By adopting a flexible and adaptable approach, technology leaders can ensure that their organisations are well-equipped to respond to new challenges and opportunities
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Ts. Izzat Aziz, Director- Technology, Risk and Cybersecurity at KPMG
About Ts. Izzat Aziz:
Izzat is a recipient of “The World Top 200 CIO” by GEC Media Group and the Southeast Asia CIO Leader Award by the Global CIO Forum in 2022.
He is a subject-matter expert in emerging technology and cybersecurity. His portfolio covers advisory services in innovation technology such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, fintech, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
He is a certified chief information security officer with pragmatic technology and cybersecurity-related experiences. His track record includes driving maturity in IT and OT (Industrial Control Systems) across various industries such as BFSI, Telco, High-Tech, ENR, and O&G.
A staunch believer that technology is the key to uplifting the lives of the unbanked and underbanked communities, Izzat Aziz has dedicated his career in the technology space to innovating products and services in the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) sector.
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
Even at a young age, technology and its various applications had my interest piqued. As a teenager, I spent my time tinkering with hobby kits—activities like soldering FM radios and working on projects using Arduino and Raspberry Pi kept me occupied. In recent years, this curiosity and desire to learn has centred on the development of smart homes and home automation services.
It was because of these interests that I gravitated towards a career in the domain of technology. I wanted to contribute towards progress and innovation here, be it through participating in industry roundtable discussions and forums, contributing to regulatory policy making, or even working closely with technology principals in developing new tools for the market.
At the crux of it all, I share this because I think that in order to be successful in any line of duty, the passion must be there.
What were the challenges you faced in your career path, and how did you overcome them?
Technology evolves at a staggering rate. And keeping myself abreast of all that happens becomes a duty in itself, as what is new today may not necessarily be new tomorrow.
Thankfully, the process of continuously learning and seeking out knowledge is one that I thoroughly enjoy.
Another item that took a bit of time to grasp has to do with communications. Or more specifically, how does one explain a technical concept to the general public in a manner that is easily understood by them?
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies?
Technology leaders today face a wide range of challenges, the first of which is complexity. Generally speaking, digital technologies often involve a high degree of complexity, with multiple systems and components—new and old—that needs to be integrated, managed, and work together seamlessly. In due time, with the evolution of technology, these systems will need to be decommissioned and replaced altogether.
Second, another challenge that must be addressed with tact and empathy is an organization’s resistance to change. Implementing new technologies often requires employees to learn new skills and adapt to new ways of working. Technology leaders may often find themselves facing resistance or pushback from employees who are reluctant to embrace change, which may later on contribute to widening skills gaps within the organisation. This is further exacerbated when jobs are replaced by automation, and reallocating employees without certain skillsets to a new job scope proves improbable.
Security and data protection risks are also a major concern. Digital technologies often involve the collection and storage of sensitive data, which can make them a target of security breaches and cyber-attacks. Technology leaders must always be alert to new modes of operation and ensure that the appropriate security measures are in place to protect against potentially new risk exposures.
Already in place to ensure that these risks are identified in advance and mitigated are regulatory requirements that must be met before onboarding new technologies. However, this in itself can become a challenge as different jurisdictions will have their own set of regulations and policies, which when scoped down further into industry-specific ones, bring about more items to be considered.
Lastly, resources and budget constraints are often a challenge. Onboarding new technologies require significant investment, and technology leaders may face budget constraints or other financial challenges. One of the ways organisations circumvent this is by collaborating with third-party providers to enhance products and services for the market. This, however, may lead to inherent risks, which, if not managed carefully, will impact the organisation’s ability to effectively service its customers and affect its brand reputation.
How can technology leaders overcome the challenges faced?
Technology leaders must make it a point to work closely with all stakeholders. Collaborate and work together with the board, management, employees, customers, and partners to ensure that both the planning and implementation processes are smooth and successful. This may involve establishing clear lines of communication, soliciting feedback, and addressing concerns or issues as they arise.
Training and support are another important strategy for overcoming resistance to change. Providing employees with the training and support they need to adapt to new technologies is critical to ensuring a successful implementation. They should ensure that employees not only have access to the resources and support they need to learn new skills and adjust to new ways of working but are also continuously primed to accept these changes by fostering a culture of innovation.
In line with the concept of the “unknown unknown,” risk management is critical for avoiding technological and security risks. Technology leaders should work with their teams to identify and assess potential risks and implement controls to mitigate those risks. This may involve implementing security protocols, conducting security assessments, and training employees on security best practices.
Planning and coordination are also key to overcoming the challenges of integrating new technologies with existing systems. They should work with their teams to create a detailed plan for the implementation process and ensure that all stakeholders are informed and involved. This may involve working with vendors and partners to ensure that integration efforts are successful.
Finally, technology leaders should be prepared to be flexible and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances. This may involve being open to alternative approaches or revising plans as needed. By adopting a flexible and adaptable approach, technology leaders can ensure that their organisations are well-equipped to respond to new challenges and opportunities.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you would like to suggest to fellow technology leaders for their successful professional journeys?
At the core of it all, our responsibility towards our organisation revolves around achieving value for our various stakeholders, from shareholders to customers. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to understand the bigger picture—the end goal—before beginning the process of onboarding new technology.
Having a good grasp on the expected outcome would assist us with assessing whether or not our organisation is ready to embrace new technologies, on top of allowing us to see how it fits into the larger existing ecosystem we may already have. And if it is not, then we can formulate a roadmap to address the identified gaps, be they from a people or infrastructure standpoint.
On a separate note, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) are also important items we must heavily consider when making business decisions to invest in new technologies. Organizations that prioritise ESG are often able to reduce costs and increase efficiency, as they are more likely to adopt sustainable practises that reduce waste and resource use. Furthermore, with investors heavily taking ESG into account when making their investment decisions, having our organisation strong in this regard would make us attractive to them, benefiting us financially and allowing us to further grow.
Any other points you would like to highlight?
Presently, organisations are already adept at utilising holistic analytics within the Big Data domain to build up an understanding of their customers by taking into account a wide range of data points, including demographics, purchase history, and behaviours and preferences, to name a few. By using data enhancement techniques, organisations could further improve the accuracy and completeness of this data. This in turn would open up the possibility of cross-selling products and services that may be of interest to our customers, increasing revenue and customer satisfaction. And if said product or service is not yet available, we now have the data to use to decide how best to design and introduce it to the market.
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