Companies perusing new opportunities also need to assume a corporate responsibility as those who compete in these areas will agree to be bound by rules, says HANS ZACHAR, MD for Technology Strategy at Accenture in SA.
As pioneering companies pursue boundary-breaking opportunities, they must assume a new corporate responsibility. The concept of trust and good corporate citizenship will increasingly come to the fore as those who willingly compete in these new and exciting areas willingly agree to be bound by rules, or lose their ability to play on the stage if they do not.
About 65% of IT and business executives surveyed in the Tech Vision 2017 report believe that regulations in their industry have not been able to keep up with the pace of technology advancement. There is little doubt that new age entrepreneurs will continue to move faster than legislators.
Some form of self-regulation appears inevitable if progress is not to be hampered, but a new set of rules will need to be codified to set the boundaries. These developments are likely to include the pioneers themselves helping to form the laws and regulations that govern privacy, data ethics and security.
A few recent examples highlight how companies have realised they need to keep moving to ensure their idea is not stifled. Amazon announced its intent to pilot a service using drones to deliver packages. While an initial set of regulations around the concept was worked on in the US, Amazon took the concept overseas to conduct the pilot, fine tune the service and launch its first delivery in the UK at the end of 2016.
Businesses in Africa and across the globe are also assembling joint task forces or collaborating with competitors to write rules where nothing exists. Last year, 25 startups united to launch a Bitcoin Smart Contract Federation in the belief that Bitcoin offers a more mature, tested and secure alternative to other smart contract platforms. By building the platform, they are creating the rules for others who will join this ecosystem in the future.
In February this year Standard Bank joined the blockchain consortium R3 to explore the technology and its uses – 75 global financial institutions form part of the network, with Absa having joined in 2016.
It is clear that waiting on the sidelines for rules to change and technology standards to solidify is not going to work.
Other emerging technologies include:
•Differential privacy–Integrates digital ethics and privacy standards for companies by receiving data in such a way that individual identifiers are never collected.
•Smart contract technology–Offers an automated way to enforce contracts whether the counter-party is trusted or not. Smart contracts design-in the rules for a value exchange and can be self-exercising or self-enforcing.
•Homomorphic encryption–Implements data sharing and transformations that are performed exclusively with encrypted data, decrypting it only when a user needs to see a result.
In this dynamic new world businesses are not just creating new products and services but are shaping new digital industries. From technology standards, to ethical norms, to government mandates, in an ecosystem-driven digital economy, the Tech Vision survey highlighted that a wide scope of rules still needs to be defined.
To drive governance and accountability, leading enterprises will increasingly embed the newly defined rules and standards into the technologies themselves. It is therefore no surprise that 78% of the executives we surveyed agree that their organization feels it has a duty to be proactive in writing the rules for emerging industries.
We have to fast forward to a world in which advances increase a thousand fold from where they are today and consider how on earth rules will change quickly enough. There will be a need for some level of speedier automation in legislation, as well as a level of self-regulation when change overshoots existing rules.
True authentication and verification could, for example, take place through a bureau service. South Africa has an awesome opportunity to use its population register to create a digitally managed single point of authentication – you just link to it securely and get confirmation. This is also a fabulous way to prevent fraudulent transactions from taking place.
At the end of the day, speed and efficiency remain critical to maximising outcomes in the uncharted world of the future and to fulfil their digital ambitions, companies must take on a leadership role to help shape the new rules of the game. Third world growth economies have a huge opportunity as they are not bound by legacy structures and modes of thinking. African businesses in particular must seize the opportunities created by the eco-system driven digital economy. Discovery is already a great example of how a company can create a single platform which is then provided to global insurance companies.
The huge benefit Africa has is the lack of established retail networks – these are encumbrances of developed markets – Africa can leapfrog them as it embraces these new channels for doing business, which in the future will be far more profitable than traditional bricks and mortar structures.
It will also be important to realise that to successfully implement an idea on the scale required, help from elsewhere will be needed. Most service organisations unfortunately still have pretty rigid conditions, terms and modes of thinking that will only prove to be a barrier to entry. The Google’s and Amazon’s of the world will not wait for you.
However, as rules are not yet advanced enough and much of the current processes within companies are outdated, it is important to keep in mind that when you release your innovation you must make sure you are secure enough and anticipate potential loopholes.
There’s a whirlwind of disruptive activity happening across industries and as these early pivot points of new industries develop, organisations will need to changes the way we see the world and how they embrace risk.
There is no doubt companies will be able to partner best with others that have the same security and technology standards, as well as similar ethical values and commitment to social responsibility.
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.
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.
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.
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.