Technology leaders need to look at the long-term goals of the transformation and use these milestones to develop a realistic project plan
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Ts. Izuddin Abdullah, Head of IT, TNB-ILSAS at Tenaga Nasional Berhad
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
I have always been amused by technology since childhood and have participated in and won several technology-related competitions from high school to university. I started my career as a system analyst, furthering my career in diverse IT management roles as well as managing and leading ICT projects. Besides trial and error, I mainly develop knowledge and an in-depth understanding of technologies by doing desk research, that is, collecting and examining information that already exists, or, in another word, reviewing what other people have done, which led to a great deal of qualitative and quantitative research that helped me get my Master’s Degree in IT and Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Business. I embrace concepts of the agile development process, such as intense collaboration and communication between the customer and system developer, as one way of deliberating technology and business gaps because technologies need to be designed with humans at the centre. Since technologies are evolving at a stupendous pace, proficiency and competency in using technologies are so dependent on how exposure and awareness are reached, especially in the non-IT community. And by becoming good technology coaches, we can become good and successful technology leaders. As I climb the ladder, I empower technologists to be creative. I oversee, am accountable for, and take responsibility for my projects and team, and I give information away fully, openly, and honestly, with discretionary risk management in mind.
What challenges you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
Being in the IT field and providing technology-based support means facing challenges. The biggest challenge is always communication, especially when dealing with technophobia and luddites, that is, people who dislike technology or are opposed to new technology. As a technologist, I deal with every challenge by seeing it from different angles and analysing it for possible solutions. I stay positive even while experiencing challenges at work, and that keeps me motivated.
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today while implementing digital technologies?
Some of the challenges in implementing digital technologies are due to a lack of planning and strategy due to insufficient expertise to lead digitalization initiatives. Aside from the talent shortage, businesses today are also faced with a shortage of other resources crucial to the adoption of digital initiatives, including limited budgets. Inefficient business processes and a lack of a dedicated, highly skilled IT team are holding them back from pursuing digital transformation goals.
How can technology leaders overcome the challenges faced?
Technology leaders need to look at the long-term goals of the transformation and use these milestones to develop a realistic project plan. To do so, they need to clearly understand the digital solutions they are implementing as well as the culture they are integrating them into. Do not be afraid to propose fresh business process reengineering to meet the new business and technology requirements. Capability building is crucial, either developing internally or hiring outside experts to support the new technological needs and organisational change management that can help the company prepare employees for what lies ahead.
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you’d give to fellow technology leaders to help them succeed professionally?
Doing market research is good to see what our customers actually want, as well as what the competition is doing to win their business, because customers are more discerning and demanding than ever before. Any organisation that wants to future-proof itself should have environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) matters at the top of its mind. Nearly all public-sector organisations and corporations consider ESG a major strategic imperative. Nowadays, pressing issues such as climate change, reduced crop yields, and supply chain disruption endanger businesses and the communities they serve. For that reason, an increased focus on ESG practises and programmes is on the rise. With on-going reports of uncertainty in data accuracy and limited visibility of trend and benchmarking, digitalization in ESG should consider automation: automating data collection and validation; reducing human errors; mitigating mitigation; trend analysis and benchmarking with goal tracking and a personalised dashboard; and navigation that is future-proof to adapt to changes in disclosure, goal, and process.
Any other points that you would like to highlight?
Technology leaders need to demonstrate technical expertise and lead by example. They drive digital transformation by engaging others to increase adoption and monitoring actual versus expected results. Technology leaders constantly identify gaps in their industries and then set out to bridge them through the latest technological innovations. Focus on solutions, with an emphasis on scalability, performance, and security. While digital know-how and technical knowledge aid leaders, it is their soft skills that are of the utmost importance when they lead their teams through periods of transition and disruption. According to the Harvard Business Review, true digital transformation can only come about if leaders take the initiative to inspire their teams to upskill and provide them with the required support.
Also read: Technology is changing, or, let’s say, upgrading, within no time
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