In the first few months of 2020, the world was spun on its axis. Faced with a challenge we had not yet encountered on such a scale before, we saw the globe come to a standstill. And as life resumed we were hit with the realisation that there is no going back to the way things were.

By Theo Odendaal, pre-sales manager for Hitachi Vantara, South Africa

The novel coronavirus has not only changed the way we live, shop, or work, it has also had a significant impact on the South African economy. The strict lockdowns necessary to curb the virus’ spread has meant that many businesses in the country are struggling as their revenue streams have narrowed or even dried up.

A survey conducted by the African Management Institute found that 87% of small businesses were concerned about their ability to survive the current crisis, while 67% said their businesses had been dealt a blow since the start of lockdowns, curfews and social distancing. A further 62% of small and medium enterprise owners said that the pandemic had had a huge impact on customer demand, while 49% noted that their product supply had been greatly affected.

Leveraging technology for economic recovery

It’s no secret, the current economic environment has significantly increased the need for meaningful digital transformation, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. Digitisation holds the key to greater operational efficiency, increased productivity and more innovative product offerings, meaning it also has a critical role to play in business recovery and ultimately economic stability.

But transformation is not a certainty. To ensure lasting change, organisations need to become more agile and rapidly pick up the pace in their transformation journeys so that we can enable large-scale reinvention of service delivery and our country’s economy.

Despite the country moving down to lockdown level 3, many employees are still working from home and organisations have had to incorporate digital platforms in some form, such as collaborative tools to enable remote work and facilitate continuity.

However, these measures are reactionary. They’re just plugging the holes in the ship so it doesn’t sink.

To truly weather the storm, South African businesses need to take a proactive approach to ensuring business continuity and prosperity by building stronger, waterproof ships. The current crisis has shown just how important it is for businesses to be able to adapt to any change or disruption quickly.

True transformation requires good data infrastructure

The right data gives businesses the ability to identify and effectively respond to threats, disruption and opportunities by helping businesses make better decisions faster and improve on efficiencies to increase productivity.

But quality data needs good data collection and management systems, and flexibility and adaptability require an agile data infrastructure. With nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day around the world, data infrastructure is an essential part of any business’ digital transformation.

Data is the bedrock of the technologies that could catalyse long-term change in the way we do business. AI and cloud computing are only as good as the data to which they have access. Data infrastructure supports technologies and their application. For example, it provides support for AI frameworks, facilitates the seamless processing of AI tasks, optimises AI management to deliver optimal performance and helps to improve machine reasoning.

But what exactly does agile data infrastructure look like?

Creating agile data infrastructure requires better governance of data, reduced complexity, simplified management of data and optimised accessibility to datasets. But this does not need to be a costly endeavour.

Businesses can implement solutions that precisely address their specific needs or bridge gaps that will facilitate an agile data infrastructure environment. Data infrastructure solutions are then able to drive faster and more reliable operations through platforms that deliver data to applications. For example, Hitachi Vantara’s Modern File and Data Services solution simplifies data management and controls the cost of file services, while the Intelligent Infrastructure Operations solution accelerates innovation and improves efficiencies and resilience.

If we think of an organisation as the body and technologies such as AI as the brain, then data infrastructure is the skeletal system that keeps everything upright, together, and moving. With the right infrastructure, businesses will be poised to integrate technology that can transform their organisations to adapt better to change with less risk and less costs.

With the right infrastructure, South Africa will reap the benefits of emerging technologies for years to come, not only enduring the current economic climate but accomplishing so much more than they ever thought they could.a