One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rapid acceleration and adoption of new technologies and that in turn has compelled C-suite executives to think more strategically about how they utilise cloud technologies to build sustainable businesses. That was one of the key points to emerge from a live top-level discussion between Vukani Mngxati, CEO of Accenture in Africa and Deon Geyser, CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies South Africa.
According to a new global survey from Accenture of around 4000 global business and IT leaders, 65% of respondents saw up to 10% in cost savings, on average, from moving to the cloud and some even benefitting amid global disruptions, because they saw the cloud as a launchpad for new and innovative ways of operating.
Outlining the current operating environment, Geyser said: "Despite the difficult economic environment, there is no question in the value that we have been able to add to our customers through our product suites, specifically under cloud, managed services and unified communications." But the tough question facing many organisations is finding cloud-centric skills and then building ongoing capability.
Said Mngxati, "We talk about a cloud service because of the ability it has to significantly transform business operations and then how people think about enabling their services to create a fast-tracker in the ability to execute business."
Geyser believes the secret to success is to understand and scope capabilities and potential, followed by a strong and clear operational cloud strategy and finally ensuring that the right people are in place. This, he said, was something that Liquid Intelligent Technologies South Africa has taken to heart when articulating the benefits of cloud solutions to clients. "We initially facilitated an extensive skills development programme for our internal teams to help them understand team dynamics, strengths and weaknesses. This training was not only beneficial to improve teamwork within, but it was ultimately beneficial even for our customers, who have also noticed the difference in how we manage their accounts." Another important factor that hinders the adoption of technology is the fear that exists in the minds of some in the Csuite. Therefore it is essential to demystify these technologies to ensure that businesses adapt to the changing times.
"Often, they just hear buzzwords, but we need to ask the correct questions to ensure that our customers benefit from the solutions they get from us. This approach also establishes us as trusted advisors to our customers, as they must understand and obtain immediate value."
Mngxati said his and Accenture's principal tech mission was about unlocking commercial value and the ongoing challenge to convince CEOs and CIOs as to how they can deliver value by immersing themselves in a cloud mindset and philosophy. Geyser said it was partly about tailoring and delivering the same conversation to different disciplines in the business. "It's interesting if you look at organisational structures. The CIO and the CFO don't always speak the same language, and then it becomes a conversation around increasing expenditure. Unfortunately, people don't always understand the long-term benefits that cloud services bring to a company, and that's where the value lies. Businesses must understand that the real benefits of using the cloud will only be experienced in the long run and not the immediate future, be it in terms of cost or innovation." Mngxati said it's in the explanatory or demystifying process that Accenture was and does play a major role. “We've got to demonstrate to clients exactly where the value comes from and much of that was about articulating the power of innovation and the value it brought to a company.
Geyser said much of the innovation quotient came from developing an ever-growing network of IT development, which meant looking at all aspects of infrastructure from an experience perspective. That, he suggested, would continue to drive fresh and ground-breaking progress.
Mngxati asked Geyser: “If you were to put yourself in the shoes of a major retailer, a major bank, or even a small to medium enterprise looking to make use of cloud technologies to drive growth, what would your key focus be? “
Geyser replied that it should initially be about developing an accurate and confident understanding of the concept of cloud technology and then finding the right consulting partner. Businesses, irrespective of size, must develop a clear utilisation strategy that would bring about a meaningful long-term benefit.