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CIO Conference: Shifting Roles

Tao Ai Lei & T.C. Seow | March 28, 2012
Some 150 industry leaders gathered at Singapore’s Marriott Hotel last March for the CIO Conference to deliberate on the current hot IT issues.

With the theme “Shifting Role of the CIO”, this year’s CIO Conference saw the gathering of more than 150 attendees at the Marriott Hotel in Singapore, to hear from industry leaders on a wide range of topics. The conference was also the event where CIO Asia magazine conferred the highest honours on five organisations for their outstanding IT projects.

Questions to Ponder
Delivering the keynote address was Wu Choy Peng, Group CIO of Singapore-based container shipping and logistics firm Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. Wu, who was crowned last February as the IT Leader of the Year by the Singapore Computer Society, and awarded CIO of the Year by IDC in 2011.

Wu Choy Peng
Wu Choy Peng

Wu’s presentation, titled “Questions for the CIO”, was a sound piece of advice to fellow CIOs. Culled from 25 years of experience — first as a public sector CIO and then currently as Group CIO of NOL — her advice was to look beyond just keeping the lights on but to focus on what IT can bring to help make business run better.

“Is business–IT alignment still an issue to you?” she asked the audience. “Business goals, priorities and realities are what they are; they don’t need to be aligned with IT [department’s] goals and priorities. Remember that IT is an enabler for business growth and profitability, and IT must be aligned with business goals, priorities and realities,” she emphasised.

IT is too often pre-occupied with “polishing and gold-plating” current systems and infrastructure, she said, and IT is often guilty of taking the lead to introduce the latest gadgets and technologies. These need to be rethought to truly enable IT to be proactive in bringing value to the business. IT should not be preoccupied with developing standards and procedures to “control”, nor should it be putting greater value on security than user convenience and business capabilities.

Next, Wu asked: “Are you still justifying to yourself and your stakeholders why IT outsourcing does not work?” Her perspective is that outsourcing is no longer an option but a necessity, because “IT is a key (and maybe even strategic) enabler, but not a core business function,” she said. “Moreover, we face difficulty in recruiting and retaining highly skilled IT professionals in large numbers, and in retaining talents with a continuous stream of interesting, leading edge IT projects.”

“Many IT services are commoditised and require economies of scale and scope to be cost effective and competitive,” she added. “Responding quickly to business and customer demands requires access to a diverse set of knowledge, skills and experience.”

Wu also asked the audience whether they were stressed by cost pressures because of the current global economic climate and business outlook. Her advice was to “manage cost at all times, good and bad,” she said. “This is because if cost is managed well, it will be easier to find money for new IT initiatives to grow the business and win new customers. IT will cease to become the first target when times are bad, and business will see and appreciate how IT contributes directly to the bottom-line.”


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