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(Following article was published in CIO Asia on July 9, 2012,



According to the Chinese calendar, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. The dragon is said to be a deliverer of good fortune and a master of authority. However, in Chinese astrology, the dragon is the only animal of the Chinese zodiac year that is not real.


Roughly 20 years ago, the CIO role, like the dragon, did not exist. Yet the CIO role today in the Asia-Pacific region has evolved to become more strategic and critical to the business than ever before in meeting the demands of this dynamic region.


Asia Pacific has the fastest-growing economy in the world, with a tremendous potential of untapped domestic markets made up of a rising middle class. Based on some estimates, more than 60 percent of the global population resides in this region.


While IT spending in most of the world has remained flat, Asia Pacific enterprise IT spending continues to grow, with 8 percent growth expected in 2012. According to one recent analyst report, Asia Pacific was the fastest-growing region for server shipments during the fourth quarter of 2011.


It is also a region composed of many countries with different levels of IT maturity and different levels of compliance and governance laws and regulations.


Based on my discussions with CIOs in Asia Pacific, I've learned that even with all this diversity, CIOs from the region have remarkably similar priorities.


The CIO as business leader
Many of the CIOs I've met have put a significant focus on the role of the next-generation CIO. After all, this is something very close to their hearts because it shapes their own destinies. The sentiment is that the CIO role needs to be a Tier-1 management function and that the CIO should own the business targets and deserves a seat at the strategy table.


Interestingly, they are unanimous in saying that CIO role needs to become less technical and more business oriented. This in particular is a very interesting shift, especially since one of the reasons the CIO role was created 20 years ago was to have a dedicated person to handle increasingly complex technologies. One comment that I heard really struck a chord with me, that the I in CIO stands for "innovation."


What's on the minds of CIOs?
The CIOs I have engaged with have told me that making progress with tight IT budgets is not their top concern. This was, in a way, refreshing to learn when compared to what we hear in the news from around the world every day about shrinking budgets.


As it turns out, the top worry for them was how to keep pace with the growth of their respective businesses. Their focus clearly was on growing the top line rather than on optimising costs.


Based on my other observations and discussions with Asia Pacific CIOs, I have also discovered that they were very interested in discussing how they could influence and lead their initiatives globally.


For example, the CIO of a large life insurance division based in Hong Kong said that his organisation successfully ran various cloud initiatives locally at first and then was able to drive those globally. It is no longer the norm for decisions to be made elsewhere and then implemented in Asia Pacific.


Interacting with many CIOs from this dynamic region has been enlightening. They are very passionate about their role and are looking forward to moving up the chain of responsibility.


Just as people born in Dragon years are to be honoured and respected, could this be the year for Asia Pacific CIOs to make a large impact globally?


Will Asia Pacific CIOs demonstrate Dragon-like leadership that delivers good fortune and functions as a master of authority this year? I surely hope so!