Many SMEs are so focused on the here and now, and survival, that they forget to look at how disruptive technologies are going to affect their business or how they could use these technologies to improve their businesses or products.
In recent months, I’ve been improving my understanding of the massive changes we’re facing. We have a choice; either we benefit from them or we become victims of the rapid changes taking place around us.
The extending reach of disruptive technology
Disruptive technologies are becoming more pervasive and there is no industry or profession/job that will not be affected by these forces.
These technologies will have a far-reaching impact in manufacturing, retail, finance and healthcare, to name a few.
In manufacturing, 3D printing drives an increase in innovation, while improving product design cycles and costs, increases production speed and quality, and reduces warehouse inventories through virtual inventories. The use of nanotechnology will also improve precision, product performance and cost.
Related: The Dawn of Digital Disruption
How disruptive technology is already influencing retail, finance and healthcare
In retail, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will track products from supply chain to consumer, providing benefits for retailers. The use of ‘beacons’ gives retailers insights into the way consumers are navigating their stores, where they’re shopping and for how long.
In finance, the use of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and biometric verification is already finding its way into how we do business.
In healthcare, the use of genomics, big data and cloud- based robotics is enabling cheaper, faster and more efficient patient care.
While these changes may seem far-removed from your own industry or markets, the reality is that technology is disrupting everything, and your industry may be next.
The question isn’t if we will be affected, but when and how we respond to these changes?
1Be aware of the changes that are taking place
As a business owner, you should make time to read about these changes in the medium and short term and attend seminars or conferences where they are being discussed and debated.
2Evaluate how technology can improve or disrupt your business
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can my business benefit from this? Is there an opportunity for my business to launch into a new market, provide a new product or offer my current service faster or at a lower cost using technology? How will the technology assist my business to recreate our Unique Selling Point (USP)?
How is the technology going to affect the viability of my:
- Business: In what way is this technology a threat to my business if we don’t or can’t adopt the technology?
- Target market: Will this technology take over my target market and how do I respond to this? Do I adopt the technology or redefine my market?
- Distribution channel: How do we respond to distribution channels moving closer to the consumer and increasingly going virtual?
- People: Do I have the skills in my business to adopt, adapt and make use of the changes that are coming and can we drive these changes?
- Business processes: How is technology affecting the way we handle our financial transactions, collect data or product development cycles, movement of products from manufacturing stage, through to warehousing and the consumer?
- Speed to market
- Cost structure
How do I prepare my business and people for the changes?
3Develop a strategy to deal with technological changes
Any strategy is better than none. You can’t ignore the reality that tech is changing how people do business across countries, industries and communities.
4Focus on customer engagement
Ensure that you stay close to your customer and target market so that you’re able to respond to changes.
Bringing it all together
Technology is going to affect us all and the sooner we ask these questions the better. Failure to address them will force us to react to the change, or be overtaken by it, resulting in obsolescence.
Begin your new tech-focused disruptive strategy with these three questions:
- How can we do this faster?
- How can we do this cheaper?
- How can we improve the product quality?
You’ll find that the answer to all three has a tech component.
South Africa Seeks Innovative Solutions to Payments Systems
How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.
News has been circulating that high-level players in South Africa are working hard to introduce structural changes in payments solutions. Some of the biggest players in the industry, including the Payments Association of South Africa, and BankservAfrica have begun work in earnest on facilitating expedited transactions settlements, by adding new payments systems and features into the market.
Financial technology, a.k.a. FinTech is powering the payments gateway to cost-effective solutions for South African businesses, consumers, domestic and international stakeholders. According to industry pundits, the payment system that currently exists in South Africa was formulated in the 1980s. At the time, it was highly regarded by world standards. However, the rampant innovation that has taken place with the Internet of things since then necessitates updating.
Various solutions have been touted, to rethink the infrastructure framework that currently exists in South Africa. The economy is rapidly changing, and mobile technology is being embraced across the board. The South African payments system is long overdue for an upgrade, as shifting priorities and the widespread digitisation of the economy take place. For starters, payments solutions across South Africa must factor in the large underbanked and unbanked sectors of society.
A key industry player, Bankserv which is owned and operated by Standard Bank, ABSA, and Nedbank among others is ringing the changes. Back in 2017, this financial entity processed R188.2 billion worth of ATM transactions. The total number of transactions numbered 452.6 million additionally. It processed 52.5 billion POS transactions valued at R290.9 billion in credit card authorizations in the same year. Electronic funds transfers (EFTs) to the value of R9.4 trillion were also processed by Bankserv. These are significant figures, and they point to a shift in financial transactions processing in South Africa.
Groundbreaking POS Systems to Debut in SA
The widespread innovation currently taking place in POS systems is reshaping retail industry, the food and beverage service, and other merchant networks across the board. One of the industry leaders in this regard is revel systems POS. It is fully integrated with a robust selection of features, the likes of which include superior reporting features, full kiosk functionality, and a modern kitchen display system for the thriving restaurant industry in South Africa. The technology was created back in 2010 by Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone as an innovative Apple iPad point-of-sale system. It was tested in the San Francisco Bay Area and became an instant hit.
Today, the Revel POS system sports 25,000+ terminals around the world, at high profile company such as Cinnabon, Goodwill, Smoothie King and others. South African restaurants and food industry businesses can enjoy monthly subscription fees, and the software license is included in the monthly subscription fee. Flexible pricing is another advantage of using this POS system. Plus, users get to enjoy industry-specific software and integrations that can be used by quick service businesses and restaurants.
It’s ideally suited to businesses that have 500,000 SKUs, although it’s equally adept at serving smaller SA businesses. In terms of ease-of-use, this POS is intuitive for front-end use, and training videos facilitate backend learning and integration. The backend management is particularly effective in terms of training regimens, navigation, and utilisation. All that’s required to get started is an Apple iOS device, and any standard barcode scanner is fully compatible with the system.
Among the many features include the following:
- Fully Functional point-of-sale systems
- Real-Time Inventory control of SKUs, including cost considerations, pricing, inventory, size, colour, style etc. Digital menu boards, kitchen display systems, and kiosk point-of-sale systems are also available
- Purchase Order Management and QuickBooks integration
- Customer Management in terms of purchases, details and personal data is also available.
What Are the Current FinTech Challenges in South Africa?
Contrary to widespread belief, South Africa has one of the most sophisticated payments infrastructures. This is certainly a feather in the cap for South Africa’s financial and FinTech sector. Given that Internet usage is widespread, and the telecom network that facilitates Internet functionality is highly developed, South Africa ranks on par with the best of them.
There are effectively 2 parallel economies operating in South Africa – the first world developed FinTech economy, and the informal economy which dominates the outlying areas. South Africa has a challenge on its hands: How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.
Investing In Value Creation Tools Can Help Your Business Grow
ACCA on attracting new clients, establishing and strengthening commercial partnerships and accessing external finance to help your business expand.
The business journey of many SMEs is often characterised by a gradual change in internal management practices which develop as the business operations grow. The subsequent recognition of the business’s value creation, across all its operations – tends to emerge slowly but surely alongside this process.
Gaining an understanding of ongoing value creation can be challenging. This is because smaller companies tend to not have access to simple and understandable data sets on everything, which is and isn’t contributing to value across the business.
For example, customer and supplier relationships, human capital and intellectual property are all common examples of activities where SMEs regularly experience difficulties in determining the real contribution to the businesses’ overall value. These are areas that are not picked up by financial reports that are a focal point of many growing businesses, hence the importance of these areas in business is not given the proper attention it deserves.
However, by improving trust and relationships between customers and those along your supply chain, this information can be used to attract new clients, establish and strengthen commercial partnerships and access external finance to help your business expand.
Key actions to consider when capturing the value within your business include the following:
- Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth;
- Create a business strategy which incorporates everything;
- Allow staff to use new technologies to innovate; and
- Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance.
These actions will help you succeed in developing a successful business strategy.
Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth
Purchasing relevant software packages could help you access the data you need to understand where and when value is being created. Cloud and data analytics technology can provide a real-time flow of information, offering detailed measures across workflows, whilst also complementing existing reporting processes.
More long term, this technology can provide you with greater flexibility when anticipating future periods of growth.
For example, when the time comes to up-scale your business operations, it could help your finance function adapt more easily to any additional demands being placed upon it and mitigate the risk of disruption towards ongoing operations.
At the same time investing in this technology doesn’t have to happen overnight. Software packages can be purchased in stages and tailored to meet the specific needs of your business.
Create a business strategy which incorporates everything
Business success will often be determined by how effectively you can combine the value of ongoing operations into the development of a single, overarching business strategy. Understanding of the key strategic themes by employees is critical in aiding future business expansion plans and growth. This integration can support planning processes.
By taking a short, medium and long-term view on how value creation might change across the business, you will be in a much better place to identify upcoming risks and opportunities related to your growth ambitions.
The practical delivery of this might involve regular integrated reporting across your business’s operations. The more data that is involved in this process, the more helpful it will be towards informing your management decisions.
Allow work teams to use new technologies to innovate
Companies might also want to consider supporting work teams in certain areas to come up with new ideas to enhance plans for business growth and learn from possible failures, without the personal risks that entrepreneurship entails.
Allowing employees to use new technologies could help to reduce costs and offer new revenue opportunities as your business expands. It could also help to stimulate a high growth business and to fully communicate business’s value to potential clients and commercial partners.
Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance
Investing in technology at an early stage can help attract external investors, as well as reducing the cost of raising growth finance. Such investors need to be able to understand the broader strategy of your business.
Lenders are increasingly using data to build up a broad perspective on the growth potential of SMEs. If you can provide real-time information – rather than just historical data – of your business’s performance, this could greatly increase the chances of obtaining the finance you need to grow.
However, there remains a gap and potential to co-create new approaches of raising capital amongst growing businesses and in creating agreed terms of sharing risks. This could bolster the advancement of entrepreneurial houses toward creating real economic equity in long term.
Embracing Technology For Business
The technologies that can boost efficiency in your organisation.
The world is dominated by technology. So if you haven’t yet heard terms like ML, AI, VR, and the wave of other acronyms used to address the new developments in this modern age, you will soon. Because, the era of big data is here. And resisting it is futile. We have to embrace new technologies to survive, let alone compete. Luckily, a lot of today’s tech helps make business more streamlined.
Here are a few that make all the difference:
WebVault is a digital ‘vault’ for securely storing documents, emails, certificates, voice files, and other data in the cloud. WebVault Achiever can even load completed trainee certificates into the vault, without your needing to vet or track them.
Asana is a tool for managing team-based projects. It allows users to break projects into tasks, assign them to individuals, add followers, and schedule deadlines. This ensures transparency, accountability, and helps to streamline and track deliverables.
Slack is like a WhatsApp group for business. You can sort interests by topic, and use the search function for anything, including old discussions and shared files. The most notable benefit is that Slack stops back and forth email discussions, decluttering your inbox. It also integrates easily with platforms like Twitter and Dropbox.
Wave is accounting software that offers small to medium-sized businesses access to helpful tools. Through mobile and web-based platforms, users can build and send professional cost estimates and tax invoices, accept credit cards, keep track of payments, administer payroll, and streamline expense tracking.
Artificial intelligence (also known as AI) is created from technology called machine (or computer) learning (ML). In other words: by using complex networks, computers can learn without the need for human direction or oversight.
One of the most exciting ways that AI affects learning is by identifying overlaps between different industries and subjects. Connections that would take humans many years of study to discover, can now take computers less than a day to unveil, revealing complex subjects that we may never have realised existed without it.
Virtual & augmented reality
Most people learn best by getting involved. But, where the stakes are high or expensive, like the military, medicine, and mining, this isn’t feasible. By digitally influencing how learners see their environment, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) allow them to safely, cost-effectively practise the impractical.
The modern technologies we’re seeing today are fascinating, but they aren’t always fool-proof. Indeed, for every new technology, there are thousands of hackers spending all of their time looking for ways to break in.
For example, consider how you can monitor your home on a device. This is convenient for you, but it defeats the point if a hacker can access the video feed. There are even organisations online that provide malware and phishing as a service.
If you’re stepping into new technological territory, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. The best protection against threats like this is to hire an ethical hacker yourself; one who can tell you where your weak points are and how to protect them.
Blockchain technology is controversial thanks to its association with Bitcoin. But it is critical to differentiate the two. Bitcoin, on the one hand, is a digital currency. Blockchain, however, is the technology it uses for its distributed digital ledger.
Because a blockchain is both distributed and transparent, it allows digital peer-to-peer transactions to be executed safely and stored securely. And because the technology isn’t limited to finance, it has the potential to disrupt the way many companies do business. Notable leaders in this space include WalMart, IBM, and Nestlé, who are using blockchain technology to improve their systems.
The age of the digital innovation is here, and that means the world is changing rapidly. The best ways to be prepared are to be aware and to adapt quickly.
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