Kathy Gibson is at IDC CIO Summit in Zimbali – South African companies across the board are embracing new technologies to help drive business change.

All of the technologies that are making waves today – AI, ML, RPA, CX and more – have to make a difference in either revenue generation or cost-cutting, says Mark Walker, associate vice-president: South Africa at IDC.

For instance, as the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves, the application of the technology is moving from descriptive to prescriptive and starting to add real value.

In the area of blockchain there are major moves, but use cases are still being developed. Walker believes that by 2021 blockchain will start to create value change while standards will be developed by 2023. It is only much later that it will become embedded in computing.

Some of the top use cases for blockchain are asset/goods management; cross-border payments and settlements; identity management; regulatory compliance; and trade finance.

Organisations in various industries are all looking to new technologies to drive their businesses going forward.

“We used to be a bank and needed to make your money safe,” explains Mladen Alfeldi, CIO: ROCC at FNB Consumer. “But new generations are happy with virtual banks. How can we compete with them?”

In an attempt to compete, traditional banks are pushing out so many new apps and services that they are starting to look cluttered, Alfeldi adds.

“Now we need to start pulling back. And we need to start seeing the customer as a customer in totality; and offer you the best solution for you.

“We are fully aware that if the customer doesn’t see a value proposition – well, they are a click away from another bank.

“A lot of what we have learnt from digital natives is that the focus is not on the provider, but on the customer.”

The aviation industry has led in some technology advances, says David Motlafi, head of department: ERP at SAA.

“For instance, engines have always relayed back information to the control centre,” he points out.

New strategies revolve around taking the customer from the kerb to the gate, to the destination. This means realtime information has to be available, with IoT helping to track and guide the customer through the process.

Even an industry like cement is looking to technology and how it will be a disrupter.

Louise Van Der Bank, CIO of AfriSam, says data is important and is being drawn into business systems in realtime.

“We do have plans to get to IoT,” she adds. “Right now we are asking which technologies can cut costs or increase revenues. There are a lot of opportunities and we are looking to enhance those.”

Key focuses for MMI Holdings are also around data, says Yosheen Padayachee, CIO of MMI Holdings.

“There is also a huge change in the thinking from business – there is now a conscious decision to move from a product-centric business model to a customer-centric model.”

In terms of the technologies being employed, automation offers opportunities. Robotic process automation (RPA) and chatbots are also interesting, she says.

Padayachee says cloud computing is under consideration, particularly around software as a service (SaaS).