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To achieve the greatest efficiencies, digital transformation should simplify rather than overcomplicate a company’s operations, writes Junior Biola

Perhaps nowhere has digital transformation been adopted with such vigour and enthusiasm as in the fintech sector. This is not surprising in a world where online fraud and cybercrime are rampant, and the rapid adoption of remote banking and financial services have all been accelerated by the coronavirus lockdown. However, even before COVID-19 sent us all scurrying online, many companies had already joined the goldrush and were looking for ways to bring their policies and processes into the 21st century.

Not just a budgetary process

Digital transformation is rapidly taking place in businesses, driven by software development, AI, and other technical tools. The most successful digital transformation processes are being spearheaded by involved leaders, not by those simply tasking CIOs and CFOs to find digital solutions to existing analogue challenges. Digital transformation is not just a budgetary process; it must be integral to a company’s entire operation. If transformation is seen to be championed by the CEO, board and others at the helm of the business, it will be more successful at operational and implementation level than if those in the C Suite abdicate responsibility or refuse to embrace the concept and execution of migrating to new technologies.

Digital transformation should be a partnership

Partnerships between technology providers and specific industry sectors are key to achieving successful industry-wide transformations. Companies that invest in R&D and create digital products and services designed to propel certain industries or sectors forward will be more successful if they collaborate with clients in the industries they seek to serve. Only in this way, with hands-on experience will they find the best solutions to industry-specific challenges. The more tech enabled a company is, the more it will seek tech solutions to gain a competitive advantage.

Time to be bold

The process of digital transformation provides companies with a brand-new opportunity to rethink and reshape their internal and external processes and procedures. Companies can go back to the drawing board with old systems. Now is not the time to simply digitise old processes that were flawed and inefficient in the first place, but to be bold and find new ways of doing things differently.

Digitisation also allows companies to find real-time solutions to historical problems, particularly in the customer verification space, where approval times can be the difference between making or losing a sale. Working in real-time, third-party service providers can make processes faster and more cost-effective. Whereas in the past, verifying customer banking information and ID verification processes resided only within banks, today any customer facing business can include this function in their onboarding processes. Facial and biometric recognition technology can immediately confirm a customer’s identity, eliminating the need for lengthy checks only after a customer has signed up for a product or service, a delay that can cost a company a sale.

User experience at the centre

The customer must be at the centre of any digital transformation process. Outstanding user experience should be at the heart of everything a company seeks to achieve. As consumers demand more and more contactless yet fast and efficient interaction with service providers, no business can afford to fumble a sign-up or enrolment or lose a sale because they have failed to transform their manual systems or failed to consider what the customer wants. Constant reference back to customer needs and customer patterns should inform the introduction of digital processes, especially in consumer-facing companies.

Maintaining the integrity of your systems

Of paramount importance in this interaction are reliability and security, which should be embedded features in all new digital processes. In an age of sophisticated cybercrime, hacking, and e-hijacking, companies must ensure the integrity of their new technology and protect their customers, bottom line, and reputation, which can all be lost or wiped out by a single keystroke.

The concepts of Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Business (KYB) should inform a company’s digital transformation journey. Any process that does not simplify the two-way interaction with customers will ultimately be counter-productive. Customer attraction and customer retention are key to any company’s success, and this should be kept in mind at all times when moving into the digital space.

Data rich systems

Data-rich systems should be a key focus of any digital transformation initiative, as they offer tremendous potential for improving data collection and management. By leveraging new technologies, companies can mine vast amounts of data to gain insights into customer behaviours, financial performance, and market trends. It is crucial, however, that companies remain aware of the ever-changing regulatory landscape, such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and national credit regulations, which govern the collection, use, and storage of personal data.

To achieve the greatest efficiencies, digital transformation should simplify rather than overcomplicate a company’s operations. This may require a paradigm shift, but ultimately it should enhance the capability and capacity of both the company and its staff. By adopting new products and services, a company can propel itself and its industry further along the path of digital disruption and transformation. While digital transformation is a complex issue, approaching it with cautious enthusiasm, consulting with staff and customers, and staying aware of changing regulations can save a company years of growth trajectory and millions of Rands in cost savings.

Junior Biola is the CEO of Bitventure Group (Bitventure and EasyDebit).