It’s time to embrace the inevitability of digital disruption and use it to spearhead innovation and redefine revenue.
Article by Tasmin Oxford, Brainstorm, 22 February, 2019
Deloitte’s ‘Digital Disruption Index 2019’ found that three quarters of executives felt digital was fundamentally changing their organisation. It also revealed that investment into emerging technologies such as AI, robotic and cognitive automation, and IoT remained mostly experimental. However, those that had invested reported these technologies hadn’t just met expectations, but exceeded them.
Yet the market remains sceptical and executives uncertain. The Deloitte index found that the number of leaders not confident in their own digital skills had risen by nearly 10% from 2017, while Forrester found firms aren’t as excited about what digital can do as the hype suggests. In the recent Forrester analysis – Predictions 2019: Transformation goes pragmatic – the picture is of executives who don’t want to disrupt existing operations and systems en route to digital success. They’re baulking at investment and are wary of disruption; an anticipated 25% are cutting their digital budgets in spite of the fact that they risk losing market share.
If you want to prepare against disruption, look at where the rubber meets the road between your customers…and your services.
The past year can easily be described as the disruption learning curve. AI, IoT, robot process automation, and other equally divisive emergent technologies battled to gain traction and deliver on their value proposition thanks to limited infrastructure, wary investment and limited understanding of their true capabilities.
It was also a year of seismic shifts and dramatic turns as digital transformation embedded itself into the foundation of business success, and disruption shook its clichéd stick at process and enterprise.
Absa deployed an AI-powered chatbot to engage with clients on basic transactions and Webber Wentzel revealed that it was using AI to assist in the process of due diligence. The South African Digital Industrial Revolution Commission was announced in February 2018, and, at the last meeting of the World Economic Forum, discussion and debate put the Fourth Industrial Revolution front and centre. The issue? The impact it is set to have on business, the globe and the individual.
The ugly side of disruptive digital was revealed last year, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal – an exposé that had people finally stop and ask the value of their digital information – and when China introduced its ‘social credit’ system, which is reminiscent of Black Mirror-esque science fiction. GDPR and PoPI remained firmly on the front line of data protection, with the former causing ripples in organisations caught o n the back foot. T he future arrived and was promptly hoisted on its own petard.
Undoubtedly, digital disruption will continue its relentless shake-up of industry and enterprise, regardless of whether the executive wants to invest in it or not. The success or failure of a company will lie in its ability to adapt to these changes, recognising that digital disruption affects the very foundations of the organisation. The time for cosmetic digital investment and boardroom digital hand-waving is over. Organisations need to spend time planning for the change that’s coming and ensure that every part of the business, from the employee to the IT team to the executive, is part of the process. What lies ahead doesn’t have to be the death knell of the company, but the strategic shift of a successful organisation towards a more agile and revenue-rich future.
Key questions that every organisation should be asking about digital and disruption.
What are the biggest challenges facing organisations in 2019?
Jonathan Houston, GM, HKLM: Change management. This means communication and constant affirmation as to ‘why’ this is happening. It can’t be handled as an IT project, it needs to be driven from the exco as a whole.
Julia Ahlfeldt, certified customer experience professional: Data breaches and resulting brand reputation damage. When this happens, it can be hugely damaging for brands so organisations will need to figure out how to safeguard customer information. Consumer data protection has to become part of the organisation’s engagement strategy and something all employees embrace.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a significant role in how IT teams can engage and empower entire organisations.
Alexei Parfentiev, leading analyst at SearchInform: Internal threats. There’s a reason behind any incident and that reason is connected to human behaviour. Sabotage, secret projects exploiting corporate assets and databases, negligence – these can cause as much financial detriment as a security breach or non-compliance with regulations.
Ernest North, co-founder, Naked: The biggest risk for established, and even for new businesses, is to underestimate the pace of change required to keep products relevant to how customer needs are changing in line with changes in other areas of their lives.
What tools and technologies should every business have to ensure agility and to embrace digital transformation?
Damian Michael, MD, Innovo Networks: Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a significant role in how IT teams can engage and empower entire organisations. Alongside using AI, applications themselves will continue to get more intelligent and help improve the user experience.
Michael Brink, solution strategist, CA Southern Africa: APIs and microservices help to simplify connectivity by offering reusable connectivity points while robust API strategies deliver modern, scalable and resilient applications that are easier to build and maintain, cost less to develop, speed up time to market, and potentially unlock new revenue streams.
Ryan Falkenberg, co-CEO, Clevva: Given that most companies have been built off multiple legacy systems and complex organisational structures, the challenge they face is to find a way to stir in a large dose of agility into an ecosystem designed in many ways to limit, not embrace, change.
Phathizwe Malinga, MD, SqwidNet: Design thinking is the next most important tool. This is about designing for your customers with empathy. Be intimately aware of why your customer needs your product, and how they use it.
Keith Matthews, sales director, South and East Africa, Orange Business Services: When it comes to success in a digital world, business agility is a significant differentiator. Automation powered by IoT can make change happen fast, without intervention.
Marko Salic, CEO, Argility: Companies should allocate a digital innovation budget and begin experimenting and learning. Data science, predictive modelling and the mining of actionable insights are also crucial.
David Slotow, CEO, Trackmatic: Companies need to invest in their people and skills development. The best use of any technology is when it’s done to compliment a business and its employees.
How can the organisation prepare for digital disruption and redefine revenue to ensure longevity in a complex market?
Kieran Frost, research manager for software, IDC: Digital disruption takes careful planning, a long view of the process, and patience. Build a process around integration and automation, fan the flames of innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration, and upskill, reskill, and cross-skill.
Alex Du Bruyn, CEO, Doshex: Digital disruption is more of a silent virus that spreads through customers without them knowing until one day they can’t remember a time without it. If organisations are open-minded and listen to the industry and adapt in small, calculated ways, they will stay relevant.
Mandla Mbonambi, CEO, Africanology: Organisations must ensure that the new technologies and digital transformation tools they adopt are in line with the requirements of their own lines of business.
Doug Woolley, GM, Dell EMC, South Africa: If you consider that everyone who engages with a business’ technologies is a customer – even your employees – then it becomes clear how digital disruption works. If you want to prepare against disruption, look at where the rubber meets the road between your customers, including employees, and your services.
Rudeon Snell, Leonardo leader, SAP Africa: Companies must experiment more with new technologies and their capabilities. They need to know what it takes to envisage a possible future and then make that future real.
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