Kathy Gibson reports from Reimagine 2015 in Johannesburg – How companies use information is becoming more important than ever in an ever-changing world.

This is according to Mohammed Nalla, head of strategic research at Nedbank Capital, speaking at the Microsoft Dynamics Reimagine 2015 conference today.

Nalla points out that there are massive challenges in the local economy today, with a worrying disconnect between the sophisticated financial markets and the reality on the ground.

“South Africa has massive challenges, but I like to think they are not insurmountable,” he says.

“Some of the technology we are looking at here could help to bridge these disconnects. We need to overcome the short term challenges and superimpose a long-term plan to turn them into opportunities.”

Nalla says it’s not just the public sector that can work on solutions, but there are opportunities for public-private partnerships as well.

“The local economy is not bullet proof,” he says. “And there are challenges. But are we in an emerging market that is pregnant with opportunity? Yes, 100%.”

Rwanda is a great example, he says. The country want to position itself as the Singapore of Africa, and to a large extend it is succeeding.

“The region has a lot of opportunity and South Africa has been the slumbering giant. We haven’t yet changed our level of thinking.

“If we want to model our economies on the same paths as the developed world, we will consign ourselves to low growth.”

On a company level, there is a need to analyse data, Nalla adds. “In my view we have too much data and not enough information.”

For example, he says, economists would be employed by banks or government – and there were two or three private companies employing economists. They saw the need to apply data to judge how to address business.

“This has become mainstream now; and many companies are analysing information to create a powerful tool.”

Technology has the ability to position companies above their competitors, Nalla says, with social media in particular offering huge opportunities. “If you could harness the information, it can be immensely powerful – and boils down to rands and cents, while letting companies develop a competitive edge.

“Ever business is technology rich,” Nalla adds. “But businesses are made up of individuals – so even if the business is not technology rich, the people are. Your engagement with employees and customers hinges around technology.”

Data visualisation in a world where you have a proliferation of device – but the half-life of the data is shorter – means companies need to be able to disseminate it in a clear concise manner, very quickly.

“The days and ages of bar charts are long gone. Data visualisation becomes much more important – make it crisp and concise for your stakeholders.”