Jenni Burgum


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What are the secrets of the most successful digital supply chains?

Today’s digital customers are looking for unique experiences at a hyper speed, making a super-flexible supply chain as critical as a super-efficient one. However, many organisations haven’t realised the full, value-driving potential of digital technologies. One group, though, is different. We call them “digital trendsetters” and they are the top performers in terms of both profitability and revenue growth in our survey of 400 senior supply-chain executives across 14 countries. These trendsetters are breaking away from the pack of “digital followers” because they are responding to digital disruption differently.

Cases in point

Schneider Electric, a global energy management company for example, has leveraged digital to identify 10 different customer segments based on need and operates four different supply chain models for a hyper-tailored customer experience. Hyper-tailored products and services require hyper-flexible capabilities and trendsetters know that leveraging the full spectrum of digital technologies is key to enabling them.

General Electric’s Brilliant Manufacturing initiative which leverages Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology and advanced real-time analytics. The system enables decision makers with the real-time visibility and deep operational intelligence needed to respond more quickly to unexpected events, as well as balance plant production with quality and profitability objectives.

Consider Pfizer’s Clinical Aggregation Layer, a data-sharing capability that enables accelerated new drug research through unprecedented collaboration between the pharmaceutical giant and its alliance partners.

So what can we learn from these and other Digital Trendsetters?

Think enterprise, not just supply chain

Use digital to own the customer experience, end-to-end, across the ecosystem. Unlike digital followers, whose approach is transactional and focused on providing an improved shopping and buying process and faster and more flexible fulfilment, trendsetters take a more strategic view. They look to strengthen their on-going customer relationship with regular updates about products and services, online self-service, support and feedback.

Raise your technology game to enable a hyper-tailored experience

By embracing controlled volatility, digital trendsetters aim to treat customers, products, and suppliers differently – on purpose and on their own terms. They are designing their supply chain operations around the intersection of suppliers, products and customers, all the way to the end consumer. They also strive to deliver a hyper-tailored customer experience: highly individualised, focused products and completely customised services providing buy-anywhere, collect anywhere, return-anywhere capabilities via flexible channels.

Never walk alone

Leverage digital investments to build new levels of collaboration. Creating a flexible ecosystem where everyone can have access to the right information to work together collaboratively toward a common goal is a top priority for two thirds of digital trendsetters. Their ecosystems encompass all stakeholders, including start-ups, in a broad, fluid and proactively managed network.

A way forward

Trendsetters follow a predictable pattern. They pinpoint what capabilities they need next, take action to implement them in a meaningful way, and capture the benefits.

Your key next steps:

1. Reinvent your supply chain business case. Preserve basic efficiencies – but examine how you could leverage digital to change your value proposition and enable growth at speed for the enterprise as a whole. You can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all. Go after what can make a disproportionate impact on growth and profitability.

2. Rethink your operating model. Scan your supply chain for digital enablement and let digital inform how you can reimagine your supply chain to truly reap its benefits. Up your spending on the more sophisticated technologies but don’t fall prey to “bolting on” new technology to an old model.

3. Reimagine your ecosystem. Expand your ecosystem beyond your four walls and leverage digital to access and share data, while managing cyber-security risk. Engage proactively with strategic partners, including digital start-ups, to help you jumpstart innovative, value-enhancing capabilities.

Kamendran Govender, Managing Director and Procurement & Supply Chain Transformation Lead for Accenture Consulting.

Kedibone Nedane


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Why women in leadership positions should not be judged

It is well known that female leaders have been obliged to think and act like men in the workplace.

They have often chosen to do this because they do not feel that they are entirely accepted in their positions by their male colleagues and because women who choose to fit the gender stereotype to act feminine and with compassion often lose impact and credibility. As a result, unfortunately women in leadership positions often appear harsh, rigid and over-assertive.  

A Stanford School of Business study on power and influence found that women who are perceived as competent are also often perceived as unlikeable, while men do not face this likeability/competency issue. In fact, as a result of this, women in leadership positions get very little support from other women.

The recent elections in the United States demonstrated a prime example of the above syndrome as one of the reasons Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign failed was that her critics accused her of being cold or aloof during her campaign. The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold than most imagined. But what was highlighted in all of this is that women do not stand together. Women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin – 62% to 34%. If they had split 50-50, Clinton would have won.

There is a growing body of evidence showing that women are equally and in some instances, more effective leaders than men. Research by the Institute for Inclusive Security, a think-tank focused on women’s contributions to peacebuilding has shown that women are more open to “collaboration across ideological lines and social sectors.” According to the Institute for Inclusive Security, when women are involved in negotiating peace deals, these are 35% more likely to remain in effect for at least 15 years.

So where do women find themselves at this juncture in the corporate world? Women have simply stopped making progress at the top in any industry anywhere in the world. For the last 10 years, in the United States, women have occupied 14% of the top corporate jobs and 17% of the seats on the Board. However, despite the fact that women are obtaining more and more of the graduate degrees – and more and more of the undergraduate degrees – there has been no more progress as this has translated to more and more women occupying entry-level and lower level management jobs. So, no real progress … One of the biggest contributing factors is that women do not support other women.

The benefits brought by women to leadership positions far outweigh the changes business needs to make to accommodate them. More startling perhaps – in view of prevailing attitudes – are the results from new data from the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) and Ernst & Young (EY) which shows that having more female leaders in business can significantly increase profitability.  

Stephen R. Howe, EY’s US Chairman and Americas Managing Partner says: “The research demonstrated that while increasing the number of women directors and CEOs is important, growing the percentage of female leaders in the C-suite would likely benefit the bottom line even more.”

While it is critical for organisations to increase access to leadership roles for women it is equally important to develop equitable strategies and programmes to ensure both men and women rise to the top – ultimately increasing the bottom line of the organisation. Women leaders need to be coached to develop the leadership and communications strategies they need in the workplace such as strategic and complex decision-making utilising the female whole brained analytical/intuitive style. They need to develop their strength and resilience by learning how to handle the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of an increasingly unstable and rapidly changing business world.

South Africa ranks among countries with the highest female representation in government. Laudable as this statistic may be, in corporate South Africa only seven of the 293 companies listed on the JSE have women at the helm (2015 Women in Leadership Census). Discriminatory practices, social norms and persistent stereotypes continue to shape inequitable access to opportunities, resources and power for women and girls.

As women have made greater impact on companies, it has become clear that they are no longer “optional” extras. Recent studies among multinational corporations show that with just one woman on a Board, a company’s share price will rise an average of 26%. Gender collaborative decision-making makes more money for companies!

Pragmatic thinking, spatial awareness and problem-solving style are the characteristics of the structure and usage patterns of the typical male brain while the female brain processes information from both hemispheres simultaneously, bringing about multi-tasking, collaborative decision-making, empathy, and a complex decision-making style incorporating people and processes more effectively. These women add a different perspective and voice to the leadership group. Women have the natural characteristics that have been missing in leadership.  

So why do women not help other women get ahead? Firstly, the women who advance to leadership, do this by not calling attention to their gender or their minority status.  It follows, unfortunately, that they are not there to advocate for other women – they simply do not want to be seen as having a “feminist agenda.” A woman may distance herself – consciously or not – so that she has credibility with her peers and shows that she’s “one of them.”

Secondly, women face subtle or not so subtle disapproval from their male peers especially when they congregate with other women, women helping one another is viewed as feminism – considered a negative thing in the workplace. Thirdly women helping other women is not considered valuable work.

The problem of women not helping other women will not be resolved until both men and women change the existing dynamic and begin to see women coming together and helping one another, not as feminism but for what it is – a critical component of business health and success.

Susi Astengo is the Managing Director of CoachMatching.

Tips on how to not retire hurt

Cricket may be a ‘gentleman’s game’, but there is nothing gentle about the way the game is played. No other ball sport requires quite so much protective gear, not even American football.

Irrespective of how talented you are, you want a second line of defence against a rock-hard ball coming for you at 150km/h. Sometimes even that is not enough, and the odd batsman is forced to “retire hurt” after being struck by the ball. But, it happens rarely; in fact, “retiring hurt” is far more common outside of cricket.

Most people experience some financial pain when they leave the ‘working field’, as their savings won’t support the accustomed lifestyle. Whose fault is that? Batsmen who show poor form or don’t wear the proper gear only have themselves to blame, if they take a body blow. It’s the same with your retirement savings. Ultimately, the onus is on you to ward off a poor outcome. To do so, you need the right technique and to back it up with the right safeguards.

Master the basics

In order to excel in any field requires a mastery of the fundamentals, usually through endless practice. Author Malcolm Gladwell put the required number of hours at roughly ten thousand. It should take you no more than a few minutes to grasp the fundamentals of retirement saving, but to become master of your retirement you need to practice them over your entire savings life.

Save enough. Don’t expect to retire like a prince if you save like a pauper. Put away at least 15% (net of admin fees and risk premiums) of the income you wish to replace in retirement, a bit more for women as they, on average, live longer than men.

Start early. Ideally, save for your entire working life, starting with your first paycheque. The sooner you start, the more you benefit from compounding returns. The big kicker comes in the last ten years of a 40-year savings term, so you lose out if you only start in your thirties.

Preserve your savings when you change jobs. If you cash out, you not only lose your accumulated savings, but also the return you would have earned on those savings for the rest of your life. It is practically impossible to make that up later in life.

Save within a retirement fund. Only pension, provident and RA fund members get the benefit of tax free contributions, returns and lump sum payments. These can potentially increase the value of your retirement income by up to 30%.

Let your time horizon guide your exposure to the share markets. For long-term investors, a high equity portfolio presents less risk than a low equity portfolio, simply because it has the prospect of a much higher return, despite more volatile near-term returns.

Diversify and rebalance. Spread your investments across a variety of different asset classes, securities and currency exposures, for a higher and less volatile return. By rebalancing regularly, you lock in some of the gains on investments that have done well and you buy more of the ones that have lagged behind.

Protect yourself

Risk and reward are linked, both in cricket and investing. You won’t score a six with a defensive short, and you won’t double your money holding cash. You need to take some risks to get ahead, but there is no point taking risks that don’t offer a commensurate reward. Some of the retirement industry’s practices fall into that category. They hold no prospect of a higher return for the average investor, yet they may bowl you out of a comfortable retirement. However, with the right armour you can avoid this.

Do a retirement plan. This is your personal investment policy statement. It defines your savings goal and the optimal long-term investment strategy to achieve it. Put this on record, because what is optimal long-term may not appear optimal in the present. The markets will test your faith from time to time; this is when you refer back to your plan, to re-affirm your course. The planning process will also make you a more informed investor, able to distinguish between beneficial and self-serving industry practices.

Use market-tracking index funds to avoid manager selection risk. Relying on active managers will, in all probability, give you a sub-optimal outcome. There are dozens of fund managers and hundreds of funds, all trying to beat the market return. Some will do really well, but most won’t; in fact, net of fees, the majority will deliver lower returns than comparable index funds, and a few will fail spectacularly. No one knows who the star managers will be, so your manager selection is a gamble, with the odds stacked heavily against you.

Avoid high-cost products. Higher fees do not beget superior returns; in fact, based on past research, they are a leading indicator of lower returns. Every 1% pa in fees reduces your long-term savings outcome by some 20%, so make it a rule to avoid long-term investment products that cost more than 1% pa.

Keep your eye on the ball

Batsmen get hurt when they take their eye off the ball. For retirement investors, the “ball” is an optimal savings outcome in thirty or forty years’ time – not at year end. Going after such a long-term goal requires a strategic rather than a tactical approach (which is why your retirement plan is a strategy document). Stick to the plan, even if another appears more profitable at present. If you pursue what has just done well, you will invariably be buying high and selling low. And, as you cannot reliably predict the big market turns, switching ahead of time is just as pointless.

Unfortunately, the investment industry is more concerned about short-term outcomes. So, much of the expert advice and market commentary you might hear is of a tactical nature, telling you how to invest your money right now. But, these ‘experts’ are just ‘talking their book’. If their views had any real value for you, they would not share them so freely.

Don’t let the industry’s ‘sledging’ put you off your game. Remember when Ben Stokes swore at Temba Bavuma last January? Later, after he had completed that historic maiden test century, Bavuma said ‘it fired me to knuckle down and stay focused on the task at hand.’ That’s exactly what you need to do, if you want to celebrate your retirement one day.

Steven Nathan is the CEO of 10X Investments.

How the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act could stimulate economic growth

The new Act will make benefits available to a much larger proportion of the workforce, and also has the potential to stimulate economic growth.

The Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act, which was signed into law by President Zuma recently, has been widely reported on as likely to have a positive effect on the country’s workforce. However, it’s also important to point out it’s potential to help stimulate the economy.

Changes brought on by the new Act strengthens the economy and widens the safety net for employees, as it will force the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to free up more capital to a wider range of people now being able to claim and claiming being made easier. This is critical because in South Africa, on average, each employed person has 10 dependants, pointing to a deeper impact on the economy.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has been exceedingly good at collections and has built up an immense surplus with its current value standing in excess of R99-billion.

Although the new Act will have no material effect on payroll administrators or HR professionals, it does have the potential to affect their “clients” quite profoundly. These professionals have the knowledge that employees generally lack, and they should take proactive steps to ensure that employees understand what the new Act means.

This important educative role will help employees unlock new value, and will eventually contribute towards a motivated, engaged workforce, while ultimately helping to stimulate the economy.

A deeper look

As mentioned, one major innovation of the new Act is to allow a much wider range of people to claim unemployment benefits. A notable category here is foreign nationals, who previously had to contribute to the fund but could not claim. Now, foreign nationals who are working in South Africa legally can claim unemployment benefits on the same terms as South Africans. This is set to benefit a large number of people, given the great number of foreigners in the semi-formal sector, including domestic workers.

Another group that is to benefit is students on learnerships. When their learnerships expire and they do not succeed in finding employment, students are now be able to claim unemployment benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Similarly, employees who have their work hours, and thus their pay, reduced can now claim for the loss of income. In a struggling economy, companies often reduce work hours in order to avoid retrenching employees — the new Act thus helps mitigate the impact of a reduced salary on those affected.

Easier to claim

The Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act also makes some significant changes that will make it easier to claim benefits. A welcome change given the fact that many have found it difficult to claim from the UIF. Changes to help reverse this unsatisfactory state of affairs include relaxing some of the time constraints for claims.

For example, as per the previous Act, death benefits had to be claimed within six months, which resulted in many families finding out too late that a benefit could be claimed and missing the deadline. Under the new Act the time limit for claiming death benefits has been extended to 18 months, which will afford families enough time to complete the long (and often arduous) administrative process required.

Under the old regime, many expectant mothers simply never claimed maternity benefits because they could not claim until the child was born. This effectively meant they would only receive the money well after they had returned to work. Now pregnant women can claim eight weeks before the scheduled birth, which improves their changes of receiving the money when they need it. The maternity benefit has also been increased from 45 percent of normal pay to 66 percent.

Those who are unfortunate enough to have run out of sick leave also stand to benefit. Previously, seriously ill employees could only claim from the UIF if their illness continued for 14 working days after their sick leave was exhausted. The threshold is now seven days, thus reducing unpaid sick leave in theory to little over a week.

President Zuma is expected to further elaborate on the impact of the new Act in his 2017 Budget Speech on 22 February.

Arlene Leggat is the Director at South African Payroll Association.

Sonja Von Poncet


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