2023 CIO Awards judge Kholiwe Makhohliso discusses the qualities of a top CIO

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Kholiwe believes that the modern-day CIO should be an advisor to the board, and not merely ‘keep the lights on’.

Kholiwe Makhohliso, VP and country MD for South Africa at Software AG, is one of 14 distinguished judges for the first CIO Awards, which will be held on 15 November at The Polo Room at the Inanda Club in Johannesburg.

She is a highly experienced technology executive who serves on a number of boards, including Harvard Business School’s alumni board – she was invited after participating in HBS’s programmes for leadership development (PLDA). She is also a non-executive director at Kagiso Tiso Holdings (KTH), board member of the Digital Council Africa, and a previous council member at the University of Cape Town.

Kholiwe holds a bachelor of accounting science degree from the University of the Transkei, and has completed several other executive and leadership programmes both locally and abroad.

As a great supporter of the CIO South Africa community and a recent attendee of the first-ever CIO South Africa Women’s dinner in March this year, Kholiwe couldn't pass up the opportunity to join the CIO Awards judging panel. She discusses what makes an IT professional stand out to her, and puts them in the running for an award.

According to Kholiwe, CIOs are responsible for steering and bringing along the board on the digital transformation journey of any organisation. “Successful CIOs have evolved to be business leaders and advisors to the boards, CEOs, exco and business at large on digital transformation to create an organisation digital backbone,” she says. “It is key for the CIOs to have the strategic outlook and understanding of overall business imperatives. CIOs must be strategic advisors to business, have a world economic view, not only focus on line of business, but what ICT can contribute to the whole organisation and to socio-economic impacts.”

Kholiwe is also one to practise what she preaches, having participated in executive leadership programmes with prestigious institutions like GIBS and Harvard Business School. She believes that is vital for a CIO to continue learning and developing their skills, and stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies.

“In a world of ‘disrupt or be disrupted’, it has never been as crucial as it is today,” Kholiwe says. “CIOs need to definitely prioritise their quest for knowledge and doing things differently to enable them to help adapt the organisation’s strategy and execution to emerging trends,” she adds.

For those who aspire to occupy the CIO role one day, Kholiwe believes that it all starts with your mindset, and the importance of continued learning. “Be curious in every field, take every opportunity to learn and grow,” she advises. “Keep abreast of the technology trends, and be well versed in various topics as technology cuts across industries and sectors. Cultivate an innovative, entrepreneurial, creative and growth mindset.”

For Kholiwe, the awards themselves are more than just about winning a trophy and having bragging rights. They shine a light on those making a significant contribution to the organisation and society at large, but are often left in the dark. Recognition is also the fuel that allows them to harness and unleash their potential going forward.

“I am looking forward to a great evening of networking, collaboration, and sharing insights with great minds in our industry and country on 15 November,” she concludes.

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