Digital Transformations in Emerging Markets: 4 Considerations for Success

Written By: Ridwaan Bardien
Date: April 5, 2022

There is a broad global trend toward digital transformation considering the changes the global economy has seen in recent years. The stress of evolving to a more technology-driven state due to the need for remote work matched with the growth and economic advancements in emerging countries, particularly in Africa, has increased the need for digital transformation.

Organizations located in Africa are in a new stage of development. Many are working to expand beyond their current sphere of influence and grow their footprint outside of Africa. It’s time for those looking toward the future to embrace a digital strategy that will drive efficiencies and optimize operations to achieve business goals. There is an urgent need on the continent to rebalance the technology investments from traditional legacy applications and infrastructure to technologies that will give the organization a competitive edge and better customer experience through an omnichannel approach.

Given the current digital acceleration occurring within Africa, many drivers have been identified as a necessary means to digitally transform — one of which includes managing rising customer expectations. With many of these companies looking to optimize their digital offerings, customers’ expectations have changed in terms of how the organization that they're having interactions with is performing digitally.

If you’re a business leader in an emerging market, your external circumstances will influence how you should move forward. It’s important to consider the obstacles that may slow down your transformation efforts and find the workarounds that will open doors for your company as you push your business and your greater economy forward. There are opportunities for organizations in Africa to strengthen their efforts in digital process optimization and digital business transformation efforts, allowing them to be competitive in a global market.

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Characteristics of a Developing Market

Being in an emerging market means there is ample opportunity, but there will be an inherent gap in resources. In this case, the shortcoming sits with the level of technology currently utilized across the existing economic landscape. There are very sophisticated solutions available on the global market, but it comes down to having the understanding and the skills within your team to leverage these technologies. It will be a bigger jump going from manual processes to intricate ERP software than it would be going from a smaller ERP system to a larger ERP system. It is also critical that Business leadership is committed from the outset and that this is not just seen as another IT project. The metrics or Key Performance Indicators for the project should address revenue, costs, and risks. Keep this in mind as you go through the software selection process.

Support Through a Digital Transformation

Software resellers and integrators are typically located in economically advanced countries and will have their international consultants work with local African businesses from abroad. Even with that limited support, these consultants and software integrators will not necessarily understand local conditions and local technological challenges.  There is often a lack of support on the ground that your team will have once a system is implemented.

Risks of Doing it Yourself vs. Bringing on Help

Of course, you could always plan and execute a digital transformation on your own, and if you choose to go that route, we encourage you to explore the resources available to you on our YouTube channel to teach and guide you along the way. However, even that will leave you at risk of failure. Even Western organizations with abundant experience in technology and system integrations fail over 60% of the time due to their oversight of critical elements of the digital transformation strategy. The reality is that unless you have many years of experience in digital transformation or focus on digital transformations for a living, the risks of failure are greater if you go it alone.

Given the existing gaps in emerging markets and the general risks associated with digital transformations all around the world, an independent, technology-agnostic provider with a global skill set is a resource that you can lean on as you explore ways to advance your organization into a more digitized state. An unbiased, unincentivized, independent consultant not only works to find your organization’s specific needs but also has visibility into what other companies have run into that wasted time or money to guide you in avoiding the same pitfalls of digital transformation.

Cloud Offering and Infrastructure Limitations

Developing countries around the world have one thing that holds them back from advancing technology at a higher rate – a lack of internet connectivity. Parts of Africa have perfect connectivity, while other parts do not. When considering a digital transformation in the more rural, developing areas of the country, it’s a genuine consideration to contemplate. Ideally, the ERP system selected will enable clear and concise information sharing across all locations. With spotty connectivity, it becomes a matter of creativity in finding a software solution that can still accommodate even limited internet connectivity in some areas.

Each scenario is different based on the variability of connectivity as it relates to each geographical location. As you grow and become keen on consolidating each office, location, and manufacturing system together on the cloud, you will have to consider your options. Overcoming internet connectivity and bandwidth will have to be factored into your strategy.

Most cloud solutions are available in an on-premises format, but it is not a solution that is regularly advertised and promoted simply because software vendors are making more money on cloud-computing software than they are with legacy systems. However, cloud computing is not an option in many developing counties, and we must think outside the box. Many times, these software vendors will have the option of installing the legacy version of their system if they understand the need and realize the circumstances. It is a question of knowing and having a technology-agnostic partner that can give you this advice and assist with vendor negotiations.

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Cloud adoption will continue to grow over the coming years. Coupled with this trend will be that connectivity in rural areas will grow as well. It has never been a better time to take the leap and find a technology that will support your workflows, optimize your processes, and help your people become more productive. If you are an organization in Africa considering a digital transformation, we encourage you to do your due diligence and look up all our resources. From there, give us a call.

Third Stage Consulting is an ERP agnostic, global consulting company with a dedicated team and office located in Africa. We are passionate about driving economic growth in Africa, and we know we can help businesses evolve with the times just as our consulting offices in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas have done for companies large and small all around the world.

Please reach out to our team in Africa with any questions you may have about Digital Transformation Strategy and implementation, software selection, business process management, organizational change management, or general software implementation. We are always happy to be a sounding board as your business grows.

Clifford Martin

Managing Director for Third Stage Consulting Africa

City of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

clifford.martin@thirdstage-consulting.com

Ridwaan Bardien

Director: Digital Transformation & IT Strategy

City of Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

ridwaan.bardien@thirdstage-consulting.com

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