President's Message to ITMA Members (23rd December 2016)

Published: Monday, 22 August 2016

Posted by Alvin Ong on December 23, 2016

President’s Message to ITMA Members (23rd December 2016)

Dear ITMA Members,

During my growing-up years, I used to frequent an emporium near a HDB flat in Queenstown where I lived. Naturally, as a child, I would gravitate towards the toys and games section of the departmental store and would spend many hours exploring. On one of my many visits, my attention was fixated on the new board games such as Othello, chess and checkers. In particular, I was intrigued by the tagline “A Minute to Learn. A Lifetime to Master” on the colourful box of the chess set. “Is it really so easy to learn but so hard to master?” I thought to myself. I felt the desire to learn the game and bought my first chess set after saving up for several weeks. Upon unpacking the box, I found the instruction manual and started to learn the rules and history of the game. Of course the tagline is not totally accurate as it definitely took me longer than one minute to learn the game.

I was blessed in that I lived next to a neighbourhood public library and in a fortuitous way, it became like my personal reference library for knowledge of all kinds and contributed to my development in chess and life. As I was determined to master the game, I would initially borrow chess books meant for beginners and intermediate players. While reading them, I was totally fascinated by the game’s very logical and yet artistic aspect (the unique way each chess piece functions and how the pieces can combine so elegantly together in the hands of a skilful chess master to deliver a coup de grace) as well as its rich heritage. Then I quickly progressed to reading advanced books written about the top grandmasters of those days and diligently studied the games of the world champions such as Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov. At one stage, I had probably read every chess book in the library and hence had to visit other libraries to fulfil my quest for knowledge. I even competed in several chess tournaments and played as many blitz games as my school schedule could allow. However, as hard as I tried, I failed to master the game. There are still so many gaps in my understanding of the game and I was not entirely pleased with the outcome of some of my tournament games. I then realised that mastery is not a destination. It is not a “mountain top” moment of having arrived at the pinnacle. It is but a lifelong journey of self-awareness and continuous improvement. In essence, it truly takes a lifetime to master although true mastery could be an elusive target.

I believe the same principle applies to the mastery of the skills and competencies in our career as ICT leaders. The mastery of oneself is a lifelong effort and can only be achieved through a recognition of our individual strengths and weaknesses and taking deliberate steps to address those gaps. Hence, one of the four pillars of our ITMA Masterplan is about Advancement and Personal Mastery. We are developing a concept plan to support the continuing professional development of ICT leaders, to keep their skills continuously updated and future-ready. Some of you have asked about the outcome of the ITMA 5-Year Masterplan workshop that took place on 28th July 2016. This is still in a work-in-progress stage as the Council needs more time for in-depth discussions on priorities, resources and sustainability of the various excellent ideas before sharing with you.

Let me also provide some updates which could be of interest to you:

ITMA-NTUC U Associate Strategic Partnership

ITMA-NTUC U Associate Strategic Partnership (2nd December 2016)

I am pleased to announce that ITMA has entered in a strategic partnership with NTUC on their flagship U Associate Programme. This partnership will enable both organizations to work closely together to develop a customised programme to help ITMA members stay future-ready and also provide exciting opportunities to contribute their expertise to the society-at-large. A signing ceremony took place on the 2nd December 2016 at NTUC Centre. Minister in Prime Minister’s Office and NTUC Secretary-General, Chan Chun Sing, witnessed the MOU signing ceremony after an engaging dialogue with key council members. We took this opportunity to invite him to be the Guest-of-Honour at the upcoming ITMA-Accenture 30th CIO Workshop, tentatively scheduled to take place in May 2017. I would also like to thank Dr Kwong Yuk Wah, the CIO of NTUC, for facilitating this opportunity to collaborate with NTUC.

ITMA Toastmasters Club

Do you face stage fright whenever you have to deliver a speech to a large group? Do you wish you could deliver a more persuasive presentation at the board meeting? Do you wish you could facilitate more effective meetings? Many of us as ICT leaders do face these type of situations from time to time. Very often, how effectively we present our case can mean securing the budget, getting buy-ins from colleagues and support from bosses. Fortunately, there is a proven system to practise speaking before an audience and receiving feedback which helps in self-awareness and personal mastery over time. On the 3rd Friday evening of each month at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, a group of about 30 toastmasters meet together to deliver prepared speeches, impromptu speeches and speech evaluations. Our ITMA toastmasters club was chartered in July 2003 during the term of past ITMA president Vivienne Tan. It serves as a platform for any ITMA member interested to further develop his or her oral communication and leadership skills. The toastmasters club is part of a global non-profit Toastmasters International organization which has 13,500 toastmasters clubs worldwide, including 200 in Singapore. The ITMA toastmasters club is currently helmed by former ITMA council member, Alfred Anand, who is serving as club president.

10th CIO Study Trip

10th CIO Study Trip (22 to 28 October 2016)

The 10th CIO Study Trip exceeded many of our expectations in terms of learning and networking opportunities. With 50 attendees, it was by far the largest ITMA contingent for an overseas study trip. In six days, we managed to squeeze in 12 site visits, beginning with an exciting game day experience at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday morning and culminating with a visit to Airbnb HQ in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. Many felt that the programme’s pace was just right and didn’t feel rushed despite the packed schedule. There was also ample time to schedule in a shopping trip to the Livermore Premium Outlet for a few hours. At the various site visits, we admired the avant-garde workspaces, meeting rooms and canteens of the famous Silicon Valley companies such as Apple, Dropbox, Google, Intuit and Airbnb, which also helped to attract tech talent. I can’t help wishing for more of such inspiring and innovative office space design concepts in Singapore’s local companies. The planning committee led by Vice-President, Alan Goh, is planning for the 11th CIO Study Trip, possibly centred on Germany or the east coast of USA.

I also need to recount a near accident that happened on the 3rd day which will serve as a good lesson for future study trips in terms of personal safety and contingency planning considerations. As the coach driver applied the emergency brakes to avoid an accident, Nancy, who was at the front of the coach, standing up to retrieve a microphone to brief our group, fell backwards and hurt her back and head. She was in great pain but showed remarkable courage and strength to soldier on the trip. We are extremely grateful for prayers of many members and Nancy’s subsequent miraculous recovery over the next few days. Upon her return to Singapore, she consulted a GP and a Chinese TCM physician and had been given a clean bill of health.

Concluding Remarks

Our first event in 2017 will the ITMA 36th Annual Dinner on Friday 13th January 2017 at the Conrad Centennial Singapore hotel where we will party away to the theme of Rock and Roll. We have also invited a few special guests such as the CEOs of IMDA, GovTech and association leaders to join us on that evening. I hope you have registered and certainly look forward to catching up with you.

As the Christmas holiday and celebrations are just a few days away and the 2016 Year of Disruptions will come to a close shortly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. We all live in uncertain times when change can be sudden and non-linear, where boundaries are blurring everywhere and the old order of things might not apply anymore. Many things will be beyond our control so it is best not to worry too much but to focus on the positive and live life to the fullest!

Alvin Ong
President, IT Management Association (ITMA)
23rd December 2016

When is too much not too much?

Published: Monday, 30 May 2016

Posted by Alvin Ong on May 30, 2016

When is too much not too much?

As I browsed through my stable of to-read IT magazines this week, one topic consistently jumped at me through the headlines and pages. Indeed, many of us have become inundated with it, albeit too much coverage on it. You are right! It is cyber security. Whichever magazine you might have read lately, whether ComputerWorld, Healthcare IT News or CIO Asia, cyber security is the HOT topic now.  Mainstream media also increasingly report cyber security incidents involving millions of dollars being stolen from a Bangladeshi bank by cyber hackers, computers of certain US healthcare institutions being compromised with ransomware and then having to fork out undisclosed sums of money to retrieve their data.

Back home, the Nanyang Polytechnic's top graduate, Rayden Chia, is the first to receive multiple offers from top USA universities such as MIT and Harvard into their degree program. The fact that not many might take notice of – Rayden graduated with a diploma in Information Security, now renamed as Cyber Security and Forensics. No individual or corporation is immune from the omnipresence and consequences of cyber security.

In the IT vendor space, there are so many new start-ups in cyber security. Even established IT security companies are reinventing themselves as a fully integrated end-to- end cyber security solution provider. It seems no one wants to miss the big party. Our local telcos, defence contractors, Institutes of Higher Learning and a management consultancy firm are also jumping into the bandwagon with significant announcements of strategic alliances this month.

My personal journey with cyber security started back in 2011 when one of my learned board members asked me whether I have a cyber security strategy. My goodness! Then, it wasn't even in my lexicon and all I knew were the usual anti-virus, end-point protection, firewalls and intrusion prevention system. That question jolted me out of my comfort zone and I quickly educated myself.

It was also when I started to familiarise with the myriad of acronyms such as APT, DLP, NAC, SIEM, etc. Three months from that meeting, I curated enough knowledge and presented a cyber security roadmap to my IT Committee.

I am glad that there is now national attention to this important area of cyber security. Instead of being fearful of being inundated by information overload, it would be essential to learn and understand the nuances. Many boards are now cognizant of the potential crippling effects of a cyber attack on their corporation's critical IT infrastructure and the resulting reputational harm. To address this risk, some companies are now starting to hire a new category of professionals, the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer). In a majority of companies, the CIO is now tasked with this additional unenviable responsibility of overseeing cyber security risks and strategy.

To kick off the first in the series of "Good Morning CIO! Breakfast Talk" in this new term, we have chosen the hot topic of cyber security. I am grateful that Mr Chai Chin Loon, the government's CISO, has accepted our invitation and will be sharing his vast experience in this area with fellow CIOs in a closed door forum. At the risk of sounding ad nauseam on the topic of cyber security, please share your thoughts on cyber security at the event too. In such perilous times, information overload is appreciated.

Contributed by

Alvin Ong
ITMA President (2016)

ITMA President's Message

Published: Thursday, 12 May 2016

Posted by Alvin Ong on May 12, 2016

President's Message to ITMA Members

Dear fellow ITMA members,

Greetings to everyone on behalf of the newly elected 37th ITMA Council. We had just convened our 1st ITMA Council meeting two days ago and as a first-term president, I am also learning, unlearning, re-learning on how ITMA operates, delivers value to its members and stays relevant in the changing business-IT landscape. I would also like to take this opportunity to give you a heads-up on some of the upcoming plans and issues that we have deliberated.


Firstly, I would like to put on record, our Council's appreciation for those Council members and Honorary Auditor who have served with distinction and stepped down this term. They are Steve Lee, Glen Francis, Tan Bee Teck (stepped down as Treasurer but continuing to serve as Council member), Dr Leong Mun Kew, Alfred Anand, Lee Kee Siang, Lee Siew Kit and Leong Chin Yew. While they may have stepped down from the Council, I know some of them are still contributing in the capacity of advisors to the various ITMA programmes such as the 10th CIO Study Trip and 22nd ITBP. 

Professional Development and Engagement 

We had organised our society's activities into two main tracks, namely, Professional Development (led by VP Ang Mui Kim) and Engagement (led by VP Alan Goh). For example, ITBP and Good Morning CIO Breakfast Talks would fall into Professional Development, while the annual CIO Workshop and CIO Study Trip would fall into Engagement. The Professional Development track is more education-focused while the Engagement track is more networking-focused although they are not mutually exclusive. Both professional development and engagement aspects of our association complement each other and add value to a member's development. The 10th CIO Study Trip is planned for 22 to 29 October 2016 in USA. Targeted at about 35 CIOs, we hope to visit exclusive sites such as Google, Facebook, GE, Tesla, etc. The 29th CIO Workshop (28 June to 1 July 2016) and 22nd ITBP (tentatively 4 November 2016) will be even more exciting this year with a slew of top-notch speakers. 

ITMA 5-Year Masterplan Workshop 

IT is a key enabler and a source of competitive advantage or even survival in corporations today. In the past year, we have heard of many incumbents being disrupted by new entrants through technological innovations in the sharing economy. I do worry about whether ITMA will be disrupted by informal virtual networks such as LinkedIn which is so easy to setup. I learned from my mentors that the best time to challenge and disrupt ourselves is when things seem to be going well for us. As such, I would like to invite members to participate in the ITMA 5-Year Masterplan Workshop tentatively planned over two Saturdays in July 2016 from 8am to 2.30pm(look out for the eDM closer to date). We will provide breakfast at 8am, free flow of beverages and end off with a networking lunch at 1pm. Both workshops will be identical and you can choose to attend either one. At each workshop, we aim for 50 members to give us about 4 hours of their time to deliberate on the future direction of ITMA and how we stay relevant and on top of our game. I would like to thank Honorary Secretary Mark Tham who has kindly consented to organize this new initiative. 

TechSkills Accelerator 

Recently, you might have read about the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiatives from MCI as part of their COS announcement. I believe these are part of a package of initiatives designed to plug the skills gap in our changing economy. As ITMA, we are the major employers of IT professionals and many of us know the daily challenges of hiring good IT professionals, especially in new areas such as Data Analytics and Cyber Security. For this we have been approached by IDA/WDA to be their partner on TeSA. There will be an Industry Briefing on the 26 May morning and ITMA has been invited to make a presentation. We will also work in collaboration with major professional societies and IHLs to forge an integrated pathway for the aspiring IT professionals in their skills and career development towards becoming a CIO. 

Refresh of Constitution 

Our ITMA Constitution was last updated many years ago and it was recently tested at the 29th March 2016 AGM where members had to vote for secret ballot instead of the show-of-hand voting method. There are suggestions to refresh the Constitution to improve governance and create a more vibrant and dynamic ITMA. For example, one suggestion is to limit the term of the President or Council members to a fixed number of consecutive terms in order to institutionalize renewal. We welcome feedback and will be studying the implication of changes to the Constitution. At a future AGM, we will bring it up for members' approval. 

Annual Subscription Fee Non-Payment 

Many members have enjoyed the privilege of ITMA membership and attended our ITMA organized events which are usually offered free of charge, thanks partially to the annual subscription fees collected. This contrasts with the other professional associations that usually levy a fee for their events. Annual membership fees are payable by end January each year to sustain the cost of running ITMA and payable regardless of whether members attend any events in a year. There have been difficulties in collecting subscription fees from some members and we strongly urge our members to pay their membership subscription fees promptly annually. This would prevent the situation of having to re-apply for ITMA membership due to non-payment and having to pay for the entrance fee ($100) again. 

Concluding Remarks 

We have a very committed team of Council members who volunteer their valuable personal time to serve the association. All have very busy full-time day jobs and as much as they would like to, there is simply not enough time to work on all ideas and suggestions from members and stakeholders. On this note, I hope more ITMA members can step forward to contribute their expertise and time alongside the elected Council members. Feel free to approach me or any of the Council members if you would like to help out. I like this quote "Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." This is a good reminder on how ITMA can prioritise our to-do list. Finally, I would like to wish everyone a healthy, fruitful and exciting year ahead. 

Yours faithfully,

Alvin Ong
ITMA President (2016)