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Oxford CIO Academy

Participant thoughts

Paula Jackson 

Head of Information Management, Anglo Platinum, South Africa

Before I joined Anglo Platinum I was part of the Anglo Coal organisation, which was a much smaller team. I participated in the CIO Academy when I was preparing to move to Anglo Platinum as Head of IM (Information Management), which was a more complex role with a larger team. My brief was to integrate IM better into the rest of the organisation. It had been seen as a totally separate function – driving standards, but not necessarily with business support. 

There are usually two aspects to IT in organisations. There’s the part of IT that drives the day-to-day, business-as-usual functioning, that makes sure email and teleconferencing works and guards against viruses. The people responsible for this aspect need to be of a certain type: problem-solvers, practical, happy with what some people might regard as a ‘boring’ job – certainly when everything is going well and there are no problems to challenge them!

'I wanted to think about how to change the way IM worked with the Anglo Platinum business as a whole.'

And then there’s the side of IT that is responsible for innovation and projects, which usually involves a different set of people with different KPIs. These are the people who need to be able to bring change about quickly and deliver value to the business, and they should have a much more business-focused way of thinking.

The discussions we had about these aspects of IT – and particularly the projects side, including why projects fail – contributed greatly to my thinking and influenced how we then shaped the strategy at the start of 2015.

For the past year we have been putting in a much more agile approach to project management, and making sure that the management team and the business are much closer to what is being delivered.

'In IT we so often shape solutions according to what we think we can’t do, when really we should be looking much more positively at what we could do.'

Mark Ruskino’s session on innovation really helped me with this. It taught me about the art of the possible and that there are no boundaries. In IT we so often look to the ‘why not’ rather than ‘why’. We shape solutions according to what we think we can’t do, when really we should be looking much more positively at what we could do. In fact, I ran a version of Mark’s session myself with the team at the beginning of 2015 and they loved it.

As a result, we have been involved with two innovation projects in partnership with other departments. For example, I collaborated with the head of Mining Technology Equipment on a project using laser scanning, where the data was fed into existing IT databases.

We did three proof-of-concept projects which resulted in significant savings, and also significant information which was capable of contributing to strategy. And that’s really where the collaboration paid off. Engineering could probably have done the laser bit by themselves, but the back-end information would never have come to light. It’s where IT adds value, and where CIOs can contribute form a leadership point of view.

The Oxford programme was a good opportunity to meet people from different sectors. On a day-to-day basis you are inevitably surrounded by people from the same industry, with quite narrow areas of interest. You don’t have time to go outside your own industry to find new networks. But this programme, apart from giving me time to reflect, put me in a position where I was naturally engaging in conversation with people from all sorts of industries, and finding many areas of common interest. I found that mining can have quite a lot in common with construction, for example. 

I also found myself in contact with someone who deals with wearable technology, and I realised that it has potential uses in the mining sector, particularly when people are underground. Not having to carry a tablet or a phone with them would be much safer, and it would help us monitor conditions underground more generally.

All of these conversations took place within a framework of lectures, seminars, and workshop sessions with fantastic faculty. So all the swapping of concerns and ideas was supported by great content. You can take away whatever you need to from the programme.

'I walked away feeling inspired to shape my new team and strategy.'
Contact us

Zindzi Cresswell

Business Development – Executive Education, Open Programmes

Saïd Business School

University of Oxford

T +44 (0)1865 422 514

zindzi.cresswell@sbs.ox.ac.uk