Digital transformation is the future of any business. If you aren’t on the path towards a digital environment, you’re probably already behind your competitors and will start to lose relevance.

By Dave Joyce, MD of Nimble Technologies

It is critical for any organisation to start automating processes and changing the way they interact with customers and employees – the norm has shifted. The emerging customer base will not deal with companies that have no digital presence, which means that these businesses will fast become redundant and irrelevant.

However, while digital is the only way forward, this does not mean that your business has to invest in software development skills in order to digitise your environment. Partnering with the right provider to deliver customised ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) solutions ensures your relevance and allows you to embrace technology while maintaining focus on your core business.

Millennials are demanding this digital presence and businesses are fast realising that this generation is the customer of the future. Population demographics indicate a significant number of under-35’s in South Africa. This means that businesses need to start ‘talking their language’. This new generation thinks differently and has different expectations. They do not want to phone your business and talk to a person, they want instant interactions via a chat or messenger service.

They also expect always-on availability, instant gratification, and innovative products and services that meet needs they might not even know they have. This poses a huge challenge for businesses, especially those that have not yet embraced digitisation.

Digital transformation is not only critical in meeting the new generation on their terms, but also drives significant top and bottom-line benefits. For example, in emerging markets where available skills are scarce, technology can be used to augment the skills gap, enabling organisations to do more with less.

Within the contact centre environment, technology can be used to ensure agents follow a specific path toward resolution, which provides greater control over interactions and reduces the cost per interaction. Data from these interactions can also be used to continuously improve the quality of the interactions in a “feedback-loop”

In addition, knowledge workers can be given data and tools to enable them to provide solutions where and when they are needed, increasing success rates and further reducing costs. For example, information about a customer can be prepopulated for an agent based on the client’s profile and existing information.

The process can be automated and digitised, and agents are able to immediately identify which information they require, instead of having to recapture it again and again.  By adding digital intelligence into this process, interactions can be massively streamlined and accuracy improved. This ensures vastly improved customer service and also, by reducing costs contributes directly to the bottom line.

Digitisation has applications in any business and industry, in both developed and emerging economies. It is no longer necessary to wait for someone to develop a product that might work for your business or try and make your business work with someone else’s software.

There are opportunities and niches everywhere, and technology can be developed to solve almost any problem. For example, drones are being used in farming to determine when crops are ready for harvest, and mobile apps like Uber have created entirely new industries. The potential for new solutions is limited only by the creativity of the solution-seeker. Finding the opportunity is only the first step however. It is also necessary to find the right partner to help you achieve your goals.

While it may be tempting for businesses to address the issue of digitisation by effectively ‘becoming a software company’ themselves, this is often a path that leads nowhere. What many organisations fail to realise is that there is far more to successful software than simply writing and releasing code. Technical coding ability is not the only skill required. The reality is that if you have no idea how to manage software, you will spend a fortune on a solution that may not help your business.

Software development is a single aspect of a multi-faceted process – applications must be properly planned to meet business needs, they also need to be tested, taken into production, secured against malicious attacks, maintained and updated constantly.

The specialist skills required to achieve this are scarce and expensive, putting them well out of reach of most SMME businesses. Such highly skilled individuals are also unlikely to stay with one organisation for the long-term, and when they leave, they take a significant amount of intellectual property with them.

Technology does not have to be a big, expensive noose around the neck of your business. A specialist partner will provide the appropriate mix of skills at a far lower cost than achieving this in-house, while still mitigating risk and ensuring business continuity. This enables organisations to leverage all of the advantages of digitisation, without losing focus on their own core business, while still maximising efficiency and profitability.