Front, from left: T.C. Seow, Joseph Au, Patrick Leung, Doris Cheng, Malcolm Chiu, Michael Leung, Dr Paul Liu and Patrick Raths. Back, from left: Sam Tan, Anthony Ho, Robert Chipman, Phil Mottram, and Andrew Wildblood.
The challenges to CIOs change rapidly, but two of the major ones, skill shortage and cloud strategy, were strongly represented at a February roundtable in Hong Kong, hosted by CIO Asia and Telstra International, and entitled: ‘The CIO Mantle: Rise Above the State.’ The event, attended by CIOs from leading organizations, was chaired by CIO Asia Editor, T.C. Seow. Below we summarise some of the points raised.
It’s not easy to capture the essence of the current economic situation, but Editor T.C. Seow set the tone with his first question to attendees: “The Asia region is growing fast and it’s like the dot-com era, but without the bubble. How do you invest in technology and manage the risk?”
It was clear that CIOs did not have capital investment in mind, but subscriptions for hosting or cloud services. “We are project driven, and right now we need 650 new engineers in Malaysia, with desktops, mobiles, storage and bandwidth,” said Sam Tan, VP IT, Asia, Aecom. “The capital cost of in-house IT would exceed my budget, so I need the cloud – and that goes for about 70 percent of my operations.”
Several speakers agreed: “Our IT budget never meets target, because we don’t know how many construction projects we will win, so cloud resources are essential to us, too,” said Patrick Leung, Assistant VP, IT & Comms, Parsons Brinckerhoff.
And let’s not forget that the cloud eliminates much of the burden of software administration. “A major benefit of cloud services is that there are so many software versions and platforms that in-house version control is becoming impossible,” said Anthony Ho, CIO, Tradelink Electronic Commerce.
But the usual problems of security and regulation showed up in banking and insurance. “Cloud use by banks is immature, because regulations don’t keep abreast of technology,” said Michael Leung, Senior VP & CIO, China Construction Bank (Asia). “In 2010, the Hong Kong regulator denied us the use of Salesforce.com to support hundreds of mobile insurance agents. So we cut the personal data accessed to three items: name, phone number and abbreviated ID; then we got the go-ahead.”
But the problem may be jurisdiction, not technology. “Regulators may misunderstand data risks, said Patrick Raths, Director IT, Swiss Reinsurance Co. “Some companies deploy in-house systems with hardly any security, but when data is outsourced to a cloud with high security, regulators get worried.” Of course, the regulators may really be worried about the fact that data is outside of their jurisdiction.
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