May 19, 2020

How to: Make Real-Time Business a Reality in Africa

Social Media
Big Data
Pfungwa Serima, CEO, SAP Afric...
3 min
How to: Make Real-Time Business a Reality in Africa

For the past 20 years, readers and viewers of business and technology publications have repeatedly been told how business is increasingly looking to technology to drive the modern business transformation agenda, and not simply implement it. The good news is that for the first time, the technology actually has the tools to deliver on this promise.

Emerging technologies like in-memory databases, mobile devices, cloud computing and social media are all creating new possibilities so far removed from our current reality that they’re being dubbed “disruptive technologies”.

Welcome to the real-time world, where working from gut feel and general trends just doesn’t cut the mustard any more. Business intelligence is becoming less about looking backward and more about predicting and optimising the future. Businesses need more precise, real-time objective data for decisions.

What we’re seeing right now in Africa is that the hype of big data is now actually being translated into tangible business benefits. There’s a greater level of appreciation for insights and data and a realisation that the volume, size and complexity of today’s data just can’t be handled by traditional means.

In addition, easier technology tools are now available to give people access to predictive technology without having to overinvest in time-consuming training.

The phenomenal successes of internet companies such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn have helped make this approach more real for many in their private lives.

A lot of their success is simply based on effectively leveraging their data: spotting patterns, making predictions and adapting their business to take advantage in real-time. Effectively they’ve set the trend for mainstream businesses and the next way of adopters are seeing the benefits.

While the prospect of becoming a real-time enterprise can seem daunting to some organisations, those companies that have embraced such real-time transformation are outperforming their peers in many areas.

The current reality is that many African organisations are still struggling to deliver real-time information to their business users. According to a 2013 survey by the Hackett Group, while more than half of companies could provide their cash positions in real-time, far fewer had other types of information at the ready.

Only 43 percent could provide customer information in real time, just 28 percent could deliver supplier data in the moment, and less than a quarter could provide an instant snapshot of financial performance.

Those companies that embrace such real-time transformation outperform their peers in many areas. A 2013 global survey of 400 large companies by Bain & Company found that firms using advanced analytics were twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries; three times as likely to execute decisions as intended; twice as likely to use data very frequently when making decisions and five times as likely to make decisions much faster than market peers.

That Hackett Group study found that 70 percent of leading firms—those with mature, tightly-integrated operations—had access to financial, customer and supplier information in near real time, or within one day. Likewise, Accenture found that nearly half of top performing companies deliver key information to business users in real-time.

And those organisations that have embarked on the kind of large-scale integration of people, processes, data and technology required for real-time transformation realise key operational benefits, according to Accenture: 46 percent capitalise on their customer insights, 63 percent are able to analyse costs and benefits in real-time, and 38 percent deliver critical information across devices.

The important thing about this innovation journey is that it’s not just about real-time technology alone; it’s about real-time transformation.

That requires more than new systems and it demands a cultural shift. And that usually doesn’t happen with a big bang. Real-time transformation is incremental—targeted prototypes and projects, metrics setting and gathering, work and rework—and it rapidly delivers increasing value over time.

It’s clear that organisations with the most advanced real-time capabilities will win in the data-driven future. And the time to begin the real-time transformation is now.

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

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.

  1. 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
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. 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
  5. 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.”


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