Key focus areas for CIOs driving digital transformation in Africa


Bluegrass Digital’s Nick Durrant unpacks how CIOs can drive speed and customer satisfaction through automation.

Africa is leading the way in digital transformation. Its unique socio- and geo-economic challenges have led to innovation in mobile tech, mobile wallets and cashless payment solutions.

With the current digital acceleration taking place within Africa, multiple drivers have been identified as a necessary means to digitally transform, one of which includes managing rising customer expectations.

As the majority of companies are optimising their digital offerings, customers have increased their expectations of how well the brand that they’re interacting with performs digitally.

One can see this coming through in the customer sales through ecommerce – specifically in mobile and social commerce; where mobile payment options are giving more choice for the African customer.

As a result, African customers are now examining functions such as user experience, speed, data security and so forth. If organisations fail to digitally transform their business activities, they are at a greater risk of losing customers.

Africa has unique challenges and with consumers increasingly moving towards online channels due to the rise in ecommerce, businesses need to gather data through both channels to track and predict consumer purchasing habits to further improve conversion rates.

Bearing this in mind, ecommerce companies should consider various options around their fulfilment of product and service delivery. Businesses should take their lead from companies such as Makro who have included a click and collect option. Pargo allows ecommerce companies to use them as a central drop off point for click and collect capabilities.

African businesses need to recognise that digital transformation aids in developing insights into customers’ needs and wants, which will provide necessary data-led decision making to drive digital transformation projects in the organisations.

Where customer insights contribute to effectively identifying the needs and wants of your consumer base, it also allows the organization to personalize their product or service offering, hereby leading to a greater customer acquisition and retention rate.

What does digital transformation mean?

Digital transformation is not a single project or once-off process, it is a strategy which needs to be embraced by the whole organisation which will be implemented over time. Digital transformation refers to the integration of technology within the core business activities of the company in an effort to drive value and improve the delivery of their product or service.

This means it will impact all key touch points in the business from sales, ops, administration, manufacturing, distribution, delivery and finance. It is a big opportunity for African organisations to embrace digital transformation to remain competitive in a global digital world and in some cases will allow them to accelerate and “catch-up” with global organisations.

African companies will benefit from digital transformation as this paves the way for greater employment opportunities, optimises company performance, and ultimately increases the bottom line of the company.

The focus for CIOs

The CIO role has come to the fore in recent years responsible for the management, implementation and usability of tech and information. They have become highly strategic assets that now drive innovation throughout the business influencing top and bottom-line growth.

The overarching goal of digital transformation is to increase revenue, however it is also about preparing the organisation for the digital age. Under this umbrella, companies aim to improve the speed of their work processes through automation, and drive consumer satisfaction.

This is turn will contribute to the customer retention and conversation rate. Furthermore, digital transformation can improve collaboration efforts within the company and increase employee productivity levels.

These are some key areas for CIO’s :
• Removing channels that no longer perform
• Driving the integration of data and insights into their product and service offering
• Promoting agile learning
• Establishing a cultural workspace which recognises that digital transformation adds to the work demands that are placed on employees and aims to address these challenges. This may constitute a change in management.
• Identifying the required skills and resources

Benefits of digital transformation

The benefits of digital transformation are not isolated to one project as it will impact various touchpoints over time as one implements the strategy. Of course, one will see improvements on a micro-level with some quick win initiatives which will start to impact the macro-level of a business.

This can be seen through the pandemic where business was faced with a survive at all cost through changing how they work, how they find customers and how they drive their sales.

Some of the benefits include the following:
• Enhanced customer experience through a true omni-channel experience
• New digital and geographic sales channels
• Lower costs through automation
• Increased efficiency through automation
• Analytical insights of data and customer habits
• Better agility in order to respond to market or customer needs
• Promotes a digital culture within an organisation and supports innovation
• Maintains a competitive advantage


CIOs face many challenges with implementing digital transformation strategies in their organisations, but they can vary from industry to industry. Some of the key challenges that companies may encounter in implementing their digital transformation strategies include the following:
• Employee pushback linked to change
• Unstable IT infrastructure as legacy systems cannot handle or deliver on specific requirements
• Shifting customer expectations means how one responds. It may require one to adapt faster
• Financial constraints as digital transformation requirements will be a significant capital investment for the future
• Insufficient employee skills with demand for IT skills and experience.
• Choosing the right technologies

Choosing the right technologies

Which technologies are important to digital transformation and how should CIOs go about identifying these technologies? CIOs are encouraged to invest in cloud technologies as this vastly improves the efficiency of company operations, as well as the productivity rate of employees.

Furthermore, cloud technologies remain cost effective and increase the margin for flexibility, scalability and adaptability. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also integral to digital transformation, it automates company communication and generates analytics regarding consumer habits and consumer queries. Cloud can provide the computing power at scale in order to process data and power AI tools.

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