deliveries and track drivers.  This easy to use App permits efficient route planning, proactive customer notifications, enhanced proof of delivery (PoD) processing and maximisation of driver availability.  It is a comprehensive delivery system hosted in the cloud that enables drivers to effectively execute deliveries allocated to them through their smartphones. Moreover, it achieves this with real-time visibility on a management dashboard that enables central planners to effectively schedule deliveries.

MultiTrax has now been expanded to include an additional module that automates driver delivery scheduling (DDS). This is a powerful addition to this innovative product facilitates uploading of outstanding delivery lists – per store or across multiple stores; selection of available drivers; deliveries for selected drivers are added directly to their individual calendars via a drag and drop capability. Through the DDS feature-rich additional module, driver deliveries can be placed on an area map which automatically location tags customers’ addresses for easy route viewing. It also automatically calculates the route and expected delivery time, as well as unload and assembly time. Driver progress can be viewed by planners via an online map view.

The DDS module is not only valuable for warehouse transportations, but can also schedule supply on behalf of stores, or can be used directly within a store for management of its own deliveries.

Integration with current retail or warehouse management solutions is available – removing the need to rip and replace current solutions to move one’s business forward. PoD’s can be integrated in real-time, speeding up processing time, and removing the need for PoD data capture confirmation.

The selection process for the MultiTrax DDS delivery scheduling is enabled through user-friendly drag and drop functionality, providing planners with visual and easy to understand views.

MultiTrax DDS allows customers with no POS or e-commerce integration to obtain all the foregoing benefits. In the case of manual smaller environments, DDS permits customers to pull the data from a manually captured Excel spreadsheet or capture deliveries manually into the system for planning allocation and execution. MultiTrax DDS is, therefore, is a valuable and attractive proposition for small and large enterprises.

MultiTrax DDS functions and features:

  • Upload outstanding delivery lists – per store or across multiple stores.
  • Select the drivers available.
  • Deliveries for selected drivers are added directly to the drivers’ calendars via drag and drop functionality.
  • Drag and drop the drivers’ deliveries onto an area map, which automatically location tags the customers delivery address for planners easy route viewing.
  • Automatic calculation of route times plus added functionality, that includes unloading and assembly time.
  • Proactive calculations of actual expected delivery time to customers.
  • Driver progress can be viewed by planners via an online map view.
  • Additional functionality is available to include item assembly time requirements allowing maximisation of delivery routes and maintained customer satisfaction levels.
  • Future releases of MultiTrax will include item dimensions for delivery vehicle space volumetric planning.

By using the existing MultiTrax driver application features on their smart mobile devices, drivers have:

  • Clear route plans.
  • Delivery timing targets.
  • The ability to communicate directly via SMS with customers allowing for proactive customer notifications of delivery time, or delays, or requests for estate access codes – without intervention from central planners.
  • Contactless proof of delivery ability via the use of image uploads and customer own device SMS authentication.

Benefits

  • Central planner decreased telephone costs.
  • Driver route planning and management is enhanced.
  • Customer experience is maximised through improved customer notifications and direct driver contact – no more unnecessary customer waiting.
  • Manage your own delivery fleet efficiently or drive down operating expenses related to salaries plus fleet costs by controlling and using owner-operated private transporters that are pre-vetted to represent your brand on deliveries.

For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

Brief Bio: Tanya Long – Chief Operating Officer, Argility Technology Group

Are you feeling the heat? Calling all Retailers of Pre-Cooked; Frozen and Refrigerated FoodTanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya has 30 years industry experience and is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Argility Technology Group.

Tanya’s career in the IT sector started in 1988 in IT Support for Point of Sale solutions. She moved formally into software development with UCS/Argility in 1989 as a developer and progressed through to: team leader; account management; project, and development management roles

Tanya is an internationally Certified Consciousness Coach, Enneagram Practitioner, and leadership speaker and facilitator.  She is considered a specialist in the fields of culture and engagement and often presents at conferences on the topic of engagement, leadership and coaching.  Her strengths lie in her exceptional people management abilities and dedication to precision and execution.

In 2017, Tanya was appointed Human Capital Executive at Argility where she reunited her Retail, IT, Leadership, HR and coaching knowledge to drive her zeal for transformation.  In her capacity as COO, she heads up the Sales and Marketing and HR teams whilst driving performance and processes within the group.

Tanya’s vision is to ensure that the Argility Technology Group is filled with engaged, skilled and innovative individuals delivering outstanding customer-centric solutions.

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Are you feeling the heat? Calling all Retailers of Pre-Cooked; Frozen and Refrigerated Food. SkyData

Are you feeling the heat? Calling all Retailers of Pre-Cooked; Frozen and Refrigerated food.

By Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

What is your worst nightmare this week? Whilst Covid-19 related challenges may be all-consuming at present, temperatures not correctly set or monitored resulting in non-compliance with health regulations and stock losses could be adding unnecessary stress! Temperature control is a business imperative for all retailers stocking pre-cooked, frozen, refrigerated food and cold beverage products. It is crucial that these products are stored in optimal environmental conditions to preserve quality and guarantee customer satisfaction. For products that are subject to formal regulation, it may also be a requirement that historical temperature data is logged and stored for compliance reasons.
Argility can help you achieve this goal through our IoT management solution, SkyData. The SkyData platform links to device-agnostic probes that constantly monitor fridge and freezer temperatures, logs historical data, and triggers alerts when thresholds are breached to authorised users.

SkyData platform supports capabilities such as email/SMS notifications, data visualisation, dashboards, and reporting, which can be further enriched with predictive analytics and machine learning. By utilising the wealth of data available from Skydata, businesses will be able to take swift action from insights gained.

SkyData platform - how it works

Argility SkyData Platform – how it works

 

What does SkyData do?

The platform empowers companies to connect devices and deploy applications that enable automated data collection and analysis, remote device management, contextual and real-time decision making. It permits businesses to monitor and manage any number of data points presented from various devices, and may be used to scrutinise and administer anything on a dashboard from temperature; humidity to utilities – electricity; water; gas usage and assets such as billboards, machinery and more.

Businesses are increasingly pressured to optimise returns on assets, increase productivity, and improve operational efficiencies. As you move to introduce new refrigerated and frozen food products to meet growing demand, you need to ensure that environmental conditions are monitored and kept at optimal ranges. It is also vital to ensure that you comply with regulations specifying temperature ranges at which different food products must be stored and keep a record of the temperature readings.

If the specified storage temperature range is breached, SkyData notifies you immediately by SMS and email. This allows you to immediately take corrective action and prevent products from being damaged or compromised. It also prevents stock loss and of course, most importantly removes risking the health of customers.
The SkyData platform registers each fridge and freezer individually, and each one can have its own unique temperature range settings, with detailed dashboard reporting where required.

Who should be looking at this product?

  • Supermarkets and speciality food stores
  • Liquor stores, Taverns, Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Store types:
    • Individual stores
    • Chain stores
    • Mall stores
    • Hyper stores

SkyData can integrate into any business operational system, feed from and to multiple data sources and deliver data sets to any mobile device. It provides for web-based administration plus configuration and it includes mobile apps for both Android and iOS for remote access – anytime, anywhere.

The bottom line is that this IoT platform is set to transform asset and resource monitoring management – now that’s something to keep the nightmares at bay!


For more information contact our Business Consultants on 011 712 1300, email info@argility.com or visit our website, www.argility.com

Brief Bio: Tanya Long – Chief Operating Officer, Argility Technology Group

Are you feeling the heat? Calling all Retailers of Pre-Cooked; Frozen and Refrigerated FoodTanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya Long, COO Argility Technology Group

Tanya has 30 years of industry experience and is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Argility Technology Group.

Tanya’s career in the IT sector started in 1988 in IT Support for Point of Sale solutions. She moved formally into software development with UCS/Argility in 1989 as a developer and progressed through to team leader; account management; project, and development management roles

Tanya is an internationally Certified Consciousness Coach, Enneagram Practitioner, and leadership speaker and facilitator.  She is considered a specialist in the fields of culture and engagement and often presents at conferences on the topic of engagement, leadership and coaching.  Her strengths lie in her exceptional people management abilities and dedication to precision and execution.

In 2017, Tanya was appointed Human Capital Executive at Argility where she reunited her Retail, IT, Leadership, HR and coaching knowledge to drive her zeal for transformation.  In her capacity as COO, she heads up the Sales and Marketing and HR teams whilst driving performance and processes within the group.

Tanya’s vision is to ensure that the Argility Technology Group is filled with engaged, skilled and innovative individuals delivering outstanding customer-centric solutions.

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