Thursday, 19 December 2013

Registration is now open for the idu User Conference 2014!

Registration is now open for the idu User Conference 2014!  
This conference is one not to be missed, as we will be launching Version 5 of idu-Concept.

What you can expect from the 2014 Conference
* Be the first to see and experience Version 5 of idu-Concept, packed with amazing new features and functionality.
* Get a view of the development roadmap for the forthcoming year.
* Have one-on-one access to idu consultants and experts.
* Be inspired, educated and entertained by our amazing line-up of guest speakers.
* Attend special training and workshops on key modules of the software.
* Have the opportunity to hear from our key partners Sage and NetTreasury.
* Network with other clients and industry experts.

How to Register
To register for you or your team please click here.
Space is limited so reserve your seats early to avoid disappointment. Registration closes on the 14th February 2014.

Delegate feedback from previous conferences
"Always a brilliant conference. Well done again!"
"Thank you for having me at your conference, I enjoyed it very much as it was such an eye opener and brilliantly organised"
"Thank you again for a well-organised conference. Our team came back to our offices inspired and proud to be a part of the IDU family"

Conference Packages  2014
2 Day Conference + 1 night accommodation (Single) + gala dinner:  R4750
2 Day Conference + 1 night accommodation (Sharing) + gala dinner: R3825
2 Day Conference (no accommodation): R3150
2 Day Conference (no accommodation) + gala dinner: R3560
1 Day Conference (no accommodation):  R1800
1 Day Conference (no accommodation) + gala dinner:  R2210
 **The above conference fees exclude VAT

If you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact rochelle@idu.co.za.
We hope to see you all there! 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Farewell Mandela

People across generations, countries, races, religions and creeds have all been experiencing Mandela’s passing in their own way. There has been an outpouring of respect, grief and remembrances across every communications channel across the globe.

There have been stories from those who were a part of the struggle, who lived through that era and watched Mandela’s release and felt the waves of change crash over the country. There has been whispered memories from those who were children when this happened, who felt the changes as rumbles through their parents and saw the introduction of new faces of all races to their schools and grew up with friends and families of mixed races and silently knew in the deepest part of them that this was because of a great man named Mandela.

And then there is the generation who have never known a world without the changes Mandela brought about – this was the generation that Mandela fought for, a generation that has no living memory of their own of separation and segregation.

Mandela taught us that without forgiveness, freedom is nothing - instead of becoming angry and seeking revenge on those that treated him as “less than” his whole life, he realised he had to let go of it or he would remain a prisoner - something many of today’s leaders, and every one of us, could stand to learn.

Since 2008, people across the world have celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day) on the 18th of July, his birthday. This day celebrates the idea that every single person has the power to make an impact and change the world in unprecedented ways; Mandela was the proof of this.

I believe that the best way to honour the memory of this great man and everything he did, is to live every day as if it were Mandela Day. He left us with so many lessons on how to be better, on how to lead, on how to bring about change through powerful belief, informed ideas and positive action; I believe it is our responsibility to aspire to live our lives in line with all he taught us and to continue to share his legacy by leading by example as he did for so long.

The world is so much richer for having had you in it and remains rich even in your passing, because of the abundance of all you have left behind. Farewell Madiba. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Is Risk Management Clouding Your Judgement

Moving into the cloud is a daunting prospect for many businesses; even more so when dealing with sensitive financial information. One of the main reasons for this seems to be fear around security and increased risk.

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Years ago, transitioning from traditional paper practices to IT solutions raised many of the same fears and yet, look at the advantages it provided: flagging and alerts of discrepancies, from customer payments lagging to sudden increases in expenditure or exceeding budgets; simplifying information to be understood by anyone leaving less place to hide fraud; and real-time access to information.

If fear is holding you back, you should know that one of the greatest benefits of cloud is handing some of your risk over to experts who are better able to protect your data than you are.

Cost is always a priority, so let’s look at investment risk. With cloud, there is no large upfront cost, no need for internal specialists or maintenance, and most solutions are easily scalable, allowing you to add or remove users as needed. Cloud also provides access to unlimited storage at a much lower cost than extending your own hardware would.

When you own the infrastructure, it is your responsibility to get professionals to continually test and fix any security risks. Cloud providers employ security specialists; providing the highest level of service at no extra cost and your software is automatically updated and secure.

On the topic of automatic updates - software integrations, customisations, fixes and even additional products and features can be implemented without any disruption to your business. Having everything up to date decreases all your risks, and this automation also minimises the need for staff to do unapproved updates and downloads which open your systems to potential risk through viruses and malware.

The data centres cloud providers use, have backups in place to prevent the loss of your data, ensuring your ability to recover it should any disaster hit – natural or otherwise. In addition to this, the physical security at a data centre far surpasses that which the average business could afford. So you are gaining a physical safety bonus as well.


Cloud services have many benefits, including those that will support your company’s risk management planning, so don’t let fear cloud your judgment. With your provider covering so much of your risk, it frees you up to spend your time on developing and growing your business.

Monday, 2 December 2013

idu-Concept simplifies and streamlines Cape Union Mart systems

Cape Union Mart Group is based in Cape Town and currently houses 5 major local brands - Cape Union Mart, South Africa’s favourite outdoor store and the group’s flagship brand; K-Way, an extremely popular technical range of outdoor clothing and gear; Old Khaki, a casual fashion brand available in over a dozen stand-alone stores; Sparks and Ellis, a uniform company and the latest addition Poetry, an eclectic lifestyle concept store for women. Stocking everything one needs for outdoor pursuits since 1933, Cape Union Mart has over 100 stores across South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

In 2011 Cape Union Mart embarked on a massive project, revamping their entire financial and POS systems.

“One of the key elements we needed to review was our budgeting and reporting systems. We had been carrying out our budgeting in Excel which became a time-consuming and labour-intensive exercise that was often complicated further by mistakes caused by human error or poor version control,” says Evan Torrance, IT Director of Cape Union Mart.

“We wanted a solution that streamlined the process, increasing efficiency and reducing errors by maintaining a single real-time version of the truth,” says Torrance. “We considered a number of options and very quickly decided that idu-Concept was the ideal business tool for us and that there was a culture fit between idu Software and Cape Union Mart. Cost is also always an important consideration for us, as well as local representation for support, both of which were met by idu.”

Cape Union Mart considers idu Software’s flexibility as a key differentiator of the company. There was a degree of complexity involved in the roll-out and on-going support required because of an ERP roll-out that was taking place at a similar point in time. “The idu team was always pleasant, professional and accommodating, and approached any and all additional support with a can-do attitude,” says Torrance.
           
“idu-Concept made it possible to do our budget against the new system’s chart of accounts with actuals from the old system’s set of accounts, making the move from one ERP system to another manageable,” says Torrance. “In this respect idu’s role in the migration of ERP systems should not be underestimated; in fact despite initial reluctance to undertake this project whilst tackling an ERP implementation, this decision proved with hindsight to be truly inspired.”

Cape Union Mart began using three idu-Concept modules – Budgeting, Reporting & Analytics – in late 2011. They were instantly impressed by the accuracy, real-time transparency and the control it provided. Users of the systems include everyone from the Financial Director, financial managers, department heads, area managers and selected departmental users and the feedback has been consistently that they are easy to use and make the work faster and simpler to do.
           
The idu Concept Financial Budgeting Module made the process of loading budgets on an annual basis far smoother and more efficient. Previously there were issues with multiple versions of the budget across different departments and they were often poorly consolidated or late for the new financial year. The simplicity and accuracy of a real time system has eliminated all of these concerns.
           
“It’s a great budgeting tool that requires limited input,” says Torrance. “It completely changed the budgeting process for us and supports our approach to budgeting. An additional and unexpected benefit of the module was that the percentage reallocations have made intercompany and intergroup changes automatic.” 
           
The idu-Concept Financial Reporting Module makes the process of reviewing monthly actuals against budgets for department heads a lot easier and provides the ability to review them in a timely and accurate manner. “It is a self-explanatory system, making it easy to run reports,” adds Torrance, “It also allows us to drill down to the lowest transactional level and it works well with excel.”

The idu-Concept Analytics module has streamlined the monthly reporting process and makes analysing data faster, easier and more accurate. The fact that is reads data from the idu modules and the ERP systems makes reporting of varied and complex data easy.

“idu-Concept is an affordable, functionally-robust solution that offers visibility across our entire business,” says Torrance. “We would recommend idu for all its exceptional qualities, as well as their team of professional and passionate staff who fitted very naturally into our working environment for the duration of the project.”

Monday, 25 November 2013

CPI has its place… That place is not the boardroom

As the end of the year approaches, we as business owners are once again faced with tough decisions about price increases for the new year. Every year, the dread appears around the same time as the Christmas decorations begin appearing in the malls and, for me at least, renewed frustration at the futility of using Consumer Price Index (CPI) as any kind of indicator of where inflation is at for business in the country.


According to Statistics South Africa, “The inflation rate is the change in the CPI for all items of the relevant month of the current year compared with the CPI for all items of the same month in the previous year expressed as a percentage.”

The clue should be in the name – it is a consumer price index – not a business price index. CPI is indeed a very good indication of the average South African consumer and household expense changes, though it is worth looking at who qualifies as the average South African in this context. According to the last census statistics in 2011, the average South African is a black 25 year old woman living in Gauteng, who attended but did not complete high school and has no tertiary education and is employed, but does not have much disposable income.

That said, the average professional person owning or managing or debating price changes for the companies we service, does not qualify as the average South African; and furthermore what we as a business spend our money on is nowhere near similar to what our average South African household spends their money on.

There are 12 categories that are monitored monthly in order to compile the CPI basket and those 12 categories are also weighted to reflect the percentage of monthly expenditure on them. Give a little thought as to which of these are relevant to your business in substantial weighting – Food and non-alcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; clothing and footwear; housing and utilities; household content and services; health; transport; communication; recreation and culture; education; restaurants and hotels and “miscellaneous goods and services”.

As a business, maybe 25% of the items are relevant to our costs and even then, the weighting they are given in a consumer context is not in line with the weighting they have in a business context. A quick glance at electricity and communications which are weighted as low expenditures to the average consumer (4.1% and 2.6% respectively) clearly illustrates this disparity, as they are generally a significant percentage of a business’s monthly expenditure.

Not to mention the glaring absence of salaries, that in the service industry could be anywhere up to 85% of a business’s expenses. There are not many highly skilled employees that will stay with a company for a salary increase that is in line with or less than that of inflation and, in most cases the expected increase is far higher. Inflation for 2013 is currently sitting at 6% (as of September’s CPI announcement); if your expenses are comprised of even 50% salaries and your staff expects a minimum of a 10% increase at the end of the year, there is no chance your cost increase can be 6% - your business could simply not sustain itself.

The bottom line is that although CPI certainly has its place; that place is not at the boardroom table. When considering your business’s price increases, you need to consider your own categories and weightings and not rely on something that is irrelevant to your expenditures. If you are confronted by resistance from customers citing CPI, take the time to explain why those numbers aren’t relevant to your business and the services you provide.


Note: CPI & Census information was garnered from the latest published documents on the Statistics SA website www.statssa.gov.za

Monday, 18 November 2013

Adapt or Die - The Evolution of Budgeting

Adapt or die – this is as true in business as it is in life. If you keep doing things the same way ignoring the change all around you, others will overtake you and you will be left with nothing to sustain you. Budgeting is no different. If you remain stuck in the old way of doing things, your business will continue to lose money, waste valuable resources and work from old unreliable information that is largely ignored by those who truly manage your company.

A long time ago and far away, businesses operated using ‘top-down budgeting’ - the finance department had to put together an overall budget for the business with strategic input from the FD, which was then broken down into each cost centre and presented to the cost centre managers as a done deal.

Since businesses are greater than the sum of their parts, randomly assigned budgets built from historical information cannot direct or reflect the financial performance of cost centres with any realism. As a result, top-down efforts are largely ignored by cost centre managers, and the business loses the benefits of a budget that accurately reflects their business needs.

Recognising the importance of the budget and having the input of cost centre managers has been a huge step in the right direction for budgeting as a whole and has resulted in ‘bottom-up budgeting’.

This is a collective process that involves cost centre managers providing current individual financial information relevant to their own cost centres. The proven outcome is a more accurate and credible budget, representing a unique expectation for every cost centre, created by an operationally involved manager.

It empowers those in charge of their domains with the tools to set expectations for themselves, that will be critically examined by the financial department and used to hold managers accountable for their performance. With responsibility comes a sense of ownership, leading to accountability, more accurate budgets and good spending practices.

The catch however is that although many companies recognise the value of this approach, their execution often falls short. Businesses still tend to compile budgets using central spreadsheet templates distributed to the cost centres for completion, falling straight back into the seemingly endless cycle of amendments and approvals.

This can quickly create a time and opportunity cost of hundreds of billable hours of operational as well as financial staff, and more often than not and uses a format that alienates non-financial operational managers.

While this version of bottom-up budgeting is at least more accurate than the top-down method, it is hugely wasteful, especially when the organisation has more than just a few cost centres.

The only solution is the final evolution to real-time, online systems that are easy to implement, use and understand by financial and non-financial managers. These systems will support bottom-up budgeting by allowing cost centre managers to input current relevant information into familiar uncomplicated spreadsheets that are available immediately to financial managers; cutting budgeting cycles to three weeks or less and therefore saving valuable resources and money.

In the end, recognising the need to adapt is the first step and then you just need to keep on evolving. Bottom-up budgeting completed with the correct tools results in greater financial empowerment, engagement and knowledge throughout the business. The resulting sense of ownership leads to greater sharing of responsibility and accountability within business domains, allowing their performance to be driven by their own expectations.


The results are not just more efficient and effective budgets, but just as importantly, better use of company resources. Freeing up business managers to run the business and the finance department to strategically guide the company’s performance can only result in a smarter, more upwardly mobile business. Adapting will not only mean your company will live, it will mean it will thrive and grow.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Ten tips for choosing financial budgeting software


There are many companies that offer budgeting software; they will vary greatly in price and in what they can deliver, so how do you know which one is going to be the best fit for your business? There are a few things you can keep an eye out for that will help you filter out the noise.

1. The software needs to be user friendly. Not everyone is a financial whiz; I dare say very few people are. But to get the most benefit from a company budget, financial and non-financial managers within a business need to input on, have access to and understand it.

2. Ideally, the system should automate as much of the data capture as possible. With users not having to manually input information, the budget cycle can be reduced from months to weeks and there is much less room for error.

3. The software should be designed in modules. This shows an understanding that each client has unique requirements and does not expect you to invest in things you do not need and allows for the product to grow in line with your business.

4. It should accommodate a variety of budget types: Itemised Budgeting, Depreciation Budgeting, Grade and Employee Budgeting, Percentage Reallocations and Departmental Transfer Budgets.

5. Users should be able to work offline; it should be a simple exercise to export standard budget accounts into MS-Excel and reload the data into the system via an import at a later stage.

6. Budgets and forecasts should be able to be captured against non-financial accounts (for example headcount and square meters) and the financial budget driven as a result.

7. The system administrator should be able to create multiple user-specific screen layouts, deciding what data is displayed and what calculations can be performed to create different experiences for different groups of users, specific to their requirements.

8. You should be able to review budgets and forecasts in real time at any level within the company during the cycle, allowing users to drill down to the detail without needing data aggregation from outside the system.

9. The system should allow for the flexibility of creating multiple versions of a budget and workflow should enable the tracking and approval of budgets throughout the cycle.

10. Security and access control should be easily set up by the system administrator at an individual user level, defining which cost centres they can see, what areas of the budget they can update, which reports they can run and how their screens will be displayed. The administrator should also have the ability to define password policies and clone similar users.

Variety and choice should be empowering for businesses, not provide further complications and confusion. By knowing the right things to look for and the right questions to ask, you can ensure that you are getting exactly what you need within your price range.


Monday, 4 November 2013

idu Software – The secret to success



idu Software (Pty) Ltd  was founded in 1998 by Kevin Phillips, James Smith and Wayne Claasen with the intention of offering ERP consulting services. With degrees and diplomas in Commerce, Accounting, Financial Information Systems and IT specialising in commercial software development between them, they were perfectly positioned when opportunity knocked.

“One of our first clients asked us to develop a custom budgeting solution that interfaced directly with their underlying financial system and was also user friendly for non-financial staff,” says Kevin Phillips, founder, owner and CEO of idu. “We realised there were few dedicated budgeting tools available, and even fewer that were easy for staff outside the finance department to use. The solution we developed back then remains our core product offering today.”

idu Software grew to deliver a user friendly interface to budgeting and reporting around all standard Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and financial systems. Their core product idu-Concept has been designed to streamline management interaction with financial systems. Typical ERP systems are designed with accountants in mind and are generally not user-friendly for the non financial user. idu-Concept addresses this, establishing a platform of ownership and empowerment that leads to vast improvement in the effective management control in any business.

idu are well on their way to realising their vision to be the first choice for delivering accessible, easy to use budgeting, forecasting and reporting solutions for all users, and dominating locally while competing globally.