What does it mean to be entrusted with a role of being CEO for Accenture?
“This is my tenth year in the position, and I must say, it is a daunting task because of the huge responsibility. Our mission is basically to change the way people work and live. We want to make an impact on communities, governments and the private sector by leveraging technology. As CEO of Accenture in the Sub-Saharan context, I am tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that we make a significant contribution to the way people live. When I assumed the position, there was a lot of scepticism about the continent, but at Accenture, we believed we could do something great in the African market. And we didn’t just talk about it; we went ahead and deployed significant human and financial resources to make change in Africa possible.”
What would you like to have achieved once the time comes to call it quits from the position of CEO? “Impact is everything for Accenture, hence impact and significance are everything for me. I want to ensure that I leave the company in a better state than I found it, and that it is well set up for the next generation. This will be seen in the areas we have invested in and the relationships we choose to foster. You will also see this in the governments we choose to work with and the role we play in creating jobs and contributing to national dialogue. By using innovation, and deliberately choosing engagements which make a bigger and broader impact, we enable economies to compete competitively..”
What would you say is your management or leadership style?
“It is to lead with a lot of humility and always know there are people you are going to depend on entirely to make things happen. As a leader you will never be able to get things done on your own, so you need to pick the right team and give them the authority. But you still need to lead by creating a movement, which means creating the right environment for your people to thrive. They need to feel they have the space and support to make things happen. Leading by humility speaks to the essence of what I think – we should all have respect for each other. You need to be firm, and occasionally tough, but still leave people with dignity at the end of the day.”
What keeps you awake at night with respect to this position?
“The calibre of talent and the type of work we do is very exciting and ground-breaking. We work with the most creative, innovative and intellectual individuals. No day is the same. Today I could be solving problems in the banking sector, tomorrow insurance, and the following day, issues of power. On another occasion I could be solving issues around service provision with local government and so forth. Grappling with all this on a daily basis while continuing to leverage digital technologies and innovation to solve our clients’ challenges is what keeps me awake at night, because our job is fundamentally to solve problems. “
Do you take part in mentoring others?
“Yes, I have a lot of mentees who comprise people both within Accenture and outside of the organisation. Before I joined Accenture, I was an entrepreneur who ran my own business. As a result, many people running start-ups are seeking assistance at different phases of their businesses.“
What would you mention as the high and the low of your career?
“At times you have to make very tough decisions which are not necessarily aligned with what you want to do. For example, taking a decision to stop working on a project or with a client because it goes against an intrinsic belief. Terminating relationships with clients or ceasing to be involved in certain aspects can be a low point for me.
The high for me is that on its best day, Accenture delivers really exciting things. For example, what we succeeded in doing with elections while working/partnering with the IEC. I think the power of technology and collaboration helped South Africa’s image as a country that embraces technology and will be remembered for eternity. I took part in the first democratic elections and the organisation of the voters roll and counting of votes were painful processes. Another example of a successful project is the phenomenal success of tax collection. Our impact has extended to other areas too i.e. reduction of queues in banks, improving the efficiency of municipalities, border control and so on.”
What accolades have you received recently?
“In 2010, I was recognized by the CRF Institute as one of the leading CEOs in the country. This accolade links all the processes, teams and people I work with. Accenture has won many local and international awards. We have been certified as a Top Employer by the Top Employers Institute for the seventh consecutive year and ranked fourth in South Africa for our excellent employee offering, which includes our working conditions and the way we look after our employees. This recognition reinforces the value we place on our people and their personal and professional growth. We have also received awards from various partners including SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. Some of our projects have won awards such as one recently received from the prestigious Smithsonian institute in America.”
How has Accenture fared in terms of its business growth objectives?
“In the context of the current state of the market, and looking at our performance pegged against our peers, I can say that we have done extremely well. We have grown this business from a very small base in numbers of employees as well as from a turnover perspective. We have over 2500 employees; when we started we didn’t have any practice around areas, such as business processing, which now has over 1000 employees. Additionally, we have an industrial technology delivery capability centre in Centurion and a sub central business outsourcing centre in Braamfontein. Accenture has managed to entrench itself in very meaningful places and boasts a diversified portfolio of clients.”
In terms of ethics and professionalism how do you maintain those two?
“In 2015, the Ethisphere Institute designated Accenture as one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 8th time. When you look at our value system, we are very strong. Integrity and Respect are paramount. We strive to ensure that our people understand the importance of working in the most ethical way and provide mandatory training in this area which every employee has to complete, regardless of position. There are about five compulsory courses on dealing with difficult situations. If this training is incomplete, annual performance reviews and salaries are impacted.”
Is transformation a key objective at Accenture?
“We made transformation a key business requirement even before government mandated businesses to address transformation. One of our key principles is to be demographically representative and to ensure that ownership is in the hands of locals. We ensure there is a diverse and representative management team. In 2005, we established a trust comprising previously disadvantaged individuals who now own 30% of our business. Transformation is tantamount to what we do every day; it is not just driven by compliance requirements, but is taken seriously all the way up to the Accenture global board. “
What type of professionals does Accenture hire and how do you contribute to the various professions? “Accenture hires diverse professionals including engineers, actuaries, artists, economists, accountants, medical doctors, accountants, scientists and accounting professionals. Our day to day business is solving problems, hence we require a diversity of thought and skills. Every employee is allocated an annual training budget and is at liberty to choose how to use it to facilitate their continued professional development. “
What makes you confident that the firm is rendering good customer service?
“We have an independent unnamed customer service satisfaction review done on every project that scores quality of our performance on a 10-point basis. If it falls below a certain threshold, there is an intervention. Thus far, such interventions are rare, meaning our clients are happy and we have met or exceeded their expectations. However, the biggest measure of our success today is the fact that we have about 10 key clients who have retained us for over a decade.”
What are you passionate about?
“I believe that education is a key to many challenges on this continent. I am an example of how education can transform a person’s life. Coming from a rural area to preside over an organisation the size of Accenture is the result of the privilege of education. I therefore invest in the education of others. I also have a passion for solving our big problems through innovation. I subscribe to the abundance theory which intimates that we have all the resources at our disposal to solve all the problems we see around us.”