News & Media

The best PhD Paper award goes to…

Mr Mervyn Christoffels, Unisa’s Executive Director of ICT Systems and Operations

Unisa continues to fly the flag high when it comes to conducting and maintaining high-quality research and teaching. It was evident when Unisa’s Executive Director of ICT Systems and Operations, Mr Mervyn Christoffels, won the best PhD Paper award presented at the European Conference on Management, Leadership and Governance (ECMLG).

It has been 15 years since the conference was established, and it has been held in England, Croatia, Austria, Cyprus, The Netherlands, among other host countries. The conference is generally attended by participants from more than 35 countries and attracts an interesting combination of academic scholars, practitioners and individuals who are engaged in various aspects of management, leadership and governance.

Christoffels is registered with Unisa’s School of Business Leadership (SBL) and supervised by Prof Anton Grobler, with joint supervision with Prof John A van der Poll, both from the SBL. His research focuses on The development of an eLeadership framework for leading organisations on a digital transformation journey.

According to Christoffels, digital business transformation is disrupting businesses in every industry by breaking down barriers between people, businesses and other things. By breaking these barriers, they can create new products and services and find more efficient ways of doing business. He added that it involves the reshaping of the very context and structure of organisations which has implications for leadership practice and theory regarding leaders' abilities, capabilities and how they implement this change.

Christoffels believes that digital transformation is the response required by organisations for purposes such as the business model, staff skills and innovation climate – and digital disruption is the change to technology. Transformation is the response and digital disruption is part of the first wave. "We are not sure what the next wave will be or look like but the theory is that we will have to build the capacity or adaptability in order  to continue transforming as we will be hit by wave after wave of transformation," added Christoffels.

Asked about what the award means to him and for the university, he said he was very surprised when he won as it was the furthest thing from his mind. "But after reflecting on the accolade, it dawned on me. We at Unisa do not realise that we are ahead of most organisations - private and public - in terms of our thinking and understanding regarding the impact of disruptive innovation and technologies. We have moved beyond debating the definitions and have moved to actions and plans; and when given an opportunity to present our experience and learnings on a global stage, we impress the world. Furthermore, it was also rewarding to have excellence bestowed upon African scholarship," he expressed.

Christoffels enjoys Klaus Schwab’s book on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) as his observations have been used as the framework in understanding the world that is changing. He urged Unisa to respond collectively and timeously to digital transformation for it to be relevant and for ODeL to succeed.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Publications: Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/12/12