ICT industry giants recognised by peers

Sbu Shabalala, CEO of Adapt IT has been named the 2016 IT Personality of the Year, with Peter Alkema, CIO of business banking at FNB clenching the title as 2016 Visionary CIO. These annual awards are presented by the Institute of IT Professionals South Africa President’s Awards, in association with ITWeb, Gartner Africa and GIBS. Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the JCSE at Wits University received the coveted Distinguished Service in ICT Award, presented in association with EngineerIT.

The selection process for both the IT Personality and Visionary CIO awards combine public nominations with in-depth judging sessions and interviews. The judging panel had a tough task to single out a winner from ten outstanding finalists for each award. The judges for the 2016 President’s Awards were Ulandi Exner, president of IITPSA; Professor Helena Barnard from the Gordon Institute of Business Science; Neville Willemse, head of consulting at Gartner Africa; Ranka Jovanovic, editorial director at ITWeb; Adrian Schofield, vice president of IITPSA; Tony Parry, executive director and CEO of IITPSA; Tshifhiwa Ramuthaga, CIO of the Financial Services Board; Peter du Plooy, CIO of Engen Petroleum; Hamilton Ratshefola, country general manager of IBM and Niel Schoeman, founder and CEO of Vumatel.

Now in its 38th year, the IT Personality of the Year is awarded to individuals who have made the biggest contribution to the IT sector in that year. Hamilton Ratshefola, the 2007 IT Personality of the Year winner, says, when he won the award, it was truly humbling to be acknowledged by his peers and the industry. “For me, the award was not a destination. It was just a milestone acknowledging your current competency as well as your capacity as an individual and it really forces somebody to do better. For me, winning the award, made me aspire to become a better individual. And so, it is an award which is significant and was a transformation in my life,” he says.

The 2016 IT Personality of the Year, Sbu Shabalala’s passion and business savvy have been the driving force behind the business success of Adapt IT, a truly empowered international business that creates wealth and opportunities for South Africans. Under his leadership, Adapt IT has grown into a billion Rand revenue business in 13 years and has successfully listed on the JSE. Today the company employs 950 people, most of them software developers, but, most impressively, Sbu has created South Africa’s largest exporter of software with ambitious goals for exponential growth in the future. “I’m really humbled by the recognition of the little work that we’ve managed to do to date as Adapt IT. We are just at the beginning of our journey. As mentioned, we export to 38 countries outside of South Africa and we are taking South African developed software internationally and that’s really what keeps us going as a team. This award is really the recognition that is being given to the team. I work with smart people, who are humble but driven, so we try and get a balance between all those traits to then deliver the software and solutions that we deliver internationally. We are passionate about our customers and I believe this award goes to recognising that,” he says.

The second award, the Visionary CIO Award recognises an executive who has shown exceptional leadership and, using technology, has helped grow the business. Peter du Plooy, the 2015 Visionary CIO award winner, says it has been a whirlwind year with both local and international speaking opportunities. “I think recognition from your peer group is really something that is absolutely phenomenal. It does motivate you far more and it does increase the passion and your desire to contribute,” he says.

Peter Alkema, the 2016 Visionary CIO Award winner, firmly believes that leadership translates vision into achievement. Under his guidance, FNB Business has built a market-leading banking sales platform and designed the FNB Code Fest to drive internal technology innovation. He sees himself as the Chief Influencing Officer and stresses that being visionary is about creating connections with people at all levels in the industry, thinking differently and, of course, experimenting broadly. “I suppose to have a vision, you need to be able to see a little bit further into the future and all credit today must go to the 4000 IT professionals across the FirstRand Group and FNB. One always says that if you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you will be able to see further. So, I credit them with some of the vision and this hopefully comes through in some of the thought leadership and the work that I’ve done in the industry this year,” says Alkema

Professor Dwolatzky, winner of the Distinguished Service in ICT Award, says he was surprised and humbled receiving the award. “I feel very humbled to be receiving this from my peers. I guess the best praise one can get is from your peers, because they are the guys who know the context of the stuff you do and they’re they people who can appreciate this invisible industry we work in. One of the things I try and teach my students is the hardest thing to manage is a software project, because you manage something invisible and this whole industry is invisible, yet it is the underpinning of this current fourth industrial revolution. In a very little way, I’ve played my part and we are trying in Braamfontein to bring forward the next generation of skills, innovators and entrepreneurs, who hopefully in a few years’ time will be sitting here and receiving rewards from their peers.”