To thrive in the digital age, IT executives need to become co-owners of business outcomes, says Fujitsu’s IT veteran Albert Wong
Albert Wong, the general manager of Fujitsu’s service delivery division in Hong Kong, is a seasoned IT professional with more than three decades of experience. When asked to give his insight on the industry, Wong explains that IT has evolved massively over the last 30 years, and things are only speeding up.
“The digital economy is growing faster and at an exponential rate,” he says. “The ultimate impact of digitisation on businesses and the community is yet to be fully realised. With the digital economy, everything is very visible. There is a shortening of the supply chain. We are looking at an altogether new business model.”
Digitisation is now vital for all businesses, as it connects people, processes and data in the value chain. “With the new digital economy, there is a new business model in which companies create a community that brings together people with the same needs or interests,” Wong says. When he began his career in the 1970s, IT was seen as a back office function and IT executives traditionally looked upon themselves as subject matter experts.
“IT had been seen as a ‘dark art’ that outsiders didn’t understand. With the advent of new digital technologies as we entered the 21st century, what IT executives needed to do was move and transform themselves... into co-owners of business outcomes and results. Our focus should now be on business outcomes rather than providing back office support.”
According to industry analysts, a new position titled chief digital officer (CDO) began to appear at many companies last year. The CDO’s role is to “harness the technology and address all of the new challenges” that new digital technologies present. The position is on par with the chief information officer (CIO), which appeared in the 1990s. CIOs usually managed information systems, but the CDO at many companies works in the marketing department.
Before moving to Fujitsu in 2013, Wong spent three years at Cisco Services, 10 years at IBM China/Hong Kong, and 20 years in various IT companies in Canada.
In his capacity at Fujitsu, he is focused on helping business thrive in the digital era, with one-stop shop services such as big data, cloud and IT management services.
There are two key aspects of Wong’s management style. One is organisational, the other is managerial. His organisational style takes a project-based and outcome-based approach. There should be scope, a timeline, roles and responsibilities. He believes that everything should be done in a way that drives “towards the desired outcome”.
“Without this approach, undertakings will be neither efficient nor effective,” Wong says. “Activities and tasks must be undertaken with [this kind of] project management discipline. But they also have to be outcome-based. Many people chase after activities and tasks. But we should be focused on the desired outcomes.”
Wong believes that managers need to fulfil three roles. In addition to being a manager, they also need to be a coach and a mentor. As managers, they need to “define the framework for the team to work about, while allowing room for creativity”, he says. “As a coach, you are trying to bring an improvement in skills and technologies,” he says. “As a mentor, you have to be a trusted advisor and offer counsel to the other party in a broad sense in terms of life, values and people.
But it is important to keep in mind that managers cannot and should not assume all three roles at the same time.” A manager should know when and under what circumstances to be above them, with them, for them or behind them,” Wong says.
“Each individual member of staff is different. You must have the wisdom to know when you have to be in which role. You cannot play all three roles at the same time with the same mentee,” Wong says.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Transforming tech teams.