The speed at which Africa’s business sector has changed over the past year has been nothing short of astonishing.
Business leaders across the continent have had their hands full, from enabling remote work on a previously unprecedented scale to adapting to disruptions in the global supply chain, enabling e-learning for millions of youth – not to mention ensuring business continuity in the midst of a once-in-a-generation crisis.
Some changes in behaviour, such as the growing adoption of online shopping, telemedicine and digital channels for engaging with service providers, are likely to outlive the pandemic. Other behaviours, such as in-person teaching and working from the office at least some of the time, are likely to return once it’s safe.
Organisations need the flexibility to adapt to these multi-faceted changes while also improving the accuracy of the decisions they make regarding which route to take.
Speed or certainty?
McKinsey believes speed has been a fundamental aspect of the pandemic and will continue to play a leading role in guiding how businesses should adapt to ongoing uncertainty. The argument is that, by prioritising speed, organisations could make rapid decisions, act on emerging opportunities more quickly, and so improve their chances at overcoming the immense challenges created by the twin forces of digital disruption and the global pandemic.
Speed is certainly important, but there is no competitive advantage in making poor decisions quickly. The prevailing disruption and continued volatility requires that business leaders make decisions with certainty.
To make good decisions, business leaders need accurate sources of data, and the tools to turn that data into insights that can guide decision-making in real time. The modern business environment is simply too complex and volatile to rely entirely on so-called intuitive decision-making. Good quality, accurate and complete data integrated to an intelligent suite of business applications gives decision-makers greater scope for decisions that shift the needle of the business.
For example, responding well to changing customer demands is nearly impossible without knowing what those demands are. Having access to customer experience management tools that can track customer expectations in real time and guide how the business responds to those expectations removes much of the trial and error of manual decision-making. Integrating the customer experience management tool with an automation layer further increases both the speed and accuracy of that response.
Hybrid work models raise the stakes
The impact of the pandemic means most organisations are operating on a fragmented basis. Teams are working from home, making in-person methods of employee engagement and performance management almost totally obsolete, at least for the moment.
Without new employee engagement tools that can effectively mobilise and support teams around common business objectives, organisations could see falling productivity and negative effects on aspects such as product development or customer experience.
New management tools can provide measurable insights into the employee experience, which can assist managers and leaders with making better decisions over the types of support they need to provide to their teams.
Advances in data and analytics also bring data-driven insights into the boardroom, with technology solutions that connect the top floor with the shop floor to give C-level executives granular insight into the total performance of the business.
To harness data and technology for greater certainty in decision-making, organisations need to put certain building blocks in place.
Tools to create certainty in decision-making
In order to achieve a single accurate view over the organisation and empower decision-makers with actionable insights, organisations need to build intelligent enterprise capabilities.
In simple terms, this means using the latest technologies to turn insight into action across every aspect of the business, in real time. Integrated business applications – such as enterprise resource planning and human capital management solutions – powered by next-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence help transform end-to-end business processes.
Experienced management solutions give insight to the sentiment of customers, partners and employees, while business process intelligence and automation enable organisations to immediately act on insights and opportunities.
At the foundation of the intelligent enterprise is cloud, which gives organisations the ability to simplify and scale their systems’ landscape without sacrificing performance.
Cloud empowers businesses with the certainty of a quicker time-to-value, without the upfront capital outlays required of on-premise deployments.
With cloud-enabled intelligent enterprise capabilities, organisations can achieve the speed needed to stay ahead of competitors and other disruptors, while maintaining the certainty of measured, data-driven decision-making.
And with new tools such as RISE with SAP, organisations can start building intelligent enterprise capabilities no matter what stage of their digital transformation journeys they find themselves.
Guerreiro is SAP (Central Africa)’s Managing Director
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