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Sustainable and long-term business success in complex times requires that organisations embed digital relevance and resilience, says Jan Bouwer, Chief of Digital Platform Solutions at BCX.

A digital-first business is an ever-changing relationship between an organisation and the technology it harnesses to optimise its processes, people and platforms. It is, as IDC puts it, an ‘ongoing shift towards digital business models that mark the next era of digital transformation’. Technology isn’t just an enabler – it has already proven its worth as a decision-maker and optimiser – it’s a critical component of strategic thinking and planning. This is echoed in the IDC Worldwide CEO Survey 2022 where CEOs unpack what it means to do business in a digital-first world – it means profits, cost savings, operational efficiencies, increased revenue and improved customer experiences.

This is echoed in the PwC 26th Annual Global CEO Survey that underscored the value of intelligent and strategic technology investments at a time of deep geopolitical and economic uncertainty. Smart investment into relevant technology is a priority for CEOs who are focused on reinventing the future (60%) while ensuring that the existing business is preserved (40%). The CEO recognises that the business they have today is not one that will necessarily thrive tomorrow, and this means putting the right platforms in place to allow for seamless pivots and built-in organisational agility.

To achieve this level of digital-first relevance and resilience, companies need to focus on clear strategies that enable digital within the business. Digital has to deliver a positive impact on the business. As highlighted above, digital is only relevant if it shows proven value across revenue growth, cost reduction, improved profitability, enhanced customer satisfaction, transformed employee and supplier satisfaction, and trusted gains in governance, risk and compliance. And each of these touchpoints defines a business that’s operating within a digital-first mindset. 

Of course, one of the most invaluable tools in the digital-first toolbox is the cloud. And in South Africa, the cloud market has seen some interesting, if not seismic, shifts in terms of service provider availability, data centre capacity, and public cloud services. There has been a significant increase in investment in public cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and this growth is only going to increase as the global hyperscalers build local foundations. Alibaba, Huawei, AWS and Microsoft have all put time and money into enhancing local infrastructure and service provision, and this has opened up significant opportunities for organisations looking to leverage cloud’s ubiquity and scale in the future.

With this level of hyperscale computing available, companies can adapt their resource usage to any level they need, and they can manage their spend and capacity on demand. Of course, this sounds lovely on paper, but it does expect expertise to ensure that there isn’t bill shock and unexpected complexity. A cloud implementation is only as good as the partners behind it – companies need to know exactly what they are scaling into and how their unique operating circumstances will be met. This takes the conversation back full circle to the key value adds of cost, revenue, customer and people. And it underscores the importance of ensuring that a digitally-empowered cloud-driven environment is capable of the agility and scale the organisation needs to evolve its business and digital transformation. 

Building the foundations of a digital-first business asks that the strategy be focused on the core metrics of success across customer, process, platforms and people. And that it leverages industry solutions and applications that have been developed in line with global best practice and that allow for a modular and iterative approach to transformation. Scale, capability and growth rely on an organisation’s ability to tap into relevant technologies at the right time, shifting technology investment alongside changing business strategies. All these components have to work together like, as the saying goes, clockwork, each cog turning the next wheel in an ecosystem that’s geared for change. DM



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