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Brian Armstrong


Having recently retired after a long and distinguished career in the telecoms industry, Brian is looking forward to launching the next phase of his career, in research, consulting and perhaps a few board roles. He is passionate about the potential within many digital start-ups and looks forward to getting more involved in this arena.

Lessons from the present:  Where to play and how to compete in the Digital World

Digitalisation. Disruption. Digital lifestyle. Digital Business. These terms and countless others overwhelm us every day. The Business media overflows with them. The terms are over-traded and becoming jaded and the rush of information is incoherent. But that doesn’t make the topic any less real or less relevant.
The question is: what does it practically mean for our businesses? What can we do, now, to make sure our businesses survive and thrive in the digital age? What lessons can we learn from the present – the successes and failures we see around us each day, and not from tentative predictions of the future – to develop strategies of where to play and how to win in the digital age?
This keynote explores how to make sense of digitalisation as a phenomenon, and some practical areas to looks at as we lead our businesses to respond.
Brian does not see himself as a futurologist; he is a businessman who has grown and run large businesses, and he is an engineer. Some would say he is a business scientist. He doesn’t talk about the future; he talks about what we see happening in the real world around us right now; facts and data from the present. And then, as a business scientist, he suggests theories to explain what we see and then some models to put this to work in our current business reality.
A framework to understand Digitalisation
The keynote initially zooms in on the TMT sector, where we see that all the excitement, all the growth, and all the leading new companies – are playing in the increasingly overlapping spaces between traditional categories; we call this convergence. But the talk then shows how digitalisation is about much more than technology; the tech is important and underpins much of what we see happening, but in itself it doesn’t define digitalisation.
The digital phenomenon is as much about our transforming society as the tech which enables it. And it is also equally about changing ways of doing business – new business models and concepts – which are at the heart of many digital businesses.
Brian shows how digitalisation is the perfect storm at the intersection of the technology revolution; of a transforming society and market; and changing ways of doing business. He then explores this further in practical terms by looking at how it applies to a few topical industries and case study businesses.

His experience & achievements bears testimony to exceptional performance at executive management levels in diverse technology businesses, consistently exceeding challenging targets in a balanced scorecard context.

Brian’s full accountability for end-to-end financial performance of the business & consistent over-performance, without exception, against challenging growth objectives. His extensive experience of strategic business leadership in a variety of roles are indicative of his ability to develop, maintain & leverage strategic relationships with stakeholders, clients & business partners, including relationships at senior governmental & commercial board levels.

With a leadership style which has been assessed as inspiring & motivational, fostering exceptional team performance, challenges & brings out the best in staff, encourages mature discourse, promotes mutual respect, values fun & on-the-job enjoyment, he consistently focuses on team & individual commitment, performance & delivery in an enabling & supportive way.

Brian’s personal style exudes energy & passion and he is both creative & innovative in his approach.

Brian played many pivotal leadership roles in the Telecoms industry over the past 30 or so years and joined Telkom’s executive committee in 2010, when the company was in a perilous position. Brian joined Telkom from British Telecoms, where he had been the vice-president for the company’s successful Africa and Middle East business. Before that, he was MD of AST Networks, MD of Icomtek and director of the ICT division at the CSIR, where he worked for 16 years, starting as a systems engineer in 1985.

Most recently, he headed up Telkom’s strategy, growth and regulatory initiatives. He also led the acquisition of IT services company Business Connexion.

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