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SA business out of touch with tech challenges

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New research has revealed that many local CIOs believe that they are not at all prepared for the technological shifts taking place in the economy, with the result that their current business plans will have lost their relevance within only three years.

Most South African CIOs and business leaders believe they are not at all prepared for the technological shifts taking place in the economy, with the result that their current business plans will have lost their relevance within only three years. In addition, many internal departments – notably marketing and even IT departments themselves – seem to be resisting the move from products to data-based services, according to research done by EMC, world leader in cloud-based and converged data infrastructure.

Jonas Bogoshi, Country Manager for EMC Southern Africa, said EMC wanted to explore the business challenges and opportunities facing IT in South Africa today.

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“The research unveiled widely different and often incompatible views, underpinned by a lack of common ground and a common language. It shows that the greatest IT challenge South African businesses face today is the need to manage and extract value from ever greater volumes of data. “However, in the future the challenge will be the demands of real-time business on IT,” Bogoshi said.

The research targeted 2 700 business and IT professionals in equal numbers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, from the C-suite to frontline managers. Most (40%) have 250-499 employees and 68% are in the IT and tech space. This approach illuminated the same technology-related issues from different perspectives: Large and small; junior and senior; technology and business.

Strong concern about the future

Discussing the South African results of the research, Bogoshi says most businesses are increasingly concerned about their ability to manage and extract value not from their current products, as much as from the data generated in the process of selling those products.  In particular, there is a strong upward curve in executives’ view that the impact of business unpredictability and associated demands for rapid scaling are their current greatest IT challenge.

“Most (73%) of respondents agree that, no matter your business, if you are online you are a tech company. But there seems to be a lot of insecurity in the sector, as almost 80% believes their current business models will be out of date in three years’ time. “The reality is that their future competitors will be agile organisations that do not even exist yet.”  More than 80% of respondents find it hard to predict how business will evolve in the current fluid, rapidly evolving landscape. “The key point of concern is that the growth in the tech sector and the changing business environment will put excessive pressure on IT operations, damaging quality, customer satisfaction and brand reputation. The standard response to this fear that growth may accelerate IT complexity faster than companies can adapt, is to outsource.

“In short, executives feel out of their depth as they are working against invisible competitors.”

The way IT departments are run is part of the problem

A point of concern for Bogoshi is that 48% of respondents see IT departments themselves as limiting innovation. Part of the reason may be that 66% of businesses still isolate IT departments, possibly because IT is seen as a behind-the-scenes function that has little to do with customer service. “To make matters worse, two-thirds of IT team members feel isolated within their teams. “So you have isolated people, working within isolated teams, resisting the seismic shifts happening in the economy – quite possible because they are not allowed to see the bigger picture within the company they work for.” Disconcertingly, 93% of executives still believe that their IT department meets the company’s needs.

What if we get it wrong? – Executives feel inept

Most businesses surveyed reflected a mixed response to the perceived tech challenges. Only 42% have initiated processes to help IT departments work more closely with other parts of the business and to become more customer-focused. Also, 57% have started, or are planning to start training employees to implement converged or hyper-converged infrastructure. But when asked whether they personally feel they have the skills to understand what technology could do for their businesses, only 46% of executives agreed. A slightly larger percentage (49%) said they did not, but realised that they ought to.

In their journey towards becoming a digital, customer-focused business, 83% of respondents are not moving forward due to fear of damage to brand reputation, credibility and revenue if they get it wrong. Also, 61% of businesses do not feel ready for the data, operational and technological of offering a service and not just products – although 84% believe that scaleable and flexible IT will reduce risk by laying foundation for growth and innovation.

Business needs technology in order to develop more value-added services and products and get them to market quicker, to meet rapidly-evolving customer demands for a seamless, connected experience. They need to do all this while cutting costs, reducing risk and complexity and improving efficiency.

“Respondents agree that you have to offer customers an experience to stay competitive, but realise that this cannot be met by their existing IT infrastructure, data processing capability and employee skills base.”

“Indeed, most decision-makers are afraid of getting it wrong when it comes to moving to a tech and data-focused approach to business,” says Bogoshi.

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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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