Fujitsu's operations in Africa
Can you tell us why Fujitsu is a good fit for Africa?
From a technology point of view, because of the scale of the region, business continuities are of key importance. The failure rate is very relevant to Africa in that the lowest failure rates are from a supportive and maintenance point of view. Fujitsu has the lowest failure rates in the industry, a position that is unique for Africa. So, it’s a very practical reason, but it’s very relevant to Africa. On top of Africa being unique and beautiful, preventative maintenance and 24/7 monitoring of hardware and predicting hardware failures has become very important. We currently have a replacement from Germany, we monitor all hardware 24/7 and it’s amazing to see how you can solve incidents before the cloud even knows about the incident. For me, that is very important. Then obviously, it’s all about skills and skills development. We’ve got groups of multinationals in all countries representing, delivering on SOA’s. and I don’t know if you know this, but Fujitsu is in the leader squadrons in integrated systems in Gartner. So that sort of skill and knowledge, and skill transfer in country and the commitment that we make, I think that really is the most relevant point for me when answering, “why Fujitsu in Africa?”. It’s more of a practical response then a hyperconverged one. We’ve seen that we’re growing rapidly in Africa so yes, that’s from an African point of view.
Clearly Fujitsu have big plans for the continent. What specific products are Fujitsu working on for Africa at the moment?
I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about a really new solution we’re really excited about. It’s so brilliant, yet the solution is so simplistic. We’ve come up with a kiosk device for the unconnected workforce. When you think about the unconnected workforce (it’s basically in mining, manufacturing and the automotive industry) there’s a lot of people that don’t even have a smartphone. Their interaction with technology is almost non-existent, but when they do go out they encounter technology. But when they go out they encounter technology. One way or another, we need to educate them. If you take for instance a big railway firm that has 40,000 unconnected workforce people, obviously, they need to get trained on technology. They have a kiosk, where they go to the kiosk, and the company just moves information through to them, they can learn about what’s happening in the company so that’s the company pushing information done. More important for me, is that they can look at their salary slips, they can put in their leave, they can apply for positions, whereas before they sometimes just don’t because they don’t know about it. There was a third subject regarding municipal accounts, or accounts for school for their kids, so these people have to catch two taxis, five trains, or whatever, to go and pay a municipal account, or to go and pay their school fees. What you have here, is you give them access to the device, in a training centre where in fifteen minutes they get educated, they pay their accounts or whatever, they don’t spend a lot of their own money. The productivity - it’s so simplistic, yet it’s something that’s really kicking off in South Africa and that we’re pushing further into Africa in the next 18 months.
The kiosks seem like a much-needed solution. How will they overcome the challenges of erratic power supply and blackouts?
Obviously, the technology needs to be robust enough to handle it. There’s a green sustainability point of view from Fujitsu and their devices use much less power than their competitors. That definitely assists from a power consumption point of view. Even if you think of the fact that equipment can go up to 45°C. Obviously, the power usage of a server room given the air con and everything, puts a heavy strain on the power availability. Although, I don’t know if you know that South Africa black outs are due to coal, nothing else.
Tell us about your data centre services. What do you offer?
From a Fujitsu point of view, building data centre infrastructure its very often complex and time-consuming. From a client point of view, the DIY approach can be risky and expensive. It’s not their core competence and should not be part of their core delivery. Ready to run systems with simple design and simple procurement, that’s key for them. Also, our reference architectures give shorter project timeframes, which is very important because process turnaround time is becoming shorter and shorter and the flexibility to adapt is there if you use some of these integrated solutions we have. Our brand is known as PRIMEFLEX. And in the PRIMEFLEX store you’ve got for PRIMEFLEX for SAP HANA. Interestingly, we’ve got 80 percent of the market. Then obviously, there’s PRIMEFLEX for OpenStack as well, PRIMEFLEX the hybrid cloud, the k5 v-Shape selection with VMware.
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.”