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Chin SengTeo, CIO, Chief Integrating Officer, DP World
Recently, amongst my technology peers, we discussed the 5nm, and 7 nm wafer technology. It stems from a technology trade war. The game is that increasing miniaturization will result in a higher density of circuitry, faster transmission of data, and less heat generation. It would translate to better microprocessors that will help us to drive the big computing needs of Artificial Intelligence, 5G devices, IoT, Image processing, and more.
From the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the expanding universe of the propagation of technology into our daily lives like robotics, cloud-based services like teleconferencing, the extension of the virtual world towards a MetaVerse, or the potential replacement of paper currencies with blockchain type of technology, and more.
As a CIO, the technology leader in an organization,we need to be aware of the evolution of technology andunderstand potential disruptions in business models, products, and consumer shifts. We are expected to keep pace with all these happenings by bringing in technologies to enable our organizations to change their business models with digitalization. CIOs come through a discipline legacy of standards, order, architecture, and strong adherence to governance and controls. These are disciplines that are still relevant in this new world, but the approach to achieving these goals has to change. In many ways, this change involves the digitalization and integration of the CIO, which is the topic of this article. Perhaps, we could call ourselves Chief Integrating Officers.
Technical capabilities and Business Knowledge: With the development of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the introduction of robots, autonomous machines, Big Data, and Image Processing, which are types of new technologies that organizations can use, we will not be able to recruit enough talents to know and support these areas of Technologies. They are talents that are outside the traditional IT and are in demand. Furthermore, if we are to change business processes and models, we require talents that have Business knowledge with IT knowledge. This is one of the greatest challenges of a CIO, talent management. Realistically, this cannot be resolved by just indefinite hiring as we have a finite budget. Furthermore, the diversity in different domains of knowledge will make it very difficult to manage these talents together. We need to forge alliances and partnerships to get access to these talents. They could be at academic institutions, specialized consulting companies, or even research institutions, etc, They become members of your extended team. These talents and our in-house talents are the first tasks that a CIO needs to integrate into their plans.
Infrastructure and Assets:Our datacenters, our technology infrastructures, are increasingly moved into cloud services. We are buying specialized services for our office automation, electronic commerce platforms, analytics services, etc. Even our traditional ERP, CRM, and MRP, are hosted by the vendors as cloud services. It adds a layer of concern to security and data management. These systems and services are new realities that a CIO has to consider for Governance management, Security, and Data Confidentiality. Therefore this is the second integration point of a CIO, Working with our infrastructure and with others that we are using as a service.
Business Models and Services
In recent times, many digital platforms appeared and became successful with a huge subscriber base. Such platforms include eCommerce sites, Sales and Services automation, talent recruitment, etc, to expand the outreach of organizations, CIOs needs to integrate into these platforms for a seamless internal and external customer experience. We can take a strategy of trying to reinvent the functions of these platforms, internally. But for a CIO, this is not a wise choice as their resources can be better used to Create Products and Services that help your organization to be more competitive. You will gain much “Time to Market” and reduce the complexity of supporting one more platform. The CIO investment will be in technical integration and workflow integration. We should never leave the external platforms at our doorsteps and use its services in a manual transaction manner. But integrating them with our internal workflows as if they are our internal platform. Experience has shown that as these platforms have economies of scale, they do a better job providing the value of these systems when compared to an internally developed application.
Chief Integration Officer, Business-Technology architecture. The agility of the CIO’s organization creates the ability to support the Evolution of your organization's business models. Agility if mismanaged, will result in business disruptions, compromised security and privacy, or even create huge customer satisfaction issues. It is a tug of war where the CIO determines the velocity of innovation and guards the robustness and resilience of their technology landscape. As these landscapes become more complex with the moving parts of changing business needs for product innovation and rapidly changing customers needs. As our technology landscape becomes wider to include third-party systems and more direct access by our employees and customers, we need to consider the risk of security breaches/ data privacy exposure.Many of the recent outcries of data breaches, and privacy issues, may partially be related to hasty deployments of new solutions from a large technology infrastructure.
Our systems have become an intertwined integration of multiple systems where if the weakest links fail, the entire ecosystem fails. The only way that we can mitigate these risks is through an integrated view of our technology landscape. This logical approach is very difficult to do in practice as the knowledge is with multiple people, the quality of documentation varies, and can be faulty due to version controls or mistakes. For this reason, many CIOs have invested heavily in tools to manage enterprise architecture, managing IT Governance, enterprise data management, and security management.Therefore we do have many components to develop a well-detailed enterprise model for our Business and Technology processes and systems. It is not a static view of your landscape, we need to ensure that all relevant owners keep their components, updated. Why is this important, an enterprise view of your landscape? There are many benefits, but I will highlight a few key points that can help the CIO to be successful.
It is a Good reference model for leadership, operations, and business process owners to use for discussion of current, and potential future possibilities.
Overlay with current and future business processes, the CIO organization can use this to maintain, design new systems and mitigate risk
A disciplined way of documenting these will ensure that we can modularise and standardize each subsystem.
The ability to design our infrastructure towards a Modular Approach will ensure that we are Agile and responsive to innovations without compromising our core systems.
As a CIO, the technology leader in an organization, we need to be aware of the evolution of technology and understand potential disruptions in business models, products, and consumer shifts
The reality of Disruptive Change due to Innovation. Existing business processes are the mainstay of our organizations. We are conscious that if we do not transform our businesses through digitalization, our future could be threatened. To maintain a robust existing technology platform, we can be enforcing strict governance controls and all of us know that this slows down transformation. But we cannot just allow aggressive integration into the existing infrastructure as It will compromise security, system stability, and data leaks. Is there a compromising approach to resolve this challenge? Or are there different approaches that can allow us to have the best of both worlds?
Designing a complex machine. If we can take a page of experience from the engineering world. We may be able to adapt to design and disrupt our technology infrastructure. Many of the approaches have been designed in our CIO landscape. What we need to raise awareness and consciousness is in developing a “Machine”. As a CIO of many complex organizations, I have been using this approach with success. There are two key areas to consider:
Modules and integration
Maintenance and Upgrades
Modules and Integration: The CIO landscape is already one that consists of Modules of Internal Systems like your ERP, CRM, etc, and external systems like your Cloud solutions,eCommerce, and Financial Services. They are integrated based on defined standards and data structures. We can gather these technical definitions and documentation into the document of defining your Modules. As with the ERP system, each of us implements them differently, so the connectivity and integration specifications will be different and unique. With the “Specifications” of your modules, you will have a tool to re-engineer your business processes or include new ecosystems. It helps to accelerate the initial ideas or business approaches into possibilities of implementation in your organization. The subsequent steps are the next level of details of technical integration like security, data, etc, and business process integration of existing organizational processes. The Machine Modules Specification approach allows us to quickly assess potential Services and Business Models that can be integrated into our environment, or determine an Idea from a discussion about a New Business Approach that your organization wants to test. Traditionally, CIO will need months to get the IT organization to evaluate, but with such an approach, we can quickly Prototype on paper, and work out the feasibility in the subsequent steps.
Maintenance and Upgrades. We heard the stories of doing maintenance on the engine when it is running. A dangerous and unpredictable approach. In engineering, often, they design for a module to be swapped during maintenance. In Information Technology, we use hot swapping or systems switched over. Our systems are designed based on System availability and we set up redundancies. The strategy is to have a standby system that is synched with the live system, so we are taking a “same-same” approach. But if we take an additional step of creating standardizations at our modules, we can use these redundant infrastructures to swap with an upgrade module for testing and deployment. The key to these examples is that CIOs can use their existing resources to modify/redeploy to make the CIO organization to be more agile and reactive. In my experience, I am unable to standardize all to be modular, but for those that are critical and have a high chance of connecting to future new systems, I would invest.I also do not have a large development team on stand-by to do the necessary coding and translation, but I use the implementation or upgrading projects to inject some of these standards. But having these discipline enable Innovation with mitigating risk management.
But Information Technology is not like a machine. Within IT, it is more complex than just swapping a module in a machine, we have data, identity management, and state of processes issues to consider. The evolution of Cloud-based Technologies and Solutions has created standards in data communication/ integration like web services. The CIO of today cannot just solve an integration problem and leave it at that state, like during project implementation. But we need to get our team to look into translating these into more standardized services. We have crossed this path before, where software solutions commit data directly into our database, and we migrate to a data commit through a service. It will be tedious and of little advantage to doing these standardizations within each module, let the vendors do that, but we are defining the boundaries of key modules. The more work we do to create standards in services within our environment, the more agile will be the CIO organization to meet the requirements of innovation and transformation.
Chief Integrating Officer. Our world is facing an avalanche of Digitalization Tsunami. We, the traditional CIO cannot remain “traditional”. But our sacred responsibility is to keep the light on and ensure strong governance, this responsibility often retards our speed to change. Often a startup or a group that is outside our areas is sending in to disrupt our calm and stability. We need to integrate ourselves, our robust technology environment, our changing organization, our changing environment, and evolving technology, to deliver sustainable growth and change. The examples that I gave, it is one perspective of how we can evolve from our comfort zone by doing more to make our infrastructure more agile and modular. The intention is to show how we can be the CIO and the Chief Innovation/ Digitalization Officer, by integrating our old (Stable Infrastructures) and the future (changing innovation needs). This integration is not easy as other non-technology forces are at play like the capabilities of the CIO, organization culture, or the CIO team. But what is certain, the CIO needs to change.