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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.

To end, he urged CIOs to take the driver’s seat. “We need to be willing to take, or at least share the wheel with other C-levels,” he stressed. “We need to learn how to change the tyres while we’re driving down the highway at 80 km an hour.”


The Great Debate - CIOs are you ready to be CEOs?
Now a “tradition” at the annual CIO conference, the main event was the fun but stimulating Great Debate, which pitched the day’s speakers against one another, together with a few key industry leaders, to discuss a hot topic pertaining to the conference itself, with the audience deciding the outcome through balloted votes.

The topic of ‘CIOs: are you ready to be CEOs?’ was hotly contested from the start of the debate. Andy Tan from EPF headed up the YES team with the argument that organisations were already highly dependent on the CIO. “All organisations, big or small, cannot function without ICT,” he said. “On top of this, CIOs have intimate knowledge of all systems which puts us in a very strong position to be at least COO, if not CEO.” He posited that it was primarily Asian culture that valued more traditional training grounds such as finance and law that prevented CIOs from making the transition.

Debate "Yes" team
The "Yes" team (from left): Andy Tan, Delesh Kumar Chandrakant, Bobby Varanasi, Tony Wong and John Clifford.


Hood Abdul Bakar from MISC, leader of the NO team, argued back with statistics showing that only 4 percent of CIOs have become CEOs historically. “Let’s look at KPIs. Cashflows, equity ratios, profits, intellectual capital (not just IT), customer satisfaction, the COO also needs to monitor shareholder satisfaction. A CIO’s KPI is mainly budget. How do we link deliverables to profits? Our SLAs – it’s mostly internal.”

Debate "No" team
The "No" team (from left): John Atherton, Rob Cayzer, Cheah Kok Hoong, Michiel de Boer and Hood Abu Bakar.


Delesh Kumar from Frost & Sullivan then threw history back at the NO team, throwing light on the recent shenanigans on Wall Street. “We’ve proven time and again recently that accountants should not be put in charge of running the world,” he said. “Valuation, processes, R&D, intellectual capital… What is amazing about the CIO is that he is the only person in the entire organisation who ensures that all these things works.”

Michiel de Boer from Quint Wellington Redwood argued that CIOs aren’t used to looking after shareholder interests. “My job as a CIO is to understand the business strategy and to support it using the right processes, controls and risk management,” he said. “As a CEO, my objective is to get the biggest market share and to keep my shareholders happy.”


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