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Altron - Blog

Xerox remains at the forefront of printing technology

12 October 2015

If you still associate Xerox only with printing technology, you’re at least a decade out of date. Xerox’s technologies can be found across many industries – in healthcare, transportation, human resources, financial services and customer care. The company employs 50 000 call centre agents to handle queries for its clients in sectors as diverse as telecoms and retail, processes 950 million medical claims a year and is helping governments and private companies to analyse massive amounts of data to create more smart cities.

This was the message delivered by Dr Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox’s Chief Technology Officer and President of the Xerox Innovation Group, on her recent visit to South Africa.

Sophie was in South Africa to visit Bytes Documents Solutions, Xerox’s largest global partner in its document technology business and the authorised Xerox distributor in 26 sub-Saharan countries. She also led discussions with BDS’ parent company Altron TMT to explore more potential tie-ups, since Xerox has many applications of interest to South African customers.

“I’m here to strengthen the relationship because in addition to Bytes Document Solutions being a great partner, there is more we can do, especially now that Xerox has such a fantastic business in healthcare, transportation, customer care and education services,” she said.

Speaking to Bytes Document Solutions executives, she said that Xerox’s novel technologies include the function of a teacher inserting a handwritten test from a pupil into a multifunction printer, which then analyses the results and provides feedback so advanced that it can determine whether the affected child has a weakness in arithmetic. These technologies are making inroads in clinics and schools today, having first been created and tested in the Xerox Innovation Laboratories.

Sophie, in her dual role as CTO and President of the Xerox Innovation Group, oversees the innovation laboratories in the United States, Canada, France and India together with Xerox’s joint, research-focused venture with Fuji in Japan. Much of the research focuses on automation to enable processing work at massive scale; and on analytical tools and algorithms for big data to turn masses of information into practical personalised

“Our teams around the world always look into the future,” she said. The Bangalore lab has about 100 researchers, more than half holding doctorate degrees in computer analytics. Others specialise in machine intelligence and some are physicians, since the lab concentrates on healthcare as well as transportation projects.

The company’s lab in Toronto focuses on material science and chemistry, including research into more environmentally friendly toners, inks and longer life components for printing devices, as well as printed electronics.
Soon Xerox, in collaboration with its partner ThinFilm, will introduce printed labels with electronics embedded into them to create smart labels.

Xerox’s research lab in France concentrates on machine intelligence and data analytics for many industry sectors. “The researchers are using machine intelligence to create virtual agents that are automated to do customer care,” adds Sophie.

Sophie personally holds 14 US patents for her breakthroughs in micro-electronics, but Xerox and Fuji Xerox together register a staggering 30 patents every week.

“A patent is for something totally new that didn’t exist before and that’s not easy to do,” she said. “But if you are really an expert in If you are really an expert in your field you can push the boundaries of the unknown and create whole new technologies."

During her visit, Sophie was asked how often Xerox’s innovations failed. “I don’t call it failure, I call it learning,” she said. “If you do not fail once in a while you are not learning - if you don’t push the boundaries you will never know the possibilities. But you have to be very agile. If something looks like it’s not going to work you don’t keep investing in it. You keep adjusting what you are working on.”


Publish Date: October 12, 2015 5:00 AM

Bytes Leadership DNA Series #1

2 October 2015

What drives the success of the Bytes Technology Group in the current transitional IT market environment?  The Bytes Leadership team’s values are consistent drivers of how operations deal with the causes and effects of disruptive technologies and commoditised products and services in their respective market verticals.  The Bytes Leadership DNA series shares insights into these values – the DNA of the Bytes Technology Group leadership team.

The first blog in this series is by Deidre Le Hanie, Managing Director of Bytes Managed Solutions:

Corporate integrity has come under the spotlight in rather inglorious fashion over the past two weeks, with scandals involving high profile international players in the motor manufacturing and power industries casting aspersions on business strategies and corporate ethics.

While these recent cases have certainly grabbed the headlines, they are most definitely not the only instances of corporate shenanigans – either currently or in the past. In some sectors, it seems as if suspect practices could be the norm, rather than the exception.

At Bytes Managed Solutions (Bytes MS), as indeed throughout the Bytes Technology and Altron Groups, we play by different rules. Integrity is entrenched in our business conduct.

And yes, I know this is what all businesses and all business leaders say, but at Bytes it’s a talk we walk. We value our reputation far too much to ever gamble with it. My business, Bytes MS, is services-led, and has to perform all its activities with the highest levels of integrity to build and maintain the kind of long-standing trust relationships that we enjoy with all our stakeholders.

It makes me proud that I can say that we have disengaged from business relationships – internally and externally – that were not aligned to our values. It takes courage to take such decisions, especially when it has a bottom line impact, but none of us who have had to do it ever wavered. We know that it is very difficult - if not impossible - to rebuild a broken trust relationship, and we have a “no compromise” approach. It is far more important to ensure full transparency in one’s conduct than to compromise a relationship, our reputation, and the trust our customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders have in us.

The importance of trust cannot be overstated and I am honoured to be a member of an organisation where both the leadership team and the employees have a zero-tolerance approach towards anything that puts our trust relationships at risk.

And it does all come down to leadership, and walking the talk doesn’t it? As much as healthy and effective teams ensure business success, without the critically important fundamentals and a culture based on values such as integrity, a company becomes like a thoroughbred racehorse that is kept in a paddock, unable to perform to its potential.

To me, these two recent examples of corporate integrity failure were a reminder that as leaders we are entrusted with a significant responsibility that I often refer to as a valuable jewel, and we need to protect it. We need to be even more vigilant and dedicated to the straight and narrow path than before. I would never want to do anything to compromise or allow a situation to compromise the trust that would leave our customers, employees, investors and stakeholders disillusioned. That is not an option, and should not be something that needs consideration but should be a natural, intrinsic way of life.

Deidre le Hanie

Deidre is the Managing Director of Bytes Managed Solutions, a division of Bytes Technology Group and has been with the organisation since June 1998. Prior to her appointment as MD, she fulfilled various roles within Finance including that of the Financial Director. Her appointment in Jan 2005 coincided with the acquisition of CS Holdings. Her first task was to integrate the CS Managed Services into Bytes Managed Services which doubled the size of the organisation overnight. In March 2010, Deidre was given the additional responsibility for Bytes Specialised Solutions the Sole Distributor of NCR Solutions with one of its division Retail ATM an ISO distributor of approximately 1000 ATM’s country wide.


Publish Date: October 2, 2015 5:00 AM

Industry Insight: Comply or face the consequences

1 September 2015

With the advent of new regional and local payment instruments backed by local legislative changes, South African payment processors, which includes all retail banks, most corporate businesses, as well as payment service providers, will be scrambling to ensure internal compliance over the coming years. 
These new payment instruments are processed using a modern XML based messaging standard called ISO 20022, which is the de facto global standard for all new financial messages. Local payment processors will need to ensure their financial messages are consistently mapped, validated and conform to these increasingly complex and ever changing formats – or else face stiff penalties from the South African Reserve Bank. 
What is ISO 20022 and how does it affect the South African electronic payments sector?
Ensuring consistent financial messaging across organisations in the financial services industry is not a new concept. Every transaction, every report, every confirmation or notification requires the sending and receiving of messages that conform to the standard required by the regulated service. Both the sending and receiving parties have to be able to ‘talk the talk’, and they are just two of the many different parties involved in the transaction chain, so data needs to be consistent and secured throughout the processing chain. Consequently, the transaction data that is passed between the multiple parties is based on industry defined message formats.
Since its launch 10 years ago, ISO 20022 has become the de facto global standard for such industry defined message formats. The standard contains hundreds of message formats, data elements, syntax and semantic validation rules, implemented through XML message structures. Each market can base new services upon ISO 20022, and then vary that service and the message standards to suit their particular processing needs. Therefore, each market player in South Africa will need to support additional validations and formatting rules beyond the global standard that are specific to the South African market.
Thus, payment processors in South Africa have reached a tipping point. Their existing systems were not developed to manage the diversity and flexibility of the new messaging standards. New data needs to be captured at the customer level and then processed within internal systems in accordance with the new rules. Failure to adhere to the new standards and implement significant internal processing changes will not only result in short-term punitive measures, but will also harm their long-term global growth prospects. The global marketplace is becoming more dynamic and competitive, and nowhere is this seen more than in payments, and in the flexibility that the banks and corporates must now support to keep up with the imposed changes and customer demands. 
Over the coming years, a range of these new legislative changes with updated payment standards will cause major disruption in the local electronic payments sector, initially in the areas of debit orders through Authenticated Collections, but that will be followed by new ISO 20022 based credit transfers (to replace existing Bankserv EFT Credit Transfers) and SADC payments (which are ISO 20022 based messages that replace the use of existing SWIFT payments for low-value cross border transfers in the SADC region). 
To remain competitive, South African payment processors must avoid incurring excessive costs during this period of change and so finding the right software platform to address their challenges is a top priority. Growth and profitability are non-negotiables for any organisation, regardless of their scale, and CIOs and CTOs will need cost-effective solutions to ensure compliance with the new payment standards without compromising these critical business objectives. 
Delivering a cost effective solution
So what are the key issues that South African CIOs and CTOs must consider when addressing the take-on of Authenticated Collections (AC)? How can they ensure that their organisation is best placed to support the requirements? How can they de-risk the future and manage costs appropriately?
There are three fundamental principles that should drive each organisation’s approach to these significant changes and should guide their strategy and solution selection process:
1.    Strategic message development solution: AC is the first of many ISO 20022 related projects that most organisations will be undertaking. Coupled with the many other financial messaging development projects that will continue to impact the development capacity of every organisation it is incumbent that each use the AC project as the catalyst for creating a strategic solution to messaging development for both ISO 20022 and all financial message formatting.    
2.    Flexibility: it may seem an obvious issue to highlight, but experience shows that new payment standards evolve during their initial rollout and systems will require regular adjustments. Over time, environments also evolve and diversify, as well as platforms changing as organisations expand. Therefore, flexibility of definition and deployment has to be at the heart of every organisation’s strategy.  
3.    Speed to market: finally, time to market is critical, not only for competitive advantage but also to address regulatory imposed deadlines and provide one’s organisation with the time it needs to test and roll out new services. Time to market = speed of development. The shorter the development lifecycle, the greater the competitive advantage. 

Essentially, every organisation’s CIO and CTO, be they a bank or a payment processor, or a corporate business sending and receiving payments, needs to undertake a frank assessment of whether his or her organisation has the right tooling and systems in order to address the three highlighted principles above or else they face a difficult and uncertain future where they will not compete effectively. 
Ultimately, it’s not just about whether an organisation will comply with the new standards, it’s whether they will comply with the need for agility in order to stay competitive in this fast paced, ever changing world of digital payments processing.  

Information supplied by:
Mark Neethling 
General Manager: Financial Services 
Bytes Universal Systems

Mick Fennel
General Manager: MEA


Mark Neethling

General Manager:Financial Services Bytes Universal Systems +27112057726 +27834075154


Publish Date: September 1, 2015 5:00 AM

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