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Achieving digital high performance

How can South African businesses win in the digital age?


Accenture’s Digital High Performance research uncovers some disturbing stats:

  • Only 3 percent of South African companies are seeing a financial return on their investments in digital.

  • 70 percent are considered laggards in terms of digitalisation.

  • Only 5 percent of South African companies are identified as Digital Leaders, compared to 25 percent globally.

The research shows a distinct correlation between digital and financial performance. Yet even though South African companies recognise the need to digitise, the pace of transformation remains slow. It’s not surprising that 73 percent say they are currently facing disruption.

How can South African businesses win in the digital age?

Accenture’s Digital High Performance research highlights the winning formulas of digital high performers globally and in South Africa, and identifies key strategies to unlock trapped value and help companies remain competitive.



Accenture’s Digital High Performance research is conducted annually to gain greater insight into companies’ digital performance. It examines Digital High Performance from two angles—digital performance and financial performance—to help companies better understand the interplay between the two.

The results for South Africa—and outside-in assessment of 1,200 companies—show that only a small fraction of local companies can be considered digital leaders, with low overall growth in the level of digitalisation over the past year.

The results across industry sectors and business dimensions offer keen insight into current performance and how organisations can boost digital transformation efforts to unlock trapped value and increase competitiveness.

The research:

  • Shows the performance advantage digital provides

  • Identifies the industries that lead in terms of digitalisation

  • Uncovers the strategies leading digital organisations are pursuing

  • Provides a list of seven "no regret" digital capabilities to build to boost digital capabilities


There is a dearth of Digital High Performers globally and in South Africa

  • Globally, only 6 percent of companies are Digital High Performers—companies that are truly reaping the benefits of their investments in digital through enhanced financial performance and new business growth. In South Africa, that figure is 3 percent.

Digital companies are outperforming all others

  • South African Digital High Performers and Digital Leaders enjoy, on average, higher revenue growth of 32 percent compared to other companies.

  • South African Digital High Performers outperform their Business Leader peers (high performance businesses that have not yet embraced digital change) by 21 percent in terms of future valuation.

Unlocking trapped value requires a ‘digital first’ mindset

  • Digital natives—such as Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, Uber and Netflix—outperform all other companies. On ability to translate digital investments into superior business performance they score 3.5 compared to the global cross-industry average of 2.1 and the South African cross-industry average of 2.0.


What Digital High Performers can teach us

Few Digital High Performers are digital natives, yet they manage to use digital technologies as both enablers and drivers of change in their organisations. They master the ability to renew and transform their core business while growing into new businesses. Digital High Performers distinguish themselves through a clear, disciplined focus on transformation and growth. In short, they master Rotating to the New.

A revised set of rules can boost digital transformation. These include:

  • Transforming the core to release investment capacity

  • Reinvesting in the core business to help drive additional growth.

  • Growing from new business by establishing an innovation culture

  • Pivoting wisely by balancing investments between the near and longer term


Digital High Performers clearly demonstrate a holistic approach to digital investment. Across four business dimensions—Plan, Make, Sell, Manage—key characteristics distinguish them:

  • Digital High Performers’ ability to effectively plan and execute on their digital strategies is a clear differentiator. Less than 40 percent of South African companies are investing comprehensively in digital technologies as part of their overall business strategy.

  • Digital High Performers embrace innovative, customer-led approaches to designing, building and launching new products and services, compared to only 34 percent of local non-Digital High Performers.

  • Digital High Performers show greater mastery of digital marketing, sales, customer service and delivery of superior customer experiences than their less digitised counterparts.

  • Digital High Performers demonstrate a superior ability in building a digital culture and are investing in in developing their talent for the future


Get started with seven “no regret” digital capabilities

Companies can start to build these capabilities immediately to accelerate their digital transformation, irrespective of their maturity or the industries they operate in.

  • Sense and interpret disruption

  • Experiment to develop and launch new ideas faster

  • Fully understand and leverage data

  • Build and maintain a high digital quotient team

  • Partner and invest for all non-core activities

  • Organise for speed

  • Design a delightful customer experience


Joost de Haas
Joost de Haas
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Neil Asherson
Neil Asherson
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