BUSINESS AT THE SPEED OF THOUGHT – EOH’S ROB GODLONTON

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Rob Godlonton joined EOH nine years ago to grow the Infrastructure and Application Development businesses. He has overseen the rapid growth of these businesses, as well as the Outsourcing business, and is now the CEO for the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) division. Prior to EOH, Rob worked at Dimension Data as Global Sales Operations Manager, and contributed significantly to the success of the global account management programme and sales operations. He was later promoted to lead Dimension Data’s global supply chain business. Rob has held a number of senior positions within the IT industry in the United Kingdom where he lived for 13 years. His roles included: Managing Director of Cedar Consulting, Vice President – Operations of Infogain in EMEA (following their acquisition of Global Technologies which Rob co-founded), and Director for the services division at the former PeopleSoft.

Rob spoke to The African Professional on the eve of the EOH Connect 2018 conference.

What is the EOH Connect conference about?

The amount of data that all organisation’s are capturing in this digital era is growing exponentially. The big question is – so what, and what are the implications for your business? How do you make decisions to use that data, how do you use technologies to understand the data, and make sense of the data to grow new revenue streams and service your current ones better? This year’s conference is themed Fast Data – Business at the Speed of Thought. The speed at which the data flows does not have to increase. It is the decision-making ability as a result of access to this data that needs to be increased, thereby gaining a competitive advantage.

What does it mean to you that you have been entrusted with the position of CEO of EOH ICT?

It is an honour because it means I can influence how we can serve our customers better. From a customer point of view, we are able to provide them with an end-to-end solution. I believe EOH is best placed to deliver on customer needs: We have the expertise, knowledge and the right partnerships with companies such as Microsoft and SAP. This means an exciting journey for us and our customers going forward. We are structuring our business to have one EOH that can deliver value to businesses and we have all the components to do that.

With EOH Connect 2018, we will showcase all these technologies for our customers. I often say that, at EOH we are not very good at telling our stories and we need to do that better. I would like our people to do that through platforms like EOH Connect and to be proud of the value we give to our customers, because there is no other organisation that has the deep domain expertise that we do. You can name any technology and we have the expertise to bring it together for our customers.

What would you say have been the highs and the lows of your career?

The highs for me have been around people. Over the years, I have seen how people develop within our organisation to become leaders. We have some phenomenal talent and seeing people building the business to what it is today, is definitely a high. To an extent, we have grown the EOH ICT division through acquisitions. The Microsoft division for instance, has grown from 80 to 500 people in only six years This group of people was enabled to grow and excel, using the EOH platform. The success of the EOH Youth Job Creation Initiative is also worth mentioning as a high.

The lows are also around people. A lot of time, effort and resource are invested in a person and you are disappointed because they have a negative impact on the organisation. Sometimes ego and arrogance can get in the way when a professional thinks they are bigger than the organisation. They forget that we are like a football team with 11 players. When one person thinks they are the team it results in disappointment.

What would you say is your management and leadership style?

I am not one to just issue instructions and expect people to follow them blindly. When someone comes to me with a problem, I expect them to have thought about possible solutions which we can discuss and execute. I would say that my style is one of empowering my staff to be able to make decisions. I would much rather have people be proactive than negative and focus on what is wrong.

What would you like to achieve by the time you leave your position?

Years down the line when I leave EOH, I want to be known as the person who connected people. That applies to our employees, our technology partners and our customers. This is again the reason why I have driven the realisation of EOH Connect. Our technology partners sponsor the event which is mainly attended by our customers. I want this annual event to be a big part of my legacy, given that it enables us to hear from our customers about their needs. From a supplier perspective, we showcase technologies that could be valuable to their businesses.

Do you take part in mentoring?

I mentor three people within EOH and we meet informally for an hour each month. We are discussing the launch of a mentorship programme which will reach about 90 people. The idea is to have each mentee mentor a further four people, creating a pyramid with the most senior people, right down to the new employees mentoring young people outside the organisation. It is still an idea that we want to formalise.

What awards or accolades have you or your organisation won recently?

EOH has won several awards mainly in the technology space from the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. We have also been awarded the best managed ICT Company by Top 500 and we have been part of the Sunday Times Top 100 companies. These awards are testament to our best people and services and solutions we continually deliver for our customers and the communities we operate in.

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How has the company fared in terms of business growth?

The growth has been phenomenal. We had 250 people when I started here and now we have close to 12 500. From a revenue perspective, we have grown from a billion rand to R17.5 billion over the past decade. In my division, I have overseen growth of turnover of 25-30 percent annually.

How has your company contributed to the community?

EOH, as a provider of business and technology solutions across a vast range of industries, understands that education is paramount in building a prosperous South Africa. We have partnered with organisations whom we believe can help us realise and support this vision. EOH provides support to the Child and Youth Development Programmes of Afrika Tikkun. The aim is to provide a sustainable future for children in townships. It has been repeatedly proven that high quality early childhood, and child and youth development programmes (YDP) can break the cycle of poverty in a community. Maths Centre Incorporating Sciences, popularly known as the Maths Centre, is a non-profit organisation of excellence in mathematics, science, technology and entrepreneurship education, the centre is present in all provinces. The primary objective is to equip teachers, learners and parents with learning materials and programmes to develop a higher competency and performance in these learning areas for grades R–12 in South Africa. EOH supports the rolling out of these programmes to ten high schools, including two special needs schools in the East Rand area.

The EOH Youth Job Creation Initiative has made great strides since its inception in 2012. Initiated by our Chairman & Founder, Asher Bohbot, the initiative is deeply entrenched in our business and has made a big impact in how we engage with our partners and customers. Over 35 000 learners and graduates have benefitted from the initiative, with 14 500 of them completing learnerships or internships. Of the individuals taken through the programme, 83% have been placed in full-time employment, within EOH and our partner networks.

What strides has EOH made with regards to transformation?

We have a Level 1 B-BBEE rating but that is just a scorecard. We go beyond that and drive real transformation. E.g. our Microsoft business had 80 people, 90% white. We now have over 500 people with 55% from previously disadvantaged communities.

What does the company do for its professionals and the professional organisations to which they belong?

Because we are primarily a technology business, these relate mainly to certifications from technology companies. We work hand in hand with them to ensure that our professionals have the right certifications. Companies like Microsoft have structured certified programmes that the professionals go through to receive the development, training and skills.

How do you ensure that the company and its employees maintain high levels of professionalism and customer service?

We have a concept, namely SPORT (Superior service, Passion, Operational Excellence, Right 1st Time and Teamwork) which is a formal training programme for our people. Our business has a lot of people who do design, build and develop which is the front end. However, we also have others who manage and operate. The front end is fairly easy as it comprises projects that have a start and end date, but the service side is ongoing and, therefore, we need to train them to ensure that the professionalism and customer service standards are high. SPORT ensures that superior service is delivered passionately and with operational excellence. This means we are right the first time with an attitude of teamwork.

Beyond that we measure our customer service through a customer service desk for managed services. Once one finishes a call, the service that has been received, can be rated. The same applies to any technician who is called out.

How do you ascertain that you are running an ethical business?

Our company purpose is to be an ethical relevant force for good to the societies that we serve with technology, and we start with that premise. We are an entrepreneurial business with one brand and we have a governance, risk and compliance framework that we drive into the organisation. We expect everyone to understand it and we use technology to ensure that everybody signs off on things like anti-bribery and corruption policies annually. We have a process that ENSafrica reviews. One of our philosophies is to bring in the best people and I genuinely believe that they are pos

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