You are currently viewing Shalin Naidoo: Driving Operational Excellence and Building Strategic IT Functions
Shalin Naidoo

Shalin Naidoo: Driving Operational Excellence and Building Strategic IT Functions

In a world constantly shaped by technological advancements, industries with deep-rooted traditions find themselves at a crossroads. Traditionally conservative sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and construction, are undergoing a transformative journey fueled by technology. The integration of smart sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and automation is streamlining processes, enhancing efficiency, and reducing manual labor. The intersection of legacy practices and cutting-edge technology poses a compelling question: Can technology breathe new life into age-old industries?

This question sparked the journey of Shalin Naidoo, Chief Information Officer at DRDGOLD, through the uncharted realms of the mining sector. In a world captivated by innovation, his fascination with the transformative power of technology led him to an industry deeply rooted in tradition. As the CIO of one of South Africa’s leading gold producers, he has made it his mission to redefine mining operations, placing sustainability and efficiency at the forefront.

Recognized as one of South Africa’s Top 8 Visionary CIOs by the Institute of IT Professionals and nominated for the 2019 CIO of the Year by the International Data Corporation, Shalin has been a driving force at the intersection of technology and mining. His tenure as the CIO at Lenmed for six years showcased his prowess in leveraging technology for healthcare, setting the stage for his transformative role at DRDGOLD.

Appointed as the CIO of DRDGold in November 2020, Shalin brings a wealth of experience, including a decade as an IT consultant and notable positions at companies like Anglo Platinum and Arysta LifeScience. His journey also saw him at the helm of IT for Africa and the Middle East at Arysta LifeScience and as the head of business applications SA at Tronox.

His academic achievements mirror his professional success, boasting an MBA from Pretoria University and a Masters in Digital Business from Wits Business School. His dedication to the fusion of business acumen and technological innovation has positioned him as a thought leader in the dynamic landscape of CIOs.

Below are the highlights from the interview!

Could you elaborate on the historical background and inception story of DRDGOLD in the South African mining sector?

DRDGOLD, with its rich history in the South African mining sector, has evolved through innovative practices in gold recovery. Our inception story is one of resilience and adaptation, consistently striving to set benchmarks in environmental responsibility and economic efficiency in mining. DRDGOLD’s journey began over a century ago, embodying a spirit of innovation and resilience. We’ve transitioned from traditional mining to becoming leaders in gold recovery and land rehabilitation, continuously adapting to the evolving economic and environmental landscape and shareholders’ needs. Our inception is a story of transformation, mirroring South Africa’s own growth and challenges in the mining sector.

What are the key aspects of your primary responsibility as CIO of DRDGOLD?

My primary responsibility involves steering DRDGOLD’s digital strategy, ensuring that technology initiatives align with our overarching goal of operational excellence. This encompasses digital transformation, IT infrastructure enhancement, and fostering a culture of innovation within the team. Leading DRDGOLD’s digital strategy, my role extends beyond managing technology. It involves driving digital transformation, enhancing our IT infrastructure, and embedding a culture of innovation. This strategic direction is crucial to maintaining our competitive edge and ensuring sustainable growth.

What were some of the challenging projects you spearheaded?

There are a number of projects always underway, and each of them has its own intricacies and challenges. By far the most challenging project we are currently busy with is the reconciliation of costs with production and production activity. It is a multifaceted project with numerous variables and trends that can only be found in the details of the wealth of big data that we are currently generating. This challenge requires not just technical expertise but also leadership in coordinating diverse teams and aligning the project with strategic business goals.

In your role as CIO, how do you balance innovation with stability and security?

Innovation at DRDGOLD doesn’t come at the expense of stability and security. We prioritize a balanced approach where cutting-edge solutions are rigorously tested and evaluated before integration, ensuring a secure and robust IT environment. Our approach to innovation is holistic, ensuring that new technologies are stable and secure before integration. We rigorously test new solutions, balancing the need for innovation with the imperative of maintaining a secure and reliable IT environment.

What strategies do you apply to stay abreast of emerging technologies?

To remain at the forefront of technology, I actively engage in industry forums and establish partnerships with tech leaders. I ensure my team is equally informed and adaptable through continuous programs and workshops. They strive to continuously train and are encouraged to explore new technologies, ensuring DRDGOLD stays ahead of the curve.

As the CIO, how do you foster collaboration between different departments?

Effective collaboration was exemplified in our cross-departmental efforts to streamline data management. By bridging IT and operational teams, we developed a unified system that enhanced both data integrity and accessibility, fostering better decision-making processes. Collaboration is key to our IT strategy. An example is our project to unify data management across departments, which improved data integrity and accessibility. This initiative exemplified the power of cross-departmental collaboration in enhancing operational efficiency.

What are some of the effective IT Project Management methodologies you incorporate at your workplace?

Agile methodologies have proven most effective, allowing for flexibility and iterative improvement in our projects. This approach aligns well with the dynamic nature of the mining industry, where adaptability is key and allows us to respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities, ensuring continuous improvement in our projects.

What measures do you take to ensure cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a top priority. Our cybersecurity strategy is robust and multi-layered, encompassing regular audits and a strong culture of security awareness among all staff. We continuously evolve our defenses to stay ahead of emerging cyber threats, ensuring the integrity and security of our systems.

How do you implement continuous improvement in IT?

Continuous improvement is integral to our IT strategy. A recent focus has been optimizing our cloud infrastructure, which has enhanced our scalability and performance while also reducing costs. This ongoing improvement is crucial to maintaining our competitive advantage.

What strategies do you apply to encourage a positive and innovative team culture?

We foster a culture of creativity and growth by encouraging open dialogue, recognizing individual contributions, and providing opportunities for professional development. We firmly believe in nurturing a team environment that encourages creativity, encourages open dialogue, and recognizes individual contributions. This culture not only motivates our team but also fosters innovative thinking, essential for our success in the technology-driven mining sector.

What client testimonials and recognitions has DRDGOLD received?

DRDGOLD’s commitment to excellence is reflected in positive client feedback and industry awards. These accolades are a testament to our innovative practices and the impactful contributions of our IT department to the mining sector.

Hereby ending the interview, thanking Shalin Naidoo for his invaluable insights!