Serge Yao is the Group CIO, Flour Mills of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, Serge has done quite a bit of work. He led the digital transformation of PZ Cussons in the whole of Africa. He’s now leading IT in Flour Mills of Nigeria.
He also worked with USAID – United States Agency for Development, International Development and the UN as well. Serge is specialized in IT, Telecoms, Business Administration, Finance, Banking, and Business Continuity.
Serge spoke extensively during CIO Africa Leadership Series webinar hosted recently by CIO MasterClass Africa for Chief Information Officers (CIO) particularly in Africa under the theme – COVID – 19: “The CIO’s Leadership Moment” – Prospects, Challenges and its implication for the African Continent – with the general direction on “leadership, strategy and operational level”, looking at CIOs role in normal times vis – a – viz the new normal defined by COVID – 19.
The Convener, CIO MasterClass Africa; Engr. Ifeanyi Frank Ogochukwu, a former CIO of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and the Chief Technology Strategist for Debbie Mishael Consulting – an African premier consulting, implementation and training firm moderated this webinar.
Therefore, in continuation of TechEconomy.ng publications (series) we are focusing on manufacturing sector where Serge is currently operating as Group CIO:
Serge, basically, there’s an issue when it comes to CIO & leadership; technology – business alignment has always been a sore point between the management of organizations and CIOs, with CIOs expected to play a central role. With the crisis created by Coronavirus pandemic, what would you consider as the challenges of the CIO today? And what business drivers should the CIO focus on to resolve the challenges and put the organization back on a sound footing, probably with certain key indicators from your organization?
“Just before I start picking your questions, I think it is good to give the perspective from a Flour Mills view. During this pandemic as one of the largest companies in the Agro Allied group in Nigeria we understand clearly our role; our pivotal role in the economy. Of course, in order to follow our purpose, which is ‘feeding the nation every day’, we had to take some strategic measures to ensure that our supply chains were not affected and we continue to produce healthy and safe food for our consumer.
“These measures were clearly spelt in four points. First, was to reduce the risk of our employee. I think Dr. Ayotunde Coker has described what they did which is almost the same thing we have in place with our partners and stakeholders to make sure that products are still available for families that need them.
“The second area was to clearly put in place a strategy – business continuity framework. We used to have some plans in place, but we had to rethink, because the pandemic case wasn’t covered as part of our business continuity plan.
“So, we developed a strategy – Business Continuity framework – with a crisis management plan in place; this was very key.
The third point where we focus was more or less trying to inform our partners and our dealers that we keep our capacity to meet the food demands, because the biggest issue would have been a spike in terms of demand of flour or pasta and suddenly you notice that in all the places there is scarcity while you have the capacity to produce continuously during the crisis. So, it was quite key as well.
“The fourth aspect was as well working with the government agencies and offices to ensure that we have free movement; we got the letters of approbation, we have staff buses that were allowed to move around to make sure they are granted passage by security agencies.
Working as a CIO during Covid-19 pandemic
“Coming to the CIO’s challenges today or should I say today or post lockdown – the key thing is that from the latest studies, Sub-Africa will be, for the first time in recession, for the last 25 years. So, of course, for the CIO, one of the challenges will be how to get funds; how to fund all the initiatives that are in the pipeline at the time where cost management is going to be more and more critical.
“All the businesses are going to think twice before investing. In fact, what people will try to do is more or less trying to reduce whatever they have been investing on or try to do three times more with the same amount that they used to spend. I think that clearly, the role of the CIO in the boardroom will be more and more being a storyteller.
“We need to be good storytellers. We have to share the success stories; there’s a lot of companies and a lot of organizations who did the right things we have to be able to share them. We have to copy with pride; we have to take the stones as well as the one that fails. One thing that the MD/CSA, Twelve Dot & Twelve Dot Labs, Canada, Faud Khan, was saying is to make sure that we have an effective IT demand governance process in place.
“We need to drive the company mission statement; the strategy from a technology point of view. But, a lot of new things will come on board. Therefore, we are going to talk about making the process smarter, paperless, approving remotely. There are a lot of things that are coming on the board and for a lot of companies they activated the business continuity plan.
“One of the key things that we need to take out of that season is more or less to record what people are missing while working from home. Is it a file? Is it a process? We need to get together that knowledge and as well to get from them what they would like to have. If we as CIOs are able to get all this together, we should be able to be successful in the New Normal.
The concluding part of the publication series will be tomorrow, featuring the MD/CSA, Twelve Dot & Twelve Dot Labs, Canada, Faud Khan.