Better customer focus through IT

22 May 2006

CSL's director of IT Peter Smith faces the challenge of integrating the IT infrastructure of newly acquired New World Mobility into a single consolidated platform. Smith explains to senior reporter Sheila Lam how IT now provides in-depth insight into customer behavior for new marketing campaigns and product launches

Wireless Asia: What is your major challenge as a CIO in the highly competitive Hong Kong mobile industry‾

Peter Smith: The major challenge is to effectively support the business in an industry that's very dynamic. There are also a couple things that are critical for CIOs in this industry. One is to have an effective IT vision that can provide a guiding beacon of light for the team. In this turbulent and chaotic environment, having clear direction coming from the top is essential.

The second part is staying ahead of the curve in understanding what technology-related opportunities are available. We need to constantly look at what's available to help save cost and improve business performance. Equally important, a CIO needs to have the clarity of mind to steer clear of investing in over-hyped technology that will burn up valuable resources and result in lost business opportunities.

How do you align IT with business in such a business environment‾

There are three key elements that make it possible for my IT team to effectively align with business in our rapidly changing environment. Firstly, having a collaborative relationship with other business units. It helps to bring constructive dialogue for understanding their expectations and business drivers, and a willingness on both parties to jointly derive a solution that is built on mutual goals.

Secondly, having a permanent seat on the executive committee provides me with a direct understanding of the CEO's company direction, along with a clear appreciation of the business agendas of my executive colleagues. We try to see what's happening in the next 18 months and plan projects accordingly, but we also need to accommodate rapid market changes. Thirdly, over the past five years we have been executing a plan to evolve our IT architecture into a more flexible and modular design, such that we can continue to improve our ability to respond with agility to critical business demands.

How is your team structured‾

I have a fairly traditional IT organization. We have about 75 people in three main areas: application development, infrastructure and technical service and operations.

My team is based in our Cyberport office, except for a few operations and technical service staff. We have three datacenters in Cheung Sha Wan, Telecom House in Wanchai and the Cyberport. At the moment, we are going through a consolidation to bring them down to two datacenters and then we can close down our Wanchai center.

With the merger with New World Mobility (NWM), is the integration of its IT infrastructure part of your consolidation plan‾

The consolidation is one of our latest projects and the integration of NWM's IT infrastructure is definitely part of it. The key is to realize the synergies from the integration of the merger. The goal is to rapidly migrate to a single IT platform.

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