Engaging the Board Series in Conversation with Mr Seah Moon Ming - 28 June 2013
On June 28th, the majestic Alkaff Mansion played host to 60 of the leading Chief Information Officers and IT industry leaders in Singapore. The evening's festivities included a scrumptious meal, beautiful music, and of course the highlight, an energizing talk by much acclaimed Group CEO of Pavilion Energy and Senior Managing Director of Temasek International, Mr Seah Moon Ming.
The 3rd ITMA CIO Executive Program dinner event continued the theme of "Engaging the Board", and in his talk Mr Seah focused on the topic of the changing role of CIOs. Mr Seah began his presentation by emphasising the importance of the Board of Directors; indeed he likened them to a "powerful God-like committee". Nevertheless, they are still human beings who need accurate information in order to make reasoned decisions.
Mr Seah explained that the Board's most important roles are to ensure that the business runs smoothly and to look after the interests of shareholders, employees, and creditors alike.
He juxtaposed this by highlighting that the Board has little or no experience in IT, and that they are usually guided by the CEO. Hence, the main job of the CIO then becomes to inform the Board on topics related to IT and to assist the CEO in communicating with the Board. In doing both tasks, the CIO must demonstrate the value of IT to the Board.
Mr Seah then went into more detail regarding the specifics of a CIO's role. The importance of technology in products, services and communications, has expanded the role of a CIO, formerly called an "IT Manager". Indeed, the CIO's role goes beyond simply keeping the software up-to-date. He must be able to grow the business to remain competitive and find strategies to spur innovation.
First, the CIO must be able to guide the company's IT agenda which is the "IT" part of the CIO's role. This may seem obvious, but it is important to stay cognizant of the fact that the CIO is still in charge of the technology within the company. A part of this role is to demonstrate the return on investment for IT-related projects to the Board.
Second, the CIO must tame the vast data resources to enable project leaders to make better decisions. This is the "Information" part of the CIO's role which is to leverage on information as an asset. In so doing, CIOs should also protect the organization against cyber thefts and threats, failing which the organization's and Board's reputation will be at stake.
Third, the CIO must be able to spur innovation, drive growth and answer the question "how can we use IT to do things better?"
Mr Seah cited the SARS epidemic as an example of how CIOs helped manage the situation by spreading the IT infrastructure across many locations. In short, CIOs helped sustain the business by using IT.
Mr Seah, concluded that the "I" in CIO should now stand for Chief "Innovation" Officer as the role must be seen less about developing & deploying technology and more as a source of innovation and transformation that delivers business value and leverages technology. In sum, the role of CIO must be strategic, rather than tactical.
In ending his talk, Mr Seah, spoke briefly about many of the new terms entering the CIO lexicon, such as "social media evangelist", "cloud integration specialist", "user experience guru", "information insights enabler" and "technology broker". He stressed that a CIO must be able to embody all of these roles in order to serve his company and Board.
The evening concluded with a lovely musical piece and a delicious meal and Planning Committee member, Ms Poh Lai Khim, presented the highlights of the upcoming 7th ITMA CIO Executive Program & Study Trip to the global hub of technology and innovation: Silicon Valley. The trip will include visits to major tech company in Silicon Valley, including Google, Dreamworks, and Facebook, as well as discussions with leading technologists, including Ray Kuzweil, Mark McLaughlin, and David Helgason, amongst others. Signup early and book your seat on the trip!
We look forward to you joining us for the next event, the ITMA CIO Executive Summit 2013 on 24 July 2013 from 2pm to 8pm at the Hotel Intercontinental Singapore. There will be a host of illuminary speakers including John Sculley, the former CEO of PepsiCo and Apple Computer. This is certainly an event not to be missed!