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Intelligent CIO – DigiBlu CEO on SaaS

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29 November 2019

Steve Burke, DigiBlu CEO gives his take on SaaS for Intelligent CIO Magazine.

The Software-as-a-Service market is certainly on the rise and is expected to reach US$185.8 billion by 2024. Intelligent CIO explores why many industries are adopting it and how it is being implemented in Africa.

SaaS is a model in which software and other associated data is hosted centrally and accessed with the help of a web browser. The model allows users to gain access to various components and features of software with the help of a subscription model and without the need for worrying about product licenses.

DigiBlu is a leader in digital workplace implementation and has signed a partnership with Thoughtonomy to deliver the first SaaS based intelligent automation solution in Africa.

Amongst the first organisations to be taking advantage of the new partnership is a premier South African financial services group, which is deploying the Intelligent Automation platform within its subsidiary in Namibia to process a number of core customer onboarding and account management processes which largely depend on systems at the parent in South Africa.

“DigiBlu whole specialises in intelligent automation and effectively offer two routes to it; one is by using RPA software and you add components to that, but it’s slow,” said DigiBlu CEO Steve Burke.

“You have to go through procurement processes, but the beauty of Thoughtonomy is that all capabilities require to automate value chain from cognitive to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), plus other capabilities like Machine Learning. It’s seamlessly integrated into one solution, so it’s just one investment decision and sponsorship arrangement. It gives you the capabilities to do all sorts of creative stuff and be imaginative in your adoption of the technology.

“We are also in the process of building a Robotic Operation Centre (ROC), which will be the vehicle for providing SaaS. We have our own platform of virtual workers and we use our vehicle for delivering virtual workers. We can run remote implementations, which is useful when you’re working in somewhere like Nigeria where it can be difficult to get to.

“We’ll still send people into the country and they will do the consulting side, but we will do the development stuff in the ROC and when those automations are deployed, we will provide those out of the ROC as a service. We are also looking to provide processes as a service which we can provide internationally.

“We seem to be really on the cusp of being on the leading edge of the deployment of virtual workers to such an extent that we’re almost ahead of the UK. It’s quite encouraging that we’re here at the bottom of the world but are taking world-leading capabilities to the rest of the world.”

Burke went into more detail about the SaaS market when speaking to Intelligent CIO.

Q. Can you give an overview of the SaaS market, with specific focus on how it is being implemented in Africa?

A. We provide digital or virtual workers as a service and at scale. The technology is software, but the software we’re using as a service is actually software that is mimicking workers and provides capacity to perform functions, so you’re buying workers that are doing what would otherwise be human jobs.

We use integrated application solutions, but the core of it is RPA. Thoughtonomy integrate cognitive technologies to provide a fully integrated ‘out of the box’ solution. It provides you the capabilities to provide a virtual workforce and it really opens up use cases right from the customer’s first touch all the way to the fulfilment of RPA.

We find that in some African countries, IT departments are not the most sophisticated or the largest so don’t have the expertise or the number of people required to create the enabled environment to run digital workforces. It requires a lot of infrastructure, but we can circumvent the issues by providing the services over the cloud. The other big thing about Africa is that we’re able to leapfrog legacy by providing SaaS. We can work with whatever legacies are there but take that company into the Fourth Industrial Revolution through cognitive and robotic technology. There’s no need for system replacements or expensive builds of new technologies; they can access it immediately.

Q. What industries predominately use SaaS?

A. Our biggest traction initially is in financial services and especially within insurers, which is weird because they’re normally more conservative and not renowned for their technology innovation. The banks still have reservations around security though and have a desire to keep the software in-house.

But in QI 2019, TymeBank launches in South Africa as the first digital cloud-enabled bank and I think that will establish the precedent for the greater adoption of cloud by removing a barrier of entry for providing virtual workers as a service, or processes as a service.

Q. How big do you think the SaaS market could become?

A. I see it being the equivalent to ERP. Companies will be looking at investments in digital workforces, just as much that they were previously investing in SAP and core systems.

Q. What do you say to people who may criticise the SaaS solution?

A. Even if we just go back a year, there was a lot of fear about virtual workers, but from our experience, the robots are ubiquitous, and we are scaling digital workforces fast. The virtual workers have released significant hours of FTE in that some companies are reducing overtime and the number of contractors. There is obviously a consequence of replacing people doing work, but we haven’t yet seen a client that hasn’t used that human labour elsewhere and no one is properly exploring what you can do with those savings.

Q. What would your message be to industry leaders looking to use SaaS within their company?

A. I see it inevitable that their will be an adoption of virtual workers, whether it’s in-house or as providers as a service, and cloud will follow through very quickly. I think you may be uncompetitive if you were not to adopt SaaS and especially virtual workers. Business leaders should really be looking at their business and operating models and asking themselves how to get the maximum benefit of virtual workers, provided by SaaS over the cloud and the real secret is how to get a competitive advantage out of it.

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