Every business is a digital business these days, whether they recognise it or not.

In this new age the desire to be disruptive instead of being disrupted is becoming a high priority, particularly for those businesses who place an emphasis on early adoption of technologies and the development of innovative solutions.

What about those who are aware of the impending digital disruption that the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G have been touting as delivering myriad possibilities and opportunities?

If your business is not natively digital, what’s the best course of action?

This was the primary focus in a recent chat we had with Julian Thomas, principal consultant at PBT Group, who unpacked the significance of digital and the importance of being prepared for its impending disruption.

The right talent

When it comes to driving innovation within a business, Thomas says the right kind of employees need to be in place for an organisation to tap into digital disruption.

While trying not to generalise, he’s found that the younger generation of employees are often the more forward-thinking, embrace experimentation and have a desire to innovate at a rapid scale.

As such, it’s important for a business to have the right kind of employees in place across the organisation.

“It’s about getting those in the more traditional corporate world to understand the impact that IoT and digital is making. Not only in silos or individual use cases, but the length and breadth of the organisation,” explains Thomas.

“When it comes to looking at one’s business, it takes creativity, and a lot of the time it takes fresh eyes to do that. If you take the entrenched IT department of a massive corporate for example, that have been there for the last 20 years, they may not be best placed to look at the business and identify the best means of innovation,” he adds.

Thomas also advocates for a startup mentality to be adopted.

“There are several organisations and industries out there that can be truly reinvigorated by looking at the way they operate and embracing changes,” he says.

The current players

When looking at the businesses that he engages with on a daily basis, Thomas is finding that there are clearly those that are better geared towards disruption than others.

One industry in particular that’s embracing this thinking is the banking and financial sector, noting that he cannot remember the last time that he had to go into the bank in order to get something done.

“I’ve got my digital app, and I can perform all my banking transactions digitally. This clearly shows that banks were aware of the disruptive effect that digital will have, and they’re already ahead of others in creating solutions and services around it. Banks are doing extremely well when it comes to reducing their footprint and empowering their customers,” Thomas points out.

Another industry, or rather a select number of businesses within an industry is the retail space. Thomas highlights a select few organisations which are digitally astute in the way they innovate for their business and cater to consumer needs.

“There are a handful of retailers working hard at getting their digital apps into the marketplace and engaging with their customers on a number of platforms. Added to this are a select bunch of retailers that are trying to make the lives of their customers easier, by letting them know where the closest location is for specific items, for example,” notes Thomas.

Looking at the retail industry in particular, he is finding that innovation and preparing for digital disruption is not something that is happening across the board, but rather a small number of retailers that are working on preparing themselves by making digital a key part of their business.

Ready to react

While organisations in the financial and retail spheres may be better equipped than others to deal with the digital disruption, primarily as several of the more high-profile ones, like Amazon, were ‘born’ in the digital space, Thomas says that other businesses can also prove as innovative.

More specifically they can ready themselves for the requirements of digital disruption, even if they may not have any particular strategies in place.

As such, while one waits for innovation to strike, they can still ensure that their business has the agility in place when a digitally disruptive solution is developed.

According to Thomas, getting one’s house in order is one of the most important steps that a business can take, especially when the form that IoT, 5G or other disruptive technologies may take for their industry, are still forthcoming.

“IoT is a concept that’s here to stay, but it’s still difficult to predict where it will be used in South Africa,” says Thomas.

What Thomas warns against, is finding oneself in the situation of being ill-prepared or unable to respond once digital disruption comes to the fore.

“The message for large corporates, is that you may not know what you want to do from a digital enablement point of view, but one of the first steps you can take without having a specific goal in mind is looking at your infrastructure and existing processes, and think about modernising them,” he stresses.

“Getting everything on a digital platform will better prepare your organisation for when that game changing idea or initiative comes to fruition,” concludes Thomas.

 

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]