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Prepare now for jobs that don’t exist today

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New IT technologies are transforming the job market, making some positions redundant, but at the same time creating positions that never existed before. GARY DE MENEZES, NetApp Country Manager South Africa takes a look at the future job market.

With the development of IT technologies, the job market is being transformed, across all industry sectors. Automation of manual tasks is the most obvious change, but big data, blockchains and crowd funding may be the real game changers, enabling established and new players to bypass existing infrastructures… and even replacing jobs. Start-ups and newcomers seem to be the winners, but big companies can face the challenge raised by these technological disruptions with different strategies: either behave as startup themselves, collaborate with startups and use them as value pools, or develop tools of their own that they can then integrate into their own business models… What implications do these changes have on the job market? Which jobs and skills will become outdated, and which ones will become more wanted and valued? Will the changes impact up to the very executive committees?

New IT technologies open new doors: newcomers are now able to compete with big players

Big data is leading us to a period of great restructuring in which robots will take over human jobs. The computerization of processes will make each work unit more productive. Jobs will disappear, others will be created in this transformative process: the World Economic Forum estimates that “current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period 2015–2020” and 2 million jobs will be created in computer sciences, mathematics, engineering and related fields.

Crowdfunding and blockchains are also set to transform the market. Essentially, a blockchain is a ledger of data blocks, which is supposedly incorruptible and can record anything. They allow for safe and encrypted data or money exchanges without centralization. Similarly, crowdfunding enables to fund new projects bypassing banks and other established institutions. Put together, the two technologies create new opportunities for new, emerging companies that are not backed by big players. Incidentally, big companies will need to scrutinize their small competitors more closely, and tightly collaborate with them.

For example, the startup Colony gathers experts from around the world around specific projects, and they are remunerated according to their contribution to the project. Human resources firms are set aside from the process. Ultimately, e-commerce and social networks programs based on the technology could follow suit and overtake eBay or other internet giants, with comparable, or even higher security standards.

This is not just the future: Coin Based, operating in the Bitcoin network, is available in over thirty countries, and has exchanged 3 billion dollars’ worth of bitcoins. Crowdfunding has a great impact on the market: it has already injected 65 billion dollars in the economics and created 270,000 jobs. How can other companies face up to the challenge?

How can already existing companies adapt their business models to the transition?

The first way big companies can face the challenge lain by startups is to collaborate with them. Different collaboration programs will deliver different benefits, among which: the rejuvenation of corporate culture, the innovation within big brands that may otherwise be too bureaucratic, the solving of business problems and the expansion to new markets. To reap the benefits, medium and big companies can offer tools or co-working places to startups, set up incubator programs or co-develop products with them. These ecosystems, based on open innovation, shorten project delivery time, enhance performance and financial benefits. Companies from Cisco and GE to Coca-Cola and Shell have already developed such value pools with great effectiveness.

Another strategy is to harness the source of the economic disruption and to embrace a disruptive new technology. NASDAQ-listed companies have invested 30 million dollars in Chain, a company that wants to generalize the use of blockchains for all sorts of transactions. Telco operator Orange believes that they will ease data transfer between operators, enhancing end-user experience. Intel, IBM, JPMorgan and Barclays are among the companies investing in this technology.

The second facet of this strategy is to invest in Big Data. In the midst of a crisis induced by the arrival of Uber in France, the French Government created an application enabling users to find easily a taxi driver. This application, a platform based on Big Data, makes the process faster but does not change the business model of taxis. Virtually any sector can benefit from the application of Big Data. The oil & gas industry, for example, can monitor its production and delivery, fixing any eventual leak in record times. Banks can approve loans in seconds leveraging market data in real time. Health professionals can access more data about their patients, and compare them with other similar profiles to determine the best treatment. Enterprises now have to choose between changing with the help of new technologies and disappearing.

Managerial and organizational challenges that lie ahead for companies are huge, as they need to adapt to the changing economic environment. At the heart of addressing these challenges, there is the question of how to use, store, protect data in a fast, efficient, cost-effective manner.

Some jobs will disappear, others will emerge: the law of creative destruction

The increasing use of Big Data and blockchains will literally force companies to reinvent themselves, and to adapt their business models to emerging needs and new tools at their disposal. In the process, some jobs will become irrelevant.

Let’s take an example. The government of Honduras will use a blockchain-based software conceived by Factom to build a record of land-titles – thus making the processes more secure, less subject to corruption and faster. By doing so, notaries and other public officials will be replaced by… IT professionals. In the banking sector, the wind of change is blowing: NASDAQ operators are already testing the use of blockchains on their private market. Ultimately, brokers will no longer be needed. The 21 year-old Russian-Canadian founder of the Ethereum blockchain has an even cheekier viewpoint: he believes that job losses will mainly concern “people who earn too much money for what they do”!

That said, the World Economic Forum estimated that data analysts will become “critically important to their industry by the year 2020”, based on responses from all industries. In other words, this change will be seen across all economic sectors, public and private alike.

The increase of sheer data mass will result in companies needing to know where their data is (especially in a hybrid cloud), secure them and ensure that they are always available. Data management functions will become increasingly critical to the very way we do business. Ultimately, data managers will have their rightful seat at C-Suite level.

According to a 2016 study by Deloitte on Data Analytics, 60% of companies understand the benefits that they can earn by leveraging Big Data. 43% think that data analysis should be conducted by a dedicated entity reporting directly to the CEO. 70% also believe that it is important to consolidate internal data and data generated via SoMe. Data resulting from connectivity leads to increased customer knowledge and, in turn, to the development of new services, the ability to introduce tailored loyalty programs and to recruit new partners. Beyond customer knowledge data helps to optimize products and solutions management. Data analysts will no longer just manage activities, but will also yield information that will bring unprecedented value. Two new roles will emerge: the Chief Data Officer (CDO), in charge of the overall data strategy and the Data Scientist, who creates intelligence and value from data, helping to bridge the gap with other roles within the business. According to Glassdoor, Data Scientist is the “best job” in 2016 which means more job openings, better salaries and career opportunities. This is confirmed in Deloitte’s survey, which shows that over 70% of businesses consider it important to reinforce the role of both the Data Scientist and the CDO even if their activities are not completely mapped out and standardized yet; which opens fascinating perspectives from an overall managerial standpoint.

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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