Resilience and Continuity: Guiding the CIO Strategy in 2021

Fikile Sibiya, CIO at e4

Following a tumultuous 2020, CIOs are likely to face a tough, albeit slightly more predicable 2021. Fikile Sibiya, CIO of e4 shares her view on the current state of play and what a roadmap for 2021 might entail.

“While COVID-19 forced countries and industries into prolonged lockdowns, the African IT industry played a significant role in ensuring much-needed resilience and continuity. A renewed focus on resilience and continuity will be crucial in the coming months as FinTech companies remain paramount in facilitating transactions that support essential economic activities,” she says.

Sibiya predicts 2021 will undoubtedly test IT leadership with respect to transforming remote working into a sustainable practice. “Last year saw some organisations experience challenges with employees and managers struggling to adjust to collaborating and supervising virtually. With remote working likely to continue for some time, finding the right tools to ensure employees remain engaged under the circumstances, are a necessity. Virtual task-managers and performance management solutions are justifiably top-of-mind.”  

She adds that with the move to remote working, the threat landscape has certainly evolved and while CIOs need to enable productivity, they cannot let their guard down on IT security. “In the information security chain, humans are the weakest link. Technologies that assist CIOs and CISOs to securely enable a productive workforce will make a big impact in the coming year.” As technology leaders turn to technology to define and secure new virtual offices, insider threat and automated endpoint detection tools are becoming helpful. Using automated end-point detection and resolution tools helps in identifying vulnerabilities and allows leaders to respond to those vulnerabilities without direct oversight. In addition, insider threat detection tools and procedures will take centre stage in enabling automated detection and alerts against anomalous behaviours.” 

The protection of company and client data will remain in the spotlight as key sections of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act come into effect in South Africa on 1 July 2021. “CIOs should pay particular attention to technologies that assist their organisations with compliance. Data encryption, data access management, audit & monitoring, and data accuracy technologies being some of the most important solutions to assess and consider,” says Sibiya.

She also expects the shift towards cloud-based technologies that solved some of the challenges faced in 2020 to accelerate as the year progresses. “These technologies are cost-effective, scalable, and quicker to implement than traditional on-premises solutions with the added convenience of accessibility.”

“Another factor CIOs on the continent should keep an eye on, is the reported rollout of the African Union (AU) passport and what changes it will bring to the business environment. COVID-19 sparked an African Tech Revolution, can an AU passport unite the continent and support economic growth in the 4IR for African organisations?” Sibiya notes.