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African CIOs playing catch-up on digital transformation

African CIOs playing catch-up on digital transformation

CIOs in Africa, while they demonstrate an interest in digitising their businesses, are behind global counterparts in the process, according to Gartner research.

Going digital means having to change business models and the CIO will have a pivotal role to play, as highlighted at the 2018 Gartner Symposium ITXPO in Cape Town this week.

According to the company's annual CIO survey, 63% of respondents in Africa "are taking a lead role or are heavily involved in the decision to change business models."

Tomas Nielsen, research director at Gartner, said, "For ninety percent of CIOs in Africa IT is very or extremely important to business model change."

The shift in business and operating models means that CIOs must secure a new foundation for IT.

Globally 33% of organisations are scaling and harvesting the results of digital business, while in Africa only 21% of CIOs are at that stage.

"African CIOs are still catching up on their digital business efforts compared with their CIO peers globally," said Nielsen. "More than half of CIOs in Africa are showing an interest or at the designing stage, while the majority of the top global performers are scaling their digital initiatives, optimising them or seeking new opportunities."

Master influencer

Leigh McMullen, research VP at Gartner, said, "The role of the CIO is a very special one and in order to do that role well, you have to be a master influencer... because CIOs may not always have all of the positional power to make the changes that they need to make. Those CIOs that can become better influencers in their organisation, not only have better careers, but they also wind up driving their organisations towards better outcomes – because of the view that they have."

And this view is being used to influence business to help them understand what is possible with technology. "So, while there is not a process that is 'industrialisable', we can still use information to give people the edge to win. This requires a lot more of a dynamic and fluid continuous IT evolution and adoption process," McMullen said.

But are CIOs being hired at the moment up to the task? "No," said McMullen. "They have to invest in your own skills development first. So, what is the number one attribute that an executive looks for when hiring another executive? It should be talent and talent development - the ability to cultivate, hire and recruit great talent."

Gartner has emphasised that the biggest barrier to transformation in business is organisational culture.

"Executives don't directly control anything other than hiring and firing. Think about it...what's the only stick the CEO has to swing? It is to hire the best people and fire the ones that are not the best people. So by extension, the CIO, as the business leader for his or her division, really only has the same 'stick' – they can only hire or fire. Or, we can add another set of 'sticks' or tools to their tool bag, as it were, which are influence and persuasion and the ability to drive or change culture."

In terms of the relationship between business and IT, the biggest disconnect in the IT adoption process is an engagement disconnect.

"I think that business and IT are well aligned, but there is still a disconnection problem. They are well aligned on the operations side. There's no misalignment in the back office any more, really. But when IT begins to move into the front office, it changes a lot. In the front office, as much as we like to say there are processes in the front office, it is not as process focused," McMullen added.

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