Excel has been around for decades. Back in the day, it was just the tool businesses needed to cut down on paperwork and support operations with its formula functions and promises of improved data security (compared to paper records). But fast-forward to our modern way of doing business, especially when it comes to sharing and pulling data from numerous stakeholders and teams, it is easy for confusion to set in, which can often lead to the misinterpretation of the information or incorrect reporting. There are also definite security risks to consider. How confident are you that your spreadsheet data is safe and secure when outsourcing your B-BBEE function to a third party? Then other threats can compromise the integrity of your data, from the risks of stolen laptops, complications surrounding POPIA, dangers of computer viruses, to mention but a few.

Let’s look at some of the disadvantages associated with using spreadsheets:

  • Spreadsheets are challenging to share internally and update regularly.
  • Spreadsheets are easily shared outside the organisation, which becomes a risk, particularly when an email is accidentally sent to the wrong recipient.
  • Multiple spreadsheet versions can exist with no clear indication of who’s working on what or how the changes are communicated to the team, which leads to massive confusion.
  • The increase in margin for errors rises significantly, which automatically makes the accuracy of the data questionable, which is a risk when reporting. Various studies show that 88% of all spreadsheets contain errors.
  • Reporting is a painful experience and a very complex process to do.
  • Creating visual data like graphs or pie charts is time-consuming, and most images are unreadable.
  • Restrictions surrounding the recent implementation of POPIA.
  • If your laptop or server crashes or a natural disaster strikes, the organisation will lose critical data.
  • Business Units cannot manage their strategies due to a lack of overall visibility, and it becomes harder to scale up if your company starts growing rapidly.
At Mpowered, we collaborate closely with B-BBEE champions, transformation teams and stakeholders from various organisations. This has allowed us to identify a pattern of similar B-BBEE pain points that all professionals have experienced with the current systems they have in place.

Mpowered’s software is expertly designed to free companies of all these B-BBEE frustration and pain points.

The answer is to make your B-BBEE data work for you and the other departments involved by implementing a secure software system that allows all stakeholders to review transparent and accurate reports. Mpowered’s BEEtoolkit Software solution comes with the added benefit of having a designated B-BBEE Customer Specialist assigned to your organisation who will assist you throughout your compliance journey. The BEEtoolkit serves as your central data resource. The system will alleviate the disadvantages listed above and mitigate all the risk elements associated with spreadsheets, so you can rest assured that your data is safe and accurate. Relevant departments receive training on the system for their areas of functionality, while the BEEtoolkit provides you with visual representation, gap analysis per element, scorecard calculator and scenario planning. Furthermore, reporting is made easier with just a click of a button. Software and programs should simplify and help grow your business, which is Mpowered’s promise. With your transformation team equipped with Mpowered’s software, services and B-BBEE expertise, you know that your compliance and transformation journey is in good hands. Make a move from the time-consuming data collation, manual calculations and formulas to Mpowered’s user-friendly software, designed to make your B-BBEE journey easy and crush those pain points to give you peace of mind.

Reach out and schedule a free demo to see the difference Mpowered can make to your financial year-ends, verification period and audits now.

 

At some point, we can relate to a bad customer experience on a personal or professional level. Be it having a special occasion ruined by terrible food or service at a restaurant, a shoddy repair job on your motor vehicle or having your call placed on hold for 25 minutes when trying to resolve a simple issue without success.

In most instances, these experiences have left us feeling disgruntled and inconvenienced, or in extreme cases, we might have even incurred additional expenses or suffered reputational damage. What do we do? We vow never to do business again with the parties involved and advise against them via word of mouth or write complaints on social media platforms.

Customers have the power to either make or break your business.

Recent surveys on customer experience conducted by Forbes Magazine and Bain & Company reveal two important facts that business owners cannot ignore. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that are not. While 80% of companies are under the impression that they deliver on customer experience, they responded that only 8% are doing so.

The recent pandemic changed the business landscape dramatically due to global lockdowns. Digital-led experiences have increased and have become the new normal. Companies that were slow on technology uptake were placed in a precarious position and suffered substantial financial losses. Other companies quickly adapted their business models to focus more on service delivery to enable customer retention or expand their customer base.

Knowing Your Customer and where to find them is proven to be of the utmost importance. Their experience will define two-thirds of customer loyalty. If your customers are not satisfied or offered convenience and consistency throughout their journey, they will go elsewhere.

The good news for business owners today is that customer experience technology offers solutions that will benefit your company and customers alike.

We have placed increased efforts on our customer success delivery model that we have embedded in every solution of ours. Our Customer success team are professionals in the B-BBEE industry and boasts deep technical insights into the Codes and relevant sector charters. Internally we have identified a way of work to understand the customer’s operational environment and work together to align goals and objectives, thereby ensuring that the customer is deriving value from our offerings through their time with us.

It is essential to partner with the right service provider; there is an unfortunate misconception around value, especially in the South African market. In a covid struck environment, everyone looks for the lowest price. Companies are impressed by who talks the “bigger game” at a sales initiative but not on facts. Facts must drive due diligence. Mpowered has a customer satisfaction rate of over 90%, an average retention of customers for five years (some have been with us for a decade!) and a Net promoter score way above average for software as a services business.

We focus our customer success strategies around support and value. Supporting customers through every up and down during their compliance journeys. Our customer success team thrive on our support platforms (phone, email and Live chat) so much so that our first-time response resolves are above 70%, and our actual time response to tickets are minutes on emails, seconds on Live chat and calls.

As the old saying goes, ‘Customer is king’. We adopt this principle as our way of work to ensure that we optimise a customer’s compliance journey through efficiencies, allowing customers to drive true impactful transformation in their respective areas, all driving business forward.

With the global reality of COVID-19, shrinking markets, rising unemployment rates and increased competitiveness, it makes business sense to deliver on service now and understand the 76% of customers out there who expect to be understood. Warren Buffett said it best, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

It is 2021, and you managed to implement a data analytics tool – like Mpowered Analytics – alongside your BEE tracking tool. The BEE data is finally unlocked, and you are excited to create all the interactive charts you have been dreaming of. Your reporting is about to become amazing – or so you think!

An unexpected problem confronts you: the blank canvas and world of reporting possibilities have you feeling a little lost and overwhelmed.

What charts do you need, or which data points should you be tracking? What do your stakeholders care about most? What metrics will help you move the needle?

Getting your BEE analytics project off the ground can be surprisingly daunting. I found one principle helped me get going:

 

Know the difference between exploratory and declarative analytics

 

There are many different “types” of data analytics, each with its specific objective and approach. The two types of analytics that I find most applicable when kicking off a BEE analytics project are “exploratory” and “declarative” analytics.

Let us take a quick look at them:

 

Exploratory analytics

Exploratory dashboards are all about searching. They help you ‘mine’ your data, looking for patterns to establish a high-level overview of what is going on in your business.

These are the kind of dashboards that make up your ‘morning paper’. The dashboards are for your consumption, with a strong cup of coffee and an enquiring, scientific mindset.

These dashboards are often ‘noisy’, with many charts side-by-side. They compare BU to BU, looking at various trends across a range of time.

 

 

Let’s look at the example above. Here we are looking at Skills Development spend across EAPs over time. We can see a problematic pattern emerging: Spend on African people is declining over time, dropping below the target, while spend on Indian and Coloured people is climbing fast, exceeding the targets vastly. There is probably some ‘oversteer’ to correct a previously weak distribution of spend across EAPs… We have found something actionable while exploring trends!

 

Declarative analytics (aka reporting)

This type of analytics is what most people tend to think about when we talk about dashboards – presenting data to a set of stakeholders. Declarative dashboards tell a specific story.

Declarative dashboards are the outcome of successfully using exploratory dashboards.

For instance, above we found some potential oversteer where our spend on African people is diving fast, while our spend on Indian people is far exceeding a balanced distribution.

Having found those issues, we can the prepare some declarative analytics that tell an actionable story:

 

 

Notice how the headings of charts don’t describe the data (like in exploratory analytics), they describe the actionable insight. We’re translating the findings from our exploration into tangible changes that your stakeholders can understand and immediately and action.

You are ‘declaring’ your findings from the ‘exploration’. And that’s where data analytics makes you a superhero:

 

Data analytics enable you to apply your expertise to find problems and translate them into actions that will produce positive change.

 

Why is this important to know?

Understanding the types of analytics will help you focus on the right audience, intent and, therefore, the data points and charts to use going forward.

Here is a little cheat sheet you can use to help you on your analytics journey:

 

Mpowered has launched a robust product and service that makes your BEE analytics or reporting easier and more meaningful. Head over to our website or book your demo with the team to see just how powerful this BEE reporting tool is!

Author – Gary Greyling, Mpowered’s very own obsessed product developer.

We are all probably tired of the words Covid-19 and pandemic. But we have to come to terms with the fact that these terms are now part of our daily vocabulary, as they are a part of our reality. This situation has brought some level of uncertainty for all of us, including the future of our businesses. It has forced business operations to recalculate forecasted revenues together with the costs that were anticipated to be incurred. Cost-cutting has become a non-negotiable exercise, carried out through different departments, from the core and strategic, to the least supportive functions of operations.

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) has somehow landed at the bottom of the priority list. Perhaps businesses anticipated that this was going to be put on hold due to the lockdown, or there was concern about whether businesses’ doors would still be open, post-lockdown. The situation that this pandemic has placed all of us in has been overwhelming, and unprecedented. While companies do their level best to keep their heads above water in an almost non-existent economy, some have seen opportunities. However, the overall effect across all industries has not been a positive one.

This where B-BBEE compliance, and software in particular, has become questionable, in terms of its contribution to companies’ sustainability. Most companies have started asking themselves if they should continue with the BEE tool’s expenses, or to kill it altogether.

 

The misconception

There’s no doubt that some companies believed that there would be an announcement about how the lockdown would affect their BEE scorecards. What was communicated, was the Skills Development Levy (SDL) payment holiday, which was granted to companies for a few months. And somehow, people believed that this would mean that the skills development expenditure target would drastically decrease, since the SDL amounts paid over to the South African Revenue Services (SARS) for those months were R0.00. This proves that people still do not understand what a leviable amount is, and because it is very close to the SDL, they confuse the two. Just in case you are also confused, let me explain it quickly: a leviable amount is the amount on which 1% would be paid over as the SDL to SARS. So, the leviable amount is more or less your total salary bill.

A lot of companies questioned the treatment of the payment holiday periods in terms of planning and implementing the required training for the year. The Department of Trade and Industry confirmed that the payment holiday did not necessarily mean that there are no leviable amounts during those months, unless no salaries were paid to staff. Therefore, although the lockdown affected a lot of things, BEE compliance is still a must.

 

The importance of BEE tools

Despite the temptation to cut costs, businesses should know that some costs are important when it comes to keeping the business running. BEE software is one such cost, which management can easily think is a ‘can-do-without’ type of expenditure, when it really can have a negative effect on the business’ overall performance. Some companies measure BEE performance because their customers put pressure on them, some do it for the purpose of  government tender requirements, and some do it just for the sake of being good citizens, and wanting to see true transformation across the economic realm. It could be that the prioritisation of BEE depends on the reasons for doing it, so some businesses don’t think twice about continuing to invest in it, while others don’t see the need.

It might seem easy to manage BEE when an entity has already reached its desired target, and only needs to work at maintaining it. But it could be difficult to manage when there are curve balls like the current pandemic that influence how businesses are run. Budgets, forecasts and contingency plans could easily be missed as a result. This was evident when sanitisers and handwashes suddenly became super scarce on shelves when the pandemic initially broke out. Pharmaceutical and chemical companies clearly did not anticipate the drastic jump in revenues when budgeting for the year. That is where the importance of keeping track of business performance comes in.

Companies that chose to pause all BEE-related activities found themselves in a predicament soon as the lockdown levels were eased. For some, it might have worked to their advantage. For example, entities that could easily have jumped the generic revenue threshold could have forfeited the revenues that would have gotten them to that size. In such cases, the BEE targets became less stringent and a little easier to achieve. For other companies though, there was a period of no action, where planned and unplanned training could not take place. These companies fell behind with reaching their set targets for the year. It is in such cases that the importance of B-BBEE tracking stood out.

 

How can Mpowered tools empower you?

At Mpowered, we offer software tools that allow entities to keep continuous track of (their scores), and self-measure based on transactions that take place throughout the financial period. While verification is an annual process mostly audited on past events, the Mpowered BEEtoolkit allows you to have an idea of what the results might be.

The BEEtoolkit allows you to capture data, which is then translated into information using the back-end calculation processes. It is a user-friendly, web-based system that only requires internet access and a browser. Although optimised for Google Chrome, it works just as well with Microsoft Edge. This tool can calculate your entire B-BBEE scorecard, giving you a breakdown of how each element has been measured against compliance targets. Over and above the generic scorecard, there are a number of other sector charters available in the system. The Toolkit is capable of instantly calculating your gap from the maximum points available for each element indicator, breaking it down in terms of compliance, as a percentage or figure, in either headcount or spend, as well as points.

 

One of the most interesting features of the BEEtoolkit is the Scenario Planner, where one can view the Gap Analysis. This feature allows entities to have an indication of how far they are from reaching either full points or a specific goal, which can be set in the Target Scorecards section. The Scenario feature can use the budgeted forecasts to see how they will impact the overall scorecard. It can be used to proactively adjust budgets when it comes to B-BBEE expenditure, when what has been allocated is not enough to get the entity to where it wants to be. This exercise can be tremendously helpful in assisting with proper planning, and the implementation of initiatives that lead to a successful BEE scorecard performance.

 

Now you understand!

Going back to the original question: do you think that BEE tools should be kitted or killed? I am pretty sure that most of you will agree with me when I say that BEE tools play a big role when it comes to B-BBEE compliance and transformation. Those who chose not to continue with embracing the tools could easily have fallen into the, ‘Oh no’ trap, when they realised that it was too late to make up for lost time. This is the reason I personally encourage the use of BEE software, to make sure that everything is on track, while taking unforeseen circumstances into account.

 

More reads:

 

Author –  Ofentse Maduse, 25 February 2021

Studies conducted by the University of the Western Cape have found that between 70% and % (https://www.uwc.ac.za/News/Pages/How-Can-South-African-Entrepreneurs-Succeed.aspx) of businesses fail within the first five years. These are scary numbers to look at, and after speaking to professionals in various industries, I wonder what the failure rate is for new graduates when they enter their profession. They all seem to say the same thing: graduates entering the workforce are nowhere ready to work for the companies that hire them.

When you speak to professionals you can understand their frustration at dealing with new graduates who are “know it alls” and feel they should be running the business based on the degree they have obtained. Yes, they might have mastered the theory, but they have no understanding of how to apply it practically, or how to navigate the corporate world.

I have personally seen graduates coming into the workforce thinking that they will be immediately earning a high salary. It is a rude awakening for them when they hear that they would probably need to start in an internship earning nothing more than a stipend, and that their starting salary thereafter will be modest.

This is where mentoring can be so useful for these graduates for them to understand that even if they have great ideas it does not always lead to instant success. Don’t get me wrong, I think their energy and insights are required in a technology driven, social media controlled modern world, and this could be beneficial to any company if it is done right.

So how do we harness the energy and insights offered by the youth, and improve their efficiency and initial experiences in the workplace?

One powerful way is through focused mentorship programmes. I have always seen myself as an educator, and teaching and mentoring has come naturally to me. I wish this could be a calling for more people as I think it mentorships could fundamentally change the experience that our youth have as they enter the workforce. Not only is there a need for this type of guidance for the youth, but also entrepreneurs that are starting a new business.

This is where professions such as Chartered Accountants and attorneys have got it right. Graduates are required to complete a two-year articles programme as they embark on their careers. These graduates know that they are in for long hours and low pay when they start their articles, because everyone has warned them about it.

A form of this should be standard for each industry.

After understanding what your reality will be when you join the workforce you now need a mentor that can help you navigate your new environment. Technology and the use of it comes easy for the Generation Zers. Dealing with people that do not speak their language is not so easy for them and can cause frustration for the entire workforce. Having a proper mentorship programme in place could also lead to less resistance from current workforce and can create clear growth opportunities for your graduates, which will mean more harmony in an organisation. Dare I say it, a win, win for all.

The mentorship concept seems to have gained increasing traction in recent years. Mentorship programmes such as http://mentorshipmovement.co.za/  and the  https://www.mentorshipchallenge.co.za/ are gaining followers. There is a professional body where mentors can register themselves: https://www.comensa.org.za. Even government has spearheaded various mentorship programmes for young entrepreneurs and work-seekers.

 

There’s little doubt about the value of mentorship, but many of the professionals who are well-suited to the task are inundated with work, and good mentoring involves a considerable time commitment.

The question we need to ask here is: can we find a group of people with both the time and relevant experience that can guide these youth and entrepreneurs?

The answer is yes: our retired citizens. Retirees have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and are often looking for a purpose. The average retirement age is roughly 60 years (https://tradingeconomics.com/south-africa/indicators), and with life expectancies increasing in South Africa and globally, retirees often end full-time work with several years of potentially productive years to spare.

From my experience you will see a lot of retired people enjoying the first couple of months of retirement and then getting bored and looking for a challenge. Let them guide our young entrepreneurs while simultaneously generating an income from the experience that they have gathered in their work life. Let us not throw away resources where they are so desperately needed.

As a B-BBEE professional, I can say that an opportunity exists for the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to add more on mentoring by adding it as an indicator on the Amended Codes of Good Practice.

In this regard, the Construction Sector Charter has led the way. It allows for three points to be scored under Skills Development for an Implementation of an Approved and Verified Mentorship Programme. You can even score an additional bonus points for people that were promoted due to them having completed the learnership programme. This provides clear incentive for companies to drive mentorship programmes, and I feel this should be standard across all charters.

Let’s increase meaningful mentorship programmes across the country by inviting retirees to get involved and structuring incentives for companies to follow suit. I know getting people to commit their precious time to help individuals that are not friends or family does not come natural to human beings, but I promise you that when you see the growth in a person that you are mentoring and they succeed in their endeavors, their success becomes your success.

 

Author –  Kurt Van Der Westhuizen, 04 December 2020

Working in the BEE industry for the last 10 years I have been asked — by myself and others — what good B-BBEE has ever done for the black people it supposedly aims to serve.

 

 

I have seen some individuals benefiting from B-BBEE ownership deals, but it often seems to be the same people.

I have seen people being put into unsuitable management positions simply to benefit the company’s Management Control score.

I have seen black entrepreneurs start small businesses, but many have not grown their companies with the investments they receive, and some have even spent the money on luxury items rather than routing it back into the business.

These all paint a pretty dire picture, but as a black (Coloured) BEE practitioner, I’m here to tell you that there is also a ray of light on this horizon. What is it, you may ask?

Skills Development.

That single element of B-BBEE is where I see a measurable difference being made in the lives of black people in South Africa.

Why is Skills Development so important to me?

I grew up in the gang-ridden, notorious suburb of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town. I had no real opportunity to study full-time straight after high school. In fact, that opportunity only came when I was 30 years old. I paid for my studies out of my own pocket at first but had to take out a loan to complete my course. My degree came coupled with a chunk of debt that I had to pay off, and I still needed to help my family with expenses at the same time. It took me 5 years to pay off the debt.

Despite the financial strain, it was worth it. My life has changed drastically since I accomplished my degree, and I can truly see how important an education was for the improvement of my lifestyle. Without an education I would not be where I am today, and I think everyone should be given a similar opportunity to improve themselves.

 

How does my experience relate to B-BBEE?

B-BBEE has a mechanism that caters for the Skills Development of employees and the development of unemployed learners. This was further enhanced in the amendments that took effect in 2015 to include non-employed people. With the 2019 amendments, the Codes now also specifically cater for students at higher education institutions. There are several different types of training recognized by the Skills Development scorecard, including learnerships, mandatory training and bursaries. For the purposes of this blog, I will focus on bursaries.

The government is using B-BBEE to drive Skills Development to enhance our current workforce. The people who benefit from this won’t need to be burdened by debt when they study, because the course is funded by companies in South Africa. If I had been given the opportunity of a bursary, I would have been further along in my personal accomplishments rather than first having to pay off the debt I incurred while studying.

Even before bursaries could be claimed under Skills Development, companies were using different methods to pay for bursaries. They would use their Corporate Socio-Investment expenditure to pay for bursaries for qualifying students or for their employee’s children. Some companies even had ownership structures, whereby a trust would own shares in a company and the beneficiaries of the trust would be black students. But now that bursaries are a separate indicator under the Skills Development element, the number of companies providing bursaries to students has increased dramatically. Click here for a list of bursaries that are available in South Africa.

 

What does this mean for the future?

Thanks to B-BBEE requirements, companies are now implementing development plans for students from school level through to university and into the workforce for scarce and critical skills. This means that companies can now identify the correct people at a young age and develop them towards filling gaps where the need might exist in future. Although this may take a long while, it still promises a better future for students at school than they previously would have had in this current economy. It gives me great assurance that the future of my own child can be planned out at a much earlier stage than I had previously imagined.

 

What more can be done?

A big problem for universities is that only 22% of students complete their degree in 3 years, and only 39% of students have completed their degree by the fourth year. This puts strain on universities and on the workforce, as people with limited skills are joining the economy.

This is where I think corporate South Africa can and should do more. We do not have enough professionals that mentor students and keep them on track when they are studying. If your company provides bursaries to students, I would recommend that you take ownership of the relationship and provide meaningful mentorship for these students to ensure your development plan targets are met. Let’s work together to help students enter the workplace properly prepared and in a shorter amount of time.

 

My final word

I have always said, you can take a person’s job, you can take their dignity, but you can’t take their education away. If you go onto LinkedIn, you will see people that started off as cleaners, security guards or petrol attendants who have now achieved their degrees and/or doctorates, and some of them were achieved through the policies that were implemented by B-BBEE.

Let’s get more people educated and hopefully policies like B-BBEE will not be needed in future.

 

 

Author –  Kurt Van Der Westhuizen, 03 September 2020

Since the introduction of the B-BBEE Act of 2003, broad-based black economic empowerment is 17 years old and counting. It’s been seventeen years since a commitment was made to honour the infamous line of ‘righting the wrongs of the apartheid era’. Yet, still today, B-BBEE compliance is often referred to as a grudge purchase.

 

 

A grudge purchase. Let’s take a moment to break that down. When we look at the definition of the word grudge, Oxford quotes, ‘’a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’’ I do understand the latter half of the definition: B-BBEE addresses the very real past injuries caused by apartheid; however, it’s the first half that I can’t quite relate to. A persistent feeling depicts a feeling that is ongoing or obstinate.

You would think, that after all this time, people would have understood the intentions behind the B-BBEE Act and Codes of Good Practice. For those who are unfamiliar, these legislations govern the guidelines on how to enforce black economic empowerment in a fair and safe manner. If these legislations are meant to offer a positive resolve, the obvious question arises, how can it contribute to the persistent feeling of ill will or resentment?

When one hears the word apartheid, there is generally an immediately negative connotation. Surely, then, any legislation issued to help alleviate those injustices would be seen in a positive light. Why, then, would the road to strip away the injustice still be paved with feelings of ill will or resentment? Perhaps it’s because, as humans, we have a basic instinct to protect our rights, our rights of freedom, of speech, of any act within our control.

 

 

The gratification of a purchase comes when you chose to spend your money on something you may want or need. Once the aspect of choice or control is removed and the purchase is done because you have to, you view that purchase negatively. When that control is taken away — even partially — we harbour a grudge.

Generally, grudge purchases are things such as tyres for your car, a roof for your home, a mattress to sleep on, etc. It is a product or service that needs to be maintained in order for you to extract a benefit from it. The same applies to the world of B-BBEE. In order for your business to extract the benefit of B-BBEE (such as securing new business opportunities) you need to obtain a good B-BBEE compliance level.

Attaining a good level, however, requires a serious commitment from companies. There are monetary and non-monetary implications, and sometimes it can be downright expensive.

But just as the car needs new tyres in order to maintain safety on the road, so too does B-BBEE need to be adhered to and maintained in order to truly transform the country.

While I don’t mean to be insensitive to people’s feelings, I do think that we need to get over the grudge that comes along with B-BBEE purchases. I mean, what positive outcome can arise from the persistent feeling of ill will and resentment?

For those of you struggling with this sentiment, I offer the following tip for dealing with grudge purchases: focus on the outcome rather than the process.

We will find more comfort when we understand that a truly transformed country means great things for every single South African. Every time your company hires a black person, every black skills development intervention, every purchase from a B-BBEE compliant supplier, every contribution made towards a black-owned company or towards the black community, will be a step in the right direction.

So I say grudge schmudge. Don’t let the negativity of the apartheid era seep into what can be a beautiful transformation for an evolving country.

 

 

Yes, there are many instances of corruption in government and public entities that all leave a bad taste in our mouths. Somehow these are more often than not tied into some B-BBEE principle such as preferential procurement. Despite that, I think we should subscribe to a more positive mindset and focus on each black life that is changed for the better. If we are all truly honest with ourselves and each other, we will acknowledge the underlying racism that continues to plague our world.

I sincerely hope I will not be misunderstood here. I am not saying that I don’t understand the feelings of grudge, I am asking that as you read this, you open your mind to changing the way you think and feel about B-BBEE.

Look at the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to face a virus that threatens the very existence of our livelihoods, we as a nation have come and continue to stay together. We encourage and support each other, in the spirit of compassion. Why then can we not do the same when it comes to B-BBEE? Why can’t we see transformation for what it is, which is a change, to enhance or be better.

As each South African accepts the beauty and burdens that others carry, we will start to embrace the changes that make us a rainbow nation.

So the next time you hear someone say that B-BBEE is a grudge purchase, remind them of how helpful or worthy the task at hand could be. Remind them that each step we take in the right direction is one step closer to something more beautiful.

 

Author –  Mitishka Ramdhani, 11 August 2020

Evolution and technology

 

Human evolution is an inevitable phenomenon that we cannot evade as a species. And this is evident in the trajectory that humans have steered towards since the advent of time.

Our evolution, invariably, brings with it, constant change whether physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually. We are forever evolving towards our “true potential”.

Our mind is designed in such a way that we are inquisitive about our environment. This curiosity is the reason for theories formulated by, the likes of Einstein and Newton, explaining relativity and newton’s law, respectively.

I recall in my early teens, with the introduction of the Walkman. The portable cassette player was the first Walkman I was exposed to. And I recall my friends and I exchanging the latest albums, and the irritation of reduced playback speeds due to fading batteries. Shortly thereafter, the transition to the CD player Walkman was introduced and subsequently the Mini- Disc, MP3 and finally, we now stream music with our smart phones.

Technology has advanced exponentially over the years, that it is mind boggling the pace at which it has evolved. Our lives have been consumed by this technological shift to the extent that technology has taken some form of intelligence – what is known as artificial intelligence or machine intelligence. Leading AI books define this area of study as, “any devices that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.”

Technology has had ample positive strides in driving productivity in civilization, in general, and facilitating arduous tasks that free up our time to further evolve as a species.  The workplace has been automated significantly through technology as the world gears up for a new development phase.

 

 


 

 

4th Industrial Revolution, AI and IoT

 

In the article ‘Fourth industrial revolution: Technological drivers, impacts and coping methods’, Lui and Xu (2017) state the three major technological advancements. The First Industrial Revolution which originated in Great Britain, by the introduction of Hydraulic and steam machine to the factories.

The Second Industrial Revolution which introduced standardization and industrialization. It saw huge industries of economic of scale and “throughput” in manufacturing. The outcome was affordable consumer products of mass production.

The Third Industrial Revolution presented the application of electronics and information technology and automation of manufacturing processes as alluded to earlier. 

 

 

We have, now, entered the Fourth Industrial revolution. This is understood as deeply integrated intelligence and networking systems (Zang, 2014). The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not confined to production but spans to every field of human life. Previously, where humans were required to achieve a set task i.e. a doctor performing a surgery on a patient, can now be performed by robotic surgery.

Another concept to consider, is the internet of things, which refers to the transmission of data over a network without human -to- human intervention.

Billions of electronic devices are able to communicate and share information with each other over  public or private networks.

Keyur and Sunil (2016), eloquently articulate the fundamental principle that outline the Internet of Things (IoT). In their article, they describe IoT as “the  notion that considers pervasive presence in the environment of a variety of things/objects that through wireless and wired connections are able to interact with each other.”

 

 


 

 

What is this new way of work?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, therefore, renders some of the physical aspects of work redundant. The pervasive surge of automation in the mining sector, for example, has seen this sector gradually dissipate towards its extinction over time. Myriads of sectors will inevitably follow suit, consumed by Artificial intelligence and technology, and jobs that required physical labour becoming obsolete.

The Fourth Industrial Revolutions questions the norm and the conventional way of work. It forces businesses, institutions, and the public society to alter their outlook on practices considered immutable.

With the Covid 19 pandemic reaching South African shores, government announced a new way of work.  From the 26th March 2020 the president announced a nation-wide lockdown where the South African public including all shops and businesses except a few essential sectors i.e. pharmaceuticals, laboratories, banks, supermarkets and petrol stations inter alia had to operate from home.  This resulted in companies having to adopt to a “new” way of work. With the pandemic and the dawn of Fourth Industrial Revolution, companies, now,  had to exploit innovative and  novice ways of becoming more efficient but productive in their way of work.  Companies unexpectedly had to become proactive in their approach to  garner new business whilst keeping costs down.  Employers were forced to consider virtual offices and operate off-site. Companies had to embrace technologies such as the internet of things and to use cloud-based technologies.

The future of Jobs report 2018, explain how a broader range of robotics such as stationary robots, non humanold land robots, automated aerial drones and machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence have become a major topic of interest within business. The report further juxtaposes 2018 and 2022 (projected)  stable roles, new roles and redundant roles as seen in the snippet below.

 

 

The projection as per the future jobs survey show a reduction in redundant roles from 31% to 21% and an increase in new roles from 16% to 27%. The increasing demand in new roles are predominantly made up of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Specialists, Big Data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Information Security Analysts, Human -Machine Interaction Designers, and Robotics Engineers. And Jobs which are redundant included routine-based, middle-skilled white-collar roles such as Data Entry Clerks, Accounting and Payroll Clerks, Secretaries, Auditors, Bank Tellers and Cashiers amongst others that saw a decrease in these roles. This clearly depicts a shift towards Artificial Intelligence and a reduction in conventional office or labour-intensive roles.

What the Covid 19 pandemic has done, is to expedite and provide a glimpse into the future of work. It has caused companies to question the norm and consider the use of AI and automation to create economic enhancement that leverage off new technologies. It has posed a question on the survival of companies without employees . It has looked at cost reduction strategies and the feasibility of rental space and offices and redundant jobs which can be replaced by machines. It has created virtual offices, cloud-based platforms and virtual meeting rooms where employees can work. There has been a dynamic shift all over the world in relation to how the new labour markets evolve, and with the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic, the shift has been towards a new way of work. A futuristic  way of work. Let us embrace this way of work and attempt to incorporate it into our current roles to ensure that we meet and accept the fourth Industrial evolution in earnest. Corporate, Government and the population at large need to address the looming transformation in preparation of the new way of work.

 

 


 

 

References:

Li, G., Hou, Y., & Wu, A. (2017). Fourth Industrial Revolution: technological drivers, impacts and coping methods. Chinese Geographical Science, 27(4), 626-637. doi:10.1007/s11769-017-0890-x

 

Patel, K., & Patel, S. (2016). Internet of Things-IOT: Definition, Characteristics, Architecture, Enabling Technologies, Application & Future Challenges. International Journal of Engineering Science and Computing, 6(5), 6122–6131. doi: 10.4010/2016.1482

 

World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 2016. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf

 

Zhang Shu, 2014. The Industry 4.0 and intelligent manufacturing. Machine Design and Manufacturing Engineering, 43(8): 1–5.

 

 


 

Author –  Sanele Kweyama, 10 July 2020

 

It’s a sweltering day in October of 2016 and I’m navigating through an industrial cluster north-west of the outskirts of Pretoria. I arrive at the factory premises of a leading toilet paper manufacturer for a meeting around our B-BBEE software. I’m welcomed by my host, Vimla, the newly appointed Transformation Manager. She ushers me through the bustling plant and upstairs towards a large boardroom overlooking the factory floor. Walking into the room I’m introduced to the management team comprising of about sixteen executives. I can’t help but notice they are all white males, barring one coloured lady sitting at the edge of the table. Since working in B-BBEE, it’s become a professional slant of mine to observe the composition of leadership teams.

 

 

The atmosphere in the room is rather subdued, however I break the ice with some pleasantries and get a few half smiles and murmurs in return. In my usual jovial manner, I begin my presentation, showing as much of my pearly white teeth as I can. But, my energy is unrequited. The executive team sits before me stone-faced and arms crossed. I begin with my slides, while thinking to myself, “tough crowd, did these guys just get a retrenchment notice…?”. Despite the abrasive body language, I survive the opening question and answer round, and continue to the software demonstration.

Standing by the screen in front of the audience I announce: “this is it, the BEEtoolkit landing page. Isn’t it fantastic!” and belt out some of the features and the benefits that will simplify their transformation journey. My exuberance seems to bounce off the walls as the audience still sits  dead flat.

So, I do something I have never done before.

I stop, and in absolute silence, make distinct eye contact with each person across the room. I walk back towards my laptop and slam it shut saying, “can we take a few steps back from my presentation please. I’d like to find out from the team what your thoughts or feelings are about B-BBEE in general?”

The room remains quiet and now all heads turn downwards toward the table as the audience before me tries hard not to make eye contact. Continuing, I say, “this is a safe space and there is no right or wrong answer. Let’s just express our feeling towards B-BBEE?”

Suddenly, one of the executives blurts out from the corner of the room, “This B-BBEE is just Jacob Zuma’s nonsense!”, and that’s my censored version in order to get this piece published.

Another executive jumps to his feet and exclaims, “why do we need all this B-BBEE crap after Nelson Mandela took us to the Truth and Reconciliation commission in 1996! Where’s the reconciliation now!”

 

 

**

At that moment, I recognised the meeting had changed, and so had my role. I quickly realised that this was no longer a B-BBEE management software meeting, the gathering was now a platform for this management team to air their earnest views on B-BBEE. Views perhaps never voiced prior, and my new role was now educator and councilor to bravely address their interpretations and tackle any distortions or miseducation.

The meeting was now a legal hearing where Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment stood summoned. The executives before me were ready to give testimony for the prosecution and I found myself as the attorney for the defendant. In this trial of law, I opened the floor and invited each executive in the room to express their opinion on B-BBEE. One by one they did. For some it was easy; for others it was like pulling teeth.

Not all the views were negative. In fact, the majority of the team was indifferent to B-BBEE and saw it as tick box exercise to attain their desired score. A few were positive about transformation and saw the inherent benefits for all South Africans regardless of their race.

After everyone had expressed their perspectives, the air cleared and everyone opened up like a heavy burden had been lifted. There was some form of catharsis, the faces before me warmed and the hands that were crossed relaxed.

**

Vimla shouts towards me from the back of the room, “it’s your turn now!” and all eyes turn towards me. Here is my closing argument.

“Well, we cannot expect democracy alone to redress the structural inequalities of the pre-1994 era. The only way for South Africa to progress at a macro level and scale is with much greater inclusion of black people, who are the majority of humans here, into the economy at a greater level. We desperately need more black people to simply join us in the economy as we simply have too few people active in the economy in proportion to the people the economy supports. For example, we cannot continue to have a situation where we have about seven million tax-payers carrying 56-million people. On the other side, we cannot continue to have more than eighteen million people on monthly social grant support.

B-BBEE may have suffered some form of “Zumafication” but transformation has nothing to do with Jacob. B-BBEE seeks to incentivise large organisations such as yourselves, to pull more black people into the economy, so the entire economy will grow for the benefit of all citizens and all races. The legislation is not perfect and is clearly a work in progress. But if you understand how it works and its intent, you will realise it’s a beautiful body of work that has the potential to advance us all. White males and white females included.  

I mean, just imagine if just another one million more people could afford toilet paper in South Africa?”

The team chuckles.

“And imagine if your workforce and your management team was a little more diverse, perhaps there are other sanitary products you could develop to reach millions more black consumers today? There might be massive opportunities for your business in local markets you don’t even know exist. Who knows?”

I learned a lot that day. The cliché is true, that we don’t see the world as it is, we see life through the lenses that cover our eyes. Sometimes these lenses can be blurry and we don’t even realise it. Perceptions are indeed reality and we need to be very careful as to what we embrace as truth. It might just be our emotions leading us astray… 

Through the insights that day and after further observation I realised there are four predominant paradigms in South African business when it comes to B-BBEE. Here are my observations about the four main ways in which companies interpret and relate to transformation.

 

 


 

 

The Four Types of business in South Africa as they relate to Transformation

This model assumes the primary goal of the business is to generate revenue. As such the model is based on how the leadership of commercial enterprises view or are impacted by B-BBEE.   

 

 

 

Quadrant 1: The Bystanders

These businesses don’t need B-BBEE compliance to generate revenue, and don’t care about it. Their feelings towards B-BBEE are neutral. These types of businesses are disconnected from the process of transformation and view B-BBEE as the prerogative of “other organisations” and not their own. They operate as if B-BBEE does not exist and persist in this cocoon, as long as their business has no economic imperative to transform.

 

 

Quadrant 2: The Angry

These businesses need B-BBEE compliance to generate revenue within their industry, but the business is negative towards B-BBEE. The compliance pressure typically comes from their clients or competitors via a loss of revenue or the threat of a loss of revenue if they don’t comply and boy, does this make them mad! These types of business either don’t understand B-BBEE or have rejected its premise outright. These institutions commonly view B-BBEE as advancing other people at their expense. They often view the entire framework with suspicion and they feel threatened. For these types of businesses B-BBEE compliance is an agonizing burden they endure just for the sake of revenue and approach their scorecard as a tick box exercise.  

 

 

Quadrant 3: Advocates

These types of businesses do not require B-BBEE compliance to generate revenue, but they believe in and support it. The financial standing of these entities is independent of their B-BBEE status. Nonetheless, this grouping of businesses cares about B-BBEE and chooses to comply. They have embraced the tenets of transformation and view it as necessary for the greater good. These organisations comply from a good corporate citizenship perspective. They do their best to achieve and maintain some level of compliance, with the view that there is greater positive socio-economic impact in the country from their contribution.    

 

 

Quadrant 4: The Passionate

These types of businesses rely on their B-BBEE compliance to generate revenue. They also believe B-BBEE will advance South Africa. These businesses are typically the most fervid about B-BBEE and their scorecard is part of their core business strategy. Such organisations are very often beneficiaries of the transformation framework. They are proactive about their annual B-BBEE journey and view their scorecard as much more than a tick box exercise, they very often desire tangible socio-economic impact through their compliance.     

This model is certainly not an exact science, but it is based on my observations of hundreds of different businesses over a few years.

Where would you classify your business?    

 

 


 

Author –  Winston Nolan, 10 July 2020

 

When one hears the word ‘transformation’ in context of the Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) environment, most business owners react by saying, “I am not going to give away half of my business.” 

 

But what does ‘transformation’ actually mean?  The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a complete change in the … character of … someone, especially so that that … person is improved.”  The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act aims to improve economic participation by broadening it. It promotes “economic transformation in order to enable meaningful participation of black people in the economy.” 

So how do we achieve meaningful transformation – transformation that ultimately improves our country and widens its base of wealth

 


 

 

Give a man a fish

Historically, the main focus of black economic empowerment has always been on black ownership as the driving force behind transformation. It started with a ‘narrow-based’ approach to BEE, with the focus falling on Ownership and Management and Control. This was replaced by a ‘broad-based’ approach which introduced seven elements, now consolidated to five. These still include Ownership and Management, but also now include Skills Development, Enterprise and Supplier Development and Socio-Economic Development. Many would argue that the ‘broader’ approach has already addressed this transformation concern.  But how ‘broad’ have we actually gone? 

 

From the above, it is clear that ownership remains a substantial part of the B-BBEE environment. We need to, however, be aware that the vast majority of black individuals that participate in the economy on a daily basis will not be ‘transformed’ through ownership alone. Is there hope for achieving meaningful transformation for the masses? I believe there is. 

 


 

 

Teach a man to fish

I would like to share an experience I had as a verification analyst doing verification of a construction company a few years ago.  In the interest of POPI, I will not be divulging any names.

During the verification of this construction company, I had an opportunity to speak to the black shareholder.  I believe I asked how he came to be a shareholder and he proceeded to tell me his story. 

As a young man, just out of school, he started working for the company sweeping the warehouse floor.  Many who interacted with him, saw great potential in the young sweeper and started to educate and train him in the ways of the organisation. Through this education, training and skills transfer, he managed to move up the ranks, becoming a machine operator, foreman, manager and eventually even a manager of an entire department. 

The shareholders of the organization took notice of these achievements and approached him with an offer of becoming a shareholder, which he duly accepted. By the time I interviewed him for the verification, he had already managed to pay off all the debt he had incurred to purchase the shares and was the rightful owner of a substantial business share. 

During this verification, it became clear that through his experience (rising from sweeper to owner) he had built up a wealth of knowledge and experience and understood just about everything that happened within the company.  He knew and had experienced every concern of every employee, and every manager. He was familiar with every process, every department and every pain-point and knew how to handle each situation that he may currently be faced with. 

He represents the perfect example of how meaningful transformation can be achieved – not overnight or to win some tender, but through dedication, hard-work and upskilling.  This process may have taken longer to achieve the goal, but I am confident that his life and that of his family has been transformed beyond what he could ever have imagined had he just been given the shares, without putting in the blood, sweat and tears to achieve this accomplishment. He is a true example to his peers and a role model for many individuals. In this example, the game-changer was Skills Development, and the awarding of shares was the cherry on top.

 


 

 

Final thoughts

Although ownership is a necessary component of any transformation system, I strongly disagree with any claim that it alone would lead to meaningful participation of black people in the economy.  Transformation focused solely on ownership would most likely lead to enriching the lives of only a few select individuals. 

Based on my personal experience in the B-BBEE environment over the past 12 plus years, I believe that if organisations were not required to worry about black ownership, but rather focus their efforts on the upskilling, training and experiential learning of their employees, that it would lead to better-qualified workers and managers, with better salaries and more pride in their accomplishments. This which would directly lead to fewer faults, less waste, less down-time and less money lost.  As a direct result, I also believe that these organisations would see greater economic growth and achieve sustainability in the long run.

I want to leave you with a final thought that has been hinted at throughout this blog: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

 


 

  1. Cambridge Dictionary – https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/transformation.
  2. Broad-Based Black Economic Empowered Act, 53 of 2003 (GG no. 25899), as amended.
  3. My own italics.
  4. Protection of Personal Information Act, 4 of 2013.
  5. Although highly contested and changed over time, it is believed that “Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie deserves credit for formulating a striking adage that used fishing as a paradigmatic task enabling self-sufficiency”.  Read more at https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/08/28/fis

 


 

Author – Michael Craies , 06 July 2020