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What digitalisation will really do to business

The fourth industrial revolution or the technology revolution has the potential to change just about every part of our lives. NIR TENZER of Microsoft says that embracing this change will present opportunities for business of now and those of the future.

Technology has become ubiquitous and central to growth and innovation in today’s business. It is embedded in a vast array of services and devices, and accessible to businesses to do what was previously impossible.

When we talk about this fourth industrial revolution, just like the first three with steam, electricity and information technology, it had a pretty broad impact in the way we live, the way we work, the way we entertain ourselves, the way we communicate.

And now, when we talk about this fourth industrial revolution with digital technology, we’re talking about it having perhaps even a broader, deeper impact on all those aspects of our lives. The way we engage is changing, the way we work is changing and the way we solve, address problems and innovate is changing – the pace of the change is also getting faster and faster. The world of the future is going to be different to the world we live today – there will be businesses and jobs that we cannot even conceptualise today. The change and the disruption will come from many directions, including Industry disruption and Technology disruption. Cloud, mobility, social and insight coming from data will contribute to this massive wave of disruption.

The tumultuous period of change for us in our businesses and how we navigate that presents much opportunity for the businesses of today and those of tomorrow.

Opportunity in transformation

As we embark into the depths of this fourth industrial revolution, we come to learn that every business is a technology company. Every company has the potential to transform itself into a digital business.

What is a digital business? It’s more than presenting a website or online service to customers, or simply using technology to run your business. According to leading technology analyst firm Gartner, “Digital business is the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds.”

Contextualising this, here are some examples of what companies are doing today to digitise:

·       Innovating with crowdsourcing and data—organisations are changing how they deliver new products and services by integrating customer, employee and general ecosystem feedback into their innovation process. In some cases, they are directly incorporating customers into the process. In others, they are collecting detailed data from the products they have in market in order to better understand usage and enable improvements. During the development process of Windows 10 for instance, Microsoft received millions of pieces of feedback from more than seven million fans who joined the insider programme, tested the software, and helped shape the finalised version of the operating system.

·       Working smarter with smart machines—increasingly, smart machines such as digital assistants (like Cortana) are empowering employees and consumers be more informed and productive in how they work and live.

·       Adapting the business through intelligent operations—enterprises today are connecting their operations and making them more agile and responsive to changing market conditions and customer needs. For example, a vehicle manufacturer can employ machine learning (quick data analysis) to identify and distinguish between model features that buyers actually need and nice-to-have features that they want based on customer demand, within various demographics across the globe. This will enable the car maker to cater to the needs of customers better with the right standard features everyone needs, while providing most of the cool features many people want as options.

·       Staying ahead by anticipating what’s next—machine learning and advanced analytics are enabling organisations to anticipate and predict customer needs and market changes better and faster, helping them be more competitive in the market and wow their customers.

·       Delighting customers with richer experiences—in order to deliver engaging customer experiences, businesses today are leveraging digital technology like interactive digital displays, second screen strategies, and mobile/local offers to enrich physical experiences with digital ones to help drive customer engagement and loyalty.

In order to successfully navigate the transformational wave, organisations need to form partnerships that will enable them to utilise systems of intelligence that will help them gain insight and take action from big data, optimise their operations and change the very nature of the business models around their industrial products.

Leaving a legacy of innovation, rather than a depending on legacy systems

Common stumbling blocks that prevent companies from effectively supporting business priorities through digital transformation include the burden of legacy systems. Enterprises and large corporations within sectors such as financial services and retail often find themselves being disrupted by smaller, more agile competitors such as SMEs and start-ups that are not burdened by legacy system that is very complex to manage.

As Microsoft, we are similarly impacted and disrupted and are experiencing our own digital transformation. We have adopted interconnected ambitions that represent more than our ambitions – they are our response to this imperative to transform and designed to help our customers deliver transformation within their organisation.

By adopting the mind-set of a digital company, any business can transform through the four pillars of digital transformation. The first of these is empowering your customers through tools like a customer management system and approaches such as driving viral find, try and buy opportunities that help cross-sell and up-sell, and build these capabilities into offerings. Next up, companies have to empower employees through knowledge and insight tools, enabling staff to access data and collaborate from anywhere, anytime, using any device or platform.

The penultimate pillar is optimising your operations, which is achieved by migrating services to the cloud and focussing automation. Last but not least is transforming your products, which is done by creating connected services and generating insights to see what can be monetised to unlock new business models. Previously businesses designed, built, produced and shipped a product, then customers bought it. That was the end of the cycle. Now organisations are building in continuous feedback loops – sensors in product, after-market services, and customer feedback from a variety of channels. Transformation requires these rich systems of intelligence. And it isn’t simply about technology…systems of intelligence represent the combination of technology, people and process that enable these feedback loops, and define an organisation’s competitiveness and ability to change the entire landscape of the industries in which it participates.

Moreover, organisations, will require a cultural change within the company that sees staff being more open to learning, using and integrating new systems, tools and solutions into their daily routines and processes.

* Nir Tenzer, Microsoft South Africa’s Marketing and Operations Director.

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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.”

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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.”

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