by James Henderson

Q&A: Assessing innovation at MRT in Malaysia

Oct 21, 2019
Artificial IntelligenceCIOEmerging Technology

In an interview with CIO ASEAN, Maz Mirza, head of IT at Mass Rapid Transit, presents his key technology priorities in 2020 and speaks about the ever-changing role of the CIO

Maz Mirza, head of IT at Mass Rapid Transit of Kuala Lumpur 

Dubbed as one of the most “ambitious” transportation projects ever undertaken in Asia, the expansion and improvement of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Kuala Lumpur is already delivering on the promise of transformation.

Speaking to CIO ASEAN, Maz Mirza, head of IT at MRT in Malaysia, outlined the project’s innovation priorities in 2020.

With more than 20 years of industry experience, Mirza is tasked with planning and delivering the required IT services and facilities for business users, alongside providing technical advisory guidance specific to IT and cybersecurity.

Can you share details of any past or upcoming innovation projects at MRT?

We’ve used cloud database and analytics tools to empower business users to store, generate and visualise data within the organisation.

From an emerging technologies perspective, we leverage 3D modelling in the submission of designs, then only generate the corresponding 2D drawings from it, instead of vice versa, which was the normal practice previously.

We also leverage the use of 3D scanners to generate ‘as-built digital models’ of completed structures for comparison with original 3D model designs, and subsequent asset management purposes. This is in addition to rolling out geographic information system (GIS) and geological probes to generate the 3D model of the soil structure and composition prior to construction and tunnelling works.

The organisation is relatively new and was incorporated for the purpose of developing the MRT lines, starting with Line 1. Therefore, when Line 2 started, it was mainly new standards, methods and budgets.

What are your key technology priorities?

We are focusing on endpoint and network security, as well artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. We are also building out a roadmap heading towards hyper-converged infrastructure and the deployment of cloud-based analytics tools.

From a measurement perspective, my customers are internal customers, so we are assessed by our own employees. This measurement includes services uptime KPIs, detection, prevention and response to security breaches, infrastructure provisioning agility, and customer satisfaction of technical support services provided.

What is the biggest market opportunity for technology leaders today?

Awareness of the adoption of disruptive technologies and trends in various industries globally can provide many case studies on how they can be adopted and deployed in the organisation to help achieve strategic business objectives.

Alternatively, what are the biggest challenges for technology leaders to overcome?

The ability to be fully aligned with business users and ensuring they are flexible, creative and really think outside the box through challenging the status quo and pushing traditional boundaries or limits is critical.

This also includes changing the business ground rules and perhaps creating radically new business models in order to identify the successful digital innovations that most likely will deliver the desired business results.

As new technologies flood the market, has the role of the CIO changed?

The role of CIO has changed in that it is evolving and becoming more holistic and strategic to the organisation, especially through increased adoption of digital solutions and processes in the core activities of an organisation.

The need to fully understand the business processes, environment and challenges is becoming more prevalent in order to succeed and drive the adoption of the right technology solutions to compliment the changes in how the business is done as part of the whole transformation. 

What are the key attributes of a successful modern-day CIO?

Firstly, business acumen is even more important, to think like and with the business leaders in determining the strategy for technology investments. Secondly, they must always be aware of and sensitive to the technology and disruptions in the business environment, both directly and indirectly.

Awareness of new technologies even though they have yet to find any commercially viable use but undergoing extensive research and development (R&D) by various organisations.

People management is also key through working with the organisation leadership and other stakeholders in the business ecosystem. Business leaders, internal and external end-users and customers are from different technology generations which requires different behaviour and mentality. But these are the key stakeholders and players in the digital business processes.