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Budgeting the digital tightrope

Research has found that employees can potentially lose up to 42 days a year thanks to outdated technology. But digital tools have the potential to transform the relationship between the employee and the business, says MANDLA MBONAMBI, founding CEO of Africonology, technology.

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Pause for a second on that maths. It’s the same as giving the entire company six weeks off for the July holidays. Now, imagine what could be achieved if the organisation’s technology investment didn’t impact on performance? It’s a giddy nirvana of productivity and extraordinary client and employee experiences. It also isn’t realistic.

There is a fine line between the business budget and the technology it can realistically afford.

How can the business invest in the right technology without overstepping its budget? Purchasing decisions need to be influenced by strategy, market value, and long-term sustainability. They also need to be transparent and relevant.

The technology the business chooses to invest in from the outset has to support its strategy in delivering services and enabling them to remain competitive. Today, the organisation is under enormous pressure to retain its market worth, much less increase it, and any technology investment needs to be weighed against these budgetary imperatives.

For the business that’s already halfway across the tightrope with an economy on its back and complex market conditions scampering along the wire, the added complexities of budget versus employee are difficult to manage. The business must invest in the productivity and happiness of its employees without risking long-term business success.

Technology purchasing decisions are influenced by a variety of factors. On one hand, new product development and new solutions that are being developed need to be prioritised. On the other hand, the way in which the business plans to increase its efficiency in delivering these products and services is equally important.

Providing the employees with the right technology extends far beyond just quick access to an operating system. It ties directly into the organisation’s need to service clients and deliver products seamlessly. Without the right tools, clients won’t have the kind of experience that will elevate the business above the clutter.

It is extremely challenging to keep everyone happy. Organisations have to remain in control of their technology decisions while ensuring their employees are happy and their tools are relevant. It is one of the biggest elephants in the room.

What’s the best way to deal with an elephant? Training. Change management workshops and training can play a significant role in rallying employees to the organisation’s cause. Providing them with information and being transparent about the direction the business is taking can make a huge difference in how employees approach their technology and their future.

Transparent and honest communication from the organisation to the employees is crucial. If employees understand why a technology decision has been made and why they are valuable assets, then they will be open to working with the company and supporting its investment decisions.

In addition to qualifying the why of the technology investment, these training sessions are essential in providing the how. Insight into how new tools work, what technology changes mean, the impact that new systems will have on legacy operations, and how to get the most from the outdated while budget waits for the new, will revolutionise how employees engage. While there is no miracle cure for the balance between budget and technology, there are ways of smoothing over the rougher parts of the journey.

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Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters

A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities

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The use of cash-only payments was a frustration for 38% of Johannesburg commuters and 37% of Cape Town-based commuters, according to a new global study by Visa. Another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters.

Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.

According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centres – and the number of “megacities” with populations greater than 10 million people will rise from 43 today to 51 within that same period. South Africa is no different, with the majority of the country relying heavily on the public transport system. In fact, according to the General Household Survey (GHS) for 2018, a total of 54 209 000 minibus/taxi trips take place in South African per month. 

Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.

The South African Perspective

Payments lie at the heart of every form of travel, and will continue to become more integral as more cities move to contactless public transportation, digital payments for parking and rental services such as bikes or scooters.  Malijeng Ngqaleni, Deputy Director-General of the South African Inter-governmental Relations, states that a high as 60% of South African households spend on average of 20% of their monthly income on transport, while in rural areas this number can be as high as 31%.

Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.

 Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”

Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel.  However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with  a broad set of stakeholder including  mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies.  From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel,  whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”

Click here for the detailed global findings.

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Women take to tech, but more needed

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By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies

$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.

The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas.  Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?

Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.

What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education?  And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.

Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men. 

Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists. 

For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.

If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at https://www.women-in-tech-africa-summit.com/ and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.

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