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What does digital transformation mean for small, medium and macro-sized enterprises?

By Fatima Hassim, Managing Executive for Vodacom Business

Digital transformation has transformed consumer habits. Smart devices, apps and machine learning have allowed the consumer of today to get what they want, when they want it. In addition to this, new digital technologies have caused a shift in customer expectations, which has produced a modern-day buyer, one who is constantly connected, aware of what technology enables them to do and the power that lies in apps. The most notable transformation, though, has to be the realisation that customers often rate an organisation based on their digital customer experience first.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in the era of intersection between people and machines, as more industries embrace the new technologies that are available. Historically, the term ‘revolution’ was often associated with hardships, displacement and economic dissonance. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, is often discussed in an energised, excited type of attitude, more so among Information and Communication Technology professionals.

Digital transformation has the potential to ignite the growth of businesses, corporates and SMEs alike, and the ICT industry realises and understands the benefits that businesses will gain access to in the digital era. New technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and Big Data represent some of the most exciting opportunities for our market, but due to their lack of understanding, it can easily cause uncertainty in the public. Herein lies the importance of ensuring optimal understanding around digital transformation.

When tackling the topic of digital transformation, we go about doing so in two ways. The first involves reorienting the organisation, for the purpose of making strategic use of digital technologies, such as cloud platforms, mobile apps, social networks, connected infrastructure and even products. The second involves using digital technologies to change the nature of the business itself. SMEs can undergo digital transformation in two ways, either by transforming the business into a digital organisation, or by transforming the aspects or offerings of the business digitally. One is about digital technology usage, whilst the other involves the business transforming digitally.

There is a need to focus even more on small businesses, to ensure that they are well-equipped for the digital revolution. We have about 1.2 million SMEs. Sadly, about 70% of SMEs fail within the first two years of operation. This failure is due to issues such as financial management and administration. The advantage of the digital era is that SMEs can potentially gain access to tools that will help them to access to solutions to help them overcome the challenges that they are faced with.

Digital disruption typically marks changes in consumer needs and therefore working with the tide allows SMEs to fulfil these emerging needs, keeping existing customers happy and opening up opportunities for new customers to find out what they need from the business. In order to enable digital transformation, businesses need to adopt digital technologies, such as cloud, enterprise mobility solutions, smartphones and unified communications.

Digital disruption is where people and companies have used emerging technologies to change the way they do business. Uber is a great example of disruptive technologies. The business model addressed many of the challenges traditional meter taxi companies could not namely a choice of drivers, competitive pricing and an on-demand service to your doorstep. They also addressed a need consumers did not know they had – to have the feeling of a personal driver for a fraction of the price. Uber leveraged on simple technologies: geo-location, an app and basic algorithms to match drivers with their nearest customers to deliver an on-demand ride hailing service that took every market by storm.

The introduction of Uber has brought about a drastic shift across the taxi industry, a shift that has successfully created jobs. Disrupting the taxi industry within the United States, went on to gain traction on a global scale. The key to digital disruption lies in the availability of the product or service, how it disrupts the current way of doing business, and of course availability on demand.

Vodacom Business, in a bid to fuel digital transformation throughout the SME sector, has focused on diverse, hybrid and integrated solutions. Vodacom is focused on not only improving its overall network performance, but also the performance of its customers. By focusing on increasing the service layers, we can ensure that the benefits of these investments can be felt by both the mobile operator’s consumers and enterprise partners. We need to be relevant if we ever intend on establishing ourselves as a leader in the digital space. We intend on driving investment in intelligent networks and systems. The transformation starts with us.

Vodacom World is a proud Partner of the NSBC.