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Call for reform

Carol Ko | July 10, 2008
The first step in maximising the return on IT investment is to reform the accountability structure of CIOs. An experienced banking IT leader explains to Carol Ko.

Oon Wee Jong has a reputation for being a change agent, having implemented an IT governance structure within Maybank so that all IT projects are prioritised and tracked, based on return on investment.

Oon spent three years from 2004 to 2007 as the group CIO for Maybank, the largest financial institution in Malaysia, with branches in key international financial centres worldwide. Today, Maybank has more than 450 offices in 14 countries, namely, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, China, including Hong Kong, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Britain and the United States.

Many projects

With more than 26 years of IT experience with the banking and finance industry, Oon has managed many core banking system replacement projects in the region. He has also previously worked with Citibank regional, based in Singapore, OCBC Bank, the Bank of America (Asia) in Hong Kong and the Maybank Group in Kuala Lumpur.

"Today, we [IT] must be like a driver," Oon says. "We want to be reporting to the CEO, instead of just the COO or CFO. This is the most effective way to partner and drive business for maximum value from IT investments."

Oon was speaking at the Fourth Banking and Finance Technology Forum in Hong Kong in April, with the theme Future Technologies that Drive Innovation and Growth.

He says that, for IT to become more effective-whether working on ROI, project status, project management, vendor management, or service level agreements-CIOs need to measure each from the business and customer points of view, not from just an IT perspective. A customer point of view would be, for example, how fast a banking client could have his account balance correctly re-instated should an overseas transaction go through and a foreign ATM fails to dispense the cash. The 'new CIO' that Oon envisions, mirrors the research findings of the IT Nation 2008 survey released by MIS Asia in March 2008. This study is conducted annually by Fairfax Business Media sampling from its MarketBase database and MIS Asia readership of senior IT executives in organisations in Southeast Asia.

When IT Nation 2008 asked senior IT executives about their changing priorities for expenditure, top of their list was spending on new application developments and implementation (36 per cent), followed by hardware infrastructure (18 per cent) and network infrastructure (14 per cent). In terms of IT, this would mean that many more local CIOs have been focusing their budgets on achieving significant corporate growth.

Business direction

CIOs ought to measure the benefits and exploit the technology they have implemented. Oon says: "[CIOs] are at the heart of innovation and business agility. We cannot be falling behind, and waiting for business direction. We should be driving the business direction. We should always be walking together with the business. As IT investment has no inherent returns, it must be derived," Oon says.


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