Will digital disruption lead to inclusive growth?
The current global economic and geopolitical uncertainty, as well as ongoing disruptions, have brought to the fore the importance of conversations and actionable plans around digital transformation. It is important that as leaders in business and governments, we focus these actions on how we can seize the upside of digital disruption.
Disruption, particularly in digital technology, presents opportunities that could result in the kind of inclusive, sustainable growth that is required to materially impact the current levels of inequality and poverty. Our EY report, The Upside of disruption: Megatrends shaping 2016 and beyond, describes disruption as commonly meaning a transformation of business models and value networks driven by technology or business innovation. This disruption can come from public policy, macroeconomic trends, geopolitical events and other developments, upending more than business models and value networks, transforming political systems, regulatory regimes, social compacts and more.
Any transition comes with threats and opportunities, in Africa this means viewing the current digital disruption as a chance to change the status quo and move from commodity driven economies to knowledge driven economies. Given the digital strides made by Rwanda and Kenya, I believe that Africa has the potential to realise this opportunity. However this will depend on how well we as business and government leaders can leverage our partnerships to best upskill the next generation of Africa’s workforce.
EY has identified three primary forces of disruption, which I think are important to keep an eye on particularly digital disruption, as they are intertwined and all play a big role on how inclusive growth can be achieved.
The three forces of disruption include:
African countries have increasingly become integrated with the global economy in recent years. However, accelerating regional integration remains key to promoting greater levels of regional investment and trade. This means that the continent needs sufficient infrastructure in order to connect with itself.
What does this mean for businesses?
- Businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of the infrastructure gap in Africa to ply their capital, innovation and expertise.
- Business strategies need thinking in less conventional ways, below and beyond the country level.
- Businesses should have strategies that involve positioning themselves at key hubs as regional integration speeds up.
What does this mean for government?
- Collaborative leadership across governments will transform the promise of regional integration into a reality.
- Development Banks and the African Union as well as similar institutions must take the lead in investing in cross-border infrastructure.
- Tightening governance to assist Africa to compete globally for the capital it needs to support infrastructure development.
- Learning from the challenges in current large infrastructure projects.
Africa’s young and growing population has the potential to become a powerful growth engine globally. This can happen if inclusive growth is accelerated, by promoting entrepreneurship and aggressively investing in education healthcare and general welfare.
What does this mean for businesses?
- Taking a proactive stance on providing innovation and competition opportunities and addressing the structural challenges to enhancing business services.
- Promoting local content and enterprise development as a key priority.
What does this mean for governments?
- Collaboration and partnerships with business and donor agencies needs to be the norm across the continent.
- Investing in education and vocational training programmes, ensuring that labour market policies are flexible, improving the ease of doing business and facilitating the growth of SMEs through the business incubator model.
Physical boundaries and barriers remain a challenge in trade, commerce communication, service delivery and human development in the continent. Technology transcends these barriers and offers potential for Africa to transform.
What does this mean for businesses?
- Better productivity, enhancement of existing products and services and the development of new products.
- Fostering the tech community across Africa through support of local hubs and ensuring ease of access to capital to tech enabled businesses.
What does this mean for governments?
- Delivering citizen-centric services using technologies like cloud computing.
- Assisting in promoting the growth of tech-driven businesses across Africa through skilled labour forces, affordable access to the internet and fostering a culture of innovation.
As we look toward the future, a best case scenario for Africa will be one that leads towards an inclusive sustainable growth path. This is underpinned by the ability to connect markets and polities within and beyond the continent – with emerging digital technologies being the catalyst in this regard and the related collaboration between the public and private sector.
Ajen Sita is Africa CEO at EY
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.”