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SYSPRO – The Best ERP System for Businesses in Africa That You May Never Have Heard Of

Let me start by asking a fairly basic question: What is an Enterprise Resource Planning System or ERP system in short? The answer to this question was probably a lot easier to answer 20 odd years ago when ERPs were still quite nascent and evolving every day in large global enterprises. Indeed, in my long career working in digital marketing and the technology space in Africa, my first encounter with an ERP was SAP R/3 which was installed at Bamburi Cement (as they were known then). The ERP in question was running on two beautiful SIEMENS servers and was behind most of its business operations at the time. As you may know, Bamburi Cement is one of Kenya’s largest companies and as such they would need an ERP given the scale of their business operations in East Africa.

But, let’s go back to the question, what is an ERP?

At the basic level an ERP software helps to seamlessly integrate processes that are central to running a business such as purchasing, production, sales, human resource, accounting, customer service and more into one end-to-end system. This means that all business operations function from a single source of data which provides a holistic platform that streamlines and manages how the business operates. At the very least, this is what an ERP is supposed to do. Going by the traditional context of what an ERP is, it stands to reason that they typically don’t come cheap and require massive amounts of tweaking to get them functioning optimally. I am well aware of ERP deployments that have taken well over a decade to get running right so it can be a massively expensive and time-consuming effort!

Given that we are in Africa, the majority of businesses operate within the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) space. This means that for all practical purposes, the cost of purchasing and installing an ERP solution is a huge consideration for many businesses in Africa. Therefore, what is an aspiring SME to do when they want to adopt world-class businesses processes and technologies to make them globally competitive? I may not have the panacea for this scenario but I do know that from a recent conversation with a representative from SYSPRO that they could be one of the solutions for an affordable and high quality ERP that works well in the African environment.

SYSPRO is a South African based and founded business that specializes in an ERP system for manufacturers and distributors worldwide. What surprised me is that to be quite honest I had not known much about SYSPRO until a few weeks ago but they have been around for over 40 years. In that time, they have managed to expand to 60 countries globally, have 1,500 channel partners and 15,000 customers with a 98% customer retention. Read that again, 98% customer retention! These data points are staggering given that SYSPRO is after all a technology vendor from Africa that has managed to develop a global footprint with a world-class offering, making them probably the best ERP system vendor that you may never have heard of!

What seems to have made SYSPRO so successful is that they approached the development of their ERP system from a customer perspective by focusing on manufacturing and distribution. They have created an ERP system that simplifies handling complex business scenarios for sectors such as food and beverage, metal fabrication and automotive spares. By focusing on these niches, SYSPRO’s ERP system has become a global leader.

At the heart of the SYSPRO ERP is a single database solution that can be deployed on cloud, or on premise, depending on customer preferences. SYSPRO’s ERP offering has also been designed to be fully extensible to third-party applications like payroll, which is quite unlike how many competing ERP systems operate. This capability alone has been a major factor in attracting businesses in Africa where many legacy business applications still operate and need to be integrated, seamlessly.

Some of the features that make SYSPRO truly relevant for Africa include its data caching feature. In Kenya for instance, a leading automotive dealer on SYSPRO with geographically distributed operations nationally is able to run it at branch level on cache. What this means is rather than being connected centrally at all times via a network, data from transactions on the SYSPRO system is cached locally at the branch and then uploaded as a batch at the end of the day. Whilst this may seem somewhat archaic when broadband seems fairly widespread in Kenya, consider the fact that may business locations are still on slow and unreliable Internet connectivity which does not make it practical for real-time data transactions. This for me is what I consider a market relevant feature for African markets.

Another interesting aspect of SYSPRO is its mobile offering, ESPRESSO. It’s a well-known fact that Kenya is one of the most progressive mobile-first markets in Africa and the rest of the world. Smartphones have become affordable and ubiquitous in Kenya as has mobile broadband. From this perspective, SYSPRO helped develop a mobile app for a leading dairy processor in Kenya that enabled their salesforce to reduce the turnaround time for sales orders from 72 hours to 24 hours. This was made possible via SYSPRO’s ESPRESSO offering where customers were able to sign for orders directly on the sales teams’ smartphones which are then transmitted instantly to head office. This means that orders are made in near real-time and the supply chain is adjusted accordingly to accommodate the orders, reducing inventory and ultimately improving cash flow for the business, as well as customer satisfaction.

There is a lot more that I could write about SYSPRO but these are just some of the aspects that I thought to share as I intend to write a few more blog posts about their offerings that go far deeper into various business case studies from a Kenyan marketplace perspective. The reality is that there are all sorts of ERP offerings available in Kenya but when it comes to manufacturing and distribution at a price point that is affordable and flexible for the average Kenyan SME, it seems to me that SYSPRO is easily one of the better options in the market. Achieving world-class business operations for global competitiveness is a strategic imperative that cannot be ignored and having an ERP that makes this possible is essential. SYSPRO is clearly a viable option for SMEs in Kenya.

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