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CIOs go schizophrenic, says Ramuthaga

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Everything that goes wrong in the business is blamed on the CIO, says Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga, CIO of the Financial Services Board.
Everything that goes wrong in the business is blamed on the CIO, says Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga, CIO of the Financial Services Board.

Faced with mounting business pressures, as well as organisations rapidly embracing digital, chief information officers (CIOs) are going schizophrenic.

So said Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga, CIO of the Financial Services Board, during a keynote address at the Brainstorm CIO Survey Banquet 2015 in Hyde Park last night.

"It's critical that we run with two minds. Gartner calls it bimodal IT; I call it schizophrenia. It means the CIO is schizophrenic," Ramuthaga said.

Gartner defines bimodal IT as the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode one is traditional and sequential, emphasising safety and accuracy, while mode two is exploratory and non-linear, emphasising agility and speed.

"Everything that goes wrong in the business is blamed on the CIO," she said. "You need a smart governance approach to solve this schizophrenia problem."

According to Ramuthaga, who is the 2014 IITPSA Visionary CIO, users want solutions that are digitally-charged, responsive, and are similar to what they use at home.

She noted that according to last year's Brainstorm CIO Survey, driving digital strategy is a priority for only 1% of CIOs. "Is this true? It looks like it, or we did not understand the question. But from a Gartner perspective, I think we are doing things right because in SA, we are saying driving digital strategy is number seven out of 12 on our to-do list while globally it's at number six," she explained.

"So somewhere, somehow we are digitally aware; we might not have it [digital strategy] as a priority simply because we are busy still chasing that IT strategy that responds to the business strategy."

Shadow IT monster

Defining the purpose of a digital strategy, Ramuthaga noted that, according to Gartner, it's how businesses thrive in an increasingly digital world.

"My definition of digital is 'go out there; look at what technology is out there that you can harness; what partnerships you can make to either create a new product or enhance the current product or service in order to remain competitive as a business.'"

A digital business strategy is aimed at driving the organisation to harness emerging technologies that are out there to create new or enhance existing products and services, she added.

She believes the biggest challenge facing CIOs is shadow IT - a term often used to describe IT systems and solutions built and used inside organisations without explicit organisational approval.

"The monster is called shadow IT," she pointed out. "In some companies, people will be running servers from their desks."

Ramuthaga is of the view that shadow IT will grow, with or without the CIO. "The reason why shadow IT grows is not because business is nasty, it's simply because there is now a blurred line between the products that businesses are offering versus what IT is delivering. So there is that inherent growth in terms of shadow IT."

In the survey last year, CIOs revealed they were battling to deliver on time on most of the projects they were involved in, she noted. "It is therefore critical that we act differently so we can take along shadow IT and embrace it."

The other challenge is that CIOs are putting money in the wrong hands, whereby business makes the decisions on what technology must be purchased. "Imagine if you allow your 10-year-old to drive a car, or buy a car, or shop online. It's similar to business going to shop for IT solutions; we will have a problem long term."

M&A challenge

The increasing activity in mergers and acquisitions is another challenge for the CIOs, said Ramuthaga.

"Remember when they went to the golf course and made this deal only to remember that there is a CIO back in the building? They come back to you and tell you that we need you to consider we are going to merge.

"They already have the projections and the numbers. Regrettably, the CIO is the only person in the room who has a different story, bearing in mind they have to take that IT and bring it into their environment and integrate it. That was the difficulty of the CIO then and it's still the difficulty of the CIO now.

"I am looking for a South Africa in 2030 where we would have halved the number of those who are in prisons, because they are our kids. I want us to halve the number of those that are on grants because it will make this country competitive. IT has a way of changing the way we do things; we should bring out entrepreneurs and raise young stars.

"I want us to ask ourselves, as CIOs, 'how much am I doing to bring talent into this industry?' Therefore, in 2030, I want us to be so competitive that the best of the world, including the US, thinks South Africa is the only place that everybody wants to be."

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