It’s Business Unusual for SMEs Looking to Navigate COVID-19 Crisis Now and Beyond

South Africa’s 21-day lockdown in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic has radically highlighted that SMEs need access to accurate information and robust systems. They have to be able to adapt quickly to market and environmental changes. Being able to move fast and efficiently has made all the difference to business survival across the country.

The COVID-19 crisis has meant companies have quickly planned for remote working and delays in the delivery of products or services, all while keeping customers informed and effectively managing funds as the situation changes.

It’s challenging, but not impossible. The team at Seidor unpacks some of the key areas that businesses can focus on, now and beyond, to successfully navigate COVID-19.

Accurate cash flow forecasting:

Accurate cash flow forecasting based on real-time data has become a key survival tool. “One of the key concerns for the SMEs we are working with is cash flow. We’ve seen how essential it’s been for business owners to be able to quickly pull accurate real-time information about their stock holdings and financials so they can make informed decisions swiftly,” says Heinrich de Leeuw, Managing Director of Seidor South Africa. Knowing what the cash flow realities are now and what they are likely to be in the future helps businesses anticipate problems and adapt accordingly.

Remote working and support:

Businesses offering essential services are the only ones allowed to have teams operating on-site during lockdown. But this doesn’t mean non-essential businesses need to halt all operations. Explains de Leeuw: “If managed properly, with the appropriate systems in place, it is possible to work remotely in many cases. SAP Business One offers multiple tools for driving effective remote working.” These include: Live chat (standard functionality) and Web-client availability (browser-driven).The system also enables teams and managers to manage alerts and approvals, keep an eye on KPIs, and see the business at a glance and in real-time without being on-site. Boyum, the CRM e-mail integration add-on offered by SAP Business One, supports remote working realities, making communication seamless.

Pedro Lopes, Group Managing Director of Seidor Africa, adds: “Cloud-based communications like VOIP and cloud PABX also come in very handy when teams are all off-site and working at different locations.”

Terrence Chowles, Project Director at Seidor Networks, agrees: “Cloud systems are highly effective for remote working. In fact, efficient cloud systems should be used for mission-critical workloads – even when not remote working. They are not dependent on location, so they are not affected by other South African realities like load-shedding.”Chowles goes on to add that Office 365 is also incredibly efficient as a remote working tool. “It allows you an online presence and the ability to collaborate with teams. Plus, you can maintain a security profile on devices in multiple locations.”

Security

It’s important that during a remote working period, businesses know that their data is safe.With multiple people accessing systems from various locations and devices, it becomes essential to have tools in place that enable total security peace of mind. Darryl Maroun, Managing Director at Seidor Networks, explains what those look like. “It’s important that employees can connect securely to a company’s IP and that there is data leak prevention (DLP) in place. Tools like two-factor authentication, VPNs (virtual private networks) and mobile device management (MDM) are highly effective and strongly recommended.”

Adapting with customers in mind

The key to surviving times like this is adaptability, within a stable and efficient framework, all while not losing sight of your customers and their needs. A great example of how working with a solid system like SAP Business One can comfortably navigate businesses through choppy waters is how some businesses were able to alert customers about marked down items and move stock before lockdown, which helped improve cashflow. This was especially useful in cases where the stock had a limited lifespan. Successful adaptability also means a suitable continuity of infrastructure and line of business. It may be business ‘unusual’, but in order for businesses to survive, there does need to be an element of ‘business as usual’.

Looking beyond the current crisis, this unusual situation is providing an opportunity for businesses to seriously consider their way of working and to plan properly to ensure they are set up to do business better when the crisis is over. The planning starts with access to real-time data and robust systems.