SAP Africa On Leading A Digital Transformation

The future is imminent and the future is now, says global technology enterprise provider, SAP. Kicking off South Africa’s premier business event of 2018, SAP NOW, the company is putting technology, big data and the country’s growing digital ecosystem center stage.

Connectivity is picking up across Africa. Across what are still very much cash cultures on the sub-continent, growing infrastructure and enhanced security, technology in both rural and urban areas and more integrated products in  the daily lives and business of all sizes, both in South Africa and the greater continent, are emerging.

From Johannesburg, Paige dos Santos, Digital Lead for SAP Africa spoke exclusively to Emerging Market Views on how a global technology provider is working to lead the subcontinent into a more connected, enterprising and digitally connected future.

The digital transformation of Africa appears to be underway. How is SAP Africa pushing their agenda for the continent forward?

Paige dos Santos: As in all of our global territories, our activity in Africa is driven by the SAP Purpose – to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This is arguably more important in Africa than anywhere else on earth. Our continent is bursting at the seams with opportunities and promise, and at the same time incredibly challenged in some areas. By bringing best in class solutions to the table, we help Africa is enhance her competitiveness in the global marketplace.

We see pockets of digital excellence across Africa, however, there are still large industrialized parts of our economies. In a global market where a lot of organizations are prevented from reaching their digital potential by heavy legacy system investment, many areas of Africa’s economy have the advantage of a fresh digital slate.

Paige dos Santos, Digital Lead, SAP Africa

How does SAP deliver its digital services across the various economies? For example, the economy of Angola offers different dynamics from that of South Africa. What considerations are taken?

SAP has an extensive offering of enterprise software solutions, servicing everything from small businesses through solutions such as SAP Business One to multinational corporations running on S4 HANA. The flexibility of these offerings has been enhanced through our move to the cloud and our capabilities today extend far beyond ERP, into customer experience and commerce, HR, digital supply chain and business network solutions. SAP also believes in the value of industry focus, providing industry-specific solutions for more than 27 industries.

We work through a global channel strategy, selling and implementing solutions through an extensive network of global and local partners. This strategy provides customers with the opportunity to make sure their solutions are implemented by local teams that deeply understand the nuances in their individual markets. It also provides local technology companies with significant business opportunities, growing the local economy.

As digital becomes more commonplace, how does data come in to play? How can the continent, in all its diversity and nuances, leverage data not just for the good of special nations, but for the continent?

Meaningful data insights can provide both the private and public sectors to make better-informed decisions as Africa’s markets mature. There is much to be gained when you consider that it is estimated that less than 5 percent of our available data today is used to provide insights. The true value lies in being able to connect data from multiple areas and entities to be able to generate deep insights and identify areas where value can be created, and costs saved. Integration with multiple backend systems remains a reality. Making this less complex is a priority. Solutions such as the SAP Data Hub make a big difference in this area.

We are seeing organizations in Africa rapidly mature around their approach to data. By embracing open API strategies and finding mutually beneficial ways to collect and share data, we can kick-start Africa’s digital economy, particularly in the startup space. What better way to create good on the continent than by enabling innovation by the people, for the people.

Africa’s regulatory framework may be in place, but enforcement and transparency have a way to go in many countries. How does SAP tackle these issues while pushing its digital agenda forward?

The technological forces at play today are increasing the pace of change in the regulatory landscape, as legislation strives to keep up with constantly changing ways of doing business. As a global multi-national software company, SAP is constantly involved in helping clients across the globe to keep up with regulatory changes. For example, when the banking laws in Brazil changed recently, we were able to help our customers quickly adapt and comply in just a few short weeks. This positions us well to help organizations in Africa comply with regulations, as quickly and easily as possible.

Africa is in many areas still transitioning from paper-based environments into a fully-fledged digital landscape. Regulatory compliance is made considerably easier by ensuring organizations have strong best-in-class business processes, delivered on a stable technology footprint.

Big data, behavioral science, and technology are essential to the continent’s future. How does a global business provider such as SAP approach behavioral and habitual ways of doing business across Africa?

Digital can offer many powerful solutions for problems in Africa. However, as much as a digital world is about technology, it is equally about humans. It’s vital that we keep ourselves honest and start with the human aspect. Why do you need a solution? Who are you designing it for? How will it help them? And only then, what are you designing in terms of technology? By combining design and psychology into the process, the transition to digital can be made considerably easier for employees and customers alike. Behavioral heuristics and communication techniques are incredibly powerful tools for change that are too often be overlooked as “fluffy stuff”.

The SAP Leonardo approach ensures that the human design component sits at the center of it all. By including skilled designers early on to drive the innovation process, we are able to deliver ‘Rolls Royce’ innovation for our customers and partners–solutions that delight and engage users, as well as scaling and performing with the same level of technology excellence that our clients have come to expect.