Kathy Gibson is at the IDC CIO Summit 2022 – There can be no doubt about the need for digital transformation as business needs undergo rapid and often disruptive change.

An AWS survey demonstrates that 94% of business leaders say the pandemic forced accelerated transformation, fast-tracking them by 29 months.

This is particularly true in South Africa, says Terrence Naidoo, solution architecture leader at Amazon Web Services.

Locally, there was an initial need to stabilise cash flows and reduce costs. At the same time, more resilient solutions were needed, along with support for work from home models.

This all drove the need to innovate, digitise and enable new business models.

“This was all enabled by cloud in South Africa,” Naidoo points out. “So the technology is important.”

But there are elements beyond technology that need to be considered, he adds. Companies need to define a business vision, business strategy, technology strategy, gap analysis and business case/roadmap.

Over and above the need to focus more on holistic alignment, a culture of innovation, sustainability and talent.

Holistic alignment is about bringing together the many different parts of the business with the technology, process, organisation and product to reduce business risk, improve ESG, grow revenue and increase operational efficiency.

AWS works with companies to envision the transformation that brings together participants to talk about objectives and project outcomes.

“This is probably the most difficult thing to get right,” Naidoo says. “You have to create the alignment because it is important to get right.”

Once alignment is achieved, companies need to make sure they continuously align throughout the transformation journey.

The next perspective is a culture of innovation through culture, mechanisms, architecture and organisation.

“You must have an intentional focus on innovation across all teams.”

A focus on sustainability is key, Naidoo adds.

As an industry we know about digital transformation and can connect directly to customers – now we have to ensure we are collecting the right data and analysing it in the right way.

Companies need to architect with sustainability in mind from the start of the process through to collecting and analysing the data – and use the tools available to monitor and analyse the environment.

A focus on talent is the last issue, but arguably the most important.

“But we need to build those skills in the local market,” Naidoo says. “And you have to address talent at the start of every transformation journey.”

AWS has committed to upskilling 29-million people on cloud technologies by the end of 2025, he says.