I arrived at the beautiful Zimbali Lodge Hotel like an eager beaver, dragging my over-stuffed bag behind me. I must tell you, arriving through the triple-volume doorways of the Hotel, you look straight through the huge back windows and your weary Joburg eyes are greeted by the glistening, beautiful Ocean!
There was an immediate sense of calm as I took my first mug of coffee out onto the deck and breathed in the warm, salty air. ‘This is going to be good… relaxing’ I thought to myself.
Well… How wrong can one be?
Kelly bounced in with endless energy, greeting us all by name, with a giant bear hug. I was amazed. Not only at the fact that she knew every single one of us, but that she looked fresh and polished. As if she has not been slogging for nine months to make this happen 🙂
Registration ran smoothly, and we were soon ushered into the Ballroom by the blonde, (not-so) boozy and disruptive Candice!
She introduced Professor Bitange Ndemo as keynote speaker, who kept us enthralled with his unique views on why Africa is being left behind in this Digital Transformation, and what the Future holds for us on the Southern tip of the continent. I took a couple of deep learnings from his presentation.
First was the realization that we are not living in the world conceptualized after the second world war. We now live in a world where data and knowledge are freely available. The Future promises to have astounding possibilities for us.
My second Aha moment was that Africa was not involved in the first three Industrial Revolutions, and that we have an opportunity to participate in this one. It reminded me of a project underway by the Singularity University, where they are working on solving hunger in Africa. Their biggest stumbling block was the condition (or lack thereof) of the road system, and they hit a brainwave to deliver the food via drone. Is there a possibility that Africa not only participates, but potential can play a leading role in this revolution?
He had the most heart-warming comment about university ‘drop-outs’. He said that there is no such thing as a drop-out. Flowers bloom at different times! Isn’t that profound? As a society, we force all flowers to bloom at the same time, which does not allow personal growth and creativity. I made a note to watch the Ted talk from Ken Robinson (https://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson)
The last lesson I learned from the Prof, was the need for ‘Political Will’ in order for implementation to be successful. With all the money, effort and best tech in the world – without the people buy-in, the implementation stands no chance!
Prof gave us the link to a website which calculates your individual anticipated age and death date. It was rather eye opening to realize that I only have a projected 25 years remaining, based on my demographic information. I know my anticipated date of death. Rather sobering! (Check your own on http://population.io/)
As Proffessor Ndemo’s words permeated, Candice was back on stage, explaining in her ‘benevolent dictator’ style how the remaining sessions were going to work. She taught me some much needed personal information about myself, my financial situation and my status as a lover 🙂 For the rest of the conference, we were all very conscious of how we were clapping our hands – Thanks Candice!
Then… ohmaiword! Our scheduled 1-to-1 sessions started with a bang! Four client meetings in two hours. Now that was an incredible experience! One I want to be part of for every Future conference.
It was a wonderful opportunity to speak to our potential clients in a ‘safe’ environment. Each of the people I met, I made a real connection with, and have a much better understanding of their business, their industry, and the challenges they face. Some synergies were uncovered and created, and I look forward to introducing my team to a couple of them.
The biggest surprise for me, during these meetings, was not the connections I personally built – I kind of expected that. It was the fact that I (newbie to this conference) could almost immediately start spotting synergies and potential relationships between other people on the conference. I would hear a client speaking of a challenge, and immediately realize who they need to speak to for resolution. It is with a warm heart that I can say that we acted as integrators and facilitators during our interactions.
Exhausted and our heads full, we gathered for a quick lunch, and were herded back into the ballroom, chugging down another coffee.
Being the Agile, adaptable and flexible crowd that we were, we quickly changed the lineup when needed, and next up was Zoaib Hoosen – the Country Manager for Microsoft.
He inspired us to be bold, to play, and to use technology to change our business models, to explore the possibilities of platform, cloud and data.
Platforms allow huge scale with small capital outlay and overheads.
Remembering that Microsoft itself was a company focused on product, until a couple of years ago, when new leadership took the organization to a new level with Office 365 – and changed the company focus from product to platform
After a well-deserved Refreshment Break, and some more networking with the people we had already interacted with, and new connections, we headed back into the auditorium for our first Influencer Panel: Leading in the Digital Age – Moderated by Candice. This topic is so up my alley, I was literally hanging off the panel’s lips. My major take-aways:
Some Companies are doing it right! The members were talking about the fact that the digital DNA is changing, and the importance of taking people on the journey forward. Organisations of the Future should adopt a ‘Growth Mindset’ – encouraging risk-taking and allowing (even rewarding) fail-fast. We have no management handbook to help guide us through this exponential phase we are in, but as one panel member pointed out – We need to make it real!
There is a huge gap in the market to give people a sense of confidence regarding the opportunity of digital transformation, and the potential re-skilling. This has a lot to do with your generation (Digital natives born post 1990 – the rest of us are digital immigrants). Digital Literacy is becoming more and more important as we move through this phase. Lastly, the need to relook business models, working models, KPI’s and KPA’s to ensure the best achievements; and ensure empathy to the people for the time taken to adopt transformation.
By now, my head was hurting, but, looking around me, I could see that everyone was feeling weary and energized at the same time. The sun had long gone, and Miss Kelly had no intention for us to slow down any time soon 🙂
Off we went into four different Special Interest Group workshops. I chose SMART Solutions, hosted by KPMG. It was amazing to see how easily everyone shared… We shared successes, we shared failures, and we shared hard, practical lessons. My biggest learning from this session was: To come up with a serious solution, you first need to clearly frame the problem. As obvious as it seems, I think we often forget to ask the right questions.
Candice had to force the groups to stop their sharing and vigorous debate, and it was finally time to check in and take a few minutes to unpack, shower and phone our loved ones… Then off to dinner and drinks (which for some, apparently, went on until very late). Me? I collapsed in my bed at around 22h00. My head spinning from the day’s events…
Day 2 started with the ideate sessions.
I participated in the Fees-must-Fall Ideate session. Being a people-focused person, with some fixed views on education, this session was highly actual and applicable to me. The Future of education will look very different from what we know today – and that excites me!
It was fascinating to hear what the universities had already done to start circumventing the high fees, and the great strides they have taken around digital transformation.
With Vodacom zero rating all educational content, Wits university is aiming to register between 30 000 and 40 000 students online. The other universities indicated the same stats. There is a huge student loan deficit, which the government is subsidizing, and the idea is to re-route some of those funds towards facilitating online learning. The fees-must-fall campaign had a negative impact on our university ratings, which needs to be rectified.
The ideate covered the concept of university, and challenged the need for a formalized study structure. As a group, we conceded that different people have varied learning triggers, and that our education system should cater for all these learning styles.
A one-size-fits-all approach to education will not work. We had a brief discussion about the skills to be taught in schools – in preparation for tertiary qualifications, and it was established that the most important skills we can teach out kids, are logic, analytics, and thinking skills; with logical problem-solving skills being the answer to all future studies and decisions.
The Ideate session could have carried on another couple of hours, and some of us stayed behind (missing breakfast) to discuss the difficulties and possible solutions facing us as educators, mentors and transformation consultants.
After the late night networking from the night before, Candice had her hands full getting focus 🙂 She had us all up and moving, interacting, and even those nursing aches and pains got their heads back itno the Future Enterprise.
With all of us paying attention, Candice handed us over to Kelly; With her exceptional energy levels, and cute dance, Kelly recapped on Day 1’s key take-aways, and took us through the Day 2 programme, which kicked off almost immediately with Vuyani Jarana – Chief Officer, Vodacom Business.
My key takeaways were that although we lack rail, road and general infrastructure, we have fiber and mobile connectivity. This presents tremendous business opportunities for growth, and is poised to create a leapfrog opportunity. That supports our thinking around innovative business models, leveraging technology. Something we will certainly be looking into in the Future.
Lesson two for me: We cannot sit back and wait for government to create change in our country. As Justin Williams (@jjza) said: ‘Government can’t make Africa successful. Requires efforts from business, from us. We can leapfrog the developed world’
Vuyani spoke about Shadow IT in organisations, and how prolific and effective they actually are when IT fails to serve their customers. This concept brought home the point that the line between Corporates and Consumers is blurring. He also referred to the fact that Africa can play a vital role in the 4th Industrial revolution, as mobile is in our DNA.
Without hesitation, Candice morphed us seamlessly out of the world of mobile and smart networks, and into the complicated topic of Blockchain. The talented Nevellan Moodley from KPMG created bite-size chunks that even I could understand.
‘The blockchain’ had it’s first transaction of Bitcoin on 2 January 2009, which was significant because it was the first transfer of currency from one individual to another without the need for an intermediary.
He took us through examples like Matchee, Matchpool, and Canosis, who are all using blockchain technology as their base, using the concept of shared economy and scale, agreed through consensus. One of the stumbling blocks to the concept of sharing, has been data ownership. This debate is irradicated with Blockchain.
According to the World Economic Forum, 10% of global GDP will flow through a blockchain in the next 5 years It is The Internet of Trust.
With my brain stretched to capacity, we had a quick break for some coffee, and then back in for the second influencer panel. This time the topic was Cyber Security and the Digital Experience – Moderated by Mike Butler.
The most interesting points to me, that came out of the panel discussion were to ensure that security is built into every client solution upfront. Security-by-design almost.
Passwords and authentication are becoming more and more complex, and in a not so distant Future, we will be using only biometrics or pass-phrases, rather than passwords – mobile (as in phones) are seen as a possible way of engineering secure access.
As quickly as our security guys design and develop new protection tools, so too are the hackers working 24/7 to break through these controls.
One of the comments that were made, which really resonated with me, was the fact that we need to start unashamedly sharing breaches, and the lessons which come from these breaches. That is the only way to protect our organisational eco-system. We need a combination of controls, policies and training to make an effective stand against cyber-crime.
The Influencer panel members had not even removed their mics, and we already rushed out for our second round of one-to-one meetings. This time, I had a slightly better idea what to expect, and got myself there very quickly, so as not to waste a precious moment. These one-to-one’s are a true gift! An opportunity for client and provider to get together with no strings attached, and to be able to just listen to the client, understand their problems, their concerns and what guidance, advice, or service they require. I think I speak for all of us when I say we can never thank Kelly enough for these opportunities!
After two hours of intensive meetings, we finally had some lunch and leisure time. I personally took a walk down to the beach and recharged with the wind in my hair, and the sand between my toes. My introverted self really appreciated that! On my way back, I noticed small pockets of people in deep discussion, the work never ending on this conference.
That evening, we were shuttled off to the lodge, overlooking the infinity pool, for an evening of entertainment, good food, and good company.
Being at Zimbali, with the forests and natural surrounds, some of us were lucky enough to see an incredible snake – a puffadder I believe – 3 meters long, just taking its sweet time crossing the road. (It did not follow us to dinner)
Day 3 started with another Ideate session, where the theme of collaboration and education continued. Another theme which was emerging, was that the consumer will dictate what technology is useful, and what is not. And that the line between Corporates and Consumers are starting to blur.
Then came the moment I have personally been looking forward to… The Innovation
The Innovation Showcase! Here, Metatrans, along with three other innovative companies and projects had an opportunity to introduce ourselves.
After everything we learned and experienced and participated in over the previous two days, it was a tremendous honor to present Metatrans in the Innovation Showcase.
When Candice introduced me with those seven deadly words “But we have always done it that way”, it immediately lay the foundation for our positioning.
We had our last Influencer panel moderated by Basha Pillay – Digital Globalization & The Deeply Connected World
I loved the conversation around a connected world and how digital has an impact on Future food security (looking at the work being done by Aerobotics). The themes of Collaboration and Education dominated and I was reminded that technology is an almost limitless enabler. I will be going back into the world with a renewed zest to partner with the best, to ensure we provide the exact service our clients require.