Talking Transformation

Jim Lim Shien Min, PMP





TITLE: Global director, group chief transformation office

ORGANIZATION: Huawei Technologies

LOCATION: Singapore

Shiny new technologies can be tempting to chase. But with so many to choose from, it's difficult for organizations to know which technology will benefit them the most in the long run. And there's the question of scope and scale: Should, say, artificial intelligence be adopted in a limited fashion, or does it justify a deeper organizational transformation?

Huawei Technologies’ group chief transformation office (CTO) helps telecommunication companies and governments navigate digital transformation not only by implementing enabling technologies, but by coming up with new business models. In December Jim Lim Shien Min, formerly Huawei's chief technology officer and head of digital transformation for the Asia Pacific region, became one of the CTO's global directors. Mr. Lim also teaches at Huawei University, where he offers courses on how to design business solutions and engage senior executives.

What is the CTO's core mission?

Besides helping telecommunication companies to transform, we look at vertical industries that can benefit from technologies such as the cloud, internet of things or mobile money. The ultimate objective of transformations is to increase the total addressable market so that everyone in an ecosystem—such as telecommunication companies and governments, and hardware and software service vendors—can benefit from the transformation. This is the main role of the CTO.

How do you collaborate to develop and execute strategy across teams?

Internally, we work with Huawei senior executives to create the strategic intent. Across teams, due to large and complex scopes, multiple teams from R&D, marketing, sales, etc. are involved. We own the program management office (PMO) function to ensure cross-team knowledge sharing, alignment of key messages and common use of resources.

What project delivery approach do you use—waterfall, agile or hybrid?

It's a combination. Imagine a national information and communications technology project. There are many stakeholders involved. With governments or regulatory bodies, you generally need to take a waterfall approach involving stage review gates. However, even within the same project, agile can help a lot, especially during the bidding stage. Frequent testing and learning can help illustrate ideas well during bidding. It can also deliver cost savings and better quality control, because you see what you wanted at interval stages.

What are the primary challenges you encounter in your role?

The challenges of collaboration. The triple constraint of schedule, budget and scope can be addressed mathematically, but communication management can't. Skillful collaboration and communication requires a lot of experience. I often find that when the other party isn't accepting a message, people keep pushing or escalating. I always tell my students: If you're not telling your story successfully, you need to tell it differently. Effective communication isn't just about telling one's story. It's about making sure the other party understands it.

What makes your own communication effective?

I engage the right parties—and they may not always be senior executives or the people who own the solution. It might be the working-level person who understands the solution really well. You start there, then you expand your circle of influence. You look at the stakeholders with formal influence and the ones with informal influence. A CEO might like what you propose, but he's not going to deliver the project. You need the engineers to be on your side as well.

What is the value of project management to your organization?

In my 20-year career, I've never heard people say their project had enough time or money. There will never be enough of either. Therefore, project management is crucial to ensure projects are carried out efficiently and aligned strategically.

It's about more than triple-constraint management, though. Without communication, triple-constraint management can be challenging. In many of the large-scale complex transformation projects I have worked on, scope creep, budget overruns and project rollbacks happened due to poor communications or miscommunications—even when project management tools and procedures were in place. You need to communicate to various stakeholders about deadlines, the budget and customer quality expectations. But most technologists are not focusing on communications—it's an area they really need to work on. PM


Small Talk

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

That I had been exposed to formal project management methodology from the start.

What is the one skill that every project manager should have?

Communication. If you can't get your message across, you can't manage a project.

Who inspires you?

I have always idolized Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who retired this year at age 89, for his business acumen. And Mahathir Mohamad, who became Malaysia's prime minister this year at age 92, should win a program director award for bringing diverse stakeholders together to win a landslide election. Thriving at that age is amazing.



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