ICT industry applauds introduction of new CIO designation
The newly introduced professional chief information officer (CIO) certification will help overcome the dilemma often encountered by local organisations upon realisation their CIO does not live up to performance expectations.
This was the word from ICT industry experts, applauding the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa’s (IITPSA’s) decision to introduce a professional CIO designation (Pr.CIO), for South African ICT professionals who meet the required levels of academic achievement and professional experience.
The designation, launched yesterday, is certified by IITPSA and endorsed by the CIO Council of SA. It means South African CIOs can now be assessed and qualify for a level seven globally-recognised accreditation, which is the top level of competence.
Applicants admitted to this designation will use the post-nominal designator Pr.CIO, in addition to the post-nominal designator for the IITPSA Professional Member grade.
According to PwC's report, The Changing Role of the CIO, CIOs are now expected to take on a broader, more strategic role within the business that does not rely exclusively on technology implementation.
Increased competition, constant changes in consumer needs and the explosion of digital offerings are all affecting the way in which organisations do business, it notes, adding that as a result, organisations are forced to adapt to the continuously evolving market demands and constraints.
Central to an organisation’s ability to compete in this new world is the CIO’s strategic direction, working in collaboration with the CEO, CFO and COO, notes the report.
Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga, newly-appointed chief digital officer at Barloworld Automotive and Logistics and Visionary CIO 2014, believes the new certification is more important today than ever before, with a CIO now expected to be chief investment officer, chief technology officer, business strategist, transformation manager and technology risk manager, all in one.
“It is important for CIOs to have the right skills to support these multiple functions, and ensure IT and digital governance frameworks are utilised to maximise business engagement and alignment,” she says.
“The new designation is of greater importance to organisations, as they can be assured the hired individual with this designation is a senior IT professional and leader who demonstrates the highest level of competence, a successful track record, adheres to the highest ethical standards, has proven on-the-job experience and is committed to life-long professional education,” explains Ramuthaga.
The challenge with the current ICT practitioner levels is that there are no mandatory guidelines that provide the ability to practice, which means anybody can be appointed to any ICT position in a local organisation, says IITPSA.
The institute says the new certification identifies applicants with the appropriate skills and experience, and is awarded to those select ICT professionals who have met global standards for competence, ethical issues, social implications, legal considerations, and most importantly, those who have the required skills and experience at the appropriate level of seniority.
The candidate for Pr.CIO is required to complete a process which includes scrutiny of academic achievement, work history and experience, and submission of an in-depth portfolio covering ICT competencies and responsibility level. It also requires a structured panel interview conducted by senior fellows and professional members of the IITPSA and CIO Council of SA.
Arthur Goldstuck, World Wide Worx MD and chairman of Sasfin’s digital advisory council, believes the certification will open global corporate doors for local candidates.
“It is a powerful accreditation that will raise the status of the CIO to professional level, while ensuring professional practitioners have the qualifications that justify that description. Equally significant, it will give them a designation that will provide international accreditation, and therefore, far more ready entry to the global corporate environment.”
In the past, the average CIO typically was focused on keeping the lights on in the server room, but today they are expected to lead technology strategy, and ensure the company is using the appropriate tools to remain competitive in a fast-moving digital environment, he continues.
“Forward-thinking CIOs recognise the contribution cutting-edge technology could make to business performance, moving IT from a support service to the core of the business. Today, the role is one of leading digital transformation of the entire organisation, in close partnership with the rest of the C-suite,” Goldstuck explains.
Thabo Mashegoane, president of the IITPSA, told ITWeb that earning the Pr.CIO designation can be likened to an attorney passing the Bar, or an accountant receiving the CA.
“As technology evolves and becomes more entrenched at all levels of business, so has the role of the CIO. The accreditation will add value to businesses expected to keep up with the evolution, where the CIO participates in steering the company in the right direction.
“The role of CIOs has become crucial to the success of local organisations and in turn to the success of the economy. It’s pivotal in innovation, security compliance and ethics within organisations. With that, one has to ask themselves how then do organisations establish credibility of both qualification and experience of the incumbents who are entrusted with such responsibilities? It is within this that we have identified that CIOs can now prove their competence and get recognised for meeting global standards.”
Six CIOs from local organisations were the first recipients awarded the new professional CIO designation at the launch event in Sandton yesterday.
They are: Renier van der Merwe of Premier Foods, Martin Coetsee of DRA Global, Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga of Barloworld, Yolisa Skwintshi of Absa, Louise van der Bank of AfriSam and Amanda Maritz of Essilor.
Delivering the exceptional
One of the challenges facing business is that technology is changing how they operate, Mashegoane points out.
Consumers are tech-savvy and have increasing and evolving demands, placing pressure on businesses to deliver exceptional products and services.
“Technology has become a commodity that is consumed by customers and this is shifting delivery of solutions, and organisations are forced to get out their comfort zones and deliver in accordance. CIOs, therefore, play an important role in delivering innovative customer services and internal technologies, and contribute to the overall business strategy.”
Skwintshi, head of technology: insurance at Absa, believes there are many challenges facing local CIOs, including getting budget approval from the executive committee, becoming business change leaders and dealing with skills shortage in their teams.
“Many organisations see IT budgets as a huge expense which increases daily. CIOs need to be able to show other executives in their organisations that IT is more than a cost of doing new things, but there is value beyond that. In any innovation project, CIOs need to be able to negotiate and answer questions, including: What is the business value? How will customers benefit? CIOs will have to prioritise the IT spend to focus on business-generating initiatives, while simplifying IT operations.”
With the shortage of skills comes an increase of staff attrition, as local organisations compete for the same resources, and therefore, the CIO’s people strategy needs to address both skills shortage and retention of resources, she adds.
“The designator Pr.CIO is measured against the international framework and proven standards used by many employers and industry associations around the globe. This means the CIO doesn’t only get global recognition but is also well qualified to deal with these challenges,” notes Skwintshi.
Kevin Govender, Deloitte Consulting Africa CIO Programme leader, believes to stay ahead of the game, organisations must work methodically to sense new innovations and possibilities, and journey beyond the digital frontier.
“In response to the ever-evolving business requirements, the CIO’s role is shifting from being a steward of technology, to a partner in shaping the future of the business. CIOs are required to transition from pure technology leaders into business leaders. The key mandates of CIOs and IT leaders includes transforming the business, driving top line growth and revenue, and prioritising agility, scalability and innovation.”
However, inconsistency in trends will continue to remain the biggest challenge facing local CIOs, he notes.
“A recurring theme in Deloitte’s Tech Trends research is the often mind-bending velocity of change. Given that the pace of disruptive innovation is constantly increasing, many technology and business leaders are trying to answer a daunting question: How can we sense and act upon a future that is unclear?”
“Mapping an organisation’s digital future, which requires thought leadership, is the answer. If you’re deliberate about sensing and evaluating emerging technologies, and creating well-defined but aspirational ambitions, you can make the unknown knowable,” Govender points out.