Mining CIOs must be ‘chief innovation officers’

Mining CIOs must be ‘chief innovation officers’

CIOs should embrace the role of championing innovation and agility in the business, writes Keith Fenner, VP Sage Enterprise Africa & Middle East.

The previous wave of digital disruption, triggered by mobile technology, caught most CIOs and organisations in the mining sector off guard.

Ten years ago, hardly anyone owned a smartphone. Today, there are about two billion in circulation. What’s more, we use them every day to access Uber, What’sApp, Instagram and many other services that didn’t exist when the first iPhone was released in 2007.

Yet we are only at the start of a digital technology revolution that will profoundly change how we live and work in the next five years. With artificial intelligence, FinTech (especially blockchain) and the Internet of Things coming of age, we can expect digital disruption to accelerate in years to come.

This time, CIOs in the mining industry should ensure that they’re better prepared. The difficulty is that we don’t really know where technology will take us. We have a vague sense of the direction, but no clear view of the destination.

Thriving in a world of unrelenting change
Against this backdrop of unrelenting change, the only way to survive, is to embrace a culture of innovation. Rather than encouraging teams to stick to the rules, organisations should be ready to experiment, to fail fast, and be able to recover quickly from failure.

As futurist Graeme Codrington put it in a recent Sage podcast, “The single most important thing you can do to be responsive to change is to experiment – leaders need to create a mindset and a structure that makes constant experimentation possible.”

CIOs are now expected to guide the entire business through innovative ways of working. After all, an IDC Survey reveals that more than 40% of line-of-business executives view the CIO as the Chief Innovation Officer. As the people with their fingers on technology’s pulse, they should embrace their role of championing innovation and agility in the business.

It’s not as easy as it seems. Aside from the actual technology, they need to start creating an open, collaborative culture where digital natives can grow well. For constant change to work, it also means using today’s open business management solutions and the power of the cloud to quickly and cost-effectively build out new apps and services. And of course, continual upskilling of the entire team is needed to keep up - this should happen on a daily basis and should be part of the culture – waiting for annual training seminars simply won’t cut it anymore.

We’re lucky to live in a time where organisations don’t need to invest in huge technical infrastructures and a massive IT team are no longer necessary to access world-class technology. Deployment of fresh solutions is also fast, provided companies are running an open platform that allows them to easily plug into other services and apps via an API.

IoT on tap
Do you want to digitise your mine processes and machines for predictive maintenance, improved safety and enhanced automation? Well, today, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are cheap and open, and it’s easy to provision a software solution from the cloud using nothing more than a credit card. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world as you do not make any heavy infrastructure investments.

Today, testing latest technologies is easier, faster and less risky than ever before. In fact, the risk today is not experimenting, not trying new things and not failing fast. Mining companies do not keep up with the pace of change could find themselves out of business by rising operational costs and volatile commodity pricing.


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