CIO Speak

CIOs now have a seat at the high table

CIOs should be clear on the ROI expected from the management and to make sure the ROI is realistic, asserts Saiful Bakhtiar Osman, Head, ICT, Malaysian Aviation Commission.

Do you agree that the pandemic may have created the opportunity for alternative managerial and leadership styles? What are the changes that we can expect at the top levels in 2021?

The pandemic had changed the ball game and hit many organisations real hard. This had totally change the perception of top management on the importance of IT investment in ensuring business continuity and the survival of the business. For the cases in Malaysia, CIOs now has been given an important role and seating in the high table because IT is no longer viewed as a merely Cost Centre.

Having a dispersed team working from home would require a completely different leadership and managerial approach. Now CIOs and Management need to track Project Deliveries instead of Project Activities, regularly engage the staff via internal meetings and townhall and to demonstrate empathy by being as transparent as possible in communications. All instructions must be made clear as it is not a face-to-face engagement like before which remotely may cause gaps and different interpretations. Frequent communications will instil trust between the Staff and the Management which will continue to motivate staff to perform and having shared responsibilities to the company.

CIOs role would become more important than ever to steer the business back on its feet and ensuring survival via the business continuity execution. The CIOs need to make sure the channel for communication and collaboration are intact for the business to function in dispersed locations. The right tool must be in place to track project deliveries to make sure the staff is performing well and contributing even when they are working from home. The right technology must be adopted to make sure the customer reach is possible and we are able to sell our products or render our services. For this, maybe adopting cloud would be the fastest workaround without having to invest in servers, on premise security and additional headcounts.

Going forward into 2021, what are the changes that we can expect in IT decision making and IT spending? Does the CIO need to start preparing for this?

Indeed that the pandemic has accelerated the transformation projects and online business model. However, due to the impact to business the CIOs now must adapt and reprioritise all projects based on the budget and affordability. I am sure all CIOs have may projects in the pipeline but it is time to prioritise the importance and which one will give impact to the bottom line and profit. Things like increasing the User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) should take priority because we need to retain all our customers and attracts the new potential ones to engage with our business.

CIOs should consider negotiating the existing outsourcing and contracts in terms of service structure and payment cycle. Whatever cash we could retain for business would be an added bonus so options like Quarterly payments or Monthly payments would increase the business cash flow. At the same time, CIOs should ask what more services the outsourcers could added into the existing contract to reduce our OPEX and get the most out of our current engagement.

Even the pandemic had forced many organisations to go online, the CIOs should have a good strategy in place and not blindly follow the trend i.e. adopting cloud just because everyone’s going on cloud. CIOs should be clear on the ROI expected from the management and to make sure the ROI is realistic before making decision on which technology directions that the company is heading. The role of a CIO has dramatically increases and CIOs should be well prepared to become a marketing subject matter expert, operations consultant, financial advisor and business strategist apart from the technology forte they are currently doing.

In your opinion which technology platforms have an exciting future in 2021? Who would be the new and unknown technology winners in 2021 and where would you lay your bets?

I would see IoT and Analytics to play a very important role in 2021 because these two technologies would offer a limitless potential of applications and contributions. IoT and Analytics when combined together would offer organisations an accurate real-time reference to make a swift and right decision.

In Aviation for example, having IoT sensors being placed in every part of an airplane would increase the safety and cost saving for the airlines at the same time. Whenever an airplane hit problems with any part of the engine or functions, the data collected by the sensors would be collected and analysed in analytics which then be escalated to the ground team. Hence, wherever that airplane lands next, the ground crew is already on standby with the parts and tools to rectify the problem. Having the IoT sensors also helps in knowing the overall readiness and fly worthiness of an airplane with Analytics may make predictions of the next maintenance schedule and collaborate with other data as well on which airplane to be put on operation when a particular airplane grounded for maintenance.

The same applies for other industries, whereby now its easier to track shipments, predict market sectors for larger goods distributions, mitigate wastage with real time stocks and spare parts data, making sound judgement based on real time data and react to incidents such as the recent pandemic.

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