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The subject of digital transformation is not new and is typically related to upcoming technology megatrends such as cloud computing, mobility, Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and social platforms. There is no doubt that the growing connectivity of people, machines, and businesses has reformed market demands, and, to keep up and stay competitive, organisations must adjust by digitising their processes and business models. According to Mandla Mbonambi, founding CEO of Africonology, digital transformation presents many new opportunities to grow and expand into the rest of Africa.

“Organisations must adapt to a new, innovative way of delivering on their brand promise, ensuring effective customer engagement, bringing in fresh and creative ways of thinking, and empowering the company to make well-informed decisions as a collective,” he says. “Digital transformation is not an option anymore. Globally, and on the African continent, organisations must embrace digital transformation as a key enabler of innovation and to drive continuous improvements that will ultimately translate into business growth.”

Mbonambi says it is particularly important to African organisations, because it enables entry into new markets, access to new client bases and more innovative ways of provisioning products and services that are in line with market demands. “Moreover, African organisations need digital transformation to drive profitability, customer satisfaction and increased speed to market along with borderless entry into new markets within the Africa diaspora and beyond. That said, for digital transformation to be effective and yield results, there must be a clear organisational vision.”

For African organisations to become more competitive in a global context, they need to first redefine their strategies and business models to make sense in the current business context and markets they operate in. “Their next step is to then identify the right technology fit for their strategy in relation to the products and services they offer and leverage that technology to enable them to be more innovative and flexible in their offering and the way in which they deliver that offering through different digital channels,” he says.

“The key to successful digital transformation also lies in moving away from focusing on standalone technology and adopting solutions that will allow organisations to empower their people and support them in making more effective, better informed and faster decisions,” says Mbonambi. “We cannot change the volumes of data we are exposed to, but we can improve the ability of our employees to leverage that data and translate it into information quickly and accurately to support decision-making. While the decision to digitally transform usually lies within the top levels of management of the organisation, it is crucial to involve your employees throughout the process. This requires a change in mindset, training, ensuring they buy into the redefined business model and an in-depth change management programme as the culture of the organisation will also be impacted.”

The risks of not transforming and ensuring that you do it properly cannot be over-emphasised. “If organisations delay digital transformation, or do not transform at all, they risk being ousted by competitors, which will result in a loss of market share, revenue and could even lead to shut down,” says Mbonambi. “In this fast-paced environment where continuous improvement and innovation is required to stay ahead of the game, organisations simply cannot risk this. We have already seen several organisations in the recent past filing for bankruptcy, because they are not transforming fast enough, or at all.”

He adds that it is not about scare tactics, but rather emphasising the need to transform in a strategic and prioritised way. “We know that organisations that do not transform risk being left behind or forced to shut their doors. The key here is to ensure that the entire organisation is on board with the transformation process so that the organisation can unlock the full potential of their products and services, while embracing the opportunity of attracting new customer bases as they evolve,” says Mbonambi.

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