IT execs give their own interpretation of unicorns vs dinosaurs at CIO Summit

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IT leaders believe Innovation, culture and collaboration are what define a transformational business.

In an insightful masterclass at the CIO Summit on 24 May, featuring Lungile Mginqi, group CIO at Sasol, Luis Rodriguez, MD and strategy and consulting lead Africa at Accenture, and Itayi Mandonga, CTO, Software, also at Accenture, IT executives discussed the evolving CIO role, partnerships and the future.

Best practices, innovation, and paradigm-shifting startups emerge from the minds of dreamers and visionaries, not large corporations or institutions. Unicorns vs. Dinosaurs reveals how innovators drive change, which was the summit's overarching theme.

Strategist Luis Rodriguez mentioned that through his consultations with large corporations, he has challenged them to ask what the core of their business truly is.

He observed that in most cases, none had the right answer, especially when looking to grow as a business, and have in many instances opted to work in isolation rather than collaborate.

“I’ve observed that many organisations are suffering from the ‘do it on your own’ mentality or syndrome and should condition themselves out of that way of thinking. This is simply impossible and if you’re pushing for innovation as an organisation, you have to change or you will fail,” he noted.

Luis’s interpretation of the theme, “Unicorns vs Dinosaurs” is not that the two compete with each other, but rather connecting the rainbow that bridges the gap between the two, “the best of both worlds”, as he put it. Competition is living in a “worst of both worlds” situation, he said: “Large organisations are already at an advantage. They have resources, a large distribution channel and customer base, so these entities trying to play a startup or compete with startups is simply nonsensical.”

Lungile Mginqi noted that the starting point for any organisation is understanding who they are as an organisation: “What is your culture?” he asked. “How do you run your organisation – is it autocratic or dictatorial rule? Most importantly, does your leadership style promote or stifle innovation?”

He said CIOs should be the drivers of innovation and not the bottleneck. “The role of the CIO is to create an enabling environment for innovation,” he said.

Panellists were also asked how organisations make products that people want while still remaining innovative during the masterclass. Itayi had a simple response: “If you are born to be innovative, you need to be able to see the gaps in the markets and close them through innovation.” He highlighted that the problems that you are solving as an organisation are part and parcel of the business innovation agenda as you go along.

According to Itayi, the role of the CIO has changed, and so has their mission for the business. “CIOs have moved away from being the people who are running the business and trying to keep the lights on. CIOs are now the new collaboration champions in the business,” he said. “They must facilitate that collaboration, coupled with getting the buy-in across the entire business, when new technology is introduced.”

At the end, some of the panellists shared what the future plans were for their respective businesses. For Lungile, exponential change will be important in order for Sasol to become scalable. “My role is to ensure that I enable organisation change and also change the culture at Sasol, for the greater good,” he said.

For Itayi, transformation at Software AG will come in the form of innovation. “What’s keeping us busy at the moment is trying to figure out how and where we can push innovation in the organisation,” he concluded.

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

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