Kathy Gibson reports from MyWorld of Tomorrow – The digital world is here – it is not going anywhere and no industry or organisation is immune from digitisation.

Tony de Sousa, managing executive: solutions business at Telkom, points out that while digitalisation can improve operational efficiency, there is a school of thought that says it is all about the customer, about delighting the customer and increasing loyalty – which will lead to increased business.

“Digitalisation is very disruptive, but there is plenty of opportunity,” he says. “Where do you sit? Will you be disrupted or look at the opportunity?”

De Sousa stresses that digitalisation opens up new possibilities. “I am really excited about the new possible for many reasons. We are able to improve the lives of every South African and digitalisation will contribute to that significantly.

“It’s sad that we continue to source technology from the western world. Digitalisation will enable us to start businesses and products around digitalisation here in South Africa and Africa. You don’t need to employ lots of people, have expensive offices or huge mainframes.

“We need to embrace digitalisation as it gives us the opportunity to leapfrog the rest of the world.”

Among the factors driving digital transformation hinge on a focus on the customer – and gaining customer loyalty will be the new barrier to entry.

“The power is shifting to the consumer,” De Sousa says. “Big business can’t dictate anymore – it’s about me. And organisations need to embrace this.

Digitalisation is about the integration of digital technologies into everyday life. It’s about convenience, experience, simplicity, intuitive technologies and the realtime experience.

In addition, says De Sousa, content is important. “And in the new world, everyone is involved in generating content. I can express my delight or dissatisfaction and post it. This means content tends to be exceptionally positive or exceptionally negative.”

Digitalisation is driving new services, new products and new business models, as the new generation of hyperscale companies demonstrates.

These hyperscale companies are 100% digital, they are different from other companies, are purpose-built from the ground up and are cloud-based. These companies all started with a single product, but have grown enormously.

The hyperscale companies that are the poster children for digitalisation, according to De Sousa, are Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Facebook and Google.

These companies have realtime customer insight and engagement, he adds, and they are platform based.

“These companies hide the complexity of their systems from users, and they are 100% data driven, based on the insight they get when customers interact with the platform. They use algorithms which determine the content they serve to customer.”

These successful hyperscale companies have embraced a platform approach. In the future, however, De Sousa believes that the platform will swing to the consumer, and the consumer will start to manage his own interactions and engagements.

The point of digital disruption occurs in the intersection of technology companies, consumers and corporates, De Sousa says.

“Technology organisations produce a lot of technology. Corporates tend to be slow in adopting the technology but consumers are quick to do so. This leads to points of friction where the consumer demands that organisations embrace technology that he prefers to use.

“It is in the disruption zone that new companies emerge. They deploy new business models that the consumer relates to. They enter new markets that focus on the customer.

“Hyperscale companies all operate at this intersection of disruption.”

De Sousa says four elements are generally accepted as the drivers of digitalisation: cloud, big data, social media and mobility. Telkom believes there are actually seven elements and has added machine-to-machine communication, unified communication and collaboration, and seamless connectivity.

“Most organisation have embraced one of these elements and look at it on its own. The most common is mobility,” he says. “But the use of mobility is about enhancing the existing offering in most cases.

“What is of interest, however, is when all these elements start interacting with each other. This is where we get ambient intelligence from data sets we’ve never considered before. What we need is to identify a new service or product, or a better way to interact with the customer, and to be more proactive.”

At the point of intersection, and where the seven elements act in unison, is where the new opportunity is for Telkom and for other companies, De Sousa believes. “This is where we will discover where we can go into the future.”

A fundamental shift in the way companies need to operate is in the idea of realtime business. “We need to talk about these things in realtime; run processes and analytics in realtime; and engage with the customer in realtime. That is a fundamental shift and difference from the way we operate now.

“When all the elements act together there is the opportunity for new products and services, and new business models.”

Digital companies will be built on platforms, but there are some challenges to achieving the digital platform. Among these is the fact that traditional systems don’t give us a unified view of the customer.

“If we look at the seven digital elements, you need to figure out how to solve this problem,” De Sousa says. “There is traditional data and realtime data that needs to be managed, and a good way to do this is using platforms and APIs.

Platforms need to work with three elements, De Sousa says.

The customer wants a consistent user experience, conveniently, 24/7, from any device and it should be personalised to their specific needs.

The engines offer customer insight, business rules and algorithms, intelligent realtime engagement, APIs and ecosystems, and enabled a realtime marketplace.

Organisational DNE is data driven and digital savvy; it lets companies do things differently, enables rapid product launch, drives disruptive business models, and offers scalability and reach.