Bridgestone’s Oren Moodley believes in responsible innovation

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Digitising for the sake of digitising wastes resources, he says.

Oren Moodley is the head of IT for Bridgestone Southern Africa. His deliberate and laser-focused approach to his career has seen him occupy managerial roles at a very young age. He started off as a distributor team systems manager at P&G South and East Africa and was responsible for ensuring all P&G distributors met IT standards.

However, he soon discovered that he wanted more technical experience, so he joined FNB as a Product Manager within the Business Banking division.

“Based on my experience and personal beliefs, IT can be a very lonely place because techies don’t usually understand the business well, and business individuals don’t understand what is possible using IT,” he observes.

“The time I spent in FNB’s product environment helping digitise processes within Business Banking allowed me to understand the business well. With this knowledge and my background in IT and Computer Science, I was able to use technology effectively to help pivot the business with innovative new products such as the integration of the CIPC application process between FNB and the DTi,” Oren explains. Later, he returned to P&G and headed up the South African Sales IT portfolio.

After a few successful releases and rollouts at P&G South Africa, he moved into the bigger Asia, Middle East and Africa space. There, he continued delivering cutting edge technology to the business such as image recognition until his recent move to Bridgestone to lead the IT function. “I’ve spent time in pure business roles as well as pure IT,” he says. “And I try to merge the two correctly, which is what I’m doing at Bridgestone today.”

“One of the biggest issues there is in IT is digitising for the sake of digitising. Business leaders believe digitisation will lead to breakthroughs in operations and sales, but often the project becomes bigger than initially planned. If the project team is ill equipped for these changes, the project either fails or the ROI is lower than expected.” he observes. “Not all processes have to be digitised: you don't need to spend millions installing SAP if you don’t need it," he explains. It all boils down to pivoting the business with technology in the right place, correctly, according to Oren. Small changes can make a big difference especially if you concentrate on the end user experience. “My main job in IT is ensuring that we enable the business to be competitive, built in the new age, but are not innovating irresponsibly.”

“I’ve also heard frustrations about IT generally not automatically having a seat at the table during key engagements, but I believe that it’s okay not to have one at first: IT needs to show that we are business partners, not just techies,” he continues.

One of the most important things for Oren is ensuring that his team can talk to people. “What often happens in IT is people who have incredible technical ability and build amazing products and solutions are unable to commercialise. My strongest skill has been my ability to build relationships with people, which I had to learn how to do and nurture myself, as I didn’t have this when I started out.”

“I coach my team that it’s not only about how much technical ability we have, it’s also about how we talk to people, and how we merge technology and people. I also prefer that my team get thrown in the deep end and learn how to swim,” he says. “I enable my team and give them the room to think, grow and innovate. I believe micro-management is a sure-fire way to stifle a person’s growth and thinking.”

Oren also rewards innovation and does it by giving those innovators access to influential people within the organisation. “I provide team members opportunities to present their ideas to leaders within the organisation,” he says. “And I also don't hold team members back within the function. I allow them to explore other departments to get an overview of the business.”

In addition to using his people skills to get the best out of his team and deliver on customer needs, Oren’s success has also come from partnering with the business. “Technology evolution should always be done in collaboration with business partners, giving ownership to the users within business. This improves the likelihood of successful change management”

His success didn’t come without a few blunders along the way. He remembers a particular mistake, which also reinforced his beliefs around people first. “I once switched off cellphone banking for the farming community,” he recalls. “I didn’t have background information on how much workarounds over the years had affected the system. The decision I made to change the system did not account for a critical workaround that enabled agriculture customers to use the system. It affected thousands of customers, however, the cellphone banking team were willing to assist me solve the problem very quickly, and I think it really boiled down to the solid relations I had already built with them.”

Oren has quite the left field passion: he is a true agriculturalist at heart. “I love growing vegetables and spending time outdoors with my family,” he says. “What attracts me the most to farming is sustainability, survival skills and living off the land. In contrast to the lives we have all become accustomed to today of buying everything from the supermarket.”

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