APJ CIO Talk News

Most Critical is to have Right Talent in the organizations


As we have entered the digital economy, every country is suffering from having the right technology and right talent. We spoke to Ts. Tengku Intan Narqiah Tengku Othman, Chief Digital and Information Officer, Group Digitalisation and Information Technology, Sirim Berhad, Malaysia, to understand her perspective. An Excerpt.

“In order the CIOs to move forward in the rest of the world, they need to showcase the business outcome. They need to learn how to build a business.” 

Ts. Tengku Intan Narqiah Tengku Othman, Chief Digital and Information Officer, Group Digitalisation and Information Technology, Sirim Berhad, Malaysia
How do you see the post pandemic technology adoption In Malaysia?

During the pandemic itself we could see that a lot of companies in Malaysia adopting technology in a fast-paced manner. It was an acceleration mode for many of the companies in Malaysia. So postponed, they would be continuing the momentum of having digitalization whereby they already saw the benefits of having accelerated it in the first place. So, the momentum will be going in a in a fast-paced mode.

They will not stop it and, it is a matter of having the right resources and the right funding for them to continue further on enhance it. Right now, I believe they know exactly what is the most important thing that they need to enable in their organization for them to sustain and come to be pandemic free or crisis free in adopting the technology within Malaysia region.

The hackers are not sleeping but we do sleep. That is where we work with partners as we are not expert on everything.

What has been the critical challenges of the CIO?

The most critical challenge that Malaysia and many other regions have is to have the right talent as each organization has unique requirement. Some company required and E-commerce expert. Some companies need big data experts, and some other companies are still like to modernize their legacy systems and ERPs. So, the right talents being dispersed and being required by many organizations, we are in a race of finding the right talents.

In the era of pandemic, we can engage talents from anywhere in the world. It is just a matter of having the right policy in place – especially in the government sector. Because how the government organization employs and engages the employees is totally different from the companies that have an E-commerce business. They can use many freelancers and outsourced resources. But there is a strict requirement from the government owned organizations.  

We are never scarce of technologies as we have a lot of local players that bring in new technologies and new development. It is just that the right funding and right cost is needed.

What is the ask from the management to the leaders like you in the government sector and how is it different to the private sector?

Many private sectors have more freedom in terms of employing a lot of things to do a lot of creativity but in the government sector, there is bureaucracy and governance in place, which imposes restriction to do a lot of things freely. It is not that there is a lot of red tapism in the government sector for the sake of it but because there is a lot of historical aspects behind that. On the other hand, the governance or bureaucracy or process and policies are applied to a brick and mortar kind of a business not in the digital era.

In the digital era, we need to use digital governance or compliance for us to move forward. So, there must be a balance in between the right amount of the governance or compliance and freedom of doing all the creativities in terms of new processes and new businesses. In the private sector, they have the competitive desire to be the best and to compete with the rest of their competitors.  In the government sector, we are unique. We are not saying that we have monopoly in a lot of things, but we are serving the consumers and the public. So, it is totally a different kind of compliance or governance that we require. The consumers want a lot of transparency, and we want to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is worth spending. They want to see that when we spend in terms of technology, it is being used by the consumer whereas in the private sector, their spend is on the customer centric activities. So, there is a two totally different kind of perspective, but at the end of the day, the consumers, the customer are humans. So, no matter how you do, you are serving a human being.

Do you think skill is also a challenge in the government sector?

 Yes, but we have a lot of the government agency which support us in upskilling and reskilling but since we are an ageing population in Malaysia, it is a bit difficult to achieve this. There has to be excitement among the employees to get reskilled and upskilled. So, it is a challenge for us and countries like us in the region are also facing the same challenge.

How technologies like cloud computing, RPA, AI, BI, etc. being utilized in minimizing human intervention.

I believe last year Malaysia Government has already announced that they are opening five service providers to the public sector to adopt the cloud computing technology. And Sirim is one of the first government agencies to have adopted cloud computing. We found out that cloud computing gives us many advantages in terms of not utilizing a lot of CAPEX and enhancing productivity.  Compared to the situation in the past, when we wanted to set up a server, we had to procure it, which would take a few months and it would take another few weeks to install it. Now with the cloud computing in place, it takes us only 15 minutes to provision, install and have the application up and running. So, in terms of business agility and competing with the rest of the world, it is now very beneficial. But we also need to be vigilant in terms of cyber security, privacy, data sovereignty, etc. Therefore, there are many players who have installed data center and cloud services within Malaysia.

What about RPA adoption?

In Sirim, we have not adopted RPA but we have adopted AI. RPA is more relevant to banking sector, and I know that many banks have adopted in Malaysia. But many of the companies are using manual process still owing to the cost advantage but in the future, I would assume that the RPA is going to have a lot of traction due to the factors of lack of talent and aging population. But I can see a lot of integration of chat bot is happening because of the customer center and artificial intelligence for prediction. RPA is a bit slow except the manufacturing.   

What is your strategy for Cyber Sector?

The hackers are not sleeping but we do sleep. That is where we work with partners as we are not expert on everything. We protect one area they attack another area. It is like chicken and egg story. We continue manage and monitoring it and at the same time, balance what the business wants.  We also do not have the luxury of money and resources. We trust the partners to alert us and rest we take care, and we believe that partners are like brothers and sisters. 

 How big is the challenge for a CIO or CISO to convince the management about new technologies and new budget allocation?

When I start to talk to the board and top management, I never talk about technology. I talk about the customer experience, benefit to the organization and ROI. 

I talk about the 2-3 times loss to the organization incase you do not have the right solution, which you can recover in one or two years. We calculate the loss based on the actual data. For example, if we introduce blockchain, we explain how we have the security and more revenue. We showcase the outcome on the basis of historical data. The CIOs in the past showcase technology marvel that they might have worked on, but I never showed the technology marvel, but I show the business model marvel. So, in order the CIOs to move forward in the rest of the world, they need to showcase the business outcome. They need to learn how to build a business. 

So, if you look at my portfolio I have been working as a businesswoman once upon a time.

What is the piece of advice that you want to give to peer group in other regions?

 As you know women in technology is very rare but there is a rise of women in technology now. So, my advice to other women in the technology is: “be yourself”. The CIO world needs a diversity. Number two is that technology becomes obsolete in one to two years. So, learn about business centric model. Learn about calculating the right ROI and learn about leadership because talent stays because of your leadership and your vision of technology implementation in your organization.

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