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As disruption persists, digital investment drives profitability

Retaining key talent: Digital investment: Zuko Mdwaba, area vice president for Salesforce South Africa. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Zuko Mdwaba, area vice president for Salesforce South Africa. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

In today’s high-cost environment, leaning into digital investment is an essential enabler for driving efficiency and profitability, whilst boosting innovation and ensuring competitive advantage. This is the view of Zuko Mdwaba, area vice president for Salesforce South Africa.

Unprecedented headwinds over the past two years – pandemic, war, labour and supply chain challenges, inflation – are making it much more expensive to run a business. Under pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency, many companies are turning to automation and cloud technology to drive immediate value across all departments.

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Parallels between the start of the pandemic and this new phase of global uncertainty are striking. Companies which accelerated their digital transformation during the public health crisis were able to pivot quickly and come out stronger. The same applies today.

According to Accenture research, “leader” businesses doubled down on their digital investment during 2020 and 2021. As a result they are now growing five times faster than “laggard” businesses.

It also found a new group of “leapfrogger” businesses. Those that targeted over twice as many processes for digital transformation during the pandemic, are now growing four times faster than laggards and closing the gap on leaders.

In today’s high-cost environment, leaning into digital investment is an essential enabler for driving efficiency and profitability, whilst boosting innovation and ensuring competitive advantage.

Automation as a strategic asset

According to Statista, worldwide spending on the two primary types of business automation, robotic process automation and intelligent process automation, is expected to hit $19.3 billion this year, up from $13.6 billion two years ago. The impact is profound, affecting the way we work and serve customers.

AI and machine-learning are being used by major global manufacturers and retailers to rethink supply chain management, to effectively manage rising supplier prices, and to determine how best to meet customer purchasing preferences.

Companies need to create incredible customer experiences across every interaction to stay competitive. For retailers, this means infusing digital across the entire physical and virtual shopping journey to deliver seamless and personalised experiences.

Across the public sector from vaccine distribution management to call centre operations, governments and citizens have seen first-hand the power of what technology can do for them: delivering high quality digital services, driving efficiencies and cost-effectiveness.

Automation is also playing a major role in workforce engagement, reducing time spent on repetitive tasks and empowering workers to focus on more strategic activity. Collaborative technologies are reimagining how teams work together, organise their people, and deliver greater customer experiences in this digital-first and work-from-anywhere world.

It is these kinds of experiences that businesses will look to drive customer and employee loyalty and help protect the bottom line.

Building better resilience

In the digital economy, the businesses that adapt to changes quickest will thrive. As disruption continues, CEOs who previously delegated their digital strategy want to take direct leadership today.

From business performance, employee skills preparedness, societal equity to climate change, technology is fundamental to driving efficiencies and smarter implementation in all these areas.

Although we cannot predict the future, we can be strategic and build better resilience. We must rethink our approach to efficiency at every level, in every department. We must commit to continuous innovation to solve customers’ problems, ensuring seamless service from anywhere, and adapting to customers’ changing priorities. This in turn will provide opportunities for success in the long term.

  • Zuko Mdwaba is the area vice president for Salesforce South Africa.

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