More than 90% of South African organisations are either already engaged in digital transformation or in the process of planning and evaluating their transformation strategies.
That’s according to global technology research and advisory services firm International Data Corporation (IDC), which says vendors and channel partners will also have to evolve their strategies to meet their customers’ changing needs.
Jyoti Laichandani, IDC’s group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, explains that vendors, service providers, and channel partners must focus on building long-term partnerships around their digital transformation narratives.
“You have to think about the way you position yourself, sell to your customers, and add value to their businesses,” he says. “Vendors must also consider the new stakeholder groups they will have to engage with outside of the IT or CFO role and decide how they are going to engage these line-of-business leaders in product, sales, marketing, and other areas, because digital transformation is both an IT and a business project.”
Another key consideration is their existing and future skills requirements, both internally and in the channel ecosystem.
“It is quite clear that the channel that does not bring in the required new skills sets around innovation accelerators such as augmented reality, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things is going to be less relevant to their customers as they move forward on their digital transformation journeys,” Lalchandani adds.
“End users are telling us that they are being asked to do more with the same or less; therefore, it is critical that vendors and partners help them to focus less on operational issues, such as keeping the lights on and managing cost and risk, enabling them instead to foster and drive innovation within the enterprise.”
Mark Walker, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC, says the way vendors go to market is going to have to change completely.
“The IT decision-makers of the future are the CEO and COO, and their mandate is very different to that of the CIO. They are not directly concerned with uptime, but are more worried about the strategic impact, business returns, and how technology will help them retain and expand their client base.
“Relevance is the most important thing here; if the technology is not relevant or doesn’t have a business outcome or some type of market or social benefit, it will be dead in the water. Similarly, it must be affordable, fit for purpose, and effective.”
Walker adds that localisation will be a crucial factor: “If you don’t understand the local culture, business paradigms, and environment, you are not going to succeed. The only way around this is through effective partnerships that empower the entire channel ecosystem as well as the client.’
Cloud has continued its upward trajectory and IDC believes that by 2020, two-thirds of IT spend will be on a combination of private, hosted private, hybrid, and managed cloud.
IDC’s research manager for IT services in sub-Saharan Africa, Jon Tullett, says the market is seeing a lot of spending growth on infrastructure-as-a-service and cloud.
“Software-as-a-service is growing about eight times faster than on-premise software growth. That said, there is still a market for on-premise software. We are starting to see organisations increasingly embrace a mix of on-premise and cloud technologies, and private cloud is frequently a component within that.
“We’re seeing a lot of on-premise software being augmented with cloud services, frequently on isolated data snapshots.
“So, it is not the typical hybrid model where it’s one live snapshot with a mix of cloud and on-premise workloads that are balanced. What we do see is the cherry picking of services that are in the cloud, using them to augment existing solutions and sweat that asset a little bit longer.”
Tullett says as global players increasingly enter the market, local players must identify a niche for themselves within the channel to compete: “There is a tremendous opportunity for cloud brokerage, multi-cloud management services, optimization, and migration. We also expect most enterprises worldwide to embrace a multi-cloud strategy this year.”
George Kalebaila, IDC’s research director for telecoms and IoT in sub-Saharan Africa, says the time has come for telcos to go beyond focusing on just the network to shift their attention to how they can harness innovation accelerators to drive more value for their customers.
“They must ask themselves how they can harness the core of artificial intelligence along with the power of analytics and IoT to create valuable solutions to solve tangible business problems.”
IDC predicts that 2018 will be the breakout year for IoT as it starts to become mainstream. “The foundation blocks are in place,” says Kalebaila. “In South Africa alone, the addressable market opportunity for IoT is expected to grow to $1,7-billion by 2021, but because the ecosystem is fragmented, so is that value. Where in the past connectivity held a large portion of this, most of the value now lies in services and platforms.”
Kalebaila recommends that vendors and telco providers focus on the business outcome and not the technology. “Focus on understanding local problems and creating localized solutions for those. Innovation through partnerships will be crucial for success.
“And lastly, IoT is nothing without analytics. Ensure you have the right analytics in place so that you can make informed decisions based on the data that is generated through IoT solutions.”
Security, of course, remains a big concern, particularly in today’s connected environment, but Tullett believes there is a misalignment between enterprise spend, expected outcomes, and the threats that are emerging from innovation accelerators.
“While we expect to see an increase in breaches this year, we are also seeing that the breaches are outpacing the ability to respond,” he says. “So, the impact of these breaches is growing faster than the amount being spent on security.
“Quite often, our ability to mitigate those risks is very much a previous generation capability, so we are focused more on fixing the last round of threats and not focusing on the emerging ones.
“Cloud-based security solutions are growing quite rapidly as they give customers the ability to deploy solutions quickly through the cloud,” Tullett says.
“In South Africa, we have also seen very high growth in managed security services spend, which is a first step in addressing the misalignment. Companies realize that they do not necessarily have the security skills in-house and choose to outsource. What that doesn’t address is the non-technical issues relating to the end user, as people are frequently the weak point in the security chain.”
Tullett says suppliers must ensure that every component they are providing into the infrastructure can integrate, provide security, expose data hacks, and provide checks and balances on itself.
“Don’t assume that your technology is not being manipulated in some way. The ability to respond very fast to emerging threats is crucial, especially in the cloud space. You must also be realistic about the risks that you are introducing into the organisation.
“All too often we see threats being exploited due to misconfiguration or some complexity that the customer does not have under control. Buy products and tools that flag if you have forgotten to apply a patch, your authentication is not up to scratch, or there is unexpected activity on your network.
“Here, big data also plays a big role. Mine that data and make sure that you can provide deep and detailed analytics. That way, we will start seeing more proactive organisations emerging, focusing on detection and mitigation rather than just prevention.”