The Importance of Skills Development

The scale, scope and complexity of change that comes along with today’s technological revolution are unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The potential for advancement is made exponentially larger by emerging technology breakthroughs that continue in fields like Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The driver

Underpinning these technologies is data. It is data that is the fuel for this transformation. Like the revolutions that came before it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as it is becoming known, has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for citizens around the world.

This technological revolution demands new skill sets, and unfortunately, people have not advanced at the same speed as technology.

As a result, industries around the world find themselves in a position of having all the cutting-edge technologies in place, without the matching human expertise. South Africa is no different.

This leaves unanswered questions like, what can be done about the lack of data management experience and expertise? Ultimately, the importance of these scarce skills means they must be built up in-house.

Why is the Fourth Industrial Revolution such a big deal?

This revolution impacts on business in four major ways: on customer expectations, product enhancement, collaborative innovation and organisational structures.

The commercial world is being restructured with the customer at its centre. We’re in the process of creating a whole new world of customer experiences, data-based services, and asset performance through analytics, which require new forms of collaboration. In short, the inevitable progression from simple digitisation (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is forcing organisations to rethink everything when it comes to doing business.

What role does data play in the revolution?

There is a strong need for professionals who understand data, who have experience working with major database platforms as well as strong analytical, quantitative and problem-solving abilities. Unfortunately, such individuals are like unicorns and there is no debate that there is a shortage of skills both globally and in South Africa.

Data is particularly relevant when it comes to the customer experience (CX) discussion as organisations are currently examining how to change their business models to be more competitive.  This entire process is data-driven. There is an increased demand for technologies like data governance and big data and the experts that can leverage this data to become more competitive. Yet businesses cannot leverage these disciplines if the skills do not exist. It is difficult to find people with practical experience, as new graduates lack the knowledge and expertise to really apply theoretical knowledge in a business context.

This means organisations have to create their own experts and will need to look at upskilling existing IT and business staff to make them more data-savvy.

A good place to start when creating data management experts is with qualifications like the Certified Information Management Professional (CIMP). However, qualifications take time, and while developing skills in this area, it’s important to provision technologies that are user-friendly, intuitive and easy to learn. Viable candidates from within the organisation then need to be identified for upskilling. Here, it’s important to remember that while vendor-specific training is great, the resulting skill set is product-based which means that individuals still lack the business intelligence required to effectively apply their knowledge. In this regard, eLearning facilities can help bridge the skills gap, as well as create a common language across the organisation.

The solution must be local

It’s important to build these competencies in South Africa, rather than outsourcing. While it’s tempting to outsource to India, for example, because it seems like the cheapest option, in the long term this will become unsustainable due to language barriers and cultural differences.

Data sourced and used in South Africa has unique complexities linked to geography, culture and language use, as well the laws of the land; intricacies that a remote consultant in another location with a different cultural background will not comprehend. This highlights a clear need for organisations that are hungry for data management experts to start their own internship programmes, and build on their own resources internally through upskilling. It is possible for an individual with four to five years of business operations experience to be provided with the training to become a data steward, or to perform data analytics tasks with a view to learning how to perform business analytics.

To maintain the pace of the digital revolution, South Africa needs experts to lead it. A combination of internship programs, eLearning and on-the-job support as well as training for staff who are technically qualified, will enable organisations to build these competencies in-house. For those companies that are hesitant about investing in the upskilling of staff, it’s time to paraphrase the great Henry Ford: the only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.

Consider a franchise

While GTconsult is a proudly unique company, some people who are cutting their teeth when it comes to business owners are looking for more stable businesses to go into. In this case, franchising is definitely an option.

What typically safeguards these types of businesses from broader economic challenges is the established trust they have with consumers. This stands franchises in good stead when consumers are watching their spending more carefully. It is a natural shift as they look for absolute certainty from the brands and companies they support – and franchises, with their well-known and trustworthy brands, offer that security.

There are 17 business sectors that fall under the franchising umbrella in South Africa. The four largest contributors to the growth of the franchising – and, by association, the where the greatest opportunities lie – are the services sector, which encompasses health and beauty, auto and funeral services, among others

This burgeoning sector makes up 27 percent of the franchising market. Restaurants and Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) account for 24 percent, while Retail out-muscles Fuel with 16 percent versus Fuel’s 11 percent.

Interested in franchising? Consider this.

The services sector remains the fastest growing within the larger ecosystem and is set to continue to offer promising business prospects. However, even with a positive forecast, the industry is at the mercy of an increasingly competitive business landscape and there are certain tips that prospective franchisees should heed if they are hoping to make the move into franchising:

  • Look for Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) opportunities to find the balance between value and good quality: With substantial pressure being exerted on the country’s economy and a challenging operating environment leading to many of the bigger, more secure players buying out the smaller companies, those looking to enter the franchising sector need to find the sweet spot between value, quality and price – particularly in the cost-sensitive retail and QSR spaces.
  • Take into account the entire franchising value chain: A franchise with a robust brand reputation, integrity and equity that is able to excite customers is a must. But so is an agreement between franchisors and franchisees that is fair, sustainable and protects the rights of both parties. Franchising is a codified business, so potential franchisees need to ensure that there is a comprehensive and elaborate franchising manual in place.
  • Consider the operations process: Interested parties should look at the quality and consistency of training programmes in order to ensure that they are able to stay at the forefront of their chosen industry.
  • Don’t forget the importance of sales and marketing: A strong sales and marketing strategy is priceless, so it is critical to make sure upfront that the sales and marketing strategy is strong.
  • Look to implement a service model that is robust and places customers at its heart: High-intensity strategies that enhance service delivery are the markers of successful franchises. Anyone looking to make the move into any sphere of the franchising world needs to make sure that they place efficient service delivery on top of their list of priorities.
  • Prioritise a streamlined supply chain: A well-run franchise relies on bulk buying, centralised distribution and well-organised logistics systems. If a franchisee is able to tick those boxes, they will benefit from an efficient supply chain and it will be that much easier to focus on guaranteeing customer satisfaction.

Make sure that you are following a passion: Even with the extra layer of protection that comes from buying into a trusted brand, opening a franchise takes a lot of hard work, time and commitment. So it makes sense to choose a field that there is some connection with and passion for in order to make the inevitable sacrifices that come with starting a business worthwhile.