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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.

To do this, obviously you must have the support from the very top. When I first came on board, the first thing we did was to look at what were the things we need to have—to get our base right. To me, the infrastructure is like the foundation of a building. Without a strong foundation, you can never build computing that reaches greater heights. Using this analogy, I explained what pieces we needed to put in place to meet that basic requirements over the next three years. I secured the budget that I needed, to do the necessary to make sure the university has a strong sound footing to launch further programmes. I must say I'm fortunate to have very supportive management.

What about support from your staff?

In order to do all these things, you must get the people to be with you.What are the things we need to forge a unified vision and mission? Sometimes you need to give direction but to get buy-in you need to get them to involved in crafting that mission statement. We went through brainstorming sessions, offsite meetings, and various exercises to forge greater cohesiveness amongst my staff.

I forced them to work with each other, know each other, and know each other's working style. But this team building is not a one-off thing. Every two to three months, there will be a mini team building activity.

And they go for DISC profiling, which is a behavioural profiling system widely used in recruitment. And I make them sit for a test. How would you react under different situations. Team building exercise to discuss how a D person could work with I person, and so on. This gets into the "heart" of the training. It's through all these that they get to know each other.

How do you keep your staff abreast with technological development?

IT is always moving so fast. To keep abreast of different areas, we check out what's out there on the Internet which is like the encyclopaedia. We have access to Gartner [research] and other market reports, understand what's at the horizon, and talk to vendors. We also do a lot of PoC (proof of concept), and deep dives. PoC's can range from weeks to months. We have a mini lab for testing and monitoring. Thirdly is going to visit other places. We do a bit of local tours to other institutes of higher learning to exchange views and to learn from. We also attend seminars and conferences to keep informed and to meet other professionals in similar fields.

 

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