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Lessons for businesses to embrace digital change

Oct 22 2015 15:39
Lameez Omarjee

The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)

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Technology is changing the world of consumers, and businesses need to create brands that are valuable to them.

Changes bring opportunities and businesses need a definitive framework to embrace and capitalise on them. Musa Kalenga, Africa client partner at Facebook South Africa, advised businesses to keep up with change at the Africa Digital Excellence Summit, held on 15 October at the Forum in Bryanston.

1. Change is a process where the future invades our lives.

Technological change can feel intrusive, but if technology is used properly to solve problems it can be the best thing that can to happen to a business. Throughout the day, people interact with businesses using multiple devices. The way businesses engage with consumers has changed. Consumers haven’t changed what they’ve been doing, but the new platforms they use have amplified what they do. Examples of businesses that engage with consumers with digital technology include Uber and Airbnb, which have embraced the sharing economy. In June 2013, Facebook’s mobile views were 700m, substantially less than main competitor YouTube with 12.7bn views. However, a year later Facebook’s views were measured to be 12.3m video views, ahead of YouTube’s at 11.3m. This shows the importance of business evolving to remain competitive.

2. Don’t waste energy on fighting to keep the old, but embrace the new.

Entrepreneurs must embrace the fact that technology is changing business and their livelihood is being challenged. Changes happen rapidly, and businesses should work “consciously and deliberately” to be sustainable. “The internet has changed everything and has challenged what we know and how we look at things,” says Kalenga. In 1995, there were approximately 35m internet users. By 2014, this number grew to 2.8bn users. The industries most affected by internet are consumer-focused businesses like hotels and restaurants. Consumers adopt change and understand and embrace technology at a rate companies will never be able to, says Kalenga. 

3. To embrace change, you need to apply creativity.

Some companies survive change and others don’t. Most industries and businesses have a prevailing logic or a dominant system of doing things. Change calls for businesses to find an alternative way of doing things and to organise skills or routines to meet particular needs. Businesses need to apply creativity to solve problems. The solution offered should be viable for business, technically feasible and satisfy a human need or desire. If all these three requirements are met, then businesses will innovate and introduce cultural shifts.

4. Every argument or discussion should be aimed at plotting the way forward and progressing – the aim should not be to win the argument.

Business leaders should take time to have constructive conversations aimed at developing progressive outcomes. When it comes to technological innovation, humanity should be the focus point, motivating progress. Technology can lead to change, but ultimately people are what lead change.

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