South African organisations are standing at the edge of digital transformation, and the next few months should see early investments come to fruition.
According to a Microsoft study, 48% of South African organisations have already begun a digital transformation journey, and 44% are planning to do so within the next 12 months.
However, their level of maturity in terms of digital transformation is still quite low, with the main thrust of their endeavours still centering around mobility, online and collaboration.
Zoaib Hoosen, MD of Microsoft SA, points out that digital transformation goes well beyond this. “It is about re-imaging processes, and rethinking the business.”
And, while technology is an enabler of digital transformation, it is not the most important thing.
“It’s about how you use technology,” Hoosen stresses. “Digital transformation is about the impact on business processes, about making money It’s about leveraging the asset you have, and looking at how to transform products and offerings.”
Cloud computing is one of the big enablers, he adds. In the survey, companies said the main benefits of cloud are lower investment costs, better data availability, increased scalability and flexibility and more reliability.
Potential challenges on the road to digital transformation include a shortage of skilled people. “There is a real hunger for skills,” Hoosen says. “It is the top issue on the digital transformation journey.”
Other challenges include defining success measures and identifying benefits to the business. Compliance is also an issue.
In fact, companies placed compliance as their top priority, followed by the need to improve operational efficiency. Identifying and implementing opportunities for growth was only the third priority, with the operational imperatives of lower costs, improved risk and optimised internal operations also featuring.
The ability to create digital products and services is the least priority for South African companies, only slightly behind things like effective business, innovation, process transformation, leveraging talent and moving into new geographies.
“If you are still worrying about regulation you are not out of the digital transformation gate,” Hoosen says. “We believe that companies have to start cultivating a digital mindset. This will help them to re-imagine the business.”
Although local organisations are still at the very beginning of the digital transformation journey, Hoosen says it is encouraging that they are getting the right building blocks in place, following which they should be able to scale quite easily.
“We are on the cusp of digital transformation,” he says.
When it starts, it will happen quickly, Hoosen believes. “We are now talking about digital speed; we need to be thinking about a level of acceleration that is in line with Moores Law.
“Speed in this world is what will determine the winners and the losers.”