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Five digital leadership lessons from Game of Thrones

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“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” It’s a quote that sums up the world of Game of Thrones, but one that LEE NAIK, MD of Accenture Digital, often finds himself thinking about when considering the digital marketplace.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

It’s a quote that aptly sums up the cutthroat world of Game of Thrones, but one that I often find myself thinking about when considering the unforgiving digital marketplace. Fail to play the digital game and your company will find itself facing a nasty fate indeed.

In fact, watching this season’s Game of Thrones, I can’t help but see the world of Westeros and our own as surprisingly similar. Sure, there are fewer shadow assassins and dragons in our world, but we both find ourselves facing major forces of disruption.

Thankfully, our own disruptive forces are more beneficial than the marching white walkers, but there are still a few important leadership lessons we can take from Westeros.

 

Tradition won’t save you

It doesn’t matter how old and venerated you are in Game of Thrones. No-one is safe in Westeros, not even the kings and queens themselves. Those leaders who allow themselves to get comfortable, thinking they’re safe because of the traditions they surround themselves with, are the ones who inevitably lose their heads – often literally.

Compare Ned and his unwillingness to compromise with the more agile Lannisters, who are at their peak when Tyrion is given free rein.  Old business models are losing out to more nimble enterprises who are able to get product to market faster and respond to change.

 

Back the right house

Alliances are a huge part of building and maintaining power in Game of Thrones. Get the right house to support you and you’ll be able to stave off the worst that your enemies have to offer. The same is true in today’s platform-based economy – those companies that stand alone are the most in danger of falling to ruin.

In a platform economy, having strong digital partnerships is like having a powerful house behind you. The capabilities a company needs to have on hand to innovate in such a fast-paced, hyperconnected world are staggering. Working in apartner ecosystem model allows for the scale and agility necessary to be able to deliver real-time customer experiences, as well as create bold new innovations.

 

Anticipate the disruptive threats

Winter is coming. Everyone on the show already knows this and yet they consistently choose to ignore it and rather focus on their own petty battles. While not everyone might know of the peril of the white walkers, the signs are there that something big is coming over the Wall.

For real world enterprises, the changing digital landscape can seem as alien and daunting as an army of ice zombies. But transformation, like the white walkers, doesn’t have to be a surprise. Unlike the Night’s Watch, we have the tools to be able to predict how disruption might change businesses, markets and even whole industries.

 

Knowledge is power

At the heart of these tools is data. Just why is it that Littlefinger – a rather minor figure among the great houses of Westeros – wields so much influence? It’s because through his network of spies and informants, he knows practically everything that goes on in the Kingdom and can adapt his own plans accordingly.

Data is even more critical in the real world, where markets live and die on accurate insights and predictions. Companies that embed analytics into their decision-making processes enjoy the fruits of better performance across their whole organisation.

 

Think young

Jon. Daenerys. Arya. It’s the young who are taking charge in Westeros, trying to either create their individual paths to happiness or take up their family legacies in their own unique way. When the dust settles and the battles are won, it is they who are likely to be standing at the end of the series.

Similarly, some of the most disruptive companies in the world are the likes of Uber, Tesla and Spotify. Start-ups and newbies are out-manoeuvring their larger, slower competitors, shaping what the future of their respective industries look like. And within enterprises themselves, it is often millennials that are driving innovation and change.

As you fight your own digital battles, you need to ask who the Jon Snows – those visionary young heroes that drive innovation – are in your organisation. What alliances are you putting in place to help you face the winter?

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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