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Digital: threat or opportunity?

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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

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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.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 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

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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