SA's digital destiny is far from secure

By Kauthar Gool
Johannesburg, 17 May 2018
Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC SA.
Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC SA.

SA benefits from a very solid infrastructure, academic prowess and solid business practices.

This is according to Doug Woolley, GM of Dell EMC SA, speaking about the importance of digital transformation in enhancing best practice and customer relations in an organisation.

"In many ways, we are far ahead of our peers in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of digital uptake, but we have squandered much of that lead through an apathetic attitude.

"We seem to believe that digital is inevitable and our destiny is secured, but without serious attention to education, investment and grassroots empowerment, our neighbours will surpass us. The power of digital is that great."

Technology innovation is advancing at an exponential rate, powering a new era of digital transformation, says Dell EMC. The way we live and work is becoming more immersive, collaborative, mobile and competitive than ever before.

According to the IDC, the era is upon us where technologies and processes that businesses deploy are so tightly linked to their customers and markets that the boundary between the internal operations of the enterprise and its external ecosystem is rapidly disappearing. All these processes are being fuelled by third-platform technologies like mobile, social business, cloud, big data and analytics.

Nigel Hysom, business unit manager of enterprise information management at Datacentrix, believes SA is faring quite well with digitisation strategies. "The Western Cape government has been one of the forerunners in promoting SA as a digitally-enabled hub, along with the promotion of the talent pool we have in the region. Silicon Cape is a good example of this."

He adds there is now an eco-system of over 1 200 small businesses in the region driving innovative technologies, solutions and skills, along with collaborative venues such as the Bandwidth Barn. All of this is supported and driven by local government. SA finds itself competing with Kenya as one of the leading African tech-enabled societies, Hysom notes.

Digital CRM

In the case of customer service, clients' experiences are heavily influenced by how businesses interact with them, notes Jonathan Houston, GM of strategic brand and communication firm, HKLM.

"Companies such as Apple, Google and the like have democratised technology and made it something the public has access to. Customisation of digital transformation is really about how the organisation makes it as easy as possible for someone to interact with them in a digital environment."

He adds the larger an organisation, the more difficult it can be to transform as there are many legacy systems and technical debt that need to be accounted for, which might not be able to cater for a more digitally-centric approach.

"Businesses also battle with understanding where to start. Digital transformation needs to be brand-led, with the conversation moving from being siloed in either the realm of the CMO or the CIO, and be a board-level discussion. Only then will true business transformation take place."

Hysom says it is as much customer behaviour and demand that is driving the need for businesses to digitally transform as it is a company's successful use of technology to do the same.

"Our current connected world has opened up numerous additional methods of interacting with, attracting, marketing to, analysing, selling and providing service to customers. The proliferation of smartphones and the increase in available bandwidth enable businesses to transform any process where they interact with clients."

"What many businesses struggle with is making the link between marketing and operations," says Houston. "The time is now for the IT and marketing guys to be speaking to each other. Digital transformation is forcing that conversation to happen and actually be elevated to a board level in an organisation."