To fully comprehend business problems and recognise users' needs, IT professionals have come out of the back office and joined their frontline colleagues in taking the initiative to understand the operational process.
Salome See, executive director of Hong Kong Economic Times Holdings Limited and managing director of ET Net Limited, confirms the prominent role IT professionals play in improving business operations. "Information technology has grown to be indispensable to modern companies. Whether it's used to control costs by automating processes, or to help make more informed management decisions by providing greater information, intelligent IT deployment can solve practical business problems, and add value to organisations."
With more than 20 years of experience in the IT field, Ms See encourages her fellow IT professionals to go the extra mile at work. "In particular, they should work to optimise the operational processes by incorporating customers' perspectives so as to provide a truly comprehensive solution to business problems and contribute to revenue growth," she notes.
This year the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) and Career Times have partnered to co-organise the very first IT event for the local industry — the HKCS Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008.
"Compared to frontline staff working directly to drive revenue, IT professionals are the silent heroes who are seldom recognised by companies for their contributions. I am glad to become part of this pioneering industry-wide competition that pays tribute to outstanding IT veterans," says Ms See, who is a member of the judging panel of the competition.
The aim of the competition is to honour exceptional individuals within the industry who have made significant contributions and excelled in their professional career. When looking for potential awardees, Ms See considers people who exhibit exceptional competence and add real value to business operations.
"In addition to technical skills and innovative minds, top IT professionals should take a leadership role in business model transformation through cost savings and revenue growth initiatives and add a competitive edge to their company," she explains.
Another significant aim of the competition is to raise public awareness of the importance of the IT industry. Ms See emphasises, "Many companies, especially SMEs (small- and medium-enterprises), may not fully appreciate the values IT can create and add to their businesses. Though they may not be able to support an IT department, they can still reap the benefits of IT via outsourcing. So, it is essential for IT professionals to go upfront and win trust from employers with their capability to solve real problems."
For newcomers to the industry, there are ample opportunities to use technology to demonstrate their problem solving skills. "There are abundance of incentives as high-calibre IT talents are in constant demand," Ms See says. "It's not about meeting minimum requirements, but taking initiatives to create value for the employer and clients. The competition serves to promote such professional standards and we hope to attract more candidates to the IT industry."
Vision and innovation go hand in hand and they are an important part of the judging criteria for the competition.
"We assess the value of outstanding IT projects by matching them to business objectives. The projects should not only meet current requirements, but also anticipate future and direct business development through vision and innovation," says Ms See.
She applauds Hong Kong IT professionals for their superior execution skills, but also urges them to focus their efforts on the preliminary stage of problem definition.
"You need in-depth business analysis to prepare for different possible scenarios and exceptional circumstances," she says.
In the face of the thriving IT industries in mainland China and India, Hong Kong's IT professionals should position themselves as project managers and innovative leaders rather than executive programmers, Ms See expands.
"Local IT professionals should strive for opportunities to access departments controlling the whole business process and companies across different industries. This will give them a competitive edge in business analysis and management as well," she concludes.