Senior IT executives need to be more involved in the enterprise business planning process, beyond just a support role. A prominent business chief speaks about his demands on the role of the CIO. He pulls no punches when defining the role of information technology systems in the 21st century and the senior executives responsible for them.
Seah Moon Ming, president of Singapore Technologies Electronics (ST Electronics), clearly makes high demands on his IT executives and infrastructure, declaring that "IT systems must firstly be 'business-centric'."
"They are invested to drive and enable a business for the mid to long term," Seah said, "and systems must be geared towards making business processes more effective and efficient. IT efforts should simplify processes, add-value to operating divisions, and be strongly aligned to the company's business activities."
As for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) he believes they should preferably have a strong business and operating background, but operating divisions must also have a say in corporate IT systems planning and procurement.
"In ST Electronics, our IT steering committee is chaired by a business person," Seah said.
He declares that IT systems should also support organisational innovation and development. "An organisation grows to be more competitive when it constantly generates new ideas and intellectual properties," this STE president said.
Infocomms, electronics and transportation ST Electronics, is the electronics arm of ST Engineering, a prominent solutions house in the Asia Pacific region for infocommunications, advanced electronics and intelligent transportation businesses.
ST Engineering is an integrated engineering group providing solutions and services in the aerospace, electronics, land systems and marine sectors. It ranks among the biggest companies listed on the Singapore Exchange.
ST Electronics produces system solutions for government, commercial, defence, and industrial customers to more than 70 countries across the globe. It is based in Singapore, but has presence in more than 30 cities in 20 countries.
The company has a broad portfolio. Its specialties include the design, development and integration of advanced electronics and communications systems, such as broadband radio frequency and satellite communication. It develops e-Government solutions, rail and traffic management, real-time command and control systems, plus modelling and simulation, interactive digital media, intelligent building management and information security.
Resorts World at Sentosa
ST Engineering's electronics arm has recently won additional contracts for Singapore's Sentosa integrated resort project, bringing its total contracts for Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) to S$92.8 million. The contracts were awarded through ST Electronics' subsidiary, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems).
The latest S$6.8m contracts for STE involve the provision of an integrated security system, an IT infrastructure system and an 'intelligent' carpark guidance and payment system to RWS. The centrally-managed security system will provide real-time surveillance and monitoring of the resort's daily security operations.
In its announcement, STE said the integrated security system will provide integrated surveillance and video monitoring of RWS' facilities and attractions, including its casino, plus the Universal Studios Singapore.
"The security and efficiency that will result from this system provided by ST Electronics will be translated to enhancing the guest experience when RWS opens to 15 million visitors in its first year of operations," RWS's executive vice president, projects, Michael Chin, said at the time of the announcement.
Seah said these additional contracts was a testimony to RWS' confidence in ST Electronics' solutions.
"We are delighted that our proven technologies, related services and expertise will be showcased in Singapore's landmark IR project," he said.
ST Electronics has expertise in intelligent building management and security solutions and lists some of its projects as the Dubai Festival City, Thai Airways Security Centre and Beijing's Capital Museum. It has also established large-scale info-communication network for the Maldives Government.
As to the impact of the current financial uncertainty in the world, Seah acknowledges that cost management is important.
"IT budgets will need to be carefully reviewed, re-allocated or spaced out," he said. "Company CIOs will have to be more innovative, to do more or the same with less."
Seah said that it as difficult to measure the return on investment of IT systems as the outcome is not direct or easily quantifiable, but he believes the ROI for major IT projects should not be more than five years.
Service level agreements
ST Electronics implements Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between its corporate IT department and its users in the operating business divisions. These SLAs measure IT systems effectiveness as well as the quality of service and support provided by the IT department.
"But we do want our people who are directly accountable for the company's profits to be satisfied with the IT systems and services they have, given the budget the company has committed," Seah said.
He warns there are mistakes and traps that enterprise executives can fall into when managing major IT projects.
"As the saying goes, 'too many cooks spoil the broth'," Seah said.
"This holds true especially when managing IT projects with too many and diverse user inputs as it can easily lead to loss of focus, delays, higher costs, and hence compromising the quality of work and eventually, the result.
"ST Electronics allows for free discussions among our users. The IT steering committee will consider the inputs, prioritise and then make decisions that address the needs of the Group as a whole."
Better CIO recognition
The president of STE believes the role of IT and the CIO are important and should be better recognised and integrated with the business planning process for enterprises.
"CIOs should be more plugged-into the enterprise business planning process to enable them to play more than just a support role," he said.
"CIOs need to be part of the executive team and to be very aware of enterprise plans, because they need to provide innovative inputs to ensure the achievement of these. In order to become more involved, CIOs need to contribute business related ideas that improve enterprise business strategies."
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