Andy Chen, P. Eng. President & CEO, Catronic Computer Consultant Services Inc.
Andy Chen is a senior business advisor for several leading global consulting firms and enterprise software vendors. Andy has over 30 years of experience in utility sectors specializing in Nuclear Power Generation. For the past five years, Andy has been assisting leading global consulting firms in business development for the Nuclear Utilities in China and in North America.
In 2008, Andy held the position of the Chief Technology Officer and Vice President, Enterprise Strategy and Architecture of a Canadian-based electricity generator. The company's principal business is the generation and sale of electricity in Ontario and to interconnected markets, while operating in a safe, open and environmentally responsible manner. Andy was appointed to this position in February 2006. His primary responsibility was to align technology vision with business strategy by integrating company processes with the appropriate technologies. He provided the expertise for the development, specification and communication of the company's Information technology (IT) architecture plan. He was also responsible for enterprise-wide documentation standards, policies and principles for IT architectures. He provided enterprise systems planning and recommended new technologies and industry best practices which enhanced existing systems and supported overall corporate and business goals. Andy had extensive experience in a variety of engineering and systems roles within the company.
He has received Professional Engineer and Project Management Professional accreditations. In his previous position, Andy was responsible for Information Technology (IT) support to the company's nuclear power generating utilities. As Vice President of Nuclear Systems, he was also responsible for the management of IT and Telecomm services supporting nuclear related business.
Andy also volunteers for various professional organizations. He is actively involved in the Professional Activity Board of the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS). The IEEE Computer Society is regarded as the computing professional's single, unmatched source for technology information, inspiration and collaboration. He also presides in the Board of Directors for the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Organization (FEAPO). FEAPO is a worldwide association of professional organizations which have come together to provide a forum to standardize, professionalize, and otherwise advance the discipline of Enterprise Architecture (EA).
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Andy talks about his various roles and his role at Ontario Power Generation and some of the major challenges and solutions to those challenges.
"....The highlight of my career was in Ontario Power Generation (OPG), where I started as an engineer and over the years arrived into different roles (project managers and plan operations and information technologies) and eventually became Chief Technology Officer for the company....I moved on to start my own company doing consulting in the electricity generations area. I started working with some consulting firms and help them evolve some business opportunities in that sector. In my spare time I volunteered in several organizations, including the IEEE Computer Society as well as organizations like Federation for the Enterprise Architecture Professionals Organization (FEAPO)...."
Andy continues to describe his other roles and describes some challenges and solutions to the challenges.
"....I am also on the Board of Directors to FEAPO and have been doing that for more than a year....What we thought was quite critical we identified as the governance, business models and membership recruitment...."
With your insight as a CTO and VP, what are the top future challenges for business executives in small and medium sized businesses? What are the solutions?
"....Most of my career I have developed in larger corporations so I do not have extensive experience in the small and medium sized business, but I can offer you my opinions and some of my thoughts that could be pertinent to the small and medium sized businesses....They have to figure out how to reduce these large technology costs to do the business and try to figure out what the right tools are for marketing....Another challenge (with this rapidly moving market), is being able to offer the right product and services responding to the market demands and with the market shifting, being agile enough to meet those demands and modify their products and services...."
With your insight as a CTO and VP, what are the top five future challenges for business executives in enterprises? What are the solutions?
"....I think with this question I have a lot more to offer simply because about a year ago while I was working with computer studies, and I had a large initiative to interview several executives that I've known in the past and who I respect to get their insights on what they think their future challenges are and how do they value the IT profession...The top one — the aging workforce....Another area is that employee skills align with the current organization priorities....Another area was those companies which have multiple enterprise systems. Any company like OPG has to implement several enterprise systems in different business units and most of them struggle with integration among the enterprise systems....Another challenge was compliance to the regulators....The last challenge that most people identified was in the area of data protection or cyber-security...."
What future disruptive innovations (something really game-changing) should business executives be watching and planning for?
"....The mobile workforce — meaning that anybody should be able to do their job on the go without being tied down to an office....Artificial intelligence assistants....The area of the autopilot for automobiles....The area of real-time language translations....To move more deeply into the clouds area where I think Office in the Clouds is going to be the next innovation where we will no longer require anything with us anywhere we go...."
Since this interview appears in IT Manager Connection hosted by Microsoft, how do Microsoft solutions provide specific value?
"....Office 360 is the first step in putting the office in the cloud. This is a game changer and they started putting a concept of 360 and getting all your office requirements up in the clouds....Their unified communications tools such as Lync and Skype and that provides a great value for global communications and remote collaborations....In the areas of securities, Forefront and Forefront with Security Essentials; I think they provide great degrees of data protection...."
In your current role as CEO, what are some best practices you are sharing with your clients?
"....The adoption of enterprise systems such as the enterprise resource planning systems....The second area is for those clients that multiple enterprise systems and how do we actually integrate the systems, how do you exchange information between the systems, how do you get the work up to high levels for the corporations....Another best practices that I share with my clients is to think about a multi-year technology plan....A lot of IT technology people are just that, they are very technically competent but they have very little business knowledge so being able to put in some IT technical people into the business and understand the business and training them to provide a better service and product is I think is a key essential for success of the IT technology aspect of it....The last thing is how do they best improve their IT applications and how do they improve their services as they grow...."
You talked about this idea of aligning the business side with the technology side or vice versa. It seems to be a problem that's been around for a long time. Do you think that this whole alignment of IT and business will ever be resolved?
"....I think the level has raised over the years but I don't think it's resolved. The awareness is there and I think people are starting to think more in line of it, but I think we still have a ways to go...."
Using your background as a board member for Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO), what are your top 5 objectives in the EA space?
"....Encouraging the membership to be more of a holistic approach — more end to end....The sharing of the best practices amongst the members....More than just sharing — standardizing the best practices....To professionalize the discipline....To help the EA to demonstrate the business value...."
How do each of the objectives you provided in the last question specifically support and provide value to businesses?
"....For the holistic approach I think it is completing the efficiency among the different business units....Sharing of the best practices actually helps the business individually — you don't have to invent yourself and learn from the trial and error that others go through and benefit from their experience....If you standardize the practice we know that people follow then we know the outcome will be such and we know we can do it over and over again and that speaks for big value for business....Professionalizing the discipline would certainly help the right individual to do the right job....Demonstrating the business value of EA which speaks directly to how can EA be a huge value to the business...."
What are the top barriers to EA adoption in enterprises and how can they be overcome?
"....A lot of misunderstanding of what the role of EA is....People do not recognize the value of EA....There are many attempts at EA practices from different organizations where they tried to set it up and end up bringing it back in business and dissolving the EA functions because they didn't get the value. From those EA failed attempts people use that as a rationale and say that it doesn't work....A lot of companies focus only on the IT component of EA....There are companies that are so focused on the EA with business architectures and nothing else...."
What are some reasons why corporations should join FEAPO?
"....If you want to mobilize the whole enterprise or organization you have to be looking into leveraging the enterprise architectures or the EA concept....To stay on top of the current technologies and understand the advancement and adoptions of that I think it's a very good reason for people to be a part of FEAPO....FEAPO can offer a lot through the work that they're doing about advancing the profession, having the right resources, individuals, staff to be able to respond to different demands....Most companies have budget constraints and it is always a good idea to try to live within your budget, trying to be more effective across industries in enterprise rather than trying to focus yourself into one space. With the holistic approach on the FEAPO's aspect of it I think most companies would benefit from that...."
Why should professional organizations join FEAPO?
"....The opportunity to collaborate and coordinate different activities that you would not otherwise be a venture of and being able to leverage your efforts among your peers....By joining FEAPO there is a critical mass of the EA organizations and one can create an integrated community so that we could share experiences, share practices, collaborative work. We can unify our efforts of our practices and professions of the EA so if we all work together we can work towards the advancement of the profession....Also this is the area that provides the opportunity for recognitions. They offer up what they've done, share it and demonstrate that they are the leaders in their areas and people respect that....To get a standardized body of knowledge and certification commonly identified and agreed upon would be an area people could benefit from EA organizations.... "
Can you describe some areas of controversy in the areas that you work(ed) in your career.
"....I'm retired from a full time position so areas of controversy have all but been eliminated in my life. My daily life is not as complicated as before, but when I was working there were a few areas that come to mind to be noted for their controversies in my career....Competing priorities among the business units....The union agenda versus the management agenda....Make versus buy....Equality of staff salaries....In the utility world and the nuclear world one huge controversy was fitness for duty...."
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....I guess the simple answer is yes....My point is that there's got to be a better discipline that we can impart on the IT staff that goes more towards an engineer or the thought of what you mentioned before to have a Code of Ethics, that there is a personal responsibility property profitability aspect of it, and also have standardized credentials where people can say this is for people who performed work this way and produced this outcome and who stand by this product....I truly believe that has to happen...."
Worldwide there are somewhere around 30 to 35 million IT professionals, IT workers or practitioners and probably another 30 million working in IT who are not even accounted for, so let's say about 60 million working in IT worldwide. Yet probably under 1 million hold truly professional credentials. Why is that? What is the barrier?
"....People's demands are different and to a large extent that contributes to IT and what I call a cowboy reaction....I think it has to do a lot with customer expectations and demands that creates some of these industries...."
From his extensive speaking, travels, and work, Andy shares three very interesting stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....I have been using the negotiation techniques that I learned from Mike in many tough situations throughout my careers. That experience enabled me to learn how to get things done through negotiating with people to the point where you are going to win, and you can actually have the deals both parties are happy with...."
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....What are the greatest challenges facing today's power industry?....What are the great impediments to evolve Enterprise Architecture as a profession? What are the obstacles?....What are the secrets of your success?...."
Andy, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.