How are enterprises preparing for the future?

Johannesburg, 07 Aug 2023
Customer panel at the ServiceNow Africa summit.
Customer panel at the ServiceNow Africa summit.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what distinguishes the tough from the rest? It's not always through power, strength or resources. Real change comes from forethought, planning and the wisdom to do the right things at the right time.

Companies toughen themselves by pursuing innovation, creating usable intelligence and thinking strategically about their futures. These themes were on everyone's lips at the recent ServiceNow Africa summit at The Forum, The Campus, in Johannesburg, South Africa. A variety of speakers covered different trends in the market and how digitisation enhances them.

Dealing with challenges

These conversations took centre stage during a panel discussion with some of ServiceNow's big local clients. Hosted by Steve Harding, ServiceNow's Area Vice-President, Executive Experiences EMEA, he asked what the big battlegrounds were in their respective industries.

"Organisations today face various challenges: uncertainty, market saturation, costs, scalability, environmental, political and technological," said Dhesigan Naidu, Senior Operations Manager at the Vitality Group. "It really forces organisations to rethink things in an innovative way underpinned by technology. A lot of what we've been focusing on is around customer-centricity, providing value-added services, modernising IT service management and the adoption of an innovation culture and mindset."

The panellists also named in-depth customer experience insight, improving time to market, adopting hyper-automation and monitoring observed frameworks. Customer and employee experiences are two of their most essential ambitions, said Nedbank's IT Infrastructure & Operations Executive, Freddie Mentz: "Customer experience is not just delivering a customer promise, but also giving the customer a great experience using the capabilities that we enable. That really goes hand in hand with employee experiences, using technologies to enable capabilities in the people who consume those things on a day-to-day basis."

Preparing for AI

Customer-centric strategy asks how companies can enable employees and customers to achieve what they need to do. This need differs from sector to sector, and unifying platforms such as ServiceNow are making it easier to create and tailor those specific functions.

"I've come from the NGO sector, where we have to do a lot of accountability-based work," said Moses Mashingaidze, IT Lead and ServiceNow Platform Owner at the Ndlovu Care Group. "If employees can leverage platform workflows, they can optimise resource allocation. Now we can talk about monitoring and evaluation. As an organisation, we weren't seeing the opportunity before we started using platforms."

Platforms are becoming the necessary glue between company ambitions and delivery. This dynamic is about to speed up, thanks to the breakthrough on conference attendees' minds: generative AI.

"Generative AI is a huge game-changer," says Victor Brown, Sasol's Stakeholder Contact & Relationship Management: Contact Centre Manager. "It's going to accelerate the technology journey and people's digital thinking. They are already saying: 'We need to adapt or we're going to be left behind.'"

Mentz agreed, adding: "Enablement from an AI perspective is certainly at the top of many people's lists. There is a serious need to activate AI, using common data standards and guardrails that the company can control. Platforms are the most effective conduits to achieve these goals.

Getting ready for tomorrow

AI, actionable intelligence from analytics and improved cyber security, have the attention of innovators. These determine how well organisations can capacitate their customers and employees. The trick is to combine technology and human capability, supported by building a customer-centric innovation culture.

"What's important is how you embrace and embed that culture within the organisation," said Naidu. "Companies must look at leveraging strategic partnerships, as well as investing time into development training and upskilling of employees to set them up for this digital transformation."

Fortunately, technology platforms are making this easier. They provide common data standards, robust integration and automation, and support for new tools like generative AI.

What do companies do when the going gets tough? They look towards customer-centricity and innovation, streamlined by powerful unifying platforms.

"This is about getting the customer experience right," said Brown. "They may be an employee, a partner, a supplier, a consumer, I think it's about how you bring all of those initiatives together. It's about the innovation, but also the collaboration – having the right stakeholders around the table. And also making sure that your strategic intent aligns with your digital vision of where you would like to go. What platforms you can use, rationalising your applications in your environment, how your technology enables you to create that business value, not only for your company but for all your stakeholders as well."