South African businesses need to be bolder when it comes to integrating technology innovation with organisational strategy. Decision-makers must embrace this through an accelerated roadmap if they are to remain relevant to stakeholders in 2018.
Most organisations spend 80% of their IT budgets on keeping the lights on with the balance left to innovation. And while they are the first to admit that this is not a good equation, the reality is that they find it difficult to evolve as newer technology emerges. But providing better customer service, responding faster to trends, and being innovative have become essential for growth in the hyper-connected era.
It was Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, who said that “in the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it is the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” I believe that the fast fish starves out the big (slow) fish by simply getting to the food faster.
While the technology might change, the fundamentals remain the same.
Whether it is moving to the mainframe environment of old or the cloud-based one of today, it all boils down to taking the business forward. However, what has changed in recent times is how the conversation is shifting towards unlocking exponential business potential through innovation.
The arrival of cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) bring with them inherent capabilities to augment existing processes with innovations that encompass machine learning (AI) and sensory input (the Internet of Things). This has the additional benefit of keeping both direct and indirect costs down with the organisation able to focus on returning more strategic business value.
Additionally, technology is now permeating every industry and is no longer just driven by the ICT sector. Solutions might differ according to specific sectoral requirements; however, the back-office environment remains largely consistent. It has very much become a case of adapting or dying when it comes to embracing modern business practices and solutions.
The one word that really scares executives when it comes to back-office projects is ‘customisation’.
It has become something of a business taboo because it inevitably means spending funds that are not available on solutions that still need to be developed. However, a shift is happening from costly customisation to an extension of services. The cloud has formalised much of this in the sense of what can be re-used, built, or hosted.
In the past, migrating from one legacy back-office solution to another provided marginal benefits. Functionality was similar and the customer experience pretty much the same with almost the same cost structure. Today, it is an entirely different scenario.
Think of it as driving a traditional petrol car as opposed to sharing an electric one. The experience is similar, but the business models are light years apart. The reward that the consumer gets for adopting standard modern business practices is access to continuous innovation and a constantly improving user and customer experience.
Exciting road ahead
One of the areas that this more innovative environment will result in the most benefits is on the skills development side of things.
Job creation in South Africa is fundamental to business success. With a digitally connected youth segment emerging, businesses need to be more embracing of change. They need to have a more holistic view of how to drive growth through skills development initiatives that transcends individual organisations but can positively impact all industries.
Aligning business education with technology in an integrated environment will be one of the key areas where opportunities will present themselves in South Africa.
This necessitates all stakeholders having to be bolder in adopting and promoting cloud-based solutions. In doing so, they will provide the youth with opportunities to work on projects that are truly world-class. The benefit of this will be to develop a young, experienced workforce that can be exported to those countries who are behind the curve in adopting newly emerging technologies.