CIO SA tech news round-up: Zoho plans to set up shop in South Africa, Meta gets hit with huge fine for data protection breach, and Hirsch’s relies on data analysis and reporting this Black Friday

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Zoho setting up shop in South Africa

Zoho Corporation, an Indian multinational technology company that develops computer software, this week announced the opening of a new office in Johannesburg to accommodate its growing employee base in the country, and to better serve its customers. Since opening its first office in Cape Town in 2010, the company has seen a 75 percent increase in net new customers in South Africa by 2021, and it has more than doubled its employee base.

Furthermore, Zoho and the Institute of African Royalty (IAR), a startup and SME incubator, have formed a strategic partnership to remove barriers to enterprise technology for small and medium-sized businesses and assist them in their digital transformation journey. Qualified SMEs who participate in IAR will receive R27,000 in Zoho Wallet Credit, which can be used to access any of Zoho's 55+ products, including Zoho One, the business operating system. Zoho will also offer its expertise to assist businesses in making the best use of cloud technology.

Irish Data Protection Commission hits Meta with a huge fine

Meta Platforms has been fined €265 million (R4.7 billion) for failing to prevent the leak of more than half a billion Facebook users’ personal data.

The fine was imposed by the Irish Data Protection Commission, the European Union’s main privacy watchdog, following an investigation that found the social media company had failed to apply strict safeguards required under the bloc’s sweeping General Data Protection Regulation.

In addition to the fine, the watchdog ordered Meta’s Irish unit to ensure that its processing complies with the law, according to an e-mailed statement this week.

The Irish authority is the primary watchdog for some of Silicon Valley’s largest tech firms, including Meta, that have established an EU base in the country. It launched its investigation after learning that “a collated dataset of Facebook personal data” had been published on the Internet. Last year, 533 million Facebook users’ personal information, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses, resurfaced on a hacker website.

The investigation focused on “Facebook Search, Facebook Messenger Contact Importer, and Instagram Contact Importer tools in relation to Meta processing” between May 2018 and September 2019, according to the data protection commission. The social network previously stated that the data is outdated and that the issue was discovered and resolved in 2019.

Data analysis and reporting provide retailers with an advantage this Black Friday

According to Craig Smith, Special Projects Manager for Hirsch’s, South Africa’s retail sector experienced a significant shift when the Black Friday tradition entered the local landscape, most notably the introduction of a large spike in trading volume during the month of November, peaking around the day itself. He believes that understanding business data is critical for retailers in order to prepare for spikes such as Black Friday and the holiday season, as well as dips during slower times of the year.

“All categories will spike during November,” he says, “and in some cases there may also be seasonal increases over and beyond the Black Friday surge. Beyond effective analytics, great relationships with suppliers makes a big difference because a cracker of a deal from a supplier means we can pass that on to customers.

“In the new world, where online retail has turbocharged sales so that some lines move very quickly while others may be slow and steady, data-driven decisions are vital to strike the right balance. We use Qlik Sense, which generates very important actionable insights for the decision-makers centrally, and at branch level. When planning for something like Black Friday, this level of confidence is crucial,” he says.

Smith says that leveraging data has supported sales staff and the customer experience. “Data is hugely important to us – now as we approach Black Friday, but also every other week of the year. Our salespeople can see stock levels nationally in real time, as stock moves. This lives on an application on their phones, meaning they can answer any questions or sell from anywhere to anywhere. Customers, on the other hand, see actual live product availability,” he says.

Hirsch’s uses a legacy system, albeit a very effective one, and by integrating Qlik into the system, his team is now able to extract useful insights and automate reports, removing the risk of users making mistakes when drawing reports. The exciting next step, he says, is to scale this capability throughout the business, including other functionality such as forecasting or bots to deliver reporting.

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