IT execs delve into innovation at the packed CIO Summit: Unicorns vs Dinosaurs

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Are IT leaders enabling innovation or are they standing in its way? CIOs voiced their opinions.

Top CIOs gathered at RMB Gallery and Rooftop in Sandton on 24 May, for the big debate, Unicorns vs Dinosaurs – an interrogation of how the agility of startup culture can be expressed in larger organisations.

The CIOs were welcomed with delicious canapes and drinks as they networked at the RMB Gallery – an exciting new event space in the heart of Sandton. Then they were ushered to their seats for the big debate to begin.

Ziaad Suleman, group chief commercial officer at EOH, the summit’s Principal Partner, kicked off the proceedings. He highlighted that gatherings such as these are an important platform at which organisations can have enriching conversations that can change the country for the better.

The event was made possible with the support of EOH, as well as Executive Partners Accenture, AppDynamics, Software AG, Workday, and Associate Partner, The Strategists.

Renowned speaker and author Tendayi Viki took to the stage to deliver a keynote address titled Pirates in the Navy, which also happens to be the title of his own book. “The name was inspired by what the late great, Steven Jobs once said: “It's better to be a pirate than join the navy,” he said.

Tendayi spoke about how organisations can become innovative, detailing the steps to achieving this. “What are people doing wrong when it comes to innovation? They make big bets, thinking they’ll be successful. Instead, you need to make multiple small bets because only a few of those will be successful.”

In a panel discussion Unicorns vs Dinosaurs, two entrepreneurs and successful starter-uppers, Deon Moolman, head of technology at Yuppiechef, and Charles Savage, CEO and founder of EasyEquities, shared their story of success and failure.

Charles took the rapt audience on the journey of how it all began. Starting with a trip to Mozambique, where he’d gone to reflect on his life and career, he detailed his quest to democratise access to capital. “I even consulted with my wife and children on investing and shares and they said that EasyEquities was a great platform to make the process less intimidating and more accessible than other investment tools.”

Charles noted that there were some naysayers, as one might expect with any new venture but, “Incremental milestones got people to believe in my vision,” he said.

Deon reflected on what inspired the creation of Yuppiechef, saying that the goal was to create a seamless, easy-to-use product that catered to customers' homeware and other needs.

Deon described the process of building Yuppiechef's technology infrastructure as "a ruthless pursuit for simplicity" in order to create an easy-to-maintain, scalable web application. Yuppiechef would be able to meet the needs of customers once this goal was met.

He went on to say that he and his team did look into other options, but they were not as successful as they had hoped. "We tried other solutions first, but they didn't work, so we went back to building it ourselves, which worked extremely well for us," he explained.

Next up was an insightful masterclass, featuring Lungile Mginqi, group CIO at Sasol, Luis Rodriguez, MD & strategy and consulting lead Africa at Accenture, and Itayi Mandonga, CTO, Software, also at Accenture.

Luis Rodriguez, on the other hand, preferred collaboration to going it alone when it comes to exponential growth and what drives innovation. "Organisations suffer from a 'do it yourself' mentality and should condition themselves out of it." "I've seen many organisations try to do things on their own," he explained, "which works against innovation and change."

A panel discussion ran concurrently with the Exponential Change masterclass, exploring the topic of needing the right tools to be innovative.

The CIOs in attendance were eager to continue sharing their views after the panel discussions concluded. They carried on their conversation with their peers in the gallery, over drinks and more delicacies from the kitchen – declaring it an enormously beneficial evening for all.

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