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The Convergence of Digital and the Customer Experience


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The Financial Times, in partnership with HP, recently held an event in Johannesburg to examine how companies are harnessing digital technology to better serve their customers and develop their businesses. Topics discussed included how customer needs are changing and how companies should, and are able, to adapt – ensuring the IT function remains relevant to the customers’ requirements and that companies stay up to speed with the latest technologies. This white paper highlights key discussion points from the event.

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The Convergence of Digital and the Customer Experience

  1. 1. SUMMARY REPORT 8 April 2014 The Saxon Hotel Johannesburg The Convergence of Digital and the Customer Experience Driving Change Across the Business
  2. 2. Agenda Driving Change Across the Business 08:00 Guest arrival and welcome refreshments 08:15 Welcome remarks Andrew England, Southern Africa Bureau Chief, Financial Times 08:20 Guest introductions and first course is served 08:30 Discussion begins: The Convergence of Digital and Customer Experience: Driving change across the business. • In what ways are customer needs changing, and how are you adapting your business accordingly? • What is driving this increased customer empowerment? • How does the IT function need to reinvent itself in order to be strategically relevant in respect of the customer? • How is your organisation addressing the issues and opportunities associated with multiple channels? • How can we prepare for next-generation advances, such as the Internet of Things and augmented reality? • To what extent could the use of analytics help to make the business more customer-centric? • How can you get support from the board for customer experience initiatives, and ensure that it is considered a priority? • The rise of the Chief Digital Officer – what could this mean for your institution? 09:55 Concluding remarks Andrew England, Southern Africa Bureau Chief, Financial Times 10:00 Breakfast concludes
  3. 3. Summary Report By Andrew England The FT Live breakfast, hosted in association with HP in Johannesburg provided robust and engaging debate about how companies best harness digitisation and technological developments to meet the ever evolving needs of their customers. The attendance was excellent, with a diverse group of representatives from finance, the telecommunications industry and state-owned enterprises. Topics discussed included how customer needs are changing and how companies should, and are able, to adapt - ensuring the IT function remains relevant to the customers’ requirements and that companies stay up to speed with the latest technologies. From the outset it was agreed that companies of all types have to take IT developments and digitisation increasingly seriously as growing numbers of customers look to use digital platforms to perform their daily business. It is happening in South Africa and across the continent, with the growth in the middle class being accompanied by the proliferation of mobile phones, smart phones and tablets. It was agreed that the challenge for companies is keeping pace with technology, with one participant raising the travails of Kodak and its failure to adapt to the rapid growth of digital photography. There was also debate about the value of the Chief Digital Officer – a relatively new position - and how companies are able to quantify their return on investment in IT and digital transformation, which can be less tangible than in other areas of the business. At least one participant suggested that groups should not agonise over the matter as it was necessary to continue to adapt, keep abreast of latest developments and ensure that firms are meeting customers’ changing needs. Ultimately, the consensus seemed to be that the returns will be seen and those not paying sufficient attention to the digital world will suffer. There were also comments to suggest that Chief Digital Officers and Chief Marketing Officers are being treated with mounting importance by company executives, in line with the general trend towards digitalisation, whether in the private or public sectors. This was described as a relatively new and emerging trend with CDOs and CMOs enjoying greater influence, which reflects the fact that companies are adapting to the new era. A broader issue raised was how South Africa compares with other African nations in terms of the speed and cost of broadband availability and whether the government and private sector
  4. 4. Driving Change Across the Business are doing enough to ensure that they are able to compete with continental peers. It was noted that both the governments of Rwanda and Kenya have been pushing IT development as part of the next wave of industrialisation and there were some concerns that South Africa risks lagging behind competitors. There was also discussion about how technology can be used to help African states leapfrog various stages of development, with the example of the huge success of M-Pesa mobile phone banking in Kenya raised. But it was also emphasised that companies need to be able to deliver good content and quality products whether it is on a digital or other platform, with an understanding of the customer and their requirements. The meeting concluded with general agreement that digitisation is playing an increasing role in how businesses operate and engage with their customers, and that this is only likely to accelerate as new and cheaper technologies are developed and increasing numbers of people have access to IT. This will be especially critical in Africa’s developing, fast growing markets.
  5. 5. BIOGRAPHIES CHAIR Andrew England Southern Africa Bureau Chief Financial Times Andrew England is the Financial Times’ Southern Africa Bureau Chief based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has held this position since May 2011 and previously he was Abu Dhabi Bureau Chief for three years. Prior to this, he was the Middle East and North Africa Correspondent, appointed in 2007. He joined the Financial Times in 2004 as East Africa Correspondent. Before joining the FT, Mr England was East Africa Correspondent for the Associated Press, and prior to that he was a freelance journalist in Nairobi. He started his journalism career as a reporter on Investment Week Magazine. Mr England has a BA (Hons) in Politics and History from the University of the West of England, and a postgraduate diploma in Newspaper Journalism from City University.
  6. 6. For more updates, please see our Facebook page: Financial Times Live group: FOLLOW FT LIVE For live updates from events and to participate on Twitter: t v ą Financial Times Live, the global conferences and events arm of the Financial Times, gathers pre-eminent public and private sector decision-makers, visionaries and strategists from the world’s most important economies and industries for a wide range of interactive, agenda-setting programmes that combine the power of on-site discussion and networking with the flexibility of live-streamed and on-demand broadcasting. Chaired by senior journalists from the Financial Times and its group publications, the summits, conferences, awards and strategic forums organised by FT Live provide audiences with the opportunity to listen to and interact with speakers of the highest calibre in lively and stimulating debates that cover the key issues of our time. The Financial Times provides essential news, comment, data and analysis for the global business community. It has a combined print and online average daily readership of 2.1 million people worldwide and a combined paid print and digital circulation of almost 629,000 (Deloitte assured, Q3 2013). FT education products now serve 34 of the world’s top 50 business schools. ORGANISERS
  7. 7. Driving Change Across the Business The work we do at HP Enterprise Services starts and ends with our clients. We listen, we care, and we stand by them – aspiring to deliver the best client experience in the industry with targeted business and technology solutions to over 1,000 large businesses and governments in 90 countries. For more than 50 years, HP Enterprise Services has been a safe pair of hands and dedicated partner to enterprises and governments around the globe. We help our clients evolve their IT to enable business strategies – creating better customer experience, empowering employees, or driving new business models. It’s what keeps our clients relevant and ahead of the competition. We advance the way they use technology through our infrastructure outsourcing and project services, business process outsourcing, and applications services. We advise, transform, and manage to advance each enterprise, no matter where they are in the journey. We are successful when they are successful.
  8. 8. Financial Times Live One Southwark Bridge London SE1 9HL UK T: +44 (0) 20 7775 6653 E: