In spite of running a technology company, Graham Braum, country manager of Lenovo in South Africa, still believes in people over machines. “People make the difference, and while your data will always inform the decisions you make, nothing can replace the decision-making ability of people,” he says.
It’s a lesson he’s learnt through trial and error. “In the past I have made mistakes about relying on data and processes or technology, instead of the information from people on the ground. I was working for a technology company in the Middle East and I needed to develop a distribution network to expand the geographical footprint and move into new territories. I was only in the environment for six months and during that time I got a lot of feedback and information from people on the ground, but I chose not to use it. I rather relied on the data to make my decision in appointing the distribution network. It came back to bite me,” he explains.
Machines are productivity tools but they can’t make the big decisions, he adds. The insight of people on the ground is particularly important in the Middle East and African markets. “These emerging markets have different principles to the more mature US and Western European markets that have defined processes that allow you to rely more on data to make a decision.
In Africa we have just over a billion people with different cultures and different ways of doing business. If you want to succeed in these markets, listen to the people who understand and live in them. You won’t find better or more relevant information,” Braum concludes.
Technology can never replace people.