November 20, 2015

How Technology is Transforming Business Functions

Sponsored by Microsoft, the Economist Intelligence Unit published a paper, Changing roles: How technology is transforming business functions, that explores how the workplace is evolving and the effect of technology on how people collaborate, form global teams and make decisions across various business functions. The report is based on a global survey, advisory board findings and in-depth interviews with industry experts.

The report issued four key findings as outlined in the Executive Summary:
1. Work will become more complex. Individual workloads will increase, driven partly by the need to respond to rapidly swelling quantities of real-time data from automation of all kinds and from greater demands for collaboration. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents expect work to become more complex and 26% of respondents, across all functions, believe it will involve much greater amounts of data. Globalization and the growing interconnectedness of companies and sectors will also multiply the number of variables companies must take into account.
I agree with page seven of the report: "Technology can enhance job satisfaction." I can also relate to the fact that:
Technology helps companies be more proactive, predictive, productive and personalized in their approach. Organizations can use it to enter new markets more efficiently, develop innovative business models, introduce products and services, and forge closer links between IT and lines of business. Cloud computing, for example, is liberating organizations from the need for in-house IT systems, which are expensive, time consuming and difficult to maintain. By using pay-as-you-use cloud services and handing over the management of applications and data to third-party providers, companies can improve flexibility, reduce overheads and benefit from constant cutting-edge technology. [emphasis added]
Cloud computing has allowed my colleagues and I at ROI3, Inc. has liberated us from the need for an expensive in-house IT system. Not having to dedicate financial and time resources to the maintenance of an in-house IT system has allowed my company to focus on activities directly related to revenue generation.
2. Lack of time is the biggest challenge. The ability of technology to help people do more with less does not always help executives save time. Some 45% of survey respondents cite time constraints as their prime problem, with people who feel they are successful in their current role most affected—46% compared with 39% of those who believe they are not successful.
Software tools such as over-the-top messaging, and VoIP services have facilitated the ability for my colleagues and I to collaborate regardless of people's locations. While I still see a great value in face-to-face meetings, I appreciate instant messaging and videoconferencing as powerful tools for long-distance collaboration.
3. Collaboration is crucial. Team-working is the new normal both locally and globally. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents believe work will require co-ordination between more people across multiple functions. Collaboration is the best way to make the most of individual expertise, respond swiftly to business problems and boost competitiveness. HR must optimize use of specialists and freelancers, and employees across functions must work with these temporary colleagues.
Page 12 notes that "millennials, young entrepreneurs and senior people can teach each other." Using technology effectively to facilitate the collaboration of people whom possess diverse backgrounds and experiences is essential for companies of all sizes to succeed.
4. Gaining new technology skills is the best way to advance professional goals. In the face of increased automation and technological advances, all organizational functions recognize the need to keep learning. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents include mastering new technology in their top-three ways to achieve career aspirations. Thirty-two percent cite acquiring new skills through education and training as the opportunity most likely to help them achieve their professional goals. This is becoming more important with the rise of millennials who are much more knowledgeable about technology than most of their seniors.
People of all ages must regularly learn new technology skills to remain relevant in a quickly changing world. Recognizing technology is disrupting the workplace, I spend a significant amount of my time learning new technical skills, whether in big data, analytics software and cloud-enabled collaborative applications to improve efficiency, in order to maintain my business as a forward-looking organization.

How is technology transforming your business functions? What new technology skills do you suggest people should learn?

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 14, 2015

Mobile Operator Investments Fueling Innovation and Inclusion Across Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa's economic growth over the past ten years was derived from its commodities and natural resources. However, given that China, a key buyer of Sub-Saharan Africa's commodities and natural resources, is experiencing a slowdown in its economic growth, African nations are looking to expand other sectors that will attract investment, increase public finances, improve access to essential services such as education and healthcare, and provide much needed jobs to a youthful population. The GSMA released its latest study on Oct. 8, 2015, which presents the integral role of the mobile economy to the future of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The study's Executive Summary notes: "In 2014, the mobile ecosystem directly employed approximately 2 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority working in the distribution and retail sectors and approximately 325,000 employed by mobile operators. A further 2.4 million jobs were indirectly supported as result of the demand generated by the mobile sector, bringing the total to 4.4 million. It is forecast that the industry will grow to support more than 6 million jobs by 2020. The mobile ecosystem also made a contribution to the public finances of the region's governments via general taxation of approximately US$15 billion in 2014."

Furthermore, "The mobile industry remains a key driver of economic growth and employment across the region, making an important contribution given the population growth and high unemployment levels. In 2014, the broader mobile ecosystem generated 5.7% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution of just over $100 billion in economic value. Migration to mobile broadband and the growth of new services will see this figure increase to 8.2% of GDP by 2020, reflecting how increased access to mobile services generates regional growth and development."

The report correctly explains that "[M]obile technology plays a central role in addressing a range of socio-economic developmental challenges across the region, particularly digital and financial inclusion. Greater digital inclusion will drive economic and infrastructure development, increasing productivity and employment across the economy, and will improve access to vital services such as education and healthcare."

As the mobile industry matures in the coming years, consumers will desire innovative new services and apps. I support the study's assertion in chapter 2.2, "The African app economy": "The rise in smartphone adoption and mobile broadband usage over the next five years will stimulate use of mobile apps, particularly among the increasingly tech-savvy youth segment, and support the emergence of a local app economy that will develop content and services for domestic consumers."

What role do you see the mobile technology sector playing in Africa's economy?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.