Syspro CFO: SA is forging ahead in the tech space

Jaco Maritz, Syspro CFO, believes that South Africa does not lag behind its global tech counterparts.

Jaco Maritz, CFO of software solutions provider Syspro, has been an integral part of some of South Africa’s homegrown IT companies, and he attests to this country’s ability to compete with the global IT players. Jaco spoke to CFO South Africa about acquisitions, automation, technology, artificial intelligence, and more. 

What are you currently working on? What occupies the most of your time?
"I’m very busy with the finances and financial and strategic planning. Our global operations, across six regions, all follow the same cycle. Because we’re on different time zones, I have to be available at all times. It’s not unusual for me to have a 9pm conference call with my Australasian team, or to travel up to eight times a year to different locations. We’re also busy with the final acquisition of Syspro USA."

What technologies are going to shape your product offerings in future. How prepared is SA for them?         
"Syspro has an entire department dedicated to innovation and development. We’re excited about the internet of things technology and particularly, an IoT-enabled ERP system. IoT sensors will monitor and track incoming and outgoing items, reducing the need for human intervention."

"We’ve recently implemented an IoT-enabled ERP system for our customer Insulated Structures, which sells fridges to major supermarkets. To avoid any down time, we installed sensors to detect any issues with a fridge’s temperature or humidity. Should the IoT device detect anything, a workflow connector sets off a workflow process to send a technician to fix the fridge before it fails."

"We’re now learning more about the life span of light bulbs, filters and compressor details in a fridge so that technicians can be alerted about any potential problems."

"Syspro has recently spoken about the prediction that by 2020, 60 per cent of all companies will have fully articulated an organisation-wide digital platform strategy and will be in the process of implementing it. Half of these companies will depend on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services and experiences. South African companies should implement IoT technologies, but with the careful management of resulting data. IoT-enabled ERP systems will be critical."

Where are your current confidence levels in the state of business in South Africa?

I don’t think we give each other enough credit in this country. Many companies are embracing digitalisation and implementing systems that work to improve business. Our South African customers are not behind their US counterparts, for example.

What is Syspro doing in the AI space?
"Syspro recently introduced Ken the Robot to our customers. Ken is able to do a price and stock enquiry, process customer account information and transactional enquiries. Even while we’re sleeping, customers can have their queries attended to. How can this not be beneficial? Many people think that automation will replace jobs in a country with sky-rocketing employment, but I believe more jobs will be created by technology. Job titles we can’t imagine right now will be in existence in five years."

"However, it’s important that we invest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills development to meet the demand. This could be both an opportunity and a challenge. Obviously, with round-the-clock information, our health and wellbeing may be put under pressure. Here, I would recommend greater personal discipline, time management and a healthy work/life balance."

What is the most rewarding part of being Syspro’s CFO?
"Mostly, I love that Syspro is South-African born and bred, with a global footprint. I enjoy being part of a company that’s growing and especially into Africa. It’s exciting to be part of a company that has a leading role in this country’s journey to Industry 4.0. (Industry 4.0 refers to increasing automation, with data exchange.) In addition, I am proud of the fact that as a team, we’re all on the same page in terms of ensuring long-term growth and that we’re not gung-ho about securing immediate profit. It’s why we don’t want to list on the stock exchange. We’ll remain a private company so that in the longer term we will have more growth potential."

What are the biggest challenges or headwinds you are facing at the moment?
"Global events such as the threat of Brexit and Trump’s various controversial policies negatively impact our business. For example, our business in Canada is now under pressure because of decisions made in the USA. Our business is interconnected. Luckily, we’re adaptable and plan ahead. What helps is staying close to the business and making real-time decisions. In a way, this makes the work exciting."

What have been some of the highlights of your career?
"I have had a great overall career. Each year brings something fresh and exciting."

Jaco Maritz, disambiguation 
Read more about Jaco Maritz, CFO of Acacia Mining: Acacia CFO Jaco Maritz on personal growth, people development and mountain biking