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CIO Conference: The many hats of today’s CIO

Lau Chak Onn | March 27, 2012
At this year’s CIO Conference, delegates and speakers gathered to discuss the growing responsibilities of CIOs and how their jobs have grown to encapsulate other C-levels.

John Clifford
John Clifford

He also talked about how the new world would be made out more of unstructured data, such as Facebook, wikis, images, videos and so forth, rather than the rigid policy-based data that most organisations are used to today, managed with internal software. “Even though we made a living in EMC around storing structured data, an analysis I read recently predicted that 80 percent of data would be created outside of the data centre.” He then gave the example of YouTube, which was banned at EMC five years ago until they realised “it was a fantastic way to educate our employees.”


Beyond keeping the lights on
Another recurring theme with the speakers was the CIO’s expansion of responsibility beyond maintaining a stable platform for the business to operate on. At his organisation in particular, Tan of EPF stated that it was no small task, and at the same time, of great importance. “EPF as a trustee of public funds, needs to ensure that security and confidentiality is paramount,” he explained. “EPF is a utility light… because when you press it, you expect it to work.”

He told the audience that he took on the job despite the stigma of working for the public sector because he felt he could be instrumental in EPF’s reorganisation efforts. One of these efforts was to cope with rising expectations of customers. “For instance, customers aren’t happy going to the branch for their transactions now,” he said. “Kiosks used to operate from 7am to 7pm, but are now expected to run 24/7 — this is primarily due to market demands; customers have come to expect that level of service.”

He did however give advice on how to gain trust from management: “We have to do an IT master plan every three to five years and when we do one, we link the IT strategies with business strategies. This is how you gain trust. You need management to understand how IT supports these strategic bubbles,” he said.

He gave the example of a questionnaire that he issued to see what users would want from IT in future. When he got the list, he tabulated them into projects that he thought his department could implement to take care of those needs. When the CEO told him to implement all that, he passed the onus back to the CEO, who should ultimately have the ownership. “Sometimes, you need to push it back to the CEO to make sure he gives you the support you need,” he added.

Tan also said that the role of the CIO changes at different stages of a business. “We all have to adapt to the organisation that we work for. If it’s at the automation stage, the emphasis will be different versus a realignment phase,” he said.


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