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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.

The YES team captain, Waleed Hanafi, senior vice president and Chief Technology Officer at Global Blue, fired the first salvo by arguing that “the opponents on the NO side are actually declaring themselves unsuitable for the job.”

“CIOs have the exposure, training, skills, and ability to be effective CIOs. More than 56 CIOs who became CEOs since the title existed… If you don’t have the tech awareness to run your company, you will fail, and information is key to the running of the modern corporation.”

Debate "Yes" team
The Yes team, from left: Waleed Hanafi, Emma Brown, Teo Chin Seng, Raju Chellam.

Captain of the NO team, Vijay Sethi, professor, Department of Information Technology and Operations Management, Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, countered the motion by arguing his case accompanied by a slide presentation. He cited a UC Berkeley study that found that just 5 percent of CIOs become CEOs.

He noted that the common denominators of CIO success differ markedly from those of a CEO. “A CIO is honest, trustworthy, make their most impact at 36 to 48 years, are life long learners and have “tiger” parents.” In contrast, CEOs’ median age is 55 years, they tend to have good communication and relationship skills, strategy skills and have a sense of being in the right place at the right time.

Emma Brown, Global Head of Infrastructure and Operations, International Baccalaureate, from the YES team, argued that CIOs are more important than ever to the success of their companies, given the crucial role IT has come to play in every aspect of business.

She said: “Bear in mind the recent failures of companies to recognise the influence technology has on companies… Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection, as they hesitated to recognise the impact of technology… A good CEO should be a good CIO.”

Debate No team
The "No" team, from left: Vijay Sethi, Wong Onn Chee, Venu Reddy, Andy Chun.

Appealing to the passion for technology that resides in CIOs, Dr Andy Chun, CIO, City University, from the NO team, said: “Why given up your passion?” He also noted: “Many problems are not solved by IT… The best CIOs make the worst CEOs.”

YES team’s Teo Chin Seng, executive director, SMU iCity Laboratories, countered, that a CEO’s greater sphere of influence and ability to make a greater impact may be much more exciting than resolving the nitty-gritty of technology issues that are de rigueur for CIOs.

NO team’s Venu Reddy, vice president, Asia-Pacific, AMI Partners, continued on the tack that CIO and CEOs differ significantly, with CIOs focus being on the bottom line and controlling costs, while CEOs are “driving the top line”.

Finally, the audience voted by SMS and the YES team won the day with 67 percent of the votes.


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