A powerful set of emerging technologies – from the cloud to Artificial Intelligence, from connected sensors to enterprise mobility – are rewriting the rules of business.
Many South African businesses are grappling with just how to adapt to these shifting landscapes. As they see newer, more agile organisations racing ahead with incredible innovations that enhance operations and add value, that delight users, a state of panic and inertia often sets in.
So just what are the biggest obstacles to digital change, and how can African firms practically overcome them?
Trying to be digital only with what you already have
The new superpowers of the digital age – the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Google and Uber all have one major technical fact in common: highly-evolved digital business systems. It’s no accident that you get an email from Netflix before your subscription expires, or an alert from Google about a traffic accident on your route before you hit the road.
To be able to predict and to personalise in this way, you’ll need to ignore the layers of legacy technology that you’ve built, and embrace an alternative approach to IT. Thinking that you can compete at this level with decades-old IT infrastructure is like going to a gun-fight armed with a knife. In fact, it’s like entering a nuclear war with a water cannon!
The first place to start is with your customer’s needs, not with your IT department.
While they may have been the first port of call for digital in times gone by, these systems have become too static for digital business, unable to handle the dynamic processes and data-sets that help us serve today’s customer.
Legacy is good at what it does most of the time, so keep it doing just that, or you’ll create more legacy. By adding new layers of legacy infrastructure, you are exacerbating the problem, ‘digging a deeper and deeper hole’, as it were. By looking beyond your legacy IT estate, you’re able to shift the balance of IT spend away from ‘maintain’ towards ‘innovate’.
Lack of Agility
Many organisations are stuck in a traditional paradigm, where the objective is to build a dominant position within a stable ecosystem. Today, firms must continually reshape every aspect of their service offering and many of their internal operations.
Without the right digital tools, achieving this agility is tough. For instance, taking advantage of new, distributed ways-of-working may mean that your manufacturing
organisation has a design team based in Europe, manufacturing in the Far
East and distributed logistics hubs within the markets they operate. It’s the concept of agility that enables your company to work in new, more flexible, more productive ways.
Another trap lying in wait is the assumption that global technical solutions will be appropriate in the unique contexts and markets in which African organisations operate. The nuances between, for instance, Nairobi and Johannesburg, can often be quite striking. Consider differences in culture, technology habits, connectivity standards, technical infrastructure, and more. Often, uniquely-African problems demand a tailor-made, uniquely-African solution.
Valuing ideas over execution
For decades, business principles have been that intellectual property is a valuable asset that should be protected, hoarded, patented, and used as a competitive advantage. Now, leading firms are seeing the benefit of more open models, where values such as speed-to-market and execution are favoured over the ideas themselves.
To compete in the digital future, you’ll need to energise a community of staff, partners and even customers – to bring ideas, knowledge and people together. With the right platform supporting this, an open-innovation approach can lead to powerful business growth.
Ignoring the generational shift
Millennials in your workforce hold the key to unlocking growth in the digital economy. They have the digital know-how, the understanding of changing consumer markets, and the boldness to pull off ambitious ideas.
But they need a truly digital environment in which to work. By creating a modern workplace culture and providing easy-to-use systems, you can use mobility to harness the power of the millennial generation.
Large companies inevitably build up layers of complex processes, rules, and approvals. It’s not uncommon to have decisions by committee, in large meeting rooms filled with participants, to confirm even the smallest decisions.
While overcoming bureaucracy begins with a change in the leadership approach, the right tools can act as the catalyst for simplifying your organisation’s operational processes.
Start with one particular strategic initiative, sponsored by an executive stakeholder, and deal with it as you would if you were a start-up of just a handful of people. Before long, you’ll realise that it’s not the speed or cost of technology that’s holding you back.
Truly overcoming these obstacles requires new thinking, accompanied by the right tools. By using a low-code platform to build new digital services and applications, many progressive firms have successfully overcome these challenges. They’re able to innovate faster, at a lower cost, spread the digital workload to millennials and dramatically improve the productivity of their development.
Low-code platforms, such as OutSystems, can help you achieve these benefits, and lay the foundation to take advantage of the digitally-driven opportunities coming your way.
Find out more on how you can embrace digital transformation – Click here to download the Leveraging the Digital Future white paper