Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Say goodbye to countless budget iterations

Say goodbye to countless budget iterations and complicated spreadsheets and hello to fast, streamlined financial budgeting and reporting!

Your budget is the roadmap that allows your company to keep moving forward with a singular focus, unfortunately they are too often rendered useless by the time intensive process, frustration and lack of ownership behind them.

In a typical budget cycle, spreadsheets are prepared by the finance department and distributed to cost centres; line managers populate the spreadsheets, which are then collected and correlated by finance. Often spreadsheets are inadvertently changed or incorrectly completed by non-financial users and the finance department is left to untangle costs and collate multiple versions into one centralised document.

Management reviews the budget, rejects it for a multitude of reasons sending it back to finance, who then reverts back to cost centres for revisions. And so begins a seemingly endless loop, taking up valuable time and increasing the cost to the company daily.

Often, after the loop has been running for too long, senior management will try to salvage the situation and instruct the accountants to alter them centrally and finalise the budget. This leads to frustration from line management, feeling that they have “wasted their time” and the ownership of their budgets is negated, likely resulting in resistance to accountability for actual versus budget spend.

The typical budget takes a long time to complete and is inflexible, with limited ability to make real-time amendments.

The ideal solution is a collaboration of management across departments, with finance only providing input and direction. This solution should allow end users to budget and re-budget their activities in real time, and independently of other departments, regions and divisions, while automatically giving online aggregation of multiple hierarchical structures.


The result is that users become empowered and are willing to be accountable and responsible for their budgets; providing a platform for positive actual versus budget management at a cost centre level. Budget cycles are reduced from months to weeks. And the finance department is free to focus on the budget process timelines, anomalies and providing financial guidance to non-financial managers.

Monday, 23 November 2015

When Leadership means not leading

Being a leader in software development, being cutting edge when things change so fast, is absolutely what you want need to stay ahead of the pack; being a leader in business often means the opposite.

Leadership seems to imply leading on all fronts, stepping into the unknown, going first. But realistically, business leaders have wide ranging responsibilities, putting this approach at odds with good business practice. Leaders have to hold back, watch, learn and then follow, particularly when purchasing software.

New software is a double-edged sword in the business world; it could give you a competitive advantage, providing additional functionality, but there is also enormous risk involved.

Say you are the leader of a large corporate with 3000 computers and decide you want to take advantage of a new look operating system. The vendor claims its faster and networks better, however the user interface is completely different to the environment your users are familiar with. It would be like giving a soccer team a rugby ball and pretending everything is the same.

Imagine 3000 employees who cannot figure out how to get anything done your business would stutter and then stall. Imagine then, having to uninstall and reinstall the workable version. The time and financial repercussions of wanting to be a leader in terms of software have to be questioned.

And so, generally, the leaders of large businesses recognise the risks and stick to tried and tested software, even if they are 2 versions behind. They will take on new software once the bugs are fixed and the updates are complete.

This is worth noting for software developers. While being a leader in your industry requires innovation and originality, you need to consider who your target market is.

If youre aiming for young dynamic businesses, your products and services can be never seen before; but if you want to work with established businesses, you may need to reconsider. You may have designed the perfect solution for an international conglomerate, but if it isnt established and recognised with a solid track record, you are fishing in the wrong waters.


Sometimes, leadership is about more than leading the way. Instead of being the first to step into the future, it can be about being the person who can look at the future and see both the potential and the pitfalls.

*This article first appeared in Accountancy South Africa in March 2015

Monday, 9 November 2015

Idu Software Impresses Cape Consumers with seamless implementation and service



Cape Consumers (Pty) Ltd was founded in 1947 and is a registered Credit Provider in terms of the National Credit Act. Using the combined purchasing power of their 30 000 cardholders, they negotiate discounts with more than 7500 selected retailers for their cardholders. This discount is then paid as a bonus to the cardholders based on their purchases for the preceding purchase year.


Time for a change
Two years ago Cape Consumers got a fresh start, appointing a new Managing Director, Marthinus Fourie, a new Financial Director, Monty Stephenson, and promoting Theresa le Roux to Financial Manager, as well as adding two new executives for IT and Sales & Marketing. This new EXCO team set a turnaround strategy in place to run until December 2015, when it would roll over into a new 5-year growth strategy with the goal of growing their R1 billion turnover to a R10 billion turnover.

With this strategy in mind, they had realised that it was time to move from their current spreadsheets to a more professional and sophisticated software that would help to improve systems and support the new vision and growth of the company. Although they weren’t actively looking to upgrade as yet, when they received the introductory call from idu Software, they were in the perfect space to take it on.

“I had met idu owner and CEO, Kevin Phillips, years ago when I was with Ernst & Young through their Entrepreneur of the Year program, and our IT Executive, Louis Volschenk, had previously worked on the idu-Concept software at the law firm ENS, and was very impressed,” says Monty Stephenson, Financial Director at Cape Consumers. “When we met with Kevin and he spoke of how he developed his business and idu-Concept and his philosophies towards business, we realised that idu was the perfect fit for us.”

Part of the new Cape Consumers’ management approach was incorporating new ideas and input from all levels of the company. “We wanted to do something more decentralised and give more ownership to business unit leaders allowing us to move away from a top down budgeting system and idu allowed us to do that,” explains Stephenson.

“Managing version control in spreadsheets was a nightmare, and this would only worsen as we grew,” says 9-year veteran of Cape Consumers and Financial Manager, Theresa le Roux. “Every time we rolled the budget forward, we would lose all previous comments and calculations and documents and have to start over. I love that this is no longer an issue with idu-Concept.”

The implementation process
The Cape Consumers team was impressed with the professionalism and speed of the implementation process.

“From a financial perspective, the project management was done right from the outset,” says le Roux. “They facilitated a comprehensive scoping workshop, in order to get a deeper understanding of our business and our specific needs. They followed this with documentation outlining exactly what was in scope and what wasn't, a clear project plan with timelines and costs and outlines of what would be needed from us.”

“They gave us the worst case scenario in terms of timelines and costs and explained that both could be kept down by the project manager, myself, being involved from the get go,” says le Roux. “I was able to manage spend incredibly well, by their tracking progress on the project budget and keeping me constantly up to date.”

“The experience for me was outstanding,” says Stephenson. “I have never seen someone grasp what we do and who we are so quickly. Very few service providers can meet both IT and financial requirements and idu combines financial understanding with the highest class of tech knowledge.”

“Kevin is a Chartered Accountant and a business owner himself, so he clearly understands how important quality of service is and exactly what small businesses need and has built his team accordingly,” Stephenson expands. “The service is consistently excellent, whether you are dealing with the CEO or the consultant doing the implementation - and this is undoubtedly due to the company leadership.”

Change Management
Cape Consumers particularly admired the delicacy with which the idu team approached the change management aspect of the transition, from their presentation to the EXCO and the users, to the way they presented the workshops and facilitated the move.

“They did a comprehensive, easy to understand presentation to EXCO,” says Stephenson, “And their knowledge and passion for their product and understanding of our needs won the team over. They understood the importance of support in getting everybody on board.”

Le Roux adds, “The training was very hands on and interactive and they offered 1-on-1 training where it was needed, ensuring everybody felt confident in the software. There are 30 people in the company and around half of us will be using it regularly, so buy in and comprehension was really important.”

idu in action
Cape Consumers used idu-Concept in April when budgeting for their 2016 year and the team who have used it thus far have found it to be a huge improvement on the previous systems.

“It is really easy to use and the monthly commenting and indicators add real value to us,” says le Roux. “Also, it allows us to read the numbers straight out of Sage-Accpac, so the numbers have more integrity.”

Upgrading to Enterprise
After only 3 months on the standard budgeting model Cape Consumers decided to upgrade to the Enterprise package, giving them full access to the additional modules, particularly Business Intelligence.

“We started investigating developing our own BI a short while ago, but our IT Executive, Louis Volschenk, had informed us that it would be an incredibly time intensive project,” says Stephenson. “When the idu team told us about their BI offering, we were easily convinced that the benefits of upgrading far outweighed the financial investment.”

“We are so excited to access the full power of BI to look at our financial and non-financial information,” says le Roux. “It will add such value to EXCO decision making and enable us to plot a clear roadmap, and because of the real-time make tweaks as we go.”

In review
“The idu team were incredibly professional, flexible, adaptable and always available,” says le Roux. “They went above and beyond when helping to set everything up, even helping me to upskill to get the most from the software. The team were easily able to adapt to whatever requests we made, navigating their software with ease and making it work,”

“I have never encountered another service provider who instills such confidence in the understanding, knowledge and skill of every member of their team,” says Stephenson. “I knew at every step that I would get the same impeccable service no matter who I spoke to – and the fact that I had access to anybody and everybody across all departments of the idu business only strengthened that confidence.”