Leader.co.za - Management, Training and Career Advice for Business Leaders

22 AUGUST 2017
Gearing up for digital transformation
Technology has already impacted the way we bank, the way we travel, how we holiday, communicate and do business. And the evolution is not over. On 5 September 2017, Leaderex will focus on the opportunities, challenges, trends and inevitable transformation which digital disruption is bringing to Africa and the world.

Starting from 8.30am at the Sandton Convention Centre, heavyweights like Pete Janse van Vuuren from the CIO Council; Washirika Holdings’ Romeo Kumalo; Justin Spratt from Uber; MyGrowthFund’s Vusi Thembekwayo; Microsoft’s Zoaib Hoosen and Cathy Smith from Cisco will be on hand to discuss hot topics like The Future of Digital Businesses; Digital Disruption; Global Tech Trends Impacting Africa and The State of IT Skills in South Africa.

One session not to miss will be delivered by Len de Villiers, Group Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Telkom and chairman of the CIO Council, who will be unpacking The Evolving Role of the CIO. De Villiers believes “there is no business that is successful today and is not digital” and “if your business operates outside the mobile application world you are in deep trouble”. De Villiers will highlight steps for incorporating digitalisation into your business and how to assemble a business process management intervention with teeth.

CIOs like De Villiers are vital on this journey, but it also requires a business model that is agile and up to the task. This is the focus of the Transforming Business Models presentation by Scott Gibson, Dimension Data’s Group Executive: Digital Practice.

Gibson knows full well that the role of CIOs and IT professionals in this new world is vital and he believes that “CIOs and IT professionals should be ensuring that their IT architecture is designed or re-designed to cater for the increased adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) and other digital-age technologies”. Notes Gibson: “All processes that can be automated should be investigated and innovation encouraged to implement RPA as far as possible. Company structures and legacy silos need to be reconfigured so that the organisation is responsive to change and is agile.”

While RPA is still maturing, Gibson believes this is the big trend to watch in the coming years as it rapidly becomes mainstream: “Examples of this are the automation of non-complex processes into enterprise applications, chat bots in core customer processes like contract centres and service desks as well as machine learning combined with predictive analytics to influence automated processes.”

This speaks to the pervasive impact which digital disruption will have on clients and end-users. Valter Adão, Partner at Deloitte Digital Africa, will delve into just this in his Transforming Customer Experience discussion, which examines how customers are becoming more comfortable interacting with brands in a seamless way, and what this means for the future. A great practical case study of the customer experience by Grant Field, CEO of FedGroup, is an essential session for any professional looking to meld the theory with the practice and understand the impact this can make to an organisation’s bottomline and customer satisfaction.

This taps into Janse van Vuuren’s sobering point that “the big truth is that the customer has driven digital transformation, not the IT guys. Digital transformation is part of value creation and growth, and just a little part of digital is disruption. Disruption is just a buzzword.”

But what a buzzword and, for those with a futuristic focus, one of the day’s highlights is sure to be the Internet of Things (IoT) demonstration, presented by IoT.nxt. The demo will be a practical, real view of the effect IoT has on our lives, says Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt. “There is a lot of talk around digital disruption and loads of slideware around how IoT works [but] people still think IoT is about managing milk in their fridge. IoT is very real and it brings a huge amount of value and it is bringing about huge amounts of change.”

Every industry will be touched, affected or advanced through digitisation, and IoT is an underpin to that, says Steyn. “Anywhere you need real time data and you need to leverage off big data, that’s where IoT comes in.”

Have we even begun to even scratch the surface of how IoT is going to transform our lives in the future? No, says Steyn. “IoT means connected devices, connected things. It is the first foundation for getting you connected. Once everything is connected then we plug in big data and artificial intelligence, and that is happening right now.” Tesla founder Elon Musk calls this evolution the single biggest risk to humanity, notes Steyn, and it is certainly unregulated.

“People are being beaten by bots all over the place, in playful ways like games, but we are certainly moving into an age of intelligent robots,” says Steyn, who will be touching on high-level issues like strategically understanding digital disruption, blockchain and getting the foundation right in his presentation. But, he notes, “it's a bottom up approach as much as a top down approach”.

That accords with Janse van Vuuren’s views that digital is about agility across the board, not just on a piece of paper. “You can have all the agile tools at your disposal but if your product and testing isn’t agile then it doesn’t matter,” he says. “People have to be agile too. We have to change the culture of the people.”

Leaderex 2017 goes some way to doing just that, he believes. “It is not all about digital strategy, it is about how to exploit the digital that is there,” says Janse van Vuuren, who believes the youth and mobile uptake across Africa will be significant forces in the future. “The youth don’t see boundaries, they use this technology with freedom,” he says. And that will be a game changer.
Useful resources:

Join South Africa's largest gathering of executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on 5 September 2017 at Sandton Convention Centre. A day to network, challenge conventional thinking and learn from the country's top CEOs and thought leaders. Visit our website.

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