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The Margin Q3 2020

The Margin Q3 2020

And so we push onwards, into the new world. There's nothing like a global pandemic to shake things up.
In this, the third quarter of this singular year, we've tried to provide a snapshot of where the channel finds itself. The piece on how Tarsus Distribution coped with the change seems to be fairly typical: there was a mad rush to equip staff, and once the dust settled, it realised that it could indeed run a multimillion-rand distribution business from home.

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Of course, some staff members are still going to need to go into the office, and there doesn't seem to be any way around that. It's also unfortunate that some people have been retrenched; in the case of Tarsus, about 10% of the workforce, as it accelerates its digital transformation journey. There is going to be a lot more of this, and it was probably going to happen sooner or later.
You won’t, however, hear a lot of firms talking about this. In the past, a company will have tried to avoid switching on some kind of automation to preserve jobs, and would have said something along the lines of using AI and automation to 'free up' employees so that they can provide more value, or be switched to a more ‘creative’ role.
Now, they don’t have that luxury, and I’m betting that increasing numbers of employees are going to be shown the door in this year and the next. The time of the great shakeout is here.
Many firms will know by now they’re not going to be making a profit this year, and it’s imperative that the channel is providing the right type of products and services. Many companies are now concentrating on the basics and are taking a conservative approach to budgets and spend. Still, there is some hope, and the pandemic provides the perfect opportunity to accelerate digital transformation plans and embrace new ways of working. It’s also a good time to get rid of legacy technologies. You may have sunk a lot of money into, say, a video conferencing suite, but why not replace it with something a bit more portable, like something everyone can carry around on their laptops? The company’s mainframe is another example. Once this old technology is jettisoned, firms will find themselves in a better position next year to take advantage of digitalisation and reap the benefits. These firms will be better able to compete and generate more employment and profits, once the situation stabilises. Just when that is, however, is the question.

Matthew Burbidge
Editor
matthew@itweb.co.za



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