Kathy Gibson at IDC’s CIO Summit in Johannesburg – A major transition is underway, and the disruption is bigger than ever before – on the social, political, economic and technology fronts.

The political and economic changes are driving how companies need transform, and this is driving a shift in the role of the CIO.

The focus has shifted from keeping the lights on, says Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice-president and regional MD: Middle East, Africa and Turkey at IDC.

The key CIO challenge now is how to drive innovation within the company – to leverage technology to create new products and services.

The CIO is also battling to quantify the value of IT, while addressing the growing expectations from users. At the same time, IT budgets are still constrained.

On the technology front, we are seeing a new layer of innovation accelerators that can disrupt and transform businesses, to create new revenue streams or increase productivity.

Digital transformation is about transforming the organisation to embrace customers, information and operating models, Lalchandani says.

In South Africa, technology investments are focused on security, enterprise mobility, disaster recovery and analytics, as well as into CRM and private cloud.

It’s impossible to have a conversation with a CIO without talking about the impact of the third platform, says Keith Fenner, vice-president: enterprise at Sage Middle East and Africa.

“CIOs are less engineering and more pioneering,” he says. “It is a strategy role now, and data scientists are in demand.”

The rewards of getting this right are captivating, Fenner adds.

This include knowing what will happen in the future, being able to reach customer easily, and engineering systems that are easy to use.

“The piece that interests me is that the SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) pile is predicted to generate $100-million in income.”

Social is the vocabulary of digital transformation, Fenner says. “It is not about putting up a Facebook page. It’s about understanding things like community.”

The new user interfaces will have to act like an app. “We need to move from a user interface to a user experience.”

Mobile is well understood by most users, and well used.

“In our opinion all data should be available on a mobile device, in realtime. And the user should be able to manipulate and interrogate the data.”

These mobile apps should be self-taught, rapid and easy to use, Fenner adds.

Wearables are becoming mainstream and businesses should start thinking about how to leverage these.

Analytics is the ability to access and understand data.

“We need to get meaningful information, to make decisions,” Fenner says.

The trick is not in collecting data, or big data, it’s about being able to analyse it.

“We can start thinking about analysing machines and doing preventative maintenance.”

Cloud is pervasive, Fenner adds. “For us it’s a reality.”

Going forward, success will be the reward of the brave, Fenner says.

“Digital transformation is about understanding that you will connect a range of players to implement this brave new world.”

And a downturn, as we are experiencing now, is arguably a great time to start digital transformation projects, he adds.