Ayanda Mdluli

Digital technology is helping major firms and small, medium and micro enterprises reshape global and local business landscapes.

Research by Accenture Digital shows that companies have accelerated growth through digital transformation by increasing revenue margins and profitability.

Mike Sutcliff, the chief executive of Accenture Digital, said the process started with understanding different technologies that advanced business objectives at different paces.

Businesses relied on specific technologies, depending on their size. This could include digital marketing and apps for mobile devices, while bigger companies could manage data and analytics in a sophisticated way.

They key was communicating with a broad number of people or customers at a limited cost, which was what drove accelerated growth in the digital space.

“A good example is First National Bank, which has been more innovative in transforming the digital process and [is an example of] how companies engaged with their customers in this space,” he said.

Its report, titled “Digital Adoption in South Africa”, found that 31 percent of respondents indicated a 20 percent or greater return on investment on innovation in 2012 and a 9 percent increase in return on investment from 2010.

From a customer point of view, 72 percent of respondents mentioned that product development innovations resulted in customer purchasing demands increasing; 68 percent cited a growth in market share.

“With regards to marketing and brand development innovation, South African organisations have indicated at least a 10 percent increase in their bottom line (48 percent of respondents) and/or increase in market share (51 percent),” the research explained.

Sutcliff said large enterprises that were previously “digitally disrupted” had the size, scale, skills and drive to become digital disruptors in their own markets and to break new ones.

“While South African companies have tended to adopt a fast-follower approach, this strategy can result in companies losing significant ground as others define new disruptive models.”

He said the country already had strong pockets of innovation and achievement. However, the results of the survey indicated that there was room for improvement, as only 48 percent of companies fostered an active innovative culture within their organisations,

“About 30 percent managed to cut back on staff costs through innovation while 54 percent specified that innovation led to an increase in employment,” he said.