Gerhard Hartman, head of the Africa Division at Softline VIP
"There is still enormous scope for growth," says Gerhard Hartman, who heads up the Africa Division at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc. "The success of our alliance partner network forms the backbone to our entire African operation with countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania recording the biggest growth as far as Softline VIP products are concerned," says Hartman.
"Clients in Africa want to deal with an established local company that is backed by a prominent international partner. They want to be assured that they are aligning themselves with a business partner that takes them seriously and will not disappear overnight. African businesses also want a product that is relevant, able to meet their needs and compliant with country-specific legislation, which is synonymous to Softline VIP's selection of products," explains Hartman.
Establishing a partnership that works, is however a two-way street, says Hartman. "Our partners need to take the first step in certifying themselves through Softline VIP's training programmes. It then becomes our responsibility to monitor their growth and development and to aid them as far as we can. Being able to offer the best possible service to the end-user includes the offering of training to the client, local support and the implementation of a service level agreement. We provide our partners with regular insightful information in addition to a monthly webinar where we discuss any issues that may have arisen. A yearly certification programme further underpins our strive for customer service excellence," explains Hartman.
The African landscape is colourful, with smaller businesses showing an interest in payroll systems, whereas larger businesses concern themselves with HR solutions. "They are passionate about the creation of work profiles, performance management, document management and accurate leave management. Bigger businesses want to be able to view their payslips online and manage their overtime by means of an automated process," explains Hartman.
Connectivity is becoming less and less of a concern. "We offer some of our partner and client courses on an E-learning basis and the proportion of international participants that are involved in the process will suggest that connectivity is not an issue," explains Hartman. "As with South Africa, you will find better connections in the cities, with connectivity in rural and far-reaching areas proving to be more challenging."
Though African countries are asking about service delivery in the cloud, South Africa still very much remains the driving force behind the cloud solution into Africa. "For all the possibilities that the cloud may hold in Africa, it still remains a large infrastructure drain in terms of the capabilities needed to offer the cloud. Some of our partners are looking at hosting the software in the cloud and I am looking forward to the future opportunities that it will bring," says Hartman.
"The greatest driving force behind Softline VIPs products remains our ability to offer a service that is compliant to the country's specific statutory requirements. Clients want the assurance that their payroll and HR system is compliant with legislation and that their tax documentation is on target. Softline VIP is endorsed by BDO, which adds an additional layer of credibility to our service offering," concludes Hartman.