IT's take on Web 2.0
By Ross Milburn | 2009-01-05
All panelists agreed that IT should be about innovation and culture change and not about maintenance. "Incremental improvement is easy - you can always make infrastructure more secure and faster, but my colleagues on stage are looking for things that will really transform their businesses," said Edward Orange, director, Lotus Business Unit, IBM Asia Pacific. "Maybe your users think they want a "faster horse," as Henry Ford said, but they really need a car."
Kwok Suk Wah, CIO of AON Hong Kong, reported a culture change to her own department. "AON is a multinational, and in the old days, we had IT offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and so on," said Kwok, "but now we have a global virtual IT team. We want the best people, without duplication, and we need them to collaborate as much as possible."
Even instant messaging is a force for change, notes Orange. "When we deployed it at IBM, it flattened the organizational structure. Everybody was messaging the boss, telling him they didn't agree. It challenged the way decisions were made. So IT is not just about money, it changes the corporate culture."
Users challenges to IT
IT staff are increasingly challenged by colleagues. Users are bringing their home technologies to work with them, reports Kwok. "Consumers get Yahoo! services and lots of video for free and I feel challenged to provide such services in the corporate environment, where vendors charge for everything. It raises issues of cost, time and governance that users don't consider."
In hospitals, IT collaboration can be a matter of life or death. "If medical staff overlook an allergy or transfuse the wrong blood type, it can kill," said Dr NT. Cheung, chief medical information officer, Hospital Authority in Hong Kong. "But the treatment is not given by one doctor but a clinical team that has a very intensive information demand. Yet with so many people involved and treatment divided between hospitals and clinics, it is one of the last businesses to be fully computerized."
Winning over users to IT control
In medical practice, the key tool is the electronic patient record. "At the Hospital Authority, we have built a cloud-based patient record system that will provide electronic access to the whole medical team," said Cheung. "If the patient consents, it can be released to any doctor."
CIOs are torn between supporting users' freedom and retaining corporate control, especially of security. "You must separate what is strategic to your company from that which is not," said Orange. "For example, Human Resources may be strategic with regard to payroll and contractual terms, but it may also involve leisure activities like a tennis league that is social networking. Corporate assets can be protected while treating social activities separately."
IT staff may face a dilemma when users demand Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook.. "The question is: How can you provide it in a secure way?" said Orange. "Singapore Poly has deployed a more secure Facebook-type enterprise application. Anybody in the college can use it, and it is an interesting and valuable application."
"IT people need a seat at the business table, if they are to be seen as enablers of the business," said T. Rajah, CIO of CLSA, an equity-focused brokerage and investment group headquartered in Hong Kong. "Credibility in collaboration is about realizing the benefits of IT. There may be another conversation about security and restrictions, but that doesn't help you sell the project."
Finally, diplomacy must not be overlooked in dealing with corporate users. "I always give the users hope," said Cheung. "I never say no: I always tell them it's in my strategic plan somewhere and we will look at ways to deploy it."