Duncan Fisken – unmoved by tech excesses

Duncan Fisken, managing director (Asia Pacific) of e-business solutions provider Netegrity, is not about to succumb to the superfluous overspill of technological trappings that surround us.

Duncan FiskenDuncan Fisken, managing director (Asia Pacific) of e-business solutions provider Netegrity, is not about to succumb to the superfluous overspill of technological trappings that surround us. To him, the blitz of information that hits us through the Internet, e-mail and mobile phones is more than we can ever digest. And in-flight e-mail? Heavens forbid!

Read more about the 49-year-old British who has spent twenty-one years in the Singapore communications industry.

Can you share with us the contributions you've made to the IT industry?
I like to think that whatever I have done has been associated with a leading edge technology of the day, whether it was low-cost long-haul radio data communications for the oil and gas sector, or developing Singapore as a center of excellence in secure payments solutions during my time with Racal Electronics. Perhaps my claim to fame is being the first to introduce and evangelize the need for anti virus software into Singapore back in the mid-80s.

Is there a role model whom you look up to?
I don’t really have a single role model, but two personalities that I admire greatly are Sir Richard Branson and Sir Cliff Richard. Branson because he started with virtually nothing, built an immensely successful business organisation and obviously enjoys himself. Cliff Richard, because he has managed to combine success without compromising his principles. What that means to me is that it is possible to be successful, have fun and remain true to your beliefs. If you ask me about an Asian role model, then I would have to say Aung San Syu Chi, for simply having the courage of her convictions in the face of extraordinary adversity.

Which aspect(s) of the Asian culture do you think makes for a good or bad business edge in the global IT market?
Asians are great innovators (take Sim Wong Hoo of Creative Technology for example) and I think that has resulted in a lot of really neat stuff out there in the global market. Another aspect that I think is very positive is the willingness to adopt new technology and leverage it for competitive advantage. Singapore’s telecommunications infrastructure is a prime example; it is light years ahead of just about everywhere else, including the West. On the negative side perhaps is the tendency for many Asians still to think that the rules of the game that apply in their national markets are equally valid in the global market – which is absolutely not the case. Guanxi might be all-important for a deal in China but not, for example, in the US.

We have more tools, better technology, but less time. What happened?
The tools and the technology are certainly better, but we have become slaves to them. The proliferation of the Internet, email and mobile phones has set the expectations that we are all contactable round the clock wherever we happen to be. The expectation is therefore instant gratification. Coupled with the problems of junk e-mail and the propensity of people to c.c. you completely unnecessarily, your entire day can easily be spent in dealing with e-mail. We are constantly bombarded with information, far more than we can ever hope to digest. We have less time to think, to step back and try to see the strategic picture. It was therefore with great dismay that I read of airlines introducing in-flight email. That will not, in my opinion, add to productivity.

What do you do to de-stress?
I travel a great deal so spending time with my family is really important. I also sporadically work on improving my golf swing, I read a great deal and watch the National Geographic channel on cable to remind me that there is a higher order at work in our lives.

Which Web sites do you visit most often?
I don’t surf the Web for fun, but for information and news, so my most frequently used Web sites would probably be CBS MarketWatch and the BBC World Service, plus of course www.netegrity.com!

What is your most prized possession?
Well, I don’t think I have any material things that I would consider “prized possessions”, but the most important “thing” in my life is my family. My family and their future is the main driver behind what I do these days.

More about People: Managing Asia.

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