In his third blog post, NIRAL PATEL, Oracle South Africa MD, discusses the relationships businesses need to aim for a ‘golden ratio’ of people, data and machines, where each is adding value and complementing the value of the other in harmony.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, had this to say in 2007 about how data should flow in a modern business:
“Any enterprise CEO really ought to be able to ask a question that involves connecting data across the organisation, be able to run a company effectively, and especially to be able to respond to unexpected events. Most organisations are missing this ability to connect all the data together.”
Berners-Lee’s point was that the value of data is not being fully realised if it is sitting in silos and people are making decisions based only on a partial view of all the data that could be available to them. If businesses lack the people and the technology to bring data together for a more comprehensive view of their business and their opportunities, then its’ worth is a fraction of its potential value. This is why businesses need to aim for a ‘golden ratio’ of people, data and machines, where each is adding value and complementing the value of the other in harmony.
Technology’s role in this balancing act certainly cannot be underestimated. The ability to collect, collate and connect that data at scale simply did not exist until the onset of cloud computing which is breaking down the silos Berners-Lee was alluding to.
The connectivity that cloud provides across businesses, supply chains, customers, platforms, applications and databases means organisations can gain a single view of their operation. The power and flexibility of cloud means they can process unprecedented volumes of data at speed through cloud applications, platforms and infrastructure. Cloud is also enabling machines to work more autonomously and to communicate with one another as we are seeing with the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Such technologies are bringing speed and scale to areas of the business that otherwise would be labour intensive and time-consuming processes.
For instance, retailers looking to improve customer experience and satisfaction are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) and interconnected sensors spread through the supply chain to uncover new ways of increasing efficiency, reducing cost, improving product availability and providing more accurate product information.
In the back office, companies are experimenting with technology powered by AI and machine learning, such as self-service chatbots to improve the HR experience for employees. Rather than having to wait on HR to answer routine questions, workers can simply interact with a chatbot linked directly to the organisation’s HR systems that can answer many questions automatically. There is a clear business benefit here in addition to improved employee satisfaction – HR teams who spend less time on these admin tasks can focus on more projects that require their unique expertise.
But automation is certainly not about replacing employees with machines. Rather, it’s about speeding up tasks that take more time than businesses can afford to give to them as they seek to innovate at pace and achieve greater profitability through efficiency and by enabling people to focus on more valuable tasks. It is about improving the decision-making capabilities of people by arming them with a richness of highly relevant, topical and timely data that otherwise would not be possible to collect.
This is why it comes back to this idea of a ‘golden ratio’ of the right people, using the right data and machines in perfect balance. No business wants too many, or an unprofitable amount of either, but will always need all three in pursuit of data-driven success.
Gadget goes to Hollywood
Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.
In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.
“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.
“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”
While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.
“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.
“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.
“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”
Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.
“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”
Click here to read on about Hastings’ views on international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.
Take these 5 steps to digital
By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.
Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027.
However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.
The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.
There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement. To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.
The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.
Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.
The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.
The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure
The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.
This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.
There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.