Adapt Or Die – The Key To Unlocking Business Agility

Business agility has always been a priority for all C-Levels in any organisation. Here are ways to go about it.

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Lack of strategy gets in the way of business agility.

Technology will be the critical path towards recovering the economy. Those of us that can adapt will survive. It makes the importance of digital transformation today much clearer than ever. Now, organisations are required to innovate fast and put technology to work with a new way of doing things. Customers are investing in more secure technology to support online businesses. We really can’t dismiss the opportunity to drive greater creativity, automation and digitisation through data.

Technologies like AI and Machine Learning are giving businesses insights from the vast amount of data that is available to them. With technology, aspects of our lives have changed, such as our daily commute. And the speed of digital transformation is incredibly quickly. The opportunity introduced today is to rethink and redefine the future of how we work, and how we do business to create a stronger and more resilient future.

Walid Yehia, Dell Technologies EMC Regional Presales Sr. Director for Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, was speaking during a CIO East Africa webinar themed Achieve True Business Agility, says, “Business agility has always been a priority for all C-Levels in any organisation. I think what is changing today are the attributes of that agility. The definition of agility a decade back is not the same as it is now. Post-pandemic agility is going to be an accelerated version of the agility we had pre-COVID-19 in March. Everyone is talking about agility, and they are looking at the CIO, CTO or Head of IT as a true business partner who can help with the transformation.”

“Business agility has always been a priority for all C-Levels in any organisation. I think what is changing today are the attributes of that agility. The definition of agility a decade back is not the same as it is now. Post-pandemic agility is going to be an accelerated version of the agility we had pre-COVID-19 in March.

Dell reveals that they did two versions of the same study in 2016 and 2018 across 4,600 customers. They asked, where do you think you are in the maturity scale of digital transformation? In 2016, 5 per cent said they were leaders in digital transformation. Majority turned out to be evaluators and followers. In 2018, a repeat survey discovered that the 5 per cent held constant with a slight rise in early adopters. But the majority still held their status as evaluators and followers. In May 2016, the World Bank talked about Digital Dividends in their World Development Report. Walid observes. “This is mainly my opinion/ This is relevant for Africa specifically. The World Bank said that digital transformation over Digital Dividends, is one of the ways we can achieve or close the economic gap between developing and developed countries.”

They did yet another survey to discover what the barriers to digital transformation were with regards to their clients. “I wouldn’t say that I am surprised by this because none of it is technology related. These barriers are time, skills, funds and lack of strategy. Skills might be the only thing that is tech-related.” (A CIO East Africa survey conducted during the webinar unearthed the two most significant barriers to digital transformation in East Africa: funds, and lack of strategy in that order.)

So, what does it mean to be agile?

  • You need to create what customers are asking for expeditiously. There is a lot of innovation behind this, and innovation is something that can’t be outsourced.
  • Delivery has to be quick, efficient and constant, at speed.
  • Protection against all threats arising in the market on the daily.

With all this, you will be able to go to market with speed and scale. This applies to all industries, whether a behemoth or an SME. Interestingly, Walid mentions that the attributes of agility we are dealing with right now will not stick as the attributes keep changing. “We understand that there are lots of legacy applications in the world, and that we cannot exactly advocate for organisations be done away with them, and have the users start from scratch. That is not economically feasible. Legacy applications will never disappear. Aside from that, only 25 per cent can deliver a new application almost every quarter.”

“We understand that there are lots of legacy applications in the world, and that we cannot exactly advocate for organisations be done away with them, and have the users start from scratch. That is not economically feasible.”

The roadmap to agility is well defined to a large extent. And this is what informs Dell. It includes applications, IT, workforce and security. None of which can be done overnight. It also varies from one customer to another. The whole idea behind a transformation is the need to optimise spending on traditional IT and instead invest in new and emerging prospects. That particularly references companies that spend an upwards of 70 per cent of their budget just to keep the lights on.

And want to keep what they already have. The legacy. Which bumps up their overheads. They then do not have the budget to spend on innovation. “What we want to do is switch from 70 per cent traditional to 50 per cent modern, where the other 50 per cent would be invested in innovation and the future of the organisation.” A Dell survey purports that 75 per cent of business applications will be built either in-house, custom-built, and not bought by 2020. “I must reiterate. You cannot outsource innovation. It must be in-house,” emphasises Walid.

Looking at another approach – and we all know legacy and traditional applications form the majority of what is in our data centres today – which no one is asking you to replace, is your landscape. Through this Dell witnesses how you have managed the traditional and new apps, whether you will replace them as Saas (Software-as-a-Service) on the cloud, or you have to build a new or modernise up to retiring the application. Legacy apps are kept running because of the data. Which, it should be noted, can be migrated to a more cost-effective platform. This saves money which can be invested wisely in other areas. Dell has a way with this. They first assess what you have, then build a realistic plan on how you want to move forward through this journey of innovation on and with recommended platforms.

In case you are a start-up, a new business will not be innovating alone. Success is found in connecting and establishing business partner relationships. The ability to connect increases the levels of optimisation, all while increasing the level of security. While this is happening, you should also think about low-codes. While at it, look at how you can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI). That, or automate current processes to be more efficient. AI and Machine Learning are some of the areas seen as very possible and rewarding when it comes to applications. This automatically brings up Big Data.

“What we want to do is switch from 70 per cent traditional to 50 per cent modern, where the other 50 per cent would be invested in innovation and the future of the organisation.”

“Everyone is talking about data. Data is the fuel of innovation. The biggest challenge in Africa is how to leverage your data. How to understand it. Even before you start engineering this data and collecting from different sources, build your dictionary and understand the value of data. This will not just be consumed by IT but also business leaders. Data gives you insights into your business which helps with performance.”

As we get deeper into remote working and working from (WFH), it is becoming apparent that the workforce must be able to work from anywhere, access any applications at any point in time in a very secure manner. That is precisely the way one must look at their workforce transformation. It is about how to achieve agility in your workforce without compromising security.

Finally, we circle back to the CIO East Africa poll where funds and lack of a strategy are barriers. Walid has this to say. “This is more or less what we have received from the rest of the world. Don’t try to boil the ocean. We are at the beginning of our journey. With innovation, you cannot predict where you land before you begin. But, it does require some internal marketing to at last identify the one or two killer ideas that you would like to start with to make a business impact.”

He continues. “My advice here is, try and connect with business users. What are the one or three things, maximum, that you want to start focusing on that will make the biggest impact? You do not want to start with the most complex ideas. Try and balance between the most impactful and the simplest ideas that you can implement. You want to create quick wins in the beginning. In a nutshell, encourage business users to come to you with ideas to implement then show the results. Be specific. Create simple visions. Market internally. Go for quick wins. Make that your strategy.”

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