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YCH Group looks to Web 2.0

Logistics company is monitoring potential role of Web 2.0 in improving user experience and communication, says CIO James Loo.

Unfazed by the current economic downturn, YCH Group is tapping its experience dealing with previous market slumps, from which the logistics player learnt to be more agile.

YCH CIO James Loo said the company may now have a smaller IT budget as a result of the financial meltdown, but this will have little impact on his plans to look at new strategy technologies. In fact, the credit crisis only serves to heighten the importance of being "even more accurate in anticipating the needs of our business users", Loo noted.

James Loo,
CIO
YCH Group
Following the recent rise of Web 2.0, we are tracking this to see how to exploit such tools to improve user experience on various systems and solutions.

Moving forward, YCH will also be looking at how it can exploit Web 2.0 tools to improve user experience, while at the same time, ensuring that security and other business best practices are maintained.

What is YCH's top IT priority for the next 12 months?
Loo: We just embarked on our new three-year ICT plan at YCH, having invested heavily in upgrading and consolidating our ICT infrastructure and applications for the SCM (supply chain management) business. These include data centers consolidation, investing on a robust MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) network and moving onto an open source platform. We are ready to further exploit these investments to power both our new and existing businesses.

Therefore, we will continue to focus on deployment and finetuning the infrastructure and business applications, and cleaning up those little "islands" in the region to leverage the new IT environment.

We are now also ready to relook business intelligence at another strategic level, in real-time, to put more value on the information we've already captured and work with our customers and their customer and supplier communities. Our R&D (research and development) effort in building our own business solutions for the customers will be focused on all relevant technologies for both end-users and techies, toward what we called SCM II (Intelligence & Innovation). This will be the strategic focus of our current three-year ICT Plan.

What key IT projects are you working on, or will be working on, over the next 12 months?
We will be working on a new class of real-time business intelligence applications, and continue with our effort to deploy our award-winning (NIA 2008) RFID-enabled High Performance Supply Chain Nerve Centre offering into the region.

Following the recent rise of Web 2.0, we are also tracking the segment to see how to exploit this cluster of technologies for the enterprise to improve user experience on the various systems and solutions. At the same time, though, this has to be evaluated against our system security and information integrity policies and practices, as we are the first SCM solution provider in the world to achieve ISO 28000 certification for our holistic security system management approach.

What's your main IT challenge and how do you plan to address it?
With the financial meltdown, we don't think we can be spared. We will have less in our budget to invest. Hence, we have to be even more accurate in anticipating the needs of our business users, to empower them with the right IT tools and solutions so that they can be faster and better.

Luckily for YCH Group, we had successfully spun off IT operations as a standalone with its own P&L (profits and losses) since the last dot-com bust in 2000. We learned from those days to stay lean and mean. This allows us to be a little more agile and emerge better from market downturns, such as September 11 and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The other issue is getting really skilled resources to develop and deploy our advanced software applications, which I think will continue into 2009. I guess we are a victim of our own success because, as we are able to anticipate and invest heavily to train our team in the required strategic technologies such as SOA (service oriented architecture), Web services, mobility and RFID (radio frequency identification) technologies, our competitors target our staff for their own recruitment.

We had an exceptionally difficult time toward the end of last year, into the first half of this year in terms of staff retention. It is not easy for us to replace these highly-skilled and trained resources because we are early adopters and exploited the technologies for our leading-edge SCM solutions for our customers. We will have to continue to train in-house, and work with training institutions with various programs and scholarships to make sure we always have a talent pool to tap into.

What's the IT development/trend taking place in the industry now that you believe will most impact YCH?
We will be monitoring development in the open source and Web 2.0 realms. We need to have the freedom to support YCH growth with a highly scalable IT environment.

At the same time, especially for our industry to move toward offering open community-based collaborative applications, we need to use the rich user interface in the Web 2.0 world to enhance our solutions for our users. It will change the way we communicate and interact with and through the systems, as well as with the way people work at and with YCH. I hope this will further enhance all the user experience on our systems.