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Emerging Tech Deployment by African Financial Services Faces Hurdles




Africa has come a long way in developing new digital payment and banking services, mainly thanks to mobile money products, and the new offerings have helped alleviate problems related to financial exclusion — many people on the continent still do not have traditional bank accounts.

Some experts, however, believe that there has not been enough innovation and deployment of emerging technology to expand digital finance beyond basic withdrawals and deposits. While there has been some innovation across a wide variety of finance-related services, deployment and usage have not taken deep roots.

Most financial institutions have launched digital products that enable companies and individuals to initiate and receive payments. Clients have also grown accustomed to paying in digital format, especially through mobile money payment options. But services such as digital insurance, virtual bank accounts, digital investment products and e-commerce are undergoing  a slow shift.

While the growing digitization of financial services products in Africa, especially in the banking sector, is in line with global technology trends, other financial services including insurance and regulation technology, are not seeing as much growth, according to Deloitte’s .

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University of Miami Health System’s CIO David Reis on High-touch Digital Healthcare





David Reis, Vice President & CIO at the University of Miami Health System, joins host Maryfran Johnson for this CIO Leadership Live interview, jointly produced by and the CIO Executive Council. They discuss high-touch digital healthcare, disrupting IT cost models, flexible sourcing, re-recruiting tech talent and more. This episode is sponsored by Fairfax County, Virginia. Learn more at FairfaxCountyEDA.Org.

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Strategies for Dealing With the Enterprise Technology Skills Crisis





Australia is facing a technology skills crisis. Enterprises everywhere are having trouble finding the people they need to carry out key roles in their IT departments in just about every discipline, from data analytics to cloud computing and cyber security.

A February 2021 report by RMIT Online with Deloitte Access Economics claimed that Australia needs 156,000 new technology workers with 87% of jobs requiring digital skills. Further, more than half of the Australian working professionals surveyed said they have little to no understanding of coding, blockchain, AI and data visualisation.

The COVID pandemic has made things worse as global lockdowns and international travel restrictions have prevented enterprises operating in Australia from flying in staff from overseas.

Senior technology executives gathered for roundtable discussions in Sydney and Melbourne recently to discuss how they are dealing with the tech skills crisis. The discussions were sponsored by Pluralsight.

The ongoing war for talent is impacting companies across the technology industry, says Josephine Lanzarone, vice president or marketing, Asia-Pacific at Pluralsight.

“This is, in part, driven by the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns and exacerbated by the demand from industries including financial services, manufacturing, education and many more that are actively seeking to bring tech skills into their organisations to drive efficiencies and growth.

“As the demand for skills spreads across industries globally, Australia has not kept pace so those with the skills can command a premium for their experience,” Lanzarone says.

Compounding this, she says, technology is not a skill set that is learned one time to achieve mastery.

“Instead, technology is constantly evolving, and new skills and knowledge needs to be acquired every month for professionals to keep up with the latest trends.

“In this regard, ongoing learning is a must and finding people that have committed to this journey and will continue to refresh their skills and knowledge is the second layer of filtering that must be done for those working on the edge of what is possible with technology,” she says.

Aidan Coleman, chief technology officer at Scentre Group, says the shopping centre organisation is finding the right technology people but the skills crisis has certainly meant that the organisation has needed to step up its recruitment efforts and be smarter in how it uses networks and partners.

“In some cases that means it’s taking us longer to find top talent and we’re really focused on ensuring there’s a great fit between a candidate’s personal and professional aspiration and the organisation’s purpose and growth ambition.

“We’re lucky to be able to offer candidates exposure to industry-leading technology within a fantastic culture and high team engagement,” he says.

Meanwhile, Peter Smith, chief information officer at Mission Australia, says finding the right technology staff is tough for the not-for-profit organisation. Attracting cyber security talent is a key area but there are “challenges across the board to get people with the right attitude, a learning mindset and the right values,” he says.

“As an organisation, we can’t just sit back and let things progress – we need to take a very proactive and multi-faceted approach to make sure we attract the right staff to support the work we need to do. As such, we have been working hard to rethink how we address this and how we do it within challenging budget parameters.”

Smith says Mission Australia really can’t compete on the basis of salary and ability to provide more tangible support in their development of staff, but it can compete by using a more holistic approach to attract staff.

“Purpose is a strong motivator for many but by itself, it isn’t always enough. That’s why we have been doing a lot of work in understanding motivators and working on how we improve various elements to improve our employee value proposition (EVP). We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are actively working on ensuring that we address as many key elements as we can to create the best EVP we can,” he says.

Liam Mallett, chief operating officer at technology company Doddle, says it’s a very competitive marketplace for talent with longer lead times to hire and higher remuneration opportunities available to candidates.

He says the organisation is having the most trouble finding product managers, and back and front-end developers and is needing to use non-monetary items to provide a compelling package such as highly flexible working and full-time work-from-home arrangements.

One senior IT executive says one of the biggest issues is the retention of existing staff who wish to work from home only.

“This is disruptive to other team members who feel that this person is singled out for special treatment. Do we insist that they come on site at least once a week and if unwilling, do we look for new talent? That’s all very well but is easier said than done. This person is outstanding and an essential resource so it’s a real dilemma,” he says.

Future proofing your skillset

Organisations that want to future-proof their skills program need to be constantly adding their skills base in line with their objectives, says Pluralsight’s Lanzarone.

She says that partnering with a skills provider that help baseline skills in a business and evaluating this against the latest developments in technology is vital.

“The fundamental element is creating an engineering culture that supports ongoing and constant upskilling to increase competition in the technology workforce for talent. Employers are competing for the best talent with companies around the world. Providing employees with the opportunity to stay on top of their field while working on interesting projects is pivotal to retention,” she says.

Mission Australia’s Smith says his organisation is future-proofing its skillset by taking advantage of an agile learning mindset and using platforms to support training and development.

“We are working to inculcate this throughout the technology team, but it is still early days,” he says.

Scentre Group’s Coleman says the organisation is focused on four things to future-proof its skills base. Firstly, Scentre is clear on a three-to-five-year technology strategy and the choices it makes to buy, build, or integrate technology products and services.

Secondly, it has created a ‘skills matrix’ that is required for now and the future along with a view of the best approach to sourcing and pipeline development.

“Thirdly, we prioritise learning and development time, we leverage online learning platforms and have weekly ‘time back’ to focus on personal and professional growth and wellbeing. Lastly, we embed and track progress a part of a quarterly ‘whole of self’ scorecard,” he says.

Doddle’s Mallett adds that his organisation is investing in staff to further develop their skills.

“We are also looking to broaden hiring location practices, so we are not as impacted by events in particular region. Most of our developers were in Ukraine,” he says.

Transferring skills and moving talent

Identifying transferrable skills and mapping them to future career pathways to support talent mobility in an organisation appears to be one of the most effective ways to keep people challenged and motivated, more so than market wage adjustments.

Doddle’s Mallett says Mission Australia is investing in staff not only for hard skills but soft skills too.

“With a growing technology team, we don’t want to end up with great technologists who have poor people management skills. Throwing people into roles they don’t have the skills for can cause more growing pains.,” he says.

To avoid this, Doddle has provided training pathways to help staff move into roles and to broaden their skillsets under leadership, technology, and soft skills tracks, he says.

“This allows staff to choose which direction they want to go in – sometimes that might be more common tech pathways like cloud or security. Other times, it might be about building emotional intelligence skills for leading a team,” he said.

Mission Australia’s Smith admits that the organisation’s IT team hasn’t identified and mapped skills well.

“This came out in some of the work we have been doing and we are working in redefining roles and some of the skills and components required for those roles so that we can define those pathways more clearly but still keep some agility and flexibility,” he says.

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CIO Profile: Abhijit Mazumder of TCS on Career Evolution





Abhijit Mazumder started his career with a small manufacturing company called Wesman in Calcutta. After working as an intern at Tata Group during his college days, he then moved to TCS as a consultant and has been there for the last 27 years.

“The first couple of years I spent doing what today we would call ERP projects,” says Mazumder.

He now wears multiple hats at TCS: CIO, head of the Ultimatix business unit, and head of sales enablement. On his way to the top, he was one of the founding members of the company’s Oracle Application Centre of Excellence, and later the global head of the company’s Oracle practice.

“In 2007 we had a restructuring and in that period I gave up my role as a practice head and started a new unit called strategic solutions, which focused on winning larger strategic deals,” says Mazumder. He ran this unit for the next 13 years, taking on other corporate responsibilities along the way, including setting up the Digitate software development business and bringing the Ignio automation suite to market.

Now CIO, Mazumder spoke to CIO India about the role and his career. Here are edited highlights of the conversation.

CIO India: You are playing multiple roles at TCS. How did you land the CIO role?

Abhijit Mazumder: Almost all the roles that I had were because I had a vision in front of me. I ended up with the CIO role like that too. We were selling these solutions to our customers, and I thought of implementing some of these solutions for ourselves. That’s how I ended up in the current CIO role.

CIO India: How do you strike the balance between managing these three different roles?

Mazumder: Ultimately, it’s all about the customer. We have to ensure that we are building trust with our customers and delivering what we committed to. It’s not just how we enable our sales force, but how we enable the whole organization to assure delivery of our services and technologies to our customers. From that perspective, there is not a lot of disagreement across the different groups. If we are doing the right thing for our customers, employees, and other stakeholders, there is no disagreement between groups.

It’s one of the things that you learn to do as you grow in an organization. You tend to own multiple hats, and when you are wearing a particular hat, you behave in that particular manner.

CIO India: What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to take in your IT career, and how did you make it?

Mazumder: The toughest decision I had to take was to walk away from a lucrative deal because it did not align with the values of our organization. The customer wanted to do certain things that we didn’t believe were aligned with the values of data integration. And therefore, even though it was a very lucrative and profitable deal, we decided to walk away.

Across the organization, nobody believed that we should have gone ahead with it. It was not a hard decision from that perspective. But given that you have a target to meet every year, it always is extremely difficult to walk away from a situation like this.

CIO India: What’s the best career advice you ever received?

Mazumder: Multiple times multiple people have given me bits and pieces of advice. The one that stayed with me is to continuously evolve your role even if you carry the same title. A role is defined by what you do rather than what the title says.

The other thing that I have always valued is something that I learned very early in my career: to pause and listen to your stakeholders. Understanding somebody else’s context is extremely important. That’s some advice to keep in mind. Enabling and empowering every individual goes a long way in ensuring that we are able to manage what we want to do.

CIO India: What are the prospects for career mobility for a CIO? What roles would you aspire to?

Mazumder: I have been playing a role in shaping organizations over the last 15 to 20 years and we have grown as an organization. I’m sure I will have similar roles to play with more responsibility.

As a CIO I am directly responsible for the IT infrastructure. But as a business executive, I’m also responsible for enabling businesses to gain more revenue and be more resilient and agile. As head of sales enablement, I carry the responsibility of enabling the sales within the organization.

Today CIOs are mostly business executives responsible for transforming our businesses. And therefore, the role mobility for CIOs is to go forward with business roles.

CIO India: How do you groom the next level of leadership for the CIO role?

Mazumder: I have been grooming the next set of leaders in the hope that one of them will take up my role next.

I’m doing that by identifying capable individuals based on their approach to solving problems and the roles they play today, and how they achieve outcomes with the focus on the outcome. After identifying the set of individuals, I groom them over a period of time by giving them different responsibilities and diverse opportunities to prove themselves. I’m hoping that one of these few individuals will take over my role in the near future.

CIO India: How do you walk the tightrope of IT-business alignment, a much-abused term in business technology?

Mazumder: Today a CIO not only enables business but transforms it. It’s extremely important for any CIO today to understand how their business works, end to end. The balance is to always understand the business as much as you understand the technology. What you really bring to the table is how you introduce technology to make your business more productive, competitive, and available to your customers.

You need to have deep knowledge of your business and understand how your business operates if you want to be a successful CIO.

CIO India: How do you build motivation and the right culture in the IT department?

Mazumder: I think there are two things that we should try to do. First and foremost is to lead by example. If you want your team to behave in a particular manner, then you first ensure that you are behaving in the right manner.

When we decided that we will become an agile organization, as an organization, we had to undergo a transformation where we had to learn the right behaviour of an agile organization. There was a significant unlearning to do on how to manage your team.

CIO India: What roles or skills are you finding the most difficult to fill?

Mazumder: I think the most difficult skills to find in the market today are related to cybersecurity. We have to invest significantly in that area to scale up the talent base because it’s a challenge to not have that skill. There is a very high demand for cloud skills, especially infrastructure-as-a-service capabilities and people having knowledge of multiple cloud platforms.

CIO India: What has been your major learning?

Mazumder: One of the things I was told from an early stage of my career was to focus on adopting more third-party products and solutions to run parts of our business.

However, I realized that you cannot use a third-party product if a particular process is a critical differentiator for your business. If it is a critical differentiator for your business, then that uniqueness is what your customer is paying you a premium for. It took me some time to differentiate between what was critical for our business and what was not.

Building your own solution is more expensive, but because it creates your differentiation, you are better off with it for a longer term. That’s something I had to experiment with to learn.


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