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How to turn disruption into advantage

Previously manufacturing and operations were linear processes, however advancements in the cloud allows manufacturers to recast their processes and produce smart, continually connected products, says CLIFFORD DE WIT, chief innovation officer at Microsoft SA.

Technological development is outpacing the evolution of business processes. In the past, manufacturing and operations were linear processes and companies focused on the customer at the end of the sales cycle only. They lacked the ability to centre the entire manufacturing process around the customer and support an ongoing relationship. Now, the proliferation of the cloud and big data has freed manufacturers to recast their processes and produce smart, continually connected products that deliver real value and strengthen customer engagement.

Across Africa, however, the benefits of this transformation is not reaching every business in every sector. Market research company IDC’s recent study, called State of Digital Transformation in South Africa, looks at how local companies and other African companies from Nigeria and Kenya are leveraging new business, technology, and operating models to disrupt their competitors, customers, and markets in pursuit of business performance and growth.

According to the research, only 48% of South African businesses are engaged in the digital transformation process, compared to 44% in Nigeria and 39% in Kenya. Moreover, only around 44% of local companies are planning or evaluating digital transformation initiatives, while 8% are not engaging, as a result of the lack of funding to do so.

The companies around the globe that are turning digital disruption into their competitive advantage, are doing so because of their measured approach. They are not using technology for its own sake or as a knee jerk reaction to an initiative by a competitor, but instead, they tap into the power of new technology to gain actionable insights from big data and use these as the foundation of better business decisions.

These decisions have a real and significant impact on their business, helping them transform their products and services, enhance and personalise their customer service, streamline their operations, and empower staff to become more productive in every aspect of their job.

Not doing so means leaving the business exposed to competitor and market disruption and the business unable to respond quickly to these forces or changes in customer demands.

Driving the business to transform

There are four market needs that are driving organisations to transform themselves digitally, namely increasing innovation, moving faster, staying connected and getting personal.

Chief amongst these is the need to increase innovation, as companies like Kodak can attest to the cost of not doing so, while digital disruption brands like AirBnB and Uber continue to irrevocably disrupt their respective markets. Traditional businesses must increase the quantity and quality of innovation or risk being crushed by the next digital transformation in their industry.

Next up is the need to move faster, because the pace of change is accelerating at previously unfathomable rates. From sales to operations to customer service, cycle times are ever shorter.  Now more than ever, leaders need speedy access to reliable business intelligence to improve their decision-making. They need actionable insight at the right place at the right time and to the right people.

In addition, there is the need to get personal because one size now fits none. Even as our use of technology soars, customers and employees are expecting companies to tailor offerings (and career paths) to their unique needs and to deliver those experiences in a more intimate, personalised one-on-one manner. The true goal is to “co-create” relationships with customers or employees.

Furthermore, there is the need to stay connected with customers, colleagues, suppliers and partners. Collaboration and communication anytime, anywhere, using any platform or device is paramount in the “Peer Economy,” which is characterised by the need to partner with other expert service providers in order to co-create value as well as the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). The latter means that we are now interconnecting as much around common resources as we are around relationships.

In fact, data analytics firm Gartner forecasts that there will be around 8.4 billion connected things in use globally this year and about 20.4 billion by 2020. The latest development in IoT is the fact that these devices are starting to run cloud intelligence locally, in which case they are referred to as “IoT edge” devices.

Turning data on the Edge into Intelligent insight fuel for your business

Advancements in data analytics and intelligence have enhanced our ability to draw value from the data – transforming information into insight that can be acted upon, even pre-emptively and at the point of business processes to maximise impact.

For example, a factory needs immediate response times to stop operations in the event that an equipment failure is predicted by local intelligence, or to protect worker safety following an accident.

Moreover, the ubiquity of cloud computing puts this disruptive power in the hands of organisations of all sizes, increasing the pace of innovation and competition. Businesses such as hospitals, construction sites and manufacturing plants, where safety and security are paramount can utilise existing commodity cameras together with Azure IoT Edge.

Doing so will enable these devices to recognise people and make sure that staff do not gain access to unauthorised sections or equipment for example, ultimately turning these areas into AI-driven safety zones.

Cost should not be a barrier to digital transformation

For the majority of businesses, it would appear that the associated cost of digital transformation is too high. In fact, IDC’s research show that the biggest barrier to digital transformation is lack of funding to invest in the transformation needed (80% of respondents), while 20% have more pressing business matters. Moreover, 20% view digital transformation as not relevant for their businesses.

Remember that no business or industry will be immune to disruption from more innovative competitors. Every product and service— indeed every aspect of every business—will be affected. And the time to act is now.

Additionally, digital transformation is not something that happens overnight, nor is it a traditional large-scale, one-off transformation process. Rather, it is pivoting to a mind-set of ongoing innovation, iterative updates, and continual growth. To better manage that cost, companies can adopt the approach of ‘rapid incrementalism’, which involves looking at what defines success and changing existing structures to make the most of what they have.

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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