A round-up of views from leading thinkers in the South African high-tech world points to the digital reshaping of the world in 2017.
This has been a year where companies have started repositioning themselves to take advantage of the evolution towards digital. With the likes of Big Data, cloud computing, and virtualisation becoming familiar territory, several industry leaders expect the coming months to usher in a digital ‘gold’ rush.
High performance networks and solutions providing superior performance, says Riaan Graham, sales director at Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa, will be a major driver of what service providers will have to offer in the coming months.
“While cost used to be a driver for connecting people, the focus has turned to performance. People have become unforgiving of unresponsiveness whether that is watching streaming movies at home or accessing critical back-end data on an app while meeting with a client.”
Graham says technology that provides for additional insights will be critical going forward. He cites Wi-Fi location-based services as an example. This can provide companies with key data on becoming more efficient with connectivity and providing supporting services to cater for what users want.
“As the use of connected devices increases across South Africa and the rest of the continent, so too will the cost come down. Already, we are seeing more Wi-Fi hotspots being deployed with consumers, enterprises, and smart cities demanding fast, reliable, and secure access.”
But it is not necessarily all about hardware and related devices, says Grant Theis, co-founder of ttrumpet. “Over the past few months, businesses have shifted from an informing model to a communicating and engaging one. This has seen social software for business becoming widely adopted with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. A result of this has been the rise of the bot, and in particular Intelligent Agents,” he says.
Not only have social networks embraced these but the impact has been more widespread.
“Even companies are integrating instant messaging into a call centre environment and extending these support situations to social networks. Thanks to the richness of this data, agents have a better set of tools to record user history, provide responses, conduct security validation, and so on.”
Such has been the popularity of these bots that Medium.com has found that almost 12% of Facebook bots have had users ask them to tell a joke or say something funny.
Stefan Marnewick, CEO of Incredible Connection, believes this points to not only a changing mindset amongst business users, but also consumers and their buying patterns.
“Consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across an increasing range of devices. Ultimately, they are looking for interactive and engaging online and retail environments. These expectations extend to options to pay, trade-in, swap, rent, and share,” he says.
Consumers have come to expect convenience, personalisation, and a different level of interaction from retailers as a direct result of this growing digitalisation of the store environment. “Retailers and other companies have to rethink how they segment their customers but also how they utilise the data they have at their disposal. It is all about performance and speed. Just as with high performance networks, agility and the ability to adapt to a different environment will be the key to success in 2017,” says Marnewick.
Digital, digital, digital
Gavin Meyer, executive director at Itec SA, says the focus will be about digitalising business through solutions that are tailored to the specific organisational structure and needs, as well as those that meet the demands of the customer network of a company.
“Globally, organisations are driven by consumer demand to create more digitalised businesses and this means that these companies must have a stronger online presence and back-end services and solutions that are streamlined, integrated, and innovative from a technology stand point,” he adds.
It is clear, says Meyer, that moving towards a digital business model provides decision-makers with numerous benefits not least of which are doing things more cost-effectively and efficiently.
“Think a more competitive business model that is able to deliver on the immediate needs of customers. These encompass mobile workers, digital connectivity, cloud services, business collaboration with staff and partners and the like, all of which delivered through streamlined processes,” he says.