No, you don’t need an app for that

Read time 2min 40sec
Stephen van der Heijden, VP for growth at OfferZen.
Stephen van der Heijden, VP for growth at OfferZen.

It may seem counter-intuitive but a mid-morning panel discussion at OfferZen’s first developer conference, in Cape Town this week, highlighted that creating an app is not always the best solution to your problems.

Chatting to entrepreneurs and industry insiders, Stephen van der Heijden, VP for growth at talent marketplace OfferZen, wanted to unpack what it takes for local techies to successfully work alongside other industries.

“Any software developer will have had that conversation with an Uber driver or an aunty who has a great idea for an app that’s going to change the world,” he said. “All you want to say to them is that they first need to prove their business model and solve some of the most basic business challenges before they should even think about developing an app that disrupts markets.”

Tech can help industries and businesses move forward but it isn’t the only solution, said entrepreneur Nwabisa Mayema. “I think we need to understand that tech is just an enabler of business growth. It amplifies and enables what people are already doing. Throwing technology at everything shouldn’t be our primary focus.”

Antoinia Norman, a business founder who helps other entrepreneurs find success, agreed. In order for tech to be valuable it has to be used to streamline and improve the products and services the business already offers.

For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a butchery to launch a fitness app detailing various exercise routines and nutrition tips, said Norman. However, it would be beneficial for the butcher to launch an app with recipes and cooking advice that helps customers to get more out of its products.

“Tech is here to stay. All businesses need to think with a tech mind-set but it is crucial that your efforts align with what the business does.”

Within corporate spaces, IT is typically seen as a cost-saver and not as value-generator, explained Wayne Summers, head of digital IT at Investec.

This perception needs to change. According to Summers, we are slowly starting to see these changes happening as business and IT work together and business starts to understand what IT can actually do.

All too often, businesses want their IT and tech staff to innovate and yet they measure the value of these teams on their ability to change passwords or update software, adds Norman. It’s important that tech efforts are linked to broader business strategy and not just keeping the lights on.

We mustn’t forget that while the jobs of the future may be increasingly digital, there is still an incredible need for the human side of things and for people to support all of this change, said Mayema. This gives people the opportunity to expand on and develop the human element.

“Ultimately, the more we digitise, the more we need to humanise.”

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