December 13, 2020

Disruption and agility: Lessons from businesses that have adapted to the digital world

By Tonny Tugee, SEACOM East and North East Africa Managing Director

There’s no way around digital transformation. Businesses and people are moving online, connecting and transacting without giving much thought to where digital might take us or what opportunities it may provide. But this mindset could be our downfall when, in fact, ensuring a competitive edge and business sustainability depend heavily on a business’s ability to respond to developments in the digital economy.

Just as the name suggests, the digital economy is based on digital computing technologies and is often associated with markets constructed on the Internet. By looking at businesses that have successfully adapted to the digital world, business leaders can gain inspiration and insights into what changes they can make in their own companies going forward.

Exploring digital journeys

Many companies world-wide have used digital technologies to provide a unique service by implementing new business models that take advantage of digital developments. This is because they realised that to grow exponentially, they not only needed to invest in innovation, but in harnessing technology too.

A traditional company that has successfully added a digital offering is investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. Realising that consumers spend most of their time online and desire ease of accessibility, they built a digital consumer business solution called Marcus. Fast forward a couple of years and the result has been deposits worth $92 billion funnelled through the app.

As well as facilitating cost savings, the digital economy is enabling faster, bolder decision making. For Indonesian mining company Petrosea, this meant adopting advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), smart sensors, and machine learning. This shift to an agile, digital tech model has allowed the company to explore predictive maintenance and an opportunity to develop a suite of AI-enabled digital technologies to help it find metals faster and more efficiently.

Closer to home, Komboa is a Kenyan company that challenges the traditional car-rental industry. They believe that this peer-to-peer car-rental model is more flexible, gives people who don’t own vehicles access to cars, and puts private vehicles to better use.

How to succeed in the digital economy

Based on these companies’ success stories, we can extract learnings and adapt them to fit other organisational structures. After all, businesses have a lot to gain from the digital economy.

For starters, business owners need to invest in the right skills. With many already in uproar regarding job security and digitalisation, skills development becomes vital to businesses that are pursuing digitalised operations. One way to address this is to integrate ICT skills development into general business management training curricula.

Likewise, businesses need to invest more in the consumer’s experience. The digital economy has changed customer expectations, with the focus now shifting to prioritise experiences over the actual products or services themselves. The advent of smartphones and information availability afforded by the Internet created the need for personalised online experiences that you can utilise to help differentiate your business.

Lastly, consider whether the offering is still relevant. If not, seek out ways to enhance the offering or change it completely in response to customer behaviour.

The digital economy continues to evolve, driven by the ability to collect, use, and analyse massive amounts of machine-readable information. To succeed in this economy, businesses must look to those who have succeeded, invest in a range of different skills and tech, explore new behaviours, and drive the change throughout the organisation that will put this transformation into motion. The result? Transformed African businesses and improved economic outcomes for our country.

Contact SEACOM today and find out how we can help your business join the digital economy.