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Webinar Panel

Webinar host Thebeka Poswa, with entrepreneurial coach Christoff Oosthuysen, who explored ways for BDS practitioners to go beyond the use of online meetings in the digitalisation of their service offering. Also in the room were Bongi Msibi (Training Manager at SEDA), Terence Knott-Craig (IBASA Chairperson), and Derrik Ndzavi (IBASA Managing Director).

Business support practitioners are slow in adopting new, digitalised processes and cloud applications for delivering services to small businesses in South Africa. However, they have embraced the use of online meeting and training platforms, which they remain committed to in their work environment even after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are being lifted.

A poll, presented during a recent episode of the SEDA, IBASA & EPI Webinar Series, showed that significant adoption of online meetings took shape during the pandemic and that the trend continues to dominant now that the limitations on movement are less. Three-quarters of the respondents make use of online meeting tools and half report that more than 75% of their meetings are taking place online now. More than a quarter (28%) say they organise all their meetings online, while only a few (8%) do all their meetings face-to-face.

In addition to the persisting shift to online meetings, many say that they are using online group applications too. While 74% say they use meeting applications like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet, only 45% say they use group calls via applications like Whatsapp or Telegramme. In addition, more than a third (36%) say they use social media for communication with their clients.

Online group events, training sessions, or meetings are also used to a fair level. However, while just over a third (34%) of the respondents say they host online group events or training sessions, they do not consistently use in-event activities to increase attendee engagement. A third (33%) share content on platforms external to the meeting application they use. About a quarter use text chat (27%), live voice by attendees (27%), and break-away groups (21%). Polls are less popular (at 15%) and few use collaboration or attendee-whiteboard applications during their events (4%).

Productivity tools like task management and CRM are not showing the same rate of adoption when compared to online meetings. Below a tenth of the attendees reports that they use different online productivity tools to manage their own work and communicate with their clients. However, 21% reported that they use online tools for planning and objectives setting, 15% for monitoring and evaluation, and 14% for contact session reports.

The poll is of course not a scientific study, but it is worth noting that 92 attendees took part in the poll, offering a good representation of practitioners.

PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE

During the webinar attendees shared their experiences in aiming to move beyond the first step of digitising items in their work environment. This would involve going beyond scanning documents, using a digital platform to meet, or sending out email notifications. The challenge for many business support practitioners is to move beyond “digitisation” to more comprehensive “digitalisation”.

Digitalisation entails the use of digitisation to improve business processes. This is when you, for instance, not only use an online meeting platform, but you also automate many of the meeting organisation and post-meeting processes. The main gain with digitalisation is much more productive and efficient work, potentially coordinating the involvement of many people and automating many of the business processes.

Knowledge workers, such as business support practitioners, already have access to thousands of applications and online solutions to help them in organising their work environment. The features offered by these technologies are evolving fast, with new applications being added on an ongoing basis.

This makes the selection of the best online tools very difficult, often resulting in decision-making paralysis. When selecting tools, practitioners are best advised to consider the integration of the different applications. That is why a suite of applications is often selected, even if some of the applications are less suitable than what an individual alternative would offer.

In addition, ongoing improvement in the functionality of applications is increasing process automation so that it becomes easier to get things done. And artificial intelligence technologies are on the increase, as it allows the machines to learn by doing, and get better at doing your heavy lifting on your behalf.

Other trends such as blockchain, tokens & crypto technology are definite influences to keep an eye on, as these may have an impact on how business support practitioners engage and authenticate their services or products in the future.

The advantages are clear for business support practitioners to introduce the digitalisation of their own service officering; plus — even more importantly — for their client businesses. As a result, practitioners have little choice but to improve their own skills and knowledge about digital solutions. They have to invest in their secret weapon — themselves!

 

  • To join the upcoming CPD webinar you can << REGISTER HERE >>.
  • By attending this episode of the SEDA, IBASA, and EPI Small Business Development Practitioner Webinar Series, you will earn credits to count towards your CPD requirements.
  • Christoff Oosthuysen is the webinar host, Founding CEO of the Entrepreneurial Planning Institute (EPI), and General Partner at Seed South Capital.

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