Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Sailing the digital sea



That the world is a much smaller place thanks to the internet and digital communication technology has probably not escaped anyone’s notice. But are you truly harnessing this to do your business better, and to grow beyond South Africa’s borders?

Gone are the merchant vessels of yesteryear circumnavigating the globe by sea to sell your products. Today the internet creates an even more extensive marketplace at the click of a button. To me, this presents three clear benefits for South African companies. Accessing best-of-breed, up-to-date and fit-for-purpose technology for your organisation is one of them; working more closely with your team, wherever they are, is another; and finally, growing your business beyond South Africa’s borders in a low risk, low cost, incremental way.

Thanks to advances in cloud computing, and the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, you can pick and choose from a myriad of vendors offering a range of services, not only the ones who have (quite expensively) set up shop locally who may or may not have the exact solution you require. The difference is a bit like that between going down to your local mall, or shopping via Alibaba – except with instant delivery via the cloud.

Indeed, some of the services you access online may be the collaboration, video conferencing and chat tools that enable your team to work better together, wherever they are. Think of these tools as FaceTime for business! You’ll know I am a big fan of involving those at the coalface of your organisation in the budgeting process, and cloud-based collaboration is a great way to get this right.

But what about support for these web products? Interestingly enough, this can also improve, thanks to the providers’ use of many of the same online chat and collaboration tools, giving you instant and secure access to the exact experts who can solve your problem. And in here lies possibly the area of greatest interest for the SME to mid-market company in South Africa looking to expand.

Today globalising your business does not mean that you have to open an office on the other side of the world, employ a range of staff and train them to do what you and your team can do here. This is costly and has been the root cause of many great plans coming to nought as the start-up and initial day-to-day operational costs overseas sink the dreams before they have a chance to flourish.

The cloud-based communication and collaboration services that are now available are the key to you expanding your business outside South Africa. Online video conferencing tools have replaced many face-to-face meetings, and collaboration software is keeping everyone on the same page. This reduces travel costs and all but eliminates otherwise dead travel time, is less invasive for clients, and means you can keep face-to-face meetings for when they really matter.

I can’t promise it will be plain sailing at the outset, as there is always a degree of resistance to the digital world and the lack of a physical presence of a company from the organisations still invested in the 20th century, but the tide is turning. So weather the choppy water as you leave the harbour, look out to the widened horizon, and ride the globalisation wave.

As published in ASA Online Magazine - 1 June 2018
https://www.accountancysa.org.za/advice-sailing-the-digital-sea/