IT and technology have proven their mettle as invaluable business tools, especially over the past two years. The agility and flexibility offered by intelligent digital implementations and solutions have been pivotal at a time when companies have had to rapidly adapt to changing customer needs and working conditions. Today, the role of IT has never been more significant, particularly when it comes to ensuring business stability, sustainability and profitability. This is why, suggests Oluwole Babatope, Senior Research Analyst, Telecoms & Networking at IDC Africa, CIOs are lying awake at night – they are under constant pressure to maximise current resources, find new ones, and invest in infrastructure that will drive expected business outcomes.
“These are the times when CIOs must show that IT is not a cost centre, but that it is integral to overall business strategy and increasing market competitiveness and business growth,” he adds. “However, they have to achieve this lofty goal while juggling limited budgets, limited access to IT talent, and managing silos of shadow IT infrastructure across multiple business units.”
Most business sectors are impacted by these complexities, primarily because the pandemic continues to be felt across the economy, particularly in the services industry. The government lockdowns of the past two years have given customers more freedom to choose how they interact with organisations, and with their services. They want the omnichannel touchpoint experience that offers easy access to products, seamless payment options, swift access to call centres for support, and all this on any device, from any location.
IT is required to empower this omnichannel, and the organisation’s ability to fully realise its potential. IT is the key to successfully managing each customer’s lifecycle journey and this, plus the effortlessness of effective IT, is becoming a key marketplace differentiator.
“This is why there is increased pressure on IT departments to ensure that the business remains competitive and to increase its share of customer wallets – even as the customer buying power is being threatened by adverse macroeconomic conditions,” says Babatope. “Addressing these concerns head-on requires that IT be agile and nimble, capable of adapting swiftly to changing market dynamics throughout the entire business value chain. This is particularly relevant when it comes to focusing on customer requirements and building an engagement chain that attracts new customers while holding onto the old.”
Retaining old customers, while attracting new ones, is a strategy that has long assured business success, however, achieving these goals is increasingly complex. The organisation is expected to create unique experiences for these customers and to align shifting consumer expectations to internal IT capabilities – and this is a difficult tightrope to walk when skills and budgets are a challenge. This is further complicated by the need to ensure that any IT investments for 2022, and beyond, are future-ready and capable of withstanding the unexpected uncertainty that lies ahead.
“There is no one size fits all approach to technology, innovation or best practice,” says Babatope. “Strategically, organisations should look to investing into talent and technology that allow for them to build more efficient and agile business systems and approaches. IDC expects themes like improved customer experience, efficient business processes and innovative business models to be instrumental in driving technology investments across the organisation.”
All these elements come together to create a challenging and complex melting pot that the CIO has to transform into functional and intelligent infrastructure that can – can evolve, adapt, and be sustainable. The future of work is likely to gain traction within organisations that can leverage it to its full potential, and future work policies are expected to be integrated into overall organisational HR policies to ensure workforce improvement and employee engagement.
“In addition to these shifts in approach and strategy, the CIO has to juggle marketing and supply chain approaches to ensure that their business retains a competitive advantage across the lines of business,” concludes Babatope. “It is not easy, and it needs more hours than the day permits. But with increased demand comes increased innovation and this will support the CIO in creating ecosystems and investments that deliver long-term value for the business.”