May 19, 2020

Kenya's produce purchasing agents ride innovation wave

Richard Chowning
AfricanBusienss Review
AgriManagr
John Waibochi
Bizclik Editor
2 min
Kenya's produce purchasing agents ride innovation wave

WRITTEN BY RICHARD CHOWNING

In 2010 John Waibochi, the founder, CEO, and chief innovator at of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, won the Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge. The award brought his company a US$1 million cash prize. Yet the recognition is not a laurel on which he wants his company to rest.

Waibochi says that Virtual City Group has been on the forefront of helping Africans, particularly Kenyans, understand that mobile phones are not just for communication and entertainment, but they are business tools that can help people make and save money. He has not only helped Kenyans understand that, but Virtual City Group has presented the population with many useful applications.

One successful app put out by Virtual City Group is AgriManagr, an application that assists more that 300,000 farmers. The app has been recognised internationally with The World Summit Award (WSA) on Mobile Content in 2010.

The AgriManagr system assists farmers and produce middlemen in automating produce purchasing transactions. It facilitates the management of weighing, grading and receipting of produce gathered from farmers at a rural or urban collection centres throughout the country. The app goes beyond mere record keeping by allowing purchasing agents to pay the farmers using cashless transactions on their phones. It also comes with the ability to automatically reward frequent and favoured suppliers.

Produce purchasing agents who combine AgriManagr with an electronic weighing scale can send the weight information directly to the AgriManagr app through Bluetooth technology. A complete report of the transaction including quality of the produce, quantity, farmer's details, collection point, and the payment due are sent to the purchasing agent’s headquarters which can then make payment.

Having real-time information about purchases in the field gives the headquarters an accurate understanding of how much total produce, by type, they will have available to supply to their retailers in the next day or two.

The farmer can be given a receipt at the collection centre detailing the transaction including his dealings with the purchaser over the past several deliveries. This quick, real-time delivery of information creates trust and builds loyal relationships between the farmers, purchasing agents and the produce distributing corporations they represent. 

Waibochi is striving to keep Virtual City Group of the crest of the innovation wave by planning to introduce between 30 and 50 new, prototype apps each month. It used to be said that Africa needs a lot from the developed world - but Waibochi and Virtual City Group are setting standards that the rest of the world will do well to emulate. 

Richard Chowning is director of Africa Mentor which provides coaching and resources for entrepreneurs and non-profits working in Africa.

Share article

May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Automation
UiPath
technology
repetitivetasks
Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”

 

Share article