INSPIRE Beyond SG50 2018-06-05T17:42:54+00:00


INSPIRE Beyond SG50″ features a collection of anecdotes by 55 CIOs and business leaders. The stories give a peek into how the CIO play an integral and pivotal role in helping businesses and organisations to meet challenges and realise their vision.




INSPIRE Beyond SG50 is a book for the CIO written by CIOs.  It captures their insights, perspectives and real experiences through seven core pillars: Integrity, New (Innovation), Strategy, People, Implementation, Relationship and Excellence.

The 7 Pillars

This pillar is led by Mr Lee Kee Siang focusing on the need for CIOs to demonstrate high level of professionalism to act and lead with integrity despite the heavy responsibility of CIOs to oversee the deployment of technologies in an innovative manner to enhance an organisation’s competitive business edge.

This section highlights the need for CIOs to uphold high integrity to do what is right and be prepared to account for their actions and decisions. This leadership quality is essential to help CIOs remain intact even when facing challenges and crisis.

Under the Integrity pillar in this volume, eight senior Information Technology (IT) professionals from diverse backgrounds spanning public, private and non-profit organisations have contributed their experiences and perspectives on different aspects of Integrity. Beyond personal perspectives, they also share real life cases where Integrity was compromised, their analyses of the damage caused, and suggestions on how appropriate governance can be put in place to avoid such pitfalls. They also share insights on good practices for motivating staff so as to inculcate healthy work environments and promote a collaborative workforce that focuses on shared goals.

This section has the following contributions:

  • What is Integrity? by Lee Kee Siang
  • The Importance of Integrity by Lee Siew Kit
  • The Compass, the Watch and the Lighthouse by Peter Quek
  • The NKF Story By Catherine Goh
  • The Importance of IT Governance by Geraldine Pang
  • Honest and Fair by Kwong Yuk Wah
  • The Virtues of Integrity by Puspak Patro
  • Integrity with Empowerment by Ong Hian Leong

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • Clear segregation of duties is necessary to ensure adequate checks and controls
  • Automated systems with access authorization processes help ensure accountability and full oversight for stock-takes and audit purposes
  • One’s honesty, fairness, objectivity and ability to “walk the talk” will help to create trust, build relationships and create the basis for teamwork and collaboration.
  • Integrity calls for humility in acknowledging that we don’t always the answers, and need to keep “sharpening the saw” rather than pretend that we know everything.
  • It is imperative for leaders to “walk the talk” – the values they impart are evinced through their words and actions.
  • We underscore the importance of governance by establishing policies and guidelines,with training and communications. They are critical for compliance, internalizing and upholding our reputation and integrity

One of the most challenging aspects of a CIO’s job is to look ahead for opportunities and drive innovation initiatives while managing the day-to- day ‘whirlwind’ of business/IT operations and customer support. This requires leadership ambidexterity, a trait found in the writers and contributors to this “New” section.

This pillar is led by Mr Alvin Ong to focus on Change and Innovation. One of the most challenging aspects of a CIO’s job is to look ahead and drive innovation initiatives while supporting day-to-day operations. Innovation is also fraught with risks and frequently impeded by organisational inertia and status quo. In this pillar, CIOs will share their war stories and practical wisdom gleaned from their transformation journey.

This section has the following contributions:

  • “Innovation – A Panoramic Journey through the Years” by Alvin Ong
  • “IT Strategy – Preparing for Tomorrow Today” by Yeo Teck Guan
  • “Leadership in Innovation” by S Mahendran

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • Innovation involves aligning people’s mindsets, giving them opportunities to grow and creating ways for them to push their boundaries.
  • It is also important to look for solutions from within the team which can be superior in discover-ing and owning the solutioning process than to outsource problem-fixing to third parties
  • The reality is that innovation involves intentional, purpose-ful planning and the instillation of right environments for it, instead of leaving it to chance or luck
  • It is important to have the courage to fail, venture and explore beyond boundaries where others dare not go, as well as face diversity in team members
  • “Innovating the IT Organization Structure” by Yang Cher Ming
  • “First, Understand the Business” by Ofir Shalev
  • “Innovation” by K L Teh
  • “Time for Change” by Richard Jones
  • “Shaping Up for Innovation” by Miao Song
  • “Getting Past Common Mindsets” by Alice Abigail Tan
  • “New Guy in the Hot Seat” by Oon Jin GeeAs you read each segment, you will find themes such as ‘understand the business’, ‘have the courage to take risks and innovate’,‘innovate for future success and survival’, ‘innovation must bring business value’, and ‘embracing diversity in teams to spur innovation’. The overarching theme is that the ability to lead innovation should be a key skill and defensive capability in the future CIO’s arsenal.

Today’s CIOs face myriad challenges of increasing urgency and intensity. Amidst a sea of uncertainty and constraints, CIOs need to navigate with agility, focus and resolve. It goes without saying that a well-conceived plan or strategy is essential in charting a course successfully. As Peter Drucker once said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

It is undisputed that CIOs need to have a better understanding of their businesses’ technology needs, both in the short as well as long term.

They are also called upon to be more effective at driving partnerships and shared accountability with the business.

This pillar is led by Mr Don Yeo on Strategic IT.

The sections in this pillar capture the experience and wisdom of our contributors who are senior IT leaders. Alex Siow introduces the primary role of the CIO while Alvin Tan goes on to describe more specifically the “underbelly” of IT strategy development. Clara Lee then tackles the very current challenge of how IT leaders can effectively tackle digital transformation in their organizations, while I in turn provide my perspectives as a non-technical CIO leading an IT organization and Vijay K Sharma concludes by issuing a challenge for IT leaders to go beyond engagement to business intimacy.

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:
  • Just because someone is called a CIO doesn’t mean he is necessarily fulfilling the strategic role that should come with being a CIO
  • IT strategies should incorporate the means for adapting and adjusting to future changes in the IT and business landscape.
  • There’s a famous story about teaching ducks to fly. “Hiring experts in these areas may be a quicker and more effective way of addressing gaps.”


This pillar, led by Mr Koh Kok Tian, focuses on people who form the basis of leading capabilities necessary to drive any business transformations, such as digital.

Most CIOs will tap on the talents, creativity and ingenuity of their IT resources to leverage technologies in creating competitive differentiation fortheirbusinesses. Today’s accelerated pace of change is non-linear, punctuated by disruptive technologies that create gaps between IT competencies to the right application of technologies. Beyond capabilities,‘People’ is a multi-faceted subject. The contributed segments from CIO practitioners here offer unique perspectives based on their professional and personal insights on ‘People’.

In this section, Glen Francis offers an interesting account from his early career years of how his mentor taught him the importance of respect. Respect forms the basis of sustained relationships and while one focuses on technology, it is important to not neglect the human aspects.

Ng Tiong Gee discusses the managing of people, how CIOs need to understand the differences of A versus B personalities across cultures and nationalities and how each type requires different management approaches in order to be effective.

Tony Yeoh highlights the need for CIOs themselves to transform and manage the paradoxical aspects of Core Purpose, Charisma, Capability and Competency juxtaposed with Reputation, Relationships, Recruitment and Relevance.

Lau Kai Cheong brings back us back to the importance of setting a clear vision and mission, and devise strategies that can be successfully delivered with the right people, right processes and right technology.

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • “People Agenda, Capability Planning and Job Roles” by Koh Kok Tian
  • “Beyond Hardware and Software” by Lau Kai Cheong
  • “Engaged Staff, the Responsibility of Managers” by See Yeong Hwee
  • “How to Spot, Nurture and Develop Top Talents” by Markus Panhans
  • “People Development” by Lee Seng San

This pillar is led by Ramesh Narayanaswamy. He looks at the role of CIO as Chief Implementation Officer and increasing demand and expectation from users. This pillar aims to articulate the challenges and the possible ways of addressing the implementation in the new age.

The authors argue that as the user community starts believing in the transformation, their interest and buy-in will drive further changes in mindsets; and with productivity increases, the whole organization moves forward as one, looking forward to meaningful change together.

Well-managed implementations will ensure product development, timely releases, and significantly enhance end-user experience. Even as processes, tools and methodologies over the years have helped to advance project implementations, the fundamentals remain the same and it is essential that the basics are not overlooked. In the contributed writings within this pillar, we will examine project implementations from different angles.

This section has the following contributions:

  • “Agile in Implementation” by Ramesh
  • “For Tomorrow’s COO or CIO: How to Execute Projects in IncreasinglyComplex Organisations and Environments?” by Sreeram Iyer
  • “Back to Basics – Can Architecture Help?” by Bala
  • “Seeing the Big Picture” by Baskara Rao
  • “Digital and Payment Implementation” by Jocelyn
  • “Debunking Myths and Misconceptions” by Neal Cross
  • “The Changing Nature of Shared Services” by Lydia Wu

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • CIOs and their teams should transform themselves to support and lead. It is imperative that their thinking is fresh, agile, innovative and deliver results.
  • Successful execution calls for Clarity – ‘Why’ something is needed, valuable or worth undertaking … the core purpose for the underlying change must be clear in people’s minds
  • While focusing on business objectives in designing systems and applications, keeping run-time qualities in mind is equally important
  • “Have smaller blocks of deliverables to go after … Milestones are more clearly linked to shorter timelines and interim deliverables, and allows greater control.”

This pillar is led by Mr Lim Kuo Siong. It focuses on the need for CIOs to build up a key survival skill with the ability to manage relationship with various stakeholders as a way to influence business strategies. No longer are the days when IT can just focus on keeping the lights on. Differentiating a good technology achievement with that of a great business value delivery.

The authors argue that CIOs are in a position to connect the dots, paint the big picture and thus foster collaboration among various stakeholders.

They should realize the value of building and leveraging relationships that can enable them to deliver on commitments and organisational expectations. As part of their multifaceted roles, CIOs should embrace the relationship dimension which may require them to tap on extended networks to build a strong ecosystem in IT and beyond.

In this way, the CIO’s role calls for a complex yet appreciative view of relationships. Relationships based on loose linkages or superficial ties are like a single thread that will break easily under the least strain. But if we build a web of relationships based on mutual trust, support and integrity, they will be resilient and better able to withstand hard times or future shocks such as technological, economic or business disruptions.

This section has the following contributions:

  • “The Power of Building Strong Relationships with Key Stakeholders” by Kuo Siong
  • “Relationship Management” by Deny Rahardjo
  • “Making Relationships Work for You” by Brandon Phuan
  • “Technology as a Business Partner” by Prakash Natarajan
  • “Relationship as a 2-Way Street” by Prem Prakash
  • “Leadership is a Relationship” by Candice Poh
  • “Gaining Cred for IT as Strategic Partner ” by Irfan Iltaf
  • “Moving Minds and Changing Hearts” by Hiew Wui Sin, and
  • “Taking a 3600 View on Relationships” by Siew Yim Cheng

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • You are ultimately communicating with individuals, so identifying the correct persons in the relevant communities is essential
  • CIOs have to translate stake-holders’ needs and wants and having good relationships will ease such conversations
  • We should prioritize functions that are more critical from a day-to-day, operational view in terms of relative importance and criticality for the business

This pillar is led by Paolo Miranda about exceeding each and every expectation extraordinarily. The authors argue that excellence improves performance to greatly surpass normal standards in achieving a continuously moving target. The original and creative use of technology plays an important part in every organization’s pursuit of excellence for a better world.

For IT professionals, excellence is like a never-ending list of project implementations and enhancements to improve systems and technology for businesses. There can always be better ways to perform or make something especially in the realm of Information Technology where new inventions and innovations are developed faster than ever before.

This section has the following contributions:

  • Mayda Lim, who tells us why Good is the Enemy of Great
  • Paul Loke, who talks about the DNA of Excellence in the organization
  • Ken Yeo, who maps Excellence to Design, Build and Run
  • Billy Cheng, who takes us through the ‘hardware’ and ‘heartware’ of Excellence
  • James Loo, who cultivates a culture of Innovation and Excellence in his team, and
  • Manik Narayan Saha, who focuses on IT Service Excellence in the Digital World

Some key thoughts/ideas expressed in this pillar are:

  • “Aim high and yet be humble for if we stumble, the Lord our God will lift us up even higher.”
  • “Good’ is enemy of ‘Great’ because if you settle for being merely good when you could actually be great, you’re not doing or being the best that you can be!”
  • All it takes is one incident to undo all our previous efforts and records of Excellence
  • Translate Excellence into specific, relevant and practical terms and measures for different parties in the organization

CIO Academy Asia would like to thank those who were involved with the book. With special mention to the core team made up of the 7 Pillar Leaders; Lee Kee Siang, Alvin Ong, Don Yeo, Koh Kok Tian, Ramesh Narayanaswamy, Lim Kuo Siong and Paolo Miranda, and especially Candice Poh, who came onboard as Chairperson for this project and Catherine Goh whose vast experience and meticulous leadership was invaluable especially during the final phase of this project.

Core team

Glen Francis
Glen FrancisBook Leader
President, CIO Academy Asia
Candice Poh
Candice PohBook Chairperson
Chief Lead Officer, IRAS
Catherine Goh
Catherine GohCopy Editor and Coordinator
Director of Information Technology, NKF
Lee Kee Siang
Lee Kee SiangPillar Leader (Integrity)
Chief Information Officer and Director (Resource Discovery and Management) of the Singapore National Library Board (NLB)
Alvin Ong
Alvin OngPillar Leader (New)
CIO for Alexandra Health System (AHS)
Don Yeo
Don YeoPillar Leader (Strategy)
Deputy President (Administration) at the National University of Singapore (NUS)
Koh Kok Tian
Koh Kok TianPillar Leader (People)
Director, Supply Chain Operations and Information Systems, Inchcape’s South Asia
Ramesh Narayanaswamy
Ramesh NarayanaswamyPillar Leader (Implementation)
Group Chief Information Officer for Singapore Post
Lim Kuo Siong
Lim Kuo SiongPillar Leader (Relationship)
Chief Information Officer at Maybank Singapore.
Paolo Miranda
Paolo MirandaPillar Leader (Excellence)
Membership Director of (ISC)2 Singapore. Former Chief Information Officer, Asia/Australia, REHAU Pte Ltd

Editorial team

P. RamakrishnaCurator
Deputy CEO, CIO Academy Asia
Jane SiowContent Editor
Assistant Director Projects Management, SingEx Exhibitions
David ChinCover Designer
Head of Relations, CIO Academy Asia
Nikesh RamakrishnaLayout Designer
Community Manager, , CIO Academy Asia


Gabriel LimSecond Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Chief Executive, IMDA Singapore
“To succeed, we must support and learn from one another. To that end, this book is an excellent resource for CIOs and ICT professionals. It captures personal reflections and insights from over 50 experts who have sat in the hot seat. I hope you find this treasure trove of experiences a useful resource as you lead your organisations and colleagues into an exciting future.”
Alvin OngPresident, IT Management Association (ITMA), Singapore
“ITMA is pleased to collaborate with CIOAA on this exciting ‘INSPIRE Beyond SG50’ book project. The inspirational lessons shared in the book is an excellent guide for our future tech leaders. A majority of the contributors and pillar leaders are senior members of ITMA.”
Howie LauPresident, Singapore Computer Society (SCS)
“Technological innovations have not only changed our lives but has become interwoven in our daily lives. This book contained many interesting stories about our technology journeys over the last couple of decades. Thank you CIO Academy for taking the initiative to document this rich resource and inspire our industry beyond SG50.”
Jordan SchwartzDirector, Infrastructure & Urban Development Hub, The World Bank, Singapore
“This book will inspire the next generation of tech leaders and also serve as a timely primer for Digital Transformation journeys in emerging markets and developing economies”
Bill LiuChairman & Managing Partner, Stream Global Pte Ltd
“This is an excellent “A to Z” CIO guide that will inform and INSPIRE (as the book is aptly named) future CXOs through the insightful and very personal reflections by a diverse group of CIOs and tech leaders covering the entire landscape of the CIO’s role and functions. More importantly, I think it captures the often hidden requisites that make a good CIO such as good governance and people management as well as the personal attributes such as integrity, openness and empathy. Indeed reading the contributions from the CIOs, I believe CIO’s role has progressed. CIO does not mean “Career Is Over”, it is “Career In Overdrive” Keep up with the Good Work!”
Shirin HamidPrincipal Director (CIO), Asian Development Bank (ADB)
“This collection of essays is truly a relevant and timely publication. Each essay brims with invaluable wisdom and insight that can help IT professionals at any level to navigate their career. If I may be so bold as to imagine that further improving INSPIRE would be at all possible, I would like to suggest the addition of two pillars: “Sustainability” and “Development”. I congratulate the INSPIRE team for putting together a publication that encapsulates the core values and attributes that any aspiring and practicing CIO should embrace.”
Grace ChngVeteran Tech Writer
“CIOs are in the hot seat, they are both the Chief Information and Innovation Officer. Inspire Beyond SG50 is a timely book as a platform for learning, where experienced CIOs can impart their practical knowledge to their younger colleagues.This is the first time that such issues are discussed in such breadth and depth. It is a must-read for younger ICT professionals aiming to be the tomorrow’s CIOs.”
Prof. Kevyn YongDean, ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific
“At ESSEC Business School, we believe in the “Pioneering Spirit”. To this end, we have learned much about the pioneering spirit from our partnership with the CIO Academy Asia. This book certainly brings a fresh perspective to what it means for the CIO of today and tomorrow to be a pioneer with integrity, innovation, and implementation.”
Lanny CohenGlobal Chief Technology Officer, Capgemini
“Inspiring, practical, and results-focused perspectives from an impressive cadre of leaders who are on the frontline of business, digital and IT transformation. A rare but welcome insight into the interplay of values, strategy, innovation and execution for sustainable IT-influenced, business impact.“
Lim Swee CheangVice Dean, School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE), NUS
“With 55 great minds writing 58 articles, these IT leaders are generously sharing their valuable wisdom and interesting perspectives on 7 hot topics that have been confronting all of us in the world of managing technology and driving innovation. We may not fully apprehend some of the issues advocated but I am certain that we are all becoming wiser with new senses after reading their thoughtful and inspiring articles and stories. For me, I am enlightened.
P. RamakrishnaDeputy CEO, CIO Academy Asia
“Our tech leaders have shown the new face of IT management and innovation through their stories, insights and experiences gleaned from treading the narrow path which will leave useful sign posts for our future and aspiring CIOs”