By Ross McLaren, COO of redPanda Software
South Africa is on par with the rest of the world when it comes to enterprise software development. The business demands are similar to the rest of the world and software development companies have the ability to compete with anyone abroad.
Over the past 20 years enterprise software development has evolved, understandably, from centralised computing power - here we talk about the old, big iron world of the mainframe - to the distributed client server model and then to where we are now: computing power is in the cloud driven by the demand for mobility.
South African enterprises face the same challenges as their international counterparts, albeit in a different set of local economic and political conditions. They need to develop solutions to business problems fast, and push to new markets as soon as possible making use of the latest and most up-to-date technology in order to gain a competitive advantage.
Budgeting and planning are two important challenges. From a budgeting point of view, there needs to be a very detailed and concise scope of work. This requires the developer having an in-depth understanding of the client’s business – how the processes work, the problem that needs a solution and the domain where they operate.
This is vital because in order to win board approval, the developer and enterprise need to be 100% aligned. This requires very careful and methodical planning with the right people involved from the earliest stages of engagement.
How is this achieved? Through transparency and long-term engagements.
These two pillars are vital in a highly competitive world. Once-off interventions are futile. The world of IT is dynamic and fluid, and so long-term business, relationships between the enterprise and the developer are crucial. This means that besides the obvious benefits of clear and regular feedback resulting in better solution development, the business has the confidence that the developer partner is utilising the best-possible technology solutions for its business problems in innovative and effective ways - because it understands the domain and business exceptionally well.
That’s why redPanda Software believes in long-term engagements that become increasingly mutually beneficial over time. The longer we are involved, the more we increase our domain knowledge and that leads to more effective solutions.
We strive to create real value for our clients by getting to know their business as well as our own. This gives us the opportunity - and confidence - to approach them with new technology and new concepts that are relevant – be those solutions embedded in mixed reality, artificial intelligence or machine learning, among much more.
The software development model is built on the two pillars of transparency and trust - because then we create an agile and dynamic partnership for the long haul.
As specialists in retail we are able to demonstrate the value various technology advancements can create in terms of both retaining customers, but also attracting customers, ultimately benefiting the bottom line. Whether this involves software to counter stock theft or in-shop virtual experiences for the consumer, it is through our long-term engagement with clients that they can trust both our knowledge of technology as well as our knowledge of their industry and business, as well as their day-to-day business challenges.
Where South Africa does have a challenge is the size of its skill pool. For this reason redPanda strongly advocates business incubators and intern models - we have to continue to build our talent pool.
Because of the limited skills available, an enterprise outsourcing to a software development partner unlocks immense value because a company such as ours works very hard to build a culture of continual upskilling and learning, which is very attractive to the best developers who may not necessarily feel at home in an enterprise environment.
The positive flip side of the smaller enterprise development community in South Africa is a willingness, driven by necessity, to dive into new and exciting technologies, underpinned by collaboration and communication. The development partner’s team therefore is able to work closely with the enterprise’s IT team, with regular and honest communication.
Being innovative and agile, underpinned by trust and transparency, over the long term is the surest way to future-proof a business against digital disruption and keep it competitive and innovative. After all, the end-user or consumer is increasingly digitally savvy and doesn’t just demand this, but rather expects this.