Trust in the Digital Era

Kee Yong Tiong
Group Chief Information Officer of BW Group

Trust in the Digital Era

Kee Yong Tiong
Group Chief Information Officer of BW Group

“Technology is constantly swinging back and forth” says Kee Yong. 

Cool, calm and collected are the first things you would notice when you sit down for a chat with Kee Yong Tiong. Considering that the conversation revolves around a rigorous exploration of cybersecurity, technology’s future and business-IT alignment, Kee Yong remains unperturbed by the exceptional pace of technology.  

 Kee Yong sits back comfortably in his chair as he shares insights and observations he has gathered throughout his career. For every question, he answers with admirable ease and focus as we dove deeper into the pool of topics concerning technology and innovation. All of this is to be expected of course, especially from a seasoned technology expert.  

 For the past three decades, Kee Yong has worked in various sectors that have ultimately shaped his view on technology’s role in a business context. He began his career at the National Computer Board (present day IMDA), and for the next 30 years he took the opportunities to work for CitiBankLehman Brothers, Microsoft, Hitachi Data Systems and Neptune Orient Line. For the last four years though, Mr. Tiong has made significant changes to BW Group’s IT organisation as the Group’s CIO.  

Despite his illustrious career, Kee Yong holds a strong conviction that plays a major role within his work ethic and perspective of the future: the importance of trust.

Trust in Technology

No enterprise was fully prepared for technology’s growth. Almost every industry in every country is experiencing a massive transformation at an unprecedented speed – the landscape is fully immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Some of the biggest tech news for the past couple of years exposed technology’s privacy and security vulnerabilities. The trajectory of digitalization has far outpaced any organization’s ability to adapt, thus, unable to completely protect critical assets.

While enterprises are stepping up their security and safety measures, many of them lack a critical yet missing element when creating their cybersecurity framework: the human factor. When we humanize the process of understanding the business and its needs, it can greatly help in navigating the cyber risk landscape. And it’s not a new insight either.

When asked about how he established a Zero-Trust Cybersecurity Architecture within BW Group, Kee Yong states that digital security fundamentally boils down to understanding what the business values the most: “Zero-Trust is just a coined phrase that I use. If you look at the platform, it’s reusing what’s already out there in the market. What I did differently was translate and understand the business risk in the organization.

So, how does one go about creating a secure IT network that the organization can trust? According to Kee Yong, it’s about mapping out the organization’s critical processes and information: “In a business context, you have to identify what is very important to the business, implement the appropriate security measures for it, and more importantly, determine how to detect security incidents early. Threats will always be around, so you have to be prepared for them.”

This is further exemplified by the recent transformation of BW Group’s IT; the rise of security threats around the world galvanized the organization to act. “[The Group is] in a much more comfortable position when it comes to IT security. We are responding to risks and breaches much faster and with better accuracy than ever before. We are able to detect issues early, figure out if there are potential malwares; and, if needed, respond and recover rapidly from attacks.”

Trust in the boardroom 

According to results from CIO.com’s State of the CIO 2019 report, 47% of CIOs claim that they mostly spend their time aligning IT initiatives with business goals. More than ever, CIOs are expected to be the catalyst for change within business organizations. In fact, in the same report from CIO.com 37% agree that they would spend the next three years driving business innovation.

Kee Yong stresses the importance of aligning IT strategy with corporate’s, and time is of the essence when performing this task:

It’s a prerequisite, you can’t run away from it. If you don’t align these two, you are nothing more than a line item under the cost umbrella. When aligning with corporate strategy, you also have to move fast because business prides itself in moving at the speed of thought.

It’s no secret that CIOs have to know how to engage the people in the boardroom. The real challenge though lies in motivating the members to look at technology and security as valuable investments to the organization – the CIO needs to have an immediate impact.

Before even stepping in to that meeting, CIOs need to be well prepared. CIOs need to understand what is happening on the ground in order to accurately paint the scenario to the board members. “A CIO needs to do pulse checks,” says Kee Yong. “He or she needs to understand the challenges in real time and know how to delegate tasks, because a lot of the time [CIOs] tend to sit in an ivory tower where they can’t see the whole picture. If you’re not equipped with complete information, this affects the way you communicate with the stakeholders.”

For Kee Yong, the most important task a CIO needs to do is clearly communicating how IT investments can help generate revenue for the business.

You need to be able to answer the question ‘What is the revenue generation opportunity?’ because this will demonstrate the strong connection between IT and the rest of the organization.

Trust in the future of technology

The future is ripe with technological breakthroughs. As the digital era continues to move in the speed of now, consumers and enterprises are already asking the question “What’s next?” When asked which disruptions to expect in the next few years, Kee Yong pauses, and instead answers thoughtfully:

CIO PROFILE
Kee Yong Tiong
Group Chief Information Officer of BW Group

Mr. Tiong has been with BW Group for the last four years, leading the organisation’s digital transformation. As the Group CIO, he implemented a Cloud-First strategy and established a Zero Trust Cybersecurity architecture, helping boost organisational efficiencies and better decision-making for the maritime enterprise. Mr. Tiong has also worked for banking, technology and government industries.