SMEs in Africa focusing on digital businesses

Posted on August 22, 2017 12:00 am

Africa’s Small and medium-sized enterprises commonly referred to as SMEs, are focusing on digital business transformation solutions.In a nutshell, digital business transformation is simply the dramatic ways in which businesses are adapting to meet the requirements in this digital era, one in which they are facing profound and far-reaching changes in the way digital technology is created, managed, analyzed, and consumed.No doubt in Africa, digital business transformation is a paradigm shift. As African organizations race to digitize more and more of the services they provide, they enter the age where more of their customers are using more technology, from more locations, on more devices, for more of the time.In African countries, businesses are at a critical juncture where they have adopt and adapt technology to meet the demands of customers anytime, anywhere demands and also employees, partners, and technology departments and those who fail to do so risk becoming obsolete. One of Africa’s emerging shifts in responding to such demands is the creation and delivery of digital services like mobile-first applications that are intuitive and intelligent, bringing contextual information to people based on who they are, where they are, and what they are trying to do. Apps are providing automated self-service, crowd-sourced collaboration, and are continuously refined at high speed.With new demands on business, more moving parts than before, and the need for speed of delivery without sacrificing quality and security, the old ways of managing technology is no longer working. A new approach is needed, one that’s real-time, intuitive, automated, secure, and open. To stay competitive, traditional businesses in Africa must transform into digital enterprises to meet the changing needs of their customers, employees, partners, and technology departments.Those who will digital their business, will be organizations that have a digital-first mindset for new services, and is actively working to convert and automate internal and customer-facing services.

SMEs will have to work with larger firms to foster digital collaboration between bigger businesses and their SME vendors and suppliers, which could uplift entire sectors with an improved business ecosystem. That might involve, for instance, electronic order management and inventory platforms that allow for the secure and efficient exchange of documents like invoices. SMEs are in the best position to adopt new technologies as they are agile and adaptable, combining a high risk appetite with a culture of experimentation. It is SMEs, rather than multinational corporations which can make decisions and adopt digital solutions relatively quickly and painlessly.Also, telco companies can offer digital services in areas like fleet management and retail analytics, while banks need to commit to giving SMEs digital solutions in cash management, trade finance and working capital management.African countries are witnessing the impact of digital transformation from a unique perspective. The proliferation of technology means there’s more complexity to manage, and the elevated role of technology in businesses means the impact and outcome of the services technology provides have never been more visible or more valued. As a result, priorities in technology are shifting and a balance between new methods and traditional approaches needs to be struck to manage the sheer scale of the digital transformation challenge.With so much dependence on technology for the future success of the business, technology finds itself in the position of needing to excel in every dimension. Innovative services that give the business a competitive edge also need to be rock-solid, cost-efficient, and secure. They should also be simple to audit, provide business insights, and continuously improve to meet business goals. For many African SMEs, this introduces a tension between the need to transform the business through innovation, and the less glamorous work of keeping the lights on and having an effective operating platform. It’s necessary to define a foundation for digital transformation that allows technology to manage the current and future complexities that digital transformation presents.

Contador Harrison