NEW COURSE LAUNCHED: Human Resource Skills for People Managers with Wits Business School  View Course | WhatsApp

Meet Business & Systems Analyst Course Facilitator, Professor Pete Janse Van Vuuren

Professor Pete Janse Van Vuuren is an experienced and highly motivated executive level management professional with diverse technical proficiencies and wide-ranging business, financial and academic competencies. He has a total of 30 years’ experience with a key focus on the IT industry. With a wealth of experience across technical, financial and academic verticals, he boasts 25 years’ experience in general and senior management positions.

Pete set up and ran three IT-related businesses, and is currently the CEO of The Thinking Cap with his key engagements being: Research Fellow – Wits School for Electrical and Software Engineering, Faculty Member and Visiting Professor (Wits Business School, UCT Graduate School of Business, US Business School and UFS Business School) Adjunct Professor – CPUT Faculty Member – Duke University Director – Wits JCSE Director and Co-Founder – CIO Council of South Africa.

This driven leader presents excellent training and mentoring talents whilst improving business effectiveness by inspiring, leading, and coaching employees.

Pete has both theoretical and practical expertise, having set up three IT-related businesses. Currently he is the CEO of The Thinking Cap with his key engagements being the Research Fellow at the Wits School for Electrical and Software Engineering, Faculty Member and Visiting Professor (Wits Business School, UCT Graduate School of Business, US Business School and UFS Business School) Adjunct Professor – CPUT Faculty Member – Duke University Director – Wits JCSE Director and Co-Founder – CIO Council of South Africa.

Not only is Pete richly experienced in his industry, but he also creates excitement in the field and is outspoken in how important business systems analysis is to the success of a business.

He advocates that a good Chief Information Officer (CIO) is not afraid of disrupting the business model and that a company should rethink their business structure in the direction of taking advantages of technological processes. Pete offers crucial knowledge on how to correctly implement systems which can shape a company to generate revenue.

What is Business and Systems Analysis?

The field of Business Systems Analysis is an important one to grow a company through healthy, sustainable expansion. But what is the career exactly?

The industry of business systems analysis is focused on researching and evaluating the systems and software of a company.

Although the role of a business systems analyst (BSA) can be a general one, involved in different departments of a company, the position usually has a key focus on information technology (IT) and computing systems which can be used to optimise company systems.

This means that the BSA should have a thorough knowledge of IT systems as well as how software development, testing, and integration can be incorporated into functional business systems.

What does a Business Systems Analysis do?

The business systems analyst of a company usually has an overview of a company, often more than the CEO because of how broad the role is. The technology behind the business is vital to how well the company functions, and it’s up to the BSA to ensure that the technology in place is the best it can be.

Business and Systems Analysis course

Through our 12-week long Business and Systems Analysis short course, Pete will walk you through important aspects related to the field.

In the course, you will learn fundamental processes which will help you identify, define and solve problems in business systems. You will study different strategies to improve the company’s systems, such as the 5Ws and 1H approach.

Pete goes through the business systems analysis process from start to finish, offering convenient solutions to complex issues. In the course, you will be taught how to use software and technology to plan and develop methods which can help you – and the company executives – achieve goals set out.

This course is recommended for new Business and Systems Analysts, as well as professionals experienced in the career. Pete offers practical points that can be implemented easily.

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Erika Botha, the brains behind business success

Meet, Erika Botha (M.B.A), the brains behind our brand new Business Management online short course. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our course content.

Erika is a highly-experienced manager and has facilitated NQF qualifications in banking, financial markets and business administration, as well as leadership, management and team development training programmes for top-level clients, including: Standard Bank, FNB, Sibanye Gold, Sasol, SAB Miller, Auditor General S.A., Business Connexion, Rennies Travel and Volvo.

What is the highlight of your career?

There are so many, but the one that stands out for me is the graduation ceremony of 250+ students that successfully completed a Business Management qualification through the Learning Academy that I managed. These students worked full time, studied a year-long qualification in their spare time, whilst juggling family time and in many instances, overcame traumatic events in their lives…. and here they were in front of me – all successful graduates! I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst out of my chest.

Our top student’s story will always stay with me (and inspire me): Just when the course began, her house was burnt to the ground (she managed to get herself, her child and her husband safely out before it burnt to the ground). She then found that the insurance was not enough to cover damages, and a kind neighbour offered a room to her and her family. With all this going on she still managed to ‘Ace’ the qualification and came in top of her class with an above 80% average. Stories such as these are the highlights of my career. I know so many stories of people who overcame many adversities in their successful pursuit of education. Their stories continue to inspire me every day.

How is business management different in start-ups vs well- established companies?

Of course it depends on what kind of start-up we are talking about. Is it a small start-up that will grow organically, or is it a scalable start-up which is intended to go big from the outset?

In general though, a start-up requires much more of the three P’s: Planning, Patience and Pocket (finance!) – it is like planting the seeds and creating a new garden whereas business management in an established company is like ensuring that the garden is maintained and growing; new plants are planted and of course the weeds are regularly removed! In a start-up we have the opportunity to create a new vision of what we believe in and plan towards that future and in an established business we tend to reinforce our vision and mission and revisit, refresh and evaluate our plans.

Within start-ups there generally tends to be more uncertainty (will the seeds take root and grow?) – this can be a very positive aspect if it forces us to be agile and adaptable, something that is often lacking in established companies. Established companies can do well to ensure that flexibility and adaptability stays part of its DNA if it is to deal with fast-paced change, industry disruptors and being able staying ahead of the pack.

Perseverance is needed both in established businesses and start-ups. There is a saying ‘every overnight success took 10 years in the making’. Remember this if you want to embark on a new business venture. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, patience, great planning and perseverance.

Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in business management?

Yes, slow down to speed up! I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a very good reason why I am saying this. All too often, managers in new positions tend to go in ‘guns-a-blazing’ wanting to change everything and make their mark. My advice is this: Take time to listen, observe, see what is already working, understand the organisational culture, and ask: who is our customer?

Once you have a good idea of how things work, involve people in order to come up with a plan on how to proceed. Just trust me on this one. Too many managers change things for change’s sake so that they can look good…. and this often ends up back-firing. Involve ALL the key stakeholders, ask more questions than giving instructions in the beginning, take time to plan and chart your course right from the beginning – you will not regret it.

Another thing to consider in business management is a very key question: Do I care? Do you really care about the business you are in and do you really care about the people? If you really care, you won’t make it all about yourself (or just about the money) and your chances of success will be that much greater.

What are the most important skills to hone, in order to be a successful business manager?

The ability to be organised and systematically approach a problem objectively – in other words, stay calm and follow a systematic approach, is a very important skill to learn. Knowing how to frame information and knowledge using the right models, tools and techniques helps with this. We know that ‘the map is not the territory’, but, having the right map will always help you get to your destination faster. I believe this course is packed with some great models, tools and techniques that can provide you with a map to chart your course towards success in business.

Learning to really listen effectively is another one of the most useful skills in a Business Manager’s toolbox. The ability to really listen to those around you but also to ‘listen’ to what is going on in the business environment is key on the pathway towards success.

Learning to see the ‘bigger picture’ is an important skill to master. To have the ability to zoom out, gain perspective and then zoom back in to ensure the detail gets done, really is a mind-set that requires practice and also wisdom. Truly great managers have mastered the skill of seeing the big picture as well as what is required in the detail at the same time. This is something that does not come without focus and practice.

What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I have just finished Dan Brown’s latest book: ‘Origin’. Really a good read, I enjoy his writing style.

Other than reading, my favourite thing to do to take a break from everyday hustle and bustle is to go canoeing on the dam (although it does get tough to continue this during the cold winter spells!). I love being on the water and find that I can paddle just about all my stress away after 5 kilometers on the water!

And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

I suppose my resume does not communicate just how much I care about education, training and the development of first-class leaders in Africa. It is a true heart-felt passion of mine. I believe everyone can learn to lead companies, departments and people better. As we become better leaders we also become better people, and the knock-on effect on society is almost always positive. Better leaders spell a better future for all of us.

Interview with Kevin Henderson, the HR man

Kevin is a clinical psychologist, facilitator and motivational teacher with over 30 years’ experience in education, training and development, private practice and employee wellness work.

In addition to running a private practice in psychology, Kevin is a seasoned facilitator focussing mostly in the areas of leadership, EQ and people management at the Business School (Executive Development) of the University of Stellenbosch.
If we do say so ourselves; Kevin is an extraordinary mentor, whose knowledge and experience will feed your growth, both personally and professionally.

1. What is the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career has been being able to facilitate people management practices to employees of the UNFPA in Uganda and Sierra Leone.

2. How is Human Resource management different in start-ups vs well-established companies?

In most start-ups, the HR function tends to be more of a generalist role, whilst there’s more specialisation in established organisations. The HR role in startups also tends to focus more on moving people laterally in order to assist with the motivation of employees whereas in established organisations there’s greater opportunity for promotion due to the size of the organisation.

3. Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in Human Resources?

Be smart about how you brand yourself in your organisation. You have the opportunity to contribute to the bottom line in the organisation as you are better positioned to contribute to strategic discussions regarding strategies towards achieving the organisation’s goals. You can also assist in changing the perception of HR with your colleagues by contributing to the people agenda within your organisation.

4. Why is it important for those in leadership roles to have HR skills?

It will assist leaders to maximise what they can get out of their people. In the world, it is all about productivity. You can improve productivity when you understand what motivates people, and by addressing people’s needs in addition to addressing the needs of the organisation.

5. What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I enjoy playing a round of golf or just having fun on the squash court.

6. And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

It gives me the greatest joy to do things for my kids in order to improve their quality of life.

short course in human resource management

Introducing: Grant Evans

operations management course

Meet The man Behind operational models to mitigate the risk of wind loss for wind farms through an insurance vehicle. Grant Evans is a professional in operations management and operations management principles. He has distilled his practical working skills, and applied them to numerous operations projects for increased business value.

1. What is the highlight of your career?

a. Building a financial model to mitigate the risk of wind loss for wind farms through an insurance vehicle. South Africa has seen an exponential growth in new wind farms of late due to the power shortage crisis which the national power provider has been experiencing. In order to do this, the model needed to forecast the wind patterns in terms of speed and direction. The model also simulated equipment failure.

b. Building a forecasting model for a national call centre of short-term loans. The model seeks to predict the daily and hourly movements in the number and type of calls, in order to better deploy call centre staff to the various business units.

2. How is operations management different in start-ups vs well-established companies? 

In start-ups the emphasis is on the speed you can get from plan A to a plan that works (an adage from Running Lean). Gone are the days where we spend huge amounts of time and resources on designing the perfect business and then implementing to plan. In start-ups it’s about coming up with a problem to solve, swiftly taking the product to market, and then working out if you were on the money or not. It has a lot to do with talking to your clients and identifying what value means to them. This phase of a business sees the operations changing drastically and quickly to accommodate the change in product/customer fit.

With larger companies, the product is usually well-established so there is less emphasis on finding out what the client actually wants, and more on finding efficient ways of delivering your product. This phase sees fewer changes, but more focused internally. There is usually more investment here in time and motion studies, or forecasting model building, etc.

3. Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in operations management?

It requires a person who inherently is a problem-solving kind of person. I believe a desire to succeed is half the battle won, and then you upskill to become better at it. In operations management, you need to be interested in continuously identifying things that could be done better. You need to be logical, as most of the solutions require it. Lastly, don’t shy away from the mathematics. It is used in much of the application of operations management and is a powerful tool.

4. What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I am a sad puppy. For fun, I work on my Forex trading robot. I only read books to study. Currently, I am studying Neural Networks for artificial intelligence application. I don’t read to experience an emotion I have felt before, but to gain knowledge I never had before. To really zone out I write music with my nephew.

5. And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

My psychologist assured me that was confidential…seriously, I don’t have any one thing that stands out. I am a member of Mensa. I like mountain biking and Tai Chi. My wife and family are what it is all for.

Grant is a serial entrepreneur and university lecturer. He specialises in Operations Research, Business Analytics, Statistics, Information Technology, and Finance. Outside of this, and when he is not studying towards his Doctorate in Business Gamification, he is also a professional musician as lead singer and bass player in a band.

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Meet the faculty: MC Botha

Who is MC Botha?

MC Botha is the Director of the Centre for Business Management of Projects at USB-ED, and holds an MBA with a specialisation in project management, and has over three decades of experience across the private, government and academic sectors. He is also the programme coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management, which is hosted by University of Stellenbosch Business School.

“This is the point of departure…”

How is Project Management different in start-ups vs well- established companies?

Let me answer in the inverse. Established companies will typically have a higher project management maturity level and have established methodologies. Start-ups will most probably embrace progressive elaboration in their project execution, hence the increase in the popularity of Agile as a methodology. The latter alternative is exciting and dynamic

Any tips or advice for those looking to study Project Management?

My immediate advice is to start with your studies as soon as possible. I agree with a statement by Fortune Magazine when they reported that Project Management is the number one career choice. Project management is more than a skill set, it is a frame of mind and a paradigm. Good project managers have the ability to see the holistic picture and to contextualise, and must be systematic thinkers. Therefore, if you can further your studies in project management, embrace the opportunity. Studies are not always easy, but always rewarding!