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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.

To look for business growth, Oon refers to "projects that benefit the businesses". Internet banking and mobile banking, he says, are "very good examples".

The new CIO should know that everything they do, even a line of code, is about business. Oon says: "You're not just writing a line of code. You're actually creating a business opportunity. A programme is a business opportunity. You've got to bridge the business-technology divide. You've got to make smart use of IT, have prudent project management, good IT governance, and then accountability and transparency.

"As they say, if you cannot measure, you cannot manage." On the issue of outsourcing, Oon says the IT world was now focused on "strategic sourcing". Wherever the sources are, geographically, doesn't really matter. According to Oon, "it is [about] different vendors doing different specialties".


The IT Nation 2008 survey found that senior IT executives predicted just 8 per cent of their budget was being allocated to IT services and outsourcing. They expected much less (4 per cent) to be invested on staff development.

To Oon, however, he was leveraging unlimited resources. "When I was at Maybank," says Oon, "I used to tell the business partner, the CEO, that my resources are unlimited. I have 600 IT people. But this is not important. So what I did was create 'the vendor partnership'."

The vendor partnership, according to Oon, is to leverage the software vendors.

"If you are specialised in programming, if I want 500 programmers, you give me 500 programmers," he says.

Oon would tell his business partners: "As long as the project payback is good, the ROI is good, and regardless of project size or costs, I will have no problems getting resources, because I can leverage a whole spectrum of specialised local and international vendors, including programming shops from India.

"It's huge, with thousands of programmers. In fact, even in the Citibank Asia Pacific technology office, they used a lot of contract programmers."

The legacy challenge

Moving on to legacy challenges, Oon says companies are often not in line with the latest technology changes. "I'm sure if you're working for a big company, whether you're in Dell, or in any of the major banks, [there are] so many services, some mainframes, some midrange and some Unix boxes, all over the place," he says.

"And it is all because it has grown over the years, it's all about legacy. Legacy is something that cannot be replaced overnight. That's another problem you have with banks." Oon says he was challenged by legacy issues when working for the Bank of America (Asia), Citibank, OCBC Singapore, and Maybank. And, his biggest past challenges were with the core banking systems. "These systems in the US are among the oldest. They haven't changed because it's so risky to change them."


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