EY’s Cheang Wai Keat: Effective management requires strong data governance, cybersecurity priority and awareness, robust protocols | Asian Business Review

EY’s Cheang Wai Keat: Effective management requires strong data governance, cybersecurity priority and awareness, robust protocols

The EY Partner emphasised the importance of innovative strategies, leadership, and vision for management excellence.

In the dynamic world of Asian business, where change is the only constant, organisations grapple with the imperative to innovate, transform digitally, and effectively manage challenges unique to the region. The bustling markets, diverse cultures, and rapid technological advancements create a complex industry that demands keen insights and adaptive strategies.

Cheang Wai Keat, a consulting partner at Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd., brings a wealth of experience in providing technology consulting services to corporations across the Asia Pacific region. With a focus on agile business transformation, post-merger integration, and end-to-end managed services consultation, he navigates the intricate intersections of technology and business across industries such as life sciences, healthcare, consumer goods, agribusiness, transportation, and real estate.

In this interview, Wai Keat delves into the intricate web of challenges and opportunities in the Asian business sphere, as a judge at the Asian Management Excellence Awards. His perspectives on agile business transformation, effective management in the realm of technology consulting, the strategic importance of data in operations, and the characteristics defining management excellence provide a guide for organisations seeking success in the Asian market.

As organisations now realise the necessity of a strong digital transformation roadmap, how do you think an agile mindset can help them enable innovation and stay competitive?

An agile mindset fosters adaptability and flexibility within teams. This is key when it comes to digital transformation and innovation, as technology and market landscapes evolve rapidly.

Agile methodologies like Scrum and Kanban break a project down into several dynamic phases and emphasise collaboration across multidisciplinary teams, continual improvement, and strategy adjustments.

Collaboration ensures that different departments work cohesively. Such a collaborative environment promotes productivity and fosters innovation as diverse perspectives come together to solve complex problems and resources are not duplicated. By breaking a project down, organisations can continually reflect on whether they have met the outcomes of each phase, identify areas for improvement and refine their digital transformation strategies as the project progresses. This process of regular feedback and iteration helps organisations continually align their digital transformation efforts more closely with customer needs and deliver value in shorter time frames.

With your extensive experience in technology consulting, how does effective management become key to solving the most prevalent challenges facing businesses right now?

Two prevalent challenges observed in technology consulting are in the areas of cybersecurity and data governance.

In the EY 2023 Global Cybersecurity Leadership Insights Study, respondents reported an average annual spend of US$ 35m on cybersecurity and the median cost of a cyber breach has increased by 12% between 2022 and 2023. Furthermore, 76% of respondents added that their organisations take an average of six months or longer to detect and respond to an incident. These findings are worrying, more so with the rapid adoption of emerging technologies that will only push the number of cyber incidents higher. With the increasing frequency and complexity of cyber threats, effective management means prioritising cybersecurity. This involves implementing robust security protocols, staying updated on security best practices, conducting regular risk assessments and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness amongst employees. 

Today, many organisations collect and utilise vast amounts of data. Data collection is no longer limited to the IT department. The marketing and operations teams also use data to create intelligence and insights, spearhead innovation, and improve internal operations. Effective management involves establishing robust data governance frameworks. This includes ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations, implementing secure data storage, and handling practices and leveraging data analytics responsibly to drive informed decision-making. 

Data has become an increasingly beneficial asset for business decisions. Why is it important for companies to develop a strategic approach to this facet and integrate it into their operations?

Developing a strategic approach to data and integrating it into business operations is essential for organisations for several reasons.

Data enables organisations to make informed, evidence-based choices. By collecting, analysing and interpreting relevant data, they gain insights into customer behaviours, market trends, operational efficiencies and other aspects of their business. Data analysis also helps identify potential risks and predict future outcomes. Companies can use historical and real-time data to assess risks, develop risk mitigation strategies and make proactive decisions to minimise the negative impact on their business.

Additionally, data governance ensures compliance with regulations. This is crucial to maintaining data security, protecting customer privacy, and adhering to legal requirements, which ultimately builds trust with customers and stakeholders.

What specific milestones or characteristics do you consider indicative of exceptional management excellence upon evaluating the entries for this year’s Asian Management Excellence Awards?

I consider the following attributes when evaluating the nominees: innovative strategies, leadership and vision, performance and results, innovation and adaptability, and employee development and engagement.

Firstly, exceptional management often showcases innovative strategies that have significantly impacted their organisation's growth, market presence, or operational efficiency. Strategies that demonstrate originality, effectiveness, and adaptability in challenging environments tend to stand out. Similarly, exceptional leaders exhibit a clear vision for their organisations. They inspire their teams, lead by example, foster a positive work culture and demonstrate effective leadership qualities that motivate employees to achieve common goals.

Management excellence is also often measured by tangible results and performance metrics. Entries that can show substantial improvements in key performance indicators, financial growth, market share, customer satisfaction, or operational excellence are usually considered noteworthy.

Furthermore, a strong management team demonstrates a  commitment to innovation and adaptability in response to changing market dynamics or technological advancements. Entries showcasing successful innovation in products, services, processes, or business models often receive recognition. Good leaders focus on employee development, engagement, and well-being. So, entries highlighting initiatives for talent development, employee engagement programmes, diversity and inclusion efforts and a supportive work environment often stand out as well.

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