Johannesburg, 05 May 2022
“You can walk from Cape to Cairo, but using an automated mode of transport will get you there quicker.” This is the analogy drawn by Bruce Moepye, MD of Gen2 Enterprise Services, part of the Gen2 Group, to underline the importance of digital transformation.
The global pandemic has been a tipping point for many organisations’ digital transformation journeys. The pandemic and its associated lockdown accelerated digital adoption at a rapid pace – it became a matter of survival for business. Moepye says: “Businesses across all sectors had to adopt digital processes if they just wanted to stay in business. For instance, sit-down restaurants had to be able to deliver food to customers, and those that didn’t adopt the necessary digital platforms struggled to keep their doors open.
“We saw how quickly companies were able to adapt by putting in place the necessary digital services to enable them to carry out their core functions. The pandemic, the need to still be able to do business and provide their services was a tipping point for most companies to go out there and adopt digital platforms at an accelerated pace. It taught us how quickly business is able to adapt and the role that executives play in fostering change within the enterprise.”
A McKinsey survey (Oct 2020) found that responses to COVID-19 have sped up the adoption of digital technologies by several years, and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, "their companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years."
Moepye cites the example of the accelerated production and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. “Usually it takes years to research and produce a new vaccine, but during the pandemic businesses across all sectors had to be agile and the outcome was the release of several COVID-19 vaccines within a relatively short period of time.”
He highlights that the way businesses are going to have to operate post pandemic entails them moving away from old habits that might be outdated or getting in the way of progress. “All of the digital transformation projects initiated during the pandemic will remain a permanent feature of the way that the business operates going forward.”
“Businesses woke up to the realisation that they can’t go back to how they were doing things prior to the pandemic because most of them have reaped the benefits of digital transformation. However, they’re being faced with the dilemma of sustaining their transformation and continuing to be innovative, or returning to the familiar. However, everything can’t just come to a halt because the pandemic appears to be nearing its end, and businesses can’t just return to how they were two years ago.”
Where to from here?
Moepye says Gen2 has been providing digital solutions for many years, primarily focusing on the system and automation spheres, but is now starting to move into the area of smart digital transformation.
“Until recently, we hadn’t really touched on the smart automation part of digital transformation, but we’re starting to offer solutions that incorporate it.”
He alludes to the business’s adaptive project portfolio management tool as an example. “It enables the user to upload a plan and manage time, resources and expenses, providing visibility into all of the relevant business units across all projects. In future, users will be able to upload whatever data is required for their project and the tool will be able to tell them more or less whether the project will be successful, based on attributes entered.”
The incorporation of smart automation enables tools to become more predictive, showing users where they need to focus their attention to ensure success of their project. Information flows freely and is easily accessible, enabling decisions to be made quickly, while data is accessible wherever, whenever.
The shift from offering solutions on-premises to solutions in the cloud is part of the digital transformation journey and one that is necessary in order for smart automation to be enabled.
“Cloud-based solutions grew in popularity during the pandemic because they enabled businesses to operate remotely. Some solutions that didn’t make sense to businesses prior to the pandemic, suddenly became more popular because they enabled employees to work from wherever they were. They suited the new hybrid way of working and enabled them to carry on with business as usual.”
But how do businesses sustain their digital transformation journey and operational resilience? Moepye advises businesses to have a digital transformation strategy that plots out their journey. “Companies should avoid acquiring solutions that aren’t really aligned to their business goals out of fear of being left behind on their digital transformation journey.”
He advises that they have a digital strategy and set up whatever frameworks are required, treating digital transformation as a project that will drive the value that the business envisages. “They need to invest funds, allocate resources, monitor progress and track the benefits derived from the investment. The business needs to continue to be innovative on its digital transformation journey and not just grind to a halt once it has reached its initial goals.”
Businesses needn’t be afraid to fail and they shouldn’t punish failure on their innovation and digital transformation journeys; they mustn’t be afraid to get it wrong and they should encourage an innovative spirit, says Moepye. “They must choose a direction and who to partner them and follow their north star.
“We need to plan for a digital future in order to shape the future of our organisations and fight the human impulse to return to the old normal. Doing so will take lot of work from executives and employees and will require change management to ensure that the ‘new’ way of doing things becomes the norm going forward.”
The software and digital revolution, much like the industrial and other revolutions that have gone before, require businesses to master new ways of doing things and adopt new technologies. If they don’t, they’ll be left behind and even, eventually, unable to operate.
He ends off by quoting a tweet by Mike Kersten: “The problem is not with our organisations realising that they need to transform; the problem is that organisations are using managerial frameworks and infrastructure models from past revolutions to manage their businesses in this one.”