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MTRC CIO charts transformation path

Chee-Sing Chan | Feb. 13, 2014
Being a consistent standard-bearer for world-class public transport systems, the MTR Corporation (MTR) is no stranger to awards. Almost all rail operators and city-wide transport networks cast envious looks at the MTR for its efficiency, quality service levels and sheer reliability to shift more than five million passengers daily with smooth precision and metronomic timing.

Business integration
Suen's philosophy and single most important objective in this ongoing IT strategy is to transform the whole department into a more business-focused IT services organization.

The characteristics that Suen wants to create are:

1 For IT to fully understand all business-related challenges but at the same time know how to apply the latest technologies to these business demands.

2 Develop the ability at many levels to translate the business priorities into technology priorities

Suen noted that the most critical challenges have been around a few key aspects. Most important has been the mindset and cultural change, in particular around what constitutes real KPIs and success.

"The past was all about project delivery and successful implementations within budget and timeline." But what the department was missing was a measurement of the business results from each project,as well as a more proactive approach to working with the business.

Standout changes that are enabling the transformation include a key change within the IT strategy and architecture team, a shift in the collaboration within the applications team, plus the establishment of a transformation team to follow through on the transformation goals.

Within the strategy and architecture team, new roles were created in the form of Business Portfolio Managers (BPM) who have been tasked with the responsibility of being dedicated account managers for different user departments. These BPMs act as the key focal point between business users and IT.

"But these are more than traditional business analysts," noted Suen. "By being dedicated to the users and working proactively and continuously the engagement is much more collaborative and proactive."

Shuffling of roles
Instead of IT simply reacting to ad-hoc project demands, these BPMs can now look to create year-long strategic plans for technology to support user demands.

"Our new approach is a major shift from the past project-centric method and enables more prototyping and innovation for the business," said Suen.

These business portfolio managers will also gather to consolidate and share their knowledge so that key information can be passed on to the enterprise architects enabling them to develop more complete IT roadmaps for the departments as wells as for the company as a whole.

Another key change has been the separation of key duties within the applications team. Suen noted that often project managers would manage the whole application lifecycle which would create problems if these project managers get caught in an application outage or failure.

By having to devote all immediate time to resolving these issues, the project managers would often neglect their other duties. Often people in these roles may be tasked with maintenance of applications which are not suited to them so this change in role has helped staff stay focused in their specialist areas and within their skillsets.

 

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