Digitisation and digital transformation have been floated in endless conversations about the future of commerce. However, while we tend to refer to these concepts in abstract terms, the hard realities of digital disruption are starting to hit businesses, writes KIM ANDERSEN.
ndustries are being up-ended almost overnight by the new business models made possible by the convergence of new realms of technology.
Those enterprises that are investing heavily in areas like automation, analytics, digitised processes, mobile customer channels, social marketing, are finding themselves in the position to attack slower-moving incumbents in other verticals. Take the financial services sector in South Africa for example. This vertical was traditionally protected by very high barriers to entry such as regulation, governance, licensing costs, scale economies and an oligopolistic structure.
But over the past few years the leading banks have seen the emergence of financial services products from retailers, cellular operators, medical aid providers, emerging payments or “FinTech” start-ups, and global tech giants like Apple and Facebook. These new competitors are arriving in the financial sector with fresh thinking, less legacy infrastructure and strong consumer brand perceptions. Cast in this light, digital transformation poses a startling risk for industry incumbent such as a large banking institution.
Dealing with disruption
Ironically, the only solution to combat the threat of digital transformation is for the organisation to embrace that very concept itself. One of the most apt phrases – ‘disrupt yourself before someone else does’ – rings true for almost any traditionally-oriented organisation.
In other words, transforming towards a digital organisation is the only way of remaining relevant with customers and increasing the value one provides to the customer. The good news is that the tools to start doing this are largely available to most organisations. We find that those still holding back and remaining rooted to their analogue ways, are generally suffering from cultural inertia or a myopic understanding of their evolving industry.
To demonstrate the possibilities of digitisation, let’s look at retailers for example. It is now possible to connect things like video surveillance, inventory management systems, customer loyalty programmes, digital storefronts, financial data, and analytics platforms. Therefore a sensor could record a box that has been turned upside down which, for instance, could potentially indicate stock theft or damage, and send an alert to supervisors. In this way, the retailer could integrate sensors into the supply chain and warehousing processes, to improve efficiencies and provide better services to its customers, while limiting the theft in transit.
Putting it into practice
Organisations can get a jump on their competition, and remain one step ahead of new challengers, by taking an ‘outside-in’ approach to their businesses. This means considering the needs of the customer as the foremost priority, and re-imagining one’s operations and innovation capabilities to fit around those needs. Often we find that existing processes and systems are no longer relevant to achieving success in the new economy.
It becomes essential to measure the levels of digitisation within the organisation, and track this progress against a defined digital strategy. It also requires new ways of thinking and new ways of leveraging existing relationships. If, for instance, a petrol forecourt already has an established partnership with a consumer goods retailer, then it could look at delivering fuel alongside a home-delivery shopping order, for example.
So, as the nature of the retail industry changes to incorporate things like home delivery, the petrol forecourt can look at new ways to add convenience to its customers’ lives. The organisations that start thinking in this way will ultimately be the ones that succeed in the rapidly-changing landscape of digital transformation. For innovative business models like this to become possible, a number of fundamentals need to fall into place: digitally focused culture, organizational rewards and incentive structures, new processes, flexible technologies, innovative strategies, and an incessant focus on data analytics of the new digital journey.
At T-Systems we believe that this thinking has the potential to culminate in what we term the ‘digital nation of South Africa’. This ideal would see organisations form ecosystems – borne from new technologies – to create efficiencies and customer value that accelerate our country’s position in the global economy.
* Kim Andersen, Account CTO at T-Systems South Africa
3D printed room-service? Visit the hotel of tomorrow
To mark its 100th birthday, Hilton predicts the trends that will change travel and hospitality in the next 100 years.
Intergalactic getaways, fast-food nutrient pills, 2-3 hour working days and adaptable, personalised rooms that can transport guests everywhere from jungles to mountain ranges. These are some of the predictions for the next 100 years that the Hilton hotel group has put together in celebration of its 100th anniversary.
In a report supported by expert insight from the fields of sustainability, innovation, design, human relations and nutrition, findings reveal the impact of the growing sophistication of technology and climate change on the hotel industry in the future.
Key predictions for the hotel of the future include:
Personalisation is King
- Technology will allow every space, fitting and furnishing to continuously update to respond to an individual’s real-time needs – the Lobby will conjure up anything from a tranquil spa to a buzzy bar, giving every guest the perfect, personal welcome
- From temperature and lighting, to entertainment and beyond, microchips under the skin will enable us to wirelessly control the setting around us based on what we need, whenever we need it
The Human Touch
- In a world filled with Artificial Intelligence, human contact and the personal touch will be more critical and sought after than ever
- Technology will free up time for hotel staff to focus on what matters most: helping guests to connect with one another and building memorable moments
‘Sustainable Everything’ – The Role of Responsibility
- Only businesses that are inherently responsible will survive the next century
- Sustainability will be baked into everything about a hotel’s design – from weather-proofed domes, to buildings made from ocean-dredged plastic
- Hotels will act as the Town Hall of any community, managing local resources and contributing to the areas they serve with community-tended insect farms and vertical hydroponic crop gardens
Menu Surprises and Personalisation
- Our diets will include more plant-based recipes and some surprising sources of protein – Beetle Bolognese, Plankton Pies and Seaweed Green Velvet Cake will be menu staples!
- Decadent 3D-printed dinners and room service will provide unrivalled plate personalisation
- Chefs will be provided with biometric data for each guest, automatically creating meals based on preferences and nutritional requirements
Futuristic Fitness and Digital Detoxes
- Outswim a virtual sea turtle in the pool, or challenge yourself to climb the digital face of Mount Everest, your exercise routine will be as unique as you are. What’s more, exercise energy generated from workouts will be used to power the hotel, providing a zero-impact, circular system. Guests could even earn rewards based on reaching workout targets
- Pick up where you left off with trackable workouts and holographic personal trainers
- Offline will be the new luxury as we seek to find moments of tech-free time
“Since its inception in 1919, Hilton has pioneered the hospitality industry, introducing first-to-market concepts such as air-conditioning and in-room televisions. Last year, Hilton also became the first hospitality company to set science-based targets to reduce its environmental impact,” said Simon Vincent, EVP & President, EMEA, Hilton. “We enter our second century with the same commitment to innovation, harnessing the power of our people and technology to respond to guest demands. Our research paints an exciting future for the hospitality industry, highlighting the growing importance of human interaction in an increasingly tech-centric world.”
Futurologist Gerd Leonhard said: “In 2119 we will still be searching for unique experiences, but they will be more personalised than ever. As technology shapes our lives we will seek out moments of offline connection with others, including hotel team members who will help us truly get what we need from our stays. 100 years from now hotels will have to create opportunities to converse, collaborate and connect, delivering moments that matter, individually, to each and every guest.”
Gadget ed to chair Digital Council
Specialist financial services provider Sasfin Bank has established a Digital Advisory Council to provide the market with industry-leading expertise and insights on trends shaping the use of technology in financial services.
Digitalisation is one of the most powerful forces for change shaping Finance today. This has turned Fintech into one of the most vibrant sectors in both information technology and among start-ups, generating billions of dollars in investment and development globally. The South African fintech space is dynamic, and Sasfin is playing a leading role in the transformation of local financial services and the resulting enhancement of customer experiences.
“We have been investing in fintech development in-house and acquiring or integrating fintech start-ups,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon. “Over the last year we have built further digital offerings, integrated via APIs into leading businesses and invested in fintechs. We built and launched B\\YOND, an innovative digital business banking platform and SWIP, a digital wealth and investing platform. We have invested in Payabill, an online SME lender and DMA, a digital trading platform. We recently announced our alliance banking relationship, leveraging open banking, with Hello Paisa to offer seamless banking to the unbanked. We feel that there is a huge opportunity to improve the experience of South African businesses and savers through using technology. We have therefore created an independent forum to assess how to even better improve financial services for South Africans by leveraging the digital economy.”
Arthur Goldstuck, founder of high-tech research consultancy World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget, and a globally respected technology analyst has accepted Sasfin’s invitation to head up the Sasfin Digital Advisory Council, an independent think tank that will help Sasfin and its clients decipher the fintech present and future.
“The Sasfin Digital Advisory Council is broader than providing only the bank with a source of insight on how digital services are evolving and lessons from across the world,” said CEO Michael Sassoon. “Sasfin has been involved in fintech investing for many years and we are leveraging this experience as well as the experience of independent experts such as Arthur to provide insights and guidance to interested stakeholders in this space.”
The team appointed to the Digital Advisory Council is being selected for the breadth and range of knowledge they would bring to the table, with further appointments to the Council being announced soon. There will also be room for the Council to co-opt specialist expertise as it is required.
Goldstuck, who has been covering the fintech sector as an analyst, commentator and columnist for many years, says he sees the role as a welcome challenge.
“There has been a long-standing need for a clear understanding of the impact being made by fintech today, and the exponential change it will cause tomorrow,” said Goldstuck. “My role will be, partly, to curate the wide spectrum of fintech and digitalisation knowledge and insights that the members will bring to the Digital Advisory Council, and help create scenarios that businesses and policymakers may use to navigate the future – both inside and outside Sasfin.”