Ivan Epstein named IT Personality 2009
Softline’s CEO wins IT Personality 2009 and Carl Louw, head of Absa Internet Channel, is named Visionary CIO.
By Leigh-Ann Francis
Johannesburg, 27 Nov 2009
Softline CEO Ivan Epstein’s “sense of values inspires confidence in the future”.

The Computer Society of SA (CSSA) has awarded the IT Personality of the Year to Ivan Epstein, CEO of accounting software firm Softline.

The IT Personality of the Year Award, now in its 31st year, recognises the personality who has made an exceptional contribution to the industry in the past year. The award is presented by the CSSA, in association with ITWeb, Gartner Africa and the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

In his acceptance speech, Epstein said: “This award is not in recognition of my achievement solely, but also in recognition of the growth of an industry in SA.”

He noted that the accounting industry has transformed from a manual one into an automated one which is now moving towards the cloud. ”I am proud to be a part of the development of the accounting industry.”

Epstein, along with co-founder Alan Osrin, started Softline in 1988 with R5 000 start-up capital. Today, the company has grown to 70% market share for accounting solutions in SA, as well as gaining customers in 50 other countries around the world.

Not forgetting the continued support of his colleagues, Epstein thanked all those involved in building the company into what it is today.

President of the CSSA and awards judge Adrian Schofield explained that the decision as to who would win the award was not an easy one; however, the judges were pleased with the final decision.

“Ivan is an excellent example to South African business of how to build a successful enterprise based on building successful people. His sense of values is one that inspires confidence in the future,” he commented.

Previous winners of this award include Mark Shuttleworth, Benjamin Mophatlane, Mthunzi Mdwaba, Anthony Fitzhenry, Hamilton Ratshefola and, in 2008, Mardia van der Walt-Korsten, CEO of T-Systems SA.
Stiff competition

This year saw a strong line-up of nominees, including joint-CEO of Integr8 IT Lance Faranoff, MXit CEO Herman Heunis, KrazyBoyz Digital CEO Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and SmartXchange CEO Robynne Erwin.

“Whether they created a multinational software company, a small business incubator, an entrepreneurial academy, a mobile messaging platform or a network nerve centre – all five have shown vision, ingenuity and tenacity to succeed – sometimes against the odds,” says ITWeb editorial director and awards judge Ranka Jovanovic.

The nominees congratulated Epstein on his achievement. “Ivan is a very deserving winner. He has been a strong mentor to me and to Integr8 IT,” said Faranoff.

“Starting something up from nothing and turning it into a business that impacts so many other businesses in the South African industry is truly remarkable. The best of congratulations to him,” added Mkhwanazi.

Visionary CIO

Carl Louw, head of Internet Channel at Absa, was praised for his ability to predict business usage of emerging technologies.
Carl Louw, head of Internet Channel at Absa, was awarded the Visionary CIO Award 2009. “I am humbled by the privilege of receiving this award,” he said when accepting the accolade.

The award was introduced last year to recognise an executive in the ICT user environment who has transformed business by applying leading-edge technology.

“Technology is an awesome enabler. Companies must look beyond the immediate return on investment if they are to find the true technology gems out there,” advised Louw.

Judges described Louw as being a soft-spoken man with an almost uncanny ability to predict business usage of emerging technologies.

“Carl Louw impressed me with his grasp of the relationship between technology and business,” comments Schofield. To this end, a successful CIO must bridge the gap between the needs of the business and the use of technology, he added.

Louw took the opportunity to thank his team for their commitment. ”To my Absa colleagues, this is not something one can do alone. I thank you for your support.”

The winner faced stiff competition from the other two nominees, CEO of First National Bank’s Mobile and Transact Solutions division, Len Pienaar; and CIO of Accsys Technologies, Liam Terblanche.