opinionBy William Makatiani
As we close 2012, it is important to get a glimpse into the fast changing technology landscape that Kenyan organisations are operating in; from the dramatic emergence of mobile communication as a competitive driver, to the continuing automation and implementation of Resource Planning Systems, the emergence of regulatory and compliance needs for organisations and the impact of the changing relationships between ICT and the wider business. Through interactions with CIOs, consultants and vendors I have looked for trends that had a profound impact this year and explained why and how.
Enterprise Applications - was the leading technology trend in 2012:
In 2012 enterprise applications was the most popular trend in Kenya. Organizations in every industry focused on rapidly extending enterprise application capabilities. Previously, many Kenyan organisations had invested in basic back-office systems to automate their business processes. All this changed in 2012, as organisations ranging from financial institutions, government agencies and small businesses all went looking for new Enterprise applications. The one major difference with the Enterprise applications in 2012 was that most organisations were looking for more functionality, features, security and robustness. This trend was partly driven by the new breed of enterprise applications that have grown substantially, well beyond automating core back-office processes. CIOs were looking for Enterprise applications that supported use of mobile devices, social computing platforms, and analytics tools. A good example is NSSF, who implemented a new ERP system that will enable the fund reduce its member benefits payout turnaround time and streamline its operations countrywide through real time management in its business functions.
Mobility and Social Media:
With a cell phone in every pocket, enterprise mobility presented the 2nd most important enterprise ICT trend of 2012 for Kenyan organisations. Kenyan businesses changed in 2012 to meet the needs of the mobile carrying consumer. ICT leaders in local organisations were at the forefront of helping their businesses improve their ability to serve these clients at their convenience. Businesses increasingly used mobile services and social networking solutions (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) to reach out to their customers. These solutions present local organisations with a range of interaction capabilities that exceed those provided in traditional messaging environments. Notable amongst this was the use of virtual mobile banking.
ICT Governance was the third most popular trend for most Kenyan organisations in 2012. Kenyan businesses are increasing ICT budgets and as a result they are putting in place organisational structures to manage ICT projects and investments to ensure that they deliver the greatest possible value in supporting the enterprise's strategy and objectives. Based on the responses we received from our recent CIO survey, with ICT governance growing in importance, organisations are now establishing ICT committees at the senior management and Board level. CIOs and ICT Directors are not making decisions in isolation - the business wants to be involved and they are making a big impact. ICT governance in Kenyan organisations is enabling board and management to understand strategic ICT issues, such as the role of ICT, technology insights and capabilities.
ICT Risk Management and Resilience Planning:
ICT Risk Management and Resilience Planning was the fourth most popular trend in 2012. While ICT Risk management and resilience planning remain poorly understood in many local organisations, in 2012 they became critical and major concerns. Regulatory and compliance requirements especially from CBK and the IRA played a key role in making sure Kenyan businesses especially in the financial services sector paid attention to risk management and resilience planning. In 2012, many large organisations invested in disaster recovery, but few have yet to undertake any formal testing assessment of their resilience programs.
Infrastructure Upgrade especially virtualization:
Finally, in 2012, many organizations made pointed investments in infrastructure upgrade - ranging from network to server infrastructure. Virtualization continued to be a major trend amongst local firms, specifically server virtualization has become a standard technology in Kenyan data centres. Some of the other infrastructure investments focused on networking and storage area. As organisations especially in the financial services sector grew their network across the region they implemented new networking and storage equipment. In some cases, some of these organisations built their own data centres to support their growth.
Bonus trend and hype trends:
A bonus trend for 2012 was the outsourcing of basic ICT support services. This trend has been around since 2009 but 2012 was somewhat unique because smaller organisations did start outsourcing their support and helpdesk services to third party services providers.
While there was a lot of hype around cloud computing, analytics and cyber-crime. These trends did not stand out amongst local organisations. So what should we expect in 2013? Look out for the next article, which will focus on trends that are likely to be influential in 2013.
The author is Managing Director at Serianu Limited a local ICT and Business services consulting firm.