Q&A: Leveraging cloud to achieve organisational transformation

Avsharn Bachoo, chief technology officer of PPS Insurance, brought a traditional broker-based business into the digital era.

avsharn bachoo cto pps
PPS

Common wisdom has it that changes brought by technology can enable organisational transformation only if aligned with a shift in company culture and how business is conducted. Avsharn Bachoo has had to help lead such a project as CTO of PPS Insurance, implementing a cloud-based IT infrastructure at the 78-year old insurance and financial services firm, which he joined three years ago. The South Africa-based company focuses on graduate professionals, and has a client base of more than 200,000. Bachoo has had a two-decade career in the financial services field, having also worked at First National Bank and Standard Bank Group.

As a technology strategist, what advice would you give CIOs undertaking digital transformation?

CIOs need to convince their organizations that building for ‘digital’ goes beyond simply migrating to the cloud or building a new website. Your architecture has to be designed as an ecosystem of social, mobile, analytics and cloud harmony. To achieve this, the underlying tech infrastructure, processes and internal culture all have to change. Most organizations try and predict the future, and then based on those predictions, build a rigid IT ecosystem. You have to apply conscious design. This means using architecture to drive your digital transformation strategy. You need to have clear current state and target state architectures and use architectural patterns. This architectural approach allows applications to be changed without disrupting other applications. It provides a more evolutionary approach where new applications can be incrementally added and applications can be snapped in and snapped out, switched in and switched out, without disrupting the entire ecosystem. That’s how you start your digital transformation.

As CTO what’s the most significant digital transformation undertaking you’ve been involved with?

PPS’s digital transformation initiative is the most recent and the largest IT-related initiative for which I was responsible. I had to transform a 78-year old insurer from a traditional broker-based business into a digital organisation. Becoming a modern digital organisation meant that I had to firstly define digital, as it's one of those buzzwords that is deep, broad, complex and diverse -- often used differently by different people. I decided to use the SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) framework, and create an ecosystem of social, mobile, AI and cloud harmony. Attributes of this framework included people, processes, cultural changes.

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