While it would be naive to ignore the challenges facing the South African economy, it would also be shortsighted to overlook the significant opportunities for growth and development. One area particularly deserving of attention is digital infrastructure, which includes things like telecommunication, fibre networks and data centres. Already a crucial business enabler, digital infrastructure will only become more important as the economy continues to digitise.
This set of digital enablers is set to grow, not just because the South African government has made the digital economy a cornerstone of its economic policy but because that’s the direction the global economy is taking. According to the World Bank, the digital economy is growing at 2.5 times the speed of the traditional economy. It’s also making up an increasingly large proportion of global GDP.
But in order for South Africa to unleash its full economic potential, it needs its digital infrastructure to be dynamic. And the best way to achieve that is through collaboration.
Constant evolution is vital
That need for dynamic digital infrastructure comes, at least in part, from the fact that the technology needs of organisations are constantly evolving. In part, those evolving needs are driven by the rapid pace of technological change, causing widescale shifts in customer expectations. But an organisation’s technological needs will also change as it grows.
It’s critical, therefore, that the providers of the digital infrastructure enabling those technologies be able to dynamically keep up with both of those evolutionary forces. That means that they need to be open to evolving and changing too. That’s true across the digital infrastructure space, but it’s especially important for the fibre infrastructure and connectivity providers who form the backbone of that digital infrastructure.
It’s a sector that’s seen massive growth and has become increasingly competitive in recent years. While more recent figures are hard to come by, it’s worth noting that fibre to the home (FTTH) and fibre to the business (FTTB) subscriptions surged by 5000% between 2015 and 2019. While overall growth may not be quite as frothy today, demand is increasing all the time. And emergent technologies such as 5G and 6G will only serve to further fuel that demand.
As a result, players within the sector will have to work harder than ever to attract and retain customers. That, in turn, means providing the best possible experience to the end customer. Even wholesale providers, which primarily service customers such as telco players and data centre providers rather than end-users, are feeling that pressure.
Collaborative transformations for customer-centricity
One such wholesale provider is Dark Fibre Africa. It started rolling out its fibre network in 2007, and, to date, has deployed over 13 000 km of ducting infrastructure in major metros, secondary cities, and smaller towns. As it’s grown and the industry has evolved, it’s realised that it needs to increase its focus on customer-centricity.
“We are now in a space of being a mature organisation and looking to future-proof what we do in the tech space for the next 10 years at least,” says Dr Heydon Hall, Chief Information Officer at Dark Fibre Africa. “In doing so, we want to ensure that we satisfy our customers, have seamless experiences with customers, and provide a good internal customer experience to our employees.”
Achieving those goals, it felt, would require building an end-to-end view of the customer in a way that fully integrated its internal technologies and processes. It also wanted to be able to unlock world-class customer-centric processes straight out of the box.
In looking for a collaborative partner who could help it do so, Dark Fibre Africa found Salesforce to be the best fit. After initial consultations, it was decided that the cloud software giant’s Communications Cloud product.
“Communications Cloud will replace legacy systems within the company, which were leading to missed revenue targets and business silos,” says Zuko Mdwaba, Salesforce Area VP / Africa Executive & South Africa Country Leader. “Experience Cloud will let customers self-serve information, while Service Cloud will let DFA help customers across the entire lifecycle, reducing churn.”
“MuleSoft (a Salesforce product) will be used to form an API layer to connect DFA’s existing Oracle ERP, and OSS systems and the addition of Tableau CRM Analytics will give greater insights across the business, helping to hit those revenue targets and highlight customer pain points,” Hall adds.
An important economic enabler
Taken together, they’ll allow DFA to respond dynamically to the needs of its customers. Going forward, providing that level of dynamism will be crucial if digital infrastructure providers are to act as the economic enablers they have the potential to be. South Africa has done a lot of good work when it comes to building a robust digital economy that can thrive and grow in the near future and beyond. But with the right approach and the right collaborations, that growth could be supercharged.