From the need for more sustainable alternatives to the way we do business to the incomparable impact of AI on every facet of our personal and professional lives, African executives face a challenging time ahead, says Tracy Bolton at SAP Africa.
What is in store for African enterprises in 2024? The global economy continues to be in a state of flux as geopolitical conflict, supply chain pressures, inflation, technology-led disruption and changing consumer needs put pressure on companies and decision-makers.
From the desperate need for more sustainable alternatives to the way we do business to the incomparable impact of AI on every facet of our personal and professional lives, business leaders face a challenging time ahead. By taking stock of emerging trends, however, business leaders may be better able to ride the waves of change and steer their companies through turbulent waters.
These are the key trends that African enterprises should take heed of in 2024:
Generative AI received an astonishing amount of hype in 2023, and was a bolt of lightning that made every business and technology leader sit up and take notice. Today, it is not a matter of if businesses will adopt AI, but rather how quickly they can deploy and enjoy AI-driven benefits.
In 2024, business leaders will look beyond the hype and seek AI solutions that deliver real-life use cases and benefits. At an operational level, organisations may quickly realise that the quality of their AI outcomes depend largely on the quality of their data.
Technology providers will be indispensable in this conversation, thanks to the huge volumes of data and transactions running through their systems and broader business network. Business leaders will leverage the technology providers’ expertise to access the data they need, visualise it, and take decisive actions to drive successful outcomes.
Sustainability centre stage
As the world continues to warm and the consequences of climate change hit home for billions of people, sustainability will take centre stage in the business and technology world.
In 2024, the energy industry will shed its view of the customer as simply a commodity user in favour of the prosumer model. Industry leaders will aim to not only secure loyalty and create retail-like experiences, but encourage users to make active contributions to the stability and health of the grid.
This may involve keeping customers informed of how they can make the best, most sustainable decisions over energy use, or see consumers feed excess energy, for example from rooftop solar, into the grid to stabilise supply and contribute clean energy.
In addition, mounting pressure from regulators, consumers and investors will see organisations build more sustainable supply chains with lower carbon emissions and greater use of circular economy principles. This will require extensive innovation in data and analytics to provide business leaders with end-to-end visibility over their environmental impact across the broader supply chain.
Those companies that do succeed in leveraging technology to build truly eco-conscious supply chains will not only unlock new sources of innovation and revenue, but secure long-term profitability for years to come.
In the rush for digitalisation, enterprises will continue to enhance their procurement processes, driving the need for more intuitive user interfaces. Procurement is evolving from a tactical to a strategic function to drive greater value throughout the organisation.
AI and analytics will be deployed to support procurement professionals as they seek ways to spend more time on value-adding tasks. In 2024, the demand for technologies that enable value-based procurement will increase, enhancing the organisation’s ability to leverage procurement to deliver value in other parts of the business, such as sustainability.
Resilient supply chains
Global supply chains are still under severe pressure, thanks to a combination of geopolitical disruption, inflation, environmental factors and the ongoing ripple effects of the pandemic. In 2024, expect a surge in supply chain technology investments as organisations seek greater visibility, agility and risk resilience.
In particular, AI holds huge promise for its ability to enhance organisations’ ability to sense, recognise and react to disruptions and opportunities in new and exciting ways. The key to unlocking AI’s benefits hinges on connected data and collaboration throughout the organisation.
Business leaders must lead the charge by ensuring AI is integrated with every layer of the supply chain network to achieve measurable business outcomes. This will unleash a new era of hyper-predictive and efficient logistics, revolutionising the way goods flow from factory floor to consumers.
This article first appeared on Intelligent CIO.