Month: March 2016
You’ve seen the craze for learning code. But what exactly is coding? Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browser, your OS, the apps on your phone, Facebook, and this website – they’re all made with code.
Here’s a simple example of code, written in the Python language:
print 'Hello, world!'
Many coding tutorials use that command as their very first example, because it’s one of the simplest examples of code you can have – it ‘prints’ (displays) the text ‘Hello, world!’ onto the screen.
If you don’t know the first thing about coding, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a beginner’s tutorial which will give you all the background information you need on coding, before you start learning it for real.
It starts with an explanation on the benefits of learning coding. Here, you’ll find out what you’ll be able to do once you know how to work with code. Then, you’ll get a deeper understanding of how coding works, and how the code you write gets converted into an instruction that a computer can ‘understand’. Very satisfying to know!
That’s followed by an outline of today’s coding languages. After all, every language has a purpose – some are for the web, others for app development, others for desktop software. You’ll find out why web development is an ideal form of coding to start off with, and then get a full overview of it. You’ll also be introduced to web design and app development.
Finally – and most importantly – there’s a step-by-step action plan that will outline the fastest and easiest way to get started in coding, and become a coder in 6 months.
Your website could be the first contact a potential client has with your company, so it’s absolutely crucial that it’s well designed and user-friendly. If your knowledge of the online environment is limited, here are some of the key questions you need to ask about your site.
What is the purpose of your site?
Having a well-defined purpose for your site will help you identify what messages should be communicated to visitors, how the site should be managed, what content to include and everything involved with developing and running a website.
Be specific. For example, rather than saying you merely want to establish an online presence, your aim could be to generate leads for business and communicate with potential clients. You’re basically setting a goal for the site and can then focus on achieving the goal.
How should it look?
The appearance of your website will be a big factor in its success. Your site should present a positive, professional image, without too much clutter or bombarding the user with too many bells and whistles.
Without having to go too drastic, update the look and feel of your site every few years in line with the current trends. There’s nothing worse than looking at a boring site that hasn’t been changed in five years.
What does it need to say?
The design and visual appeal of your site will draw visitors and hopefully encourage them to stay for a while. This is where good content comes in and can greatly affect the kind of experience a user has.
If needed, have your content written by a professional with experience in writing for the web. The writing shouldn’t be too formal and must give as much info to the reader in as little text as possible.
What about the design?
The design of your site should complement the content, without overshadowing it. Go for a simple style that matches the message and the purpose of the site, as well as your type of business.
- Load time: The time it takes for your site to load (open) is very important. The faster it opens, the more likely a user will be to stick around and explore, as he won’t have to wait forever for each page to load
- Error messages: If new visitors are getting error messages and can’t access your site, they probably won’t be back
- Layout: The layout you use should draw the reader’s attention to the most important items. It can create an attractive design and make the site easy to use
- Colours and fonts: The colours of your site can have a huge impact on the overall look of the site. Don’t go too bold or use too many colours. Think about your company brand and choose colours that fall in line with this. When it comes to font (the text type), think reader-friendly, plain and used consistently throughout
- Make it easy to navigate: Your readers must be able to find what they need easily or they will leave and you will have defeated the purpose of your website. If necessary, check out other sites to see how they’ve done it
- Use good quality images: It’s amazing how blurry or amateurish pictures can spoil the look of a website. Be prepared to have good photos taken or pay for images relevant to your business
- Other visual elements: The South African online environment is still new and most users have the most basic of internet facilities. Keep this in mind when the designer proposes using flash elements, pop-up windows, videos and so on. It can either work for or against you, and may not be necessary depending on the type of business you have
So now that you have an awesome website, don’t just leave it there and forget about it. Visit the site regularly to make sure everything is still working. Update it with any news about the company, successes, new products and so on. Make your site work for you and prove to be a good return on your investment.
Growing a small business requires intelligence, tenacity, persistence, creativity and technology. Today, technology has become as essential to success as a great idea. Technology is the great equalizer that puts a small business on equal footing with the larger players.
Having the leverage, agility and reach afforded by today’s technology tools allows small businesses to get started with less capital. Technology enables rapid growth and increasing returns to scale. Business process automation, anywhere access and outsourced IT present entrepreneurs with more time and opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Making the most of the available technology will increase the likelihood of realizing your vision. Below we explore the current technology trends that can help transform your company into an amazing small business success.
First, let’s check in on the major trends of the past few years:
- Cloud computing continues to grow as organizations move more of their applications to public, private and hybrid clouds. Anywhere, anytime access to business software and data is becoming the norm.
- Business continuity solutions remain popular. With highly publicized hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, disaster preparedness is on everyone’s minds.
- Data security is a top priority. As data security breaches continue to dominate the headlines, even small businesses have learned that they are not immune to attack from hackers and other threats.
- Sustainable solutions are still important. The drive toward sustainable or green technology has brought some improvements but may be getting less attention.
Now, here are the trends identified by the experts that will be having a major impact on small business in the coming year:
Technology Trends to Transform Your Business in 2015
1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Going mobile in business now means the ability to pick up any device and have instant access to all of the settings, data, and applications that seamlessly follow the user across devices. Windows 8 and Windows 10 (coming next year) provide solid platforms for enabling business mobility without sacrificing security or usability.
In retail, growing online sales from mobile devices will make it more difficult for small businesses to compete without participating. Sales involving multiple devices such as tablet plus smartphone are increasing. Finding ways to profit from the flood of mobile technology will be a top priority for SMBs.
Mobile device usage is also increasing at the checkout aisle. More than 20 percent of worldwide payment transactions are made with a mobile device. The U.S. lags behind other countries in usage of mobile payment systems. But with high-profile payment systems recently added to the mix, we are sure to make up ground. Companies must be prepared to accept mobile payments.
To service increasing numbers of digital shoppers, companies will need to optimize their websites for mobile and make sure that customers can finalize transactions through their devices. They must also find ways to engage customers via mobile by providing useful mobile content.
2. Virtual Workforce
Tools like Microsoft’s Office 365 Small Business and Lync video conferencing make collaboration from anywhere easier than ever before. Concerns about the economy and healthcare will expand the reliance on virtual employees.
Many companies are completely virtual with geographically dispersed employees and no physical office. As more people work remotely, the variety and depth of outsourced talent available to small businesses will improve competitiveness and resilience through economic cycles.
3. Less Hardware
Today’s technology requires less hardware to be purchased by customers. Modern multi-function devices combine phone, computer, scanner, camera, camcorder, radio, TV, Remote, PDA, MP3 player, GPS, fitness gadget, game platform, voice recorder, mobile hotspot, flashlight, watch and more.
The trend is increasing the speed and ease of new product adoption. With less hardware to buy and remote delivery of service and upgrades, the opportunity for digital products and services is vast. With increasing returns to scale, companies offering digital products can grow more rapidly with less capital invested.
4. Outsourced IT
More companies will engage Outsourced IT partners to cut costs and focus more time and attention on growing the business. Savvy outsourced IT providers double as business consultants who help companies identify technology-driven revenue growth opportunities.
Companies will be hard pressed to beat the lower cost, efficiency, monitoring and management tools, and breadth of technical resources available with outsourced IT. The reduced overhead and capital requirements will help companies compete in the new business technology landscape, which favors a pay-as-you-go, outcome-driven model.
5. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The rapid proliferation of objects connected to the Internet, including everything from appliances, light bulbs and wearable technology to artificial hearts, environmental sensors, cars and transportation systems is creating an ocean of opportunities for business.
The value to innovative companies arises from the cost saving potential of sensors, monitors and smart machines, combined with a high level of interest from a generation raised on gadgets. Small businesses that are first to introduce new Internet technologies in niche markets can dominate their segments.
6. 3D Printing
3D printing is finding a home in business as entrepreneurs capitalize on the speed and flexibility of the technology to produce customized products for customers. Growing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent, 3D printing can provide a competitive advantage to small businesses with a need to produce rapid prototypes, individualized products and replacement parts. A modest investment can give companies an edge in markets dominated by mass-produced items.
7. Marketing Automation Tools
Combining existing marketing activities like email, CRM, website optimization and funnel management, marketing automation tools promise to increase sales by delivering customized messages to prospects at the right time and at a relevant location.
Comprehensive marketing platforms designed for small business are becoming more prevalent. They offer powerful features to increase awareness, traffic and sales, allowing business owners more time to focus on what they do best. Microsoft recently merged Dynamics CRM and marketing automation tools to create an all-in-one CRM/marketing automation platform.
The ability of organizations to derive increased productivity, innovative product offerings and improved service has been greatly enhanced by the power of today’s technology. Those companies who take advantage of the opportunities will prosper.
Forward-thinking organizations increasingly partner with IT service providers to gain a technology edge, (see trend number four). The consummate IT services provider quickly masters emerging technologies, continually training engineers on the latest IT innovations to benefit businesses.
Acting as IT consultants they spot business opportunities and assemble the right technologies from industry-leading partners to create IT environments designed to conquer today’s business challenges and maximize growth.
Telkom has announced an investment of over R100 million in enterprise and supplier development with the launch of its FutureMakers programme. According to Telkom, FutureMakers focuses on driving innovation in the ICT sector by growing access to technology and by offering long-term support to its beneficiaries.
“We want to enable, empower and inspire entrepreneurs to stretch their ambitions and make their business visions a reality,” said Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko. “By growing entrepreneurial opportunities within ICT, we can create jobs, improve access to technology and develop a stable and competitive supply chain. FutureMakers serves the national vision for broadband and ICT development, while also supporting our own enterprise and supplier development (ESD) objectives,” Maseko said.
Minister for Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu applauded Telkom for this initiative. “We hope other corporates will emulate Telkom’s example of giving practical expression to the national agenda of building strong and sustainable small businesses and co-operatives that will be engines of economic growth and job creation.”
Minister Zulu added: “To address the triple challenges confronting our nation requires a collective effort. The need to support SMMEs and co-operatives is a responsibility of both government and the private sector. Together, we carry a responsibility to stimulate and support the growth and sustainability of the co-operative and small business sector. Together, we can unlock economic opportunities and thus achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable employment, particularly for women, youth and people with people with disabilities”.
FutureMakers supports small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) with funding, business development and telecommunications services. It works to identify and grow entrepreneurial opportunities across the ICT industry and within Telkom’s supplier value chains. FutureMakers will leverage Telkom’s own national footprint of products and services, resources, and assets, by providing funding, business support, technology and mentoring.
ICT has been identified in the National Development Plan as a critical enabler, providing opportunities for manufacturing, service provision and job creation. South Africa’s National Broadband Policy calls for mechanisms to share infrastructure, enabling low cost and high quality communication, along with the promotion of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The FutureMakers programme has been designed to deliver practical and tangible responses to these important national strategic objectives.
The FutureMakers programme comprises four pillars: FutureFund, FutureSource, FutureHub and FutureProof. Through the FutureFund, Telkom is making an initial investment of R100 million to extend financial support to SMMEs that supply Telkom or that work within the broader ICT sector. This funding will be in the form of working capital, loans and equity. Identity Development Fund managers have been appointed to manage the fund on behalf of Telkom.
In parallel with financial support, Telkom is also investing in local suppliers and partners as well as potential suppliers, third party distributors, internet cafes, and innovative ICT start-ups by helping them to become more competitive, through the FutureSource initiative. Entrepreneurs who are part of the FutureSource initiative will receive business development support and training from some of South Africa’s top SMME development providers.
Business incubation services – or FutureHubs – form an integral part of the FutureMakers strategy. FutureHubs provide a platform for stimulating innovation and technology uptake within small businesses. The hubs reduce start-ups costs for new business and encouraging a support of collaborative environment for developing enterprises. Telkom’s longstanding sponsorship of the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town will continue, along with a new programme to source, develop and support high innovation businesses.
Telkom is also investing over R5 million in upgrading a co-working and incubation space in Tshimologong Precinct, Braamfontein, which will be ready in November this year. Tshimologong will be Gauteng’s first business incubator for the ICT industry. It will provide Johannesburg ICT entrepreneurs with access to broadband connectivity, mentoring and other incubation support.
Partnerships, in the form of the FutureProof initiative, form the fourth pillar of the FutureMakers strategy. By actively seeking out opportunities to collaborate with like-minded partners focusing on ICT innovation, FutureMakers will be able to extend its reach and effectiveness. The FutureProof initiative will not only benefit SMMEs but will also stimulate demand for, and productive use of, ICT products and services. By promoting entrepreneurial activity, Telkom is confident South Africa can improve competitiveness and job creation, across the ICT sector.
“We believe that real innovation and transformation within the ICT sector demands a departure from the historically fragmented approaches of the past, towards more inclusive and coordinated ventures. Through the FutureMakers programme we are inviting members of the ICT community to join us as we embark on this exciting journey of transformation,” said Maseko.
Did you know that if you don’t renew a fixed-term contract, and the employee has an expectation that you would, then you could be liable for an unfair dismissal?
That’s right! In a situation like this, the employee can view your ending of the contract as an unfair dismissal, as long as he can prove that he had a ‘reasonable expectation’ that you’d do so.
So how can you prevent this from ever happening?
Well, the Court usually looks at the following 2 factors to determine whether there is reasonable expectation or not.
Take a look and make sure you don’t create any of them, after which you’ll end up an unnecessary case at the CCMA…
Be warned! The Labour Relations Amendment Act changes the way you treat fixed-term and temporary employees
Factor#1: How you deal with the employment relationship
You could create an expectation of renewal by arranging the employee’s work schedule for the future.
Or you could also indicate that the employee will still be working for you after the contract expires by, for example, issuing a written warning which is valid beyond the expiry date of the fixed-term contract.
Factor#2: Your motive to end the relationship
You SHOULDN’T use the expiry of the contract as a reason when, for example, it was REALLY because of misconduct-related issues.
In other words, let’s say an employee steals from you. Now, instead of using the expiry of the contract to end the relationship, hold a disciplinary hearing for her and consider dismissal as one of your legal options.
To use the expiry of the contract in a situation like the above could easily end you up with a case at the CCMA.
*So those were 2 factors to remember in order to avoid an unnecessary expectation of renewal from a fixed-term employee.
But did you know that there are 8 other VERY important points which the Court will look at when determining an expectation of renewal?
A cluster is a set of businesses and related institutions that:
- operate in close proximity to one another,
- And are interconnected and focus on similar industries
Clusters members benefit from:
- Increase in productivity,
- Increase in innovation,
- A supportive environment.
This is ideal for growing businesses and start-ups.
- Co-operation amongst cluster companies can help firms achieve economies of scale.
- Competition amongst cluster companies encourages innovation; driving firms to upgrade, improve and specialise.
Success factors for a cluster?
- Development and research,
- Supportive environment from the public sector,
- Commercial co-operation,
- Development of an educational infrastructure,
- Innovation and development of new technologies, and
- Development and extension of the cluster
Key benefit to Cluster Member Firms:
- Close proximity to suppliers and markets, in particular the mining hubs
Incentives to Cluster Members Firms:
- Shared infrastructure,
- Access to shared manufacturing and warehousing facilities,
- Access to support facilities,
- Shared services.
- Serviced land.