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The Enterprise Mobility Forum, held at the Arabella Hotel & Spa in Hermanus in the Western Cape this week, brings together some of the top minds in the digital sphere to discuss issues key to businesses facing a rapidly changing world.
The new reality
A lot has been written about how the rise of companies such as Uber and Airbnb has challenged well-established sectors over the past few years, but anyone thinking this trend is a fad that will eventually die down is very wrong, said Anthon Muller, Executive Head of Managed Enterprises at Vodacom.
‘You just have to look at film group Kodak’s demise as a warning of what can happen when you refuse to adapt to the digital age.’
- Anthon Muller
This is especially true for business leaders who assume their enterprise will not be affected by digital disruption. ‘You just have to look at film group Kodak’s demise as a warning of what can happen when you refuse to adapt to the digital age,’ he said.
Kodak invented the digital camera, but with 140 000 employees and a market valuation of US$28bn, it did not see the need to move from its its ‘bread & butter’ chemical film-based business operations.
In the end it was superseded as the leading image generating platform in the world by Instagram, a company that does not even make digital cameras, only had 13 employees and was sold to Facebook for US$1bn.
Muller said a company that has done well in seeing the need to change is Mercedes-Benz. The German car maker surprised many at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year when it revealed the F 015 Driver, a prototype self-driving car.
They could have easily decided to make cars as they have always done over the past hundred years, but instead they asked the difficult questions about where they would be in 10 years’ time if they did not invest in this type of technology, he said.
The auto manufacturer is not the only one adapting to digital. Muller cites an example: ‘Vodacom is implementing a solution with a security company that allows it to better manage its workforce using an app in their employees’ mobile phones. This way, the company can use GPS technology to track if a guard is on site and doing patrols.
‘The company can also use this location data to compile their payroll, freeing up their managers to meet with clients rather than completing reams of paperwork.’
No hiding from disruption
Matthew Griffin, the founder of the UK-based 311 Institute – a leading authority on disruptive innovation – agrees with Muller that there is no hiding from disruption.
Griffin said when he looked at emerging technologies, he found 217 that could change the world in dramatic ways. You can already 3D print food and muscle tissue, and there are even efforts to rewrite DNA.
‘There will come a point,’ said Griffin, ‘where these technologies can work together. When this happens, it will accelerate the rate at which a new technology can disrupt a business, from seven years to immediately. This means that the biggest danger to companies is not technology, but ideas.’
Facing the challenge
But even if companies do take up the challenge of going digital, it will not be an easy transition. These enterprises will need to understand that the transformation will change the nature of their business, said Muller.
For one thing, businesses can no longer be organised in silos, with operating structures working independently from one another. Another change will be making employees and customers central to the conversion. Without their buy-in, the migration to digital will not work.
Also speaking at the Forum, Lindiwe Kwele, Deputy City Manager at City of Tshwane, warned against a one-size-fits-all approach to putting together a digital transformation plan. ‘Service providers think they can come up with a solution for one partner; and then “cut and paste” it and bring it to us.’
This kind of cut-and-paste conversion does not work out well, as it does not take into account what makes an organisation unique. ‘This is why we need a tailor-made solution,’ she said.
Your partner in digital transformation
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