With credibility comes success, says CIO

Companies want their IT heads to be strategic players and improve operating performance, not just reduce cost, notes CIO of Malaysia's social security body.

KUALA LUMPUR--Chief information officers (CIOs) striving to get buy-in and support from board members need to build good credibility with top management if they are to succeed, says a top government official.

Andy Tan, CIO and senior general manager of Malaysia's Employees Provident Fund (EPF), said a CIO's credibility among board members is paramount, and his integrity would likely determine whether budgets are approved or not.

"A CIO must understand the criteria by which they are judged because at the end of the day, it's a matter of perception," said Tan, during a media briefing Tuesday held on the sidelines of a CXO event hosted by Compuware. "If a CIO doesn't have credibility, he won't get budget and support [from the board] despite having great proposals; if he has the credibility, there will be no problems."

The EPF is Malaysia's national social security organization which provides retirement benefits to its registered members. In 2006, the EPF recorded revenues totaling US$4.78 billion.

Tan said a CIO must strive to build a good track record by meeting every goal set by the board. He noted that when targets are met, board members' confidence in their CIO will grow. This assurance will then encourage them to approve IT budgets and plans more easily.

"When undertaking projects, a CIO must clearly understand the requirements of the board. He must meet their deadlines, budget targets and achieve what he sets out to do," Tan explained.

Besides cultivating strong credibility, he said, CIOs need to be represented at the top management and to articulate their vision in terms of the business and not technology.

Frost & Sullivan's consulting director Siew Kam Choon added that the CIO's role today has evolved from someone who merely builds IT infrastructure and helps his company save money, to one who must be able to create value for the business.

A guest speaker at the briefing, Siew said CEOs not only want their CIOs to deliver the promise of lowering cost, which new technologies claim to be able to do, but to help accelerate the delivery of new products and capabilities to the market.

"They want CIOs to become strategic players and achieve improved operating performance beyond the realm of cost reduction," he said.

Faster access to funds
Meanwhile, the EPF's Tan said the country's provident fund has benefited from the implementation of a three-year IT master plan, which ran from 2003 to 2006. The IT strategy, implemented at the cost of 200 million ringgit (US$62.5 million) over the three years, was aimed at replacing the EPF's core IT systems.

Tan noted that much of the EPF's ageing systems needed to be upgraded because its members today are more IT-savvy, and its legacy systems could not deliver value to customers.

"Today, members can access their records through our portal, as well as our self service kiosk," he said. "Also, previously, it took three days for members to receive their retirement funds; now [the funds] can be credited to their account within a day."

"Simply put, our new systems have effectively allowed us to be more responsive to our members' queries and requests, and have improved our customer service delivery."

Tan added that, internally, the implementation of an enterprise management portal enabled EPF employees--located in its 63 offices across Malaysia--to communicate more efficiently.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.