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The key to surviving tech disruption: innovation

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Digital is the new imperative and organisations who haven’t already made the shift have no time to lose, writes NTOMBI MHANGWANI, Africa Director for Integrated Marketing & Communications at Accenture.

We are in the midst of a major technology revolution. Digital now dominates every sector of the economy – it is reshaping industries, disrupting businesses and introducing new operating models. It is also opening up new opportunities to create jobs and boost economic growth. Businesses that are not ready for this revolution will struggle in the next seven years and beyond.

In January 2012, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It marked the end of an era for one of the world’s greatest innovators, a company that played an important part in the lives of millions of people for more than 130 years through the famous “Kodak moment”. The change came swiftly. In a span of just seven years from 2005 to 2012 the company lost half its revenue as new digital technology wiped out its lucrative film business.

Kodak’s experience is not all that uncommon. Many businesses today are reluctant to take bold steps in the face of innovation, new trends or challenges. Soon, these businesses will be vulnerable to more forward-thinking and innovative competitors.

Digital is the new imperative and organisations who haven’t already made the shift have no time to lose. They must take hold of the opportunity to innovate today to ensure that they survive tomorrow. Those who “Seize the Now” and embrace innovation are most likely to ride the wave of digital disruption. They may even have the opportunity to lead in their industries.

Tomorrow’s winners are those businesses that constantly look for new ways to fuel growth, that welcome the agility that cloud technologies bring, that embrace intelligent-enterprise capabilities, and strive to understand and deliver on customer expectations.

Fuel for growth. Digital is driving convergence across a number of industries, enabling new competitors to enter, and forcing companies to redefine how they compete. At the same time, there is added pressure from active investors in various industries who have a higher expectation for profitability. Speed is the new normal and companies are determined to survive this perpetual state of uncertainty by becoming lean and agile enough to focus on aggressive, sustainable growth. The task may be great and the stakes high, but the path forward is clear: to grow, companies must proactively identify activities that drive value, take out costs that are not contributing to business goals and reinvest those savings into growth.

Journey to cloud. Cloud is not the future. It’s already here, and more businesses are finding that the sooner they adopt cloud technology, the better positioned they will be to compete in an increasingly brisk, aggressive marketplace. Companies that want to achieve the type of agility they need to succeed in today’s business climate, migrate to cloud while embracing a robust ecosystem of cloud solutions. And they’re teaming with Accenture to make the journey a safe, affordable and profitable one.

Intelligent enterprise. The next level of operational excellence will emerge from the latest gains in software intelligence. Business and technology leaders must now view software intelligence not as a pilot or a once-off project, but as an across-the-board functionality – one that will drive new levels of evolution and discovery, propelling innovation throughout the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the many great examples.

Intelligent customer management life cycle. New research commissioned by Accenture Interactive in partnership with Forrester Consulting finds that most brands are falling short and customer expectations are outpacing experiences. Only seven percent of brands are exceeding customer expectations and, even worse, 25 percent don’t meet customer expectations at all. Customers’ expectations are forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries. They are brand and quality conscious‚ they seek out the latest trends but watch their budget‚ and look out for personalised as well as unique shopping experience. However, many companies are still failing to deliver on these expectations.

Businesses who are not ready for innovation – driven by digital disruption – will lose customers who are prepared for this modernisation; and companies that meet their needs first will gain a competitive advantage difficult for rivals to overcome.

A business that recognises the power of now, does not hesitate to innovate, take new technology on board and stay ahead of the competition. It is always primed and ready to leap ahead, leaving opponents in its wake.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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