Challenges for CIOs in digital transformation

SINGAPORE - Chief information officers (CIOs) must use business speak not tech jargon if they are to help board members and senior management tackle the digital tsunami that threatens to disrupt industries.


Mr James Woo, CIO of the healthcare firm The Farrer Park Company, suggests that CIOs drop the tech jargon and focus on explaining the relevance and usefulness of ICT in business language.


Use charts, graphs and pictures, he said to demonstrate the use of infocomm technologies (ICT) in the business.


"Visualisation helps people get a better idea of the relationships between ICT and the different business units, how they work and synergise together," said Mr Woo at a CIO Forum held in conjunction with CommunicAsia last week at the Marina Bay Sands convention centre.

He was speaking to about 50 CIOs on how they can help businesses design and implement new digital systems to meet competition as well as to provide better customer support. 


This was his key strategy he embarked on when designing a new ICT blueprint from scratch five years ago for The Farrer Park Company which wanted to build a hospital and hotel complex, now in operation. 


From this experience, he has distilled five tips for CIOs tasked with building new ICT systems. 

1.     Get buy-in from the board on ICT vision. Mr Woo's vision was to ensure that all the ICT blueprint would be future proof and that relevant changes can be made without having to tear down any system.

2.     Present ICT budget only after the board and senior management have greenlighted the ICT blueprint. "No point talking of costs when the ICT blueprint isn't approved. It's like having a sampan without the motor".

3.     Use Internet Protocol standard on which the Internet is based as the basic "highway". Almost all electronic components and devices today run on IP and can be linked to this highway.

4.     Link equipment including non-ICT equipment like audio-visual devices to the IP network: This will ensure that data can be collected to give insights to improve medical care and operations.

5.     Go beyond the ICT boundary: The CIO office should remain flexible and take on non-ICT projects like implementing closed circuit TV systems. Since these systems will be linked to the IP network, the ICT team can do this more effectively.


 According to tech research company Gartner, CIO job specifications are also changing.

Citing Garter figures Mr P Rama, deputy chief executive of CIOAcademy said that 75 per cent of businesses by 2020 will have digital projects but only 30 per cent will succeed because of lack of talent and tech expertise.


Senior management and CIOs must work together to manage employees during the digital business transformation, he said at the opening of the CIO Forum.


"Employees will resist change, so they need to be convinced of the benefits of new digital systems and strategy. Management must also be aware that implementation will be impacted by high turnover and inter-departmental transfers."


 If the people issue is managed well, then half the battle is won, he added.