As the business world changes to suit a new era of connected customers, the role of the Chief Information Officer has changed. PATRICK SHIELDS of Software AG explains that the challenge for CIOs today is to be able to extend their area of influence outside of just running IT processes.
In South Africa specifically, business decision makers are taking a serious look at the impact of digital on their organisations.
Patrick Shields, Chief Technology Officer Africa at Software AG explains that the challenge for CIOs today is to be able to extend their area of influence outside of just running IT processes and maintenance in a business, and shift their focus to incorporate the overseeing of innovation. “This doesn’t mean that the CIO’s original responsibilities are negated – making technology decisions and overseeing the administrative IT duties to ensure the effectiveness and efficiencies of IT infrastructure – the CIO now needs to also take on a leading role within the business to bring it into the digital era.” IT research and advisory,Gartner shows that this trend will continue to gain pace, indicating a fundamental shift in how businesses operate, and what part of the process a CIO role should fill.
However guiding a business into the digital era does not mean simply digitising processes. “Technology and the right tools can be used to transform a business, and even dictate the future of a company. From both a global and local perspective, there has been a fundamental shift in how businesses today need to operate to remain competitive.”
Software AG’s Digital Business Platform, the first one worldwide, allows companies to incorporate new digital capabilities, while seamlessly integrating with current operations, which will avoid disruption of the existing investment and backlog of any kind.
“This allows for the continued use of existing systems and infrastructure, which companies have already invested heavily in, as well as the capability to analyse these platforms, and strategise ways to enhance and extend them – while at the same time embracing new capabilities. Using the Digital Business Platform, these various systems are linked through a customisable integration layer which connects new and existing systems to a central point of monitoring and management.” This system is agile and operational in real time, allowing CIOs to quickly automate and manage certain business processes, implement new processes, extract valuable data insights and gain real-time operational visibility through simple, practical dashboards.
“A CIO who is able to focus on the two different development aspects of a business – both the business side and the innovation side – will be able to effectively ensure that a business is bi-modal,” says Shields. “This phrase, coined by Gartner, means that a business has both the rigor, uniformity and discipline required for efficient development and maintenance of core IT systems, as well as the quicker, more agile and adaptable capabilities required for innovation.”
Shields explains that to effectively implement these two elements at the same time, it is crucial for CIOs to organise their teams to manage these aspects in a well-balanced way. “The CIO’s organisational model will need to be designed to work for that specific company’s needs. For example, when it comes to suppliers and partners, some may settle on one or two primary vendors, while others may decide that a multi-sourcing approach – with a broader mix of vendors based on the application needs, will be the best solution. At the same time, some IT elements of a business may be run on premises, and some through the cloud. Some businesses require a CIO to oversee both elements of the business’ IT needs, while other split these roles between the CIO and, for example, a Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Digital Officer. These complexities, while challenging, also provide a lot more opportunity for a CIO to provide tangible value to the business.”
“When it comes to embracing new technologies and capabilities, in South Africa – as in any environment – you have early adopters, fast followers, and the slow to adopt,” Shields says. “These challenges are not unique to South Africa, however, challenges such as the availability of infrastructure and the required skills are major concerns. For this reason, it is critical to select vendors who are able to provide strong and capable support, as well as reliable strategic planning tools.” Shields goes on to say that the more complex the IT and business environment gets, the more businesses need suppliers to really partner with them – working together towards mutual success.
While the role of the CIO is far more complex today than ever before, the swiftly changing business environment means the role is also up for definition – an acute opportunity for CIOs to solidify their value. “It is crucial to understand how the CIO role can support the business mission – rather than just managing IT – playing a critical part in the business’ success,” he concludes.
* Patrick Shields, Chief Technology Officer Africa at Software AG.
Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart
Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.
As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page
KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching.
The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter.
The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style.
The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button.
The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on.
In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode.
Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.
Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.
Find them on Kickstarter here.
Taxify enters Google Maps
A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.
People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.
Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.
Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.
If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.
This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.
“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.
Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.