Over coffee a couple of weeks back, I had an interesting chat with a Singapore-based CIO who listed a string of deployments and potential projects that he was either working on or currently evaluating.
He works for a company that has the biggest share of the market it plays in. And in my opinion, while the technologies it has implemented isn't exactly new and cutting-edge, the company is way ahead of its main rivals in terms of IT adoption.
The organization's Web portal supports a robust e-commerce platform, and it's clear from the features and functionalities the site offers, that the company believes a strong online presence is a critical component of its overall business strategy. This isn't always the case for many traditional non-IT companies in Asia.
As the CIO described his plans for the upcoming months, he spoke enthusiastically about Web 2.0 and the enormous potential he sees in deploying community-based components by tapping the company's customer loyalty program, which already has some 200,000 members. He also touched on some new mobile payment tools that he's currently evaluating and hopes to deploy once he deems them relevant for the company's customer base.
I expressed my surprise that, amid his account of what's on his to-do list, he never once mentioned the arduous task of having to first come up with a proposal to convince his management team that all the new IT deployments are necessary.
The CIO laughed and replied that he's lucky because the one guy who matters, aka his CEO, has been supportive in most of the company's IT implementations. His CEO understands the role technology can play in enhancing customer experience, as well as opening up new revenue stream for the business.
Unfortunately, this isn't exactly a typical corporate scenario in Asia.
We've read the headlines often enough, about how important it is that a company must have "top-down" leadership to drive any new major IT deployment. If the management isn't there to lead the change, employees are unlikely to adopt new technology and the implementation will fail to deliver the promised benefits.
But while it's said often enough, it's still hardly prevalent in the real business world. We still hear about CIOs and other IT heads noting how tough it is to get the executive board to approve each new tech deployment, and how every IT dollar needs to be justified.
According to this year's ZDNet Asia IT Priorities Survey, which polled some 722 IT decision makers across the region, 16.6 percent highlighted issues such as increasing profitability and reducing costs, as their top concerns.
Springboard Research CEO Dane Anderson noted that CIOs are now more strategically involved in the business, where their roles are no longer just about managing the company's IT infrastructure.
If that is indeed the case, it is then more imperative now than ever that IT heads get the top support they need from their peers in the management team.
CIOs should still have their eye on ensuring IT investments are tightly aligned with their company's business strategy, and that the usual ROI studies are conducted before a new IT deployment is given the go-ahead. But, if they find themselves spending more time trying to justify every IT dollar, than they should on assessing the next new technology that will put the company ahead of its competitors, then something is probably wrong somewhere.