South African IT companies should embrace enterprise and supplier development as an opportunity to strengthen their supply and demand chains as well as to make a meaningful impact on socioeconomic development.

Those that succeed can get a sustainable competitive advantage, says Shirlinia Jacobs, GM: channel sales at Tarsus Distribution.

She says that few large companies can afford to ignore enterprise development from a compliance point of view because it is one of the largest contributors to their BEE scorecard. However, enterprise development should not be treated as a box ticking exercise, but rather as an opportunity to strengthen the business by building up its future customers, suppliers and business partners.

“Enterprise development is a powerful way to boost equality and growth in South Africa by helping to integrate disadvantaged people into the mainstream economy,” says Jacobs. “But more than that, it makes business sense. In the IT industry, it’s an opportunity for us to build up a skills base for the future by upskilling partners, and to diversify and strengthen our pool of suppliers and customers.”

Jacobs says that enterprise development can take a range of forms – from mentoring and coaching to financial support to marketing assistance to preferential procurement – giving companies choice around how they make a difference.  “Merger of enterprise development and preferential procurement under the new BEE codes offers a good opportunity to realign supply chains,” she adds.

Tarsus Technology Group recently received Level 1 BBBEE (broad-based black empowerment) recognition, moving up two levels since its last certificate. The group and its subsidiary companies are recognised as black-owned, black female-owned and black designated businesses under the Amended Codes of Good Practice. A focus on enterprise development was a key reason for this achievement, says Jacobs.

“Through this programme. we have worked closely with emerging resellers to help them grow their businesses, offering benefits such as rebates for those that meet our criteria. We also place candidates from our learnership programmes with these resellers to help them  build up their skills base.”

Tarsus’s focus is on smaller, black-owned and black women-owned ICT resellers that are too small to qualify for the enterprise development programmes from most large vendors and distributors. The beneficiaries are exempt microenterprises and qualifying small enterprises that are majority black- or black women-owned with revenues below R50 million. This year, Tarsus has around 70 small enterprises in the programme.

“These resellers lack access to credit to facilitate large deals and some of them battle to find skilled technical staff,” Jacobs says. “We offer them access to credit through Tarsus’s credit underwriters as well as account management support, training, and vendor and corporate exposure. This positions them to take their growth to the next level.

“Enterprise development is one of the most powerful tools we have to help foster economic development in South Africa”, Jacobs says. “It offers larger technology companies an opportunity to shape a dynamic, diverse ICT industry that reflects the vibrancy and potential of the country, and to pave the way for future industry growth.”