Enterprise digitalisation is now mandated by the new “C”, Covid, rather than C-suite: Ken Soh, BH Global Corporation
Author: Athena Dynamics & ETCIO
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Ken Soh holds concurrent appointments as Group CIO of mainboard listed BH Global Corporation Limited since March 2014 and as the founding CEO of the group subsidiary cyber security advisory company Athena Dynamics Pte Ltd. He comes with more than 30 years of working experience in the ICT industry. Prior to joining BH Global, Ken held various senior positions in the public and private sectors at CxO and business leader levels with ICT Master Planning and P&L responsibilities.
Since 2014, Ken spearheaded various digital transformation initiatives of the group, one of which resulted in the successful spin-off of the Group IT department from a cost center to a profit center subsidiary. For this, Ken was awarded IDG/IBM/Adobe ASEAN CIO 50 in 2019 and 2020, and ASEAN CIO 75 in 2021.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Ken shed light on the evolving role of the CIO and steps to building a resilient digital strategy in a complex world.
Given the two unprecedented years businesses have gone through and the leaps made in digital transformation, how has the role of the CIO evolved during the pandemic?
The new world norm brought about unprecedented challenges and opportunities to CIOs in both operational and business perspectives. Operationally, CIO is expected to possess pandemic readiness mindset as part of their enterprise risk management framework. Be it ERM, BCM or DRP, such readiness is now a key and integral component of these enterprise risk management frameworks. Separately, working from home has given enterprise IT security a new twist. New paradigm of protection such as detection-less sanitisation technology is one good example to secure right when workstations are no longer residing within the safety of enterprise security.
Business-wise, enterprise digitalisation is now mandated by the new “C”, i.e. Covid, rather than the C-suite. CIO should step-up the pace of digital transformation not just in the perspective of efficiency but as a matter of assisting businesses to adapt and survive in the new world norm of operations and constraints. With his vast knowledge on automation, CIO can not only assist in pushing the initiative to beyond digital, but also spearhead business transformation when new revenue propositions could be discovered in the new world order.
What are some of the challenges CIOs have faced as organisations rapidly shifted work models to hybrid and remote?
Alongside the baseline operational challenges such as the sudden surge of corporate’s demand for notebook PCs amid global chip shortage, and the rework on infra-structure as office premises transit to hot-desking, digital security remains an unceasingly dynamic landscape to manage. This calls for deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities under the new landscapes, and the understanding of non-conventional protection technologies to uphold the corporate security posture effectively.
What are some of the defining tech trends that will shape your industry in particular this year?
We see major tech trends mandated by the pandemic to drive transformation. This comes in different degrees. Some may move their business online via digital transformation. Some may, due to a successful digital transformation, to take the pursuit further ending up with business transformation. We ourselves are one live example. From group level digital transformation initiative in driving STP, ERP, e-commerce to cyber security, and ending up with Group IT being spun off as a subsidiary cyber security advisory outfit after the discovery of disruptive protection technologies.
What as per you are the core tenets of a forward looking, resilient digital strategy? What would you suggest are some of the pitfalls to avoid here?
As the pandemic situation is by nature fluid and unpredictable, it is important for baselining IT strategies to embrace and adapt to such new normal rapidly. We see two areas being key, one is culture, and the other is technology.
Culture typically starts from the No. 1 man in an organisation. It is therefore important for senior management to embrace a trusting, performance-oriented management approach as staff work from home. A critical failure pitfall to such transition is to continue to have the outdated mindset of physical presence, fixed time routine in the office. Today, there are abundant technologies to facilitate high productivity settings working from anywhere, anytime.
Technology wise, it is important going forward to adopt device-less propositions as much as possible. For instance, if a solution could be deployed with a fully software or cloud-based option, it is good to do so. This would make remote installation, usage and management possible which is essential in a pandemic situation.
Driving digital transformation requires more than adoption of technology. It calls for leaders to drive a culture change through the entire organisation to incorporate resilience, flexibility, agility and digital maturity. What are some of the best practices you would advocate to drive this transformation?
Culture and mindset is key. It needs to start from the pinnacle. Unfortunately, everyone is wired differently. Do expect the usual fall-out during the transformation when a specific profile of people may not be able to cope well nor adapt to the transformation.
One of the critical success factors is to communicate clearly upfront the advantages of the transformation. This does not only alleviate the fear of job loss, it creates the buy-in which would in turn pave the ground for a well knitted and positively supported transformation journey.
What are some of the future skills that tomorrow’s CIOs need to build in order to thrive in an increasingly complex world?
On top of ongoing understanding and adoption of technologies, the soft skills in IQ, EQ, AQ, HQ plus a strong business mindset and acumen, are key attributes that today’s CIOs should possess to strive and thrive in today’s increasingly complex world.
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