Digital transformation is top of mind for companies around the globe. But is digitalisation relevant in the South African market?

The answer is that there is definitely a disruption of the traditional business models that we know, says Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior systems engineering manager at VMware Sub-Saharan Africa.

Digitalisation is certainly disrupting the business mode as operations become more digital, he says. And IT is helping to enable these changes.

Vanson Bourne conducted research on 2 000 IT decision-makers and 2 000 heads of lines of business globally, in companies with more than 1 000 employees.

In South Africa, there were 100 respondents, being companies with 500 or more employees.

Importantly, shadow IT is no more, Jansen van Rensburg says. This is because digital has now become mainstream.

The research found that 57% of South African business leaders agree that IT has become more decentralised or fragmented in the last three years. And this is despite the fact the 58% of IT decision-makers want IT to become more centralised.

“This is a big challenge,” Jansen van Rensburg says. “To have these disparate systems but still have control over things like security is a problem.”

However, cloud computing is delivering business benefits. More than half of respondents say that cloud gives the business more freedom to drive innovation, while 61% says it gives them the ability to launch new products and services to market faster. Meanwhile, 59% say it is increasing their responsiveness to market conditions.

“But left unchecked, these decentralised systems could cause difficulties,” Jansen van Rensburg says. “Innovation might be driven forward, but if its not managed correctly, control is taken away from IT and IT could become irrelevant.”

The survey reveals that 51% of respondents believe decentralisation creates a duplication of IT spending, while 58% believe is has caused a clear lack of ownership and responsibility for IT. Worryingly, 68% believe it can result in the purchasing of non-secure solutions.

“Business wants to run their own systems but if there is a security issue it becomes IT’s problem.”

The balancing act is to offer freedom while providing control, Jansen van Rensburg says. According to this study, 80% of people believe IT should enable lines of business to drive innovation but must set the strategic direction and be accountable for security. This is compared to 67% of respondents in Europe.”

IT leaders feel that core functions like network security and compliance (50%), storage and private cloud-based services (28%) should remain in their control.

In addition, 38% of respondents believe application test and development should stay with IT, 36% believe public cloud-based services should, 24% opt for disaster recovery and business continuity remaining with IT, 24% for application management, 40% for desktop and mobility solutions, 16% for third-party application purchasing, 24% for storage and 20% for employee-operated devices.

In summary, according to this survey, South Africa is really not that different at all from what is going on in other countries, says Jansen van Rensburg.

The research found that business models have been disrupted and that digital transformation is critical.

The cloud has enabled this transformation, giving users access to more data and applications.

This process caused a shift of technology ownership away from the IT department to the lines of business, but this led to escalating costs and security compromises.

It is important that organisations balance freedom, allowing lines of business to innovate, and control in the form of empowering IT with management.

“We are offering organisations a choice, so they have the freedom to innovate using any cloud, take control and remain competitive,” Jansen van Rensburg says.