The recent lockdown was a catalyst for businesses around the country to re-evaluate their product offerings, business models and systems. Those businesses that are digitally enabled have a significant competitive advantage over those that are not digitally enabled, particularly as more customers than ever before are choosing to shop online.
In 2020, 21.9 million users in SA have made online purchases, indicating that the extent and size of the online market in the country is already significant, pointed out Casper de Villiers, Senior Vice President of Data: Compliance and Shared Services Operations at Clickatell, a specialist in mobile chat solutions. The company offers real-time customer engagement and transaction platforms that enable businesses to connect, interact and transact with their customers via mobile chat and other digital channels.
The pandemic gave businesses and consumers the push that was required to become more digitally enabled. The result has been a significant mindshift as more people realise the convenience of online shopping – and this will only accelerate, said De Villiers.
“Those businesses that are not digitally enabled have lost out,” he said, adding that digitally enabled businesses are able to reach more customers and sell more products, ultimately growing their bottom line.
De Villiers said he was firmly of the opinion that digitally enabled businesses are more innovative and that technology is the fuel for job opportunities.
Companies that had already considered Cloud and had some kind of recovery and continuity strategy in place were in a much better position going into the lockdown than those that were not, agreed Kevin Craig Mortimer, CEO of Triple4, an IT management company which provides support services to its customers, including helping them to unlock the value that efficient IT infrastructure can do for their business. This value includes increased revenue, saved time and enhanced competitiveness.
If a crisis such as the pandemic was ever going to happen, this was a better time for it to occur than in previous years, said Mortimer, adding that a massive shift has occurred in the past year.
The first step to any digital enablement, he said, is to get all stakeholders in the business to buy into the digital transformation journey and to manage any inherent fear that may exist. No hurdles, he stressed, are insurmountable.
Mortimer added that a digital transformation can ensure quick wins to allow for business growth.
Digital transformation is no longer an option, said Alison Jacobson, Director of The Field Institute. Ultimately, it’s about doing business better and about doing more with less, more efficiently – with the help of technology.
The biggest barriers to change, she said, are fear, ignorance and inertia. Digital literacy is increasingly about the desire to keep on learning. And while there is a perception that digital transformation is expensive, there are affordable commoditized solutions available, particularly as far as back office management and HR solutions are concerned.
Digital transformation does not have to encompass the entire business from the outset, she pointed out, but could be limited to electronic invoicing, the finance system or even electronic document signing; the latter which has become a popular option during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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