The impact of digital disruption on ICT companies
As a technology company, we spend a vast amount of our energy on advising our clients, in various sectors, on the ways that they can smartly adopt new technologies, business models and mindsets in order to survive the onslaught of digital disruption.
It seems that almost every industry is in a state of flux – pushed in new directions by the likes of artificial intelligence, high-speed connectivity, scalable Clouds, smart devices, data analytics, distributed ledgers and more. These technologies are certainly no longer buzzwords, or futuristic concepts. They’re having a direct impact on business, right here and now.
But while we may be the ones talking about the impact of digitisation on different industries, the irony is that ICT firms are also navigating their way through a major transition. Traditional ways of providing technology solutions become increasingly irrelevant in the modern era.
In fact, a recent survey by Russell Reynolds Associates placed technology and telecoms as two of the industries under the biggest threat of disruption (joining financial services, media and retail in the top five).
Cloud commoditises almost everything
ICT companies are being asked to reinvent themselves as a number of different forces converge, whipping away some of their most stable revenue streams – particularly in the realms of ICT services and desktop support.
Perhaps the biggest factor is the commoditisation of IT services, driven by hyperscale datacentre players, which leverage massive Clouds to provide a vast range of enterprise tech services across the globe.
When this is combined with rapid advances in industrial-grade connectivity, local businesses are suddenly able to access new applications, platforms and infrastructure literally at the click of a button.
Local technology firms must adapt with agility – working with these platforms (rather than against them) to migrate complex enterprise applications into these new Cloud environments. From there, the value lies in orchestrating services from various Cloud platforms, giving clients a single point of contact to manage all their Clouds while guiding them on all the compliance, legal, and data security considerations.
Another way to ride the wave of Cloud disruption is to extend and customise Cloud services to suit specific local market needs. With this kind of deep specialisation – into specific verticals and regions across the continent – ICT firms can effectively move up the value chain and become true strategic partners to their clients.
Tomorrow’s winning ICT players will be those that apply exponential technologies to local markets, changing their clients’ businesses for the better.
For instance, our work with other technology partners at a large client demonstrated the possibilities when we combined big data with high-speed connectivity, Cloud platforms, modern ERP solutions, and connected devices. The client now boasts an optimised operational environment, with everything managed by a central control centre, and exciting new innovations (such as drone and sensor technology) ushering in an entirely new era.
But it’s not just about the technology itself. The resourcing model for ICT firms will also shift as we dive further into the digital future. Instead of stacking teams with predominantly permanent staff (often deployed to client sites for extended periods of time), the new model will harness the flexibility of the so-called ‘gig economy’.
Forbes predicts that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers, in some capacity or another. “The instant gig economy is moving more towards independent professionals that are using mobile platforms and technology to create ecosystems of work they enjoy,” states the article.
For tech firms, the trick will be to harness the pool of talent (both within the organisation and outside its boundaries), matching key skills for specific projects and needs, composing, rotating and dissolving these ever-changing virtual teams to best serve the client’s needs.
Disruptive technologies are affecting every business, including technology players themselves. It’s only by embarking on ambitious, well-considered transformation strategies that a tech firm can expect to stay relevant over the coming years.
Mpumi Nhlapo is the Head of Demand Management at T-Systems SA
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.”