Africa set to leapfrog into modular computing era
Written by IBM South Africa
IBM PureSystems, now marking its first anniversary, is generating a groundswell of excitement across Africa, where the suites of modular and integrated products promise to simplify and cut the costs of running IT.
PureSystems solutions are based on the premise that advanced IT systems need not be complex to manage. By bringing to market hardware and applications that integrate seamlessly, PureSystems simplifies deployment and management, reducing costs and the resources necessary to run an advanced IT infrastructure. It improves IT efficiency by consolidating applications, databases and infrastructure, reducing IT complexity and therefore improving control, optimising workloads and improving performance, and accelerating applications and data analytics.
“This improved control and efficiency is particularly relevant for Africa, where smaller enterprises are burgeoning, costs must be tightly controlled and IT skills are a scarce resource”, says Bevan Lock, PureFlex Product Manager at IBM South Africa.
A recent IDC study conducted among 621 African organisations across nine countries - Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Tunisia, noted that IT is no longer considered merely an auxiliary business unit used to execute routine operations; it is one of the important foundations of the modern organisation.
But at the same time, IT budgets are being closely scrutinised. In African organisations, operational efficiency, cost saving, and innovation rank among the top strategic priorities for the next 12 months.
The report said: “Globally and in Africa, the traditional client/server technology architectures that have been employed over the last few decades tightly couple application and infrastructure resources and engender specialised silos and management team structures.
“This has led to heterogeneous and complex IT environments and resulted in high management overheads. For organisations in Africa that are still in a build-out phase, it is still possible to avoid the aforementioned pitfalls associated with traditional IT architectures.”
Andy Monshaw, IBM GM for PureFlex, who addressed CIO’s from South African companies and IBM business partners at a training academy held in Johannesburg recently noted: “African companies have a firm grip of the challenges and opportunities related to the changing competitive landscape both regionally and on the continent. Research has shown that 70 percent of IT-related budget in Africa is used as operational expenditure, now what is needed is innovation and efficiency.”
This environment positions Africa to bypass the era of the complex IT environment and move directly to the next phase of IT – the modular, consolidated and integrated set of systems; which support the move to cloud and utility computing.
“Recognising that what enterprises need from IT is changing, IBM designed PureSystems to reduce the IT risks, costs and resource needs of enterprises today. It meets the need for IT systems that support business agility, allowing them to respond quickly to a changing market environment. It reduces complexity and shortens time to market,” said Monshaw. “Across Africa, we are seeing there has been a great need for what PureSystems can deliver.”
In collaboration with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) across Africa the PureSystems family will now be customised specifically for the African market. PureSystems now includes IBM PureFlex™ System- a comprehensive, flexible cloud infrastructure system, IBM PureApplication™ System- a comprehensive cloud application platform system, and IBM PureData ™ Systems, for the management and analysis of metadata.
The IBM PureAfrica product set will deliver to market solutions specifically adapted to African conditions and customised to meet Africa’s needs.
To ensure PureSystems meets African-specific requirements, IBM has staged a workshop process in key regions, where IBMers and IBM Business Partners engaged to identify specific market areas for development. In Kenya, IBM has also opened the 42nd Innovation Centre – which allows customers to see PureSystems in practice, and makes facilities available for them to run proof of concepts. The IBM Innovations Centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town will perform similar functions.
The response has been very encouraging, Monshaw stated. “We are seeing momentum on all fronts – in our partner base, among customers and even in the product itself, as we add capability and functionality.”
PureSystems is the first IBM release in many years to cut across all areas of IBM’s business. This new class of systems is deeply integrated and packaged in a single ready-to-go system that is optimised for the workloads it will be running. IBM PureSystems solutions align with the IBM SmartCloud strategy to accelerate the creation of private cloud environments.
Because they arebuilt on open standards, customers can make choices about how and where to run their workloads based upon their evolving business needs. In its first year, IBM PureSystems has added around 180 vendors integrating their applications into the PureSystems family, says Lock. The year has also been marked by 350 optimised solutions from over 275 leading partners, over 2300 systems have been deployed in more than 70 countries and over 3000 companies have joined the IBM PartnerWorld MSP Program.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”