CIO South Africa partners had four minutes to leave a strong impression and forge long-lasting partnerships.
On 14 September, IT’s most formidable minds gathered at LevelThree Venue, overlooking the Sandton vista, for the second instalment of the CIO South Africa Pitch Parade. CIO South Africa trusted principal partners EOH, Makwa IT, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, executive partners BCX and Workday, and associate partners iiDENTIFii, Nkgwete IT Solutions, Perpetuuiti, and SAS were given just four minutes to impress a packed venue with their innovative business technology solutions.
Putting the attendees in a great mood with his unique brand of comedy, and a much-needed pick me up after a hard day’s work was Nicholas Goliath, renowned comedian and MC for the evening.
Up next was Nomahlubi Sonjica, CIO South Africa community manager, who introduced all the presenting partners. She laid down the ground rules: four minutes to present, and anything over that, you get buzzed off stage.
Onto the catwalk
Jannie Malan, principal solution consultant for Workday South Africa, Luigi D'Amigo, solution executive at EOH, Frank Heitmuller, head of sales and account management at Communication Genetics, and Sidikka Osman, CEO at Nkgwete IT solutions, were the first to try to beat the four-minute mark.
Jannie spoke on generative AI, the challenges and the potential opportunities it presents. “Our solution automates repetitive and mundane tasks,” Jannie explained. “However, for AI to truly deliver on its promise, it needs to be trustworthy.”
Why Workday? The answer was simple, according to Jannie: “It’s proven at scale, and has amazing capabilities like skills matching and anomaly detection.”
Luigi painted a scenario of a stressed and overworked workforce and how a transition to iOCO’s new workforce ecosystem – an API application ecosystem for the employee and hybrid workforce application – could be able to address that exact problem, and bring back a sense of joy in the workplace.
“The Always On services take the entire ecosystem, from DevOps to call centres running, while the important CIOs concentrate on the day-to-day tasks,” he said. He wrapped up his presentation with a sports analogy, comparing iOCO to the Springboks, calling the company a digital player who uses South African services to implement successful solutions for their partners.
The biggest lesson that Frank Heitmuller wanted to relay in his pitch was about trust. “Building trust is about forging relationships that transcend transactions,” he said.
Siddika Osman from Nkgwete IT took the opportunity to introduce ONE Technologies. Officially launched in August, it’s a range of laptop devices and an African inspired brand, produced in an economy of scale.
ONE Technologies competes with the best and produces in the very same facilities as household computer brands. However, Siddika says, their price point is their biggest unique selling point. Priced just right with no compromise in quality with prices starting from R9,000, they make technology accessible to everyone.
During the Q&A session, Siddika was asked what made her products stand out from the rest. “Our unique selling point or biggest differentiator is our price and purpose, making technology accessible to everyone. You have the option of spending your money elsewhere, but why not buy local and keep the money here,” she responded.
How do you use AI in your company was the next question. “We use AI in our everyday work, ML in our team’s work to speed up quality assurance purposes,” Luigi responded.
This was a nice segue to the next and most interactive part of the evening, the live polls. Nicholas took to the stage next and explained how the most interactive, fun, and engaging part of the evening would work.
The CIO South Africa team used the presentation platform mentimeter to put together a set of questions on topic issues. Attendees had to finish off a phrase relevant to their current situation, which were split into three categories: AI, boardrooms and vendors.
On AI, they completed “I use ChatGPT…” where 23 percent of respondents said that they used it sometimes and mainly for work. On the CIOs’ influence in the boardroom, they finished off the phrase, “My voice is heard the most when discussing…” The most popular response was IT, closely followed by business strategy. On vendors and how the IT leaders chose them, attendees said that they choose IT tools and services based on global best practices, followed by price.
In the final round of pitches, Lethabo Mokone, CEO of Makwa IT, hit the stage. He said that the four minutes on stage for him were less about product punting, but rather to explain the ‘why’ in Makwa, and to convince attendees why the conversation should continue. Agility is their biggest selling point and differentiator, and the ability to cut the red tape, “I deal with my clients directly, and they are able to call me directly too,” he said. Makwa IT is also aggressively trying to build an AWS practice in Africa after seeing a gap in the market.
Unathi Mothiba, senior cybersecurity product manager at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, mentioned that in 2016 Liquid Cloud was established, and later, Liquid Cybersecurity. “We don’t talk about AI, but African Intelligence," he said. In addition, Liqiud has a network of centres of excellence, and plans to expand to the rest of the continent, into countries like Egypt and Zambia.
Lance Fanaroff, co-founder of iiDENTIFii, was next. iiDENTIFii was born on a story of identity theft, he noted. They balance speed and safety, while offering trust and convenience, and also have racial biometrics bias technology under their product offering. “Our solution has advanced facial recognition capabilities,” he told the audience.
The evening ended with a snap verdict and an opportunity for CIOs to hop on stage to reflect on some of the questions asked during the live polls. Josh Souchon, CIO at Sasfin Bank, Faith Burn, CIO at Eskom, and Nikos Angelopoulos, group CIO at MTN, reflected on some of the insights from the live polls.
Faith mentioned that her organisation had experimented with generative AI with little bit of apprehension. “We still have to have keep a close eye on generative AI to avoid users misinterpreting what they put there, to safeguard that data,” Faith highlighted.
On whether the voice of the CIO is getting stronger, Nikos said that in the last 20 years the role has become increasingly important and has become more strategic, the world is essentially run by technology and without it we wouldn’t be where we are.
Josh concluded that AI should focus on the value creation and adoption, but the big challenge we have is getting to human behavioural change to get to that goal.