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#LockdownLessons: Digital transformation isn't a nice-to-have, it's a basic need

As part of our #LockdownLessons series, Bizcommunity is reaching out to South Africa's top industry players to share their experience of the current Covid-19 crisis, how their organisations are navigating these unusual times, where the challenges and opportunities lie, and their industry outlook for the near future.
Sylvester Ratlabala, OneConnect CEO
Sylvester Ratlabala, OneConnect CEO

Here we talk to Sylvester Ratlabala, the CEO of OneConnect, which is Blackboard's African partner, to get his take.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business?

Sylvester Ratlabala: We offer essential services to the telecommunications, financial and - as Blackboard's African partner - the education sector. The immediate impact was on how to continue operations and service clients while ensuring the safety of our employees. We quickly realised that standard disaster mitigation plans were not robust enough for the impact of Covid-19, and had to adapt quickly.

The pandemic will have a lasting imprint on our medium to long-term strategies. Strategies and goals set prior to the crisis are null and void.

How did you prepare for lockdown?

Ratlabala: We concentrated on the safety of our staff by equipping them to efficiently work offsite. We are using Blackboard Collaborate, one of our offerings, as a tool of communication. We had to reconfigure how to manage our company on a day-to-day basis, and enacted company-wide policies that supported a remote workforce.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing during this pandemic?

Ratlabala: The biggest challenge, like in many other companies, has been job preservation, and cost containment whilst maintaining revenues. A number of projects had to be put on hold, resulting in loss of revenue.

What sort of assistance will you need going forward?

Ratlabala: There has to be a better effort in restarting the economy, we cannot rely on the “Ho-hum” plans of the past. Our industry and the country needs a Marshall Plan to get back the lost jobs, and to create new ones.

Are you communicating with your customers? If so, how?

Ratlabala: There are various tools we use to communicate with our clients, with Collaborate from Blackboard being our key communication tool. It is one of the products we offer mainly to our higher education clients.

How are you offering assistance to your customers who rely on your services?

Ratlabala: Where we had on-going engagements, we were able to minimise interruption to our services. A major activity at OneConnect during the pandemic has been to assist institutions of higher learning with their online Learning Management Ecosystem, through our Blackboard offerings.

What do you predict the next six months will be like?

Ratlabala: We envisage a surge in expenditure by institutions on learning management systems and most digital transformation projects will be brought forward across industries. The pandemic has conclusively proved that digital transformation is not a nice-to-have but a basic need for companies to survive.

Now is the time to innovate and experiment. What is OneConnect Doing?

Ratlabala: In the education sector, OneConnect’s collaboration with Blackboard will drastically transform how education is offered, and this has the potential to improve access to quality education, especially in historically disadvantaged institutions.

What has been your biggest lesson from all this?

Ratlabala: Building resilient organisations is a day-to-day task of managers and leaders.

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