Q and A: Digital Disruption

By 20th Sep 2019 Blog

Digital disruption has seen a massive shift in industry and business. What have been some of the most dramatic changes over the past year?

Locally, businesses are beginning to understand the importance of data and business intelligence (BI) tools as a driver of innovation and growth. Arguably, deriving actionable insights, in real-time, is one of the primary drivers of digital disruption – and local businesses are now looking more carefully at BI tools and solutions. These tools are also becoming increasingly accessible, with tech giants such as Microsoft and Google introducing transformative products (e.g. Microsoft’s Power BI) that harness recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide customers with unparalleled business intelligence. These tools are now affordable for SMEs and startups, which is significantly leveling the playing field and making digital disruption a more ‘democratic’ process!

While the interest in data-driven solutions is shaping digital disruption, companies are also being forced to develop robust data governance structures and examine the way data is being shared and managed. This year saw a heightened emphasis on data privacy and data protection, and we can expect far more developments and focus on this area in 2019 as emerging technologies such as AI and IoT become more entrenched.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing organisations in 2019?

Cybersecurity will undoubtedly be one of the foremost challenges, with cybercriminals becoming increasingly sophisticated and prolific. With the rise of IoT and millions of new Internet-connected devices entering the market, cybercriminals will be pursuing any and every possible vulnerability. In 2018, Bloomberg broke the story of a possible hardware supply chain hack, which could herald a new era of supply chain hacks in which companies will find themselves very vulnerable to attack on the hardware level.

Additionally, data protection regulations such as PoPI and GDPR will force companies to examine their data governance structures and invest in new solutions. This will be challenging in that it will require additional resources, investment into new platforms as well as specialised expertise.

What steps should organisations be taking to overcome these challenges?

Regarding data privacy, data management and security companies should be proactively looking at structures and investing in platforms and expertise to safeguard data and to remain compliant. Becoming and remaining compliant doesn’t have to be painful and laborious either, by implementing platforms like Microsoft SharePoint properly, a side effect will be heightened security and compliance.  Here, being proactive is key.

Companies of every size and across sectors should also be looking at cyber insurance. Fortunately, insurance providers are now creating products that are more accessible and affordable for the SME market. Moreover, companies should be investing in regular training and awareness initiatives that make employees more aware of the threats and equip them with tools to mitigate online threats.

What tools and technologies should be on every business table to ensure agility and the ability to embrace transformation and change? This includes emerging technologies.

Every business should be harnessing Business Intelligence (BI) and advanced data analytics tools.

Regarding cybersecurity, there is a global shift towards Zero Trust security models and Zero Trust Architecture. This is a concept that businesses should be exploring and looking to apply in various ways.

What should every business be watching out for – the pitfalls, the concerns?

The cyber security threat is very key, and companies should be watching out for internal threats (employees, service providers, contractors) – in the form of malicious intent, but also in the form of mistakes being made through ignorance/lack of awareness and failing to be alert. In 2017, data breaches cost companies an average of $3.6 million globally, according to the Ponemon Institute. Notably, a 2017 industry report by Shred-it, an information security company, found that 47 percent of business leaders said human error (such as accidental loss of a device or document by an employee) had caused a data breach at their organization.

With regards to the increasing automation of certain business roles and the adoption of AI tools, companies should ensure that the customer experience remains personal and customised.  There’s a temptation to automate as much as possible for efficiency and with customer interaction, this could be a pitfall.

How can the organisation prepare for digital disruption? New revenue streams? Improved systems? How can it redefine revenue to ensure longevity in a complex market?

By effectively harnessing BI tools and advanced data analytics, businesses across sectors can identify new and possibly unexpected efficiencies as well as new revenue streams. Also, as certain roles become more automated and Machine Learning replaces laborious data and number crunching, businesses can place more emphasis on high-level strategy and perhaps introduce new higher-margin ‘consultative’ solutions to customers.

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