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Digital banking can be more than just digital

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Providing a banking service that fits within the fabric of every individual lifestyle may be a far-away dream, but by effectively using data, and listening to customers, a bank can at least set off on the right trajectory, writes SHIONA BLUNDELL.

For most of us, banking is a ‘grudge purchase’. We don’t wake up in the morning and look forward to paying accounts, drawing cash from the ATM, or buying airtime. Our interactions with our bank’s call centres or branch staff generally relate to some type of problem that’s occurred.

Since the collapse of the global economy in 2008, and the multibillion dollar bailouts that ensued, our faith in banks has been shattered. Almost a decade later, they’re still struggling to regain lost trust. In the years since 2008, much has been said about the possibilities that digital presents –  to enhance distribution, address new markets, and optimise back-end processes.

Exposing transactional services in new and different ways – such as a smartphone app – is a small component of digitisation. However, in order to maximise the benefits that digitisation delivers, it is vital to capture the real opportunities that new digital technologies and platforms deliver moving forward.

So, what are the opportunities?

While all our major banks are quick to reach for catchphrases like “customer-centricity” and “user-centred design”, how many times have you received a call from your bank, asking what you would actually like from your banking relationship? How many banks are heading out ‘into the field’: understanding customer behaviours at taxi ranks, shops, community centres, offices, and everyday places that punctuate the lives of most South Africans?

We’re infatuated by the limitless possibilities of technology, but we’re failing to listen to what customers really want.

The real value of digital lies in the opportunity to move far closer to the customer, to engage in in-depth ‘customer discovery’ sessions, and at scale. It’s in analysing customer activity across all channels, challenging archaic regulation, removing complexity from customers’ experiences, and building services that provide greater convenience and address real needs.

It’s not about simply finding ways to improve internal efficiencies, or maximise external revenue streams. And it’s certainly not about rolling out the latest, new digital interfaces that we can showcase.

In the quest to become more relevant to their customer, perhaps the biggest opportunity for banks is in providing far more personalised services. Static approaches like segmentation models and LSM definitions simply do not capture the dynamic, multidimensional nature of the modern customer.

For instance, the same money transfer product may be used by mass market customers to send funds to unbanked family members, and by high net worth customers to send money to their children at school or varsity. Though it’s the same product, it’s being used by two very different customers, to satisfy very different needs. It’s only by considering the broader context that we can truly understand the customer behaviour.

Put simply, one size does not fit all. We all have a unique definition of what is acceptable in areas like security, convenience, customer service response times, or data privacy. From a technology perspective, we have different device and connectivity constraints. We have different language capabilities. From province to province, from urban to rural, our daily lives are starkly different.

Providing a banking service that perfectly fits within the fabric of every individual lifestyle may be a far-away dream, but by effectively using data, and listening to customers more closely, a bank can at least set off on the right trajectory.

As a parting thought, there’s a great example of a bank that actively listened to its customers on social media, noticing when one of its clients broadcast to his followers that he was extending his holiday. The bank took the opportunity to recommend a local accommodation provider, and arranged for a discounted stay. This kind of point-in-time, value adding engagement helps elevate the way the bank is seen by its customers – showing a caring and responsive brand personality, and generating increased customer loyalty in return.

This example represents just one of the many ways in which financial services players can use digital advancements to move closer to their customers – and ultimately elevate the relationship away from that of ‘grudge purchase’, towards more personalised, more enjoyable and valued experiences.

* Shiona Blundell, Head of Banking, Africa, Wipro Limited and Gavin Holme, Business Head, Africa, Wipro Limited

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

Expansive solutions

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.

Efficiency improvements

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.

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