APAC CIOs' tough act to lead global enterprise IT

As the global economy's epicenter shifts from the West to Asia-Pacific, CIOs here are under "tremendous pressure" to step up and lead enterprise IT forward, says Accenture exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Chief information officers (CIOs) in the Asia-Pacific region are facing "tremendous pressure" to step up and lead in building technologically-advanced enterprise IT infrastructures, as well as reducing IT budgets while juggling more projects with less resources, according to an Accenture executive.

Kenneth Corless, deputy CIO for the global technology service and consultancy provider, noted that as the global economy's epicenter continues to shift toward the Asia-Pacific region, CIOs here have to change their mindsets. This will be from simply "taking orders for IT equipment" to taking the lead in building an enterprise IT system that incorporates IT functions with business needs.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia after his presentation at the CIO Workshop held on Tuesday, the Accenture executive said the huge growth expectations for the region is forcing CIOs here to face "tremendous pressure" to build an enterprise IT infrastructure that is provisioned for the future.

"The average shelf life of a CIO here is about three-and-a-half years, and if these executives want to stay the course, they are likely to not take too many risks," noted Corless.

However, he went on to add that there are "rewards" to be had for CIOs who do take such risks, noting that this is more likely to happen with companies which have a "smaller base" compared with large, established multinational organizations.

"For companies with such risk-taking CIOs, I don't see why there can't be several Google-like success stories--meaning small startups that come from nowhere to exert global dominance--emerging from this region," the deputy CIO said.

Corless added that the biggest constraints for such successes to happen depend on government attitudes. He cited Singapore as a positive example of a government that is pro-business and having the right infrastructure to foster success.

In terms of the region's IT transformation process, the executive pointed out that Asia-Pacific companies in general fall under the category of "effectiveness", but remain in the early-to-middle stages within the category.

He went on to explain that the transformation process comprises three stages--"Established IT, Efficiency and Effectiveness"--and most of the companies here are still trying to rationalize their IT costs within the context of establishing effective business processes.

Embrace inter-organization collaboration
Within the "effectiveness" stage, Corless noted that collaboration tools play a definitive part in encouraging inter-office efficiencies. He cited the example of Accenture's "People Pages" and how if he needed to speak to someone with software-as-a-service (SaaS) expertise, he could just search within this platform and e-mail or IM (instant message) the relevant people almost immediately.

Such collaborative tools, he pointed out, are particularly relevant for the younger generation who have been "exposed to Web 2.0 since young".

To avoid the risk of having employees post up sensitive client information on social-networking sites like Facebook, Accenture "created a similar platform [which is People Pages] within the safety of our enterprise network for them to vent", said Corless.

While Accenture's solution is not a foolproof one, it will lower the hazard of information leaks from within the organization, he added.

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