Accelerating Africa’s economy through digital transformation

A rising tide of digital disruption is sweeping the globe and pressure is mounting on businesses to digitally transform their operations to remain competitive and relevant. To do so companies must keep step with innovation, rival emerging digital native businesses and meet shifting customer expectations and demands.

According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017 report, 78% of companies in South Africa already understand the need to digitally innovate at pace to maintain a competitive edge. In fact, larger companies in South Africa expect to generate 29% of total revenue from digital technologies, products and services by 2020.

“The ‘digitisation of everything’ trend is evolving at pace and Africa cannot afford to play catch-up,” states Accenture Africa’s new Chief Executive Officer, Vukani Mngxati.

He believes that Africa is largely unconstrained by the challenges posed by overhauling legacy systems, which creates opportunity for businesses on the continent to leverage emerging and maturing digital technologies to truly revolutionise and disrupt the status quo.

“Due to the prevailing socio-economic landscape, it is unsurprising to see the ingenuity that has arisen from our proud continent. While these pockets of innovation have helped African nations make significant strides, more can be done to create a prosperous future. By embracing and tilting toward the future through digital transformation, a unique opportunity exists for African nations to leapfrog other industrialised countries and play a leading role in the modern digital economy.”

Those organisations that lag the digital adoption curve will struggle to participate in this digitised future, and with new and nimble disruptive players entering the market, the need to transform at pace has never been more important to corporate Africa, suggests Mngxati.

“While digital transformation has become a strategic imperative, embracing digitisation comes with significant complexities. The challenges most executives currently face include contextualising what digitisation means for their specific business and how they can apply it to meet their unique demands and requirements.”

And it is Accenture Africa’s plan to enable this transformation by establishing itself as Africa’s digital accelerator. Since taking on the responsibility of CEO six months ago, after 20 years working in different roles within Accenture in both the private and public sectors, Mngxati is now leading a number of positive developments at the company.

“We are committed to unlocking African abundance for all through the application of digital technologies. We believe that African organisations that embrace and harness digitisation intelligently will improve bottom-lines, while contributing to the economy and creating employment opportunities across the continent. Our business strategy and our new brand campaign therefore aim to drive meaningful digital adoption within Africa, starting from our base in South Africa.”

As Africa’s most industrialised nation, Mngxati believes that the country is well positioned to drive the digital transformation agenda. “Increasingly, conversations in local boardrooms are being dominated by the need to implement digital capabilities that can boost organisational performance, unlock operational efficiencies and find new sources of growth.”

To meet this demand, Accenture Africa has taken steps to position the company at the forefront of discussions around digital transformation. The central tenet of the company’s business strategy is applying relevant new technologies for impact in businesses across industries to enable them to “lead in the new”.

“Companies need to adopt a new approach to organisational change. We call this approach ‘a wise pivot’. It involves a series of decisions about how to transform and grow the existing business, and how to continuously and synchronously scale new businesses. A wise pivot also requires the right strategy to ensure the timing, scale and direction of investments are calibrated adequately.”

According to Mngxati, the key to success is building sufficient investment capacity for change and determining how to release resources within the organisation to enable innovation by design. In this regard, Accenture’s job is to help legacy businesses pivot their operation decisively and sustainably, while creating synergies between the old and the new to capitalise on opportunities and reimagine new possibilities.

“How do you radically shake up a legacy business? Do you divest some parts while revitalising others? Do you have the capabilities to scale new investments at the right pace so that they neither miss the moment, nor overreach themselves? Answering these questions will be vital if companies hope to pivot their core business into the new, without compromising their long-term sustainability.”

To help companies shift into new business activities and new markets with speed and confidence, Accenture offers an end-to-end solutions set that has been tested time and again both globally and locally.

“Our capabilities stem from the strength of our transformation acumen, which is delivered though our corporate leadership, who have a birds-eye view of global industry movements and rapidly evolving innovation and technology trends, and the skills of our digital talent pool, which increasingly comprises individuals from the digitally-savvy Millennial generation. This is coupled with the horse-power of our technology solutions and new capabilities that reside in our leading Accenture Digital customer experience agency and our new local Fjord design studio.”

In an age of perpetual disruption, shifting to the ‘new’ begins with a design-led process where Accenture spends substantial time with clients, strategizing how to co-create a digitally-enabled organisation that delivers products and services faster and better.

“We then help our clients to answer real business challenges to unlock the economic opportunities that digital-enabled innovations create and convert those opportunities into real value. This is achieved by leveraging an ecosystem of meaningful and relevant technology levers which offer new sources of innovation, demonstrate tangible outcomes and free up capital for renewed growth in the new.”

This is achieved through the application of intelligent operations (IO), which delivers the fuel for organisational growth, adds Mngxati. “In this regard, we partner with our clients to reposition them for growth and focus on their core differentiators through the use of diverse data. Driven by applied intelligence and human ingenuity, these capabilities will empower next-generation, real-time decision making, exceptional customer experiences and breakthrough business outcomes.”

To grow the core business, it is also vital that organisations re-evaluate the health of their current revenue streams. “We believe that at the confluence of evolving digital technologies, increased friction in business-to-business and business-to-consumer value chains and increasingly blurred industry lines, the power of the platform economy will prevail.”

By applying intelligence around data to contextualise and understand market needs more deeply, organisations can begin to deliver a seamless and frictionless customer experience through ‘platform plays’. In this regard. Accenture helps to link companies to suppliers, partners and consumers in relevant and personalised ways within a digital ecosystem that can unlock and rapidly scale new lines of business to create previously unimagined possibilities.

According to Mngxati, it is the cloud environment that enables these forms of digitisation. “Migration to the cloud environment underpins the ability of businesses to achieve hyper scale and reap the benefits of greater speed and agility. Once in the cloud clients can ramp up or dial down at pace in response to prevailing market conditions. The cloud deployment model also stabilises the core, both from an infrastructure and cost perspective, which enables organisations to conduct more effective business, cheaper and more efficiently.”

Beyond the experience of these digital touch points, all interactions must also be safe and secure, adds Mngxati. “By securing digital transformation we help our clients to establish digital trust among their customers and build resiliency from the inside out to ensure business success.”

But in all of this, the biggest value that any digital evolution delivers is the ability to leverage technology to solve for big social challenges, such as access to healthcare and housing and the delivering basic services such as banking.

To drive social impact on the continent, Mngxati explains that Accenture Africa is engaging and collaborating with the public and private sectors on projects that will have a big impact in Africa and will change how its citizens work and live.

Mngxati believes that Accenture’s unique approach will drive the required step-changes and exponential growth needed to transform how companies do business in the digital economy. “It is a dynamic and continual process and there is no box-drop solution, which is why we also assist clients with change management and constantly engage with them. In this way we build a lasting partnership that is able to unlock long-term value. This will ultimately ensure that Accenture Africa and our South African and African clients are able to compete in the global marketplace, today and into the future.”

While Accenture’s immediate focus is on entrenching its leading role in the local market, the CEO sees significant scope for growth into Africa in the medium term. “My immediate vision is to bolster our South African presence. We have specific business objectives around growth and revenue targets which we want to achieve before scaling the business throughout the continent.”

When the time comes to expand, Accenture Africa will leverage the hub and spoke model perfected by its global parent to distribute the necessary resources and talent within Africa. “The opportunity is there and our aim is to scale the South African practice to deploy into Africa within the next 18 to 24 months.”

Mngxati considers the numerous recent changes at Accenture Africa as a symbolic point of departure for this broader South African and African growth odyssey under his new leadership. “Having recently moved into new offices in Waterfall City, which offer a new and vibrant environment to base our operations, we are ready to shift the market and drive digital transformation under the banner of our new ‘United, for our new era’ brand campaign. I am honoured to be driving Accenture Africa’s bold new strategy at such an exciting time, both for our business and the country. It’s the start of a new dawn for both South Africa and Accenture Africa and we are excited about what the future holds,” concludes Mngxati.