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Third of companies unprepared for digital

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A recent IFS study has revealed that even though big data, ERP and IoT are noted as top investment areas for digital transformation, only one in three of the companies surveyed are prepared due to talent deficiency.

IFS has revealed the findings of its Digital Change Survey that polled 750 decision makers in 16 countries to assess maturity of digital transformation in sectors such as manufacturing, oil and gas, aviation, construction and contracting, and service.

Strong willingness to invest

Nearly 90 percent of firms surveyed have ‘adequate’ or ‘advantageous’ funding for digital transformation, indicating a strong willingness to invest and an appetite to evolve their business in order to stay competitive and grow. When asked about prioritised investment areas, the top three choices were IoT, ERP and Big Data & Analytics.

“It is apparent that companies today understand the urgency of focusing on digital transformation.” IFS VP of global industry solutions Antony Bourne said: “Technologies such as big data and analytics, enterprise resource planning and internet of things are paramount to transforming a business. Companies need to apply innovative technologies hand in hand with their relevant industry expertise to succeed and gain a competitive edge. It is this combination that makes digital transformation both meaningful and powerful”.

Lack of talented employees

Alarmingly, more than a third of companies (34 percent) feel either slightly or totally unprepared to deal with digital transformation due to talent deficiency. When asked to name the areas that will experience the greatest deficit in talented staff, 40 percent cited “business intelligence” and 39 percent “cyber security”. Other areas of concern are “AI and robotics” (30 percent), “big data/analytics” (24 percent), and “cloud” (21 percent).

Antony Bourne added, “Although new technology is key to digital transformation, it is clear that change communications and access to the right talent are principal catalysts to succeed. It is alarming that more than one in three companies are not staffed to manage digital transformation. These organisations need to focus on concrete talent investment plans to make sure that they establish what roles are critical to success in their industries. After that the key is both to find and attract new talent as well as training and re-skilling existing staff.”

“Industrial IoT investments offer excellent ROI which is driving adoption,” stated ARC Advisory Group, VP Enterprise Software, Ralph Rio. He continued: “But, talent is a constraint as the IFS survey shows. Hence, IoT users partner with companies like IFS that offer leadership IoT solutions.”

Major differences across industries

When asked about the digital transformation maturity level of their organisations, meaning actual progress, 31 percent of the respondents consider their business to be in the two highest levels of maturity on a five-graded scale. The aviation industry is the most progressive with 44 percent of respondents considering themselves advanced in their ability to leverage digital transformation. Runner up is the construction and contracting industry, 39 percent of whom identified themselves as mature. At the other end of the spectrum is the oil and gas sector, where only 19 percent of the respondents consider themselves able to benefit from digital transformation.

“The differences in digital maturity levels across industries are notable. The highly competitive nature of the aviation industry, together with its rapid adoption rate of new technologies such as predictive maintenance and 3D printing for spare part manufacturing, are key drivers of its successful digitalisation”, Antony Bourne said.

Drivers and investment focus

43 percent of respondents identified “internal process efficiency” as the number one driving force behind digital transformation. “Accelerating innovation” (29 percent) and “growth opportunity in new markets” (28 percent) were recognided as the second and third most significant drivers.

Obstacles to digital transformation

Despite the practical and technical complexities of digital transformation, the number one barrier to change is on the human side: “aversion to change” (42 percent). The second and third largest barriers are the more concrete “security threats/concerns” (39 percent) and “absence of the right organidational and governance model” (38 percent).

Which will be the most disruptive technologies?

When asked what technologies will be the most disruptive, Big Data tops the list with a score of 7.2 out of 10. Second is Automation (7.0) and third is IoT (6.6). Although Big Data is ranked the highest overall, there is a significant minority who feel that automation will have the most dramatic impact. Over 40 percent rated the level of disruption by Automation as 8 or more out of 10, while only 32 percent gave such high ratings to Big Data. In the construction, aviation and manufacturing industries 48 percent, 48 percent and 50 percent respectively consider the automation disruption score >8/10, which makes it the highest rated technology for those industries.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • 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
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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