The paradigm shift in enterprise computing presents an ideal opportunity for enterprises across Africa to innovate and gain competitive advantage, says IBM.
Cloud and big data analytics are changing the face of IT and enterprise operations so completely that some might see the disruptive change as negative. On the contrary – it’s an opportunity to revolutionise business, says Hannes van Vuuren, Director: Software Group at IBM South Africa.
“Allowing people and businesses to access data and applications using an Internet connection, rather than relying on a specific device, is arguably the biggest IT paradigm shift in recent history, and the benefits are ripe for the picking by businesses who can quickly and strategically embrace these disruptive technologies,” says van Vuuren.
The key to success, he says, is partnering with a trusted IT advisor who can help the enterprise harness the power of these technologies in a way that delivers real business value.
Across Africa, enterprises are fast seeing the potential benefits and leapfrogging the on-premise IT age to move directly to an era of smart, cloud based computing, he says.
“Cloud and big data analytics are set to play a decisive role in determining which enterprises grow their profits and global market share during the African continent’s ascendancy and which don’t,” says van Vuuren.
“Government and business leaders of the region can’t afford to treat the cloud as a purely technological trend, but must see it rather as an enabler of more efficient operations, innovative services, and globally sustainable business models. Cloud adoption is already accelerating across large parts of the continent, challenging all manner of industries to rethink the role of IT in fostering their competitive edge.”
IBM notes that around 1 in every 2 medium/large businesses in both South Africa and Kenya already use the cloud; but the pace of adoption is best reflected by Nigeria, where cloud usage is expected to more than double to 80 per cent of businesses by the end of next year. This rapid uptake is attributed in part to the cost-effective nature of the cloud, which has particular appeal for the 45 per cent of CIOs feeling the impact of limited budgets. In addition, at least one in three see fostering innovation within their businesses as a major challenge, which can be addressed by using the cloud to quickly build, test, re-iterate, and deploy new software and services. The cloud also offers agility and flexibility that go beyond what traditional “fixed-location” hardware and infrastructure can offer.
“Businesses who don’t take stock of the cloud’s strategic and operational advantages will find themselves left behind by their faster-moving competitors across the region,” says van Vuuren.
When it’s applied to the fundamental processes of any business, its true value emerges, says van Vuuren. He cites the example of a South African insurance provider whose key decision-makers realised they needed to roll out new insurance products faster if they were to keep up with consumer demands and outpace the competition. The company’s response to this commonplace business challenge was anything but traditional: a cloud-based application platform designed specifically to cater to the unique requirements of the insurance sector. After deploying IBM’s Insurance Application Architecture, the company was able to bring nine new insurance products to market in less than a year – compared to the single new product released in the previous three years – and rapidly modify these products within weeks if it saw threats from competitors.
“This is just one of many examples of the bottom line benefits being realised from cloud based business services and models. In my mind, cloud is here to stay. Enterprises just need to trust the cloud and use it as a basis for innovation,” says van Vuuren.