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SA on edge of business revolution

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The global business landscape is seeing many businesses digitise, largely due to the many ICT trends that are affecting businesses. As late adopters South African business stand to benefit immensely from these trends, writes Patrick Shield, CTO at Software AG.

Buzz phrases such as ‘enterprise digitisation’ are discussed among ICT and business industries alike with increasing frequency, but often hold little meaning to business decision makers who have historically left ICT initiatives to ICT-focussed departments. The global shift towards the digitisation of business, however, cannot be ignored by business leaders, and has become crucial to the survival of many organisations – with South African businesses being no exception.

“It’s vital for South Africa’s industry leaders to acknowledge that ICT and business objectives are no longer separate entities, and are in fact interdependent functions,” explains Patrick Shields, Chief Technology Officer at Software AG South Africa. Addressing delegates at the recent annual Software AG Innovation Day in Sandton, Shields explains: “The wall between ICT and business is slowly being broken down, and ICT is playing a far more active role in business than before. The importance of these departments collaborating closely cannot be underestimated, and all stakeholders need to be able to speak and understand the same language. Combining the value that both business and ICT jointly deliver, can lead to an exponential increase in an organisation’s effectiveness, agility and profitability.”

The global customer landscape is changing drastically, and quickly, and Shields explains that businesses need to adapt their offerings just as swiftly in order to remain relevant. “Currently, there are upwards of two billion internet users worldwide – seeing a third of the human population connected today,” he says. “Due to this, we are experiencing a 40% growth in data year on year, which is speeding up. This presents a significant opportunity for businesses that have poised themselves to access and harness this data. This is especially relevant for African enterprises that serve a continent of mobile enabled citizens and consumers”

Shields notes that the ability to ‘tap into’ data streams that describe customer and citizen behaviour presents unique opportunities to identify patterns, then program their existing systems to automatically respond to a range of ‘time sensitive’ scenarios. “This can have a profound effect on functions such customer service, internal processes, faster response to structural and legislative changes, and the identification and resolution of problems, among many other benefits. Digitising these functions means that they will be faster and more effective, but at a lower operating costs.”

According to Shields, about 75% of businesses who are embracing the digital change fall within the conventional industry categories – such as financial services, manufacturing and logistics. These enterprises are taking the first steps of digitisation by changing from ‘paper based’ processes to automated business processes.

While the digital business trend has entrenched itself quite thoroughly in the world’s leading economies, South African businesses are relatively late adopters to this new approach, as South African businesses in general are appreciative of the risks involved. “The current economic challenges presented to South Africa’s organisations means that decision makers have a healthy apprehension when looking at projects without a thorough understanding of how it will work, as well as a thorough understanding and proof of the potential business value. South African decision makers do not want to invest time and resources into just another tool that sits on the shelf in their organisation, so it is crucial for software solution providers to prove value upfront, rather than promise the sky through convoluted sales-speak.”

“That being said, being late adopters to digital business puts South Africa in the beneficial position of being able to learn from the lessons of pioneers, who have already experienced a range of trials, errors, and successes which have led to optimised performance of software solutions,” Shields continues. “One of the most crucial takeaways for business decision makers is that digitising business in no way requires an expensive overhaul of existing systems in order to be implemented. Proper digitisation should not mandate a ‘Rip and Replace’ approach” he says. “Many organisations have already invested large amounts of time and money into creating and tailoring their existing systems, which are often thoroughly customised and carried large set-up costs. Rather than ripping and replacing expensive legacy systems and technology, our approach is to ‘wrap and re-use’ existing systems at a fraction of the cost, so that they remain and continue to function as designed, but are linked through a customisable integration layer.”

Shields explains that this integration layer, as seen in the word’s first Digital Business Platform, which was recently launched by Software AG in South Africa, connects existing systems to a central point of monitoring and management; is agile, allowing enterprises to quickly automate any form of business process, and gain real-time operational visibility through simple, practical dashboards.”

“Digital change is disrupting traditional business models like never before. The updating and evolving of processes that needs to take place within companies to address the ‘big change’ will define how these organisations will fare in the future,” he notes. “Essentially, the digitisation of business is a race – and companies need to keep ahead of the competition in order to survive and capitalize on the digital revolution. This is the compelling reason why companies should embrace digital change – either leverage its opportunities and take full advantage of the significant benefits it offers to your organisation, or get left behind and potentially face ‘business irrelevance’ or ‘technological extinction’ within the markets, customers and citizens that you serve,” concludes Shields.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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