Growing forward

Published: 30 June 2023

Dr Pieter Taljaard
CEO, Graan SA

Against the background of a recently published opinion piece (available by scanning the QR), inspired by several recent events that are causing business confidence to decline, I would like to share a few of our ‘castles in the air’ that are taking shape at Grain SA – with the hope that we can inspire more ‘designer studio’ and/or ‘workroom’ ideas among those who will soon be using them on a daily basis.

Apart from the fact that GSA is a non-profit organisation, it is no different than any other business with clients (yes, not customers), suppliers and role-players or stakeholders – and I believe this is how GSA should be run. When asking ChatGPT what a business should focus on, the first thing you read (as you feel the Apple continuing to type) is: Client satisfaction.

Well, that is Business or Enterprise Management 101. The fact remains: Placing the highest priority on satisfying the expectations of your clients, is and remains the right focus. The paradigm shift we are making is that even a service organisation, or rather a non-profit service business, must be able to deliver high-quality services with excellent client service! To be able to do this, a business must be willing to listen (and hearing is probably the willing part) and improve constantly.

The other six factors that ChatGPT suggests, include: innovation; market analyses; strategic planning; effective marketing; financial management (for me rather broader corporate management); and last and probably the most important, employee engagement and satisfaction. GSA has long driven the strategic goal of being an employer of choice, precisely because we compete for passionate expertise in the corporate environment.

As I have explained before, we are working at quite a pace internally to improve our existing systems in order to provide better and more effective – and therefore responsible – services. If I present the system schematically to explain, I’ll place the GSA member (client) in the centre with the group of entities revolving around it. To start with, the strategy is crucial and it brings the focus or prioritisation. Especially given the circumstances in which we operate, solid corporate governance is of utmost importance. As you know, GSA has focused on this intently over the past 18 months and we have progressed, which also helped to improve the existing financial system and to create more capacity. In this way, more real-time results can be delivered and reported to further strengthen and ensure the existing trust.

GSA has focused for some time on being and remaining an employer of choice that can attract and retain dedicated and passionate individuals. This is especially important for a non-profit organisation and therefore a great achievement to be successful in this regard. Furthermore, over the years GSA has also succeeded in developing the capacity and abilities of individuals in such a way as to keep adding value to the industry at various levels, which in itself is a great achievement. For this reason, talent management and development are non-negotiable throughout the organisation.

We all know very well where we stand with the voluntary levies. As agreed, in April we revisited the annual discussion regarding voluntary levies and our point of view remains that this is the way to go. In my opinion, by putting systems in place that make it easier for members to do business with the organisation and do reconciliations, as well as by further developing and repackaging our value proposition, GSA can easily add 50% of the potential levies that are currently not collected. The other 50% can be achieved by using better and different communication to approach and try to convince members who do not see and understand the value to also form part and make their contribution to further ensure sustainability.

The beauty of it is that as we embrace the new technology, incredible opportunities arise to not only unlock and create new value, but also to tackle old challenges. As far as the value proposition is concerned, there are several innovative examples inspiring us to provide a better and more effective service. For instance, Potatoes SA recently shared with us that a weekly report in the Excel days used to take two full days for an economist to complete. Now, after having programmed it in a smarter system (Microsoft Power BI), it takes 30 minutes at most – that is 97% time saved!

When talking to our colleagues at Sappo (the South African Pork Producers Organisation), they reckon the time saving is the smaller advantage and that the depth and quality of analyses that become possible with the systems as well as the other focus and more time of the human factor, are the real wins. It is things like these that really make my crankshaft pick up speed!

I have often used the examples internally when looking at what car manufacturers are doing with their apps and the value and benefits of that, but also with something like the SANRAL app, I just see a totally different GSA in the next year. Some of the ideas that will soon be available on the GSA app, include the way we plan to serve you with information through access to the system, provide you with NAMPO tickets and manage entry more effectively, the opportunity to manage your levy payments and settlements yourself as well as the ability to nominate and elect delegates from regional to national level. Then probably the one that excites me the most in terms of value: the idea of centralising your production and traceability information in a secure place so that off-takers and food processors can extract it with your permission should you choose.

All of this is possible and busy taking shape within the larger agricultural environment. You will soon notice that once you log in, you will be able to access other livestock industry platforms, such as pork and red meat, with the same login details. The vision and aim with this are to use the technology to be more effective and therefore unlock more value for members.

Scan the QR code.

When looking at all these factors, I am really satisfied that Grain SA is doing exactly the right things to keep ourselves fit and ready for the new changes that are coming. At the rate things keep changing, I don’t ever see us getting back to normal. I feel the focus is right and with these changes – yes, in some places we had to dig up the foundations and insert more steel and concrete – we are setting ourselves up extremely well to do ex­actly what we need to do: to help you as member to keep producing profitably and sustainably.

We would like to hear from you. Dream ‘forward’ together and help build and secure your own future – we promise to hear you! Grain SA greetings.