Technology

Tech firm gives SMEs platform to go digital

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Bluekey Seidor MD Mala Bhatt during the interview at the firm’s Nairobi offices. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

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Summary

  • Bluekey Seidor has installed systems which have largely seen SMEs transform from manual operations to integrating different aspects of business such as procurement, market and sales into a single database.
  • The software, technically called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), enables managers to monitor operations at the click of a button from the comfort of their offices.

For more than a decade, Bluekey Seidor has been providing business management software that helps small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) integrate and automate key functions in operations, financials and human resource management.

The firm, which has been operating in Kenya for 17 years, has installed systems which have largely seen SMEs transform from manual operations to integrating different aspects of business such as procurement, market and sales into a single database.

The software, technically called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), enables managers to monitor operations at the click of a button from the comfort of their offices.

The demands and needs of businesses are, however, changing rapidly driven by constant technical advances, according to Bluekey Seidor, which puts the number of its largely SME clients in Kenya at more than 100 firms.

Mala Bhatt, the firm’s managing director, says the current market dynamics requires businesses not only to install systems that automate and integrate operations, but also incorporate machine learning and advanced analytics. Such a software, technically known as intelligent ERP (iERP), enables firms to forecast, track, learn, predict, report and manage company operations.

“There’s tremendous innovation in the industry and so we are looking at things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things being integrated into ERPs. We want to be the pioneers in this field,” Ms Bhatt said in an interview.

“10 years ago, it was just an accounting software and people were just starting to move to ERP. Now, we are seeing that ERP is well-established and we need to move to the next phase which is intelligent ERP that encompasses many dynamics.”

Such software largely helps firms ensure businesses processes are followed to the latter, thus reducing the risk of fraud which in most cases leads to loss of revenue.

SMEs planning to transition to intelligent technology-enabled operations and experience will, however, have to dig deeper into their pockets to obtain between Sh3 million and Sh5 million it costs to install a basic SAP Business One HANA software, which is an ERP tailor-made for SMEs operations.

Ms Bhatt says most SMEs in East Africa prefer to deploy the software on the cloud than at their premises, citing experience from the firm’s 150 clients in the region, a sign companies are getting less worried about risk of being hacked.

By opting to deploy their business management system on the cloud where they pay a monthly fee rather than invest in computers at their premises, ERP charges have become more of an operational cost than a capital investment.

“It’s interesting to note that the uptake of cloud in East Africa has been very good and more receptive than the developed world. Probably, people are now more educated about the benefits of clouds,” Ms Bhatt said.

“When you put your data on the cloud, the cloud providers also give you fully managed service and that means you reduce your reliance on a head of IT because all your data is being looked after, it’s being backed up, it’s safe and anything that needs to be done is being managed by the person who is hosting it.”

The ERP software industry has been dogged by claims that providers install systems which delivers less than what they promise when negotiating for a contract.

“We are having to do a lot of education and learning in the market place because a customer still finds it difficult to understand the difference between an ERP and an accounting software,” Ms Bhatt said.

“The challenge (in the industry) is transparency in terms of disseminating clear value-add information.”

The software solutions firm, which has workforce of about 50, has set its sights on expanding into counties with Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu top on its strategy.

Originally Bluekey, the South Africa’s headquartered firm, partnered with Barcelona-based SAP Business One provider Seidor in June 2016 to support Africa’s expansion.

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