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CIO Conference 2013: Navigating the data conundrum in Malaysia

Rosalind See | March 26, 2013
Making sense of Big Data requires multi-prong approach to preparing, processing and interpreting vast volumes of digital data.

Having C-level champions was crucial in driving big data forward. Varanasi challenged CXOs to look beyond cost. He said, "Cost consideration is always important. With big data, the emphasis is not just on cost but its capital conservation function. Big data is a component of effective utilisation of available capital."

Varanasi believed that big data analytics added a strategic impact towards corporate growth and opportunities. He said, "There is an opportunity for Asian companies to learn from the experience of larger, mature global companies in using big data."

Under the traditional organisational structure, today's IT departments are entrusted with collating data and generating reports and statistics but have minimal input in business discussions. Revamping the organisational structure to involve IT in business discussions could generate more relevant data for business use.

Panel discussion
Photo: Q and A with the speakers.

Devabalan explained that CIMB has approached this problem by separating IT into two arms. The first is concerned with day-to-day operations and short-term projects while the second team (known as the Transformation Office) focused on long-term projects. "The Transformation Office works closely with the strategic and business units in planning and optimising the power of technology to support future business growth," he said.

Such structural changes also resulted in changes on how IT's role was viewed. Devabalan noted that IT projects were now measured differently. "The success of projects is now measured by return-on-investment (ROI), not on-time and on-budget completion."

Conference attendees
Photo: Conference speakers and participants.

Conference exhibition floor
Photo: Conference participants viewing sponsors' booths.

The Great Debate
A highlight of the annual CIO Conference is The Great Debate which provides an entertaining end to the day. This year's topic, 'Can the CIO be the Chief Analytics Officer?', reflected on big data's growing role and the uncertainty on how to categorise analytics within an organisation.

The 'Yes' team and proponents of the topic comprised captain Varanasi, Alvin Gan (Executive Director, KPMG Malaysia) and Phil Captain (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, PMCteam).

Alvin Gan
Photo: Alvin Gan

Their opponents, the 'No' team, consisted of Stan Singh (Councillor of Pikom), B. Sridhar Raju (Head of Change and Reengineering, Global Banking & Markets, Kuala Lumpur and Manila, HSBC Global Resourcing), Alan Fung (Head of Outsourcing Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) Cluster, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC), and Au.

Stan Singh
Photo: Stan Singh

Varanasi, captain of the 'Yes team, kicked off the debate. "Analytics has always been part of the CIO's responsibility," he said. "Although the nature and usage of data is changing, the CIO still garners information to create business intelligence."


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