by Garreth Bloor

Following Mega Trends

The annual Growth Innovation and Leadership Summit hosted by Frost and Sullivan: A report

The Annual Frost and Sullivan GIL event raised great interest in what are called mega trends for various industries
Trends.jpg

Frost & Sullivan welcomed executives across a number of industries in August for what has become the company’s annual Growth, Innovation and Leadership (GIL) conference. In the second event of its kind and one of 14 in Africa this year, innovators and industry leaders gathered exclusively to share best practices and engage in discussions around new trends reshaping the future of business. 

 

A core objective of the forum included inspiring new ideas amongst attendees for rethinking and strengthening company growth strategies. Technology companies, the major commercial banks, oil firms and a range of sustainable and green energy companies gathered at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town to kick off their deliberations from this basic starting point.

Dorman Followwill, (partner and director for Frost & Sullivan EIA), opened the one-day event by identifying innovation as fundamental to a company’s strategy for growth, making the case that innovation now stood as an essential part of benchmarking companies within industry, affecting their operations, engagement with customers and overall bottom-line performance. 

“We are fast moving to a situation where we’ll have more devices than people; an estimated 50 billion devices in total by 2020”, said Hendrik Malan, operations director for Frost & Sullivan Africa, as he attempted to set the context for the reality confronting businesses going forward.

He outlined the trends in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication technology and it’s the application to industries like healthcare, utilities and even education. 

“This makes increased levels of automation for data assembly and interpretation critical to operate these devices effectively,” said Malan. 

African companies and entities participating included the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Open Africa, SA Women in Engineering, Exxaro, Mxit, Adcock, Siemens, BT Global Services, Eskom, Telkom, Sanofi, MTN, Engen and Chevron.

While open to debate a key question is how South Africa and African countries plan to ensure the entry of innovative global industries into the region to create a clustering effect of innovative companies concentrated in major African cities. One recommendation included a one-stop shop for businesses looking to establish themselves. Senior consultant and Stellenbosch University lecturer Roger Steward told Energy Forecast that companies were looking to establish themselves in the region, but often did not have a department able to guide them through the process.

Last year Energy Forecast  assessed if Africa was set to leapfrog developed nations when it comes to using mobile phones to detect and provide healthcare. Evidence from the World Economic Forum revealed that yes –with the entry of cellphone-based technology using apps to detect health issues – this was true. With a low regulatory environment, Africa stands to gain from Western markets whose regulations were designed without predicting the shifts to innovative-based technologically driven solutions to healthcare in particular.

 “There will always be regulation; the differentiator is the ease of compliance. We can drive our innovation by welcoming companies through making it easier to comply by offering assistance when it comes to visas, tax registration and locating suitable business premises,” Steward added. 

The case studies for what is possible include one ‘mega trend’ – Innovation Zero  – which is set to shape the way Africa does business. 

According to Phil Howarth, a partner at Frost & Sullivan Africa, the practice involves companies striving for a world with zero pollution, zero crime and zero disease and would shape the way African did business. The relevance of trends is clear. “No matter what your career function, ‘mega trends’ needs to be a cornerstone of long term strategic thinking within a business. In research and development, they should influence budgets and technology focus; in marketing, they should influence customer strategy,” he added.

Neotel’s CEO Sunil Joshi, a keynote speaker, outlined four major ‘mega trends’ that will be important for the overall success of telecommunication companies in Africa.

 “Infrastructure, urbanisation, connecting the unconnected and regional integration are the major trends for telecommunication companies. At Neotel we are focusing on infrastructure investments, namely
fibre, and connecting people and businesses,” he noted.

As was to be expected innovation often rests on precedent when it comes to strategies and success stories. Anchoring trends and projects in real life case studies was a key component of the conference.

Siemens was the first case in point. Prior to October 2011, the company was divided into three key sectors – industry, energy and healthcare. Recognising urbanisation as a key trend, the company formed the ‘infrastructure and city’ division, which integrated the key competencies from existing businesses to target cities as a single customer segment. Technology companies in attendance included: BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM), Bytes Technology Group, BT Global Services, Teraco, Alcatel-Lucent, Neotel, Mxit and Siemens. 

The new self-assumed mandate of companies to take on social challenges was at the forefront.

“This new division already has a turnover of $17-billion (R147.8-billion) and 80 000 employees,” said the city account manager at Siemens Africa, Marvin Benjamin. 

Assessing the success of the event, Birgitta Cederstrom, one of the speakers, and former head of ICT Africa at Frost & Sullivan, described the event and its innovation focus as the only one of its kind in Africa, despite Frost & Sullivan’s wide list of alternative conferences.“There are other innovation events, but this is the only one aimed exclusively at business leaders. It’s an opportunity for them to come together, share industry insights, and collaborate on new ideas,” Cederstrom says.“ It’s a chance for leaders to talk about where their industries are going and what’s driving growth in their particular fields locally, in Africa, and globally.”

“We are fast moving to a situation where we’ll have more devices than people; an estimated 50 billion devices in total by 2020”, said Malan “This makes increased levels of automation for data assembly and interpretation critical to operate these devices effectively”. Phil Howarth, partner for Frost & Sullivan Africa, elaborated on how ‘mega trends’ is changing the way in which we will do business in the future. Volvo was cited as an example of innovating to zero with their zero accident vision which will be implemented by the year 2020.

 

 

 

 

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