He argues the technical attitude is already there, and when combined that with business knowledge, you have yourself a leader.
Hans Zachar, Nutun’s new group CIO, says for many years there was a strong narrative about IT enabling the business, mainly because IT was fighting for a seat at the table. Fast forward to today, and nobody has that fight in them anymore, because every business recognises that technology is now their competitive advantage.
“The conversation around digital is also no longer a debate: businesses have no choice but to be digital,” he says. “It is a digital first, mobile first and technology first world now, and the main role of the CIO is to be the person who drives the business solutions based on those technologies and/or augmenting the current functions to leverage technologies, especially when it comes to efficiency.
“Most businesses are measured on revenue and margin, and profitability. Therefore, the CIO has a major role in developing those new business solutions that are going to increase revenue, increase global competitive advantage, and leverage automation and AI to be cost competitive and drive profits.”
Hans says that the challenge here is finding people who can play the role of developing business solutions while still running the IT shop. This is because, over time, the CIO function has become more business focused and less back office focused.
“There is also a strong focus on data and insights, what the data says and where the business opportunities are from a broader market space, what the data tells us about our competitiveness, and the right to compete at a global scale.”
Hans says there is an increased reliance on the CIO to shape the direction of the business and products and build it to be competitive in the market. “Having these skills as a CIO makes you very attractive to the global market,” he says.
“I believe that the CIO role has greater mobility than it had previously, especially when it comes to occupying business leadership positions, and given its close proximity to understanding business beyond just what keeps the proverbial ‘IT lights on’,” he says.
“The technology attitude is already there, and before you never thought of a CIO becoming a CEO, which is changing, with multiple examples today of CIOs who have gone on to occupy the CEO seat. CIOs no longer have a linear path, but rather have a wealth of business, technology, consulting, digital, innovation, product knowledge and more!”
Hans’s own path has been anything but linear. He is an electrical engineer by training and was previously a product development lead for a telematics company before entering the IT world. “I spent months in a diesel depo getting my fingers dirty and installing sensors, Wi-Fi and GPS systems on locomotives, and automating the movement of ‘rolling stock’ onto the rail network.”
He says that in principle, engineering and IT are not that far apart: “Engineering is about problem-solving as much as IT is about problem-solving, and I think there is a natural harmony between those two professions.”
Some years later, Hans joined Accenture as a consultant, mostly servicing CIOs as his main clients, and thereafter joined one of the leading credit bureaus where he held positions of both VP of sales and later on head of products for Africa. From this role he joined as group CIO to the Nutun Group, a company that is intrinsic to the credit lifecycle of the South African economy, dealing predominantly with collections, inbound call centres as well as transactional services.
Hans enjoys cycling during his downtime and, in the true habit of starting a new hobby every five years, has recently started koi keeping. He recently moved into a new property that had a koi pond – it needed a bit of work, but instead of calling someone in to fix it, he decided to fix it himself and he’s been hooked ever since.