An Interview with Craig Nel

As an official spokesperson and thought leader in cognitive experience, Craig leverage his deep experience by helping key customers in the Middle East Africa region to define their digital transformation strategies and enabling them to deliver innovative solutions based on cutting edge technologies from the Oracle Cloud portfolio.

Anticipating the Enterprise Africa Summit, we asked Craig to answer some key questions in order to give event attendees a clearer idea of his value as a speaker.

Enterprise Alliance: You have been working the realm of business and systems engineering for almost 3 decades and most recently have been focusing on innovation, digital transformation and emerging technologies. As you look forward to addressing an audience of business leaders in need of insight into how to get their arms around emerging and tempting technologies, what barriers to their understanding have you observed in recent years?

Craig Nel: Theodore Levitt, the former Harvard Business School professor and editor of the Harvard Business Review, famously said “People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.”

The majority of customers I talk to, know almost instinctively that “they want a quarter inch hole”; and because technology vendors are great at selling drills and drill bits – most know “how” to get one.

Sadly, very few know or understand why. Phrases like “everybody else has one”, “we need it to be competitive” or “our survival depends on it” are often used to market the intent but the underlying motivation is often left unexplored.

Enterprise Alliance: What can you best do to help get past these barriers of understanding and help them get over the fear?

Craig Nel: I repeat the above Levitt quote and, in simple terms, explain that the end game is not really about selling drills and drill bits. Yes, of course, we do that as well – you cannot drill a hole without the drill and drill bits – but more importantly, it is about helping customers understand why they need a quarter inch hole in the first place.

When consulting with business leaders, I almost always start by establishing the intended action from their perspective. What is it that they (customers) believe they should be doing? Then I immediately follow that with “what will if happen if you do that” and “what will happen if you don’t”.

This very simple technique clarifies why they should (or should not) do something.

Enterprise Alliance: There is always a lot of vendor, and even analyst, hype surrounding emerging technologies. What brief advice can you give to prospective attendees of our event that will help them set the hype aside and concentrate not on “what” they can do but “how” to approach their adoption and eventual deployment?

Craig Nel: Continuing with the analogy: once we know that we need a hole and we understand clearly why we need the hole, choosing the right tool becomes simpler. Note I am saying simpler; not simple or easy.

You need a drill and drill bits but the options are overwhelming. You need help and that help should be provided by someone who not only knows each and every drill on the market (its features and functions) but someone who also knows your (very specific) requirements in terms of the hole that you need.

Directly to the point of this questions, it is incredibly easy to get distracted and often confused by the hype surrounding emerging technologies. The key advice here is to get professional help so that you pursue your vision rather than the hyped one.

Enterprise Alliance: Specific to the African continent, are there aspects to the market that you consider to be beneficial to client organizations seeking technology evolution?

Craig Nel: We have a natural tendency to differentiate between the African continent and the rest of the world. There are of course some differences that relate to culture, technology infrastructure in some regions, and access to funding. However, the African continent fundamentally faces the same challenges and has the same opportunities as the rest of the world. In fact, in some instances even more so due to the untapped potential of the market and a corresponding ability to “leapfrog” over increasingly defunct technologies directly to those that are more cutting edge.

We have seen some fantastic innovations from the continent and the creativity of its people compares with the best in the world.

Enterprise Alliance: What one nugget of advice can you offer to prospective attendees of this event?

Craig Nel: I believe Freeman Thomas got it right when he said “Good design begins with honesty, asks tough questions, comes from collaboration and from trusting your intuition.”

In my panel and throughout the Enterprise Africa event I look forward to fielding tough questions from the moderator and informed delegates alike.

Craig Nel

Mobile & Cognitive Experience (MCX) Business Development, Oracle