Understanding Technology in Business & Its Place in Africa

In this three-part series, we try to understand the adoption of technology and digitisation in businesses and the implication that this has in an African context. In part 1 we looked to first understand the spectrum on which we measure businesses in terms of their level of “tech” adoption.

What has been seen across the globe is that as a business digitises its operations and its interactions with customers, there are some notable positive outcomes for both parties. These include elements like increased efficiency in operations, increased ease in customer interaction and communication, a reduced need for physical assets (branches) and labour and so the list goes on.

What these elements all have in common is that to a large extent, they all contribute to a more efficient business, able to lower its own costs and thus prices, while delivering its product or service at the same level or higher in comparison to its competitors.

Don’t Ignore the Risk

So what then are the risks with a move toward a highly digitised environment? Surely none, by the sounds of what we have defined above it can only be for the good of both customer and business.

With all the benefits that technology and digitisation can offer, the reality is that there is a significant component to making the value equation balance that resides with those using the technology. Whether it is a member of staff or customer, the reality is that humans are often the weakest link in the process and this takes many forms, all problematic in their own right.

Whether it’s the weak adoption of an internal platform resulting in poor culture, the poor reception to a customer-facing interface meaning customers looks to switch or even simply an uprising to change (consider the Uber strikes witnessed worldwide), the amount of change that technology is able to affect is far-reaching. If the two components of technology and people are not looked at holistically, the damage which can result can be crippling.

Do New Entrants Have it Easy?

To this extent, we need to ask ourselves, are new market entrants who launch with technology at their foundation and find instant and exponential success really revolutionary game-changers? Are they simply ahead of the curve, “early adopters” if you will, with the right people to affect change without resistance. Can any business, in fact, get on a trajectory seen by the likes of the large tech businesses of the decade?

The reality is that the business environment is ever-changing and the last great revolution has been the rise of technology.

My concern in all of this is that we have dedicated ourselves so heavily to advancing the technology that we are neglecting the human component to this revolution, with potentially damaging consequences.

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