Digital transformation (DX) remains an essential part of the business landscape in South Africa as companies across all industries digitalise and automate business processes while leveraging data to create value, improve decision-making and enhance strategic planning. A recent IDC survey found that 58% of CIOs in South African organisations with more than 100 employees believe that operational transformation is a key priority while 56% believe that digital-first experiences are critical to business resilience. DX, says Derrick Chikanga, Research Manager, IT Services at IDC, offers clear value to the business across cost efficiencies, agility, workforce transformation, and customer experiences but organisations are finding it challenging to sustain the momentum of their DX journeys.
“It is clear that digitalisation is delivering on its value and benefit promises for local organisations, but the journey isn’t easy,” he continues. “Organisations find it challenging to identify suitable solutions, prioritise areas of investment, balance existing operational costs with budgets for innovation, and to manage internal resistance to change.”
Overcoming these challenges is a key strategic business priority for companies in South Africa, particularly if they want the tools, agility and stability required to ensure they thrive in the current economic environment. Added to this, companies also need to prioritise operational transformation and product innovation to ensure sustainability, improve efficiencies and embed product innovation and diversification.
“South African leaders also have challenges around reducing the digital acceleration gap while keeping up with emerging technologies and, unfortunately, the gap has widened due to the digitalisation slowdown in most companies,” says Chikanga. “Digital momentum has decreased as companies struggle to apply emerging technologies in an environment that lacks business and technical skills and companies are struggling to acquire the right talent to implement their DX initiatives.”
For organisations to thrive in the current market and within economic volatility, they need to overcome these complexities while aligning DX with cost, security, and operational considerations. This is not a quick fix, rather it is a strategic vision that puts the ethos of constant reinvention at the heart of DX. It is about undertaking key actions that will allow for the organisation to not just invest in DX intelligently, but to sustain DX momentum over the long term.
“The first step is to identify the processes that are most appropriate for automation and to use them to improve efficiencies, consistency, scale and integration across different lines of business,” says Chikanga. “They should also ensure their technology investments are assessed for performance and business value. As DX maturity evolves throughout the organisation, analytics should also gain better business relevance, especially as digital processes will add to ever-growing data streams within the business. These can be analysed to highlight opportunities and stresses within the business and can leverage AI and ML to deepen enterprise intelligence over time.”
As with most conversations about technology, thriving in uncertain times asks for the organisation to embed the ability to adjust and adapt at speed, and with resilience. DX is not a fixed strategy, it is a flexible and innovative approach that leverages technologies to adjust course, fine-tune approaches, and use analytics and intelligence to make smart strategic changes on demand. It is wedded to the need to invest in people - skills remain scarce in South Africa so organisations need to upskill, manage internal skills, and enhance skills in critical areas across security, cloud, and line of business.
“Finally, companies need to choose the right platforms as this is critical when they reach the inflexion point at which progress slows down,” concludes Chikanga. “Platforms, both in terms of technologies and partners, can tremendously accelerate DX with the right partners helping them to align their digital strategies and create roadmaps that address immediate needs and long-term demands. This approach will also help them to prioritise AI, automation, security, and innovation in line with their sector and priorities as an organisation.”