IT / Telecom

Leading through change

by Ada Ng

Winner of the HKCS IT Achiever Awards (IT Leadership) Raymond Wong, past associate director, immigration (information systems), Immigration Department
Photo: Courtesy of the HKCS

The automated e-Channel system at immigration checkpoints in Hong Kong is a prime example of how new technology can benefit millions of people.

Raymond Wong, the project leader behind the award-winning e-Channel system, says the most challenging aspect of the project was changing people's mindset to allow them to adopt new ideas.

"The real test for a project leader in any information communication technology (ICT) project is how he or she facilitates behavioural changes," Dr Wong notes. "Success in this regard also gives the best satisfaction."

Before Dr Wong retired last year, he was the associate director of immigration (information systems) at the Immigration Department. During the last 10 years of his 35-year tenure with the department, he focused on building an IT architecture, helping to implement more than 32 projects.

He was also a forerunner in leading many other government e-initiatives, including the smart identity card information system and the e-Passport system as well as the face recognition system at border checkpoints.

All of these have made Hong Kong's immigration system more secure, reliable and efficient, and gained Dr Wong the IT Leadership Award in the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008.

In his role as chief technology officer at the government body, he was required to deploy unprecedented technology to create a system for mass use by the public.

"The success or failure of a project really depends on how widely it is adopted by the end-users and how user-friendly and value-added they think the technology is," Dr Wong notes.

He acknowledges that the e-Channel system was one of the two most successful projects that he has worked on. More importantly, it has driven change around the world and is being used as a new customs management standard by IT professionals in other nations.

"Indeed, Hong Kong was not the first city to adopt the automated customs clearance system. The e-Channel system is a replica of the ones in Singapore and Malaysia. However, it was our team that simplified the system for user-friendliness and faster procedures," he explains.

As the adoption rate is a key factor for determining a successful ICT project, Dr Wong says it is always important for a leader to listen to feedback from end-users. He explains that part of a project leader's job is to analyse such feedback and make modifications to the system procedures to achieve practicality and add value. "A good leader shouldn't fear negative feedback, but rather take it on board to improve quality and service," he stresses.

In a project where many stakeholders are involved, getting everyone on the same page and sharing the same vision are critical elements for delivering a successful project.

"A keen people focus is the very core of leadership. A competent project leader makes certain that everyone working on the project has the same goals and objectives," he says.

More importantly, people need to be passionate about their jobs to make the project goals achievable, he adds.

Dr Wong urges aspirants eager to break into the ICT field to keep learning and updating their skills. "ICT is a complex and dynamic industry that changes everyday. The technology you learn today probably won't be applicable five years from now. Therefore, learning continuously and acquiring hands-on experience is always critical for IT professionals," he concludes.


Taken from Career Times 03 April 2009, p. B2
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