/ 19 August 2022

Digital acceleration gives businesses the edge

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Companies that embrace digital acceleration gain a competitive edge over competitors in many ways. (Photo by Davide Pischettola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

One of the biggest effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the business world was the acceleration of organisations’ transition to contactless delivery and remote workforces. Now businesses have to automate their workflows through artificial intelligence (AI), mobile technology and cloud services. This shift has given birth to digital acceleration.

Digital acceleration refers to the speeding up of the adoption of new technologies in a bid to digitise different business systems. Companies that embrace digital acceleration gain a competitive edge over competitors in many ways.

Businesses have to accelerate their digital journey if they are to remain relevant and profitable in the new normal. There are five major economic drivers that benefit directly from digital acceleration:

Remote working: Top talents across industries now want to work for employers who allow them the flexibility to work from home. Any employer who wants to attract the best of the best workers and gain an edge over competitors must therefore invest in digital tech tools that facilitate remote working.

Customer demand: The pandemic introduced many consumers to the world of online shopping and contactless deliveries. Businesses have to digitise service and product delivery to stay competitive.

Automation: Businesses need to reduce human involvement in order to increase efficiency and minimise human errors in service delivery. Complex robotic and intelligent automation solutions have become integral components of online selling and customer service.

Cybersecurity: With cloud adoption, businesses boost their agility, IT resilience, customer experience and cybersecurity.

Predictive analytics: AI has the ability to read customer behaviour and generate insights that business managers can then use to make informed decisions. AI makes forecasting and planning in a digital, fast-paced business environment a lot less volatile.

Digital acceleration and driving innovation

Investing in digital tools is one thing. Creating a culture that supports lasting, effective digital transformation is different. Digital acceleration is centred not only on adopting technology but also on adjusting employees’ mindsets, workplace cultures and workflows to support the transformation. This increases the capacity for ideation. 

Through design thinking, for example, organisations are able to identify their needs, forecast future needs and generate ideas that meet actual business and market needs. The technology then tests these ideas for a seamless implementation process. It makes it easy for companies to align goals and vision across teams, create cross-functional departments, improve operational efficiency and identify potential from otherwise untapped opportunities.

The business value of digital acceleration

Digital adoption and acceleration create business value in three main areas:

Digital maturity: Fully-digitalised workplaces are quicker to adopt new technologies and adapt to change compared to companies that haven’t embraced digital acceleration. For example, companies that had already embraced digital transformation and acceleration had a relatively smooth transition to remote working at the beginning of the pandemic.

Customer continuity: When an organisation interacts with customers more conveniently and effectively, it generates a higher “new customer value”. Businesses that have optimised and leveraged the full potential of the internet and social media marketing are relatively more successful in customer attraction and retention.

Higher revenue premiums: Optimised service delivery, operational efficiency and ideation improve organisational resilience, especially during economic downturns. It is through organisational resilience that organisations maintain and even improve their profit margins.

Challenges to digital acceleration

Companies often struggle with digital acceleration because of insufficient skilled in-house personnel and inadequate funding for digital adoption, transformation and acceleration.

Businesses can overcome these challenges by doing the following five things.

Thorough analysis: Conduct a thorough analysis of the business’ current digital infrastructure (the IT system and the personnel available), its unexplored potential and the magnitude of the transformation needed. Companies need to be ready for acceleration before commencing the transformation process.

Create a plan: Create a plan to change the organisational structure in readiness for the imminent digital takeoff. Educate employees and help them to shift the focus of the company’s culture. Make them understand why digital transformation and acceleration are necessary.

Set up a team: Set up your existing team or hire new team members for the plan.

Create a digital acceleration team and set measurable and achievable goals for the team. Then share the plan with the team and other stakeholders.

Implement the plan: Start the implementation phase. Ensure that every team member understands their role in the team and is sufficiently equipped to dispense their mandate.

Roll out in phases: Minimise the chances of failure by using a phased rollout instead of rolling out the entire project. Every phase gives a chance to test methodologies, assess the team, identify errors and make the necessary adjustments before starting subsequent phases.

Kingsley Carter is a security analyst for computer systems, networks and software programs. 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.