CIOs say do not innovate for the sake of it. Understand the need!


CIOs at the Unicorns vs Dinosaurs Summit discussed what it takes for an organisation to be innovative.

Creating a culture of innovation in an organisation and having the right tools and skills to be innovative took centre stage at the CIO Summit, where leaders discussed the art of becoming a CIO.

Top leaders who took part in a roundtable discussion at the RMB Gallery in Sandton on 24 May agreed that the structure of an organisation is important in driving innovation.

Innovation is possible in any size organisation, but the challenge is how one pitches ideas that translate into reality.

One of the IT leaders said that everyone has had an idea that adds value to customers and positions a new future.

Another pointed out that most organisations are grappling with the notion of stability, transformation and innovation and how to balance the three.

“We need to keep the business alive. It’s got to be stable, it’s got to be alive to maintain and mitigate your risk, but at the same time, you need to differentiate and be out there with the newest and the best to connect with the market,” they said.

It was agreed that organisations need to live and breathe innovation and should not expect it to take place in IT. Everyone should play their part in driving it.

The CIOs highlighted that driving innovation with limited skills is a challenge.

“If you are trying to field skills internally only, you are limiting yourself to what’s available to your organisation. To find those people, you most probably need to look globally,” one CIO said.

“The skills challenge is the real one. We all have to think very differently as to how we actually solve it. Not just internally, but externally, through partnerships, collaborations, and industry association,” another added.

It was the CIOs’ view that it is important for organisations to first find out what the need for innovation is and match that with the skills.

“You got to be agile, you got to be flexible because the world is changing. What you think may be relevant and innovative today might not be tomorrow.”

One leader pointed out that they did not subscribe to the notion that CIOs are not innovative.

“I think we are our worst enemies when we accept those comments. The statements are wrong and irrelevant and should be debunked in any forum we are in.”

“Innovation is synonymous with change. One of the biggest challenges companies face is the resistance to change.”

Most CIOs agreed that innovation is a culture issue. They said a CIO’s job is to create an environment that enables change and innovation, so that when the organisation is ready and willing to transform, it is supported.

“The people within the organisation should feel that they can innovate and take that somewhere where it gets executed.”

It is important for organisations to have the customer in mind when they innovate because the latter drives innovation.

The roundtable was attended by:

  • Jason Kay, CIO, Outsurance
  • Joël Roerig, Managing Director, CIO South Africa
  • Justin Freeman, CIO, Telesure
  • Kim Sim, CIO, Mr Price
  • Mohammed Gause, CIO, Tiger Brands
  • Nomahlubi Sonjica, Managing Editor, CHRO South Africa
  • Paulo dos Santos, CTOO
  • Philile Mkhize, IT Executive - Corporate & Retail, Liberty
  • Renier van der Merwe, CIO: Central Finance, FNB
  • Toni Serra, CIO, AECI
  • Tsepa Ramoriting, Group Executive, iOCO Technology
  • Zakes Chibi, Country IT Shared Services Manager, TotalEnergies
  • Ziaad Suleman, Group Chief Commercial Officer, EOH

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