As the global economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a huge opportunity for the world to prioritise digital transformation to build business resilience. The journey towards digital transformation, however, is not straightforward and will continue to present many challenges that leaders will have to overcome to build future-fit organisations.

A recent Business Day Focus 4.0 Digital Dialogue, in partnership with BCX, Johannesburg Business School (JBS) and Liberty Two Degrees, highlighted the importance of a business strategy that embraces digital transformation and how effective leadership and change management can shape an engaged workforce to drive business stability, employee experience, customer satisfaction and profits.

Professor Randall Carolissen, dean of the Johannesburg Business School (JBS), pointed out that tools enabling digital transformation have been in existence for some time already. The JBS has geared itself around an innovative teaching style that focuses on the complex environment of the digital era.

He said that the Covid-19 pandemic did fast-track many businesses’ digital transformation efforts, adding that businesses that quickly adjusted their operations and responded to lockdowns and supply chain constraints proactively have ensured that they are better positioned to face future risks.

Technology allows businesses to leapfrog legacy business models. It also allows businesses to protect themselves against more tech-savvy competitors better. However, successfully implementing technology requires the business to be willing to change and have a change manager in place to drive the change agenda.

Liberty Two Degrees is a South African precinct-focused, retail centred real estate investment trust (REIT) that co-owns a number of quality assets including Sandton City, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Nelson Mandela Square and Midlands Mall, amongst others. Whilst agreeing that the pandemic made a strong case for digital transformation, Pat Masithela, chief information officer at Liberty Two Degrees, stressed that it is important that such transformation be underpinned by clear business objectives that a company needed to achieve through the transformation. This would prevent a situation of deploying expensive solutions that do not deliver value to the business.

He furthermore stressed the importance of taking people within the organisation along on the transformation journey for them to identify with the aims and objectives of the digital transformation and thereby buy into the process.

Abdool Saib, chief of converged communications at information and communications technology company BCX, warned that there is a tendency to underestimate the complexity of getting an entire ecosystem transformed and fully operational. Chief amongst these is ensuring that the business has the necessary skills to implement digital transformation and that the organisation is sufficiently adaptable to pivot.

Businesses need to create competencies around digital vocabulary, for starters and take their people on the digital journey in an inclusive way. At the same time, companies need to consider cybersecurity in an increasingly digital world. Despite these challenges, he said, it’s important that companies remember that this is an opportunity for them to improve themselves and ultimately be more resilient.

To watch the full discussion, click here.

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