Technology and information governance

The Board is responsible for the Group's technology and information governance risk and compliance. The Board has delegated its responsibility of information governance risk and compliance to the Executive Committee for the implementation of IT governance, which has developed and adopted an IT governance framework. The framework supports governance and continuity as well as a digital innovation and growth agenda.

Scalability and performance

We remained vigilant on our strategic information technology mandates of continuous service improvement, governance, operational enhancement, platform scalability and infrastructure enhancement and have further delivered vital transformation objectives in this regard. Uptime across all core platforms remained beyond 99% and within agreed service levels during this fiscal year.

Significant additional investments into our technology platforms, computing edge and hybrid cloud strategy have ensured continuous stability while catering for a 25% growth in annual transactional volume throughput.

Technology as strategic transformation driver

Our focus on platform investment and agile delivery further included key digital transformation objectives to enhance our "fail-fast-deliver-fast" capabilities. Simplified application programming interfaces, converged mobility design and payment mechanisms, robotics process automation, decisioning, embedded big data analytics, enhanced cybersecurity mechanisms and distributed cloud formation strategically enabled the democratisation of technology within our business growth and diversification strategies. This enables our brands with technological disruption competence and assurance by enabling the Group to launch new revenue streams on enhanced technology platforms.

These strategic elements are underpinned by our constant drive towards customer-centric design and user experience which stands central to creating world-class business solutions across our national and international businesses, enabled through the consistent delivery of our highly engaged, diverse, skilled and resilient technology workforce.

Risk and compliance

To reflect further improvement, IT General Controls (ITGC) review, concluded by PwC in April 2020, reflects further improvement of internal controls at a high-maturity level of 93%. This shows effectiveness of the increased controls that were designed and operated during the year. We have renewed our governance framework to ensure that the maximum level of maturity can be maintained and to drive control delivery through project portfolio and systems change management which now ensures alignment of technology investments with governance controls.

Threats from cybersecurity remain a key ongoing risk and forms a significant basis of our technology investments.

Stringent standards for information and infrastructure security controls have been reviewed and reinforced. We proactively assess our risk of vulnerability and exposure on an ongoing basis while driving cyber risk prevention, assessment and education programmes to maintain vigilance while embedding security as a core component within platform delivery via governed development mechanisms.

Our big data programme remains compliant to the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Large investments into high availability, active-active and hybrid cloud capabilities also provide for disaster recovery capabilities as a component within business continuity plans. Multiple system improvements are conducted on a pre-scheduled basis to further redundancy across switching platforms.

We have revitalised our approach to attract, develop and retain top skills and talent and have shown success at sourcing and retaining talent with skills targeted at delivering and managing modern digital software technologies. This remains vital in our quest to maintain and support legacy environments while continuously adapting and supporting newer technologies with the best-in-class technology staff. Balancing the technological rate of change through a capable technology workforce, through constant resource balancing, remains a crucial basis for predictable service delivery and business growth and transformation objectives.

Identifying and retaining an accountable, capable and innovative base of systems specialists is not unique to Blue Label and remains a challenge to all technology-based businesses in South Africa. Early 2020 research shows that the IT skills base in country has further deteriorated and has become the leading space of skills scarcity in country. This sector leads engineering sciences, followed by healthcare, civil architecture and business management.

MICTSETA's Scarce and Pivotal Skills Lists and Sector Skills Planning research, which provides an overview of the skills gap within the ICT and general IT industry, indicates that major skills across the spectrum of information technology are now classified as scarce. The top eight key skillsets include IT managers, project managers, business analysts, web design professionals, programmers, networking and security engineers and data scientists. The sharp rise in skilled IT workers emigrating to the United Kingdom, Australia, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Germany has contributed to the preliminary findings of a 20% annual increase in emigration statistics for this portion of the skilled South African workforce.