Transformation a critical discussion point at the IT Leaders Africa Summit
The 9th Annual IT Leaders Africa Summit was recently hosted at the brand new, green star-rated CTICC East Wing in Cape Town on 9 & 10 May 2018. Over the past decade of existence, the event has quickly established itself as the premier gathering of CIO’s and business IT professionals on the continent. Attendees from across Africa congregated in Africa’s tech hub to share best practices, and discuss the strategic roadmap to managing the evolving challenges, opportunities and risks associated with the IT departments’ ever-increasing scope of technology implementation and its related oversight.
Brett St Clair, CEO of Siatik and renown international speaker – delivered a powerful warning to the audience; “disruption is happening incredibly quickly; especially in the IT space – there are so many technologies that are hitting IT, wave after wave – and each technology generates another wave of technology, which can be very scary as the rest of the world feels like it is doubling efficiency and leap-frogging ahead whilst we continue to lag behind in Africa – constantly having to catch up.”
A common thread shared by the audience and speakers alike was that digital transformation is turning the industry on its head, and the CIO of the future needs to be well ahead of the curve to be able to deal and effectively counter the effects of prospective disruption to organisations. Transformation was also discussed on a higher level and resulted in a robust and thought-provoking debate regarding the duty of leading IT professionals to not only upskill existing staff as opposed to looking outside for talent; attendees also challenged the IT industry as a whole to work towards the development, mentoring and nurturing of millennials and more importantly women in the IT field.
Nithen Naidoo, Managing Director of Snode, who participated in the newly introduced sponsor hot seat panel discussion, encouraged the IT industry to invest in the development of future IT practitioners as this will set organisations on a sustainable path to success, “Millennials are looking for purpose – they want what they do to mean something; they want to add to something greater than themselves - and if you give them that, your organisation will be able to attract the right kind of talent…desire and [corporate] cultural fit is really important”.
This was a sentiment shared by Jamie Whittaker, Deputy CIO at Discovery, who encouraged organisations that want to succeed where others have failed, to take an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach, “In order for organisations to be successful, they need to understand that they should embrace change – It’s not business as usual but rather business as unusual”. Whittaker further elaborated that “IT is not about technology; it’s not about apps, databases or mainframes, nor the cloud – what it’s about, is People – they are the most valuable resource – they should be mentored and nourished, when you find these individuals; they should be treated correctly from the very first interaction with your organisation. Make sure that we invest in developing our people, so that they can leave at any stage, but treat them well so that they choose to stay.” The overarching message was that, change may be scary, but it should be embraced and seen as an opportunity as opposed to a threat.
The array of IT experts present at the event discussed other critical themes which are affecting the IT profession, including improving organisational cyber resilience in a world of evolving and increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks through continuous collaboration between big companies and SME’s in order to create a sense of community around the issue of cyber security. Naidoo cautioned organisations to stop viewing cyber security protection as a grudge purchase “cyber security wins battles in boardrooms, it’s a competitive advantage”.
Harnessing the true potential of data was also on the top of everyone’s minds with Collin Mamdoo, Principal IoT Specialist at Vodacom calling for “data democratisation”, with many others echoing this sentiment and encouraging both anonymous and visible sharing of data between companies. Overall, everyone acknowledged that data analytics is a key part to business success; the question rather centers on how you put that data together; which is contextual to your environment, industry, company and maturity according to Peter du Plooy, CIO of Engen, futurist and former Visionary CIO of the Year Award recipient.“Organisations that are winning; are organisations that are doing immense amounts of data analytics – they’re understanding their broader ecosystem…their customers, understanding their business inefficiencies and they are improving all of these things”.
This was a sentiment shared by Greg Groenmeyer, Head of IT Strategy & Architecture at Sanlam, “it is important for IT to be aligned to the business agenda and the overall business strategy; IT departments must always evaluate whether anything that is introduced has a business narrative – activities must be centred around mitigating the risks or improving the bottom line”
The IT Leaders Africa Summit has been providing IT executives with practical knowledge from industry experts and thought leaders since its inception 9 years ago. With the assistance of an advisory panel of experience C-level IT executives, the summit covered the most current trends translating business strategies into IT functions, as well as many controversial and interesting debates on the future of IT in business.
“It has been exciting to witness the growth of the event as the IT industry matures. Kinetic is committed to strengthening the IT industry across the African continent through our involvement as a key information provider and business facilitator. We are encouraged by the number of companies who have already expressed interest in anticipation of the next edition later in 2018 which will be co-hosted alongside the Afrisecure Cyber Security Summit in Johannesburg” says Terry Southam, Managing Director, of Kinetic – the conference organisers.
In closing, Whittaker cautioned attendees that “Companies need to be looking for a business strategy for the digital age; if there are companies that consider business and IT to be two separate elements; they’re ripe for disruption”