Development in digital technology is driving exponential changes in the global business climate, leaving industry leaders with the need to acquire new skills, and develop their strategies. As a result, companies are rethinking their approaches to traditional C-suite roles.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Mail & Guardian led a breakfast discussion on digital transformation under the theme C-Suites & Business 4.0, on Tuesday, 15 October 2019, in Rosebank. This was the first senior executive-level roundtable dialogue on the impact and necessity of digital transformation in today's modern business environment. These discussions were attended by executives from the financial, manufacturing, mining, and healthcare industries amongst others.
UJ, regarded as having the deepest expertise in Artificial Intelligence in Africa, is committed to helping leaders understand the economic implications of digital transformation in the society.
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, a thought leader on the subject and Vice-Chancellor of UJ noted that, "Since AI is proving to be the real intelligence, the fusion of technology between physical, digital and biological is creating varying expectations on the ability of skills and knowledge required in the entire ecosystem. Hence, leaders must plan their learning and development strategies in advance to build a roadmap on up-skilling and re-skilling their current workforce."
Prof Marwala cited Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum saying: "To a large extent, the millennial generation is setting consumer trends. We now live in an on-demand world where 30 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every and where 87% of young people in the US say their smart phone never leaves their side. This is a world which largely includes peer-to-peer sharing and user-generated content. It is a world of the now: a real-time world where traffic directions are instantly provided and groceries are delivered directly to your door. This "now world" requires companies to respond in real time wherever they are or their customers or clients may be."
"The 4IR will bring changes in the employment sector and artificial intelligence will unleash a whole new level of productivity. The machines do not require frequent breaks. They can work for long hours without complaining or getting tired. It is inevitable that some jobs are going to be impacted through artificial intelligence, but it will also create new jobs that will drive economic growth, explained Prof Marwala."
Prof Marwala added that replacing humans with machines could lead to more unemployment. "Our country will need to adapt to the changing nature of work by focusing on training people for the jobs of tomorrow," he said. "A universal basic income grant could be the key to boosting the aggregate demand."
The highlight of these discussions was the different perspectives and insights from organisations like Discovery, Uber and Heineken South Africa, to name a few. Uber Head of Business Development: Africa and Middle East, Justin Spratt, shared how Uber got its start in South Africa (in Johannesburg), how it tackled its expansion across Africa south of the Sahara and what comes next. He touched on subjects such as Uber's culture, working with regulators and the business opportunities still to come, including the potential impact of autonomous vehicles.
At the event, Prof Marwala called out leaders to enroll for the UJ online Bachelor of Commerce in International Accounting and AI in the 4IR which will develop leading executives to become self-directed, lifelong learners who can work effectively as individuals, in teams and in multidisciplinary environments.
Following the C-Suites & Business 4.0 Breakfast, a series of specific C-Suite dialogues will be launching in year 2020.
The CEO Roundtable Series aims to evenly divide on whether the focus in the future will shift from established markets to new ones. In two areas, however, C-suite executives stand in close agreement: how will they change their value propositions and scale their value chains.