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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 15:23

In the past few weeks, I’ve been interviewed on eNews Africa, 702, BBC World Service and BBC World, as well as commissioned to write an opinion piece for the Sunday Times – all thanks to Twitter. That’s the power of being present in on a platform that carries more and more influence. Twitter is useful, not so much because it gives you access to customers or potential clients, but because it’s where the media increasingly choose to hang out and share the stories they’re covering.

Published in Online
Friday, 05 October 2012 10:44

A Realistic Look at Social Media and the Contact Centre

Twitter™ and Facebook® are rapidly becoming the new kids on the block as a way for customers to complain, get information, and provide feedback to companies. For enterprises that want to provide top-level customer support and service, integrating social media with the contact centre is one way to serve customer service needs and help customers get solutions to their problems.


In the past couple years it’s become possible for companies to route tweets and Facebook posts to contact centre agents, and handle these interactions just like they handle phone calls, email, and web chat sessions. The questions on the minds of many CIO’s, contact centre managers, as well as marketing managers, are focused on whether they should be supporting their customers via social media, and if so, what’s the best way to move forward?


Marketing – the new contact centre for social media?

Traditionally, the contact centre has owned the channels customers use to communicate with an organisation – calls, emails, chats. But when it comes to social media, one of the biggest issues facing companies who are trying to determine whether or not they want to support their customers through it, is the concept of “who owns” it. To find out, Interactive Intelligence and COMMfusion LLC conducted some informal research of about a dozen different global organisations. Based on that research, we found that in the vast majority of companies, social media is the responsibility of the organisation’s marketing department, often in conjunction with the online marketing team. Marketing is responsible for the company’s brand and image, as well as maintaining consistency in their messaging, and is therefore in charge of how the company presents itself via social media.


The marketing team generally handles customer inquiries and complaints that come in via social media in order to ensure that the company is presenting itself the way that marketing believes is best.


There are several reasons why marketing has taken the lead role in social media activities, including customer care:


  1. Social media is a one-to-many form of communication, which typically falls under the jurisdiction of the Marketing department because the messages contained within the social communications directly impact the image of the organization publicly. A wrong message sent out through the social networks can have huge repercussions.
  2. Within the contact centre, traditional channels like phone calls, email and chat are one-to-one and are relatively private in nature and therefore do not expose the organisation publicly.
  3. Because of the public nature of social media, responses need to be crafted in a way that puts the organisation in the best possible light – something marketing does best.
  4. Concise, articulate and well-crafted written responses are needed when responding to customers via social media. This is handled best by marketing.
  5. Research shows that most conversations that organisations have with customers surround sales- and marketing-related items (coupons/discount requests, new sales opportunities, attracting customers away from competitors, etc.) and not customer service-related conversations. In fact, research indicates that customers still prefer traditional channels far more than social media when needing customer service.


While there is good reason for the customer care team to be involved or even responsible for social media customer service, this is generally not the case today.


Social media adoption

We are still in the very early stages of seeing companies providing customer support via social media and for obvious reasons. In a recent study conducted by the Society of New Communications Research (SNR), they found that customers are using social media for reasons other than customer support:


  • 59% use social sites to vent about customer care frustrations
  • 72% said they research companies through social channels before making purchases
  • 74% choose to do business based on online feedback


Additionally, a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that only a small percentage of consumers, 23% of their respondents, indicated that they used social media to interact with a company’s brand. Even more indicative was the activity those individuals had with the company – 61% were looking for discounts/coupons, 55% for purchases, while only 37% of them used social media for customer service purposes. What conclusions can be drawn from this? Customers are clearly interacting with the companies that they want to do business with, but it is the marketing department that is handling the majority of social media interactions.


What does this mean for your company?

Be realistic and don’t let the hype scare you into action prematurely. Social media is here to stay, and you need to be ready to service your customers through the social sites that they’re using. After all, you don’t want to be a #failwhale!

Published in PR & Communications
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 11:08

Social Media made Practical

Social Media made Practical

Social Media is the new black. Every marketing guru on the planet is now an expert on Social Media strategies, and corporate players everywhere are scrambling to get their twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages rocking. If Facebook was a country, by now it would be the third most populated country in the world! It’s clearly a wave not to be missed.

In the face of some organisations actually banning social networking sites from corporate networks, and using them only for client interactions, I think there may be a bit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I’m an early adopter of things and have had great fun playing around with all the cool stuff over the past few years. But as a business leader, I’ve also had to get my head around what to use and what not to use – which tools would be worth investing time and headspace on, in order to positively impact our business results.

I hate to use new social media stuff unless I can actually find practical uses for them – I must confess, I actually resisted building a company website in the old days because I just could not see the reason for it! We were out there, building strong relationships with our clients: why on earth would we create a website?? Of course, that’s laughable now! No website today means you don’t actually exist as a company to take seriously. So believe me when I say that each of the approaches I will spell out to you now, I have engaged with very practically, and it actually works for me.


I was a really early adopter here. In fact, when we finally created our website in 2006, we set it up as a blog (before most people knew what it meant). We have had brilliant feedback on it over the years. Its ‘make as you go’ format has allowed us to have a 6-year ongoing conversation with our clients . And because any Avo can blog, it has also represented our brand very powerfully to the world. On many occasions, people have said to me that our website blog has been a perfect representation of our brand – the ‘feel ‘of the site is the same as the ‘feel’ of our company as you walk in the gate.

In the blog we have been able to be current, voice opinions, engage in online conversations and grow our thought leadership, as well as market our thinking to the world. In true social media spirit, we have also never edited conversations on the blog (other than the odd spelling error). We train people to have effective conversations, and the online conversations we have with the world are an extension of that: the ‘realness’ of the conversation is part of our value set.


Besides the odd frustration in dropped calls, Skype has revolutionised the way we engage as a team. It has freed up our consultants work virtually: on client sites, from home, overseas, enabling a much higher level of work-life balance, and employee engagement. It’s the one service available wherever we go, so long as there is internet access. And we can have group conversations.

Practically, we have a few rules to make the most of this medium: we use voice rather than the video option as South Africa’s bandwidth just struggles with multiple video inputs. We decide as a team when our meetings will be skype-based, and then EVERYONE attends via skype. It’s hard to have some people in a room, and some on skype at another venue. Invariably, people get left out of conversations or can’t hear the ‘tone’ of comments. If everyone is on skype independently, then different protocols are used in managing who speaks when, and the communication is more effective.


Part of the work we do is training in every nook and cranny of South Africa. Our trainers live in remote areas, and we very seldom get to see them in the flesh. It’s hard to maintain a sense of connection and culture when our interactions by phone and email are so very operational.

Then we realised that the vast majority of our community trainers are avid facebookers. So we built an ‘in-house’ facebook page, only to be viewed and accessed by our community, and voila! Suddenly we are all having playful and serious online interactions that are building a whole new level of connectedness. Our trainers don’t have much access to technology out there, but the facebook cellphone access is something most people have. They’re uploading photographs of training events happening in the field, posting stories of successes and failures; celebrating each other’s posts, and teasing each other, and head office staff, about stuff that happens. We’re suddenly a team, whereas before we were a Head Office vs Field trainer team. Facebook helped us find our common ground.


I don’t think we’re using this well enough yet. We’re looking at creating ‘learning groups’ that work in twitter communities as a way of energising people, connecting them to common learning experiences, and allowing them to debate issues that connect them more to the learning they’re experiencing.


For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a social networking site though pictures. Once you’re a member, you can populate your pin boards with photos of stuff you like, either uploading your own pics, or ‘repinning’ other people’s pics that you find on the site. I must confess that , at the moment, Pinterest is a ‘visual stimulation’ escape tool for me. Between emails, proposals and meetings, I love to go and browse through the general pictures to find pics I like. They soothe and calm me, and also stimulate my creative brain so I’m fresh and ready for my next task.
I see the possibility of capturing all the photos we use in a photo library that my team would be able to access easily online for when they’re making powerpoint presentations or proposals. But we’d have to figure how to protect out pics so they don’t go all over the internet.


This is a great tool for teams who need to collaborate on documents. We create an online folder, and then upload all ‘communal’ documents. These can be updated, amended and accessed 24/7, and having them on dropbox means that everyone always has access to the most recent document. It’s much more effective than emailing documents around: invariably, someone ends up with the wrong one. And dropbox folders are access controlled, so only people that have been invited can see the documents in the folder.

Every one of these social networking tools has worked to make our operation more effective, and contributed to the success and growth of our company. I strongly recommend that leaders not be too hasty to ban employees from using social networking tools at work: committed employees will find ways to use the tools to build value, rather than waste company time. I believe its worth the risk.

Published in Online
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 15:41

How your social media profile could make or break your next job opportunity

Your future employer could be looking

Once a video or comment has been posted on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, it is virtually impossible to withdraw it.
“What you post YouTube stays on YouTube,” says Tasneem Mohamed, marketing manager of the Landelahni Recruitment Group. “Every post or comment leaves an indelible trail.
“Job seekers should take heed of the fact that social media are being used as a recruitment tool by employers. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the technology industry.”
According to the 2012 technology market survey conducted by Eurocom Worldwide, “Almost one in five technology industry executives say that a candidate’s social media profile has caused them not to hire that person.
“Previous surveys had found that almost 40% of survey respondents check out potential employees’ profiles on social media sites. But this was the first evidence that candidates are actually being rejected because of them.”
There are currently more than 4-million registered Facebook users and more than 1-million registered LinkedIn members in South Africa, and these numbers are set to increase. “With this easily obtainable database of prospective candidates, it is clear that the use of social media as a recruitment tool will continue to grow across all industries,” says Mohamed.
“Your social media profile is a powerful tool that can unlock job opportunities. But it must be managed in a responsible way. Your online footprint is a reflection of your personal brand. Your profile, status updates, threads and pictures form a picture that may influence a potential employer’s hiring decision.”
Mohamed lists some of the benefits of using social media as a career development tool:

  • Social media provide you with an opportunity to create an online biography that highlights your knowledge, skills set and accomplishments.
  • A social media profile that is well-managed positions you as a career seeker who is technologically savvy.
  • Social media enable you to extend your reach into a range of industries and connect with individuals whom you may not otherwise have had access to.
  • A professional and well-planned social media profile can lead you to your next career opportunity – anywhere in the world.

“While the benefits of accessibility, reach and impact make social media a powerful tool for job seekers, there are a few pitfalls that you should be aware of,” says Mohamed. These include:

  • Having a social media identity means potential employers have access to personal information that would otherwise be private, such as photos, comments and networks.
  • By posting inappropriate photographs of yourself you may jeopardise the way a potential employer views you.
  • · Inconsistencies in your social media profile across different platforms and misalignment with your CV may create a perception of deception or dishonesty.
  • · On Facebook, your status updates, postings and threads should not be used as a forum to complain about your current boss or organisation. Don’t post anything that could embarrass you in the future.
  • · LinkedIn provides a more credible forum for creating a professional profile.
  • · Do activate security settings on accounts such as Facebook. This will make you less vulnerable to people posting comments on your page that could impact negatively on your professional image.
Published in Careers
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:18

Social media: Unlocking new opportunities for SMEs

Social media: Unlocking new opportunities for SMEs

"Social media" is the umbrella term that defines the various activities and platforms that integrate technology and social interaction. Anybody can access these platforms and, by using them innovatively, entrepreneurs can connect with their target audiences, establish themselves as thought leaders and create a name for their company through their online presence...

With a million social media "gurus" suggesting what to do and what not to do in every article you read, how do entrepreneurs determine a strategy that will work for their businesses – especially if they're already juggling a number of roles and responsibilities? Shawn Theunissen, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Growthpoint Properties and the founder and manager of Property Point, Growthpoint Properties' enterprise development programme, says that social media has become a key tool in the marketing and public relations arsenal of all companies. "Social media can give SMEs a presence that can be far less costly than many other options available to them. This makes it important for them to investigate how best it can be used in their specific context."

Theunissen emphasises that social media activities must be implemented correctly and managed, however: "Unlike placing an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, social media initiatives are dynamic. In the case of Facebook for example, customers, potential customers and other interested parties can ask questions or make comments. When monitored correctly, this not only gives the entrepreneur the ability to expand on their offering, but to show real service by responding to queries promptly and actively engaging with their audience."

In implementing a basic – and manageable – social media strategy, entrepreneurs need to consider establishing a strategic presence using:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • a blog
  • an up-to-date and easy to navigate website

These "four corners of the social media ecosystem" can be used together to create brand awareness; promote offerings; offer information that readers find useful; and constantly supply interested parties with a means to contact and engage with your company. LinkedIn (a site with over 100 million users) is also highly valuable for key staff members, and should be managed personally by these members as often as possible.

Managing your platforms

Just as developing a cutting-edge website doesn't automatically mean people will visit it, social media initiatives need constant updating and marketing to ensure your message is heard. "The vital part of any social media activity for SMEs is that it enables entrepreneurs to have one-on-one discussions with people who actively express an interest in their companies," says Theunissen. "As such, if they're managed properly, they can act as a 'call centre" for their operations."

Theunissen maintains the key points of good social media management are as follows:

  1. Update your Facebook page daily, or at least every second day, to ensure you don't disappear among the many pages your core audience "likes".
  2. Don't try to sell your products or services on social media – it's called "social" media because it's a place where people gather to learn and share information, rather than make purchases. The "hard sell" on social media merely annoys people, and they'll hit the "delete" button quickly if they feel you're abusing their time.
  3. Use Twitter a few times a day and always place a link to a pertinent article on your blog or area of interest on your website (as well as contact details) in your tweet, or the tweet won't work for you as it should.
  4. Avoid tweeting three or more tweets in a row – it looks like you are using automated Twitter software and don't care enough to personalise your tweets.
  5. Try to avoid using software that publishes your tweets on your Facebook page – the hashtags are a dead giveaway, and Facebook users may (again) feel that you just can't be bothered to be a "real human being" and talk to them.
  6. Software that publishes your Facebook update to Twitter appears to be more acceptable, but should be supplemented by "real human" tweets later in the day.
  7. Offer your market information that benefits both them and you – an article on how your services can improve their lives or business for example, shows that you care about your market, and not just about advertising to them.
  8. Use your blog to disseminate information about what it is you do; the market that you're in; how your products/services enhance people's lives; and current news about your market. This can set you (or an individual company spokesperson) up as a "thought leader" in your field and assist in bringing your name or company name up when people use search engines to search for info on your market.
  9. Make sure you tag your blogs and tweets correctly – using popular words that have nothing to do with your product or service just to rank higher up in search engines can be annoying to your followers.
  10. If you don't have the time to manage your social media activities, hire someone who does and make sure that you choose someone with marketing and public relations experience. Remember that you are handing over part of your brand management to this agency and should feel comfortable that everything they do is going to improve your standing on and offline.

"Just as you wouldn't want to publish anything in print that can be damaging to your brand, be cautious about what you publish online," says Theunissen. "As the saying goes, 'what's put out in cyberspace, stays in cyberspace' – pretty much forever! Use all the online resources available to you to ensure your company can be found easily and prospective clients can contact you immediately. Of course, that has to be followed up by prompt service from you or your staff members, so make sure everyone in your organisation is aware of all your social media activities."

"Just an hour a day can prove extremely valuable to SMEs who are willing to take the time to actively promote themselves. It's public relations and it can prove to be the best hour you spend in your day," concludes Theunissen.

Published in Online
Monday, 13 August 2012 12:47

Social Media does not qualify for the 2012 Olympics

Social Media does not qualify for the 2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympic Games are being heralded as the first truly social games, thanks to the rise (and rise) of social media networks and content-sharing platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and the like.
Like the Beijing Games before them, internet and social media access and activity is being severely restricted. Sponsors have been guaranteed that no ambush marketing will occur, and fair enough, but what the IOC is doing is detracting from the viewing experience, to the detriment of consumers and therefore sponsors.
Social media and content sharing platforms enable consumers to participate in an event and share it with their friends, family, colleagues and perfect strangers in a very meaningful way. These platforms also enable the participants to speak directly to consumers who are there to watch and support them specifically.
The IOC has restricted this in a number of ways. Athletes, for example, may not report results, or say anything about the competition, or make any comments that could be taken as being for commercial purposes or as advertising. Athletes may only record first-person, diary-type experiences. So, no digitally commiserating with or congratulating other athletes, for example. No videos taken in official Olympic venues may be posted anywhere, although athletes may take them 'for personal use'. Athletes may not promote sponsors – IOC sponsors or personal sponsors.
Attendees are also constrained. Tickets to the games boast the following rules: "Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the Internet more generally."

By attempting to restrict what can be photographed, videoed, tweeted and posted to Facebook or YouTube or wherever the IOC is preventing the sharing that has become a part of day to day life for most of us. That sharing would likely guarantee sponsors coverage far beyond what the IOC can guarantee through its official, controlled channels. Content that is restricted can't be shared and read a broader audience across multiple channels. Athletes risk being barred from the games if they contravene the rules so they are unlikely to share very much. Attendees are similarly restricted and are already feeling like they've been sold short as a result, making them disinclined to share even what is allowed.
In trying to control the kinds of communication networks and platforms that people (and the UN it must be noted) consider to be a basic human right the IOC is not only depriving its sponsors of coverage but potentially reducing the coverage it has promised to them by virtue of annoying the audience that has already been bundled up into sponsorship deals and handed out accordingly.
By the next set of Olympic games monetising social media will be much better understood and the IOC will no doubt reap the benefits. Will it have understand the cost of its prohibitive regulations? That remains to be seen.

Published in Online
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 11:42

Digital Envy

Digital Envy

Ever came up with something amazing and either got a dismissal from your colleagues, negative comments after your idea was implemented or no congratulations after you have achieved something noteworthy? Ever had a ludicrous idea that the world was round and found yourself the object of gossip and laughter? Professional jealousy has been around since the beginning of time and definitely did not shy away from the digital world.
In fact digital envy has grown to huge proportions due to today's technology and immense amount of communication mediums such as social media platforms, like twitter and Facebook, and options to have your say anonymously.
I am quite sure we all agree that having an opinion is key to who we are, and a lot of us jump at the opportunity to point out if someone is wrong, but it seems there is a general trait of not allowing others to have their 15 minutes of fame; or even an opportunity to make themselves heard. This in fact is quite detrimental to progress.
Let us use the example of having a session where the goal is to identify new campaign ideas for a client. The most productive way to accomplish these goals would be to work together, hear each other out, listen and build on each other's ideas. Some of the best solutions have been established from taking an original idea and building on it. Unfortunately the latter seems to have winked out of existence and was replaced with the "my idea is best" scenario. This could mainly be due to the fact that we have created a cultural milieu where the original idea and originator receives the kudos and leaves the bitter taste of jealousy for the rest.
An excellent example of digital envy can be found on blogs, forums and the everyday site, where comments and replies are the weapons of choice. These mediums allow for a cacophony of comments to literally get a life of their own and the original topic or article is lost in the void. This would be a prime example where simple respect, constructive criticism and humility could go a long way.

So how do we take a step in the right direction?

For starters we have to change our mindset from an aggressive and bombastic approach to an approach where one listens and thinks before responding. This allows for an environment where individuals are motivated to share in discussions, voice their opinions and where praise is given freely, thus motivating individuals to extend their knowledge and participate.
An individual might not be spot-on most of the time but it only takes that one idea or achievement to be great. The moment a negative approach is used, the focus moves away from the goals and then entertains the scenario of who shall be the victor.
It is vital to keep an open mind and realise that people can assist with solutions even if they aren't experts in the target area.

The following are examples which vastly improve the way we reach our goals, motivate progress and recognise success:

  • Listen/Read/Think – Try to take in the information presented objectively and with a nonbiased approach before you formulate a reply.
  • Wait – You will have your turn; let them finish what they were about to share.
  • Respect – Have respect for others; your approach to anything should be done in a professional manner which promotes an environment for individuals to ask and share their opinions.
  • Praise and recognition – Do not shy away from recognition; everyone enjoys and deserves to be praised for accomplishments.
  • Apologise – One of the single most powerful and for some reason difficult concepts in the world; apologising goes a long way and shows a professional ethic and maturity which eludes quite a few of us.
  • Accept – Accept that sometimes someone achieved or thought of something before you. Do not attack or belittle but use the scenario to motivate yourself.
  • Constructive criticism – Don't just point out where you disagree or know the correct answer; rather advise and provide contents to assist an individual's growth.

This might sound like a bag of psychotherapy but for a second imagine the amount of times these would have made a difference in your life or company. Professional jealousy robs us of positive opportunities and should be classed as a crime.
Let us create and strive for a social solidarity which promotes a positive cohesion and empowers individuals to share and rise to new heights.

- Inspired by a great friend; my father
Published in Online
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 08:32

The Five Behaviours of Successful Brands of the Future

The Five Behaviours of Successful Brands of the Future

The nature of social connectedness has evolved – enabled by social media – and this has defined a new kind of consumer. The consumer that we know today has a powerful sense of self-determination, expectations of choice and sense of control – including how they choose a brand.
This means that successful brands are actively undergoing a marketing evolution. Their focus today is on being a receptor and facilitator of consumer needs in three key areas: they facilitate the consumer's thirst for interaction; facilitate the consumer's participation in shaping the brand/product or interaction, and facilitate engagement.
Successful brands embrace technology as a powerful enabler. They do not view technology as the primary factor that shapes marketing. Rather, they know it allows them to deliver on increased consumer expectations.
So, what are the five behaviours we should embrace to ensure future success?

1. Find ways to get the attention of consumers:

It is an age-old marketing problem and it is more relevant than ever. There is a deluge of content out there. Brands must find innovative ways to engage consumers in a positive, enduring way.
For example, McDonald's placed a digital billboard in Sweden that allowed people with smart phones to play a virtual game of ping pong. Players who lasted longer than 30 seconds won McDonald's coupons. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Adidas placed branded punching bags in Chinese subway stations, so commuters could express their frustration in a healthy way.

2. Frequently interact with consumers in a meaningful way:

Meaningful interaction requires an investment of time and money. It also signals that traditional marketing research methods have fallen by the wayside. We need to find new ways to listen and invent new platforms based on what we learn about the needs of our consumer.
Brands that are winning search for insight into consumer passions and demonstrate that they share those passions. 'Know thy customer' has become a multi-dimensional, always-on requirement of the job and it can only be achieved through experiential engagement.
For example, luxury fashion brand Burberry partnered with Twitter ahead of their show at the London Fashion Week, Burberry enabled people to see the collection online before the models hit the runway and allowed consumers - through the use of instant digital purchase capability - to buy directly from the runway.

3. Investing in social circle familiarity:

Remember those brands from your childhood that created sticker or card collections, where you could swap with friends, trade or play games to complete your set? They understood that brands that build closer connections between friends (or other interest groups) become part of those social circles. They formed bonds with consumers that are hard to break or replicate.
An example from today's world: a beer label taps into the trend of watching TV whilst also chatting with mates via social media or mobile phones - Heineken launched StarPlayer, an iPhone app that enables fans to interact in real time with the nail-biting action of the UEFA Champion's League. The app allows players to predict what will happen at key moments in UEFA Champions League matches to score points. StarPlayer works in real-time with players invited to forecast the outcome of corners, free kicks and penalties and to have the chance to guess when goals will take place. In South Africa, Castle Lager launched a similar campaign where viewers could 'play coach' and make real-time calls during the match.

4. Valuing intimacy:

Creating 'experiences' makes consumers feel more intimately connected to the brand. And consumers are more likely to be loyal to brands to which they feel connected. For example: IKEA came across a Facebook group with over 100,000 fans called 'I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA.' The company turned their dream into a reality through a competition that picked 100 lucky winners and hosted a sleepover at their store.

5. Disclose More:

Leading brands have an open conversation with consumers. They are proud of their successes, but also ask for input and are transparent about their shortcomings. For example: the fast food chain Domino's Pizza used a huge billboard space in Times Square to live-stream customer feedback (good and bad) via Twitter. Disclosing more about the brand/product builds trust. It invites two-way communication and demonstrates an awareness that the customer is in control.

Published in Branding
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 11:25

Mobility is driving infrastructure migration across ICT landscape

New technology being used in business

The Information and Communication Technology landscape is always changing. That’s a given, but what we do with this change is up to us. The pace of innovation and impact of global technology trends, and mobility in particular, means that we operate in a vastly different space. Welcome to the world of mobile-driven, information-centric commerce!

It really does not matter what size your operation is. Start-ups, SMBs, SMEs and large enterprises are not immune to the impact of mobility in the workplace. It is a force to be reckoned with and involves one employee with a mobile phone right through to a complete migration of the networking infrastructure – and everything in-between.

The fact is that any credible venture today has to focus on mobility and data, the underbelly of a range of growing ICT and telecommunications trends.

These trends include social networking & social media, ubiquitous & disruptive technology, Big Data, the impact of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and cloud-based services, to name a few.

High growth volumes within the mobile space has opened the door to a range of devices and heightened the relevance of smartphones and tablet PCs. 

It means that workers can interact and engage with the databases of businesses at any time. Information and systems are accessible from anywhere, anytime. Mobile storage devices and flash memory drives now have the capacity to facilitate the secure storage of high volumes of multi-media content from anywhere. We are now entering the terabyte phase of development.

It also means that the power to tap into resources, including the Internet, is truly only a click away. The growth of 3G and 4G LTE represent strategic opportunities to instil mature networks going forward.

We see the continued convergence of advanced apps within the mobile solution market. This is encouraging growth within the tablet PC market. Focused research & development and lower prices makes the advanced mobile solution market an attractive place to be for the consumer – irrespective of knowledge of technology

Social networks and social media are now very much a part of any credible corporate social strategy. These are genuine business-building tools that cannot be ignored. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are all used to expand the business frontier and engage automatically and instantly with a wider audience.

If there is any doubt about the strength and relevance of social media to business, consider that Facebook has a 900-million plus subscriber base and according to , the number of Facebook users in Africa in March 2011 was 27,414,240 and a year later, the figure stood at 40,205,580.

This represents penetration rates of 2,6% and 3,9% respectively. The forecast has been made that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Africa is very much a part of this growth. Countries like Nigeria are home to a high volume of mobile and Internet users.

The social revolution aside, there is little doubt about the impact of the cloud on business infrastructure. The public, private and/or hybrid cloud is becoming entrenched as a viable mechanism from which to control and manipulate infrastructure. It is particularly significant for companies that continue to look to reduce costs, minimise impact on resources and secure a return on investment. The days of businesses – specifically small businesses – having to invest heavily in ICT infrastructure to sustain growth and remain competitive are over.

Businesses are graded and differentiated based on the extent to which they are able to embrace these trends.

Today there is renewed appreciation for the ‘information’ in ICT. In a sense, businesses are going back to the basics and paying attention to data in a major way. Big Data is now the buzzword and it refers to the huge amounts of information that resides in cyberspace, otherwise known as unstructured data. The market is fast becoming more aware of the value of assimilating and analysing this data to engage with target audiences.

The bottom line for business is that there is no escaping the need to embrace mobility, take advantage of truly disruptive technology and the advent of virtual services in association with social media. This is the landscape before us – and it’s likely to be around for some time.

Published in Mobile
Monday, 18 June 2012 10:15

Mid-size Companies Make Collaboration and Transparency a Competitive Advantage


IBM Study says technology seen as means to enable increased collaboration and create relationships

Nearly twice as many mid-market CEOs see creating a more collaborative work environment with a higher level of openness and transparency as a top priority. This is a key finding from a new IBM global study of mid-market Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)

A total of 45 percent of mid-market CEOs see the need to create a more open business environment, a close to 50 percent jump from the findings from the IBM CEO study conducted in 2010.

Additionally, nearly 70 percent of mid-market CEOs aim to partner extensively with other companies as external relationships will play a more critical role to CEOs’ overall business strategies; 64 percent of mid-market CEOs are focused on creating a more collaborative environment to engage employees with a new way of making faster and better decisions in an increasingly changing business environment; and 71 percent are focused on improving their understanding of individual customer needs.

“Market dynamics and technological advances continue to force more organisational change, significantly impacting how midsize businesses engage with customers and employees and drive innovation. Mid-market CEOs are now looking to technology not only to make them more efficient but also to enable increased collaboration and create relationships – essential connections to fuel creativity.” says Jeannine Jennings, Executive for General Business at IBM South Africa.

Going social

CEOs are also considering carefully the “social” change they’re witnessing. Facebook, Twitter and other social media upstarts have changed the way products and services are marketed to customers. Despite the surge in social media adoption around the world, only 15 percent of mid-market CEOs are using social media platforms to connect with the individual consumer today. Three to five years from now, that number is poised to spike to 50 percent.

Organisations are under intense pressure to respond to not only how customers want products and services delivered, but also when and where. Businesses can profit from unique insights they discover about customers. In fact, 65 percent of mid-market CEOs identify customer insights as the most critical investment area.

To effectively engage individual consumers and clients, organisations must weave together insights about the whole person from a variety of sources.

They will need stronger analytics capabilities to uncover patterns and to act on insights.

Partnering to win

Rising complexity and escalating competition have also made partnering a core innovation strategy for many organisations. “As mid-market businesses become more geographically diverse and interact with other organisations, the importance of sustaining a collaborative business culture will only continue to grow.” Says Jennings. “Those that are perceived to be collaborative often find it easier to partner with other successful companies. “ In fact, about 50 percent of mid-market CEOs see partnering or collaborating as a way to stay on the path of innovation.

In addition, given the market pressures to operate with greater openness and transparency, CEOs are looking for employees who will thrive in this kind of atmosphere. CEOs are increasingly focused on finding top talent with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves. These employees are comfortable with change; they learn as they go, often from others’ experiences. CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (72 percent).

Mobile is a game changer

Mobility is also elevating customer expectations and creating new challenges for CEOs. Mid-market clients have a tremendous opportunity to create value out of immediacy to be ready with relevant services and information in the context of the moment.

As mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016, companies will need to take advantage of location based services and new forms of commerce in which mobile is integrated into a consumer's multi-channel experiences, tailored to the individual, to stay competitive.

"Mid-market CEOs are establishing more open and collaborative cultures — in which employees not only connect more with each other and the outside world to innovate, but to reinvent themselves. Learning from each other, they stay ahead of the skills curve and open to change," said Jeannine Jennings, Executive for General Business at IBM South Africa.

"Business leaders are embracing technology in completely new ways to spot oncoming threats, capture an immediate, unexpected business opportunity, address business challenges with a clear focus on partnering with other organisations to seize these opportunities to drive growth and innovate."

Published in Networking
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