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This quote struck me as highly relevant when thinking about why African CIOs should attend SAP’s upcoming CIO Summit in Marrakesh from 7th to 9th May 2014. A Google search shows it has been attributed to various luminaries around the world; testimony to its importance in a fast changing world!

 

If you are a CIO (anywhere, let alone in Africa) you should be reflecting on this quote daily because that’s how fast your world is changing. In Africa this dynamism is heightened by economic growth fuelled by new natural resource discoveries, by the need to eliminate the scourge of corruption, by the need to be globally competitive (efficiency, effectiveness and compliance being the watchwords here) and by the need to build an economically and socially inclusive society. Information technologies and particularly the type supplied by SAP are already contributing in all of these areas.

 

As a CIO are you thinking about how your role is changing? Are you actively driving the changes that business, public sector and civil society leaders are crying out for? Are you relevant in tomorrow’s world?

 

  • If you are behind the curve, responding to others’ requests rather than leading change, then you are in grave danger of becoming irrelevant.
  • If you are not seen as an exemplar of leadership and innovation by your organisation’s CEO and Board you are, again, in grave danger of becoming irrelevant.
  • If you are spending most of your time managing data centres and desktops and servers rather than figuring out how your company can exploit digitisation to create new services and business value then, again, you are in grave danger of becoming irrelevant.

 

We see traditional IT approaches decaying everywhere:

  • Vendors of cloud solutions ignore IT and sell straight into business departments without regard to architecture and data redundancies.
  • Users back up their corporate data to cloud based storage, bypassing IT.
  • Employees decide what devices they want in their lives.
  • Staff tweet and comment on social media without regard to the consequences to the company’s brand or reputation.
  • The CEO knows that technology innovation can improve the organisation’s  reach, revenues and profitability but gets frustrated by IT’s glacial pace of delivery and the attendant costs.
  • Business drivers change; in a recent example in South Africa a CIO’s carefully laid plans and career path came to an abrupt end when his large company was acquired; the acquiring company has a laser focus on its core business and is “not in the business of IT”. The large and growing
    internal IT department the CIO had been leading was quickly outsourced and the CIO left looking for a new role.

 

The CIO’s role is being irrevocably changed by a nexus of technological and societal forces. Are you already leading your organisation to a better run future where:

  • It’s no longer about running an “IT shop” because Cloud computing will completely change the way you provision commoditised capabilities ranging from Storage and Development platforms to ERP and CRM.
  • It’s no longer just about efficiency and dictating how users will interact with the company’s data but about Experiences and how Mobility will enable you to extend the reach, engagement and immediacy of your business processes in exciting new ways.
  • It’s no longer about real time reporting and a reactive “sense and respond” capability but about Big Data and Predictive Analytics enabling you to gain the deep insights that precede innovation.
  • And, of course, with ascendancy of In-Memory computing pioneered by SAP HANA it’s about doing things that were physically impossible in old IT architectures.

 

As a CIO in Africa today you should be reshaping your career and approach to enabling your organisation to ensure that you are in the vanguard of digital transformation; helping both your own organisation and the continent at large to leapfrog overseas economies and competitors (that are trapped by legacy investments) by exploiting the nexus of forces that are already shaping humanity’s future.

 

To close with another quote from an enduring leadership icon; “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Niccolo Machiavelli.

 

 

Join us at the SAP Africa CIO Summit in Marrakesh. The world’s leading business software company and an exemplar of innovation, SAP, brings you an agenda designed to help you learn, network, enhance your leadership capabilities and ensure your on-going success.

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