Nikki Summers, Regional Director for Sage in East Africa
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By Nikki Summers, Regional Director for Sage in East Africa

I presented at the Sage Future-proof Your Business event in Kampala this week and focused on gearing up for the digital economy and how it is changing the business world. Having lived in East Africa for over a decade, I have seen how technology has changed the region and how the economy has boomed as digital innovations have reached the market.

But this is just the beginning.

We can expect to see technology change the game completely in the years to come—creating the need for organisations to future-proof their businesses. With GDP growth that has averaged 4.5% for the five years to 2016, Uganda is enjoying healthy growth and has potential to unlock even more growth through entrepreneurship.

Yet the rise of digital technology, globalisation and inequality all pose challenges for Ugandan companies trying to keep pace with a rapidly evolving environment.

Ugandan companies need to think about ways they can prepare for a wave of social, economic and technological change – especially as competition heats up. Here are some components of a business strategy for companies that want to prepare for the future:

Embrace mobility

With nearly 17 million Internet users, Uganda has the second highest Internet penetration in East Africa. There are around 23 million phone subscribers in Uganda — around 15% have smartphones. Growing data usage remains a priority for the country’s mobile network operators. As 3G coverage expands and data costs fall, it is becoming important for brands to take a mobile-first approach to interacting with employees, customers and other stakeholders.

The right technologies can automate business processes across the mobile workforce and give them better visibility into business performance. Team members can use employee self-service to access information about benefits, payroll, leave and expenses; the sales team can issue quotes or get pricing information wherever they are; and managers can sign-off invoices or requisitions from a smartphone.

Differentiate your business

East Africans are now competing with companies from other parts of the world and are looking to expand into global markets. They must ask themselves what makes them different from the pack. They need to look at how their skills, products, and business model allow them to differentiate their businesses. What can the business do better than anyone else as it addresses customers’ needs – is about pricing, convenience, quality or innovation?  Finding that core value can help the organisation to thrive into the future.

Get change-ready

Change is constant and the speed of change is accelerating. Thus, organisations must embrace a culture of innovation. They should experiment, fail fast, and able to recover quickly from failure. The future will not belong to organisations with the biggest capital base or highest revenues, but to those who best adapt to change. Companies must strike the balance between innovating for the future and nurturing their existing revenue base.

To be change-ready, organisations need technology solutions that are flexible, easy to manage, and fast to implement. Rigid systems will hold the business back. Next-generation technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud are important enablers of innovation, offering enterprises the opportunity to create new revenue streams, increase productivity and transform their business models.

Give something back

A country where all people and communities thrive because they are living with economic stability and social equality is one where businesses can grow and prosper.  If local communities thrive, so do the organisations that surround them. Investing money back into the community is good business, in addition to being the right thing to do.

It helps attract the right calibre of employees, it creates goodwill with regulators and government, and it gives the company a purpose beyond profit. That’s why future-proof businesses are those that see giving something back as a critical part of their business strategy.