Why Africa Needs More Intelligent Enterprises

SAP NOW Africa 2018 wrapped up last week at the Sandton Convention Centre, with the two-day long event focusing on how local businesses can better prepare themselves for digital disruption and leverage technology to keep pace with their rivals.

The theme for the event was, “Tomorrow is already here,” posing the question to attendees and delegates as to how they will embrace the future.

It also focused on the notion of intelligent enterprises.

How they are created? What the journey involved in becoming one is? And why it’s important to be one?

Intrigued by the definition of an intelligent enterprise, we discussed the subject with SAP Africa COO Mehmood Khan, who unpacked the value that intelligent enterprises could have on the African continent.

Doing things intelligently 

Khan explains that the intelligent enterprise is not simply a message that SAP wish to bring to Africa, but to the entire world.

“We find ourselves in an environment where we can create intelligent enterprises. There are a lot of technologies that are coming together like IoT and Blockchain, but an intelligent enterprise is one that can do some of the learning on its own,” says Khan.

The COO also stresses that an intelligent enterprise is one that has an intrinsic ability to adapt. Not only in the way it develops services and solutions, but also in the way it deals with employees, how it tackles security and approaches its marketing strategy to name a few.

He adds that intelligence does not extend only to certain business applications, but to the organisation as a whole.

“If you can build a technology platform that allows you to be an intelligent enterprise. One that is quick learning, fast to adapt and can automate all of those non-value adding elements, then your business can actually operate with what is going on in the industry. That’s the big change we want to drive in all business,” points out Khan.

Adaptability is key

One of the key elements that distinguishes intelligent enterprises from ones that aren’t, is adaptability, as Khan touched on earlier.

The reason why this adaptability is fundamental, however, is in how effectively an organisation is able to react to significant changes in the market.

Such a change, according to Khan, on the cusp of happening is national health insurance, as it potentially has massive ramifications for all businesses in South Africa.

“If NHI is launched, every organisation in the country will have to change,” says Khan. Adding that, “It effects your HR environment, your supply chain, your security, and so on, so you’ll need to react to it fairly quickly.”

The way our traditional IT systems currently operate will make those quick transitions far more difficult to facilitate says Khan.

Another example of an industry lacking sufficient intelligent enterprises is the finance market, with Khan noting that new solutions take six months-plus to be developed, which leaves gaps open to disruptive organisations to make an impact.

As such, organisations that were quite monolithic in their thinking and processes, need to make a change.

Stepping stone to success

As for why Africa will benefit from having more intelligent enterprises operating on the continent, Khan believes that SAP’s customers (and businesses that aren’t their customers) will only truly be successful if the region is successful.

“I think it’s a virtuous circle. Africa does have the opportunity to compete globally, as our continent has amazing talent, but we need to give people the chance,” says Khan.

“If you have an intelligent enterprise, and have a platform that allows you to be agile and adapt quickly, you have all the same things that organisations in the UK, US, Europe and Far East do, and that affords you a better chance to compete on a global level,” he adds.

Khan also stresses the importance for every organisation to want to improve the lives of its customers, and place that over financial success, which too is an aspect that an intelligent enterprise is aware of.

“If our businesses are competitive, Africa grows and we will reach our mission, which is to make people’s lives better,” concludes Khan.