Most successful companies of the modern era have one fundamental thing in common – a strong set of core infrastructure, reliable and versatile, from which new innovation can be borne, writes GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.
Think of the greatest creative minds throughout history, the artists who open our eyes to new visions of the world, the scientists making breakthrough discoveries, or the sports stars that evolve physics-defying techniques.
Whichever individuals are in your mind, if you look more deeply, we’ll see that their unique, creative approaches are always grounded in a set of fundamentals: the artist whose training is based in perspective, colour and light, the scientist who firstly learns the essentials of physics or chemistry, or the sports hero that ploughs hours into fitness and strength training regimes.
In the same way, most creative and successful companies of the modern era have one fundamental thing in common – a strong set of core infrastructure, reliable and versatile, from which every new innovation can be borne.
When it comes to enterprise technology, we often refer to two distinct domains: ‘run the organisation’ (where the focus is on efficiency, stability, and reducing technology costs), and ‘change the organisation’ (looking at new innovations and business transformation).
But the reality is more nuanced, as the two domains often interrelate and overlap. Technology that starts out in the ‘change’ space will mature and eventually become embedded in the ‘run’ space. And not all new technologies will immediately land in the ‘change’ portfolio – consider breakthrough innovations in areas like automation and robotics, creating efficiencies on the ‘run’ side, for instance.
While the bi-modal framework certainly has its merits, looking at your IT strategy from a purely bi-modal perspective is too one-dimensional. It is advisable to engage with a partner that takes a holistic approach to their clients’ digital transformation strategies – considering projects and programmes from various perspectives.
I believe that firms should adopt an ‘outside-in’ approach, with design as the starting point.
Design – in its broadest sense – seeks to deeply understand customer requirements, draw on strategy consulting and design thinking, and ultimately discover new business outcomes that can be achieved with the tools and capabilities that one has. From there, ideas move into conceptual prototypes in the ‘change’ space, before moving further inside, towards the ‘run’ space.
Finding the balance
The real challenge, though, lies in addressing one’s core infrastructure while simultaneously building and incubating these new digital innovations at the fringes. To truly embrace the digital era, organisations need to refresh, refactor or replace some of their existing assets held within the ‘run’ area.
Here, I advocate the concept of ‘business processes as a service’ – essentially applying a technology layer that transforms core infrastructure, and incorporates the benefits of cognitive analytics, artificial intelligence, connected devices, and automation. The goal is to simplify and automate as much as possible, aggressively drive costs out of the ‘run’ portfolio, and divert as many possible resources to new programmes in the ‘change’ area.
But too many firms are failing to balance their change and run portfolios – either investing so heavily in ‘keeping the lights on’ that their innovation efforts are stifled; or swinging to the other side of the pendulum, with popular new digital services, but failing to maintain the stable IT core that enables these innovations to be sustainable.
The biggest challenge of the digital era is keeping a dual-focus on maintaining the core, while accelerating the innovation efforts at the edge. With a skilled IT partner, and with the optimal technology solutions, organisations can create a stable foundation – like the artist, scientist or sports star – from which new shoots of creativity can grow.
* Gavin Holme, Country Manager, Africa, Wipro Limited
IoT at starting gate
South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).
Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.
There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.
Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.
In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation. Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.
This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.
It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.
Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?
In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning. Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.
The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.
If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.
What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.
ERP underpins food tracking
The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP
Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.
As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.
Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.
Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.
ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.
With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.
So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.
Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.
In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.
This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.
Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.