CIO Banquet 2017: Keynote Address Part 6 – Closing; Role of Leadership

This year’s CIO survey results were released at a prestigious gathering of top leaders in South Africa’s IT industry. I was privileged to present a keynote message at the ITWeb & Brainstorm CIO Banquet in which I covered the role of business, government and education in the sector. I also touched on cyber-security, the importance of a city-level response to disruptive technology and the role of leaders through the empowering of cross-functional teams in the workplace.

So what is our response – all of us as IT leaders here tonight? We’ll hear in the survey results a bit later about how we have all responded to the changes in our industry and the ongoing pressures of balancing competing forces in the context of ever faster cycles of technological disruption, a skills crunch, greater demand for solutions, macro-economic uncertainty and a multi-generational workforce that continues to challenge our preconceived notions of leadership and management in the workplace. Our teams are looking to us for that leadership, our executives are looking to us for solutions, our colleagues across industry and across the boardroom table are looking to us for collaboration and mutual support.

My message tonight is that it’s time to lead and the local, South African IT industry can and should punch above its weight. Last year’s Africa DevOps day was the first time that over 300 IT professionals from all 6 major banks came together in one room for a day of shared learnings and engagement – 80% of our IT stacks are non-competitive so the objective of the day was to drive skills for the local industry – my top developers simply don’t leave for another local bank, they leave because they are moving their family to New Zealand, or Canada. FirstRand CEO Johan Burger made it clear at the day that he didn’t see his next competitor in the room – rather it was Facebook with a payments innovation or Google with banking licenses or Allpay making significant inroads across the rest of the continent.

The long-prophesied jobs-killer of robotic process automation has arrived

All industries are under threat of disruption, and technology continues to be both a disruptor and a defense tactic. Many traditional, incumbent firms are learning the hard way that its better to disrupt than to be disrupted, and at an individual level it’s better to automate than to be automated out of a job. The long-prophesied jobs-killer of robotic process automation has arrived and we are all battling with balancing job creation and transformation with introducing cost saving, efficient, free-market friendly technologies that doesn’t appear to envision a future where administrative and repetitive tasks offer high volumes of low-skilled jobs. These are the serious questions facing all leaders in business today as we contemplate and plan for a South Africa in the 21st and 22nd century.

all of us are here tonight because we are passionate about our industry and every day we touch parts of it that we can choose to leave better than when we found them

In closing …. where to from here, in the context of technology in government and big business, small business and education, cities, cyber security, teams and leadership – what more should we do, can we do, as leaders to unlock value, help our teams succeed, pick the right technologies and ensure South Africa re-asserts itself as a nation of innovators, job creators, net exporters of technology and smart cities that put us on the global map. Leaders should lead confidently – all of us are here tonight because we are passionate about our industry and every day we touch parts of it that we can choose to leave better than when we found them. Think about giving that fresh young grad a chance, that niche tech firm 30 minutes in your diary, and reconsider the offer of collaboration with your colleague across the industry. Importantly reach out to local councils, government IT departments, SITAS and innovation events like hack jozi, Innovation Durban and others. They have their own challenging environment and uncertainty to deal with but lets offer the hand of help.

We have much to be proud of in South Africa but technological progress will either find us and drag us with it or we can be part of it and use it to shape our future. This afternoon the finance minister acknowledged that government cannot achieve much needed inclusive growth on their own. They need all sectors, all industries to come with solutions and forge partnerships that looks beyond the short term difficulties to a progressive, smart society

I commend ITWeb and Brainstorm for creating this platform to address the trends and insights into the pressures we all face, let’s use this information and the networks we form in this room and outside of it for the good of our industry and our country.

Thank you

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