Chong Yoke Sin, CEO, IHIS
In this age of digital disruption, businesses must embrace change, either from within or externally or face business extinction. Cheaper, faster and more versatile technology such as analytics, robotics and multi-purpose sensors are fuelling what many call the fourth industrial revolution characterised by personalisation of service through analytics but provided from common platforms and systems, such as cloud services.
Information in itself in inadequate or underutilised if not translated to decisions and service.
Mobile applications can transform workflows and drive decisions. In healthcare, telemonitoring wearable’s such as glucometers measure the blood glucose of the diabetic and could pump the correct dose of insulin to keep to acceptable sugar levels in the body continuously. Uber has disrupted the taxi business, airBnB has converted underutilised rooms to hotel rooms, Snapchat has linked needs to services, Deliveroo has expanded the range of takeaway cuisines, opentable has become the De Facto table booking service for a wide range of restaurants, and the list is endless.
At the enterprise level, productivity gains are expected from the deployment of robots and robotic technology to ground processes. Useful point in time analytics drives processes and outcomes.
At every level of endeavour in the enterprise and government, the ability to harness the power of information and technology is crucial in generating a good ROI for the investment in technology and to achieve good business outcomes and sustainability.
Survival of the business requires that technology be deployed strategically and adopted at every function, especially those that drive operations. For example, on the hospital floor, medical devices are now equipped with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to transmit readings continuously to the electronic medical records thus enhancing nursing productivity. In the home and as wearables as well, readings are continuously transmitted to the backend servers for pre-emptive actions to sustain health.
As a result, the role of the Chief Information Officer has extended to beyond mere management of information to innovating the business model and operations. It is imperative that the CIO works closely with the other C-suites to drive strategy and operations that intertwines with technology. Amazon’s logistics operations are completely automated by technology, and so the CIO works closely with the COO to drive results, for the investment in technology including robotics, will ultimately result in great productivity improvements and create new services not possible in the old model.
To be effective, the CIO has to operate at the confluence of operations and technology, finance and technology, human resource and technology, strategy and technology. Perhaps, I have now to connote Integration rather just Information and the effective CIO have to be indeed a Chief Integration Officer. For the CIO has to integrate Technology with the respective business strategy and operation units to create that competitive advantage for the business.
The new paradigm requires the CIO to be well versed with the business, people, cost and revenue drivers and the strengths and weaknesses of the business model, and to initiate transformative change integrating technology with processes to produce sustained outcomes.
The new accountability of the CIO would be to not only design IT systems but the operations and processes that interact with the technology, and to have oversight of the integration of operations with technology by jointly managing business operations with the COO or fellow C-Suites. The complementary relationship between technology and operations costs mean that to be effective, IT costs must be viewed as part of operational costs and the investments in IT that are made to improve productivity can be more directly tracked and realised by taking appropriate complementary actions in operations such as redeployment or reskilling of redundant manpower. The current separation between IT and operations impedes the change necessary for the transformation that businesses are seeking today.
The Chief Integration Officer would have oversight of the strategic use of technology including IT, robotics, analytics, external solutions that integrate with the business to produce the business outcomes on a sustained basis. As such, it might be envisaged that this Chief Integration Officer would necessarily have to be familiar with the business and technology at the same time. This calls for transformative skills and sufficient empowerment to fulfil the role well. At the same time, the role would require the CIO to be a strategic thinker and assistant to the CEO as well as a contributor to the debates at the board level. In the healthcare industry for example, where integration of providers both internal and external to the service provider organisation is critical in creating the new model of care, the Chief Integration officer works through organisational, clinical, company and costing barriers to arrive at the business solutions, incorporating IT as a strategic driver, enabler and integrative force that connects the dots for better outcomes.