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Editorial

“Celebrating Technology CARIBIZTECH Special Issue Technology and business has always shared a symbiotic relationship. The paradigms of business has changed in the last decade, the new age ‘brick and mortar’ is solely driven by technology, which has transformed into multi billion dollar industries worldwide. Additionally technology is playing a pivotal role in way businesses operate - from transportation, telecommunication, health, and agroprocessing to just about every industry imaginable. Technology is dynamic, and is evolving every day – with increasing competitiveness there is a definitive need for increased productivity across the board. Technology has opened opportunities and created centres of development of newest product, software, app or piece of machinery that can accomplish this goal. Across the world, talent pool is being harnessed and tapped to get a slice of the technology superhighway. Centres have evolved across Europe, South and South East Asia and China. And as innovation increases, entrepreneurs and business executives have thought about how best they can use it to gain that elusive competitive advantage. It is against this backdrop that annual Caribiztech Conference and Exposition was conceived. In a series of interactive and meaningful sessions, Caribiztech provided an objective vies on the two drivers of economies worldwide, the convergence of traditional industry and technology. Players from across wide spectrum of the industry gave and overview of the available technology with meaningful insight for Caribbean SME businesses entrepreneurs and leaders, business executives, technopreneurs, marketing and branding professionals including executives in media and advertising to gain a better understanding of how the business technology revolution is impacting their businesses and brands. Caribiztech provided a platform to experience what is unfolding in the world of SME Business Technology Trends and Development with an analysis of the future direction of technology in the Caribbean and the world. The daylong interactive sessions brought together some of the industry leaders at the forefront of the provision of tech innovations locally and globally such as Microsoft and LIME. Caribiztech 2012 included international, regional and local speakers sharing with participants, trends, opportunities and challenges of emerging business technologies. Topics

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012

included the impact of social media, outsourcing, internet banking, the use of smart phones in business, mobile money transfers, augmented reality and the new buzz word in technology – cloud computing. These topics, while diverse, will in some way or another affect the way SMEs operate on a day-to-day basis. The conference explored brand new technological innovations being introduced in the local market at this year’s event. This issue of Businessuite gives an overview of Caribiztech and focuses on Augmented Reality by the upstart SIEAE and a new productive programme developed by the Small Business Association of Jamaica.

Credits: Publisher: Aldo Antonio - blackslateholdings@gmail.com Executive Editor: Damian Wilson- advertising.businessuite@gmail.com Contributing & Online Editor: Amitabh Sharma - amitabh.bizsuite@gmail.com Graphic Design/Layout: MD Studio - www.mdstudioja.com Photo credits - Sourced from the internet and contributed Advertising Sales - businessuitemagazine@gmail.com

Find out what’s the latest SME business news and features from Jamaica, the Caribbean and around the world go to our online magazine at www.businessuiteonline.com For all information call 876-631-5418 (o) or 876-280-9192 (m) OR email businessuitemagazine@gmail.com

Publishers: Businessuite News Centre A division of the Blackslate Media Group For all information call 876-631-5418 (o) or 876-280-9192 (m) OR email blackslateholdings@gmail.com -------------------------------------------------------------------Corporate Information: Blackslate Media Group Limited, Kingston 19, Jamaica To learn more about Blackslate go to www.blackslateholdings.blogspot.com

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Contents

features 6

CLOUD COMPUTING: THE NEW FRONTIER

10

CLOUD COMPUTING SOME CONSIDERATIONS

8

CLOUD SERVICES: THE RISKS OF ONLINE STORAGE

11

SBAJ FINDS ‘MERIT’ IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

14

THE SMART PHONE: ANOTHER BUSINESS MUST-HAVE

16

4

6

8

14

MOBILE MONEY

18

OUTSOURCING: PROS AND CONS… JAMAICA POSITIONED AS MAJOR OUTSOURCING DESTINATION

20

MICROSOFT BIZSPARK: HELPING STARTUPS SUCCEED WITH ALL THE RIGHT RESOURCES

22

WINDOWS: CAN MICROSOFT RECLAIM ITS PLACE AS OS KING?

23

NOKIA AND MICROSOFT JOIN FORCES: A TAG TEAM OF HEAVYWEIGHTS

26

AUGMENTED REALITY: A LOCAL IT COMPANY BREAKS NEW GROUND

27

REMAKING SMES – CULTURAL AND STRUCTURAL CHALLENGES

16

26

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


Technology

CLOUD COMPUTING: THE NEW FRONTIER

C

loud computing has become the new buzz word in the world of IT in recent times. With a host of new cloud service providers popping up locally and internationally, with wellknown, established IT and telecommunications providers throwing their hats into the ring. But what exactly is cloud computing and why should the modern office be interested or invested?

the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities.

Some experts and vendors define cloud computing narrowly as an updated version

The underlying concept of cloud computing dates back to the 1960s, when John

of utility computing, basically virtual servers available over the Internet. Others go very broad, arguing that anything you consume outside the firewall is “in the cloud,” including conventional outsourcing. To both expand and simplify, cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet). Cloud computing comes into focus when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the go without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over 6

The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network, and later to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents.

McCarthy opined that “computation may someday be organised as a public utility.” Almost all the modern-day characteristics of cloud computing (elastic provision, provided as a utility, online, illusion of infinite supply) and the comparison to the electricity industry were thoroughly explored in Douglas Parkhill’s 1966 book, The Challenge of the Computer Utility. Other scholars have shown that cloud computing’s roots go all the way back to the 1950s when scientist Herb Grosch (the author of Grosch’s Law) suggested that the entire world would operate on dumb terminals powered by about 15 large data centres. The actual term “cloud” borrows from telephony in that telecommunications companies, who until the 1990s offered primarily dedicated point-to-point data circuits, be-

gan offering Virtual Private Network (VPN) services with comparable quality of service but at a much lower cost. By switching traffic to balance utilisation as they saw fit, they were able to utilise their overall network bandwidth more effectively. The cloud symbol was used to denote the demarcation point between that which was the responsibility of the provider and that which was the responsibility of the user. Cloud computing extends this boundary to cover servers as well as the network infrastructure.

What is clear is that cloud computing shares a number of characteristics that make it desirable for companies to take advantage of. The laundry list of characteristics mentioned here are by no means exhaustive however. Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier because they do not need to be installed on each user’s computer and can be accessed from different places. Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone, tablets). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere. Virtualization technology allows servers and storage devices to be shared and utilization be increased. Applications can be easily migrated from one physical server to another. Reliability

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


Technology is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well-designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.

ment is called a multitenant architecture. The vendor’s servers are virtually partitioned so that each organization works with a customized virtual application instance.

Of course cost is the biggest and most often cited characteristic advantage of cloud computing. Cost is reduced and in a public cloud delivery model capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. Infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Fewer IT skills are also required for implementation of in-house operations.

For customers, SaaS requires no upfront investment in servers or software licensing. For the application developer, there is only one application to maintain for multiple clients. Many different types of companies are developing applications using the SaaS model. Perhaps the best-known SaaS applications are those offered by Google to its consumer base.

The concept of cloud services develop-

ment encompasses several different types of development. A company can use cloud computing to develop its own business applications in a number of different ways. Software as a service, or SaaS, is probably the most common type of cloud service development. With SaaS, a single application is delivered to thousands of users from the vendor’s servers. Customers do not pay for owning the software; rather, they pay for using it. Users access an application via an application programme interface or API accessible over the web. Each organization served by the vendor is called a tenant, and this type of arrange-

The second type of Cloud Service is as a platform. In this variation of SaaS, the devel-

opment environment is offered as a service. The developer uses the “building blocks” of the vendor’s development environment to create his own custom application. It’s kind of like creating an application using Legos; building the app is made easier by use of these predefined blocks of code, even if the resulting app is somewhat constrained by the types of code blocks available. Web service is the third deployment of Cloud Computing. A web service is an application that operates over a network— typically, over the Internet. Most typically, a web service is an API that can be accessed over the Internet. The service is then executed on a remote system that hosts the

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012

requested services. This type of web API lets developers exploit shared functionality over the Internet, rather than deliver their own full-blown applications. The result is a customized webbased application where a large chunk of that application is delivered by a third party, thus easing development and bandwidth demands for the custom programme. The fourth is on-demand computing and as the name implies, on-demand computing packages computer resources (processing, storage, and so forth) as a metered service similar to that of a public utility. In this model, customers pay for as much or

as little processing and storage as they need. Companies that have large demand peaks followed by much lower normal usage periods particularly benefit from utility computing. The Cloud has been embraced by companies large and small, local and international, and as our follow up articles will show the chances of precipitation from this cloud is 100%. Cloud computing and cloud services will continue to rain down in copious showers as local industries and businesses continue to adopt this new trend in technology in the desire to increase productivity, increase efficiency and save money. 7


Technology

CLOUD SERVICES: THE RISKS OF ONLINE STORAGE THE ISSUE OF CLOUD COMPUTING SECURITY IS LARGE ENOUGH THAT IT MAY BE DELAYING ITS ADOPTION ON A LARGER SCALE.

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hile many IT analysts and businesses in general accept the potential and varied benefits of moving to a cloud model which are both persuasive and progressively achievable, they are very much cognizant of the challenges and potential risks of doing so. Information technology decision-makers have genuine apprehension over issues such as security, reliability, performance and loss of control, not to mention the difficulty of selecting trusted and reliable cloud service providers with the required capabilities, experience and market stability to provide the necessary support for their needs. They must decide when and where to use cloud solutions. They also need to assess what steps they have to take to enable the progressive switch to the cloud and the modernization of their own IT environment as a part of that switch. Cloud also means IT and the business on a larger scale need to work even more closely together to ensure cloud adoption is not counter-productive so that business departments can be seamlessly integrated into the process while IT takes care of related risks factors and service-level considerations. While some cloud service providers may down-play such concerns, the challenges are very real and must be faced directly. The speed and precise direction of transfer will vary from sector to sector, and business to business depending on a number of variables. The main issue businesses grapple with is security. The cloud model has been criticized by some for the greater ease in which the companies hosting the cloud services control, thus can monitor at will, lawfully or unlawfully, the communication and data stored between the user and the host company. Dr. Maurice McNaughton of the University of the West Indies’ Mona School of business believes that these concerns are nothing new. “The risks of cloud computing are typical of risks associated with any hosted solution,”

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insists Dr. McNaughton who has written extensively on the topic of Cloud Computing. “One of the perennial concerns has been the notion that the Patriot Act gives the U.S. government the right to access data stored on the cloud servers of American service providers,” he acknowledges. However this he believes can be mitigated by the use of local cloud providers with data centre facilities located in Jamaica or the Caribbean. The issue of cloud computing security is large enough that it may be delaying its adoption on a larger scale. Physical control of the servers and equipment are obviously more secure than having the equipment off site and under someone else’s control. Physical control and the ability to visually inspect the data links and access ports are necessary to ensure data links are not compromised. Security issues have been categorized into sensitive data access, data segregation, privacy, bug exploitation, recovery, accountability, malicious insiders, management console security and account control. Among the solutions that have been offered to these security concerns include cryptography, particularly public key infrastructure (PKI), the use of multiple cloud providers, standardization of application progammes interface (APIs), and improving and legal support. Additionally, as with privately purchased hardware, crackers posing as legitimate customers can purchase the services of cloud computing for nefarious purposes. This includes password cracking and launching attacks using the purchased services. In 2009, a banking trojan illegally used the popular Amazon service as a command and control channel that issued software updates and malicious instructions to PCs that were infected by the malware. As with many tech advances, the benefits that exist will always certainly outweigh the potential risks. While those risks are very real and must be considered, the benefits of reduced costs, increase storage, flexibility and mobility among others, still make it a worthwhile venture for businesses everywhere.

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


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Technology

Technology

CLOUD COMPUTING –

A

s an emerging technology one can expect some teething pains with cloud computing. Here are some recommendations as well as and do’s and don’ts when it comes to cloud computing. Considerations: Both individuals and small businesses should review the kind of data that they would be putting on the cloud. Free cloud service providers are fairly secure and there have not been any reported breaches of security - but it is better to pay for a more encrypted, secure virtual parking spot for your data if it is sensitive in nature.

Another reason for small businesses to invest in cloud computing is that it is scalable to the needs of the business. As your needs grow, you can increase your package as and when required.

C

God sent it is, as Cloud computing enables small businesses to have large storage space for their data, without investing in expensive hardware. The benefits of cloud computing services, which is projected to double from US$68.3 billion in 2010 to US$148.8 billion by 2014, are numerous. “There are no space constraints and no worries about electricity costs,” claims Vassall-Richards. “The only real infrastructure required is a computer with a secure internet connection and these are as standard as pens and paper in the modern small business.” Jamaican companies, like their counterparts world over, can benefit by cloud com10

net security guidelines •

Don’t upload sensitive information to a service that you have doubts about

Put your own security measures in place to protect yourself against potential external and internal hackers. Many companies have internal hackers – e.g. disgruntled employees

Exercise caution when uploading data on free services - Don’t expect maximum security from a free service

Do’s and Don’ts 1. As a rule of thumb always read and understand the fine print •

Be sure that where you intent to access your information has a stable internet connection. Sometimes open wi-fi spaces should be avoided because they are open and can comprise the security of your data

Do your homework and follow all usual

RAINING POSSIBILITIES –

loud is the new buzz word in internet technology. “In the modern working paradigm cloud computing is a God send says Kerrie-Ann Vassall-Richards, Project Administrator ICT4D Jamaica.

Some Considerations...

Cloud Computing set to take businesses to the next level...

puting, which can cut the Information Technology costs by 25%. But are Jamaican companies ready to make this transition. “Cloud computing hasn’t quite taken off in mainstream Jamaica,” observed Vassall-Richards. Adding “though Internet service providers in Jamaica have created a robust system in the cities and major towns of Jamaica but much needs to be done to bridge the digital divide.” It is a long path to tread on the information superhighway which could transform the way business is done in the country. “I foresee a Jamaica where communities like Grove Place, in Manchester, becoming a data village where persons from the community are employed to multi national organisations,” envisaged the project administrator of ICT4D Jamaica. She said that it is not a far cry where professionals could work virtually and save their work to the cloud to be picked up by their managers in whichever country. “As long as the digital

landscape is smooth I see Cloud Computing changing the way we do business in Jamaica,” she shared. But, she said, for the small business owners who want to make the transition to Cloud computing, there are some critical factors to keep in mind. “It is vital that you do your homework to ensure that the company has a good track record for security and please actually read the terms and conditions when signing up,” Vassall-Richards advised. Since this is emerging, her recommendation is to give it a ‘test run’ – “Don’t be afraid to experiment with the cloud. Try a free service and upload those family pictures, like Picassa from Google. Upload those group work docs to Google docs and share with team members.” “The world is opening up and the educated need to realize that it is a welcoming attitude to innovation,” she said.

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


Technology

SBAJ FINDS ‘MERIT’ IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING (ERP)

T

he operations of Jamaican companies sometimes reflect

customers,” Ms. Harris explains. They cover finance, procurement

the ‘free-flowing’ personality of the country and its people. They are not as structured as they should be to successfully compete and as long as they are paying most of their bills, companies do not always continuously seek ways to be more efficient and productive. That approach is not sustainable in these times of higher levels of competition and greater productivity through the use of technology to enhance the bottom-line. Whether they are servicing the domestic market or are exporting, Jamaican SMEs are going up against competition which is thinking globally and is using the entire arsenal at their disposal to confront challenges and expand their presence in the domestic and international markets.

and inventory management, merchandising, production, sales and client relationships and are relevant to all businesses that carry out multiple functions - such as manufacturing, servicing, distribution and even non-profit organizations. The ERP system delivers a single, common database for all personnel and product data; that is, basic customer and product data is entered only once thereby guaranteeing a high level of accuracy of information as duplication is eliminated. Data management becomes easy. The user interface for all modules are standard, so once someone learns to input data in one module and generate a report, it is the same for any area of the software.

Enter MERIT - Management through Enterprise Resource Information Technology. MERIT is a project of the Small Business Association of Jamaica funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce. “MERIT gives SMEs better business management capability and the ammunition to be more competitive through the use of an ERP/CRM software at minimal cost to them” according to Consultant - Trade and Development, and Coordinator of SBAJ IT System, Ms. Maxine Harris. “Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems automate tasks for almost all areas of a business through the use of an integrated suite of software applications. Their purpose is to facilitate the quick flow of information between all functions and departments inside the organization, as well as manage the relationship with outside stakeholders, including suppliers and existing and potential

HOW DOES IT HELP BUSINESS PERFORMANCE?

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012

How does it help business performance? Ms. Harris gives the following scenario: Imagine you are managing a Bakery in Spanish Town. Every day you make bread for the general community and in between you have special orders for cakes and pastries from regular and new clients. This morning you come in early and plan the day’s activities using the production module. Inventory comes up on the screen. You realize you will be out of flour in a day or two so you put in an order for 100lbs from the supplier. This automatically generates the purchase order and an accounts payable file. Once the goods are received, the inventory levels will automatically show the increase. The ‘reminder’ tool in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) shows you have to bake two birthday cakes for Ms. Maud in Greendale. Is she the one who is allergic to peanuts or the demanding Lady who cannot stand chocolate and insists on loads of pink frosting? And did she make the final payment from the last order? Click on Ms. Maude and her whole story appears, including 11


Technology

her payment history and past orders. In 10 minutes you prepare the Bill of Materials and the Head of Production, Accounting Clerk and the Purchasing Assistant take care of the rest when they come to work and check the system for all new orders.

SBAJ FINDS ‘MERIT’ IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

The heart of any successful business operation is planning, sound decision-making, cost-effective production or service delivery, good customer and supplier relations and cash flow management. An ERP System delivers on all of that.

MERIT is based on the Open Taps open source ERP system. The software is currently being modified to make it user-friendly and to better meet the needs of Jamaican companies. BP Concepts of Jamaica and Group FIO in Canada are the Software Developers on the project. As the software is paid for by the project, this is freely available to companies. Costs will be accrued only for maintaining the system. ERP systems are usually quite expensive which has hindered their use by SMEs. This project however removes the cost impediment. The system is multi tenant, allowing simultaneous access by several companies while each firm’s data remains separate, private and secure. The multi tenancy feature allows companies to share the cost of the maintenance of the system, once the project ends.

Companies contemplating the application of ISO standards will find this software quite useful and necessary .

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A small group of SMEs will participate in the testing of the software in April with expected roll out starting at the end of May. All participating companies will be trained in the application of key management systems and use of the software. Companies contemplating the application of ISO standards will find this software quite useful and necessary. Quality Management, including ISO, is about measurement and ongoing monitoring of information. It encourages a systems approach to management, a customer focus, high levels of cooperation across functions or departments and decisions based on factual data - consistent with an ERP/CRM System.

For more Information, contact the Small Business Association of Jamaica at 927-7071 or 842-5672, email: sbaj1org@yahoo.com; website: http:// sbaj.org.jm/ Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


Technology

THE SMART PHONE: ANOTHER BUSINESS MUST-HAVE

works for virtually any industry, is relatively inexpensive, and allows businesses to create highly targeted campaigns. Use business driven Smartphone Apps

I

f you ask the average entrepreneur to list a few tech must haves for businesses, he or she would quickly name a desktop and fax machine and then pause. However today the smartphone with its myriad of uses are a definite business must have. What started as device that didn’t tie you down has now morphed into a texting, tweeting, multi-tasking productivity and entertainment gadget that offers a wide range of possibilities for businesses. The lightning-speed advancement of the smartphone has left many companies scrambling to keep up with the technology and new opportunities. According to ComScore, there are 45 million Smartphones now active in the U.S. alone. Like social media, they are the new wave of communication and the only place they are going is into the hands of more and more consumers. So, how do businesses and business owners capitalize on the growing popu-

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larity of the smartphone? There are four easy things one can start doing today related to smartphone technology to increase brand awareness, build relationships and grow your business: 1. Text Message Advertising 2. Use business/productivity driven smartphone Apps 3. Make website smartphone compatible 4. Engage mobile customers through social networks Text Message Advertising More people now use their mobile phones for texting, rather than making a phone call. Imagine the impact of advertising via SMS text message; one has the opportunity to capture customers’ attention anytime, anywhere. Smart marketers get creative with these campaigns and often include a chance for the recipient to win something by responding to the text. Other ideas include mobile coupons, event invitations, mobile alerts, and special promotions. SMS text marketing

Smartphone apps have been created to solve a problem, increase productivity or offer an intrinsic benefit. Smartphones can do so much more that keeping track of meetings or staying online. Apple’s IPhone store alone has more than 150,000 apps available for download and users have downloaded more than 3 billion apps. Google’s Android also offers an impressive app catalogue, as do the ubiquitous Blackberry smartphone – specifically meant for businesses, with productivity in mind. Make websites smartphone compatible If one wants to gain a competitive advantage over the competition, brands needs to be as their customers – mobile. Customers and prospects don’t have the patience to view websites on their phone that aren’t user-friendly. It’s also a good idea to provide links from mobile versions to full site as some users will elect to visit full-size website. Engage mobile customers through social networks If entrepreneurs are not friending and following, tweeting and YouTubing, they’re missing out on a lucrative opportunity to connect and engage with their target market. Social networking has levelled the playing field. It’s no longer just the compa-

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


Technology nies with an over-inflated advertising budget that can make waves. If one learns to add value and create a presence on websites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, he or she can expand reach, increase awareness of the brand, and create a loyal following of customers who will help promote you!

Research shows that more people access social media via smartphones than with their desktop computers. People who access the Internet with their smartphones are more likely to socialize online than their desktop counterparts, according to a Ruder Finn study. The study found 91% of mobile Web users socialize online, while just

79% of desktop users can say the same. The future of business is in the palm of their hands, and in the handheld devices of customers and prospects around the world. If businesses aren’t already on board, they must jump on or their business will surely get left behind.

The 10 best productivity Apps Evernote Dropbox Sparrow TeuxDeux Instapaper Pulse Alfred CloudApp

Fantastical iDoneThis

Evernote is for anyone with a less than perfect memory who uses a computer, smartphone or tablet. In other words, it’s for everyone Dropbox is the easiest way to store and share your files in the cloud. While nearly everyone that isn’t living under a rock has already heard of it, I don’t believe any productivity list can be complete without Dropbox. Managing emails can be horribly frustrating, especially if you have to choose between Apple’s mail client and Gmail’s web app. Sparrow, a popular Mac email application, delivers the most lightweight and fast way to manage an overflowed inbox. TeuxDeux (pronounced to-do) is a simple and elegant to-do app — the result of a collaboration between swissmiss and Fictive Kin. As TeuxDeux explains, it is a “bare-bones, but visually compelling and highly usable to-do app.” It’s free for the browser, and only costs $2.99 for the iPhone app. Instapaper is an app that allows you to save the contents of a page to read them later in a minimalist, clean format. Pulse takes your favorite websites and transforms them into a colorful and Alfred is the personal butler for your Mac. Like Spotlight or Quicksliver, Alfred is almost like a text version of Siri for your Mac, allowing you to launch apps, play iTunes songs and searching the Web. CloudApp is simply the best possible way to share screenshots on the Mac. Simply drag a file from your desktop onto Cloudapp’s menubar icon, and your image is instantly uploaded with the link copied to your clipboard. Cloudapp can also be set to upload screenshots as you take them, making sharing screenshots effortless. Fantastical, by Flexibits, is one of the best ways to create and manage calendar events. It works with iCal, BusyCal, Entourage and Outlook, and is compatible with iCloud, MobileMe, Google Calendar or Yahoo! Calendar accounts iDoneThis keeps a calendar of your completed tasks. Every day it emails you asking, “What’d you get done today?” Replying to the email automatically creates an entry, making it an easy way to keep track of your accomplishments, while serving as a motivator based on what you have already managed to achieve.

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012

15


Technology

MOBILE MONEY Mobile money has distinct “advantages, giving access of resources on the grassroot level, and easing the burden on the often overworked bank tellers.

T

he cellphone is turning out to be the next best thing to happen to humanity after sliced bread. Analogy apart, the wireless handheld phone has evolved not merely as an extension to landlines but as a multifunctional device.

society and those living in semi urban or rural areas where physical accessibility is an issue. According to the World Bank, Mobile Banking can help people save, open up access to credit and make it easier to transfer money.

Over the last two decades, with advancement in cellular technology, mobile phones are now seen as a tool of empowerment and ease to do business. According to a Gallup survey from World Bank, half of world’s population does not have access to bank accounts. The core reasons are – inaccessibility to a banking institution and most times little money in their coffers.

Roadblocks in accessing traditional banking have led people around the world to come up with a variety of alternatives including starting a savings club among a group of individuals – or ‘partner’ as it is know in Jamaica. This is where they pool their savings and give the pool to a different member each week or month.

According to the survey, the cheaper and viable alternative is mobile money. As the name suggests, mobile money or mobile wallet seeks to be an alternative to plastic and cash by enabling a cellphone to perform financial transactions. An emerging alternative towards cashless, secure and transparent economies –instead of paying for goods and services with cheque, cash, credit or debit cards, a cellphone user can use their handsets for such transactions. Mobile money addresses several issues which deter those in the lower strata of the 16

The concept of Mobile money is being practiced in much of Africa. More than two-thirds of Kenyans surveyed said they had used a cellphone to send or receive money in the last year, accessing accounts that may not be tied to traditional banks or require the same kind of documents. However, governments have increasingly pushed for regulations putting banks in charge of such services. India now requires mobile money to be run through banks, which may have slowed its growth there, the report said. The World Bank contends that phones and other technology should

be used to increase access to banks. In 2010 cellular service provider Digicel had announced the introduction of mobile money as a pilot in Haiti – it is yet to see the light of the day in Jamaica, where Digicel is the market leader and its network covers most of the island. Mobile money has distinct advantages, giving access of resources on the grassroot level, and easing the burden on the often overworked bank tellers. The banks in turn can concentrate their energies on building their equity portfolio and developing new products. This can also lead to rationalization of the fee structure in the banks, which has been the grouse of many who are deterred to open accounts. For the SME players, mobile money would provide window of ease to conducting business transactions on a global scale. Says World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick “Providing financial services to the 2.5 billion people who are ‘unbanked’ could boost economic growth and opportunity for the world’s poor.”

Businessuite Magazine Special Edition May 2012


JAMAICA’S

#1

BUSINESS

MAGAZINE..

MA G A Z I NE

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Technology

OUTSOURCING: PROS AND CONS… JAMAICA POSITIONED AS MAJOR OUTSOURCING DESTINATION goals are properly aligned with the deliverables in outsourcing, productivity and efficiency are bound to increase. When certain functions are outsourced, companies also distribute or do away with the risks associated with running that particular function.

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or many cash trapped companies, outsourcing has become the only way to rein in expenses and stay afloat. Outsourcing however is not limited to companies, the Jamaican government has committed to positioning itself as a prime supplier of outsourced services, particularly in the IT and telecommunications industry. So what exactly is outsourcing and what are the advantages to be gained from outsourcing? Outsourcing is the act of one company contracting another company to provide services that might otherwise be performed in-house. Many large companies now outsource jobs such as call centre services, e-mail services, human resource functions and accounting services. These jobs are handled by separate companies that specialize in each service and are often times located overseas. Companies that outsource seek to realize a number of benefits, while addressing several operational issues. Primarily there are the savings to be gained from cheaper overseas labour. A company can often get work done at a fraction of the cost that it would have to spend locally, while

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getting better quality as well. Not only is the labour cheaper, but it frees companies from the investment required to train employees and the attendant infrastructure required. Outsourcing frees companies from these hassles by providing access to skilled resources at lower costs, with the additional benefit of not having the burden of managing them directly. This also improves the efficiency of business operations. If business

also “freesOutsourcing companies from having to manage non-core functions and puts the focus back on their core competencies.

Outsourcing also frees companies from having to manage non-core functions and puts the focus back on their core competencies. Entrepreneurs and enterprises alike have benefitted from outsourcing repetitive and mundane tasks, and have had more time and opportunity to grow their business. Outsourcing often offers scalability in unpredictable markets. The outsourced company will usually be prepared to manage a temporary or permanent increase or decrease in production. This is a part of the risk mitigating benefits of outsourcing. Additional benefits include: enhanced capacity for innovation, round the clock customer support, capacity management, and tax benefits given to entities in some countries. The Jamaican government, through its promotional arm JAMPRO, has sought to position the country as a highly competitive and attractive business destination, which has emerged as the leading contact centre location in the English-speaking Caribbean. The strategic benefit of outsourcing to Jamaica includes the strong government support for ICT, its proximity to the US and other attractive markets, its telecoms infrastructure and a relatively stable business climate. Jampro’s website posits that the country has “over 10,000 full time agents in the offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) sector”. It goes on to say “With an estab-

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lished track record in finance and accounting, human resource outsourcing (HRO), receivables management, technical helpdesk support, outbound sales and lead generation, Jamaica has been recognised by Gartner as a destination to watch and by A.T. Kearney as a favourable BPO destination.” A.T. Kearney, called Jamaica “an ideal destination for investing as its location provides a crossing point between both North and South America.” According to Hugh Cress of PA Consulting, which focuses on emerging markets - Jamaica is an attractive location for industries such as insurance, financial, and customer service. The most common job roles sourced to Jamaica include the following: debt collection, finance and accounting, HR management, graphic design, payroll, customer service, insurance claims, and tech support. Jamaica’s primary locale for sourcing is the Montego Bay Free Zone, with its access to qualified resources and its developed financial services sector in place. Certainly for small businesses, the competitive advantage or the leveling of the playing field in some industries is an attraction too big to ignore. The ability to focus on core competencies while improving customer satisfaction and increasing innovation will forever make outsourcing an attractive preposition. Its pull as a major earner of foreign exchange also places it as a priority of objective of the present and future governments.

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Number of U.S. Jobs Moving Offshore Job Category 2000 2005 2010 2015 Management 0 37,477 117,835 288,281 Business 10,787 61,252 161,722 348,028 Computer 27,171 108,991 276,954 472,632 Architecture 3,498 32,302 83,237 184,347 Life Sciences 0 3,677 14,478 36,770 Legal 1,793 14,220 34,673 74,642 Art, design 818 5,576 13,846 29,639 Sales 4,619 29,064 97,321 226,564 Office 53,987 295,034 791,034 1,659,310 Total 102,674 587,592 1,591,101 3,320,213

According to Techsunite.org, the top 10 companies that have outsourced the most jobs, along with the number outsourced are:

• • • • • • • • •

IBM 63,700 EDS 22,400 Dell 17,450 Cognizant 15,000 Siemens AG 15,000 General Electric 14,250 Convergys 14,000 Accenture 13,000 Computer Sciences Corp 10,800

Intel 10,426

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Technology

MICROSOFT BIZSPARK:

HELPING STARTUPS SUCCEED WITH ALL THE RIGHT RESOURCES

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n November 2008, Microsoft launched an initiative known as Microsoft BizSpark -the aim of which was to help entrepreneurs and startups get off the ground using Microsoft tools and technology. A total of 17 startups have registered to the BizSpark program in Jamaica and 11 from Trinidad and Tobago.

hosted software, BizSpark includes production licenses for application hosting and management servers, including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center, with Microsoft Dynamics CRM to be added soon, the company said.

Just as the name suggests it is intended to help spark new companies to enter the business world. With BizSpark, Microsoft will provide entrepreneurs with access to Microsoft technology, support and visibility. This includes fast and easy access to current full-featured Microsoft development tools and production licenses of server products with no upfront costs and minimal requirements. “We will provide access to our software with no upfront costs whatsoever—qualified through a set of network partners,” said Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development at Microsoft . The software available to the BizSpark participants include Microsoft’s Visual Studio application development tool set and “and virtually all of our servers,” including Windows Server, SQL Server and other technologies, such as Windows Azure—Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

Moreover, Microsoft will provide a worldwide network of hosting partners, offering discounted hosting services to startups that would like to take their business or product online using their BizSpark licenses. Also as part of the program, Microsoft will promote the startups on the BizSparkDB, an online startup directory.

As part of BizSpark, Microsoft is providing startups with a three-year MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Professional subscription, which enables them to download a broad set of development tools needed to build, test and maintain an application on the Microsoft platform, For startups building 20

BizSpark is available worldwide to privately held startups building a software-based product or service that have been in business less than three years and have less than $1 million in revenue. As a demonstration of Microsoft’s commitment to startup success, a program fee of $100 is payable on exit from the program rather than upfront when joining, Lewin added. Microsoft officials said BizSpark leverages a global network of hundreds of organizations, such as economic development agencies, university incubators, hosters and investors, including The National Venture Capital Association and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). These BizSpark Network Partners provide guidance, mentorship and resources to help drive startup success, Mi-

We have been “doing reasonably well. ” crosoft said.

“We think Microsoft BizSpark addresses a fundamental challenge startups face: access to current, full-featured tools and technologies that help turn ideas into a thriving business,” said Suren Dutia, CEO of TiE Global, in a statement. “We will work closely with Microsoft to help startups bring their innovative solutions to market more quickly and effectively by providing educational programs, business mentoring and peer networking.” “Entrepreneurs play a vital role in driving innovation and creating the kinds of new jobs that are essential to sustainable economic growth,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, in a statement. “Microsoft BizSpark is an exciting way for us to help provide business startups with the development tools, advice and exposure they need. We look forward to working with organizations and development agencies around the globe to foster entrepreneurship and help new companies succeed.” Microsoft officials said the company will ensure that BizSpark members are notified of all programs of particular interest to startups, such as the Microsoft Web Platform Installer and Microsoft Web Application Installer. About the reaction to BizSpark, Lewin explained: “We have been doing reasonably well. There are always zealots focused on ‘Anything But Microsoft.’ But for the most part, startups are pragmatic, and they want

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WINDOWS: CAN MICROSOFT RECLAIM ITS PLACE AS OS KING?

Since the October 2009 launch of Windows 7, more than 525 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold

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or the first time in 20 years, Apple Inc. surpassed Microsoft in Q1 2011 quarterly profits and revenues due to a slowdown in PC sales and continuing huge losses in Microsoft’s Online Services Division (which contains its search engine Bing). Microsoft profits were $5.2 billion, while Apple Inc. profits were $6 billion, on revenues of $14.5 billion and $24.7 billion respectively. Microsoft’s Online Services Division has been continuously lossmaking since 2006 and in Q1 2011 it lost $726 million. This follows a loss of $2.5 billion for the year 2010. Over the last decade, Microsoft tried halfdozen initiatives to enter the music business, but nothing worked. It suffered the same fate with search engines - Bing is better than all its previous search efforts and it keeps improving, but with Google’s search engine dominance - nobody has taken notice. Windows and Office, its two biggest products, are tied to a model of computing that looks to be on the wane. And with the exception of the Xbox, Microsoft’s recent products seemed to have been counted out even before hitting the market. Its rivals on the other hand continue to gain the upper hand and gain market share, both in hardware and its tradition22

ally dominant position as software king. However, in a statement via its local arm, Microsoft affirms that its position in the telecoms game is very much in tact. “Since the October 2009 launch of Windows 7, more than 525 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold, making it the fastest-growing operating system ever. We actually believe we are in a “PC Plus era”, see this blog post from our CVP of Communications. There will be 400 million PCs sold worldwide this coming year according to IDC and Windows will be on the majority of them.” It further contends that the Bing organic US market share grew to 15.1% while Bing-powered US market share, including Yahoo! properties, was approximately 27%. Still some may argue that computer powerhouse Microsoft has been searching for a game changer for years now. In its two latest operating systems, it might have just stuck gold. As the smartphone industry boomed beginning in 2007 and a few years later the tablet market, Microsoft struggled to keep up with its rivals Apple and Google in providing a modern smartphone operating system. As a result, in 2010, Microsoft revamped their aging flagship mobile operating system,

Windows Mobile, replacing it with the new Windows Phone OS; along with a new strategy in the smartphone industry that has Microsoft working more closely with smartphone manufactures, such as Nokia to provide a consistent user experience across all smartphones using Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS. This could be the year that it shakes its slumber and takes its place alongside Apple, Google, and Amazon as a dominant innovator of the mobile age. For the first time in a very long time, Microsoft has a couple major products that are not merely good enough but have received great buzz, reviews and interest in the technology market. At a Consumer Electronics Show in January 2012, Microsoft showed the one piece that has been missing from its mobile phone effort—impressive hardware in the Windows Phone 7, its new mobile OS. Nokia unveiled the Lumia 900, the most powerful and beautiful Windows Phone to hit the United States yet. Then there’s Windows 8, the desktop OS that Microsoft plans to release this year, and which will feature a new mobile-friendly touch interface that could make for the first viable Windows competitors to the iPad. Windows 8 features a new Metro-style in-

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Technology terface that is designed for touchscreen input. Metro places emphasis on typography and has large text that catches the eye. Microsoft says that Metro is designed to be “sleek, quick, modern” and a “refresh” from the icon-based interfaces of Windows, Android and iOS. No official release date has been given for Windows 8. The OS is currently in the Consumer Preview phase which they announced in February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Response to Metro has been generally positive. Engadget said, “Microsoft continues its push towards big, big typography here, providing a sophisticated, neatly designed layout that’s almost as functional as it is attractive.” CNET complimented the Metro design, saying, “it’s a bit more daring and informal than the tight, sterile icon grids and Rolodex menus of the iPhone and iPod Touch.” If you consider Microsoft’s Xbox juggernaut, which now features not just games but a large catalogue of entertainment

apps, you begin to see the outline of a strategy to win big. Here’s a company with a winning mobile and desktop OS, a place in hundreds of millions of offices and living rooms around the world, a great design team, an unbeatable sales and distribution arm, and billions in cash. When you put it that way, Microsoft almost sounds as good as…well Microsoft in the eighties and nineties. The company’s vision is believed by some to embody the future of personal computing. Microsoft’s vision entails a multipronged approach, but all eyes are on one prong in particular for the time being, tablets. Analysts have speculated that Windows 8 tablets will help the Redmond-based company maintain its leadership in the personal computing space as Microsoft’s tablet strategy leverages both desktop and mobile platforms. With the positive reviews and a new burst of energy it might just be time for a Microsoft comeback in a big and impressive way.

NOKIA AND MICROSOFT JOIN FORCES: A TAG TEAM OF HEAVYWEIGHTS

“ Microsoft and

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hat happens when two heavyweights, once at the top of their respective game joins forces? That’s exactly what we’re about to find out. Computer giants Microsoft and cellphone pioneers Nokia – have over the last few months joined forces in the multi-billion dollar mobile phone and mobile OS war. On Monday March 26, Microsoft and Nokia made a major announcement further

Nokia will each invest up to 9 million euros strengthening their partnership. To drive innovation and business opportunities, Microsoft and Nokia will each invest up to 9 million euros into a newly established mobile application development program at Aalto University during the next three years. The AppCampus program has been set up to foster the creation of innovative mobile applications for the Windows Phone ecosystem and Nokia platforms to create a new generation of self-sustaining mobile startups. Starting in May 2012, the Finland-

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based program will be led and managed by Aalto University which has a growing reputation as a hotbed of new startup companies. AppCampus is intended to attract thousands of application proposals from students and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Within the AppCampus program, mobile entrepreneurs can benefit from comprehensive support, training in mobile technology, design and usability, and funding 23


Technology to create innovative new mobile apps and services. Mentored by veterans in the mobile industry, program participants will be given insights and business coaching to help them commercialize their ideas while retaining the full intellectual property rights for their innovations. “We are proud to announce this new program, which will enable new and existing developers to create next-generation mobile apps and unique user experiences,” said Kai Öistämö, executive vice president, Nokia Corp. “The partnership will allow developers to ideate and monetize business opportunities globally, via both Windows Phone Marketplace and Nokia Store.”

cheaper and less-capable Android phones on the market.

The move underscores the seriousness with which the two companies have taken the threat to their respective empires by common foes. If mutual enemies make fast friends, then Nokia and Microsoft have quickly become the best of friends. The number of apps available in the Windows Phone Marketplace now exceeds 65,000, surpassing those at another rival Research in Motion›s BlackBerry store. But that is still far short of around half a million apps available on the Apple App Store and Google’s Android.

Reception to the Window Mobile offering has been lukewarm to this point. This is mainly due to the unwillingness of app developers to jump onboard the platform at this stage. Reviews have however been far more impressive. Microsoft launched its latest Windows Phone 7.5 operating system last year to good reviews while Nokia’s Lumia phones look sleek and stylish, with live, tiled icons that automatically update news, weather, pictures and social feeds.

In Apple and Google’s Android based devices, both Microsoft and Nokia have seen their market shared decline and their respective places taken as king of the hill, by the shiny new toys on the block. The flagship Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone 7 device is arriving on AT&T for an attractive-sounding $99, placing the high-end phone below the iPhone’s price and among

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The partnership has also taken wings in the most populous country in the world. Nokia’s Windows Phone 7.5 device, the Lumia 610, will ship to China in the second quarter of 2012 and cost less the $180 (US). The iPhone 4S costs five times that amount in China. Analysts expect Windows Phone sales in China to exceed those of the iPhone by 2016. Microsoft China held an event in Beijing for press and phone industry executives on March 21, 2012 to announce its new offerings and show off the Chinese-language interface.

Both companies are hoping that this partnership, with its shared OS/hardware alliance, its AppCampus venture, and entrance into lucrative overseas markets will be just the jolt of energy both companies need to restore them to their former lustre in the mobile industry.

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AUGMENTED REALITY: A LOCAL IT

COMPANY BREAKS NEW GROUND

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t is not everyday that a Jamaican company breaks new ground in technological innovation and advancement. This we usually associate with the billion dollar tech giants of Silicon Valley. But that is exactly what the company SIEAE has done with the concept of Augment Reality (AR). The name SIEAE stands for See in everything Augmented Experiences.

concierge that directs you to their location” Robert explains. “Another example might be you sitting at home in front of your webcam, trying-on augmented luxury watches. Lastly, how about bringing a brochure or other marketing document to life and putting your product in the hands of your potential client thanks to a 3D AR experience”. All this and far more is possible with augmented reality technology.

“SIEAE is a very new entity in the business world with the focus of developing augmented applications here in the Caribbean. It is operated solely by myself and a graphic designer who is an alumni of the Art institute of Ft. Lauderdale,” says Managing Director Robert Farr. “The idea to bring this digital experience came about simply from observing the use of technology here in Jamaica. To put it bluntly, everyone has a smart phone, a laptop or a home computer, the question simply was, what if?”

Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with live video or the user’s environment in real time. Technically speaking, augmented reality can be explained as the generation of a composite view for the user that is the combination, in real time, of a virtual scene viewed by the user, via a camera for example, and a virtual scene generated by the computer, therefore augmenting the scene with additional information.

“Imagine pointing your smart phone’s camera down the road and in return being presented with information or data relative to nearby interest points such as shops and attractions. How about entering a department store and having instant access to a guide to all the individual contents and a personal, virtual 26

There are three different types of augmented reality. 1) Markerless Tracking (MLT) - this performs active tracking and recognition of real environment on any type of support (visuals, objects, faces, movement) without using special placed markers. 2) Sensor based Technology sensors are used in locations where MLT are less operational (e.g. due to lack of light). They send a signal to a receiver

within range and are able to curate information pertinent to the individual instead of everything around thanks to powerful filters. 3) GPS and Compass Technology - mainly found on smartphones and tablets, this type of applications takes advantage of the devices’ GPS and compass features with access to high-speed wireless networks. Still fairly imprecise due to current inaccuracy of the GPS technology, its main attraction lays to provide useful local web-content information and added services in 2D format at the geolocation of the user. Augmented Reality has the ability be a real game-changer in the areas of website and digital marketing, mobile marketing and e-commerce. With an average linger time of seven minutes, the advantages to using augmented reality on a website is obvious. Sales conversions, downloads or even total page visits increase as linger time increases. Smartphones and tablet devices are quickly becoming the new PC, and as of February 2011 more mobile devices have been sold than PCs and laptops. The expanded view and functionality that tablet devices provide make this an ideal platform for robust and immersive augmented reality experiences.

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AUGMENTED REALITY: A LOCAL IT COMPANY BREAKS NEW GROUND CONT’D Technology can also aid salespersons in allowing them to physically demonstrate their product or service conveniently over the internet. The last decade has seen the emergence of tools like Sales Force which has transformed sales departments by supporting the implementation of quality business processes, just as human resources management or engineering is guided by best practice techniques. “We feel that marketing technologies can help sales people to sell more effectively. Not [only] by creating visually stunning presentations but by using technology to tap into psychological sales principles and by applying technology to every step of the sales process, from lead generation, qualification, right through to delivery,” claims Robert. “By adopting marketing technologies sales people reap the benefits of placing a digital version of a product in a client’s hands. Not only is this a

powerful way to sell, the intelligence gained from allowing a customer to explore a digital version of a product can provide very powerful intelligence on what customers like most about what they see.” Businesses are always looking for a competitive edge - augmented reality might just be the difference that many organisations are looking for to help them stand out from the crowd.

REMAKING SMES – CULTURAL AND STRUCTURAL CHALLENGES

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he redefinition of something connotes an alteration to the nature and limits of the concept or phenomena. The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector has evolved and developed so rapidly in the region that it has forced a challenge to its existing norms and limits. This challenge is not only about the legal form of an SME but also the very nature, purpose and sustainability of these enterprises. The SME sector has long been cited for its invaluable contribution to the development and well being of regional economies. According to OECD (2009) statistics SMEs contribute about 55% of GDP and 65% of employment in high-income countries and over 90% of employment and 70% of GDP in middle-income countries, such as some Caribbean economies. SMEs are also a

growing source of export revenues in middle income countries and a major catalyst for driving entrepreneurship and innovation.

Framework – administrative structures are often restrictive, bureaucratic and duplicated

The overwhelming majority of Caribbean firms fall into the category of SMEs. It is estimated that in CARICOM, micro and small enterprises account for more than 45% of jobs in the region. If medium-sized enterprises are included, the sector arguably contributes more than 70% of jobs (UN ECLAC, 2009). While it is the backbone of many economies both small and large, it is not without its challenges. The failure rate among SMEs is high – 53% of SMEs fail within the first 3 years (New Zealand Stats, 2003). Some of the major reasons attributed to this failure are:

Weak lobbying position to politically represent their cause and influence policies in their interest

Resources – finance is sometimes insufficient, frugal and inadequate

Informality – poor management structures and systems

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This article deals mainly with the first two reasons. The need for proper organisational and governance structure has long plagued SMEs in the region. A major reason for this involves the genesis of many small and medium family run businesses. In most cases it would have been started by a patriarch of the family, be it from necessity or from an ingrained entrepreneurial spirit, and would have grown with little formal 27


Technology

structure regarding business administration or governance. In many cases there is no sharp boundary between where the family ends and the business starts. The informality of structure then becomes the culture of the business and when this happens often enough it becomes the culture for the sector. The irony of this is that it turns out to be a catch 22 situation. If the business fails there is hardly a chance to recognise that there was the need to change and the informal structure would be the last factor to be identified as the reason for the failure. Where the business grows rapidly and becomes a roaring financial success, the owners are likely to see the informality of the structure as a source of its competitive advantage and a major reason for their success. The question then becomes-why fix it if it is not broken? Entrepreneurs are often single-minded, determined persons, who may find it hard to accept the error in their ways (in local parlance, “hard-headed”), especially when their way seems to be working. It is commonplace to find small family -run or one-man operations where at least one or two persons are doing every function in the business. They are the conductor, performer and audience all at once. This may work for a while, but as the business grows it becomes too burdensome and diseconomies begin to take place – invoices are not sent, bills are not paid, customers’ orders are not filled etc. Pretty soon customers become disenchanted and leave, staff loses focus, morale falls and the bottom line is affected. This scenario sums up a situation where the informal structure has outlived its usefulness and becomes a hurdle to success. The owner/entrepreneur in many cases is able to identify the need for help and to have a separation of the business functions. However, this becomes difficult to achieve when positions and functions are based on personalities rather than policies, practices and procedures. 26

Where there are people in the family who can be trusted, they are able to fill the role as a stop-gap mechanism. However, it is only a matter of time before the problem reoccurs. To further complicate matters, the strain is not only on the business, but because the family unit and the business are intertwined, the stress of the owners can easily migrate to the family unit, leading to an amalgamation of issues. How do we prevent these weaknesses of informality and improper business and governance structure from becoming embedded into the culture of the business? Businesses need to establish proper practices and procedures early in the game. That is easier said than done, but as more and more people, especially the children and grandchildren of business owners engage in business education, we should gradually see formalisation of business structures become more commonplace in SMEs. Programmes like the Master of Small and Medium Enterprise Management of the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business can go a long way in making proper procedure more of a norm than an exception. This programme is geared towards owners of new and existing businesses, persons who are in line to inherit a family business and budding entrepreneurs. While the programme is built on academic rigour and relevance, it is designed to be practically oriented. Classes are done in the online environment to cater for the busy entrepreneurs and the assessments are not exam-centric, but are designed to address practical business problems and issues in the various functional areas. As with most things, there is positive and negative. Business structures are no different. The challenge is to be able to harness the benefits of quick decisionmaking and the personalised touch of the informal culture while maintaining sound business practices. No one said that running a business was easy.

“Entrepreneurs are often single-minded, determined persons, who may find it hard to accept the error in their ways

Balraj Kistow Lecturer and Programme Director Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Mr. Kistow is a Lecturer in the areas of International Business and Accounting and Finance. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Management Studies and a M.Sc. degree in Management Studies. He has previously worked in the financial sector and as a utility regulator. He has been in teaching and research for over 15 years. He has also presented in a number of conferences at home and abroad and has also been involved in distance education and e-learning for over five years. He has published in the areas of Accounting, Small Business Management and Distance Learning and is regular contributor to the Trinidad Guardian’s Business Section. His current research areas include Financial Management, International Business and Distance Education.

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Businessuite Magazine May 2012 Digital Issue