A Roadmap to support SMEs in the SADC region to prepare for digital transformation
Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The limited industrialisation and the underdeveloped economic sector in the SADC create harsh business environments for SMEs to operate in. Illiteracy and low education levels among the population hinder the manufacturing sectors’ productivity and its ability to absorb new technologies. This contributes to the creation of a negative impact on the diversification of manufactured goods in the entire economy. Further challenges that hinder industrial growth within the SADC include the restrained access to capital and skilled labour, a poor administrative system and access to markets, as well as significantly underdeveloped physical- and technological infrastructure. A concept that shows great potential to address and improve SADCs current situation is Digital Transformation (DT). DT allows overall improvement of processes, faster and cost-efficient production of high-quality products, increases the product range by responding faster to market changes and enables the customisation of products. By adopting newer technologies and optimising business operations, companies gain a competitive edge, al-lowing them to re-position themselves within today’s highly competitive market. However,due to limited knowledge, understanding, and guidance about transforming a business digitally, SME leadership tends to feel overwhelmed. SME leadership often does not know where to start and how to approach such a project. By identifying the challenges that con-tribute towards the underdeveloped economic sector in the SADC, it was found that the regions’ SMEs show significant weaknesses within the following internal business areas:company strategy, employees, customers, organisational culture, and digital environment.These business areas are majorly influenced during and after a DT. The purpose of this research revolved around developing a DT roadmap that enlightens SME leadership about the most important factors that must be taken into consideration during a DT endeavour. By providing a structured approach and incorporating management tools and techniques, SME leadership can break down a DT endeavour into simple and manageable tasks. Industry experts and SMEs situated in the region were consulted to gain valuable feedback about the roadmap. By using an iterative development approach, the roadmap was adjusted to construct a more suitable roadmap version for SMEs in the SADC. It was, however, found that the underdeveloped skill level in the SADC is even worse than initially expected. This was highlighted when implementing the roadmap, where SME owners and managers expressed the need for additional support and assistance from a consultant to guide them. However, the need for and value of the roadmap was highly appreciated.
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