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Digital: threat or opportunity?

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Digitisation and digital transformation have been floated in endless conversations about the future of commerce. However, while we tend to refer to these concepts in abstract terms, the hard realities of digital disruption are starting to hit businesses, writes KIM ANDERSEN.

ndustries are being up-ended almost overnight by the new business models made possible by the convergence of new realms of technology.

Those enterprises that are investing heavily in areas like automation, analytics, digitised processes, mobile customer channels, social marketing, are finding themselves in the position to attack slower-moving incumbents in other verticals. Take the financial services sector in South Africa for example. This vertical was traditionally protected by very high barriers to entry such as regulation, governance, licensing costs, scale economies and an oligopolistic structure.

But over the past few years the leading banks have seen the emergence of financial services products from retailers, cellular operators, medical aid providers, emerging payments or “FinTech” start-ups, and global tech giants like Apple and Facebook. These new competitors are arriving in the financial sector with fresh thinking, less legacy infrastructure and strong consumer brand perceptions. Cast in this light, digital transformation poses a startling risk for industry incumbent such as a large banking institution.

Dealing with disruption

Ironically, the only solution to combat the threat of digital transformation is for the organisation to embrace that very concept itself. One of the most apt phrases – ‘disrupt yourself before someone else does’ – rings true for almost any traditionally-oriented organisation.

In other words, transforming towards a digital organisation is the only way of remaining relevant with customers and increasing the value one provides to the customer. The good news is that the tools to start doing this are largely available to most organisations. We find that those still holding back and remaining rooted to their analogue ways, are generally suffering from cultural inertia or a myopic understanding of their evolving industry.

To demonstrate the possibilities of digitisation, let’s look at retailers for example. It is now possible to connect things like video surveillance, inventory management systems, customer loyalty programmes, digital storefronts, financial data, and analytics platforms. Therefore a sensor could record a box that has been turned upside down which, for instance, could potentially indicate stock theft or damage, and send an alert to supervisors. In this way, the retailer could integrate sensors into the supply chain and warehousing processes, to improve efficiencies and provide better services to its customers, while limiting the theft in transit.

Putting it into practice

Organisations can get a jump on their competition, and remain one step ahead of new challengers, by taking an ‘outside-in’ approach to their businesses. This means considering the needs of the customer as the foremost priority, and re-imagining one’s operations and innovation capabilities to fit around those needs. Often we find that existing processes and systems are no longer relevant to achieving success in the new economy.

It becomes essential to measure the levels of digitisation within the organisation, and track this progress against a defined digital strategy. It also requires new ways of thinking and new ways of leveraging existing relationships. If, for instance, a petrol forecourt already has an established partnership with a consumer goods retailer, then it could look at delivering fuel alongside a home-delivery shopping order, for example.

So, as the nature of the retail industry changes to incorporate things like home delivery, the petrol forecourt can look at new ways to add convenience to its customers’ lives. The organisations that start thinking in this way will ultimately be the ones that succeed in the rapidly-changing landscape of digital transformation. For innovative business models like this to become possible, a number of fundamentals need to fall into place: digitally focused culture, organizational rewards and incentive structures, new processes, flexible technologies, innovative strategies, and an incessant focus on data analytics of the new digital journey.

At T-Systems we believe that this thinking has the potential to culminate in what we term the ‘digital nation of South Africa’. This ideal would see organisations form ecosystems – borne from new technologies – to create efficiencies and customer value that accelerate our country’s position in the global economy.

* Kim Andersen, Account CTO at T-Systems South Africa

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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