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Gaining the competitive edge from being always on

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Claude Schuck, regional manager at Veeam Africa
Claude Schuck, regional manager at Veeam Africa

Business has changed beyond recognition thanks to the evolution of technology and the growing importance of data in an increasingly digital environment. Being connected means accessing critical information, irrespective of device and location. So, how can having always-on access to data assist in the digital transformation, and drive a competitive advantage?

Fundamental to this shift to a more data-rich environment is digital transformation. Regardless of size or industry, decision-makers are changing the way businesses are run, utilising technology on a more fundamental level. It is no longer a case of IT departments being relegated to providing support services. Today, technology permeates all facets of the business as companies push themselves to stay relevant.

This growth in technology brings with it an associated increase in the amount of data produced by organisations. Not only does this reflect growing consumer demand for information, but also corporate requirements to analyse, assess, and use it for the development of more customised solutions. However, having data on its own provides very little value if that data is not accessible when and where required.

Don’t lose sight of people

Despite the momentum around digital, the biggest obstacle to transformation remains the human element. This is especially the case when looking at those who have been in business for a long time. Often, there is more resistance towards change not only because of technology but also questions on whether the individual will still be relevant in a digital-centric organisation.

To allay these concerns, businesses should show that an always-on and always connected market means an increased focus on becoming agile. It is not a case of making people redundant. Instead, it is providing them with more opportunities to extract insight from the raw data at their disposal and becoming more effective at their jobs.

A lot of interest has built recently around artificial intelligence and automation. Many pundits believe that this will lead to the automation of numerous menial administrative functions, leaving people open to specialise more in the areas of the business that provide the best competitive advantage.

And while perceptions exist that these are only things that can happen in developed countries, the reality is quite different. African companies have the competitive advantage when it comes to implementing new, more innovative technology solutions around digital and data availability as they often do not have legacy systems to worry about. Compare this to a multinational that has its roots in decades-old IT systems, and you can see how there is more technology flexibility in local organisations.

Changing digital approach

With larger organisations now competing with smaller, more niche players in their industries, and tangential sectors, the pressure is on to ensure this agility and ability to use data more effectively. Therefore, the onus falls on the availability of data and being able to access it when it is most needed.

In the past, availability meant disaster recovery and business continuity. Now, it has subtly changed to extend across business processes and how data is available to the end-point strategy of the business. In the event of a disaster or data failure, the question should be how quickly the organisation can get the customer end-point up and running. After all, data is the intellectual property of the organisation and provides it with the best competitive advantage. Not being able to access it, means customers will simply move to the next business who can provide the service.

Competitive insights from available data

And once the business is transformed into a digital environment, data takes on a new level of importance to the servicing of customers. It directly impacts how products are developed, evaluated, and improved on to reflect the changing customer requirements. Of course, how that data is maintained and mined to provide insights become even more critical to the success of the business.

This means that upskilling employees to be more data-centric in their approach is fundamental. However, in the rush to become digital, the human component should never be forgotten as customers still prefer a personal approach to business. Companies will ultimately find the competitive edge they need in the always on environment by using technology and data to develop human-driven solutions.

By Claude Schuck, regional manager for Africa at Veeam

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