During the IT Leaders Africa Summit which gathered IT and business executives from different African industries, we caught up with Anglo Platinum’s Head of Information Management Shawn Fisher, to find out what IT challenges mining companies face.
1. What does being Head of Information Management entail?
I run the IT department for Anglo Platinum as a business. Everything to do with IT building is my responsibility.
2. How important is the relationship between vendors and IT consumers?
When it comes to those relationships, you have to understand what the suppliers can offer and what they have. Not only in what they are saying in terms of their sales pitch, but also in terms of what they have already implemented in a business structure. The relationship with the supplier is important, but equally important is your relationship with your peers in the industry. They should be able to give you insights into the capabilities of those suppliers — which we often neglect.
3. What challenges do you face?
The biggest thing is the cost issues within the mining industry. The commodity prices took a bit of a dive as a result of the global economic situation, so cost pressure is top of the list. The second one is how you engage in the centre organisation.
4. What changes would you like to see in the IT industry?
What I would like to see is a lot more transparency in the industry in terms of the suppliers — locally or globally. Very often there is not a lot of visibility on what they are doing on their side, and how they are actually gearing up in terms of business models. They tend to charge you a certain price for things that is not really equivalent to the service you are getting — but you do not have that visibility and transparency.
5. In your IT Leaders Africa presentation you mentioned that business unit CIOs should be schizophrenic. Could you elaborate on that?
The business may have a certain requirement or demand from IT, while the demand coming from the global or central organisation might be contradictory to that requirement — for instance, in the centre they may be increasing bandwidth and capabilities to open the network to social media sites, which means there will be an additional cost coming to you. So you have to feel schizophrenic depending on who your audience is.
6. What do you think will be the next big thing in IT?
I think the next big thing in IT will most probably be insourcing. We have done a lot of outsourcing in the last couple of decades and I think the pendulum has probably swung too far down the one extreme. I can almost see it coming back to where we as the heads of IT or CIOs will begin to look at how these models are not optimised. I think over the next three to five years there is going to be a bigger move in terms of insourcing. A lot of it I think will be driven by cloud computing, because we will begin to experiment with the use of cloud technology, but we will want ownership of the system because of security and data issues. So we will set it up internally and that should also facilitate the insourcing capability for organisations to support that.
7. What are your views on the cloud?
I think it is good, but I think it is just a lot of rebranding that is taking place for services that were previously presented in some form from suppliers, like your hosted solutions and exchange. There is definitely a need for it, but I think where the need is going to be is in our core systems.
Charlie Fripp – Online editor