Eskom has announced enhancements to its digital platforms, including a new chatbot called Alfred to report faults and an upgraded customer portal and app….
With 2016 in full swing, it’s never been more important for the IT industry to evolve in order to remain relevant. From an increasing shift to the cloud and third platform technologies, to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide IT Industry 2016 Predictions centre on digital transformation. In South Africa, while we are certainly seeing similar trends, we still need to address the skills and awareness necessary for us to excel.
Digital transformation at the heart of corporate strategy
According to the IDC, by the end of 2017, the majority of CEOs will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy, as they apply digital technology to all aspects of business. Linked to this an increased spend on third platform technologies and cloud-based infrastructure. Locally, digital transformation is becoming increasingly important as businesses are considering social and mobile analytics and the cloud to a greater extent, and we are beginning to see a transition.
That said, it is still a work in progress in South Africa. This is especially so when it comes to working in the cloud. We’re still seeing a large number of businesses focused on internal solutions. It is often the smaller businesses that have the capacity to move to the cloud more easily, with the larger enterprises having to follow a process when it comes to transitioning. However, the businesses that can make the shift or partner with industry cloud platforms are in prime position to offer their customers a more complete, packaged solution to meet their needs.
Changing the way we think about software, data and customers
As we continue down the digital transformation road, it stands to reason that businesses will ramp up their software development capabilities as they shift their focus to the creation of digital apps and services. A lot of software development is starting to focus more on extracting specific information and understanding who the customer is to have a more targeted approach. In addition, the embedding of cognitive services into apps is also beginning to gain ground, although there is still a lot of room to fine tune these according to the information that is actually needed.
In the spirit of extracting information, the IDC also predicts that businesses will expand their external data sources significantly. Businesses certainly need to be drawing from multiple data sources to consolidate and verify their information. We’ve seen this trend growing as several of our customers that work with multiple service providers are making use of the information from each of those sources to better analyse what is going on in their industries.
Of course, as we better understand our customers through these various means, it also stands to reason that businesses need to overhaul their digital front door to support the volume of customers coming from a variety of touch points. There is a growing trend for businesses to find inventive ways of getting in touch with their customers by making use of the data they extract to understand how to be relevant in their communications.
The Internet of Things continues to grow
When thinking about how to connect with customers to gain real-time insights into their behaviours and needs, IoT provides the answer. It has the potential to cut out the middle man and allows businesses to connect directly with their customers. In the IT space, it’s possible to embed IoT technology into a printer, for example, so that the manufacturer has control over the sales of consumables and repairs, as well as the opportunity to improve the product based on direct customer feedback. This changes the role of IT vendors as we know them.
However, there are still challenges in the IoT space, especially when it comes to the infrastructure being put in place. IoT is not entirely open platform yet, and for proper drive into this space we need more collaboration between different entities. As long as everyone continues to have their own protocols and standards, we are still a few years away from having a proper working solution to focus on IoT devices.
Innovation and relevance key in 2016
While we still have a way to go, South Africa is keeping up with global IT trends. As a country, we have a lot of innovation to offer and we have the potential to take giant leaps especially in the IoT space. Our challenge in the coming years is to ensure that we upskill and encourage people to be part of the IoT ecosystem and the IT sector in general. We also need to educate other sectors about the value that working in the cloud and using remote monitoring and management of data can add to business.