Business leaders weigh in on the impact of global megatrends



"We live in a world in constant motion. Goods, capital and labour are traveling globally at a faster pace than ever and moving in novel patterns. Technological innovation, including digital, is rewriting every industry and the way in which human beings manage their lives. In this world, the ever-increasing acceleration of change is one of the few constants."

These were the words of Uschi Schreiber, EY Global Vice Chair, in her welcoming notes of Ernst and Young's Global Megatrends Report 2015, and the primary study utilised at the recent Business Leaders Strategy Session held at the Protea Hotel Midrand on the 13 of August, entitled; Megatrends Impacting Business: Making sense of a world in motion.

Schreiber explains Megatrends as large, transformative global forces that define the future by having a far-reaching impact on business, economies, industries, societies and individuals. She goes on to describe how each of the six megatrends that EY has identified, has the present and future capacity to disrupt and reshape the world in which we live in surprising and unexpected ways.

4most Systems, host of the Strategy Session, presented 5 of the 6 Megatrends, and a set of observations and facts designed to cover what they deemed to be the most important and interesting aspects of each. This provided the centrepiece to offset discussions around their impact on the South African business climate both now and in the years to come.

With a close knit group of business leaders in key industries from Construction and Property Development, to Manufacturing, Automotive Sales and Service and even Science and Space Research in attendance, the session yielded some impactful, relevant insights into the current and future view of the business climate.

Photo: "It is imperative for businesses to equip themselves to adapt to a changing marketplace," Eugene Olivier, Director, 4most Systems

With more change expected in the next ten years than the entire last century, the importance of knowing how and if your business is impacted by global changes is a business imperative. Sessions such as this recent Business Leaders Strategy Session provided a platform for likeminded business leaders who face similar challenges to connect and assess current business states in relation to the market.

Though the insights merely provide a "best guess" from where we sit today as to how these megatrends might unfold in the future, one predominant underlying fact emerged: innovation and the ability to evolve has never been more crucial for business survival.

"It is imperative for businesses to equip themselves to adapt to a changing marketplace," emphasised Eugene Olivier, Business Development Director, 4most, a leading supplier and implementer of SAP Business One and ERP software and technology. Businesses need to be dynamic. They need to be capable of immediate response, and they need to be bold.

The first Megatrend discussed was the digital future. With studies showing 80% of companies that say their customers are changing how they access goods and services and that more than 51% of these companies are changing their pricing and delivery models, was proof of the general feeling of the business leaders present at the session. Digital transformation is changing business models — including revenue models, and this reality leads to companies feeling almost dictated to by the demands of consumers.

Furthermore on this point, businesses emphasised the need for their business strategy to support an innovative mobile first world. Global innovations still in early adoption in South Africa, such as augmented reality in architecture, are changing the landscape of professional service delivery.

With business failing to use 80% of their customer data, the question was asked whether companies are firstly taking full advantage of the information available to them and secondly if they fully appreciate the need to remain competitive by personalising their sales and marketing activities as well as product development strategies according to personal client preferences.

SAP's analysis capabilities allows even smaller companies to perform simple to complex data analysis, investigate results more easily, and populate custom spread sheets and reports with current data - all without IT assistance. SAP's HANA technology is designed from scratch to run entirely in memory - for processing of large amounts of data extremely fast." This type of innovation has allowed SAP to develop a system which can predict customer (consumer purchasing ) behaviour for up to 6 months in advance," supports Olivier.

Further discussions revealed the evolving of challenges, due to the nature of disruptive technology within industries and sectors, such as a raising trend in robotic technologies increasingly replacing workers and conversely needs required for which there is not yet skilled talent within the workforce (with EY citing that 60% of new jobs require skills that only 20% of the population possess) and more so, completely developed solutions for these newly discovered requirements.

Entrepreneurship rising, the next megatrend discussed, revealed the drivers of entrepreneurial activity in rapid-growth markets moving from necessity to opportunity. And along with the predominant X and Y generation emerging in prominent roles, (with EY citing 50% of the world's entrepreneurs aged between 25 and 44) the point of the replacing of the traditional workforce to take this new generation thinking into account was raised. Universities find themselves preparing their students for jobs that do not yet exist, and companies should be strategizing in a similar fashion: strategizing in terms of a product / service that do not yet exist to cater for the needs of a client that does not yet exist. If they do not adopt this kind of thinking, they may be overtaken by these 'unexpected start-ups'.

Other Megatrends under discussion included the global marketplace; urban world; and resourceful planet, all pointing towards SME's who are going global. According to a recent Oxford Economics study based on global study of over 2100 SME's in 21 countries, the overarching finding is that successful SMEs and large multinational corporations alike are just as impacted by increasing globalization, fierce competition, more empowered customers in new markets, and fast-changing technologies.

SMEs are embracing the fact that change is crucial for success. Transformation priorities include capitalizing on growth opportunities in expanding markets (41 percent), entering new geographic markets (36 percent), creating a culture of innovation (34 percent), and investing in new technologies (26 percent).

SMEs are prudent when it comes to technology investment and are prioritizing around those technologies that provide better understanding and insight across the company. Business management software is the top focus (50 percent), followed by business analytics (43 percent), mobile (37 percent), social media (36 percent), and cloud computing (34 percent). Smaller companies are emphasizing investment in business analytics (52 percent) and business management software (58 percent), while their larger peers are more focused on mobile (41 percent), social media (44 percent), and the cloud (40 percent). Hot new technologies are on the table, too; only about one-third of SMEs don't believe that big data is relevant to their business performance.

Despite having fewer resources, SMEs are largely confident that they have the technological resources and understanding to compete with bigger companies. So what stops businesses from harnessing the power of technology to secure its place in today's changing world?

"The perceived cost and complexity of available solutions," says Olivier.

With technology solutions often thought to be the prerogative of larger enterprise, SAP Business One from 4most, a powerful and integrated business management and business intelligence platform, is rapidly changing this perception. "It is levelling the playing fields for small and medium sized businesses across all industries," continues Olivier.
Medium sized businesses need the functionality to grow seamlessly whilst efficient meeting current requirements, simultaneously conducting future scenario planning and accurately predicting long term product development. Designed with flexibility and tailored to the individual business SAP Business One, from 4most, is proving itself a highly credible and successful solution.

"And it is giving our customers the competitive edge," continues Olivier. If transformation is the new business imperative for SMEs, technology is a strategic tool to make it happen - and essential for any company to play with the big guys and win.

About 4most:

4most, established in 2004, is the number one supplier and implementer of SAP ERP business management solution software and technology solutions. With offices in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Namibia, along with a presence in Zambia and Malawi and a growing footprint in Tanzania, 4most offers a strong base provided by considerable experience and skills accumulated over 25 years.

We have implemented over 3000 SAP Business One users across numerous industries and have supplied services to more than 150 companies, including implementation, support and maintenance. Application modifications of SAP Business One and other ERP software systems have provided tailor-made and innovative solutions, which have created a competitive advantage for numerous businesses in Southern Africa.

4most truly partners with our clients from the very beginning. We have dynamic IT and business specialists, who provide customers with a platform for growth based on best practice and understand the SME-market as well as support functions which include infrastructure support and maintenance, software development and training.

We seek to fully understand our clients business and daily operational processes, we then address their requirements whilst sharing our knowledge and expertise and best advise them of industry standards and best practices. We provide them with a clear project plan detailing roles, responsibilities and timelines and we remain with our clients as they grow and help them to define their future business.

As an SAP Gold Partner, being the first and only partner to establish all-round SAP competency, the consistency of our expertise in business management solutions has earned 4most an award-winning reputation. The company boasts a dedicated client care centre and an in-house training facility for continued care. Our offices include a data centre to facilitate hosted solutions tailored to business specific requirements.

Madeline ten Krooden
+27 12 345-2505
[email protected]

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