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CIO Interview: Setting Up a Customer-centric Campus Network

T.C. Seow | Dec. 9, 2014
How the CIO of the Singapore Management University sets expectations and gains mindshare to push for a customer-centric campus-wide network for all.

Lau Kai Cheong, CIO, SMU
Photo: Lau Kai Cheong, CIO, Singapore Management University.

Established in 2000, the Singapore Management University (SMU) is internationally recognised for its world-class research and distinguished teaching. It is known for its interactive and technologically enabled pedagogy of seminar-style teaching in small class sizes. Home to over 8,300 undergraduate and postgraduate students, besides administrative and teaching faculty members, this city campus of just 5.4 hectares present unique challenges to its IT department in ensuring safe, seamless and robust wireless networks.

In an exclusive interview, Lau Kai Cheong, CIO and Vice President, Integrated Information Technology Services (IITS), SMU, shares with CIO Asia his thoughts on running a customer-centric IT that serves not just the campus but also the larger community within the campus location.

Question: In your role as the CIO of SMU, how much have you achieved since you came on board in 2010 and what remains to be achieved?

Lau Kai Cheong: When I first came on board, the first thing I wanted to do was to make sure that our processes were streamlined and that they become customer-focussed. IITS was formed from a merger of three separate IT departments, and each had its own ways of doing things. I needed to forge a common "language" so that there would be better understanding and awareness of where the boundaries were. Our end users who are our "customers" wanted to see IT as one unit, which means that everybody must have the same view of how a service is delivered end to end. Processes were to me the key thing.

And how did I achieve that understanding? We adopted the framework called COBIT as well as ITIL, learned from others, got ourselves trained and certified so that we could claim that we have the prerequisite knowledge. But that's only the easy part. What followed was a long process of we coming together to define the processes that are relevant and be put in place. This is something we've achieved collectively, because I want them (IT staff ) to own the processes so that they would have a sense of responsibility. It's about acquiring the prerequisite knowledge so that they know how to move forward. And to do that, they must understand what to look for, where to set the KPIs and put in the system and make sure that it works.

Looking at the three key groups of users—students, staff and faculty—how is your department handle disruptive technologies like mobility, social media and so on?

First is to get the basics right. We revamped the network infrastructure to ensure it's stable, scalable, and secure networks. Otherwise, people can't work. For SMU, we're a city campus and we straddle across many roads, so we're a wireless campus. The emphasis is on good, solid wireless infrastructure. Now we have 99 percent coverage. And there are plans to expand coverage into the green field areas. That's the capacity issue.


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