As organisations around South Africa scrambled to continue functioning with employees working from home it became painfully clear that digital transformation had been slow.

This goes for both the private sector as well as the public sector though one could argue that the many within the former have made moves to go digital for some time now.

But even with that in mind, there are many more businesses which have still not embraced digital transformation. According to chief digital officer at e4, Ryan Barlow, there are multiple avenues through which organisations can pursue digital transformation – it’s just a matter of taking the leap.

“Digital solutions are established enough to grow and evolve, but if organisations want to remain relevant, and have digital-first and ultimately digital-only solutions in place, they need to transform with a sense of urgency,” says Barlow.

The tools are available to organisations but Barlow says that the problem comes in when it’s time to transform. Compliance and governance often stymie this process but COVID-19 has acted as a sort of unknowing catalyst through which digital transformation is no longer an option but a necessity.

A report from PWC showcases that no local manufacturers are embracing digital transformation in a meaningful way. To add insult to injury, growth expectations (as regards digital transformation) remained at the level they were almost two years prior to the publishing of the report.

We are also encouraged at the rapid response from government during the pandemic and how it has embraced the digital era. Of course more can be done but small victories still count.

“COVID-19 has changed the way business is driven in our country, leadership has realised the importance of technology and how technology can enable service delivery quickly. Several digital solutions are implemented in the short space of time, and services were able to be delivered promptly to the needy,” says Public Sector Director for Software AG, Stanley Rabasotho.

But South Africa still faces multiple barriers that make digital transformation slow going. Several of these barriers have been highlighted during lockdown and perhaps the most notable is a lack of internet infrastructure.

“Lack of connectivity infrastructure plays a part in installing the path to digital readiness as well as uncertainty around cloud consumption because of security concerns and non-automated process,” the director says.

Siloed data that has no integration with other systems and lack of collaboration with IT and the rest of the business all lead to hiccups in the process of transformation.

What the public sector should be doing now is accelerating its digital strategies. By doing this it can fast track 4th Industrial Revolution promises of things such as smart cities and better service delivery through digital platforms. Just imagine not having to rely on a third-party application to know when the lights are going to go out.

However, Rabasotho also says that digital transformation must start at an individual level.

While at first we were taken aback by this statement there is an element of truth to it. Many of us are averse to change and that rings true in many areas of our lives.

Over the years there has been a lot of chatter about how AI is going to replace humans in some jobs and this surely makes folks hesitant to embrace new technologies as they may end up replacing the employee. Getting buy-in from the folks who will use these systems then, makes sense.

This harks back to an interview we did last week with Lenovo Data Centre Group President for the EMEA region, Giovanni Di Filippo.

During that interview, Di Filippo said that businesses should insure that when implementing new solutions, employees are involved in the process.

Digital transformation then is not a simple process and requires a gentle, guiding hand.

Unfortunately the lackadaisical approach until now means that many businesses are at a disadvantage given the current circumstances.

Don’t read that as if it is now too late for digital transformation, it isn’t.

However if you aren’t seriously looking at how your business or department in the public sector can embrace digital solutions, you may question your own decision making in the future.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]