The keys to operating a successful and sustainable business in the digital age


Finance leaders discussed the technologies that will have the most significant impact on business.

In a webinar in partnership with iOCO, digital trends expert Conrad Blignaut, Cell C CFO Zaf Mohamed, FNB CFO Markos Davias, and EOH CFO Megan Pydigadu shared the business risks and opportunities of our new digital reality.

Conrad said digital transformation, which has been a business imperative for a few years now is a huge driver for business.marko Another big area is cybersecurity, which he thinks should always be at the top of the agenda for any board or exco. “There’s a staggering statistic that 85 percent of organisations worldwide were victim to a successful cyber-attack in the last 12 months.”

A crucial step is having the right cybersecurity technology in place to protect your network and information assets, particularly as people work remotely and from anywhere. He said, “The reality is that the security technologies of yesterday were largely designed for in-office environments, and those security technologies will not stack up in future, and so it’s an important area for leaders to invest and make sure that you’ve got the right capabilities in place.”

He said the Covid-19 pandemic has forever shifted the world of work, customer expectations, and created significant challenges and opportunities for business leaders. “Some of the important foundational building blocks that leaders need to put in place to respond to this includes the ability to enable our workforces to work from anywhere and making sure that we’ve got the correct collaboration platform in place.”

He pointed out that some of the legacy technologies that we’ve had in this space are just not able to provide us with what we need in future.

Emerging technologies for the next wave of digital disruption
Conrad said finance leaders should be paying attention to central bank digital currencies. “These are a form of cryptocurrency but the difference is that the currency is linked to a country’s currency and controlled by the central bank.”

He said blockchain has been around since the launch of Bitcoin way back in 2009, and said, “In many ways I think the potential of blockchain is still untapped. Blockchain is quite well established in the crypto world, but there are lots of other use cases out there. Another technology to highlight is NFTs: these are digital tokens that represent an asset. The initial focus has been largely in art and music, however there are endless possibilities around use cases and a number of use cases already in play.”

Markos said the journey to the digital future starts with first understanding your data and then building all your other capabilities to get the colour and context you need from the activity that’s coming from the digital world.

“From a digital journey perspective, prioritise ensuring the education is there. We spend a lot of time on training and teaching our people. From there, we actually do little POCs and we let them actually play around with it.”

Megan said leaders need to have the basics in place before they can start moving forward. “At the end of the day, finance really has to give insights and add value into the business and for us, getting things right around the BI and insight tools that we use, and how we access that data is quite critical in any organisation.”

She said being equipped to work in a hybrid environment is critical because employees are accessing your networks from different connections, resulting in more vulnerability points and many more opportunities to get attacked. She said, “We’ve moved to what’s called zero trust networks, where anything that comes onto your network has to be validated at source before it can gain access.”

Zaf observed that disruption happens all the time and the question is how to use digital disruption to help your customer and the company, as well as monetise the disruption.

He said, “I think that digital is a disruptor in the sense of what it does to the entire value chain all the way from where you procure your services to how the customer sees value, and what value you supply to the customer. We don’t want to be everything to everybody. We want to be the best that we can do. Changing our business model was really related to how we become more efficient, and that’s what digital enabled us to do.”

He said another big disruptor is the talent war for digital skills and it multiplies when you consider corporates across all industries vying for the same skills. Conrad agrees and said, “Right at the centre of the shift are people, culture and skills. As we start to look forward and think about the future, as business leaders, we need to start thinking about what that next wave of skills and capabilities will need.”

The Metaverse
Megan said McKinsey estimates that by 2030 the spend in the metaverse will be $5 trillion (about R84 trillion). “Currently, from a business perspective, the Metaverse is still highly fragmented, so there are a lot of different platforms out there. The other issue is that generally the platforms have their own tokens or payment forms so they aren’t necessarily fungible between platforms. So you can’t have money on one platform and then move to another Metaverse and spend it there.”

“Use cases include Africa’s own Metaverse, which is called Ubuntuland, or online stores for consumers. If you look at Zara which is a fast fashion retailer, they’ve launched their first Solar perfume collection into the Metaverse where you can actually go and buy Zara clothes in the metaverse. The travel industry could be interesting in terms of if you want to book into a hotel and or go to a place and you don’t know if you quite like it, but if you could put on an Oculus headset and go and walk around in that hotel to see what it’s like.”

The speakers agreed the most important thing for leaders is to be proactive, choose their use cases with care and make sure that when they start to experiment, they know these things are not the panacea for every business problem. Conrad summed it up by saying, “Be aware, proactive and proceed with caution.”

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