How do you appreciate IT leaders and their teams? You give them awards of course. Mainly because 96 per cent of them think winning an industry award promotes professional growth. “When we started CIO100 Awards more than a decade ago, the feeling was to recognise IT and IT adoption. Back then, there weren’t a lot of people called CIOs. People were either IT Managers, IT Director or Heads of IT. Such were the titles. We are proud to say over the years we have seen the profile of CIOs coming up. And alongside that, the use of IT in itself growing in the business. That was one of our biggest objectives,” introduces Harry Hare, Chairman and Publisher, CIO East Africa magazine.
Why CIO100? To acknowledge excellence in the adoption and use of IT within organisations – all of them, small, large or midi, appreciating the brilliant minds building products that responded to business needs and objectives. Also, patting these achievers on the back. This has over the last decade, catalysed innovation. It is, after all, a competition at the end of the day. So exciting has CIO100 been that CIO East Africa magazine has clocked an upward of 300 applications of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking.
More important than the awards themselves has been the career-changing profiling of the role of the CIO. “When a company makes money and registers profit, the kudos goes to the CEO, and may even trickle down to the CFO. But if you look at businesses today, there is so much IT in the picture. The CIO is almost like the CEO,” acknowledges Harry.
One thing the CIO100 Survey does is ask a lot of questions. Some to measure the industry, others to gauge how much money has been spent in developing certain technologies. All this is then shared in the Mega Trends Report to give an overview of the industry. Reasons that are very high level. People have been asking how to participate. So, listen up. First off, you want to participate because if you look at the last five winners of CIO100, they have all gone and gotten promoted or even getting poached. Awards improved their professional growth. Not just that, but even in terms of personal development, winning is a good place to be. A winner not only positions himself, he does the same for his team.
Elizabeth Ochieng‘, Regional Associate Director, IT at Deloitte & Touche LLP and CIO100 Judge in 2019, along with a team of six individuals lead by Dr Louis Fourie, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Knowledge & IT Services, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, has this to say. “It is very interesting that we in the technology field do not end up in the boardroom to claim our fair share of the club. That being said, we do all these amazing things but still have a lot to learn when it comes to CIO100. In addition, there were applications from all over East Africa. Looking through them, I could see a lot of innovation being done.”
Here are some tips Elizabeth believes will set you on the right path.
- Some applications (2019) may have been good, but majority were not that well explained. Don’t make the judges guess, decipher or pick out answers. Don’t answer your own set of questions either.
- Balance out your information. It is a fine line between a case of too much information or not enough.
- Complete and clearly written text in your application for the judge so they can see where innovation fits. No one word answers please.
- Keep your answers short, sweet, precise and to the point. Do not belabour many things.
- There are key points judges look at such as when did the project start, how does it work, what does it do? Resonate with the key points.
- Stress how this innovation has benefitted your organisation or your customers, what solutions does it offer, was it profitable? Demonstrate the business value concisely.
- Paint a picture of your before and after. Show us what you brought to the table with this project.
- Show solid metrics. If it is not measurable then it cannot be …Show percentages, ROI, cost savings, efficiencies, demonstrate tangible business value.
- Be careful about what you disclose and protect your organisation because a lot of this may require authorisation or confidentiality. That being said, we do not publish anything you put in your application as CIO100.
- We ask for documentation. Attach relevant ones. Not everything about the company. We want what backs up your application.
- Share contacts of someone’s in the organisation who can validate your project.
- You have a better chance of winning if you provide evidence to support your claims of validation. These serve a business purpose because someone needs to assess the innovation you bring to the table.
- It is the CIOs who usually push for innovation in business. It is this information that helps the industry see what is relevant. For that reason, work together with a person who has a better understanding of the project, meaning someone who is businessminded and can understand the stakeholder needs. That clarifies a large part of your submission.
- Include narrative examples that illustrate the outcome of your project. Is it the employees becoming more efficient, are your customers interacting differently with the organisation, is this being done in a new way, or an enhanced manner? Has it given your organisation a lead and a lep in the market? Give the details of such.
- Also, please, nominate, nominate , nominate: a company, an organisation, yourself, a partner. Nominate! Did we say nominate? We meant nominate.
Harry reiterates. adding, “That captured all the sentiments of last year’s judges. It is interesting because there are awesome organisations that take this so seriously then you find another that is very unserious. I would advice that if you are going to put in your application, please be serious about it. Talk to business leaders within the organisation to help you produce a solid application.”
Samuel G. Maina, CEO and Research Director, Insight Wells helps with conducting the research, putting together the questionnaire and monitors both qualitative and quantitative analysis. “The very first stage of the process is a session where we collect feedback from all angles. The CIO100 process respects feedback from all the stakeholders be they judges or participants during the course of the year. This forum helps us collect information. Any recommendations raised is incorporated as internal feedback based on interactions for hundreds of hours. Finally, there is the process of benchmarking. There are other awards models locally and globally. We stay alert to what we need to keep, to what we need to leave out.”
- From here it is time for the tool review process. It is the backbone of the process. If it is wrong, then all that follows becomes inaccurate. This review includes new questions based on trends that may have come up. Let’s take an example. Before 2020, the odds of coming across a questionnaire anywhere in the IT field that talked about blockchains were slim. Trends are consistently incorporated in. On that note, if some questions are obsolete, they come across as redundant. These are dropped or restructured especially if seeking a particular set of infomartion that is not forthcoming. This process takes three weeks.
- On the very last week, the questionnaire is piloted. It is done to reaffirm the consistency of the tool. It communicates and gives out the information intended for collection.
- The questionnaire is in three parts:
- – general information: location, turnover, size, footprint in other countries
- – internal IT usage: integrate this information to publish report highlighting the trends with questions such as, what technologies have you adopted in the last three years? what about next three years? This is particularly intriguing because of forced digital transformation owing to COVID-19
- – project details: Where an organisation has the opportunity to nominate three projects that they feel are of great value, innovative and worth recognising.
- Once this has happened, it is disseminated to contacts. There is a lot of media campaign around the same. Organisations are encouraged to nominate, share with networks – the idea here is to get as many organisations as humanly possible to participate. The CIO Secretariat ensures engagement with participants.
“It is not just a competition where we meet at the end of the finishing line. We have an obligation to walk with the participant. There is always a contact on the questionnaire. We are always a call or an email away. We are able to help you interpret and understand what the questionnaire is seeking. What we won’t do is fill it in on your behalf. It is but a journey we walk with you, says Samuel.
- Three or so months down the line around September, comes the cut off point Now is when what has been collected across East Africa is reviewed. The judging process begins in earnest. There is number crunching aka quantitative, and the qualitative. The numbers are extracted from the data and the data is cleaned. Here, certain issues and metrics will come up. It counts. The data is analysed by sectors, size and type of company.
- “If we get to know the revenue of a particular organisation, and we are able to correlate that with the amount they spent on the project, we can come up with a simple ratio of proportion of revenue that goes into projects. We are then able to tell whether SMEs or large companies are committing more financially to ICT projects. We encourage organisations to give us proper information. There was a period we could not do the analyses because the data was not clean enough. If applications come through with 50 per cent to 60 per cent missing data, it would be unethical to attempt to derive conclusions from that,” asserts Samuel.
- Judges sit for a week and then some. The first exercise it to agree on the scoring guide. It is only natural that if the questionnaire is changing, so should the scoring guide. This is purely the work of the judges and not the CIO Secretariat. Judges discuss and agree on the parameters. Once agreed on a tool, each submission is scored independently by at least three judges. To enhance credibility and pick out outliers, there is a 4th judge, the Chief Judge, looking at the submissions. They go through each submission one at a time, so the process takes a considerable amount of time.
- This should not be a one-man show. Try as much as you can in the organisation to involve the leadership. There is an element of finance and ICT. Putting in time with your submission is one thing. But it will be very telling if you do not involve others because then your submission appears to lack some information on specific areas of the organisation.
- Now a tentative rank is projected on an actual screen. This will be based on the projects. Here the judges discuss any outliers. If one candidate’s category is scored at a 2/10 by one judge and 6/10 by another, they will revert to the submissions and discuss. Simply taking an average is unacceptable. Too huge a difference could also mean something was missed in the judging process hence the discussion and agreement on ultimate scores.
- A final matrix is generated and judges can finally see who the frontrunners are in various categories. Once in agreement, what follows next is contacting the frontrunners. This is done to confirm that everything that came through in the submissions is watertight. As well, this confirms the reality on the ground.
- It is critical that you attach evidence. There are provisions in the tool to justify the rationale of the narrative you are telling. If evidence is lacking, it can be difficult to rationalise this information. It leads to callbacks. Sve yourself by being clear and making it easier on the judges. Don’t fudge about. Especially as it has been noted that the quality of evidence over the years has seen an improvement. 2020 is expectedly the best yet.
- Information collected here is compiled. The data is compared to the previous year’s data to gauge what the appetite for new technology is/will be in years to come. This is then published to be presented as a report. The highlights are showcased at the CIO100 Convention.
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