CIOs today must help business grow rather than just bringing cost savings, said Susanna Shen, head of corporate IT for Towngas. Shen won the 2012 Best Value CIO Award, organized by China-based CIO network IT Value.
CWHK: How do you feel about being a winner of the Best Value CIO Award?
Susanna Shen: I am honored to be a winner of the award, and I believe CIOs today must bring value to business by aligning the innovative use of technologies with organizations' growth strategies.
While CIOs focused on cost savings in years past, organizations expect these executives to bring more to the table today. IT at Towngas is a case in point.The company sets up new joint ventures in mainland China every month, and the total has already hit 150.
To support the growth of these organizations for our new energy business and utilities business, our Shenzhen-based IT teams work together with a dedicated IT team from the Hong Kong office. This reflects the change of not just the role of CIOs but that of IT too--the entire IT organization has to bring value to business, and support growth.
CWHK: How much time do you spend on the mainland?
SS: Though I don't travel to the mainland often, my time spent on supporting mainland business development is not less than the time I spend on the same tasks in Hong Kong these days.
[Managing mainland IT] is more structured now, as there are Shenzhen-based IT teams that help in project execution and providing IT support to joint ventures. There's also a Towngas joint venture in Wuhan that specializes in implementation of the Towngas Customer Information System (TCIS)--built for the provision of consistent customer service and quality--which has now been deployed at more than 60 Towngas joint ventures.
CWHK: As a CIO, what's the major difference between working in mainland China versus in Hong Kong?
SS: Managing tech projects on the mainland is more challenging because quality might not matter as much to mainland organizations as it does to those in Hong Kong. In addition, as most of the joint ventures we serve are of smaller scale, it often takes them more time to understand the strategic importance of IT.
For instance, when we tried to get our joint ventures in Sichuan to deploy our private cloud-based TCIS two years ago, many of them wanted to build and own their systems. They wondered what cloud is, if that was necessary, and what benefits cloud could bring. It took us time and effort to help them understand that it'd cost them much more--as small firms--to build their own different systems, hire people to manage them, and provide ongoing maintenance rather than using a cloud-based system.
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